Have you picked up a mainstream RPG book lately? Did you look at the map inside?
It’s utterly depressing.
All of the maps that we use now look the same. Our iconography is the same. Our roads meander meaninglessly along, in windy paths that go nowhere to homes that are utterly unoccupied. We number our important locations and beside our enumerations we write such meaningless claptrap as: “Location 135: John Gault’s Head.”
We stopped being interesting in favor of being standardized.
Fantasy games don’t have to be standardized. Look at these maps that once graced the end papers of the books that inspired our imaginations:
None of these maps are as beautifully detailed as the standard fare you find most of the time today, but they’re also not giving us a bunch of information that we don’t need. We aren’t being asked to check out enumerated keys to find out what’s connected to each numbered circle. Instead all the big, important locations on these older maps are easy to find and anything of interest is highlighted with a clear description.
When roads are illustrated on the maps we see clearly what the big thing they’re going towards is each time. We see the Sea Wall with it’s dangerous break. We see the Queen of Hearts and where the marsh lands are threatening to overwhelm our paths.
Unlike more modern maps these older, antiquated maps tell us a visual story and help pique our imaginations. We need more maps like this and less that all look exactly the same.
 I picked out a map by Mike Schley here because I’ve been reading the Curse of Strahd adventure lately. Mike has rightfully been recognized as one of the great, modern, fantasy map makers out there. It’s a bit unfair to use one of his maps though as it makes it seem like I’m bagging on him when really I think Mike does excellent work. I would just like to see more styles out there instead of everyone doing the same style every time.