A long time ago before computers all you could do was making maps on paper. When I played RPG’s with my friends during that time I loved doing maps, mostly those where made in inked watercolour. Since then I hardly pick up my analog stuff anymore, it is so much simpler to just do it on your computer. With programs like Photoshop and campaign Cartographer the process of making maps are so much easier.
But sometimes I miss drawing by hand, and Photoshop’s tools just don’t have the right feeling. Luckily enough Jonathan Roberts over at fantastic maps told me about a program called Artrage. It is an illustration program that has an affordable price and a great set of tools to use. Suddenly I’m finding myself drawing again, and it feels like doing it on paper, even though you’re doing it on your computer.
The map included in this post is an example of a quick map of a small village I made in the program while trying to learn it. It is coloured using the watercolour tool which works really nice. It takes some time to learn the way the program behaves but you can find a lot of great tutorials on youtube. And as soon you get a hang of it, it really works like a charm.
As I have stated earlier one of the great things with Dungeon designer 3 (DD3) from Profantasy is that you can make a nice map in a very short time.
Whenever I decide to play an adventure with my children I try to make up the basics of the story together with them. It is a great way of getting them involved in the creative process, and they also think it is more fun when they feel that they can influence the story.
This time me and my daughter started to talk about trolls and I asked her if she thought there be Trolls nearby the castle where her character lives (of course she plays a princess). And she said that there might be. I told her that I’d heard some of the farmers complaining about trolls attacking people and livestock and that maybe someone should look into it. She really hooked into the story and started to make up things herself and now she insists on that we have to play on Saturday, because someone has to stop those trolls.
Well suddenly I had to come up with a map we can use on Saturday, and as I said in the beginning of this post, making dungeons in DD3 is a real treat. The map below took me around two hours to complete from scratch to finished product.
The map is completely done in DD3 but labeling and some effects to make it more paint looking where all applied in Photoshop. Now I just need to wait for Saturday and see if the princess can defeat all the trolls that harass the neighborhood.
The earlier maps of the Etrakien world that I made had a brighter colour scheme than I wanted. It didn’t fit in to the setting I had in mind for the world, a hard and bloody place full of struggle and war where the civilized world never was more than a few steps from falling into chaos.
When I remade the Etrakien world map I went for a darker colour scheme and I also wanted the map to look more authentic, like a real map from lost times. When I was satisfied with the world map I decided to test the style on a more regional level.
The first map in the style, that later went on to be the style that I used in both the map of the Truscian peninsula and the Serpents bay, is a map of the Armadien kingdom, a place a bit north of Ankh-Bathor. As usual when I make a map I tried to make up a story around the place before starting out. The story however tends to change as soon as I start to draw, but that is part of the fun.
Armadien is a kingdom ruled by a weak king that is in the hands of the twelve lords that each are in charge of different parts of the country. The twelve lords are constantly forming alliances between each other and are breaking them as often.
At the moment they are in a dispute with Ankh-Bathor in the south since the Armadien army conquered the free city Southpoint. Southpoint was a close ally to Ankh-Bathor because through the city Ankh-Bathor could avoid Armadiens tolls on timber. Armadien are by many referred to as the Forest kingdom, and the timber produced here are among the best in the whole world. So Armadien decided to once and for all stop the trade between Southpoint and Ankh-Bathor and conquered the city.
But Ankh-Bathor is a very powerful city state that doesn’t like that someone meddles in its affairs so at the same time Armadien also formed an alliance with the Etrakien Empire in the south, who thinks that Ankh-Bator is nothing more than a part of its empire that against its people’s wishes has broken free. Ankh-Bathor knows that the Etrakien Empire is just waiting for an excuse to try to reclaim the city, and a war on two fronts is not something you wish for. So in this way Armadien thought that they could avoid a counterblow from the powerful city, they couldn’t have been more wrong.
In the southern part of the great Armadien forest there is an area people say is a part of the old forest that once covered the whole world. It is a sinister and dark place where the sun seldom has the strength to reach below the crowns of the trees. This is also one of the last places where you can find Traals in the civilized world that are not enslaved. Traals are a humanoid race far stronger then the humans, but inferior when it comes to technology and for a long time they have been forced to live in parts of the world where the humans make no claim of the land.
Ankh-Bathor has through a dummy started to equip the Traals in Armadien with steel weapons in a hope that an uprising will start that will occupy the Armadien army to such a degree that Southpoint will be able to break free from its oppressor. The problem though is that it is quite hard to control the Traals and at the moment the weapons trade has mainly resulted in a civil war among the Traals.
This month’s annual for Campaign cartographer 3 from Profantasy offered a very good looking style based on the world map of the upcoming role-playing game the “13th Age” by Rob Heinsoo and Jonathan Tweet.
I always like to try out new styles so I thought I should give this one a try too. Usually when I make maps I try to make a story around it. If you let the map visualize your story it is often easier to make it more unique and the details will kind of come more naturally. The drawback of working in that way is that it takes much more energy from you making a map, so this time I decided to just make a map without weaving a story around it.
The style itself was very easy and quick to work with. Most of the terrain is made up from seamless bitmap files so making mountains and other types of terrain goes really quick. The mountains however gave me some problems. Sometimes it was hard to get the high peaks in the places where you wanted them. But luckily enough the style also includes single mountains you can add to the mountain texture, which made the process easier.
If you look at the map included in this post I guess it took around three hours to do it, and then I probably spent as much time on labeling as I did on the actual map.
One thing I didn’t like though was that when you added the sheet effects to the map the seas didn’t get any effect added to them. When I made the map I had two larger seas, the sea of pain and little sea, that where close to the oceans. When those seas didn’t get any effect they looked strange compared to the nearby oceans. I tried to add some effects to the sea layer but because the ocean layer lies below the land layer and the seas are on top of the land layer it was hard to get an effect that looked exactly the same.
Apart from that I liked the style and if you want a map in a more stylish satellite style I can really recommend it.
I really wish I had more time to do dungeon maps. But for some reason it seems that I always end up doing overland or city maps. Don’t take me wrong, I really love doing those maps but i just wish I had more time for dungeons as well.
Mostly when I make dungeon maps I use Dungeon designer 3 (DD3) from Profantasy. The advantage of the program is that it let you create a map very quickly. You can of course spend millions of hours on details in the maps but if you just need a quick map for an evenings game DD3 will let you make that.
Whenever I make a dungeon I usually try to make a quick sketch on paper. This will make it easier when you start working on the map in DD3. In DD3 I usually start with putting out the floors for the rooms, when those are in place I start to make all the floors for the corridors. If you don’t have a sketch to use as a blueprint this work will be much harder.
When all the floors are in place it is time to place all the walls. You might wonder why I don’t use the room tools in the program, where you place floor and walls at the same time? Well the problem with that approach is that you have to do a lot of cutting in the walls to get all the doors in, or just to open up for the corridors. When I started to use DD3 this was the approach I used but after a couple of maps I changed the working process to first place the floors. And in my opinion that works much better.
When all rooms and floors are done it is time to add in some details. I always start with doors, then I place tabels, traps, torches, blood stains etc. This last step can take everything from an hour to four, five hours. It all depends on what you need the map for, an evenings game with some fiends or to publish in an adventure.
The map below, Catacombs of evil, was a test map I made when I first purchased DD3. It is made in Jon Roberts great style, that is free to download from here. When I made the map i pictured an evil cult hiding in the catacombs under a temple where they worshiped some demon. The adventurers mission would be to find the cult, free the prisoners and kill the demon.
The map is completely made in DD3, apart from labeling and the red light effects in room 8 that are made in Photoshop.