How to Make Maps for Your Campaign (For Free!)

arsheesh
arsheesh
edited April 2012 in Help & Tips
This thread is meant as a sort of annotated compendium of helpful resources, software and tutorials that can enable you to create your own maps for your campaigns and/or campaign worlds. Though there are some really good commercial resources on map-making out there, I've focused here on resources that are all free or freeware.

h3. Helpful Resources for Map-Making:

1. "A Magical Society: Guide to Mapping":http://paizo.com/store/downloads/free/v5748btpy82tc, is a free 37 page pdf that covers everything from the axial spin of the planet, to its climate and ecology, to the cultures that inhabit it. This is an extraordinarily useful little manual, especially given that it is absolutely free!

2. "Medieval Demographics Made Easy":http://www.io.com/~sjohn/demog.htm is a short online, researched article aimed at explaining to the average DM how things such as population density and spread, agriculture, and economic goods and services function within a Medieval setting.

3. "The Doomsday Book":http://www.rpglibrary.org/utils/meddemog/ is a supplemental aid to the article on Medieval Demographics. This site offers a sort of "Settlements Calculator"; you plug in inputs such as the climate and geographical spread of one of your civilizations, and the calculator generates outputs such as a break down of population (and its spread), specific details relating to the villages and settlements of your civilization, number of castles and fortifications, and even a breakdown of what kinds of goods and services are likely available in those villages (including how many butcher, bakers, thatchers etc. the village would likely support).

4. "The Cartographers Guild":http://forum.cartographersguild.com/index.php?referrerid=15127, a site dedicated to supporting those who enjoy making maps, whether you are a complete novice, an amateur, or a professional RPG cartographer (and there are several of these within the Guild). Not only are there great tutorials for map making, but there are also very instructive discussions on related topics that bear on our conversation here.

h3. Free Software for Map-Making:

1. "GIMP":http://www.gimp.org/ is a raster based Image Manipulation Program similar to Photoshop. It is a freely distributed piece of software for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

2. "Inkscape":http://inkscape.org/ is an Open Source vector graphics editor, with capabilities similar to Illustrator, CorelDraw or Xara X.

3. "Wilbur":http://www.ridgenet.net/~jslayton/wilbur.html is a freely distributed bit of software that works with height fields (it can be used to simulate somewhat realistic erosion on maps)


_NOTE: most of these tutorials are all hosted at the Cartographers Guild; you will need to create an account there to access them._

h3. Tutorials On Making Regional or World Maps:

1. "How to Create an Artistic Regional Map in GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?1142-Award-Winner-Using-GIMP-to-Create-an-Artistic-Regional-RPG-Map this is a good _Beginner_ level map tutorial in GIMP (written by RobA). The style of map is somewhat realistic.

2. "Antique Style Maps in GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?15011-Antique-Style-Maps-in-Gimp. This is another good _Beginner_ level tutorial in GIMP (originally written for Photoshop by Ascension but translated to GIMP by Candacis). The style of the map, as the name implies, is more traditional.

3. "Atlas Style Map In GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?4084-Award-Winner-My-atlas-style-in-PS/page27 (located at the bottom of the page). This is another good _Beginner_ and _Intermediate_ level tutorial in GIMP (originally written by Ascension for Photoshop, but translated to GIMP by Gidde). The tutorial will give you an attractive pseudo-realistic atlas style map.

4. "Hand Drawn Mapping for the Artistically Challenged":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10655-Hand-Drawn-Mapping-%28for-the-Artistically-Challenged%29 this is a great _Beginner_ level tutorial for a more hand-drawn style of map (written by Gidde).

5. "Photorealistic Maps in GIMP & Willbur":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?18280-Eriond-A-Tutorial-for-GIMP-amp-Wilbur this is a slightly more _Intermediate_ level tutorial that walks you through how to create a map in GIMP and add realistic looking terrain to it in Wilbur (written by myself).

Comments

  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited April 2012
    ..._Continued from above_...

    h3. Tutorials On Making Dungeon & Battle Maps:

    1. "Old School Dungeons in GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?2461-Award-Winner-Creating-an-old-school-map-in-Gimp as the name implies, this _Beginner_ level tutorial will enable you to make a traditional two toned graph paper like dungeon using GIMP (written by Torstan).

