Any good DM knows that you players need maps to get along in your world. While I am, and will likely never be the kind of DM who uses grid maps to assess movements and range*, I do think that maps in the broader sense (world maps, town maps) can be helpful.
But, I lack a great deal of artistic ability. So, I try to keep it simple. For the campaign I ran this summer (still playing on a different arc) had a major reset at the end of the events. So we needed a new map.
I turned to water colors, got my hands on a basic Crayola set at the drug store. It gave me the freedom to do the map without being limited to the constraints of precision. This is the version 1.0.
Its not great. Remember that thing about limited art skills. You can see it in all of its glory right here. The cities are…. muddied and the black lines don’t match with the edges of the blue/green borders on the map. The color variation is just that, variation. It means nothing.
This map was bad to the point of barely usable. But my players were kind and went along with it.
And then…. a second reset. I got a better set of paints (mostly because of interest but also with a mind on maps) and I gave the post-reset-reset map a try.
I’d say its an improvement. I have texture and levels of color to indicate depth of the water. The striping on the ocean (far left) shows some movement. Its not a perfect job, by any means, but its a start.
The goal of making a map is to make the players feel more like the world that they are in is real, that its a living, breathing space that exists before and after them. I can only hope by giving it some sense of variation, that I will give them more of that experience. And think by avoiding the hard edges of the first version of the map, I’ve made it more realistic.
Of course, sometimes that’s not what you want at all. My new campaign
This is intentionally a diagram. It’s not an ‘official’ map. Its meant to be found by the party in the small area they live in. Made by the previous inhabitants I hope it will give them a sense of the space and a feel for how it was used by the people who came before.
This is what one might call a low information game. They’re starting with almost nothing as players and characters. So this may be one of the most important lore dumps that they get…. assuming that they use it right.