I started redrawing the map of my world the other night, pulled out all my notes on the cultures, the places… and I had this sudden urge to just throw it all away. Not because I didn’t enjoy making it — I’ve always loved maps, for as long as I can remember — and I have spent a lot of time in that world both in my imagination and sharing it with others.
My earliest memories of gaming include Greyhawk. I remember the name Rel Astra, it’s the first place I ever looked at on a map and just wanted to go there. I remember looking through the old Expert book at the maps of the area around Threshold and it puts a smile on my face to think about it now. I poured over maps of Thunder Rift, Yrth, Mystara, and a ton of others and I always loved them.
And I made my own. Tons of my own. For a while I started making maps of everything and everywhere. I made maps of towns, maps of countries, maps of continents, and I never actually used any of them, just filled them with names and ideas. After a while I started making the places first and building the maps around the ideas. And like all GMs I experienced the frustration of building worlds and learning that more times than you’d like, it’s asking an awful lot of players to learn a new world and everything that entails.
And I started thinking about the joy of visiting Rel Astra again. See, that story about Rel Astra? I didn’t know a thing about it. I didn’t even really pay much attention to where it was on the map — it was just this name that made me think of so many things, that sparked my creativity. When D&D4E first came out that was one of my favorite aspects of it — how it was “setting light” with evocative names like “Bael Turath” and “Arkhosia” but they didn’t really mean anything more than the hints we were given about them and we (players and DMs) could speculate to our hearts content.
So I guess that’s another struggle I’m fighting with myself these days — do I even need a map of the setting? Heck, do I even need a setting outside of phrases and suggestions? What makes you happy?
Thanks for reading.