Posted by: kshayes513 | July 6, 2009

Worldbuilding Resources: Mapmaking

Most worldbuilders have some interest in maps. Some people make rough maps, some make detailed atlases, including topography, battlefields, different languages and cultures, etc. I have a rough map of Khasran’s world in my head, though I’ve never drawn it, because there are so many blanks still.

Here are 2 fascinating sites for the map lover.

The Map Room is a blog simply stuffed with information and links (lots of links!) about maps and map lore of all kinds, from the most advanced current satellite technologies to the most ancient hand-made maps.

Just a scroll down the first page gives an idea of the variety that blogger Jonathan Crowe covers. Today’s most recent posts link to the US Bureau of Land Management’s study of potential solar energy development on federal land; an article on location, mobile phones and the web; a new digital terrain map of the Earth; a story on geotagging; and an online exhibit of antique astronomical maps. And more, much, much more!

Serious map hogs will love everything on this site. After you’ve snooped through current posts, skip over to the Archives drop-down menu and browse by category–dozens of them!

For example, if you’re working in the real world, whether in alternate times or elsewhere in history, you’ll like the long list of “Cities” for which Crowe has posted mapping articles.  Worldbuilders working with space travel will have fun in “Astronomy,” while I was personally captivated by “Big Maps” which features articles on all sorts of room size (or even garden size) maps and dioramas).

However, most worldbuilders will probably hit the jackpot in “Imaginary Worlds.” Many of these posts are about existing imaginary worlds (lots of Tolkien-related material, no surprise). However, Crowe blogs about a variety of useful and fascinating sites.  Among them I found today’s other fabulous mapmaking resource:

The Cartographer’s Guild: A Forum for Cartography Enthusiasts

This site is an extensive forum that seems to cover all aspects of mapmaking, though gaming and imaginative mapmaking seem to be especially featured in the topics and discussions.

There are specific discussion forums for many categories of maps, including town/city mapping, dungeon/subterranean mapping, modern/sci fi mapping, and board game mapping. There’s even a whole forum dedicated to toponymy, the study of place names, for those of us stumped by the challenge of inventing place names.

Post categories include maps and works in progress, so that mapmakers can share their work. Then there’s the Cartographer’s Choice forum, which showcases some of the most beautiful and skilled examples of members’ work. Looking at just a couple of gorgeous examples makes me wish I had another lifetime to take up mapmaking as a hobby. If you want to practise the craft of mapmaking, the Cartographer’s Guild is the forum for you!



  1. Another map resource, one that allows you to indulge the inner cartographer, is OpenStreetMap.

    I used/updated it recently while on vacation. Using your own GPS device it’s possible to map the streets and areas you travel and add them to the OpenStreetMap.

    The goal of the map is to create a common coummunity created shared resource that is license free.

  2. That’s a cool concept! I wonder how many personal GPS users it will take to map the whole developed world?

    I also wonder if such a resource could be hacked, so that you could, for example, lead an enemy into a trap by feeding him a bogus map? (clearly, I’ve been watching too much Burn Notice!)

  3. Let’s not forget Google Maps – with it’s satellite and map view, it affords a way to see how to add featurs to your own map that echo the format of real world mapping. Although I don’t think anyone will be doing a StreetView of Rivendell anytime soon…

  4. StreetView of Rivendell, Minas Tirith, Hobbiton-no problem. StreetView of Moria, now we have a problem! Unless there’s some kind of high power subterranean imaging technology that can fit on a satellite?

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