Making a lot of maps

It has been rather quiet from me lately. The reason for this is that I’m doing some jobs for Pelgrane press that has occupied most of my spare time that I use for mapping.

The maps are for an upcoming 13th age adventure named Shadow over Eldolan. For this adventure I’ve made a city map (that you can see at the top of this post) and nearly ten different location maps.

The city map is made in CD3 from Profantasy using my customized style that I have developed in the program. You can see some tutorials on how to tweak CD3 to get the same result in the tutorial section of my blog. The tutorial also shows what steps I’m doing in Photoshop to get a more unique look of the map. I still think that the colours in CD3 are too bright to accomplish a satisfying result. So I correct that in Photoshop.

All the location maps are made in the new lovely style by Mike Schley that you can buy from Profantasy’s homepage. The maps are all quite different from each other and you can see an example from one of the maps below. The style was great fun to work with but as always when you use a style in CC3 there will be one or two symbols that you miss when you make a map.

Map H colour preview

Apart from the 13th age maps I’m also doing some maps for their Trail of Cthulhu game. Those maps are however done completely in Photoshop. Originally I was planning on using CC3 here, but when I got the descriptions of what kind of maps they asked for I quickly realized that none of the available styles really would work out. So I started from scratch, making something up on my own. You can see part of a map below. The aim was to make a map that had a 1930th feeling, something that could have been in an Indiana Jones film. I am very pleased with the result and I’m looking forward to see them in print. But first I need to finish all the maps.

Whistle and I’ll Come preview


A New Years adventure


So has another year passed, and what is a better way to end it then playing an adventure with family and friends.

The rumors in the village is that someone has stolen the New Year, and time is short, this year will soon end and if no one can retrieve the New Year the world will freeze in a constant state where nothing new can happen. The villagers suspect that it is the trolls in the neighborhood that has stolen it, but where can the players find them? And is the truth really so simple…..

And of course does the story need some maps. The map at the top of this post is of the village where the adventure will start out. The map is done in City Designer 3 (CD3) from Profantasy but edited in Photoshop to change colours and adding some effects. I usually do that with all my city maps I make in CD3, the original colours are a bit too bright for my taste.

The map below is made in Dungeon Designer 3 (DD3) and depicts the cave where the two trolls in the adventure are hiding. Of course they are not the culprits they are completely innocent, the real culprit is the evil priest, and he is the one responsible for stealing the New Year.

Everytime I use DD3 I feel like I have to do it more often. It is a very powerful tool and working with it is a lot of fun.

But now it is time to try to save the New Year, so happy New Year to everyone reading this blog and see you next year, if my children and their friends succeed in their quest.

Outside my comfort zone

test map dungeon
We all have our comfort zones in everything we do, and so do I when it comes to mapping. Most of the maps I do are either overland or city maps and while doing them I’m feeling very safe. I know what’s looking good and how to accomplish the things I have in mind for the map. But staying inside your comfort zone wont make you better in what you do. You have to force yourself to step outside, to do the things you feel insecure about. That is the best way to improve whatever you do to the next step.

Earlier this year, before the summer, I was asked by a Swedish RPG company to do some old school dungeon maps. I hadn’t done many before and felt a bit insecure about it but I thought I could give it a try. The maps turned out pretty well (you can see them in the book “Monster” for the Swedish RPG Fantasy!) and doing them kind of gave me the urge to do more.

I started to play around with different ideas and made a couple of test maps to see where I could get with this. Around this time I also talked to Ralf at Profantasy to see if they would be interested in me making a Black and White dungeon style for their annuals. I sent him some of the test maps and he thought it’d be a great idea, so we agreed on me making the style, to be released now in October.

evil temple

When you make a style for Profantasy you get a list of things that usually are included, so I started at the top and ticked them off when I had them done. All symbols are made in a program called Artrage that has been a great help while doing the symbols, especially the “Paint symmetry” tool. The tool lets you divide the painting in between 2 and 12 parts. Everything you do in one part will be repeated in the others. So if you for example draw a coffin you divide the painting in two pieces, everything you draw on the left side will be repeated on the right side, and this will make the coffin have the correct proportions.

