Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More Reasons Why You Shouldn't Believe the Map

This is just  a brief follow up to yesterday's post (Everything You Know About the Map is Wrong)  about making the player's map incomplete, vague, or abstract as a way of stressing exploration and discovery.  Here are two more reasons why player maps might be misleading, even if the area was previously surveyed and accurately mapped by other explorers:

Maps make excellent propaganda pieces.  Having trouble convincing settlers to go to a wintry island capped with glacial ice?  Why don't you name it "Greenland" on the map and let them fill in the blanks?  Closer to home, I was looking at a German map of colonial Pennsylvania, where central areas had labels like "Happy Valley" and "Greensboro" in order to encourage settlement - a contributing factor to PA's modern communities of Pennsylvania Dutch and large influx of German-Swiss settlers.

A borderlands or wilderness map could be filled with misleading names and labels, calculated to lure colonists and settlers to stabilize the frontier (or lure adventurers into clearing out areas filled with monsters).

Borders Are Political Statements
Going back to colonial mapping, there are competing maps by French and English cartographers that show vastly different claims to the New World by those countries respectively.  This idea really amuses me - cartographers in remote offices back home, drawing arbitrary and artificial claims on maps, maximizing their nation's illusory influence over untamed wilds (just because they can).  These illegitimate claims then contribute to border conflicts, wars, and land grabs by colonists and traders on both sides!

Competing border claims along the frontier is a situation fraught with gaming opportunities.


  1. Or the geopolitical implications of Mercator vs. alternative projections.

  2. Recommended reading: How to Lie With Maps by Mark Monmonier
    I'd be interested if you do more with these ideas.

  3. This premise is rife with possible adventures.