Sunday, 10 April 2016

Fantasy Map Review I: Middle Earth

For links to all instalments in this series, go here.

We're off to a somewhat lacklustre start with perhaps the most iconic fantasy map of all - J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth


First impressions: Love the style, it is immensely flavourful and says something about kind of world Middle Earth is. It makes me want to dig into its pockets and see what mysteries have been scribbled on to this piece of lore.

Second thoughts - As a setting map, Middle Earth is, geographically speaking, dull as dishwater. Just a slab of land with a coastline, a few mountains and woods dotted here and there. For an entire setting, it doesn't give you much to explore or evoke many impressions about the realms there and how they relate to each  other. Some will argue that there is more to Middle Earth than this, but not effectively so. This is the main campaign map the same way the Flanaess is the main area of Oerik and Faerun is the main area of Toril.

As a setting map, it falls flat - Just from looking at the map, this isn't a world that makes you think of endless possibilities for exploration and adventure.

Style: 5/5
Substance: 2/5

Now, if this had been a map of a country in a setting, it would have been a different story. Looking at Middle Earth as a country map, I put it at 4/5, maybe even 5/5 for substance. In fact, Middle Earth is crying out to be adapted into a kingdom.

In the south, are the rich King's lands. In the centre, sits the plains of the Duchy of Rohan. The clans of this duchy provide the cavalry forces of the kingdom. A wizard of high repute in the kingdom also makes his home there.

The northern duchies of Eriador and Rhovanion have falled into disrepair - Though the king's rangers still keep the farmsteads of Eriador safe, Chaos is creeping into those lands and elves roam the woods, while goblins keep the mountains unsafe. Besides elves, a dread necromancer in Mirkwood is also making Rhovanion unsafe. There is dragon in the easter mountains as well.

Middle earth as a kingdom is well fleshed out, diverse but not too diverse and coherent. It has just enough going on as a country map that it comes alive as its own thing, but not so much it makes you lose focus of what the realm is about. I am totally running with this and putting it somewhere.