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I’ve been asked, since I do art, if I do fantasy maps. Er… no. Honestly, I’ve never really tried. Mapmaking looks cool, but doesn’t spark my imagination the way drawing a dragon does. For my Mom, it’s always been all about designing buildings, especially houses. She used to spend hours designing energy-efficient, flowing use-space houses, and still does using SketchUp. Me? I came to art late, and digital art even later, and my focus for traditional media is botanical, and for digital I’m deep into creating space scenes. However, I completely grasp the coolness of having a map to help visualize the world your characters are going to tread, if you want that to be something other than a mimic of our own. And this week I discovered a nifty way to randomly generate both world maps, and cities.

At this distance you can’t make out scale, let alone political city-state boundaries (“Candyworld” art by Cedar Sanderson)

Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator is a fun tool for the writer, or the gamer. It’s a minimalist look at first, but offers deep details if you start playing around with buttons and settings – including the ability to put in your own names for states, cities, rivers and much more. You could spend a ton of time in this. I did not. I was messing around with it to show you all something fun you could use – but I was also mindful that I had fiction to write!

A random map, with the settings on states, and two continents.

I don’t know if it was my browser, but I was unable to download a jpg file from the generator, which was fine, I just grabbed a png instead. In the generator, you can really zoom in, down to the cities as dots and placement of major routes. You can set the maps to show heightmaps for terrain, or plain, or with artificial divisions like states, religions, diplomacies, and others. The map generated the names you see above, which are interesting, but you can also enter all your own.

You can even edit the terrain! This is interesting, as you could possibly do stuff that wouldn’t work at all in real geology, but hey, it’s a fantasy world! It’s all held together by magic!

As you can see here the possibilities for customization are vast. It even shows you what real language the names are generated from. I have no idea if I will ever use this, because I am a pantser and by the time I need this I will have already set the terrain and names. I suppose with the heightmap painter and name editing I could. Hm. For a lot more support and other user input, there’s a subreddit that exists for this little program.

The other cool little generator is for Medieval Fantasy Cities, and it will give you a new one as soon as you load the page. This one is a little simpler than the world map, but still offers a lot of different detail you can use.

You can either leave the districts unmarked (if you mouse over them, the name will pop up) or mark them as I have here. As you’ll see from my screen shot, there are plenty of ways to add or remove details!

The small, medium and large apply to city size, not image file size. Images from this generator can either be png or svg, and what? I have artist brain! The one above is a medium city, below is a large. I’ve also changed the color and line settings a bit.

And finally! if some friends give you *coff*drawingprompts*coff* or names, or if you just have cool words picked out for using as cities states and boroughs, this might be a handy random generator of such lists. You can plug in the list, and then it will randomize it for you and you can work your way down it. Like I’m going for daily drawing prompts. Because I am still not going to draw my own maps.

24 Comments
  1. Draven #

    neat

    November 2, 2019
  2. Jane Meyerhofer #

    This is really cool. I’d be afraid to go near it as a time sink of awesome proportions.

    Also I nearly had a sad this morning because the posts are out of order so I thought you hadn’t posted and you are my Saturday morning treat!

    November 2, 2019
    • The posts are out of order! I hadn’t noticed. I’m glad to hear I’m a treat, not a trick!

      November 2, 2019
  3. Time sink! I could spend far, far too much time playing with these.

    November 2, 2019
    • Instead of Popcorn Kittens, we could have fantasy cities 😀

      November 2, 2019
  4. Sigh. More links to put on the list and manfully ignore until I can actually justify using them. (Keep them coming, though, Cedar – Apophysis was exactly what I needed when I needed it.)

    November 2, 2019
    • Great! These are just things I stumble across (ok, Apophysis I’ve been playing with for five years) and find cool.

      November 2, 2019
  5. Margaret Ball #

    Thans a bunch, Cedar! Here I am piling words one on top of another like rocks and you enliven my morning with no fewer than three gloriously distracting time sinks! That first map generator… I could dive in there and not come out until spring. Not gonna do that. Not. Not. Not… but I am bookmarking it.

    November 2, 2019
    • Some days you need stuff like this… and some days you don’t!

      Great to hear on the words! I’m chugging away at the writing mines myself last night and today in between dishes.

      November 2, 2019
  6. snelson134 #

    Cedar, I don’t know if you found this, but the world generator will let you place cities with various parameters (Port, Citadel Y/N, population, etc.) and then there’s an icon that automatically calls the other site you linked and builds a city with those parameters.

    This is great.

    November 2, 2019
    • I had not realized they were linked! That is very nifty, thank you.

      November 2, 2019
  7. Super-duper mega ubrer cool, but I’d never write another word if I played with this once .

