Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What I Want

I posted before about a kind of roleplaying product I'd love to have: maps of locations-- especially villages and towns-- rendered in isometric (or axonometric, something I learned from blogging!) projection.

Well, I have the perfect example, and you are probably familiar with it. When I was a child I was fascinated by the books of David Macaulay. I was probably more fascinated by these books because I never owned any of them; I either encountered them at the library or school.

His book Castle, published in 1977, tells the story of an imaginary but realistic castle being built from scratch. Paying attention to details and research, but not getting hung up with a specific historical site, this book really strikes a chord with me and probably holds a lesson for world/setting design.

I tried merging two halves of the castle picture itself, but it didn't come out well because of the binding. So here is one half of the two page spread showing the finished castle in all its glory:
I love that. This is what I want. I'd like a book with 10, or 20 of these. I suppose I'll have to try and create them myself, but I'm not an artist so it will be hard work.

I'm not sure why this is what I want, something about these images evokes a place in a way a map never does for me. A map is an abstraction that lends itself to tactics, which is fine, but an illustration like this can do that and breathe a little life into a fantasy setting.

If you find this interesting at all, you should check out Macaulay's other books. He had several in this style: Cathedral, Pyramid, Mosque, Mill, Underground, and City, which I have big plans for.


  1. I've got Cathedral, and Castle, and I love Macaulay's art. I'd like to see the city of Greyhawk illustrated by him!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Great book, I've been meaning to replace my lost copy (going for as low as $2 on Amazon!). The buildings in the bastide area pictured here seem remarkably well ordered in relation to one another, but it does make it more suitable for serving as a game map. Thanks for the scan! It might be interesting to use the clone/stamp tool in PS or GIMP with this image and see what you could create - I played with it just now and it seems pretty doable.

  4. @ E.G Palmer: Hear hear, Greyhawk in this tyle would be cool! Hmm, somewhere I have that big boxed set of Waterdeep, wasn't the map isometric?

    @ze Bulette: Yeah, it doesn't have to be that orderly, or even that historically accurate, I'd love an illustration like this of Lankhmar, for example, or crazy fantasy cities of various styles.

  5. Sorry if this gets double posted computer is wonky today.

    This site might have some of what you are talking about.

    It is the site of an English re-enactment group focusing on the 10th and 11th centuries.

    There is a small village that looks as if it might be in the projection you mention. There are also links to pictures of individual buildings. Plus a lot about the culture as a bonus.


  6. Thanks for reminding me of these books. I've always wanted to read them, so off to the library system website to put them on hold for me. :)

  7. Dammit! It really looks amazing and incredibly more evocative than a same ol´ map...it feels like Im falling from the sky at 45ยบ,heading for the castle gates. Amazing!

  8. @DeForest: That's sweet! I'll have to spend some time there.

    @Mhensley: Your Welcome. He's also got one on his website called Ship that I've never seen, I'm going to see if I can find a copy.

    @Valandil: The perspective is interesting, if you could see the two page spread it's even more apparent. I don't think it is technically isometric, I think he's curved the perspective.

  9. Have you been to this site? Seems close to what you'd like.