[maps] Cartographic errors and lies

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Big Mac
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[maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Big Mac » Thu Oct 11, 2018 5:45 pm

The Guardian has a story called: Made up places and costly mistakes: a history of unfortunate maps – in pictures that shows some maps that have mistakes on them.

Some of the mistakes are down to people not having the correct information and others are actually misinformation. There is also one map that accidentally leaked military information to a foreign power.

We have a lot of topics about maps and there are all sorts of tutorials about how to make maps work properly...

...but does anyone go the other way and include intentionally broken maps in their games?

I can think of a few reason to use an incorrect map in a game:
  • The GMs map has exact details of locations in hostile nations and the GM wants to "sell" the idea that it is hard too learn about those regions,
  • The campaign world has known lands, frontier lands and unknown lands and the GM wants to erase unknown locations from the player version of the map, so that they can add them back in later,
  • A map with mistakes is a fraud created by an NPC who knows nothing about the area they have been asked to provide a map about,
  • A map is created by a nation as more of a statement of the land they "own" than the land they really possess or
  • A map is created by an explorer who had a setback that stopped them charting regions of the world and who is unwilling to admit their failure.
What do you think of the real-world maps from the Guardian and the things those made up places and mistakes let us know about things?

Have you ever done anything similar in a game?
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Kythkyn » Thu Oct 11, 2018 6:04 pm

IDK that it was incorrect maps necessarily, but I have had my players be cartographers before. I've had the "real" map, and as they explored they drew what they were exploring. And some of it was surprizingly accurate. Some of it wildly off. It was fun
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Big Mac » Thu Oct 11, 2018 10:56 pm

Kythkyn wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 6:04 pm
IDK that it was incorrect maps necessarily, but I have had my players be cartographers before. I've had the "real" map, and as they explored they drew what they were exploring. And some of it was surprizingly accurate. Some of it wildly off. It was fun
I've been in a group, where we have drawn a map and it's gone wrong and we have been wondering how to work out where we are. :lol:
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by BlackBat242 » Sat Oct 13, 2018 7:13 am

Kythkyn wrote:
Thu Oct 11, 2018 6:04 pm
IDK that it was incorrect maps necessarily, but I have had my players be cartographers before. I've had the "real" map, and as they explored they drew what they were exploring. And some of it was surprizingly accurate. Some of it wildly off. It was fun
Sounds like normal player-mapping to me.
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Ashtagon » Sat Oct 13, 2018 11:25 am

That 1504 map has a lot of similarities in the Old World with Ptolemy's earlier map. I've not seen other maps of that vintage with that particular layout in the New World.

http://www.bl.uk/learning/timeline/large126360.html
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Coronoides » Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:48 am

Old inaccurate or incomplete real maps are a good basis for a campaign setting. Take a look old medieval maps where they pretended they knew the whole world but most of the information was wrong.
Another example Age of Exploration/Renaissance maps have lots of blank spots, perhaps whatever is there in the real world isn't in your world. This is how Swift created the world of Gulliver's Travels. Check out this low resolution version of my Gulliver's Travels World Map to see what I mean
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Wangalade » Mon Oct 15, 2018 8:49 pm

It's also a common practice among cartographers to purposefully include some false information as a method of copyright protection. For example, a false street with no label might be included on a city map, or a bizarrely named small town that doesn't exist might apear on a map of a region/country. These are always details that are difficult to notice and only someone with an intimate knowledge of the area would recognise them as wrong. By including these details a cartographer can know if someone copied their work.
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by timemrick » Mon Oct 15, 2018 9:56 pm

This past week's Ken and Robin Talk about Stuff podcast had a Cartography Hut segment about trap streets (the kind of deliberate "errors" that Wangalade describes above) and parch marks.
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Cromstar » Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:17 am

So, took my mom out to Red Lobster today and this convo came to mind because of a wall map that Red Lobster uses in their decorations. Its the North Sea and North Atlantic, where Norway is bloated (its wider in the thin stretch than Sweden is), Iceland and Greenland are one landmass, and Ireland isn't even on the map beside Britain, and the northern parts of Russia and America were just insane. Sadly, I cannot find any version of this map online b/c I have no details I can easily search for.

