Google Maps Is A Secret Cache of World- and Story-building Secrets

Yes, you read that headline right. Secrets. Right there in front of your very eyes every time you use Google Maps (or Apple Maps or any other map apps).

google-maps-logoWHERE ARE THE SECRETS?

I’m getting to that. First of all, pull up a local map of your house in your favorite mapping app. Zoom in until you can see the street names. Now click and drag the map in a random direction. If you live in an urban area, you’re going to end up in a nearby neighborhood. Pick a handful of street names.

Here are my five:

  • Clovercrest Dr
  • Sage Hill Dr
  • Blackwood Pl
  • Oak Knoll Terrace
  • Highland Glen Pl

So what can I do with those? Let’s take it apart and put it back together as a word list.

  • blackwood
  • clover
  • crest
  • sage
  • glen
  • highland
  • hill
  • knoll
  • oak

streets-mapI’m a fantasy guy, so let’s see what my demented mind comes up with out of those words.

In the Blackwood, hidden in a small oaken glen near Sage’s Hill, a highland gnoll tribe waits to crest the hilltop and rob the Sage of his belongings…

Wait… what? In less than 5 minutes (I timed it), I went from a map to a collection of street names to a collection of words that led to a small story or adventure idea. Hopefully the PCs can save the Sage from certain doom!

That’s one secret. Want another one?

Driving in town, I often find myself looking at street names and pondering them as location markers on maps. Nearby one of my daughter’s schools I found these streets:

  • Summerhill Dr
  • Hammermesh Dr
  • Thorncreek Dr
Great Article on Faeries and Fine Art at

Great Article on Faeries and Fine Art at

And that led me to ponder a new world…

…a world where the faeries rule supreme from four hills – the Winter Court rules from Winterhill (north); the Spring Court rules from Springhill (west); the Summer Court rules from Summerhill (south); and the Autumn Court rules from Autumnhill (east). In the broad valley between them runs the Thorncreek (north to south) and Rosewater River (east to west), leading into the grand Naida Lake and the human settlements of the Kingdom of Hammermesh live on its edges. Humankind would constantly be pulled into faerie plots and enticed by magicks beyond their comprehension – especially the price of those magicks.

(For a bit more about the four faerie courts, check out The Faerie Courts at the Faeriepedia.)

That’s two secrets… How about one more?

I’m awful at drawing regional maps. Truly awful. So I often look for inspiration by roaming the world by virtual map and looking for a river I like the shape of, a city whose design calls to me, or a mountain range, coastline, or lake that speaks to me in some way.

That’s three. Three seems like a good number for today!

Sometimes it’s the things we look at every day that we don’t truly see as the inspiration they are. It’s important to look at the world from a different perspective from time to time to shake our muse up a bit.

What ways do you use your map apps to inspire you? Share in the comments!

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