Discussion area for the creation of maps, both of the empire and the wider world of Belariath

Moderator: Stormbringer


Postby Stormbringer on Fri Mar 02, 2007 2:38 pm

The first thing to consider is the era that is commonly portrayed. Even though we use magic and fantasy to blur the outlines, we have a lot of medieval equivalents. Peasants would rarely travel beyond the next village and maybe once in their life visit a small rural town which they would see as being Samarkand or Babylon by their frame of reference. Only the adventurous travel extensively and they mostly do it on horseback.

To even understand the scope of our empire would be a stretch for most people, let alone being familiar enough with an entire world, it's geography and the relative sizes and locations of other kingdoms. In game time it took something like a year to scout even nearby regions so as to identify the one most suitable for invasion (Valencia).

So we have a world that few have any real conception of beyond travellers tales and stories. The bards tell of other lands but of course they make things sound grand and exciting so as to hold their audience. "My name is Ozymandius, king of kings. Look upon my works ye mighty and despair" has a lot more poetry to it than "Yeah, there's this load of barbarians a week away to the west, who rule an area about three days travel wide and they live in wooden huts".

We also have spies who travel around nearby kingdoms and infiltrate foreign courts. They send back reports but are they really that much more accurate, when they want to emphasise their own danger and self-importance?

I guess what I'm getting at is that there is no system of empirical (pun intended) knowledge about such things unless we give extra powers to wizards. In that case, it comes down to localised knowledge which fades into rumor and hearsay as one gets more than a couple of weeks, or months, travel away from known lands.

The empire is small enough (maybe about the size of France or Germany) but it is set in a world of small empires; most often a tribe will style itself an empire, a clan becomes a kingdom. The exceptions would tend to be the historical homelands of long-established races such as the elves. They may not occupy massive areas or have grandiose structures but they have been there a long time, and they could be fairly well known to those of that race.

In a further note, as already mentioned, this empire occupies a corner of the lands once belonging to a much larger empire. Maybe 5000 years ago that empire spanned much of the current continent and it explains the oddity of some structures one would hardly expect to find in Nanthalion, such as the arena. It also creates legends that relate to SB's hidden past and if the bards of other lands are on a par with Nicholas, then there are rumors flying about regarding a legend reborn and what that might mean for the world at large.

Beyond the empire is grayness in various shades. Some nearby lands should at least be reasonably known by the trade routes that exist. Beyond that is pretty much blackness but within that lack of features there are pockets of light. Those pockets represent the lands where characters may have grown up, or where they have some reason to have acquired the knlowledge.

But that doesn't necessarily mean the entire area between that place and the empire is also known in any detail. These far off places could be seen as bubbles of light on the map with a rather vague approximation of exactly how distant they are. Distances are calculated more by travelling time than by miles in such a world, and that would vary a lot between individuals.

So what we are looking at it a fairly accurate and detailed map of the empire itself, including Nanthalion and a few smaller towns and villages. The empire of course includes Valencia now.

Outside the borders the details become more sketchy but still reasonably well known as to distances, major terrain features and population centers. This represents travellers and traders knowledge. Beyond that, say about 500 - 1000 miles from the borders, things get very vague or even unknown. Though in that blankness, there are patches where knowledge exists. These are areas where characters have had detailed knowledge and passed it on to the emperor's map makers. They wouldn't be as well documented as empire lands, or even nearby kingdoms, unless there was a lot of travel there. But they would have some detail and a rather inexact approximation of direction and distance.

Take an example. A torian travels two weeks flying pretty much south west to visit his relatives. He crosses a wide stretch of water on the way. There is no hard and fast knowledge that the direction is exactly south west. He may likely move from landmark to landmark, changing direction slightly each time. He wouldn't know if that water represented an inland sea, lake, inlet or the division between two continents. And he wouldn't know the distance in miles either.

That is the basis for the types of maps that would be very useful in the game. Not entire continents explored by satellite survey, but an area of knowledge that rapidly fades into hearsay and which leaves loads of potential for new scenarios in the future.
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