Many times I’ve mentioned my fascination for maps. There’s something about not only gaining perspective about places new and old, but learning from the point of view of the cartographer who drew those maps. Why did they draw sea monsters beyond the border of certain seas? Why were some islands or whole continents drawn out of proportion with the rest of the drawing? Why did they choose to do one map in black and white and another in color? Each tidbit raises one or more other questions about the context in which a cartographic projection was rendered.
That said, there’s something to be said for simply taking a blank piece of paper and a pencil and starting work on the coastline for a new world. Or drawing the beginnings of some castle grounds surrounded by a moat and a series of different settlements and marketplaces. Or just doodling to see what that part of your brain comes up with in the moment of creativity.
Blank maps with no descriptive text of any kind can do something similar. By offering the outline of a city, town, kingdom, or country, an enterprising GM can simply fill in the spaces as necessary to create a world for one session or an entire campaign. That’s what I think Hand Drawn Cities: Volume 1 provides from creator and cartographer Alyssa Faden and the crew at Torn World.
This short PDF offers six pages of maps, providing a variety to choose from whether set on rivers, surrounded by land, or on the coast. Each contains plenty of intricate details, with individual districts of homes and shops, to keeps and parks, bridges, or detailed dock areas. Honestly I think you could spend nearly a lifetime going through every nook and cranny of these drawings. But I felt like a kid in a candy store, remembering all the half-finished maps I drew as a kid (and later as a college student) that never looked as good as any of Alyssa’s maps.
Funny enough, one of my favorite parts of these maps is that they are hand drawn. When you zoom in, there are no crisp, straight lines as you see with map-making software. I think it’s that organic part of drawing that makes these seem more grounded. No perfect corners or circles. Plenty of room for interpretation and filling in. Though I like the pretty, full-color maps produced by some of the bigger publishers, it’s nice to see there’s still room for hand-drawn works of art and creativity as well.
So if you’re looking for some maps to fuel your imagination, I’d encourage you to check out Hand Drawn Cities: Volume 1 from Torn World. My one caveat is that the book is $4.99 through RPGNow/DriveThruRPG, which seems a bit steep for a 9 page PDF with 6 pages of content. You do get each map as a separate PNG download as well, but it’s still a bit pricey.
- Setting Review: The Shadow Vale Player’s Guide by Alyssa Faden and Torn World (gameknightreviews.com)
- Hand-drawn maps made by 19th-century school children [Map Porn] (io9.com)