The first magical maps were likely created by treasure hunters and rangers in their attempts to find prizes and read the land. In those days the wizard scholas mostly ignored those outside of their academies, unwiling to associate with the sorts of folk who experimented outside of their watch: the hedge wizards and brew witches, the shamans and sorcerers. As more adventurers joined magic schools to expand their repetoir of skills, they often found themselves frustrated at the "ivory tower" nature of their professors, who taught theory over practice and form over function. As some of them mastered the basics of wizardry, they left to develop their own talents and consult with the folk still connected to the land. Their first invented techniques sought practical spells to suit their needs: cantrips of sharpening and mending, spells that purified muddy water or kept food hot. In time they began to apply rune skills to paper, and then the earth. The pastoral Haur people, under the leadership of their spiritual leader Ezagun, were the first to connect to two effectively, drawing maps of their land that could actually affect it. They were simple spells at first, like makeshift bridges and fences to herd their goats, but Ezagun and his acolytes developed them into more refined and powerful practices.
As empires and kingdoms claimed the Haur territory and enforced their borders, the Haur were forced to flee. Ezagun led them across the Landare Rift and eventually into the patronage of the princes of the Rhodynian City-States, many of whom came from prominent educated families familiar with magic. Seeing the Haur people's magic, they brought Ezagun to the attention of their doctoral associates in the magic scholas. Nearly all dismissed it as backcountry hedge magic, but the thaumaturgist Alric Darkbolt took interest in the foreign sorcery. He showed respect for Ezagun that his fellows would not, and was surprised at the depth of Ezagun's knowledge. Darkbolt wrote and recorded all the spells Ezagun taught him into Ye Codex of Yaumtarugical Mapps the first book of recorded cartogramancy. He presented his findings to the heads of the noble academies hoping to enlist Ezagun as the founder of a new school of magic, but the headmasters barely glanced at the book, directing Darkbolt to the Department of Savage Studies to present his "anthropological findings". Disillusioned with the narrow-minded scholars, Alric Darkbolt left to found his own rival academy.
In the centuries following the educated class of wizards were repetedly humbled by war and exploration. Their hard-headedness gave way to curiosity and openness, incorporating more schools and styles into their ranks. The Darkbolt College, which had gained its own significant following, was at last annexed into the traditional listing of respected schools. The Haur shaman Ezagun and his contemporary Alric Darkbolt were posthumously honored as the founders of a new school of magic, cartogramancy. Although the discipline remains somewhat obscure, it does have a small following of dedicated and well-known students that continue the practice and art of map magic.
The school of cartogramancy, though now considered venerable and respected, is still relatively uncommon and unknown. For this reason there are few who simply "fall into" its practice, and most students of cartogramancy sought out the study. Cartogramancers are typically curious folk, either explorers or those who discover the school's name in magic archives. Scouts and rangers are often drawn to the practice, seeing it as an extension of their outdoor profession. Although there is no "typical" personality, they tend to strike a balance between the bookishness of wizards who pore over ancient maps and tomes, and the fresh curiosity and adventuresomenes of explorers. It is sometimes practiced as a complementary practice of other wizardry schools, especially diviners who seek to expand their knowledge to geography.
Once trained, cartogramancers are valued in a variety of professions. They are frequently used as scouts by militaries, providing valuable reconaissance of unknown terrain. Treasure hunters in the know may hire a cartogramancer to map out dungeons to divine the location of traps and prizes. Not a few monarchs and nobles have an advisor familiar with the art for security, creating living scry maps to track any potential spies and invaders to supplement their usual nightwatches. Cartogramancers with less regular work often work merely as cartographers, selling maps to sailors, explorers and the like.