    November 2, 2019
  8. TheOtherSean #

    Ah yes, I remember this one from years ago, though it looks like they’ve made a lot of progress – that link to the town generator is awesome. I love procedural world generation tools.

    Looks like this one is fractal based, and has a heavy bias toward one of three basic continental arrangements: single supercontinent, two continents (east and west), and bunches’o’islands. Maybe five percent of the time it throws out something nasty, at least if you’re hoping for a map of the whole world. For example, land extending to the corners, or to the left or right edges, and not extending to the other side, or Polar continents seem impossible.

    All the other features are at least decent, though. I imagine with some small tweaks to its current land mass generation (use 3D Perlin noise and 3D sampling), or tectonic-based methods (e.g. Experilous, platec) instead, it would generate some pretty nice worlds. The river system generation and political partitioning are cool, and the ability to edit and label features, and to generate cities in some detail, are all really neat.

    I may need to investigate the source code for this, and see what license it has. I may be able to contribute something back to them, or reuse this in some of my own world-building software experiments.

    And if I happen to need a world map for a story, it just might due the trick. So long as I don’t need too many, because the pattern would get bloody obvious after a few of them.

    All in all, though, pretty darn cool. Cedar, many thanks for your post.

    November 2, 2019
    • TheOtherSean #

      And it turns out it is MIT licensed, and source code can be found at https://github.com/Azgaar/Fantasy-Map-Generator. The developer credits Amit Patel’s “Polygonal Map Generation for Games” as one of three inspirations, which I can totally understand. Patel’s work generates a map of an island, with several varieties of basic shapes, generating elevation, biomes, river systems, etc.

      November 2, 2019
  9. Mary #

    Then, of course, there is the decision of whether to do the map BEFORE or AFTER, and to what level of detail

    November 2, 2019
  10. Luke #

    I’m torn.

    On the one hand, it’s a cool world building aid that I can see being extremely helpful if you’re not designing your geography to drive your plot.

    On the other, I actually studied cartography. (I changed majors after it became blindingly obvious that I can’t draw. It was about five years before personal computers were powerful enough to handle GIS. If my timing had been just a bit better…) Anyway, what you’ve shown us makes me wince. That’s not even an anachronistic modified Mercator projection. The world is a fricking cylinder.

    November 2, 2019
    • TheOtherSean #

      It’s not even a cylinder – even the east-west edges don’t wrap. It is essentially plate carre projection of some or all of a world, that can optionally be (poorly) wrapped around a globe using cylindrical texture mapping. But the techniques for everything else can be ported to a better (2D or 3D) polygonal map.

      But I think I was wrong in my previous post. It may or may not use fractals, but it does have a set of templates. Most work OK but some (e.g. the Medditerranean template) are inappropriate for a map of a whole world.

      I’m starting to think that pairing up the Experilous polygonal globe with the other concepts here might be an interesting project for me to play with in the Godot game engine, which I was recently taking a look at.

      November 2, 2019
    • Mary #

      So? It’s a cylinder!

      You got something against cylinders?

      November 2, 2019
      • Luke #

        Not if you do two. 😉
        But I’m afraid modern readers aren’t familiar with the “hollow earth” trope. (Do you want to explain it to them? Because the very thought makes me want to slam my head in a door.)

        November 3, 2019
        • Lol! Ok. So maybe a story about a dyson sphere around a distant sun, instead?

          November 3, 2019
        • It’s easy if you turn it into an asteroid or a Dyson Sphere! Hollow Earth exists… in spaaaaaaace!

          November 3, 2019
        • Mary #

          A hollow sphere exerts no gravitational attraction on any object inside it. Hope you got your magic ready.

          But the worlds where I have thought about the same are flat as a pancake though merging into a haze at the edge, and the intersection of the four elemental regions of fire, earth, water, and air, so — pretty much flat as far as the mortal regions go.

          November 3, 2019
  11. ….and, here I was procrastinating doing a city map of downtown West Churchi. Calvin Coolidge wins again.

    November 3, 2019
  12. Synova #

    I like making maps and have done that for sci-fi worlds. Probably because of being a geologist, though, most fantasy maps make me nuts… note… geo-political boundaries are determined by *geography*, not politics. And geography is determined by geology.

    Okay, okay, it’s just fine if magic is holding the world together! 😀

    Some fun things to do is look up Earth maps in prior eras… boom… you’ve got an entire globe with continents that are real but almost no one will recognize.

    My most satisfying map making was using real maps for scale… say… New Zealand. How big is that really? (And how tiny compared to the whole world.) I ended up adding the land mass of New Zealand and Japan for my map. Then I had a concept of how far apart stuff was and how many people could reasonably be there.

    Google Earth!

    I’m definitely going to check out the links and map makers from this post when I get home. I might have to book mark them though… NaNo! Oh, and visiting relatives. 🙂

    November 4, 2019

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