Friday, 30 March 2018

Review: How to Draw Fantasy and RPG Maps, by Jared Blando

I spend most of my time reading, writing and staring at various screens. But away from this I have the wildly different hobby of staring at a page and drawing stuff. Maps are very common at the start of fantasy books, but how does Jared Blando’s book stand as a guide for those of us with the artistic talent of a potato?

Suggested materials for art include both traditional and electronic approaches and cover the bases you would expect (reasonably nice paper, decent pencils and pens etc).

Naturally, ways of drawing the most obvious features (rivers/seas/lakes, forests and mountains) are all included. A nice touch is adding a panel at the end of each such section offering alternative methods of depicting mountain ranges, forests etc.

Beyond the obvious essentials there’s a lot of little extras that can help add character to a map. Methods of drawing cities are offered, ranging from basic iconography to various mini-city drawings (as per the approach I adopted in the map below). Little distinguishing features to help make each city feel unique are another nice touch (for example, a merchant ship beside a coastal trade city). On similar lines, the author describes ways of indicating different borders, roads and paths.

My own effort at a simple map. 
For each feature indicated above, there’s a clear step-by-step guide that’s simple enough for a drunk wearing oven gloves to follow.

There are also suggested symbols depicting sea monsters, mines, ruins and so forth. Outside the map proper, there’s quite of a lot of interesting extra stuff such as a little font info (full alphabets would’ve been better, though), ideas for keys and compasses, and for bordering the map.

All in all, there’s a lot in there, clearly presented and easy to follow (even for beginners or those suffering from a deficit of talent).

Downsides? Well, all the maps are overland. There’s scope for a second volume focusing on city maps and/or subterranean realms (dwarven kingdoms, that sort of thing). That’s all that springs to mind. Although if we’re to critique things that aren’t included, I would’ve liked to have my copy hand-delivered by Olivia Wilde. There’s also potential for more extreme environmental conditions (icy tundra, deserts, pyramids, igloos etc).

The innkeeper considers this be a four and a half out of five pints.


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