This is my first time posting on Worldbuilding, so please, if I make any mistakes or don't provide enough / the proper type of information, do not hesitate to tell me.

Introductions aside, let's jump right into the good stuff: Assume for a moment that you are in a fantasy world where magic is quite common, and everybody lives in harmony, doing magic-people things. Only, instead of everyone living on one conjoined land mass - for example, a continent - they all live on separate, spread out floating islands... in different planes. The only way to get from one island to another is through a portal to that island / plane, which in a magical society is quite easy to produce. The question is, how would people 'map out' locations in this world? Directions and getting to places are still things, as the portals would most likely only work with "nearby" planes; however, how would the local folk create easily visualizable maps of their area (whether on paper or anything else)?

Each island would be rather small, and while there might be a few planes with more / larger islands, most of them would only contain one or two with enough room for a couple of houses at most.

Any help at all is appreciated.

  • $\begingroup$ Are portals permanent, or are they created on demand? $\endgroup$ – Andon Nov 7 '17 at 0:58
  • $\begingroup$ They will most often be created on demand; however, assuming a larger or more important island (think trade centers and political structures), some portals could become permanent. $\endgroup$ – StickyFingies Nov 7 '17 at 0:59
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    $\begingroup$ That makes things a little more difficult. If they were all permanent, a subway-style map would make sense. On Demand makes mapping a lot harder. $\endgroup$ – Andon Nov 7 '17 at 1:05
  • $\begingroup$ Admittedly, permanent portals could work out; however, they'd require a constant energy source, and providing one for each small island would prove difficult... $\endgroup$ – StickyFingies Nov 7 '17 at 1:07
  • $\begingroup$ Are the islands actual islands surrounded by water? If so, how much water and where does it end? If not, how do the islands get enough water to survive? $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Nov 7 '17 at 1:10

Have you seen the modern map of the London Underground?: enter image description here

It has nothing to do with the distances involved, all that is important to this kind of map is what links to where.

Assuming that the portal system is reasonably static then this format would work quite well. Supplemental to this there are other maps for individual "stations" in the case of your maps these would be the habitable islands and they could contain notes as to the planar position of the individual spaces in question.

If, on the other hand, the portals are semi-fluid, linking to fixed sites but not always open in any given formation then it gets a little more complex, you can map the islands and the sites where they can be connected to each other but, without magic, not the current configuration at any given time. The map is then very similar to the underground style map but has more linkages representing the possibilities of the network.

If the portals are entirely fluid but limited in range then you need some form of array that gives relative distances so that people can open the portals they need. So something similar to this would then be useful:

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ Didn't really know if it was right or not to unaccept an answer and reaccept another one so soon (again, new to SE / Worldbuilding), but... wow. This provides not only an easy solution to the problem, but visuals / proofs of concept as well; so for that reason, I accepted this one. $\endgroup$ – StickyFingies Nov 8 '17 at 3:44
  • $\begingroup$ @cellman123 You can but it's rare that you need to, especially if you've given it 24-36 hours on the board for the whole community to check in on the question, if they're interested, before you accept. $\endgroup$ – Ash Nov 14 '17 at 9:41

Islands would likely be mapped to separate pages. The pages would then be grouped by either how easy it is to get from one island to another (especially so with permanent portals) or by islands that have a useful group of features (island of cows connected to the island of wheat fields, etc.).

I would imagine that every group would sort the islands differently. Heck, you could have someone who bundles them by the color of the foliage.

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  • $\begingroup$ Interesting concept :) Combining that with the subway concept, it should be easily visualizable on a map, and somewhat easier to get to places with common features from a travel perspective. $\endgroup$ – StickyFingies Nov 7 '17 at 4:14
  • $\begingroup$ Add in any number of indexing methods and travel becomes very simple indeed. $\endgroup$ – Joe Bloggs Nov 7 '17 at 10:44

There would be lots of different attributes that could be used to map the different portals and different attributes would be of interest to different people. Those in a hurry want the fastest route, those with larger or smaller amounts of money want the cheapest route (if there are any tolls), those with a very specific purpose in mind want to find specifically what they want (nearest wand shop say). Each of these would need a different map highlighting the best routes from their perspective.

Each attribute is effectively a different dimension. Perhaps several tube like maps would be used for the more popular attributes, but the obvious solution would be to use a computer that could display the map orientated by any attribute you wished a bit like the internet or a magical version of it. Just imagine your key attribute and the map appears.

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  • $\begingroup$ Categorizing the routes themselves according to common attributes was something I haven't thought of... May implement this as well :) $\endgroup$ – StickyFingies Nov 7 '17 at 4:20

It's a world of magic, so the possibilities are many, and most likely will appear to different groups in vastly different ways.

Since the portals work via magic on demand, any mapping system that somehow names or symbolizes each plane will work. Your people only need to agree on a naming or signing convention, teach it to everyone wanting to travel that set of planes, and also create an automatic mapping updater spell that publishes any changes to the map to prevent portal crashes.

This way, anyone connecting a portal from plane (pickaname) to plane (differentname) sees all possible routes and nearby potential alternate destinations in a visualization that best works for them and still gives them the needed information. The medium the map appears on can be paper, grains of sand on a metal plate, or the sky itself.

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  • $\begingroup$ The naming convention is certainly nice, that would also bode well on a paper medium so people wouldn't have to constantly look up / memorize what things look like or where they are. (Heck, if they had to do that all the time, what's the point of having a map?) $\endgroup$ – StickyFingies Nov 7 '17 at 4:17

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