Thursday, May 21, 2009

"Real World" Based Maps in your Game

I was thinking back to the books I was reading when I first started playing D&D. The Hobbit and to a lesser extent LotR are definitely on that list, but the longest series I read was Piers Anthony's Xanth novel - I read the first nine books (there are thirty two total now).

I haven't read much fiction in years, and I have to admit that the Harry Potter series is definitely the longest series I've read since I was a kid. The thing that drew me to the Xanth books was the idea that everyone in the world (not including those in the land of Mundania) had a magical talent. A sort of one spell or magical ability, such as the ability to shape change, or talk to inanimate objects. I didn't think of it then, but it's much like the X-Men's mutant abilities (albeit not necessarily so obvious, since all the humans in Xanth generally look normal).

I didn't consider the books to have had that much influence on my D&D games, other than being a place to read about centaurs, ghosts, ogres and whatnot. They were pretty silly, with an overabundance of punning and the occasional sexual innuendo.

For fun and light reading, I recently bought a used copy of the first book in the series, A Spell for Chameleon. On opening it to the first page, there was a map of the land of Xanth. What's remarkable about this particular fantasy setting map is the fact that it's obviously based on the state of Florida (see picture above)! Right down to the long and straight northern border.

I've also been thinking about how I once designed my dungeons and world settings. One of the things I liked to do was base an adventure on a general map of my neighborhood, or of a place I'd gone on vacation to with my family. The houses and the people in them might become monsters, or the village and townsfolk. The day hikes we kids made down the railroad tracks and into the woods (this was in upstate New York) became opportunities. A pond with hoards of tadpoles and frogs we visited became a swamp or a lake I could name. And so on... Mixing fantasy and reality like that was great fun, and there could be inspiration for the game everywhere and in everything we did. It was like putting on D&D filter glasses. I wonder if anyone else makes their game maps in some way like this?

So seeing this Piers Anthony map, it all came back to me again. Is it something that all fantasy writers just naturally do (even kids), or did Anthony's map unconsciously inspire me to base my fictional D&D world (especially the geography of it) on the real world? What a trip to see that page in his book again... Being Florida, it also brought back memories of vacations to Disney World, which seems to be the exact location of the "Good Magician" on the map of Xanth.


Don Snabulus said...

I read a fair amount of Anthony as a kid, but just read the first 3 or 4 Xanth novels a year ago. You are right about them being better for reading than basing D&D stuff from.

I didn't use home stuff in my adventures, but my friend made a Doom (the first person shooter game) level out of his house and it was wonderfully creepy. His rendition of the local mall wasn't quite as good, but shooting demons in a mall is always good fun.

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