Rothar the Tactician - When soldiers and kings are asked to name cartogramancers, Rothar always is at the top of their lists. He served in the emperor's army for three decades as a commander. Considered a genius field marshal, his only real defeat was at the Battle of Thoval Valley when his armies were routed at the hands of a powerful troop of spellcasters. Troubled at the loss, he took leave of his duties and entered the wizard scholas, studying a broad range of spells to familiarize himself with the thaumaturgical. When he came across cartogramancy, he quickly took to the study and saw its potential value on the battlefield. After a few years of study, he reentered the army with several cartogramancers recruited from his studies. With their assistance, he was able to draw up casting maps of war fields before battles happened, then use the maps to cast spells to hurt the enemy and boost his own army. Rothar continues to serve the emperor, giving orders and casting spells from a distance, making his armies a formidable match for any.
Yaksha - One of the art's most infamous individuals, Yaksha was known in her time as the greatest living wizard, having near perfect mastery in practically every known school of magic. She took an interest in cartogramancy at first as a better means of transportation and scrying, but in time came to realize the full capability of the art. Yaksha believed that through mastered cartogramancy, she could change the very face of the world. As her skill increased so did her arrogance, and in time she began to demand homage by other wizards and tribute from neighboring lords. She viewed herself as ascending into godhood, and worthy of no realm but her own - so she set out to make it so. Yaksha created a huge earthen casting map to sever a portion of the land from the continent to create her own place. In pouring all of her energies into the map and spells, she lost her focus and control, obliterating the land and herself (see Abyss of Yaksha). For many Yaksha's legend became cause enough to persecute and ban the usage of magic, particularly cartogramancy; for those of all wizardry schools, she presents an important lesson to be learned.
Theudemund the Archivist - The oldest living cartogramancer, Theudemund serves as the College's librarian and curator. All at the College of Cartogramancy know Theudemund: to the professors, he is a living history of the order, with knowledge of practically everything; to the students, he is an eccentric relic, his knowledge sometimes exhaustingly boring. He spends practically all his time in the College's library where he keeps a private quarters, maintaining and archiving every map, atlas, globe, book, and scroll in the College's possession. Although in his great age it is difficult to imagine him outside of the archives, he was a storied cartogramancer in his day and rumor of his past exploits still haunt the halls of the College. A few also know him as a trickster, and when the proving grounds around the college are seemingly rearranged and out-of-order, it is Theudemund who is often the culprit.
Articles of Note
Ezagun's Arch - One of the few known permanent structured conjured by cartogramancers, this is the most famous and wondrous. It stretches over a mile-wide gap over the Landare Rift, following the ancient route of the Haur people's exodus out of their homeland. When a neighboring empire (the name is long forgotten) expelled the Haur from their ancestral lands, the wizard Ezagun led them to find greener pastures while dodging the maurauding armies of the enemy. They were driven toward the Landare Rift, the army hoping to drive them to their deaths in the crags below. In defiance of the emprie, Ezagun rode ahead of the escaping refugees and, with a scried map of the Rift, drew the image of a simple arch over the gap. In an instant, a bridge appeared that no ordinary architect could build. It is strikingly simple, a marble arch with a gentle curve stretching across the gultch. It is made of a single piece of marble, only a few inches thick, with complimentary arches forming rails on the sides. The armies were so struck at the sight that they could only watch slack-jawed as the seven thousand Haur crossed the gap. Ezagun was the last to cross, daring the empire's armies to follow, but they were too frightened that the wizard might withdraw his arch and they fled. Precisely how Ezagun made the bridge permanent is unknown and the subject of many studies, but despite any logic the two-thousand-year-old bridge remains, unmarred by time.
Abyss of Yaksha - No student of cartogramancy escapes training without their teacher bringing them to this place at least once. The Abyss is a huge crater, approximately three miles wide, but has a geography stranger than naturally occurring craters. The land is made of seemingly random impacts, stones, and burnt out gaps, with an overall shape that seems jagged and torn rather than blasted. Legend has it that the sorceress Yaksha had believed she so mastered cartogramancy that she was capable of rending the land from the very frame of the world. She grew increasingly paranoid of fellow wizards and convinced that by rights she should have a large segment of the land to herself. In order to free her chose land from its moorings, she created a large casting map, pouring into it all her energies and connecting the land to the map. So much of her legendary energy was drawn into the map that the power grew beyond her control. As she prepared to sever the earth and create a new land for herself, she lost her focus and the map was blasted apart. While a weaker wizard might only lose the connection between map and land, Yaksha's power kept the two connected, and the very land she stood on was obliterated in the swirling energies of magic. Though long ago, the land has yet to recover and remains a lesson for spellcasters about the dangerous power of their uncanny art.
