Joseph Erwin – Freelance Dungeon Master

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Old Maps (And Some New Ones)



We love them. Many of us use them. They’re art, they’re a game aid, and they use very effective (if they’re done well) shorthand to bring across world elements quickly. Even if one doesn’t use them (and I haven’t met a GM who truly prefers to not use them), they are part of the central “text,” so to speak, which comprises the whole of the RPG or setting.

Shadow of the Demon Lord has a particularly great map. Vibrant colors, the rough-painted appearance, and the fact that it is drawn on stretched skin, all combine to bring across the horrific and rough nature of the setting.

However, we also like to make our own, as hobbyists, so I figured I would showcase a few of my own which have seen fairly regular use! I will often use the same map for multiple adventures, which creates the sense of a persistent world. Major changes and plot decisions can change the face of a landscape.

This was an early map of mine, drawn many years ago now (somewhere between 8 and 9 years I want to say). The Pen lines are a little bold and crude, and I certainly don’t draw roads as distinctly anymore. However, you can see the blending of colored pencils I have always used to get a nice transition between zones, even at this early stage. Almost always, one hex is one day’s worth of travel on foot.

I’m always a fan of ruins and wreckage. This map I did for a small part of the newly-risen city of Atlantis which I did for a campaign seven years ago. I tried to recreate the irregular coastlines of flooded areas, where water levels reveal all the tiny differences in height which are usually invisible. Notice the change of travel duration for one hex; being able to make maps which aren’t just “one hex = one day” was a major step for me.

I also made some maps which had no hexes, either because they were on a scale too small for it to matter (one hex equals 25 feet etc), or because accurate distance did not matter as much. I experimented with this one, creating rings which grew tighter as you approached the center of the city, to reflect the stratification of the New-Human-dominated society I had in mind.

This dense creation was an experiment I did with a mostly human-centric world (with a few non-humans here and there), where I differentiated major cultural divides. The Harpathians, Bawali, Xingwa, Ramush, etc. were all distinct states, ruled by a mostly racially-homogeneous people who shared a similar culture (note the colorful borders separating the divides). I saw the Bawali as akin to the people of ancient India in style and culture, and I seem to recall the Xingwa were a people similar to the Mongolians. This was also a smaller-hex map than I was used to using, and although the smaller hexes worked to create a world which felt big, the density of black lines and ink-work does make it a little hard to read. I haven’t made an attempt to really re-create it.

I’ll very likely do this again, as I have many more maps I have created over the years, and lots to say about them. Maps are, after all, one of the longest-running mainstays of the hobby!

Published by Joe Erwin

I am an independent creator and GM with a deep love of storytelling and adventure! I desire most to share these things with others, and I hope to do that through my work and my writing.

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