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I've just come across this animation (over at reddit, thanks to Google) comparing the Sword Coast maps found in Storm King's Thunder and Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide.

(A few examples: Check the distance between Neverwinter and Helm's Hold, check where Raven Rock is, check where Mithrall Hall is, check where Beorunna's Well is, check where Citadel Felbarr is, etc.)

Is there any in-game, canonical reasoning behind the two maps being so different in so many places?

(Mind you, I do have SCAG, but I don't (yet) have SKT, so I can't check the latter myself.)

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The first map had errors. The SKT map had those errors corrected. That's all there is to it.

Christopher Perkins · 27 Nov 2016
There were inconsistencies in previous maps, which we finally corrected in Storm King's Thunder. #WOTCstaff

Ross Cody · 27 Nov 2016
@ChrisPerkinsDnD STK: Mornbryn's Shield & Olostin's Hold - have their locations changed since the old material, or do the maps need a fix?

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There likely isn't a canonical reason. The reason there are discrepancies is just likely due to the fact that these are hand-drawn maps by different mappers (at least I think they're different mappers).

I think it's important to remember that drawing fantasy maps isn't like mapping in the real world. In the real world, we have a network of GPS satellites that can give us practically pin-point accuracy as to the location of objects. Plus, we live in a world where we can actually just go outside and physically measure the distances between locations.

Not so with a fantasy map for a game world. The original author (Ed Greenwood?) of the Forgotten Realms probably roughed out a map like 30 years ago and slapped a scale on it. That map has probably been the basis of all other Forgotten Realms map since. Each new map is interpreted differently by each new artist that is commissioned to do a map. They're basically just drawing on best-guesses since all they have to inform them is guess work anyways. It's not like they can go to the Forgotten Realms and find out the exact position of everything.

Think about it this way. Someone tells you to draw a new map of the Sword Coast. So the first thing you do it look at an existing map to get the distances between location. But where did those distances come from? Likely from some adventure back in like 2nd Edition D&D that made a passing reference that the distance between Waterdeep and Neverwinter was 10 days on horseback. The margin of error on the accuracy of such a rough estimate could be huge. That's probably why when you look at those two maps you linked that some places are shifted quite a bit.

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    \$\begingroup\$ I don't think the two maps were drawn by different people. I guess both were made by Mike Schley. Perhaps different people edited / postprocessed them. In that case though there must be a design reason for moving places around -- and considering the medium, such a reason is at least moderately likely to appear / get referenced in-game as well. Sure, I have way, way earlier maps, but there's been stuff happening to the Realms that explains the changes. Also, who needs GPS sats when you have operative Gods, Divination magic, airships, spells letting you fly, etc? ;) \$\endgroup\$ – OpaCitiZen Dec 5 '16 at 17:10

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