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Mapmaking Failures

Updated: Jul 7, 2021

Over the last few days, I’ve been in bed with a cold and thinking about next year and what to continue doing, what to improve on and all that good stuff. I will be making a post about that soon :)

But one of the other things I wanted to do before the new year, was to make a post about some of my failed creations. I think this is quite important for several reasons.

One of the most important to me, is that anyone making a map (or anything really) needs to understand that being creative is not always about the finished product. It’s about the journey that you go on. Everything you do, is a battle to make it the best that you can at the time you are making it. But if it doesn't pan out, for one reason or another, you can still continue that overall journey.

Also very easy to look at something you like and enjoy and forget that there is always a person behind that. Whether its game, movie tv show or something in the TTRPG space. It's not an easy process. It's clearly not the hardest job in the world but it comes with its own challenges and issues and I have certainly failed in some areas over the last year.

So I’m going to show some of my map failures and talk about why I decided not to finish them and move on. Some of these might be re-done in the future others will not.

I should also clarify that when I say “failures” that is more of a catchy title and doesn't really represent what I’m trying to say. All these maps were not really failures even though they are not finished. Each allowed me to learn something and become a better cartographer.

Iceworm Coast

This one was a great experiment and I actually deleted some of the follow up work I did on this. But the major problem I had with this map was that I just couldn't get around the massive amount of detail I had worked into the coast. I had already spent hours upon hours getting the coastline looking really good and then when I tried to do mountains and forests and rivers I could not get it to match. The forest looked too big, and the mountains looked far too small. This map convinced me to do more varied coastline in many of my future maps but not quite going this far.

Forest Maps

The next few battlemaps were made at about the same period of time but I will talk about each one separately and why I wasn't happy with them, as each was a special case. All of them came after I had already spent a month or two on forest maps already and so I was getting very tired of the “theme” as well.

Forest River

This map was pretty far along with finished line art and a nice level of detail but there was something about the river that I just did not like. The boundary between the grass and the water was what made me shelve this, as I realised that I had not drawn in any sandbanks or muddy transition zones and it didn't look right. One of the other problems with this battlemap, was playable space. It's fine if you have the trees drawn with the tops like I have here but it also means that if you have tokens on top they look like they are floating above everything which is not a great look. Therefore this map is quite limited in where you can place your characters.

Mushroom Forest

One of the things I love about my maps the most is the colour and if the colour does not work then I find myself becoming very critical of the piece. This is a great example of a map that I came to really dislike because the image in my head didn't match up to the colour palette on screen. I imagined a much more bio-luminescent, glowing effect and while you can't see it from this single image I tried many different varieties over the course of several days to try and make this work. Much like the last one, the line art for this map is done and thus this map itself is not a complete lost cause and I can go back and work on it in the future.

Spider Nest

This was a map that did not have a very good concept, or at least I realised afterwards that If I wanted to draw a forest that was spider invested I could have done it in a much more interesting way. Luckily this map was only a rough sketch, with simple assets used to shape things and rough lines but I quickly took a step back from this to come at the idea from a different direction in the future.

World of Amber

This one really broke my heart as it is a world that I created myself and I really wanted to continue it, but the scale was waaaay too big. It would have taken me months and one of the problems with my work is that it's all hand drawn (Even when I use assets they are assets I've made myself) so I would have invested too much time in it. Working on such a personal project is doubly tough because I don't get paid anything and less people can actually use it. Apart from that I don't think there is anything wrong with this map per say and the detail, composition and general ideas were really good.

Thankfully this map is not a complete lost cause and I will be able to resize it and carry it on in the future, at least getting the line art for it done which I am looking forward to doing.

Worm Lands

This was made quite recently and I tried to make something spooky and alien like. I immediately regretted my thought process and ideas after taking a step back and actually looking at the map. I don't like how flat it is and I really don't like how messy it is. This is a great example of a map that simply does not have a good first glance “wow” factor or even a second glance “huh cool” factor. Most people might find themselves looking at and trying to figure what it is, which is not ideal. It's also very very flat and boring to actually play on as a battle map.

While I still am interested in making more realistically horror themed maps with more grungy colours in the future this map was shelved for a very good reason in my opinion.


Overall It's been a really great year for me and there have been so many great experiences and interaction with people that love my work.

It's important for me to express myself in these kinds of posts and show some of the inner workings of my own journey as I think that not only does it give the people supporting my across varying platforms a chance to understand my thought process and how I work but also to learn and apply it to their own journeys and maybe this helps someone carry on and make another map.

Lastly Happy Holidays, everyone I hope whatever people are doing that they have a great few days and a fantastic 2020 :)

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