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Map Scaling

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Samantha England, Jan 15, 2020.

  1. Samantha England

    Samantha England Scribe

    So I'm having a bit of trouble with map scaling, specifically the math behind it (oh math, my most persistent foe!)

    I'm very into map creation and while it's not too hard to create said maps, scaling them beyond 'world', 'continental', 'regional', and 'city'/'village' is troublesome. The math escapes me and it is something I really want to nail so everything becomes even smoother concerning the world-building of my far too many projects. I would like to start with my map of Rankyra, the setting in which a six-book fantasy-adventure series takes place. I'm not too sure about the scaling I currently have for it and would love some advice on how I can better my understanding of it.

    Thank you,

    Screenshot (665).png
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    I'm not sure I mean what you mean by scaling...
    On your map there is a scale but no dimension. Is it in metres, miles, leagues?
    If it how BIG things should be, then what I do is reckon how big I want an island [for example] to be compared to something I already know.
    So I know I want Isle of X to be half the size of Ireland. I go find a map of Ireland and pick a half to use as a background layer.
    As for working out how big it needs to be… what does the story need? If the story needs you MC to take 40 days to ride between A and B then find out how far you could ride in 40 days and make that the distance [actually make it a bit shorter to give them more time as no-one is going to ride for 40 day without a least a couple of breaks to rest the horses or their disposition [ahem] then factor in bad weather, rough ground, national holidays etc.]
    If you REALLY want to get in to how the bit of your maps fit on to an earth like world, then I’d suggest a look at G.Projector from NASA. It lets you map 2D maps on to the 3D surface of Earth. It isn’t 100% user friendly but you can get a rough idea of what things look like in the real world of your map may look like.
    I make rough maps [sometime on paper] when I’m writing as things will move as I decide that I’ve got a city on the wrong side of a river or the temple is too far from the sea. Even in a town, the bakery might be too far from the market and the fish mongers to do all three in less than an hour.
  3. Samantha England

    Samantha England Scribe

    I'm mostly concerned about consistency, especially when I want to make another map that's a closer, and more detailed, look at a particular region within the greater continent without losing the sense of scale (if that makes any sense). I do want the larger landmasses to take some time to cross from one end to the other (say a month or so without accounting for varied terrain). I'm not sure if the present scale of the map (done in miles) is big enough, though I'm also concerned about it getting too large to where it takes forever to get anywhere.
  4. Yora

    Yora Maester

    So you want to decide on a number how long the diameter of the continent is?
  5. Samantha England

    Samantha England Scribe

    Along with square miles and so on and so forth. Just the math and bettering my understanding of it so I can maintain consistencies between various maps of this world (and the consequently maps for my other projects). I am horrendous at math and I'm likely overthinking this whole thing - my greatest fault concerning this subject.
  6. Yora

    Yora Maester

    What exactly are you trying to do?
  7. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Inkling

    If you look at a map you'll notice they will have a scale like 1 : 1000000. So one inch on the map will represent one million inches in real life. 1 : 10000 means that one inch represents 10000 inches in real life. 1 : 1000000 would be a two page map of New Zealand in an atlas. 1 : 10000 would be a street map with a reasonable amount of detail such as where key public buildings, hotels, shopping malls and public toilets are located.

    This should give you an indication of how map scaling works.

    If you use grids on your map it would make things easier not just for finding places but it'll make it a lot easier for doing more detailed maps of specific places on your map. If you use your scale which I presume is in miles) as a guide for how big the area within the grid is then it will make things like working out distances and area a lot easier.
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2020
  8. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    My easy rule of thumb is that a big city would be in the ballpark of ten to thirty miles in diameter. That just the city, not the entire metropolitan area.
    It’s kind of arbitrary but it tends to work.

    So that circle that represent Natht would be ten miles minimum. So the river next it would be around 5-10 miles wide, about equivalent to a river like the Mississippi.

    If I were to guess, I’d wager that whole landmass would be about the size of Australia. Does that sound right? Too big? Too small?
  9. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    I usually just work toward creating approximates. I do what CupofJoeCupofJoe mentioned, figure out distances between some main cities/areas if I'm planning to have characters travel between them or if the world building itself requires a certain general distance between areas—super far or super close, etc.—but then I don't sweat the rest too much. Before the modern era, maps were very approximate, heh. If you've determined a few things, the rest can be left a little less precise.

    If you do a search for "fantasy map scale" on Google, you'll get a lot of sources for exploring the issue. One example would be to use a photo of a real world map, say the Americas or Asia, or even the whole planet Earth, and use it as a background image for the fantasy maps you create. You can later erase it or hide that layer (if using something like Gimp or Photoshop), but the general idea is that you can distance things using the real world as a guide for scales so everything in your world is reasonably spaced and sized.
  10. pmmg

    pmmg Auror

    If your fear is that subsequent maps will be out of scale, then I suggest taking the current map, creating a grid over it, and then using the grid to determine what would belong in each box if you zoomed in 2x or 4x.

    If a man could walk 50 miles per day, your map is 1500 miles across. Since man does not really walk that fast, your land mas is more likely 1000 miles across. Australia is about 2500 miles across, so it is about 2/3rds the size of Australia.
  11. Samantha England

    Samantha England Scribe

    Thank you, everyone, for your suggestions! I think putting a grid over the map (and my other maps) will help immensely concerning zooming in to create more detailed maps, as well as overlaying a map of our world to get a better perspective of what I want more precisely of my own map scaling! I'll definitely be putting this stuff into practice so I can stop worrying about the nitty-gritty math XD
  12. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Maester

    Start with a known distance. E.g. it takes so many days to travel from city A to city B. Guess how fast they travel per day (with how they travel). For instance they walk on foot for a week and they cover about 30 km per day. That would give 210 km between city A and B. Do this for a couple of places to account for inaccuracies (terrain, not drawing everything in the exact spot, miscalculating the speed etc). This should give you the scale you need. So if city A and B are 3 cm apart on the map then 3 cm = 210 km or 1 cm = 70 km. Create a grid on your map (I would go with 1X1 cm) and you know the distance between everything.

    Once you're here you can do pretty much whatever you want with the map. If you want to map out a country instead of a continent then count the grid squares. If a country in the example above is 4 by 6 squares then you know the country is roughly 280 by 420 km. Map out the big places that were already on the continent map and start adding in the rest. And then repeat the process (so start with a known distance, draw a grid and find out how large your grid squares are).

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