While I was working on my current project–which is a high fantasy piece–there were a lot of resources I found myself pulling from in order to make the story as realistic, consistent, and good as possible. It seemed like a good idea to me to put all, or at least the most important, of those resources in one place for you to browse as needed.
From what I understand of the publishing industry, any type of art put into the actual, physical book is created by artists hired by the publishing company. But that doesn’t mean that, as fantasy writers, we should not have a concept of distance or geography. I have created hand-drawn maps in the past, but only at the global or continental level. And, depending on the scope of your own work in progress, you may find yourself in need of many different maps.
Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator–This functions as an image generator for the global scale. There are options for customization, including adjustments to the number of countries and cultures you want to include, and there are ways to adjust the scope. The map shown below is one generated as an archipelago, but there are options for islands, peninsulas, double continents, and so on. And, of course, it allows you to edit the names generated to fit on that map. It’s worth mentioning that I never wound up using this generator, primarily because I already had my own hand-drawn one.
Medieval Fantasy City Generator–While I actually found this generator before the Azgaar’s one, and used it extensively, it is worth saying at the offset that if you click on a city in your new Azgaar’s map, there is an icon that takes you to this city generator, already preset to fit the size of the population and the geography of the Azgaar’s map. Like the Azgaar’s map, there are customization options, though because it is on a smaller scale, there are fewer options. You can edit the size, whether there are walls or not, and so forth. Of course, again, you can also change the names generated for the map. It’s not as versatile as I would have generally liked, but it was incredibly useful for keeping the scope of my cities and towns in mind. And, because it’s far harder to draw something like this than it is to draw a country’s outline, I’ll take what I can get.
Character Name Generators
Naming characters is another thing that I have struggled with in the past. It’s not something you think about as a reader, perhaps, but I have always wanted some level of homogeneity in my names. If two characters come from the same country, I want there to be some sort of essence to their name that suggests as much. Basically, I did not want to just throw a whole bunch of sounds together and hope for the best.
Fantasy Name Generator–When it comes to a single site that I can use as a generator, this would probably be my go-to. It allows for a person to generate names based on existing countries, or based off of a traditional feel for mythological names. There are other individual generators on the site, but these are the two I use the most. As you can imagine, I liked this type of generator because it allowed me to search up a specific type of name that I could use for a specific culture in my book. The names aren’t always great; sometimes they’re a little generic. But when it comes to naming minor characters, especially ones that play a minuscule role, I don’t want to spend a huge chunk of time trying to come up with some name for them, and so this has been one of my solutions.
Searching Individual Countries–This is less a one-stop shop and more an acknowledgment that you can simply decide what country you want to have influence your character names. I have found plenty of generators, though on a much smaller scale, for just about anything, and sometimes I might use the suggested names to come up with a new one. I’ve also looked up lists of names, usually trying to find the more obscure names before settling on popular ones, from that specific country.
Google Translate–As you’ll find in the following section, Google Translate has become one of my most-used tools from the internet. And, because a fantasy author can easily draw from multiple cultures to create a fantastical one, it’s worth noting that you can just as easily merge multiple words from various languages to create a new name for your character. I like to find two or three words that describe my character, translate them into my main reference languages, and then play with the merge until it comes out as something that sounds like an actual name.
Should you decide to incorporate a fantasy language or two or three into your project, and should you lack any linguist skills, you may find yourself struggling. I love fantasy languages. It gives some level of authenticity. But I am also terrible at languages as a whole.
In line with using Google Translate for names, it can also be used to generate fantasy terms, phrases, and sentences, with a little creative spark. It is important to realize, however, that while it’s far easier to just create fake words and sub it into English grammatical structure, it will likely be very obvious that you did so. You may want to choose one reference language that will serve as the grammatical and structural basis of your fantasy language, and then choose another language that will inspire the actual sounds. This will probably require a lot of research, as the grammatical structure of a language you are only mildly familiar with will not become apparent just by translating one sentence. But it will lead to more interesting results.
It’s also worth noting that there are fantasy language generators on the internet, but the ones I just stumbled upon while researching this blog post all are primarily focused on word-by-word translation, and leave the grammatical structure to you to solve. But, if you struggle with the terminology, maybe these generators will help you get a feel for at least some common sounds in the language you’re building.
In an age of cars and plane travel, it’s hard to conceptualize the actual length of time it used to take to get anywhere. If you’re wanting to have some semblance of consistency, well, lucky for you, there was a lot of travel going on in my current project, and so I have some ideas on how fast or slow certain types of travel can be.
It is important to note: these are averages in ideal situations. A person in good health can cover quite a few miles in a day, as you’ll see below, if they’re following a flat road. But it is possible that a person in bad health on good terrain could cover the same distance faster than a person in good health on bad terrain. Same goes for horses. When walking, horses essentially go the same speed as walking humans, and one horse cannot travel long distances at high speeds, especially on rough terrain. But knowing speeds in ideal conditions can help you estimate travel time in less ideal conditions.
These numbers are going to be pretty shaky, for obvious reasons. It took quite a bit of Googling, and a lot of the answers consider the present date, for the use of hikers or horseback riders trying to plan trips… people who are less used to long-distance travel than the populations of the Medieval Ages would be. So feel free to do more searching on your own, but this is will hopefully serve as foundational work.
- Armed forces on Foot–With the gear that they must bring with them, including supplies as well as the obvious armor and weapons, a good rule of thumb is ten miles a day. They could possibly walk fifteen miles or more, but at the risk of troops too exhausted to fight when they arrive at the fighting ground.
- Single Traveler on Foot–If your traveler has very little to bring with them, is used to walking, and has a good path to follow, they might be able to traverse thirty miles in a day. Cross-country might look like a lot less, maybe even as short as ten miles depending on the terrain.
- Travel by horse–If you need to go super fast and the infrastructure of your fantasy country allows for it, you could base your travel speeds off of the Pony Express. It was an almost 2,000 mile long route that riders could cover in about ten days. With 190 stations along that route, and horses and riders changed at each stop, it allowed for record time. But, again, no single person could make such a long journey at such a fast pace for that length of time. In good conditions, an experienced rider with a fit horse could theoretically travel about fifty miles each day, provided they’re able to trot or canter for short stretches. A horse at a walk could make it about thirty miles in a day, if the rider could manage to sit in the saddle for eight hours at a time.
I wish I could also give you some general travel speeds for boat travel, but unfortunately, there are even more variables to consider here… the shape of the ship, number of sails, weather, how much cargo it has, whether or not they’re traveling on a river or ocean, and so forth. The general consensus seems that a ship on the ocean could travel five knots (the equivalent of just shy of 6 mph), though what that might mean for distance traveled each day is unclear based on what researching I did for my project.
As I was working on my project, I found it really annoying to pause what I was working on just to go back and look for specific sites that had the information or the generators that I needed, so I hope putting all of this information in one place is helpful for you. But, please, if you have your own resources… or if you have more experience in travel speeds, or whatever, feel free to share them in the comments.