Looking for large region wilderness maps

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
278
Reaction score
486
For the past year or so I have been contemplating setting up a West Marches inspired campaign. I'm not good at map drawing and have been constantly on the lookout for a good wilderness map to use in such a campaign. The things I'm looking for:

1. High resolution so I can zoom in on it
2. A wide variety of terrain types, primarily temperate climate, but a map extending to tropical or arctic could be interesting
3. A variety of smaller terrain areas, like marshes along rivers, small forests, etc.
4. Terrain not bounded by hexes, in fact, would prefer a non-hex map
5. Would be cool to have vegetation and topography overlaid so mountains and hills can have varying terrains
6. prefer no signs of civilization, but some would be ok (West Marches inspired campaigns happen in unsettled wilds, having the map filled with roads and settlements defeats that idea).

My thoughts on a wilderness map: I like Judge's Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy as an example of having smaller terrain areas and not bounded by hexes, and especially dislike the map of Mystara (the single terrain nations are an extreme of how I dislike monolithic terrain). Harn is a nice map for showing both vegetation and topography but may not have the type of smaller terrain areas I like.

Thanks for any suggestions

Frank
 

Winterblight

Legendary Member
Joined
May 26, 2018
Messages
295
Reaction score
456
For the past year or so I have been contemplating setting up a West Marches inspired campaign. I'm not good at map drawing and have been constantly on the lookout for a good wilderness map to use in such a campaign. The things I'm looking for:

1. High resolution so I can zoom in on it
2. A wide variety of terrain types, primarily temperate climate, but a map extending to tropical or arctic could be interesting
3. A variety of smaller terrain areas, like marshes along rivers, small forests, etc.
4. Terrain not bounded by hexes, in fact, would prefer a non-hex map
5. Would be cool to have vegetation and topography overlaid so mountains and hills can have varying terrains
6. prefer no signs of civilization, but some would be ok (West Marches inspired campaigns happen in unsettled wilds, having the map filled with roads and settlements defeats that idea).

My thoughts on a wilderness map: I like Judge's Guild's Wilderlands of High Fantasy as an example of having smaller terrain areas and not bounded by hexes, and especially dislike the map of Mystara (the single terrain nations are an extreme of how I dislike monolithic terrain). Harn is a nice map for showing both vegetation and topography but may not have the type of smaller terrain areas I like.

Thanks for any suggestions

Frank
I'm currently practicing my overland map making skills. If you want I can try and make you a map in Campaign Cartographer. All I would need is a sketch of of the outline of the land mass and the most important features. I can ad lib the smaller details based on that. I can't promise it would be super professional quality, but it should look decent enough and be unique to your campaign.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
278
Reaction score
486
I'm currently practicing my overland map making skills. If you want I can try and make you a map in Campaign Cartographer. All I would need is a sketch of of the outline of the land mass and the most important features. I can ad lib the smaller details based on that. I can't promise it would be super professional quality, but it should look decent enough and be unique to your campaign.
Thanks for the offer. I'll have to think about it, one of the challenges I have with making my own map is my brain just isn't coming up with a general layout and major features. I know I want hills and mountains, maybe a badlands, forests (of different types at different elevations, with some going from one type to another as elevation changes), various swamps and lakes scattered about, probably at least one snow capped peak, a river with branches that makes an obvious path into the wilds, but with plenty of places that would need overland navigation to reach. One thing I envision is that the "town" is at the base (or maybe not quite at the base) of a pass through mountains that separate "back home" from "out there", probably providing some justification for why "out there" is wild while "back home" is relatively safe. That would suggest of course that if the town was on the river, it would be on a tributary, so using the river for navigation would entail going down river to the main river and then back up (which would justify at least some over land navigation, it's quicker to get to some things that way).
 

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
294
Reaction score
389
Pretty map, but it's got big monolithic terrains unless one ramps down the scale so that the entire island is only a weeks travel across or so.
I thought it was pretty realistic in a 'what you'd see from space' sort of way. I cut up bits to use for sandboxing eg https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-NrfZ3eHE2M0/XulRZFE2iFI/AAAAAAAAPqc/1oxiIT3UE40Kn5tBGo2vKm3QNnDNCkFTgCLcBGAsYHQ/s1600/Claws+of+Imystrahl+hexed.bmp and https://1.bp.blogspot.com/-MITmVPZE...OACLcBGAsYHQ/s1600/Quodeth+Region+-+hexed.jpg at 10 miles/hex. Doesn't look monolithic to me.
 

