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Old 09-20-2012, 09:10 PM   #1
Sindri
 
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Default Realistic Low Tech Maps

So low tech maps are cool and one of the things that makes them cool is how incredibly wrong they can be. Whether because of presumed or theorized landmasses or connections that don't exist, misinterpreted sightings of real lands, or just simple lies the map a character has can be startlingly different from reality.

Historical maps also look different in ways other than accuracy. The often referenced HC SVNT DRACONES does exist and the presence of strange beasts in empty areas is common. Many maps also are oriented to a direction other than north.

Since realistic maps are more interesting (And more forgiving if the GM wants to change his mind about distant lands.) than handing the characters modern style maps in a low tech setting I'd like to use them. What are people's experiences with converting and falsifying the maps they use for their own purposes to maps they give to the players? Doid maps always vary based on their intended purpose as they do now or was there a time when the map one would use at sea and on land would be made in largely the same way? Has anyone used a setting where magic changed maps without just making them resemble modern ones?
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Old 09-20-2012, 10:45 PM   #2
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

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Originally Posted by Sindri View Post
So low tech maps are cool and one of the things that makes them cool is how incredibly wrong they can be. Whether because of presumed or theorized landmasses or connections that don't exist, misinterpreted sightings of real lands, or just simple lies the map a character has can be startlingly different from reality.
-- Actual realistic maps? Well, in the West before TL3 you don't even have recognizable maps (unless you count the ancient equivalent of a subway map or Google directions list a 'map'). TL3 maps and early maps in general (e.g. China) are often little more than art pieces that should not provide much (if any) aid in actual wayfinding. TL4 is when you get a recognizable science of geography and the works of Ptolemy and Erasothenes are finally extended and surpassed.
-- Maps with north on top are just a convention, many Western maps were drawn (when they started being drawn at all) with east being up (hence the term "orient" from the Latin for 'east').

-- Hell, in a Roman campaign I would call the geographic knowledge of the players an unavoidable anachronism that represents their guidance by the divine powers. I certainly wouldn't give them any maps or, possibly, even allow them to draw scale maps for reference.
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:36 PM   #3
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

At least Rome had mile counters for roads. Everyone else had to make do with around 3 1/2 days travel that way.
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:37 PM   #4
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

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Originally Posted by Tzeentch View Post
-- Actual realistic maps? Well, in the West before TL3 you don't even have recognizable maps (unless you count the ancient equivalent of a subway map or Google directions list a 'map'). TL3 maps and early maps in general (e.g. China) are often little more than art pieces that should not provide much (if any) aid in actual wayfinding.
I think you go a bit far here. Medieval Europe was known for T-O maps, yes, but portolan charts date from the 13th century, and they certainly are useful for wayfinding. Meanwhile, China, being much more advanced in geography than the west, had been using a coordinate grid of lines to make large-area maps for centuries.
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Old 09-20-2012, 11:41 PM   #5
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

All reason why it's paramount to hire a local guide. And why the bad guys might be slower to catch or run from you. They tick off the locals by being bad guys.
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

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Originally Posted by Tzeentch View Post
-- Actual realistic maps? Well, in the West before TL3 you don't even have recognizable maps (unless you count the ancient equivalent of a subway map or Google directions list a 'map'). TL3 maps and early maps in general (e.g. China) are often little more than art pieces that should not provide much (if any) aid in actual wayfinding. TL4 is when you get a recognizable science of geography and the works of Ptolemy and Erasothenes are finally extended and surpassed.
There are recognizable maps earlier then TL 3... Or at least I think there are. I'm not certain what falls under ancient equivalent of a subway map which frankly I would consider a "map". And TL 3 definitely had useable maps.

PCs aren't really doing a lot that people didn't do historically. If they were capable of moving troops, sailing to new places and establishing trade routes then the PCs will be able to use whatever methods they did to get around.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Flyndaran View Post
All reason why it's paramount to hire a local guide. And why the bad guys might be slower to catch or run from you. They tick off the locals by being bad guys.
Local guides aren't really useful for the same stuff I think of when I think of maps. I don't know how many local maps there were in low tech societies but I don't imagine that there were a lot and it would be a lot of effort to acquire a map for every new local guide sized area you encountered. The sort of default uses for a map that I imagine is "Alright, we have a ship, now what continents are there and how are they arranged?" or "We need to get to this city we have heard of, how can we avoid running into a mountain or sea?".
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:09 AM   #7
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

Cross oceanic travel is definitely more TL 4+ let alone hitting near the port you were aiming at. I assumed they hit land and just slid along the coastline until they got to where they wanted to go.
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:17 AM   #8
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

About 200 meters from where I am right now is a copy of this thing:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peutinger_Table

It's not geographically accurate, but I expect it was very good for its intended purpose.

Last edited by trans; 09-21-2012 at 12:20 AM. Reason: delete one "very"
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:26 AM   #9
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sindri View Post
There are recognizable maps earlier then TL 3... Or at least I think there are. I'm not certain what falls under ancient equivalent of a subway map which frankly I would consider a "map". And TL 3 definitely had useable maps.
-- Before TL3 in the West? There's no evidence for such a thing so far (the Peutinger Table isn't TL2 despite people claiming it is an example of an earlier art, nor is to scale as far as we know - currently working on a research project that will test this actually). Doesn't mean there were not real honest to goodness maps drawn to scale but we've never found one and the Greeks and Romans don't discuss such a thing (well, unless you use some inventive translation). Before TL3 in the East oh heck yes. The Chinese were doing all sorts of things with actual maps fairly early in TL2 at least. How recognizable those maps are is a matter of some conjencture, but they certainly were centuries ahead of the West in using drawn representations of the earth to some scale or system (even Ptolemy may not have ever actually used his own projection system to create a map, Ptolemaic maps that survive are all sourced centuries later).
-- Subway maps show topological relationships but are not a "map" you could use for anything but trip planning. Which is what itineraries and such were, lists of places and distances and maybe some description of landmarks on the way. But really that's all people need. It's anachronistic to think ancient people even required our level of map consciousness (and I teach geography so that isn't saying much given current skill levels).
Quote:
PCs aren't really doing a lot that people didn't do historically. If they were capable of moving troops, sailing to new places and establishing trade routes then the PCs will be able to use whatever methods they did to get around.
-- Absolutely. But you don't need a map to do that, even "here be dragon" fictions.
Quote:
Local guides aren't really useful for the same stuff I think of when I think of maps. I don't know how many local maps there were in low tech societies but I don't imagine that there were a lot and it would be a lot of effort to acquire a map for every new local guide sized area you encountered. The sort of default uses for a map that I imagine is "Alright, we have a ship, now what continents are there and how are they arranged?" or "We need to get to this city we have heard of, how can we avoid running into a mountain or sea?".
-- That sort of reference material and knowledge base wasn't necessarily codified into books or graphical representations. Most ancient navigation was pretty much expert knowledge and personal experience passed down by apprenticeship.

-- Sorry for getting exuberant about this, but I'm very interested in this topic and have had some spirited discussion with my advisor regarding defining and categorizing conceptions of space in the ancient world :)
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Old 09-21-2012, 12:32 AM   #10
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Default Re: Realistic Low Tech Maps

Quote:
Originally Posted by trans View Post
About 200 meters from where I am right now is a copy of this thing:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peutinger_Table
It's not geographically accurate, but I expect it was very good for its intended purpose.
-- Well. It MAY be more geographically accurate then is currently appreciated. Noone has actually tried fitting it to a coordinate system (either piecemeal or as a whole). Expect more on this subject in a journal next year once I get some free time to do the digitization :)~
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