    2. "Photo-realistic Dungeon Maps in GIMP":http://istarlome.deviantart.com/#/d2sr4hi this _Beginner_ level tutorial will enable you to make a more photo-realistic dungeon using GIMP (written by Istarlome).

    3. "Battle Map Tutorial":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?12066-My-Battlemap-Tutorials this _Beginner_ level tutorial will enable you to make a textured battle-map using GIMP (written by Geamon).

    4. "1 Inch Grid for Battle Maps":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?16840-1-quot-Grid-for-Battlemaps-with-GIMP this tutorial is not so much on how to make a Battle Map, but on how to make the grid for it.
    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850 edited April 2012
    ..._Continued from above_...

    h3. Helpful Supplemental Tutorials:

    1. "Making Photo-realistic Trees in GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?10009-Making-Photo-realistic-Trees-in-GIMP-A-Mini-Tut as the name implies, this _Beginner_ level tutorial will enable you to make trees & Forests for a regional or world map using GIMP (written by myself).

    2. "Making Aged Parchment in GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?533-Tutorial-Creating-old-weathered-paper-using-the-Gimp this _Beginner_ level tutorial will enable you to make aged, weathered parchment using GIMP (written by RobA).

    3. "Making Map Borders in GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?15037-Making-Map-Borders-in-GIMP this _Beginner_ level tutorial will enable you to make borders for any style regional or world map using GIMP (written by myself).

    4. "Making a Map Scale in GIMP":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?9183-How-to-make-a-Map-Scale-Bar-in-Gimp-%28the-easy-way%29 this _Beginner_ level tutorial will enable you to make a scale for your map using GIMP (written by RobA).

    5. "Creation and Depiction of Fantasy Cities":http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?2844-Award-Winner-Creation-and-Depiction-of-Fantasy-Cities-Parts-I-amp-II this tutorial gives you the basic tools for understanding how to layout a fantasy city; it does not however, discuss the technical side of how to do this using some specific set of software (written by Ravellas).

    I will be expanding on this list as time goes by.

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
    Post edited by arsheesh on
  • killervp
    killervp
    Posts: 2,594
    This is enormously helpful- as always! Thanks so much Arsheesh!
    killervp
    "A God...Rebuilt":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/a-god-rebuilt
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/wyrmshadow/wiki_pages/112011
    "OP's COTM April 2012":http://blog.obsidianportal.com/a-god-rebuilt-aprils-cotm/

    Just trying to help out.

  • RaseCidraen
    RaseCidraen
    Posts: 890
    Arsheesh! I have to say, this is the most Utilitarian post I've seen in ever. Kudos to you, friend!
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Well I hope it is useful to some folks, and I think it will be. I didn't know anything about map making before landing on some of these resources. I remember the feeling of empowerment I had after completing my first map. I hope others here have similar experiences.

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
  • dlaporte7271
    dlaporte7271
    Posts: 94
    Well...I can say that I've been goofing around with a couple of different tools for map-making: CC3 and Hexographer. (my one map is done with hexographer). CC3 isn't as quick and easy to use as I had hoped, and hexographer doesn't quite produce the quality of map I would like. So...here's a thanks (in advance) for all the 'empowering' help I will be getting from this post!

    Incidentally Arsheesh, I've got a home world that is not an intact sphere. I've been trying to wrap my brain around some of the issues that might arise in trying to map out about 2/3 of a globe with a bunch of debris floating around it. Here's a link to my "world":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/violent-skies/wikis/the-world page for a look at what I'm talking about. Any thoughts/advice?

    dlaporte
    "violent skies":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/violent-skies
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    @ Dlaporte, well that certainly is an interesting challenge! Unfortunately my knowledge of astronomy and geology are really quite limited, and I don't quite know what sorts of environmental (tectonic, wind-pattern, climate zone) impact such a catastrophe would have upon the world at large. I'd imagine that life would have nearly died out at first (the cloud of debris created by such a catastrophe would probably have stayed caught in the (somewhat altered?) gravitational pull of the planet, and blotted out the sun. Also, there would probably be numerous meteor impacts upon the surface of the planet. Perhaps a moon or two would have formed out of the encircling cloud/rock debris. Certainly there would be many more small and large sized comets. The combined gravitational pull of these new moons and meteors would undoubtedly affect the sea tides in some way. Again, I know little of cosmology, but given time gravitational and geothermal forces would probably reshape the planet into a sphere.

    So there's my pseudo-scientific hypothesis. At what stage in the history following this catastrophe is your campaign set?

