I started worldbuilding when I was in elementary school and dragged my mother and little brother in to a DnD session, and I’ve never stopped, even though my projects have taken a back seat to a lot of other things in my life. Lately I’ve taken it back up again and have been devoting more an more time to it.
One of the things that is very common for world builders to make but that I’ve been avoiding is maps. A high level of realism or accuracy has never been a goal of mine. I just want to build a platform for interesting stories. But lately I’ve found that things are getting too complex, and it’s time to start mapping things out.
If I’m going to make a map, I figured I would make a map that would say something about the world in which it was made. The world I’ve been working on for the better part of two decades is the shape of a bowl, not a sphere, so the people there must necessarily see the landscape differently. I remember seeing some wonderful Japanese travel guides during my study abroad where each stop was illustrated with a view of the horizon, and creating a horizon-type view in a world where there technically was no horizon seemed like an interesting idea. The amount of information you could put into a map like that would not be limited to the horizon line, so you could theoretically get the entire world onto a one.
This is how the first draft turned out:
Since this is a first draft, there are a lot of errors, but I’m satisfied with the map as a test case. I had planned to create the map from the perspective of a person who was standing at the town in the center, but clearly I ended up with an overhead view instead. Since the mountain range is relatively young I think the peaks are too steep and jagged.
The proportions are sloppy. I’m just going to pretend that an apprentice cartographer was responsible for this thing to explain that away.
Water is a massive pain to think through. Not only does a bowl shaped world create water systems that might seem counter intuitive, the entire world moves like a censor on a chain, drastically altering the water systems on a seasonal basis. This means that the rivers alter course constantly, and some riverbeds are dry in their offseason and can flood in season.
The blob in the left river is an aborted attempt at a lake and is an error.
The region in the map is supposed to be a lowlands close to the only ocean. During the winter the entire lower half becomes something of a massive delta, and during the summer the tide engulfs the bottom three towns represented, stopping just below the others.
The little tree shaped things are towns. Why trees and not little houses? The shapes represent spearheads. Large poles carved to represent spears are erected in each town, and the heads are decorated with feathers, the patters of which describe the town’s allegiance.
The icon on the far left with the two spear symbols is the capitol, Doe’ Dragmal. The two large spears represent its importance, and it’s actually further East than the map indicates, but it is mandatory that the city be represented on all official maps.
Direction is indicated by the symbol at the top of the map, read “Cange Lar,” or Southern Tree. The tree is the highest point in the south and on a clear day is visible with the right instruments.
The eye symbol at left is the sun, a stationary object in this world. It’s placed at the position it was in (really, the position the bowl was in) at the time the map was made, with the symbol above it indicating that it is a “winter” sun, i.e. the sun is behind the imagined viewer and is on the way to the summer solstice.
You can see that the rivers all bend towards an invisible low point that exists directly under the sun. As the world moves under the sun, the flow of the rivers shift so that they are always aiming for that fixed point.
The line at the top is supposed to represent the horizon, but it was badly thought out and isn’t at all accurate. My limited grasp of perspective failed me hard there.
So this is crappy map number one. It’s not much to look at but many years of work went into the concepts behind it.