Making the style has been great fun and I already want to make more symbols to flesh it out. The style includes around 75 unique symbols but as always you cannot get it all in there. You will always miss something. But I think the selection of symbols is more than enough to make it possible to do the map you want. I actually even included a couple of monsters that you can populate your dungeon with.

I feel that I really had to step outside my comfort zone to make this style, and that I have learned a lot from it. Hopefully those experiences will improve my future maps.

I hope you will enjoy the style now in October.

Going to Never land


One of the most important things to remember when you make maps is that it should be fun. If you don’t have fun, well you won’t continue doing it. One of things I like the most is to make maps for my kids. It doesn’t matter if it is for a RPG session or for an imaginary world they want to play in. If they ask for a map I always try to make one for them.

This spring my oldest daughter turned six and she wanted to invite all her friends for a pirate party. At the moment Jake and the Never land pirates are her favorite show on TV, and of course if you have a pirate party you have to have a treasure hunt.

My kids loves to have treasure hunts and I have made maps of our house that I use when we go treasure hunting. Sometimes I include a riddle to make it a bit harder for them to find the treasure. Because the truth is that they nowadays are so good at reading the maps of our house that they find the treasures in no time. So I have to make it a bit harder for them.

But this time I decided to make something completely different that I hadn’t done before. Jake and his pirates are living in never land, but it is quite hard to get there for a party, so I decided to make a map where I turned our house into Never land. To do this I used Profantasy’s Dungeon Designer 3 program and the Jon Roberts Dungeon style from the 2011 annual (It is free to download by the way). I really like that style and it is very easy to use.

Do I need to say that the map was a real success. The kids loved it and they really played it out well, as if they were in Never land. The treasure was easily found after some exciting adventures and everyone enjoyed the booty, golden coins with chocolate inside. What more can you ask for if your six years old 🙂

The Troll cave

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.

Catacombs of evil – a short DD3 tutorial

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.

The Magicians tomb

I’ve really looked forward to the release of this year’s June Annual that gives you a new drawing style by Herwin Wielink: Isometric Dungeons. The style itself includes some really fantastic graphics and possibilities and it lets you create a new good looking map in no time at all (compared to if you’d do all the graphics by hand).

The style itself was a bit tricky to work with for me. Or if you put it another way, the style really showed me how much I still have to learn to completely master Dungeon Designer 3. Maybe I have to take a closer look at the Tome of Ultimate mapping to catch up on a thing or two.

Getting all the different objects in the correct order in the map really gave me a slight headache. When you create a map in this style you really have to plan in what order to do things, if you don’t want to move things back and forth on the actual sheet. It took me some restarts of the map to get a hang on it. But once you understand the logic everything runs a lot smoother. The secret of success is to work from one of the top corners to the opposite lower corner. In this way you will naturally get the graphics in the right order and you don’t need to rearrange the order of the rooms and corridors all the time.

When you reach that point everything also gets a lot more fun. I really enjoyed working with the style and the result gets so good that you just want to keep going, it’s just as addictive as playing a good computer game.

However there was one thing I felt was very frustrating with the style, and that was that I want more!  The style feels like a small taste of something that could be amazingly fantastic. I want circular rooms, walls with windows, more furniture, different floors, traps, outdoor environments, sewers and I could continue that list for another two posts. This is what Perspectives 3 (if it comes out) should look like.

At the moment when the selection of different graphics isn’t too vast a lot of maps will turn out looking quite similar. So it is quite hard to do something unique with the style, but I’m hoping for a bright future and more isometric add-ons in future Annuals maybe.

The map in the post is a small map of a temple to the mad magician and his hidden tomb beneath. Nothing spectacular but it will be great for an evening’s adventure with my kids.