Cartography - Why the focus on Renaissance?

Hussar

Legend
I'm an enormous fantasy map dork. I LOVE maps. And, yes, I spend far too much time perusing image searches for fantasy maps. :erm: :D

But, one thing that really sticks out in my mind is when people draw urban maps, nearly all of them are Renaissance era architecture. To give an example, here is a very, very cool isometric map:



Super cool map. Love it. But, like nearly all maps, it's stuck in the late 15th century. Why doesn't any do earlier era maps? I would love to see some urban maps based on 10th or 12th century architecture. Or even earlier - Roman empire era maps would be fantastic.

If anyone knows a good place to find these sorts of things, don't be shy, let a feller know.
 

Tonguez

Adventurer
Probably because 12th century maps tend to be quite sparse both due to map drawing being primitive and most ‘large’ settlements consisting of a castle on the hill, a church, maybe two or 3 roads and then a whole lot of huts and fields.

Its not until the Renaissance that the beautiful detailed maps we know were actually invented
 
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Hussar

Legend
I don't mean real world maps. I get that. My question is, why are fantasy maps locked into Renaissance? Particularly urban maps. Like the example I gave above - fantastic map. Lots of information, looks like there's lots to see and do on the map. Cool idea. But, why are nearly all the maps like this locked into a very specific time period? It's not like D&D is technologically that advanced (for the most part).

I mean, look at the ships on the map I posted. Those ships are a couple of centuries more advanced than what you'd find in most D&D campaigns. Those ships wouldn't look all that out of place sailing into Boston Harbor. It would just be nice if we could get some earlier setting maps.

Granted, my artistic ability is limited to stick figures, so, any of these maps are far, far beyond what I can do.
 
Isn't it simply because RPGs fantasy settings tend to be a lot slanted towards the very late middle ages? Most of them tend to feature bustling societies where business and knowledge abounds, which imply fairly modern highly-populated towns, so probably they end up representing them also with appropriate architecture.
 

MGibster

Adventurer
Fantasy RPGs are typically a hodgepodge of cultures and eras spanning the ancient world right on up to early modern Europe. I suspect one of the reasons why such maps are popular is because they're useful as gaming aids. Hell, they often have keys and are in nice little hexes so we know exactly how far it is from point A to point B.
 

Ravenbrook

Explorer
I have no problems with late medieval fantasy cities. In eastern Europe, Germany, and England, the 15th century was basically still late medieval. Also, the plate armor in D&D is generally 15th century or even later. That said, I, too, would like to see more fantasy cities based on ancient counterparts.
 

Leatherhead

Possibly a Idiot.
But, yeah, I'm going to blame Tolkien. It's always his fault. :D
You aren't wrong.
The Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Age of Sail are often conglomerated into a anachronistic stew to represent "The time after Ancient History but before the Industrial Age" that D&D seems to take place in.

Out of those options, the Pre-industrial Renascence is the "Iconic" cityscape.
When you think of older architecture, you think of a Church or sanctuary, a hamlet or village, possibly a Castle or town, but not a city.

Those ships wouldn't look all that out of place sailing into Boston Harbor.
To be fair, that ship was made over 200 years ago. :p
 

Tonguez

Adventurer

Roman Viroconium AD 130 (modern Wroxeter, Shropshire) was the fourth largest city in England before going into decline. Relevantly it was reoccupied and restored by the Gododdin tribe in AD 480 and is a proposed candidate for the 'real' Camelot. because it was ruled by the son of Yrthyr pen-Dragon


Out of those options, the Pre-industrial Renascence is the "Iconic" cityscape.
When you think of older architecture, you think of a Church or sanctuary, a hamlet or village, possibly a Castle or town, but not a city.
I think you're right that the renaissance city is the iconic 'old' cityscape and that gets back to my earlier point that it was during the renaissance that the art of map making developed, alongside art showing cities as landscapes.

