A Pokémon region loosely based on North America

How can the geography and themes of North America be adapted for use in a family-friendly Nintendo Pokémon game, where North America as such does not exist? Maps and details available under a CC-BY-SA License.


Table of contents:

  1. Introduction
  2. Aside 1: The game maps of Pokémon.
  3. Considerations of a Pokémon region
  4. Mapmaking
  5. A detailed map of the Noram Region
  6. Factions
  7. Game mechanics
  8. Plot hooks
  9. If you’d like to use this
  10. Resources consulted


Pokémon Sword is set in the Galar Region, the geography of which is based on modified map of the island of Great Britain. After playing this game, I started wondering how the Pokémon regions matched up to real-world locations, and spent a lot of time reading Bulbagarden’s writings on the topic.

I wanted to make my own region, loosely based on North America.

Goals of this project:

Aside: The maps of the Pokémon games

Tons of maps make for an image-heavy post, which is on another page at this link.

These maps can be divided into the following categories:

Considerations of a Pokémon region

There’s a lot of things that go into a region’s design:

As of this writing, I have a hand-drawn map image that accounts for most of those items, but doesn’t align exactly with a map of North America.

A hand-drawn map of a distorted North America.
This region is based on a distorted North America: The Aleutians and the Alaskan panhandle are enlarged; the West Coast is abridged. Baja California thickens, the Central Valley of California continues into the Gulf of California, and Mexico shrinks into Texas. Mountain ranges are simplified. The Great Plains lessen in width, and the Great Lakes are replaced with large glaciers feeding six rivers into one town in the middle of the plains. Florida shortens and becomes the base of a major East-Coast road leading up to Boston-ish. A number of railroads and routes are described.


It’s possible to warp the above map to more-directly fit North America, like I’ve done in the following Web Mercator map:

The previous map has bween warped and distorted, and overlaid on a map of the real North America.
The hand-drawn map is distorted and stretched to sit atop a map in the Web Mercator projection, using a base map tile set by CartoDB and data from the OpenStreetMap contributors.
How I transformed the image to match a Mercator map
#!/usr/bin/env bash
# Depends on gdal2tiles.py being in the local path
# https://gdal.org/programs/gdal2tiles.html

echo "Cleaning up workspace..."
rm ./3072x3072-trans_autogen.gtiff
# the problem here is that I have latlong, but need to express the latlong in easting-northing UTM coordinates
# using http://www.rcn.montana.edu/resources/converter.aspx
# -gcp 633.653  823.346  #1 Anchorage, -160 60
# -gcp 1457.6   2287.63  #2 Baja California, -110 23
# -gcp 2462.06  1825.77  #4 Florida, -80 25
# -gcp 2569.96  1095.64  #3 Boston -70 43
# Commenting this out because -s_srs not allowed?
# gdal_translate -of GTiff --s_srs "EPSG:4326" -a_srs "EPSG:3857" \

echo ""
echo "Commencing gdal_translate"
gdal_translate -of GTiff -a_srs "EPSG:4326" \
	-gcp  633.653  823.346  -160 60 `# Anchorage: Home Town` \
	-gcp  467.0   1251.0    -168 53 `# Aleutians: Home Island` \
	-gcp 1086.6   1029.63   -132 54 `# Juneau: Canada` \
	-gcp 1457.6   2287.63   -110 23 `# Ground Gym: Baja California` \
	-gcp 2462.06  1825.77    -80 25 `# Rocket Launch: Atlanta/Florida` \
	-gcp 2569.96  1095.64    -70 43 `# Galarian Town: Boston` \
	"3072x3072-trans.png" "./temp.gtiff"

echo ""
echo "Commencing gdalwarp"
gdalwarp -s_srs "EPSG:4326" -t_srs "EPSG:3857" -r cubicspline -tps -co COMPRESS=NONE -dstalpha -of GTiff "./temp.gtiff" "3072x3072-trans_autogen.gtiff"

echo ""
echo "Commencing gdal2tiles"
gdal2tiles.py --verbose -p mercator -s "EPSG:3857" -z 1-3 -w leaflet --tmscompatible -t "Noram Pokémon Region" -c "Made in 2019 by Ontploffing Boer" 3072x3072-trans_autogen.gtiff tiles/

echo ""
echo "Cleaning up temporary files ..."
rm ./temp.gtiff
echo "Done."

I don’t like this specific iteration of the map, for the following reasons:

  1. Alaska is of a higher latitude than the rest of the continent, leading to distortion in shape and distances on the Mercator map. It’s displayed higher in the image, which is not great for a map.
  2. As a result of point 1, the map dedicates a lot of space to areas that aren’t important to the story, like vast regions of Canada and the northern Great Plains.

So I would need to do one of:

And it would still an open question of whether I want the web map to be based on the hand-drawn map or on a digitization thereof.

I attempted to reproject this map in the web browser via OpenLayers and did not meet with success. Something doesn’t work in the OpenLayers configuration for warping the image and OpenStreetMap to a different projection. Also, the best map (the Dymaxion projection) isn’t supported by proj4 anyways, so I can’t warp the images into the preferred projection even if I got OpenLayers to work in the browser, or if I felt like reprojecting the original map again. Or if I felt like building the routes and cities as vector objects on a vector-tile map.

Instead, I’ll give you this raster attempt at what a subway map of Noram might look like, overlaid with trails and such. Maybe it’s too detailed.

A detailed map of the Noram Region

A computer-illustrated map of a Pokémon region, with ice and ocean and lands and other things.

A pannable, zoom-able map of the Noram Region. As a young trainer, you'd start on your home islands in the west, and travel south and east around the continent, ending up in the northeast.

Where game locations are inspired by real-life locations, the location name shares the bubble with the real-life location. Click the bubble for a description of the town, with some plot hints? The size of a dot cluster for a settlement indicates its size.

Lighthouses (and the occasional other tall light) are marked on the map as well. Lighthouses have different shapes in different areas. A circle atop a straight stick is an automated lighthouse, without attendants.

Red lines are routes; sometimes they run across water. Grey lines are rail lines, which have stations at settlements, and many tunnels and bridges. Blue dashed lines are ship routes that the player can hitch rides on. Noram is a region where ship traffic is important to commerce, and thus somewhat important to the plot. The lighter-colored areas of ocean are surfable in places; beware icebergs in the north. Sometimes, they're Pokémon!


Game mechanics

Plot hooks

If you’d like to use this

Well, first consult Nintendo, because they own Pokémon and I’m sure that they’d like to have a word with you. I can’t give you the rights for their stuff.

The original portions of this project, Noram Pokémon Region by Ontploffing Boer are licensed under the Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

In short: as far as the bits of this work that are original to me are concerned: Yes, you may use this in your worldbuilding, fanfic, fangame, and so on. It doesn’t even have to be for Pokémon; you could use this setting for Digimon or something without pocket monsters. You are free to copy and redistribute this material in any medium or format, and to adapt, remix, transform, and build upon the material, under these conditions:

If you’d like to use this work for commercial purposes, contact me. There’s some links in the footer of this site that will work, if you have a Mastodon account.

The following items are included in this license:

Resources consulted

A partial list of things I read and people I talked to about this project: