Here's a *very* rough scan of a drawing of the map that I've come up with so far. The names aren't great (many of them were just the results of online fantasy generators), and again I'd like to spend more time rethinking these but I will have to leave it as it is for now.
I will be refining this, redrawing this digitally and colouring it to make a clearer distinction between parts of the land.
The first thing to mention is that this is definitely not to scale, and it is not of the entire fantasy world, it is just a continent. Geography has never been my strong point - in fact I haven't really thought about it since GCSE - so I haven't been able to create this map with a solid understanding of how lands are built and what sort of things effect their structure. But my general idea is that the northern half is of a colder climate, with the north-east being mostly covered in heavy snow. The southern is very warm, with the south-west being mostly tropical rainforest. The midlands are largely wetlands. Of course, on the map it looks like these regions are barely miles apart which is very unrealistic, but it is actually a very vast distance. I don't really have the mind for calculating exact distances or drawing to a scale, though if I ever refine this project further in the future I would like to do that, and I'd probably re-think the entire map if I could.
But I'm continually making the excuses that it is fantasy and it is not my intention to create a world that follows the exact laws of Earth, at this stage I simply want to have a general idea of the layout of the continent, and to have an interesting variety of climates.
In a talk I had with my tutor he told me to think about who, in my world, has actually drawn the map as this would influence the manner in which towns and cities have been named and the manner in which it's drawn. Maps have varied a great deal over the years, with medieval maps being very different to the sorts of maps we're used to today, and also used for a different purpose. For example the mappae mundi, medieval European maps of the world, were not intended for navigational use, but were there to teach and inform about different principles, including the known land masses, climate zones, cardinal directions, Biblical stories, mythological stories, flora, fauna and exotic races. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mappa_mundi) Some of the more extensive maps were like encyclopedias of medieval knowledge.
Later maps of the era were more concerned with being accurate so that they may be used for navigating seas. A map made my monk Fra Mauro can be seen as a hybrid of mappae mundi and this 'Portolan' style of mapping.
Other maps I've been looking at come directly from other fantasy worlds, including Tolkein's map of Middle Earth:
and maps from the Elder Scrolls series, such as this one of Morrowind:
These maps are a good indication of ways to illustrate a land mass without rigidly following a set scale. What's most important is how they indicate important landmarks, cities and towns. Of course the creators of these have had a lot more time to consider the structure and history of their worlds and how it's made an impact, and they are very inspiring for me in their great attention to detail and believability.
I've also looked at maps from MMOs such as Guild Wars 2 and World of Warcraft as I know they tend to have a wide variety of land types and climates without it necessarily 'making sense', so I don't think I need to worry too much about that side of it, at least not at this stage. I know the more 'serious' fantasy stories take everything into consideration to make a world that is as immersive as possible - one that geographically makes sense. I'd like to do this when I continue thinking about the project after this module.
So there are a variety of ways I could approach creating the map, without necessarily making it highly accurate, although for the purposes of a fantasy game I suppose it would be crucial for it to be purely navigational so that players are able to use it to traverse lands. (Unless I was to go the route of some games and remove the map completely, meaning the player has to ask for directions or use other methods of guidance). I will probably, at this stage, simply re-draw it and make it clearer what sort of scale it's at, and add a lot more landmarks and towns (it is probably, as I'm thinking about it at the moment, similar in size to Vvardenfell).
Here is my (probably fairly badly written and cliche even though I've said I'd like to avoid cliches) fantasy story as it is so far:
From the beginning I've known that I'd like one of the focuses of the region to be an enormous city, which is the large structure in the north. They are called 'The Imbued Cities' as the people who once lived there, the Shai, were the most powerful in crafting magical items, but since magic has faded, they have significantly weakened and been driven out by another race of people from the country above it called the Romerri. They are largely incapable of crafting magic but believe that living in the cities will help them to do this. This priority has been somewhat forgotten as the city is chaotic and rift with crime - it is a depressing and oppressive place, though it's huge scale means that different districts have constructed their own subcultures and rules. One Shai is held captive in the 'Hall of Leaves'. He is the son of a deceased powerful intellect, and the city governers believe he will teach them the secrets of powerful crafting, but he is actually void of any kind of crafting talent (he has developed an inferiority complex because of this).
The rest of the Shai have slowly decreased in number, and only a few thousand of them are left, travelling the land in groups and living in camps and on the road. One of the main camps travelled a bit too far north-east and got stuck in a blizzard, killing most of them. A rebel Romerri travelling through this area inadvertently came across the camp and managed to revive one of them. They travelled to safer lands together and developed a bond.
The southern part of the world is largely inhabited by an intelligent humanoid race called the Kukru. Appearance-wise they will be inspired by rainforest-dwelling animals, particularly birds and reptiles. They prefer to not involve themselves with the issues up north, though they feel sympathy for the Shai and share some of their hatred for the Romerri.
(I'm not 100% sure on these names yet, especially 'Shai' - I will probably be changing this)
So at this stage I think I will be developing artwork for a generic male and female from each race, and then going on to develop character designs, expression sheets and bios for around four characters. I think I will be creating the captive Shai living in the Hall of Leaves, the renegade Romerri adventurer, the Shai traveller that he/she rescues, and as of yet I'm not sure of the Kukru character.
Next stage is to develop their specific histories, get my silhouettes and rough designs to a presentable standard so I can upload them and develop them from there.