Nobby-W

Far more clumsy and random than a blaster
Joined
Oct 7, 2018
Messages
2,392
Reaction score
3,660
Thanks for the offer. I'll have to think about it, one of the challenges I have with making my own map is my brain just isn't coming up with a general layout and major features. I know I want hills and mountains, maybe a badlands, forests (of different types at different elevations, with some going from one type to another as elevation changes), various swamps and lakes scattered about, probably at least one snow capped peak, a river with branches that makes an obvious path into the wilds, but with plenty of places that would need overland navigation to reach. One thing I envision is that the "town" is at the base (or maybe not quite at the base) of a pass through mountains that separate "back home" from "out there", probably providing some justification for why "out there" is wild while "back home" is relatively safe. That would suggest of course that if the town was on the river, it would be on a tributary, so using the river for navigation would entail going down river to the main river and then back up (which would justify at least some over land navigation, it's quicker to get to some things that way).
I suggest you take a look at some real geography for inspiration. We've already identified some features you want on the map:
  • Hills
  • Mountains
  • Badlands/desert
  • Forest (temperate rainforest)
  • Forest (coniferous)
  • Forest (highlands)
  • Above tree line
  • Swamps
  • Lakes
  • Tall mountain with snow
  • River to follow into the wild
  • Tributaries to river above.
So, here I've taken a map of the South Island (New Zealand), made famous by location shots for the Lord of The Rinds film, and a region that I happen to be familiar with as I grew up there. If you start with this and then draw a schematic map based on the layout of the region, then poke and prod it a bit until you're satisified then you can base your map on the final layout.

If this isn't quite right for you then take a poke around on google maps until you find one that does work and start with that as a basis.
SouthIsland.jpg
 
Last edited:

robertsconley

Legendary Member
Joined
May 3, 2018
Messages
1,798
Reaction score
3,234
Well if you want wilderness then go back to the original the Outdoor Survival Map!

Here is my interpretation hexcrawl style. I believe it has all the terrain types you been looking for.

 

Winterblight

Legendary Member
Joined
May 26, 2018
Messages
295
Reaction score
456
I suggest you take a look at some real geography for inspiration. We've already identified some features you want on the map:
Yeah, most of the basics are covered on that list. However, I get the feeling that what is required is something much more variable in terrain so that you don't spend weeks of travel within the same terrain type. In the example of South Island there are basically three big sweeping terrain pieces that cover the entire island, mountains, forest, and grassland (green) broken up by lots of river, which of course is the way most maps are in reality.

One thing I envision is that the "town" is at the base (or maybe not quite at the base) of a pass through mountains that separate "back home" from "out there", probably providing some justification for why "out there" is wild while "back home" is relatively safe. That would suggest of course that if the town was on the river, it would be on a tributary, so using the river for navigation would entail going down river to the main river and then back up (which would justify at least some over land navigation, it's quicker to get to some things that way).
Well this is the classic civilisation bordering on the unexplored frontier wilderness, the town probably the (well fortified) last outpost of civilization, beyond which lies the unknown. Perhaps there might be a few fur trading posts just beyond the pass or a small one man ferry operation where the river becomes manageable. Of course the unknown has to have some kind of story to it to hook the PCs. Perhaps the ferry man - is exactly that - the ferry man from myth and legend and the river is the equivalent of the river Styx . Perhaps he's in trouble and has been sent to the mortal realm and needs help to get back. On the other had he is just a mortal, but people think he is cursed because all the boats he sells are bought by stupid adventurers and never return, nor do the adventurers. Unfortunately the last group of stupid adventurers were noble men and women and their families are now blaming the ferry man. Then you need to figure out, not the terrain, but what mysteries lie beyond the pass, the terrain can be secondary, only there to provide terrain based challenges on the way to solve bigger mysteries and to determine what types of creatures might live there.
 

Nobby-W

Far more clumsy and random than a blaster
Joined
Oct 7, 2018
Messages
2,392
Reaction score
3,660
Yeah, most of the basics are covered on that list. However, I get the feeling that what is required is something much more variable in terrain so that you don't spend weeks of travel within the same terrain type. In the example of South Island there are basically three big sweeping terrain pieces that cover the entire island, mountains, forest, and grassland (green) broken up by lots of river, which of course is the way most maps are in reality.
You can, of course use it as a starting point and frig with it to your heart's delight.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
278
Reaction score
486
Hmm, the Southlands map starts to look like something that would work. I'd be inclined to place the town at the Yellow Rapids though, or maybe shift things so the pass comes out at the next stream upriver from the stream that leads to the Yellow Rapids. And maybe scale up the area a bit and place some forests along the foothills. I'd also place some smaller marshes along the river and maybe add some lakes. And of course white out most of the traces of civilization, maybe leaving remnants of the Greystone road. The Outdoor Survival map definitely has too many big forests and it's less clear how to make out elevations (I can easily visualize elevations in your Southlands map with elevation increasing to the south, and perhaps even more so to the southwest.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
278
Reaction score
486
Yeah, most of the basics are covered on that list. However, I get the feeling that what is required is something much more variable in terrain so that you don't spend weeks of travel within the same terrain type. In the example of South Island there are basically three big sweeping terrain pieces that cover the entire island, mountains, forest, and grassland (green) broken up by lots of river, which of course is the way most maps are in reality.
Yea, that was my initial impression also. Also, with that long mountain range, early adventures are going to be on one side or the other.