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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by timemrick » Tue Oct 16, 2018 5:09 pm

Cromstar wrote:
Tue Oct 16, 2018 2:17 am
So, took my mom out to Red Lobster today and this convo came to mind because of a wall map that Red Lobster uses in their decorations. Its the North Sea and North Atlantic, where Norway is bloated (its wider in the thin stretch than Sweden is), Iceland and Greenland are one landmass, and Ireland isn't even on the map beside Britain, and the northern parts of Russia and America were just insane. Sadly, I cannot find any version of this map online b/c I have no details I can easily search for.
I couldn't find it with a quick web search, either, but I did find this antique map of the Caribbean from a Red Lobster in San Juan. If the style looks similar, then it's probably based on a historical map from the Age of Exploration (15th-17th century), which was only as good as the very spotty data the mapmakers had at the time. And since Spain dominated that period, maps of their Caribbean and American colonies would be far more accurate than maps of the far northern latitudes.

Next time you visit the restaurant, take a picture to share here, and see if any of the Piazza's cartography/history hounds can tell you more!
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by willpell » Wed Oct 17, 2018 12:26 am

I've read a book on this topic which I highly recommend - or will, as soon as I recall the exact title.

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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Coronoides » Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:35 am

Wangalade wrote:
Mon Oct 15, 2018 8:49 pm
It's also a common practice among cartographers to purposefully include some false information as a method of copyright protection. For example, a false street with no label might be included on a city map, or a bizarrely named small town that doesn't exist might apear on a map of a region/country. These are always details that are difficult to notice and only someone with an intimate knowledge of the area would recognise them as wrong. By including these details a cartographer can know if someone copied their work.
Years ago I read of one publisher taking another to court because one of these imaginary towns appeared on a map. The defendant argued the town was real. So someone drove out there and sure enough there was a small settlement built around a petrol station with the right name in the right place. Turns out the builder of the petrol station saw the name on the map where his new petrol station was and just adopted it.
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Wangalade » Wed Oct 17, 2018 2:40 am

Lol, wow that's hilarious. It'd be great to read the case documents and find where that was.
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Ashtagon » Wed Oct 17, 2018 8:11 am

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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by barrataria » Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:51 pm

Coronoides wrote:
Sun Oct 14, 2018 5:48 am
Old inaccurate or incomplete real maps are a good basis for a campaign setting. Take a look old medieval maps where they pretended they knew the whole world but most of the information was wrong.
That is a major aspect of my B/X campaign worlds... so much of the civilized world was upturned/changed over the previous century that few recent maps are available, and then not very accurate (since it's hard to verify things from an ivory tower) but old pre-Tortured Century maps are all over the place, often found with added doggerel/annotations that may be right or wrong or both.

I had a bandit gang in the area use this to run a con, they altered a treasure map so they could ambush treasure hunters, and spread copies all over the place, tavern gossips, included in trades with merchants or monsters, etc. But they kept a copy to the real site, so when adventurers took them down they got the Glengarry leads, as it were, and found the treasure (in a haunted glade of course).

Even in more civilized campaigns/worlds I include inaccuracies. I use Campaign Cartographer so some of that happens naturally; when you copy stuff from a 50 mile hex map onto a zoomed-in 5 or 10 mile hex map, the redraw is going to be far more precise. And it is easy to include a separate layer of players' info, so I can hide all but their layer and the background and print their semi-blank map. Once in a while I'll give them an updated copy placing things they've discovered.

I also try to include one or more arrows pointing off the map edge, labeled with "75 miles to Ironkeep" or whatever.

Also, I always like to have one obvious bait encounter that everyone knows about, often a dragon or giant lair. Because everyone knows where Smaug or Dragotha is, right? 1st levels have never been crazy enough to go straight there... but I enjoy listening/watching during games as the levels pass by and they try to decide if they want to take a run at it.

Finally, one of the first Campaign Cartographer manuals suggested always placing a random symbol or 3 on the map, whatever symbol seems cool or something different from the rest, an isolated shrine or monastery or ruin. It's sort of like symbolic brainstorming, sometimes you naturally start thinking of what it is and how it's connected to the rest, and sometimes it comes in handy when you need to stick a module or encounter somewhere... or the players say "hey, let's go see what that is". :)

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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by Kythkyn » Wed Nov 07, 2018 7:20 pm

barrataria wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:51 pm
I had a bandit gang in the area use this to run a con, they altered a treasure map so they could ambush treasure hunters, and spread copies all over the place, tavern gossips, included in trades with merchants or monsters, etc. But they kept a copy to the real site...
Thank you. I am stealing this :twisted:
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Re: [maps] Cartographic errors and lies

Post by barrataria » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:20 pm

Kythkyn wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 7:20 pm
barrataria wrote:
Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:51 pm
I had a bandit gang in the area use this to run a con, they altered a treasure map so they could ambush treasure hunters, and spread copies all over the place, tavern gossips, included in trades with merchants or monsters, etc. But they kept a copy to the real site...
Thank you. I am stealing this :twisted:
Good! I think I stole it from somewhere, but I don't remember if it was a gaming book or some old police show!

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