Major nerd alert time. I’m a huge fan of awesome cartography. I’ve even dabbled a little in it myself. But there are folks out there who wake up, grab a coffee, and spend each and every day dreaming up cool, new maps for fantasy roleplaying adventures. I’m totally jealous of their work ethic and just love their creations.
Yesterday I turned to Instagram to ask the community who the best map-makers around were. And the response was overwhelming. As of this writing, I have over 70 comments all pointing me towards some awesome cartographers.
Long-story-short, I thought I’d share these folks work and get them a little more love. Check out their stuff and be sure to follow them on their Instagram accounts.
Here they are in no particular order.
Justin David Russell
As some of you probably know, JD Russell and I have been hard at work on The Secret of Forsaken Peak, a 30+ map Megadungeon set in his campaign world. I first noticed JD on Facebook. He posts nearly a new map every day, all in the old school style that y’all know I love. He’s even got a book coming out on Kickstarter early 2019. Plus, his maps are often 100% architecturally correct; I often find myself messaging him on Facebook asking, “Dude… what’s a barbican?” Definitely one of my faves working today.
Just look at that gorgeous map! Daniel is a freelance cartographer and illustrator specializing in hand-drawn fantasy maps. Drawing has been a part of Daniel’s life for as long as he can remember. When Daniel was 15 years old he started drawing my first fantasy maps. From there he continued to draw and improve. He’s chosen to share his passion for cartography with the world and become a freelance cartographer and has since worked with many authors, publishers and private clients to bring life to their worlds.
Holy shit. This is another one that I got a chance to discover with this quick survey and I gotta say I’m blown away. Not only are the inks themselves solid, but the presentation is off the freakin’ chain. Like many modern cartographers, Deven got into map-making after seeing the infamous Dyson Logos do his thing and she’s been going at it ever since. She even did a map for the Critical Role folks that is off-the-fuckin’-chain.
Beware the Wizard
Beware the Wizard (real name a mystery!) is an artist I’ve been following for a while on Instagram. It’s one thing to be an amazing cartographer, but something entirely different to give the images flair and cool calligraphy on top of it. Each map is a work of art. I’d almost feel bad running some sloppy PCs through it!
Gug Bones is a bit of an enigma. When Gug first contacted me, I asked him if he had a site. His response, “No. Why?” Then I asked him if I had something that he could promote to which he replied, “Nah I’m just a dude that makes dungeons in my spare time.” 😂 And what dungeons, too! They’re all old-school hand-drawn maps with pen and ink and look sharp as hell. It’s also refreshing to see hatching styles that aren’t common such as the one he uses. Definitely check him out.
You can follow Gug Bones on Instagram.
Maps by Owen
Owen calls himself a beginner. Pffft. While, yeah, you can see some of the obvious inspiration in his designs, Owen’s one hell of a talent to “just be starting out.” His designs really capture that old-school flavor (that you all know I love). Each new map he puts out is exponentially better than the last. And that stippling shadow style? Damn, that’s lit.
You can follow Maps by Owen on Instagram.
Here’s another eye-opener that I discovered in the comments. Miska’s maps are super clean and gorgeous. He adopts a bit of the modern, digital style, but what’s wild is that if you check out his Instagram you can see that he can do that style by hand, too! His Patreon is bumping, already with over 200 patrons, which tells me this guy delivers.
Skull Fungus (Karl Stjenberg)
Skull Fungus. What a name. And what creative, original artwork, too. If you ever wanted to run a dungeon that looks like the cover of a GWAR album (Dave Brockie RIP), then Skull Fungus (real name Karl Stjenberg) is your hookup. Heavy, chunky inks mixed with a cartoonish style reminiscent of mid-’90s MTV cartoons, I promise you that you won’t find maps that look like his anywhere else.
Also known as gm.finch, Tyler’s another cartographer that can somehow duplicate digital artwork using only pens and markers. Crisp, clean, lines with a poppy feel, Tyler’s pens inject wonderment into each of his designs. Some of his town maps are truly astounding and leap right off the page–check out that one above!
You can follow Tyler on Instagram.
There was a comment on this map that I think shares how I felt when I first saw it, “Ughhhh these maps are so goooooddddd….” Yeah, no kidding. They’re freakin’ amazing. Stephanie says that they’re her “heart and soul.” We can tell! She hand draws her map and does the letter work, too. Perhaps it’s that jealous feeling I get when I see much raw talent in folks who can do maps by hand, but I just love, love, love this style.
Thanks for reading!
It was tough narrowing it down to just 10 great cartographers. I ended up leaving off some of those who’ve been published in D&D books such as Dyson Logos, Tim Hartin, and Mike Schley, all of whom I love.
If you feel like there’s anyone that I missed, let me know down in the comments or over on Instagram @dungeonmasterdave.
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See you next time and enjoy those maps!