For me, inspiration is always the first step to any map. I need something to hang my hat on. Usually this something is a room, a landmark or some kind of feature. As a geologist my predeliction is for natural features like rock formations but it could be anything - a castle layout, a bridge, a statue.. even a tapestry. This inspiration is the anchor that I build the map around. Its an idea I borrowed from Sid Meier. Wanting a unifying theme for one of the Civilization games, Meier prominently displayed a painting in the studio with the instructions that if the developers were ever "stuck", they should come back to the painting and reflect on it. The idea was that the eventual design should not stray too far from the original thought.
The inspiration that I chose for this map was a natural feature in Pennsylvania called 'Arch Spring'. Arch spring is a natural bridge located just downstream from a large, perennial spring. I visited the region many years ago, but never went to the spring (it is on private land).
|Arch Spring. Photo apologetically borrowed from Temple University's website until I can find my own.|
Natural bridges aren't that rare. The US West has many examples of them (there's a National Park called Arches) and Virginia has a much larger and more majestic example as well. But I happened to like this one. The coziness plus the water plus the thickness of the arch contrasted with the greenery of the surrounding countryside screamed someplace that needed exploring. I knew also that the water that fed the spring came from a cave (though in reality that cave had a far different access that what I was envisioning) and I thought of including that as well. The arch itself suggested a natural palisade which could be easily observed and defended.
So all these thoughts - the arch, the cave, the natural defensive value, changes in elevation, palisades - were bouncing around in my head after in the first few minutes after looking at the photo. In my next post I will take all that and quickly sketch what I think the area should look like.