The Ezagun-Darkbolt College of Cartogramancy - While a number of academies may have a cartogramancer on staff, this original school is still the absolute authority on the practice. Originally styled simply Darkbolt College, it grew in popularity in the years after its founding until it was finally incorporated into the traditional school listing. The college lies off the beaten path, a few leagues from the nearest major city; just getting there requires trudging through field and forest, hillock and hinterland. The school itself is a simple, rustic place, a series of squat structures made from rough hewn stone and walled in with a hedge. It houses no more than a dozen professors who oversee less than a hundred students in any given year. The surrounding land features a wide variety of terrain types, a few mock villages, and a series of labyrinthes, all for the training of cartogramancers-in-training. The current headmistress, Maerwynn DeGrey, is well-loved by her students, known for her friendly disposition and encouraging attitude.
As a somewhat uncommon and unique school of magic, cartogramancers require some specialized equipment in the creation and functioning of their magic. These items are typically used by cartogrmancers in their craft.
Magic paper - While often used by other wizards for enscribing important scrolls or sending messages, paper with shifting ink is necessary for a number of cartogramancy spells. This paper is widely available at magic shops, or can be crafted by cartogramancers with some basic training.
Enchanted slate - Serving the same function as magic paper, enchanted slate can be used multiple times and saves the frugal wizard money on pricey paper.
Focus pouch - Many cartogramancy spells require a focus: a bit of soil, a pebble, a handful of grass from the locale being mapped. These must be affixed to casting maps to increase their effectiveness on the terrain. A focus pouch is usually a small envelope of paper or leather with a looped button to attach to maps via a small slit in the paper. This ensures that the spells can be focused on the proper location.
Terrain box - While appearing to be a simple box of sand, this item is enchanted to maintain structure when cast upon. Cartogramancers use it for creating topographical maps of known locations, a simple spell forming the sand to match the terrain of the locale being mapped. Cartogramancers working for armies often use it to scout out a location and display it to commanders, allowing them to plan manuevers with more accuracy.
Types of Maps & Spells
Casting map - A map drawn for a specific location that is used to affect the place drawn. The quality of a casting map depends on its accuracy and materials; the most important characteristic is the map focus.
- Chart Spell - Area effective spells can be cast onto the map regardless or the caster's location. The map size can vary, but are typically on a 1":10' scale; larger scale maps are possible, but the effectiveness of the spells decrease exponentially. Likewise, spells of higher level are more difficult to cast effectively than simpler ones. To cast a spell, the cartogramancer enscribes spell runes on the location desired.
- Conjure Construct - Architectural or geographic items can be temporariliy (or, in theory, permanently) created by a cartogramancer in the locale of her casting map. The quality of the summoned item depends on the caster's skill and size of the construct; a simple rope bridge over a gap will be as sturdy as any other, but a large stone causeway requires more skill to be reliable. The construct summoned typically lasts for a set amount of time determined at the spell's casting, but will automatically vanish at the destruction of the casting map.
- Mountweazel - In cartography tradition, mapmakers will often place a "paper town" on their maps, a non-existant place used as a measure of plagiarism prevention. In that same tradition, cartogramancer place false towns and villages on their maps. However, with a particular spell, that paper town can be made real, summoned from another plane into physical reality. An advanced form of the Conjure Construct spell, it requires the caster's knowledge of the area and the metaphysical creation of the town. With a time-consuming spell (typically an hour or more), the town is brought into the real plane with fully functional structures, but no living population. The town can be used as a shelter or a distraction for enemies on the trail. It can last for as long as the cartogramancer's ability allows, from as short as a few hours to as long as a month or two.
