Cartography questions


Artwork & Crafting


So im trying my hand at map drawing (Regional/world/etc) and i'm extremely new at this. Are there any good tutorials on how to draw maps with paper and pencil? i see a ton of them explaining how to do things with photoshop or gimp, but i really want to use the paper and pencil route.

Any help would be appreciated.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

Look at Fantastic Maps -- while a lot of the tutorials are digital oriented, some are for or can apply to using paper and pencil. His recent "how to draw a map" applies to what you are looking for, for example.


Fantastic Maps (nice find, DQ) is jon roberts' site. He's also in the Cartographer's Guild (their website is having gateway errors right now), whose members have a lot of mapmaking experience and provide some tutorials. I can't search for anything on hand-drawn maps because of the current website issues, but there might be something there.

Jon and the other mapmakers are extremely helpful and kind to newbies, though they do appreciate you searching the forums before posting new questions.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The Kobold Guide to Worldbuilding also has a good chapter on mapping by Jon.

A few other resources I'm using for actually refining cartographic procedures are the NOAA US Chart No 1 and the USGS Topgraphic Map Symbols. Both are more targeted toward publishing topographic maps (be they terrestrial or bathymetric), but the concepts between visualizing data on a topographic map translate well into making fantasy maps.


Thanks everybody. I will definitely take a look.


Necroing a thread, I know, I'm bad lol. I looked at those resources, and I'm still having a hard time trying to map out distances between towns and cities. I know cities would end up being a good 3-4 day ride, if not longer in most cases, but the space that surrounds those cities is what I'm more concerned with. I don't want to have a bunch of settlements that are with 1/4 day's ride next to each other, but I don't want them to be so sparse that they all take one or more day's ride to get to, you know? Are there any resources that anyone may have in regards to distancing cities and settlements?


KyleS wrote:
Necroing a thread, I know, I'm bad lol. I looked at those resources, and I'm still having a hard time trying to map out distances between towns and cities. I know cities would end up being a good 3-4 day ride, if not longer in most cases, but the space that surrounds those cities is what I'm more concerned with. I don't want to have a bunch of settlements that are with 1/4 day's ride next to each other, but I don't want them to be so sparse that they all take one or more day's ride to get to, you know? Are there any resources that anyone may have in regards to distancing cities and settlements?

The best answer to this question I can give you is:

How far do people need to travel to sell their wares and goods?

Farmers, hunters, and fishermen will not want to travel too far to sell their goods. They will either sell those goods at the closest city, or the nearest trading post - which will in turn try to get those goods to the nearest city or larger trading post, and so on.

The distance of commerce is the distance of settlement. It sounds simplistic, but it's historically accurate.

I'd suggest you find some numbers on how far a horse- or mule-drawn cart, or a river barge, or what-have-you can travel in a day, and use that as your lower limit. The more perishable the produce, for instance, the closer the farmer will be to the city (or the fast they'll want to get it to the markets). Less perishable goods will be able to be sourced from farther afield.

Your 1/4 day's ride is not actually a bad number - it allows for any of those farms to be within a reasonable access (time and distance wise) from the city, and gives reasonable space to grow or have other farms move in to the empty space.

Hope this helps!


Yea, that helps a lot. Gives me a good idea of how to plot some places with land. I guess it's just a matter of making sure I don't over populate an area at this point then lol.


KyleS wrote:
Yea, that helps a lot. Gives me a good idea of how to plot some places with land. I guess it's just a matter of making sure I don't over populate an area at this point then lol.

Don't be too concerned about that. Believe it or not, medieval and renaissance era settlements were comparatively huge and in many cases covered much smaller areas than we do now. Part of the reason the Black Death spread so well in Europe was because of the population density. "Overpopulation" is a concern for disease vectors, absolutely, but "a family farm with 30 people living on it" is not overpopulation so much as it is accurate.

Consider also that there is a lot of precedent for cities hitting over 100K residents (not counting incoming farmers, merchants, and soldiery) by the 13th Century. Italy, for instance:

Wikipedia Article on Italian City States

I was hesitant to toot my own horn, here, but I actually wrote a blog post a while back over on my World Building blog about just this sort of thing. If you'd like to read about a fantasy city which has hit about the 450K mark in terms of residents and outliers - it's a massive port city with lots of high-density buildings, an elaborate sewer system, and plenty of perils lying just outside its walls.

Check it out, if you like. Let me know if it helps? :)

Jemstone's World Building Blog


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Hmm... things I didn't realize. The stuff you learn everyday I suppose lol.


Helps to be a history major, and read a lot about ancient civilizations for fun between classes. ;)

Check out my essays on where the monuments come from and how the undead get where they are (and why) if you'd like some more fun stuff to think about. :)

*edit to add*

Also, consider that disease and plague and things can and will be curtailed a lot more easily in fantasy worlds where the Gods and Magic actually work. If we'd had working Divine Magic in the days of rampant Bubonic Plague, or the Influenza Epidemic, things would have ended a lot differently.

The addition of healing magic to any society greatly lengthens the lifespan and life expectancy of the citizens of that society.


Tagging thread for future reference. This sounds like some good info. Also have something to contribute to the thread, but I can't access the site right now.

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