In this third installment on my series of creating a fantasy-style map for the lands north of my homebrew campaign city of Steffenhold, I find myself on the verge of putting ink on paper – which is a sort of no turning back now moment.

Part 6: Aren’t you forgetting something?

Before adding ink, I better make sure everything is in pencil.

Oh, yeah, I forgot to add the forests, and to dress up other areas of the map.

The thing about fantasy maps is they really are an amalgam of the different kinds of maps we’re used to seeing in the modern world. It’s a highway map, a topographical map, a flora and fauna map, a political map and even something else fanciful, the “Here be dragons” part. So putting in mountains and streams isn’t enough.

I used a dot-dash line to indicate the political boundaries, in this case, the two westernmost earldoms and their adjacent shires. For place name labels, I pencil in shields. (I thought about using pennants or ribbons for this, and those elements might have actually been less obtrusive, but somehow, a shield felt right. And that’s why they call it art.)

Another thing I wanted was something more than a dot for the most prominent three cities and two most important fortresses. The old D&D Expert rulebook, in its instruction for hex mapping, suggesting filling in a hex with a silhouette showing the specific ruin or city skyline. That’s exactly what I wanted, that way those important spots would feel individualized. So, pencil in hand, I drew in the outlines for Lanjes Bridge, Miller Point, Steffenhold, Pennington Moors and the abandoned Rochelle Abbey.

One of the things I liked about the Forgotten Realms campaign book during Third Edition was the continent sized map of Faerun. Specifically, I liked how the boundaries for  the core of the great forests were drawn. Obviously there were trees, even copses and small woodlands in areas of the map that were bare. I went for something similar. So I drew in the outline for the four main forested areas, then indicated other woodlands with arrowheads.  I wasn’t sure, exactly, how I’d represent trees when it came time for inking, but I set that concern aside for the moment.

Part 7: Ink

A map’s clean lines of black ink.

I’m not a professional inker. I can’t even say that after staying at a Holiday Inn a time or two during my life. But I think nearly anyone who can write can dip a nib in a bottle of ink and draw a line. And that’s what I started to do, leaving the pesky problem of how to indicate the lightly forested areas for later.

Two other features did not receive the ink treatment–waterways and roads. While a map like this might look perfectly nice across two pages of a paperback novel, we are a long way from having the map I want to display to the other players adventuring in Steffenhold. So I decided roads and waterways would not get a black line. Rather, I would represent them in color, only. During the whole creation of the map, it would be the best decision I would make.

Next time, we finally get to coloring and labeling the map.