- Create Plane - While the Mountweazel can bring into the physical world a place of thought, this spell allows the cartogramancer to travel the other direction and create a separate plane of reality. The caster creates a map of a plane they imagine, the more detailed and larger scale the better. By using this map as a focus, the caster can materialize in this plane for a period of time. The plane typically adheres to normal physical laws and are relatively small, no more than a a few acres. They are unoccupied of living matter save a few trees or a field of grass. The cartogramancer can remain here for a limited amount of time, a few hours for a decent caster and a few days for a skilled one.
- Affect Geography - A rare spell due to its difficulty and potential for destruction, the Affect Geography spell lets a caster actually change the world around her. Using a map of a locale, the cartogramancer can change the course of streams, level hills, and forge valleys - at least in theory. Only the most skilled cartogramancers can create something as simple as a large hillock or depression, and even these exhaust the caster when performed correctly. Only the cartogramancer Yaksha ever attempted something on the scale of miles or more, and this resulted in her destruction (see the Abyss of Yaksha). Even if actual changes to terrain are small, they can be useful. A cartogramancer might cause a hill to suddenly rise beneath her enemies, or small oasis to appear in a desert. Like a Mountweazel, these spells are temporary, typically lasting a few minutes to a few hours, at which point the terrain will reshape itself.
- Travel - Using a casting map, the cartogramancer can instantly transport herself or an item to a given spot on the map. While essentially a variation of a teleportation spell, the casting map allows a wizard to travel to a very precise location with the aid of the map as a focus. The casting map requires a focus from the locale, such as a bit of earth or stone.
Scry map - Used for divining the location of items or individuals. These can be either static, capturing a "snapshot" of where the desired item is, or living, wherein the drawn map moves to follow its target. A living map typically requires enchanted paper, ink, or other material, which can be more difficult to acquire but very useful; conversely, a static map can be drawn in a pinch with something as simple as a finger in the dirt, but isn't useful in following a moving target.
- Track Target - Very useful in finding missing individuals, this spell will map out the location of an individual person or group of people. As a focus, it requires either physical material from the target's posessions or for advanced casters knowledge of the target's most recent location. Using the focus, the caster goes into a trance and will draw a map of the target's location. The scale depends on the caster's ability and the target's proximity. If using enchanted paper or slate, a sealing spell can be cast that will allow the map to change with the target's location, allowing a living map for tracking down a quarry. For living maps, the focus is often pinned onto the center of the map, the rest of the map shifting to match the target's location.
- Chart Past - While maps of current locales are typically the most useful, some times call for knowing the geography of the past. With this spell, the cartogramancer can create a map showing the geography of a locale in the past. The caster must enter a trance and focus on the time period desired; having knowledge or experience of the time is helpful. With this the cartogramancer can see how a town was laid out a century before, or where a particular item was a week ago. The limitations of the caster's ability can affect the accuracy or detail of such a map.
- Find Item - With any map of a particular location, a cartogramancer can attempt to find an item in the area. As a focus, the caster can use a description of the item sought or a simulacrum of it. A scrying map of the location drawn by the caster works best, but any map of the location will function, provided it is sufficiently accurate. Using the focus to enter a trance, the cartogramancer can mark the item's location on the map; if the item is in motion, a living scrying map can be made to track it.
- Explore Locale - Particularly useful for dungeoneers and explorers, this spell can map out an unknown location and potentially any traps within. In proximity of an unexplored structure, the cartogramancer can enter a trance and map out the area within. A number of factors contribute to the quality of these maps: the complexity of the place's architecture, the proximity of the structure, the degree to which it can or cannot be seen into, to name but a few. A lower quality map might only show walls and rooms immediately visible on entry, while a better one could show trap doors, traps, even distinguishing the material of walls and floors.
- Mark Beings - Given a map of a locale, the cartogramancer can mark the specific location of all beings in the area. This spell requires knowledge of the locale, either by experience, a scry map, or a non-magical map. While in a trance using the map as a focus, the cartogramancer marks the location of each being with a different rune; if using magic paper or enchanted slate, a living map can be made.
