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Old 11-01-2014, 05:38 AM   #1
johndallman
 
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Default [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

Cartography is the IQ/A skill of creating and interpreting maps and charts. It has a lot of defaults: IQ-5, Geography (any) -2, Mathematics (Surveying)-2, or Navigation (any)-4. It includes the use of technological aids to map-making: the examples quoted are TL7+ GPS and sensors, which presumably includes the routine production of maps from aerial photographs that was standard practice for the WWII US Army, and every other advanced state since then.

The Non-Iconographic disadvantage makes it impossible to learn Cartography, although it's not clear if default use is possible. Mathematics (Surveying), and Navigation (land) have defaults to Cartography.

I have a bit of a problem with this skill's RAW, because drawing very simple maps without skill is easy, although I'm not usually trying to do it in a hurry in poor light in the midst of combat. So I suspect that this is one of the skills where mundane use often involves a lot of extra time, and significant bonuses for simplicity. B491 suggests that success can be automatic for a map good enough to let others follow routes along major geographic features, but you need to roll for fiddly details. That page also has some sensible guidelines about mapping dungeons, building interiors, and the like.

It's also not totally clear how "interpreting" maps is different from navigating with the aid of a map. Maps are basic equipment for Navigation (High-Tech p52), so I suspect that this kind of "interpreting" with Cartography is learning things about a location from a map without going there. That's consistent with its use in Underground Adventures with seismology.

DF16: Wilderness Adventures recommends Cartography for almost everyone, and has rules for daily mapping and low-tech tools to assist. Magic has a spell which will inscribe a map for you, but no better - just faster - than you could manage with your own Cartography skill. Spaceships 5 has rules for map-making via advanced sensors. Tactical Shooting makes it a complimentary skill to Observation for creating a range card. Lots of Wildcard skills in PU7 include Cartography, and there's a quirk in PU6, and a talent in PU3 that cover it.

Cartography appears on templates in Action, Bio-Tech, Dragons, Dungeon Fantasy, Fantasy, Horror, Madness Dossier, Infinite Worlds, Metro of Madness, Martial Arts, Fairbairn Close Combat Systems, Thaumatology: Urban Magics, SEALS in Vietnam, Space, and Zombies.

I suspect I ought to demand more use of Cartography as a GM, although in my current campaign most of the PC's time is spent in civilised areas where map can easily be bought, or in parallel worlds with near-identical geography.

What have you done - or failed to do - with Cartography in a game?
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Old 11-01-2014, 12:09 PM   #2
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

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Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
What have you done - or failed to do - with Cartography in a game?
Decided I really should have taken Absolute Direction?

While that was intended to be humorous, it also was true for the main group I gamed with; no one wanted to get too bogged down creating maps. We wanted reference maps for tactical situations, but neither player nor GM were overly excited about players trying to map things themselves (if the GM makes a small flub but only he has the map, its easy to gloss over). This was quite generous for the GM.

If we thought we were going to need to map, we usually just took an appropriate combination of Advantages (well, someone in the party did) and a good enough Cartography skill (if not everyone had the needed traits) that after a skill check, the GM would just show you his map (or at least a version of it).
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Old 11-01-2014, 12:28 PM   #3
simply Nathan
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

I've had a prospective GM tell me before that if I put any points into Cartography, he'd just give me the maps of the areas as the party progressed instead of making me roll to recreate them accurately.

Meanwhile I had been thinking up to that point that since players attempting to map out dungeons was such a common task that characters having Cartography would be nearly an everyman skill, about on par with Hiking and First Aid (and probably ranking above Stealth and Gesture as my experiences were generally "only thieves and rangers try to sneak anywhere anyway").
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Old 11-01-2014, 01:35 PM   #4
sir_pudding
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

I really like the rule from Dungeon Fantasy 2: Dungeons (which you left out of the OP), where if the player's map seems confusing or wrong, they can make a Cartography roll to get a hint from the GM.
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Old 11-01-2014, 04:29 PM   #5
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

I'll just weigh in to say that serious cartography is VERY hard.

