Comments on 2020-01-26 Collaborating on a setting

Now I’m reading The formless wilderness by Melan, following a link from The Map is not the Territory - Part 1 by Jens D. This is going to be a long night, I can tell.

The Map is not the Territory - Part 2 by Jens D. makes some interesting points.

The first one is considering the utility of a map for players:

“... imagine yourself in the middle of a forest without a map. What are your options, what is it you can do to get around, etc., etc. ... Now imagine yourself with a map. What would change? What is it you can do now? How does the map relate to what is surrounding you? Your options change, but not as much as one would actually think. As a matter of fact, if you don’t know where you are or how to work a map, it might end up being useless to have a map, right? And now imagine the players having a map without the characters having one ... that’s the discrepancy I’m talking about.” – Jens D.

The second one is considering the normative influence maps have on our imagination.

The first example given is that a map implicitly also defines all there is. Once you have a map, you can look at it and find this and that and the other. But you cannot find the things that aren’t on the map. In fact, it gets harder to think of the things not on the map if you have a map. This is true for both players and referees.

The second example given is that a map implicitly structures our imagination. If we create maps that are easy to map (like the maps created by @gridmapper) then the dungeons will be easy to map. When you compare this with actual underground locations, real caverns, real tunnels that were dug by people and grew over time, then you’ll notice how hopelessly artificial it all is.

I’m not sure what to make of it. I like maps.

In terms of designing a setting, I guess I’d like there to be a bunch of local maps and no clear way of getting from one place to another. Like, Hannibal moves from Carthage to Rome via Spain, France and Switzerland. The movie doesn’t show us how he moves on the map. The movie would show us the Spanish landscape, the Pyrenees, the French landscape, the crossing of the Rhône river, the Alps, the Po river, and on and on. We could have a setting map in Catalonia, one in the Alps, one in the Italian plains, and so on.

Everything else is white space, a gap, a lacuna, the unknown. Our vision of the land would be fragmentary, and we’d keep it that way. Any larger maps would simply be in-game guesswork.

– Alex Schroeder 2020-01-26


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