Agnate map - Two or more maps whose images are bound to one another. When one map is affected, the other - no matter where its location - is also affected. Very useful by cartogramancer scouts who need to map out a location to partners elsewhere.
- Sibling Maps - A cartogramancer can make two or more identical maps using enchanted paper. When one map is drawn on, the sibling maps will show the same marks. Effective for explorers and scouts in mapping out several parts of a location.
- Master & Slave Maps - Similar to a set of sibling maps, one or more "slave" maps are magically tied to a "master" map. When the master map is marked, the slave maps show the same.
Locus map - A map of a particular location that stays current by changing the map to suit the location. These require two loci: a focus from the locale mapped, and a permanent focus in the target location. Larger and more permanent focuses make for a more effective and wider-ranging map, but are more difficult to enchant.
- Amend Map - With a static map of a location and the two necessary loci, a cartogramancer can update a map to match the current status of the location. The focus used on the map must be fresh, for the amendment to the map will only be as up-to-date as the focus used.
- Dynamic Map - This map eliminates the need for amendment spells, constantly updating the map used. A focus in the location must be first set, something permanent and preferrably large. Monuments and tall towers are typically used, with the presence of metal or precious stone being preferrable; however, a workable map can be made with something as simple as a stone hut. With a focus in a higher location, a map with a wider range can be made. Using enchanted paper or slate, this map will stay up-to-date, marking each structure in the area. If the focus item is distrubed by movement or destruction, the connection between the map and locale will be severed and the map will no longer function.
- Map Sight - A skilled cartogramancer can instantly create a map of her visible area. This spell will impress terrain visible to the caster onto a sheet of magic paper, creating a workable map. The quality of the map depends on the caster's knowledge and skill, so a map cast in a well-known area to a cartogramancer with geographic skill will be far more accurate than one done in an unfamiliar place by an amateur.
- Atlas of Light - As any cartographer can tell you, the challenge with maps is that they are two-dimensional projections of a three-dimensional terrain. By creating an Atlas of Light, the cartogramancer can solve this issue. This spell creates a "hologram" of sorts, a three-dimensional image of selected terrain. The accuracy and detail of the map depends on the circumstances of the caster's knowledge. Having a focus such as an actual map of the area (preferrably, a locus map created by the caster) is more accurate than one drawn merely from knowledge alone. Once cast, the Atlas of Light can be used as a map focus for most cartogramancy spells. Skilled cartogramancers can impress the Atlas of Light image onto a terrain box, the sand aligning and changing color to match the spell and become a permanent topographical display. Otherwise, the atlas will remain until the caster loses concentration on it.
- Stellar Atlas - This spell, a form of the Atlas of Light, displays any known constellations in the sky, drawing the connections between stars and labelling those that the cartogramancer knows. This also functions during the day, useful when sailing far out to sea. If the caster has sufficient geographic knowledge, they can adjust the display to show the stars at different latitudes and longitudes.
- Signal Charts - If a cartogramancer is trapped or otherwise needs someone to find her, she can use the Signal Charts spell to highlight her location on selected maps. On magical maps created by the caster, she need only focus in their location or posessor to place a mark on her location. Another version affects maps in a given proximity, the effectiveness limited by the radius the caster chooses and knowledge of what maps may be in the area.
- Enshroud Place - While most of cartogramancy is aimed at finding places, there are times that call for locations to be obscured. This spell, in all its variations, has the same aim: removing a place from a map where it would normally be shown. In its simplist form, this spell will disguise the location on a selected map, either with outright erasure or by altering the terrain shown. The spell's effectiveness varies with proximity to and familiarity with the map; a map created by the caster is most easily altered. A more complex variation of this spell obscures the location from all maps within a given parameter, either in a certain radius to the caster or by who posesses the map. This spell requires some knowledge of where maps in the target area are and/or who posesses them. While the former version is practiced by most with knowledge of cartogramancy,. the latter is a far more difficult art, and its failure has been known to cause targeted maps to glow or otherwise show the caster's attempt, creating the opposite intended effect.