Those real world examples then become ingrained as the inspiration for later illustrators tasked with creating fantasy maps., its harder to illustrate older cityscapes because there is simply less reference material around, older maps aren;t very detailed (and 10th Century cities have less archaeological excavation than Roman ruins)
 
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Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
An since we are interpolating new medieval villages, towns and cities into existence, we have reconstructions (as in the above link) and outright descriptions as in:


This book was always a good guide for us in LG, that and the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition.
 

Hussar

Legend
I'm not sure if my point is getting across.

For example, if you look at most fantasy cartography, you'll see buildings with slate roofs. Virtually no thatched roofs (just as a single example). Most fantasy city maps will show sewer grates, something that's wildly out of place. And, most urban maps will have no locations for housing animals. Just as a few examples of things you would expect to see (or not see) in a pre-Renaissance town or city.
 

Rob Kuntz

Adventurer
I'm not sure if my point is getting across.

For example, if you look at most fantasy cartography, you'll see buildings with slate roofs. Virtually no thatched roofs (just as a single example). Most fantasy city maps will show sewer grates, something that's wildly out of place. And, most urban maps will have no locations for housing animals. Just as a few examples of things you would expect to see (or not see) in a pre-Renaissance town or city.
Righto. But there are no concrete examples except as reconstructed. So the guides to reconstruct are at our disposal, so if one sees a plethora of post-Medieval maps, iso or other, then I'd say that game cartographers are taking the easy/expedient route, eh? Won't be the first time...
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
I don't mean real world maps. I get that. My question is, why are fantasy maps locked into Renaissance?
I can think of two basic reasons:

1) Most fantasy games are probably set in something that people think looks vaguely like the late Middle Ages or early Renaissance - and the maps are made with that in mind.

2) Most folks are more informed about Renaissance architecture, so they are more able to produce art depicting it.

I mean, look at the ships on the map I posted. Those ships are a couple of centuries more advanced than what you'd find in most D&D campaigns.
When you ask a player what they think the ships look like, that's probably what they'd describe, though, and anachronism be damned.
 
You don't need Renaissance for highly populated towns. Rome had a million people. Paris around 1200 had 110 000 people. D&D sets major cities at 25000, so, it wouldn't need to be much more advanced than, say, 1200 CE.

But, yeah, I'm going to blame Tolkien. It's always his fault. :D
I get most of what you are saying. Well...except for the rome part. (The dense part of that city was small and there was also a lot of people living in the surrounding lands which were still considered "the city" technically which throws off the accuracy of most people's perception of the city's density over all.) But then you lose me with tge tolkein comment. Its out of left field.
 

Undrave

Adventurer
I'm not sure if my point is getting across.

For example, if you look at most fantasy cartography, you'll see buildings with slate roofs. Virtually no thatched roofs (just as a single example). Most fantasy city maps will show sewer grates, something that's wildly out of place. And, most urban maps will have no locations for housing animals. Just as a few examples of things you would expect to see (or not see) in a pre-Renaissance town or city.
Didn't the Romans have sewers? I don't think sewer grates are that big of a stretch. It would just be related to a culture that favours cleanliness.
 

Celebrim

Legend
Those ships are a couple of centuries more advanced than what you'd find in most D&D campaigns.
In my experience with nautical campaigns and rule sets, the vast majority of campaigns seem to assume technology from the 17th or even 18th century is available.

I would guess that the number of campaigns restricted to longships and cogs is significantly less than the number restricted to carracks and caravals, and which is in turn less than the number with galleons, and which is in turn probably not that different or even less than the number that assumes ships similar to what they see in 'Pirates of the Caribbean' or other pirate moves where the sailing technology is from the age of criminal piracy - late 17th and early 18th century.

For example, I would suspect almost every nautical game assumes the existence of a 'crow's nest', despite the very late date of the crow's nest being invented and the fact it would or should never appear in a 'medieval' themed game.
 

Umbran

Mod Squad
Staff member
Just as a few examples of things you would expect to see (or not see) in a pre-Renaissance town or city.
As yourself the following - how many people actually care about historical accuracy in their game?

The answer is... nearly none. There will be sewers because they have sewers in Diablo, and sewers are cool places to explore and have encounters, even though nobody would ever go into one willingly.
 

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