Well this is the classic civilisation bordering on the unexplored frontier wilderness, the town probably the (well fortified) last outpost of civilization, beyond which lies the unknown. Perhaps there might be a few fur trading posts just beyond the pass or a small one man ferry operation where the river becomes manageable. Of course the unknown has to have some kind of story to it to hook the PCs. Perhaps the ferry man - is exactly that - the ferry man from myth and legend and the river is the equivalent of the river Styx . Perhaps he's in trouble and has been sent to the mortal realm and needs help to get back. On the other had he is just a mortal, but people think he is cursed because all the boats he sells are bought by stupid adventurers and never return, nor do the adventurers. Unfortunately the last group of stupid adventurers were noble men and women and their families are now blaming the ferry man. Then you need to figure out, not the terrain, but what mysteries lie beyond the pass, the terrain can be secondary, only there to provide terrain based challenges on the way to solve bigger mysteries and to determine what types of creatures might live there.
Larger mysteries are definitely part of West Marches, but they are to be discovered as you explore, not necessarily to be put out too early in the campaign. With the stricture of adventures starting and ending in the town, any settlements have to be not much better than camping out in the wilds so they don't become a base of operations. I won't have the rotating cast of players and players forming groups for expeditions and instead have a steady group of PCs, but I still want to encourage the expedition model (and potentially players might have more than one PC so each expedition could still recruit the PCs that made the most sense for it). Now with a more stable group, I'm not opposed to the players eventually setting up a new base deeper into the wilds, but I don't want to make it an assumption that there are safe places scattered around the wilds to retreat to.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
278
Reaction score
486
So take the Quodeth one, and let's take Ansumo as the town and remove the roads and settlements to the west. "Back there" is the Quodeth area and the Sar Peninsula as civilization. Going west, we have an open plains area and then a big jungle or a big forest, with a marsh down along the coast. So from a West Marches regions standpoint, we need to break up the forest and jungle. But those are the only things the early adventures will be in. And navigation is going to be challenging, with really most expeditions that want to go past the forest and jungle following the coast (and probably looking into sailing to be faster and avoid encounters...).
 

Bunch

Prince of Insufficient Light.
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
6,862
Reaction score
9,862
Redblob Games is a potential resource for semi realistic map generation without grids and with gradual terrain/biomes
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
278
Reaction score
486
Redblob Games is a potential resource for semi realistic map generation without grids and with gradual terrain/biomes
Yea, I've looked at that before. Using mapgen2 and making the numeber of regions huge and adding biomes does break up the forests into regions, though unless you crank the wetness down, it still tends towards continuous swaths of forest (which I'm sure is realistic).

The question for that one is how to get a higher resolution map.
 

Bunch

Prince of Insufficient Light.
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
6,862
Reaction score
9,862
Yea, I've looked at that before. Using mapgen2 and making the numeber of regions huge and adding biomes does break up the forests into regions, though unless you crank the wetness down, it still tends towards continuous swaths of forest (which I'm sure is realistic).

The question for that one is how to get a higher resolution map.
You might email him. He's a nice guy.
 

ffilz

Legendary Member
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
278
Reaction score
486

S'mon

Legendary Member
Joined
Aug 16, 2017
Messages
294
Reaction score
389
So take the Quodeth one, and let's take Ansumo as the town and remove the roads and settlements to the west. "Back there" is the Quodeth area and the Sar Peninsula as civilization. Going west, we have an open plains area and then a big jungle or a big forest, with a marsh down along the coast. So from a West Marches regions standpoint, we need to break up the forest and jungle. But those are the only things the early adventures will be in. And navigation is going to be challenging, with really most expeditions that want to go past the forest and jungle following the coast (and probably looking into sailing to be faster and avoid encounters...).
Well in fact the river from Quodeth goes up to a huge lake, the Kalayan Sea, and is navigable the whole way. Oared galleys make river transit fast even upriver. So some of the lower level adventures I ran were actually set up there.

I ran:
Adventures - in rough time order, there were initially two interacting PC groups (Sunday & Wednesday)

Tower of Black Flame lvl 1-2 - QUODETH
Cavern of Golden Tears lvl 2-4 - KALAYAN SEA
It Came From the Sewers lvl 1 - QUODETH
Beyond the Shadow of a Dream lvl 1 - QUODETH
The Watchers of Meng lvl 5-8 - JUNGLE OF ZAAL
Door of Varg-Sharsuni lvl 3 - QUODETH
Night of the Yellow Moon lvl 4-6 - KURMANUR WILDS
The Scent of Jasmine lvl 5-8 - QUODETH
Voor Darayn lvl 5-9 - KALAYAN SEA
Secret of the Moon Door lvl 10-12 - NAR HIGHLANDS (way off west)
Red Chains lvl 4-6 - MARG
Attack on the Isle of Woe - KALAYAN SEA
Tower of Golden Scales - KURMANUR WILDS
Lost Tower of Viondor lvl 7-9 - NIMOTH (way off north)

Edit: At one point a courtier PC, Zerda, was actually offered Ansumo as a Barony, but he turned it down preferring to stay close to the seat of power in Quodeth. If he had taken up the offer the campaign might have shifted to more of a 'frontier development' tone, and I might have wanted to do a smaller-scale regional hexmap, prob 2 miles/hex like this one in my FR campaign:

 
Last edited:
Top