- Warplain Chart - A name given to a combination map innovated by Rothar the Tactician, a map so created displays not only the land on which a battle is taking place, but also the soldiers and equipment taking part. This map is most fuctional when the caster can see the battle taking place, even if from a distance. If the soldiers are wearing a focus, such as a particular badge or emblem, the caster can give orders audible to those troops - an essential tool for warlords. Orchestrating a functional Warplain Chart requires skill and precision; typically only skilled cartogramancers with a knowledge of strategy even attempt this spell.
As in any form of magic, there are limitations to the effectiveness of spells. The following are factors cartogramancers must consider when casting their spells.
Focus - Perhaps the most important component in a cartogramancy spell is the spell focus. With casting maps, the focus should be a bit of terrain from the locale displayed. Soil works best, the fresher the better, but other items commonly used include small stones or plant matter. Volume counts here as well, with the most accurate maps often affixed to jars of focus material. In scrying maps, the best focus is physical material from the target. For live targets, hair or flesh is best, followed by bits of clothing or personal posessions. For inanimate items, an accurate simulacrum can provide a necessary focus, the more similar the better. In both cases, a mere description of the target and knowledge of its last location can sometimes be sufficient, but this is far more difficult and requires more concentration by the caster. With locale maps, two foci are necessary: one from the locale, and one in the locale. The latter focus is best when large and permanent; skilled cartogramancers have been known to use statues, monuments, or even whole keeps and towers. However, large foci are harder to enchant, and while a fieldstone or fountain can be adequate the map can be less accurate and display a smaller area. The material counts too, the denser the better: precious gems, metals, and stones.
Map Quality - As an artist is limited by the quality of her brush, so the cartogramancer is limited by the quality of her maps. An accurate and up-to-date map naturally works best in any situation, and a map created by the caster (so long as it is accurate) is even better. A low-quality map can result in misplaced spells, inaccurate scrying, or complete failure of a cast.
Map Scale - The proportional size of a map affects the accuracy of any spell. This isn't as simple as larger or smaller scales being more or less difficult. Scaling a map is like adjusting the focus of a spyglass: the setting for a very distant object isn't any harder for a closer object, but requires a fine touch and the slightest of adjustments. So goes the scaling of a cartogramancer's map. For example, a 1":10' map showing the location of an item hidden leagues away is no more helpful than a 1":1mi. map is to finding a convict hidden in a city block. The cartogramancer must intuitively set and keep to a scale for a map to be functional. Although attempts have been made to create functional casting maps on massive and miniscule scales, there are few maps that function less than 1":5' or greater than 1":10mi.
Proximity - With practically every cartogramancy spell, proximity to the target or location plays a factor. Using a casting map in the place affected provides the strongest and most accurate spells, and attempting to scry the layout of a dungeon works best when in the dungeon itself. In general, the further from the area or target being affected, the more difficult and less accurate.
Current Information - In tracking items or people based on knowledge of the target, timing is everything. Very immediate knowledge of the target's location, such as tracking down an escapee that just passed, is most valuable. As time passes between the date of knowledge and the casting of scrying spells, the accuracy of the spell output decreases dramatically. Such an untimely spell can trace where a target was, but are less effective at where it is. Practiced casters can attempt to compensate by tracking the trajectory of the target and predicting where it should be, but this has limited effectiveness.
Additional Ideas (2)
I really ejoyed reading this article, as cartography is one of my favorite subjects, and this is a great rendition of the power of maps and map-making transcribed to fantasy. Just excellent!! And indeed so complete. The cartogramancer's equipment list, the maps and spells, all the wonderful detail! You know, I could never imagine that it is possible to treat this issue so seriously, but now I am all for it)
The caster could have armies encamped on paper to steer opposers away. They could conjure the common memory of a bridge, a town, or an oasis, to mislead others off the mark. They could cause a town to wither and die, or a king to lose his castle, by wiping it away.