Saturday, September 13, 2008
Maps have always excited me, particularly maps of imaginary places. I can still recall the first time I ever saw a map of the lands of Hyboria in some old paperback edition of Conan. Likewise, the maps included with my copy of The Lord of the Rings inspired me as I attempted to put the geography of my own fantasy world down on paper. There's just something enthralling about maps and I still love them passionately.
I don't think any map for a fantasy RPG setting has ever captivated me the way that Darlene's maps for the World of Greyhawk did. They are the cartographic counterpart to Dave Trampier's AD&D Players Handbook cover -- an icon of the old school. The reason is quite simple: these maps combine attractiveness with utility. That is, they're not just pretty pictures; they're eminently useful too. Certainly one can balk at the map's lack of realism -- the way the terrain nicely conforms to hexes, for example -- but that seems beside the point to me. Far more important is that the map is pleasing to the eye while still being usable in designing wilderness encounters and tracking PC movement on a large scale. With the possible exception of the Hârn maps -- which I find a bit too realistic -- I can't think of any RPG setting maps that can hold a candle to these masterpieces.