24 August 2012

The Problem With Maps

Apparently, up until the beginning of the 20th century, people had no idea what the shape of their country was. As an example— the ultra-jingoistic book Le Tour de la France par deux enfants (1877), which narrates the travels through France of two young boys, had the aim of instilling a sense of French grandeur and unity in its readers; yet it didn't even feature a map of France. The map only came with the 1905 edition of the book.

Now we all know how prominently maps feature in RPG supplements. Even though supplements describing a given locale are normally restricted to the GM's eyes, it is a fact that players often have access to them— and to their maps. As a result, players have a good sense of the geography of the GM's world, or at least of the part where their adventures take place. I for one am a maps buff, and I love supplements such as Sartar: Kingdom of Heroes with its beautiful, full-colour maps. Heck, even the 14-page Player's Primer has a nice map of Sartar on p.5. Now I'm not suggesting these maps be removed, but how can you give the players a sense of wonder at the size of the Lunar Empire or at the complexity of the navigation in the Rightarm Islands if they know the geography?

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