I'm probably an example of at least a point of Cartography/TL8 as part of my job as a GIS Software Developer (I write the software used for presenting spatial data, as well as managing and analyzing it) This involves familiarity with projections, spheroidal geometry, symbology conventions, labeling (the true test of a pure cartographer), spatial data and the software used to work with it (Geographic Information Systems, my focus), some basic spatial analysis, and a familiarity with the particular thing being mapped (It's hard to make a hydrogeology map without knowing something about hydrogeology, or the aid of someone who does)

Many people see pretty maps and think, "I could draw that". Particularly those who do have some point in Artist. The result is often no better than a back of the napkin type map made much prettier and without the signs that it is highly inaccurate (and possibly signs that it is accurate in some way, often several contradictory ways)

Collecting, managing, analyzing, and presenting spatial data is the basis of an entire industry within which people have to develop focused skill sets and work together in order to accomplish anything due to the massive complexity of it all.

A simple connectedness map of a dungeon isn't hard, assuming you can figure out the connectedness in the first place. Taking raw information and creating a useful map beyond that level is hard. Getting the information you need from the information you have is very hard. Making sure that people understand the data being presented and don't misinterpret it is staggeringly difficult.
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:44 AM   #6
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

I don't remember this ever being important in a game. I've had plenty of situations where someone had to draw a sketch map, of the same sort of quality as I'd produce during a session when the players ask, but it's never been in a particularly complex situation. While I do take an interest in maps and projections, I don't think I qualify for a point in the skill, so I reckon it's possible to use it effectively at default.

In my character archives, it's not on any more than one character per party, and quite a few parties don't have it at all.

(If anyone would like their parties to be included in this analysis, and can supply GCA files, send me a PM and I'll sort something out.)
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Old 11-02-2014, 10:59 AM   #7
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

Quote:
Originally Posted by Hai-Etlik View Post
I'll just weigh in to say that serious cartography is VERY hard.

I'm probably an example of at least a point of Cartography/TL8 as part of my job as a GIS Software Developer (I write the software used for presenting spatial data, as well as managing and analyzing it) This involves familiarity with projections, spheroidal geometry, symbology conventions, labeling (the true test of a pure cartographer), spatial data and the software used to work with it (Geographic Information Systems, my focus), some basic spatial analysis, and a familiarity with the particular thing being mapped (It's hard to make a hydrogeology map without knowing something about hydrogeology, or the aid of someone who does)

Many people see pretty maps and think, "I could draw that". Particularly those who do have some point in Artist. The result is often no better than a back of the napkin type map made much prettier and without the signs that it is highly inaccurate (and possibly signs that it is accurate in some way, often several contradictory ways)

Collecting, managing, analyzing, and presenting spatial data is the basis of an entire industry within which people have to develop focused skill sets and work together in order to accomplish anything due to the massive complexity of it all.

A simple connectedness map of a dungeon isn't hard, assuming you can figure out the connectedness in the first place. Taking raw information and creating a useful map beyond that level is hard. Getting the information you need from the information you have is very hard. Making sure that people understand the data being presented and don't misinterpret it is staggeringly difficult.
'Why Skill_A is not as simple as the public thinks' are great. Thanks for pointing out the problems of drawing maps.

Do you have any useful insights into the bit about Cartography being about reading maps?

Also, what's ultra-hard about labelling in particular?
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Old 11-02-2014, 12:10 PM   #8
Peter Knutsen
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

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Originally Posted by vicky_molokh View Post
Do you have any useful insights into the bit about Cartography being about reading maps?
I'd like to hear more about being able or unable to read maps too.
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Old 11-02-2014, 12:19 PM   #9
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

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Originally Posted by Peter Knutsen View Post
I'd like to hear more about being able or unable to read maps too.
GURPS' "Non-Iconographic" disadvantage is pretty severe. I suspect it's meant for alien species who just don't think that way, or humans with severe problems.

My teenage years school was keen on outdoor activities, and I remember some of my fellow-pupils couldn't make sense of maps at first, but I suspect that in GURPS terms they were just missing the experience to get a default in Navigation (Land). My parents were both used to reading maps, and I think I picked it up from them when quite young.
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Old 11-02-2014, 01:05 PM   #10
vicky_molokh
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Default Re: [Basic] Skill of the week: Cartography

Quote:
Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
GURPS' "Non-Iconographic" disadvantage is pretty severe. I suspect it's meant for alien species who just don't think that way, or humans with severe problems.
The issue isn't about Non-Iconographic at all (in my case, anyway). Rather, I'm trying to understand what sort of special skills of map-reading is included in Cartography. The fact that a map is part of standard equipment for Navigation, and that Cartography defaults to Navigation, is of additional relevance.
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