Generic World Maps for Gaming and Fiction

Formula and originality are antagonistic, but they are also sides of the same coin. Representing formula in an original way is an art, and it can be both entertaining and enlightening. An example, a template, can inspire. A parody can expose rote worldbuilding.

Truly generic maps are hard to make and harder to use. Each of the authors in this collection has approached the work from very different angles. The most divergent map is the last one, which reflects a pre-Tolkien fantasy world, with the literary tropes that were available to him, while the other maps show the trope landscape post-Tolkien.

Particulars of the maps

Place names and labels are often puns, and some maps use the not-<thing> convention (for instance not-Russians) to indicate that what the name or label refers to has some obvious traits but is intended to be described as something else.

The idea for this particular collection comes from a Reddit post: https://www.reddit.com/r/osr/comments/vwnrvl/the_generic_world_map_for_all_your_generic/

Use of maps in this post is intended to be fair use and I have attempted to credit authors and to provide links to the original material. No graphics shown here is my work, only the words are mine. Comments on the maps have not been verified with the authors and doesn’t necessarily reflect their views.

Generic World Map, For All Your Generic Fantasy Needs

This is a cataloguing map collecting tropes for generic fantasy. Many tropes are implied by the names and art, such as the “Coast Raiders”, “Fjords”, and “Mead Hall” suggesting a Viking-style culture without calling it that.

Fantasy and fairy-tale genres are coupled with monster horror (“Lost World”, “Ghoul Barrows”, “Sunken City”), cosmic horror (“The Gate”, “Cyclopean Ruins”, “Ancient Wall”, “Meatmouth”), forces-of-nature (“Ice Wastes”, “Blasted Heath”, “Jungle”, “Stormy Sea”, “Whirlpool”, “Whalers”), and science fiction/fantasy (“Star Wreck”, “Tradeport”). There are many obvious biomes, from frozen wastes to jungles and deserts (if the oasis is an indication).

By Lucas Roussel and Skerples.

The Only Fantasy World Map You’ll Ever Need

This map is very different, as it gives very little in the way of illustration. The names and labels act as descriptors. My favourite is “Clockwork Tsars”, which does evoke images, though possibly not the same images in two readers. Lakes and seas are without traits.

The connections to medieval/early modern Europe/Asia/Africa are enticing, but it’s hard to tell how deliberate they are (“Norseheim”-Scandinavia; “Tiny Bickering Fiefdoms”-pre-unification Germany;”Poncy Knights”-England/France; “Hellfire Imperium”-Rome/Byzantium; “Crumbling Crusader-state”-Antioch/Kgd Jerusalem; “A-ra-bian Niiiiiights”-Arabia; “Alien Egyptians”-Egypt?; “Desertpunk”-Sahara; aspects of the greens-Southwest Africa; “Lion Tribes”-Sudan-Tanganyika; “Ancient Sumerian Awful”-lower Iraq; “Tiger-Headed Opium Nightmare”-India/Pakistan?; “Jade Empire”-China; “Ninja Country”-Japan). The correspondence is neither total nor complete, of course.

“Innsmouth” and “Mountains of Madness” are Lovecraft quotes, but strangely Innsmouth is remote while the Mountains are nestled in among nations and regions.

By EotBeholder (https://www.deviantart.com/eotbeholder/art/The-Only-Fantasy-World-Map-245738593)

Generica — The Realm of Fairly Limited Imagination

This map is supposed to be inspired by Clichéa (next map) and to have inspired Generica (the first map). As a special feature, it shows expected trope dynamics as import/export arrows. Cultural tropes include Welsh, Norsemen, Scots, two feudal cultures, one of which has a “Camenot” and the other a “Robbin’ Woods”, a mercantile culture (Italy?), Arabians, Japanese, Chinese, and Mongols.

Kindred tropes include vampires, Elves (Elfs?), Orcs, Dwarves, and Amazons. Oh, and there’s a reasonably stocked Mordor-style realm.

By Quietuus (https://old.reddit.com/r/imaginarymaps/comments/6hx7ae/generica_the_realm_of_fairly_limited_imagination/)

The Land of Clichéa

Such a nice-looking map! Such a meagre worldbuild! I suppose it is meant to reflect someone building a world from a small handful of tropes without much forethought, and mixing some Tolkien (the good green lands versus the evil dark and barren lands) with Norse mythology and a hint of orientalism. It has some active sea regions, at least.

By Sarithus (https://old.reddit.com/r/imaginarymaps/comments/35kqqt/the_land_of_clich%C3%A9a/)

Typicalia

This map makes one reach for the colouring tools. Coding lands with either colour or well-formed and well-placed symbols makes a lot of difference. There is a minimum of seas, but one of those that is shown ties a bunch of civilised and half-civilised kingdoms together, with nation types noted. Beyond those are realms and peoples that one senses cause trouble in the civilised lands: an “Evil slightly oriental empire”, “Primitifolk”, and “Notmongolfolk”. And beyond those, “Slaver states”, empty lands and a Prester John-type ally. Some assorted tropish places appear here and there.

By (twitter)@stratometaship (https://twitter.com/stratometaship/status/1535990587765104641)

Fantasyland, by Diana Wynne Jones

This map is generic in the sense that it has a bit of most things, but something, possibly the author’s great skill in worldbuilding, has prevented it from becoming a real “kitchen sink” map. I suppose it illustrates concepts that are discussed in the book it appears in, The Tough Guide to Fantasyland, revised. Names and labels are mostly mundane and not overly obvious (is “Dark Citadel” an evil place, or is it built with walls of very dark grey stone?).

https://www.books4yourkids.com/2013/05/the-tough-guide-to-fantasyland-revised.html

An anciente mappe of Fairyland

This is the real one. Most concepts and proto-tropes from fairy-tale and legend known to English-speakers. Nothing really modern, the map was published in 1920. The dark end isn’t quite a grimdark Mordor-place: it has giants, monsters, and wickedness (witches and wizards were antagonists back then) but it is next to peaceful-looking fairies, faeries, and elfs (remember that Tolkien hadn’t raised Elves to strong and good creatures yet). Beyond nearly mundane town and country ranges with fairy-tale concepts is a mountain of Arthurian legends, and to the right of that, a landscape of Greek hero-myth. Take a look, there is much to see.

By Bernard Sleigh (https://www.loc.gov/resource/g9930.ct001818/?r=0.231,0.014,0.501,0.286,0): the map there is scrollable, less than half is visible here

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Peter Lewerin

Peter Lewerin

Algorithmician, history buff, non-practicing hedonist. Whovian, ghiblist: let there be wonder. Argumentative, punster, has delusions of eloquence.