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
  • Langy
    Langy
    Posts: 364
    I'm quite certain that a 'partial sphere world' like that in your campaign isn't going to be stable, dlaporte. There's a reason that objects above a certain mass naturally form into spherical planets; the impact of gravity is likely to collapse the 'broken' portion of the planet, making it turn back into a sphere eventually. After all, this exact type of thing happened early on in Earth's history when a mars-size planet smacked into Earth, forming the moon, and we're still a sphere. No idea how long that would take, though - quite possible for it to take millions of years, honestly. What'll happen in the meantime would be absolutely massive earthquakes, and living on the edge of the planet wouldn't be the best of ideas.

    As for the world at large - a catastrophe like that would certainly kill all life currently living on the planet and likely blow a good chunk of the atmosphere into space. The rest of the world would pretty much melt due to the energy release of the impact, and you'd probably have lots of volcanoes and such as well.

    Now, the actual issue seems to be 'how do I *map* something like this, ignoring the issue of if it's even possible to live on a planet like this'. That's got a much nicer answer, I think - basically, map it out, but mark off some sections as being the 'edge' of the planet, which is where it suddenly goes from nice and spherical to broken apart. You could then create a second map of the flat section of the half-sphere - it'd wind up looking more like a cut-out than a proper map, with gravity being pointed towards the center of the map rather than at a 90 degree angle to the map's surface.
  • dlaporte7271
    dlaporte7271
    Posts: 94
    Well...as for the survival issue, I'll be explaining that away as the power of the gods and such. There is a story behind the initial devastation and the things that follow, to include the intervention/sacrifice of the gods to protect life and stabilize the globe. But that is all in the past. I am certainly using the "it's a fantasy world so reality and science are somewhat suspended" argument. Let's also assume that the gods are THAT powerful...but not quite enough to completely prevent the apocalypse...especially considering that it was caused by another god.

    So...assuming that a band of gods was able to mitigate the devastation and shield as much of the life on the globe as possible, and that they were also able to stabilize the structure of the planet and expedite the process of recovery to a scope of around a thousand years...what is left behind is something that is inhabitable and looks something like the "pic":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/violent-skies/wikis/the-world Now that is not to say that world is still a blue/green place. There are no oceans. What is left is a wasteland of ruined civilizations now inhabited by the humanoids and other wild beasties. There's plenty more to tell about what's left of humanity and elves and other races etc...but this is about mapping....so...

    I have been pondering some other thoughts about the other possible effects of the impact...change in the day night cycle, the overall position of the planet relative to it's sun. The effect on the existing moons and so on...In the end...I keep coming back to the concept that this is a fantasy world and I am trying to come up with a "fantastic" setting for my campaign to call home.
  • dlaporte7271
    dlaporte7271
    Posts: 94
    BTW, I signed up over at cartographers guild so I may be posing this idea there as well.

    dlaporte
  • Calion
    Calion
    Posts: 84
    On that note, I've done something with my campaign maps you may find interesting.

    I've long dreamed of having drill-down maps on OP, kind of like you can do with Google Earth: Campaign Map! Zoom in...Region map! Zoom in farther...City map! All the way down to actual gridded battle maps.

    Then I realized that it is already possible to do this, in a way.

    "Check it out":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaign/sydarksun/wikis/campaign-map.
  • arsheesh
    arsheesh
    Posts: 850
    Great idea Calion. I've seen a couple of other folks here who have done something similar. You would have to literally map out an entire world in very intricate detail to be able to do what you envision with Google Earth. However, one fun thing I learned about Google Earth is that you can insert image overlays over the earth. This means, you can insert your own map over the earth and then spin it around and play with it. Kinda fun actually.

    Cheers,
    -Arsheesh
  • Calion
    Calion
    Posts: 84
    That's...pretty cool. Can you then set areas that if you click on them, it will zoom in to another map?

    Anyway, please check out my implementation and give feedback if you have any.
  • dlaporte7271
    dlaporte7271
    Posts: 94
    I like that idea as well...I can see using it...uh..once I get done with my maps...which looks like it might be sometime next year...grin.

    Dave
  • killervp
    killervp
    Posts: 2,594
    Calion- Awesome!! I may have to steal that idea! Really, really well done!
    killervp
    "A God...Rebuilt":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/a-god-rebuilt
    "Duskreign's First Ever COTM":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/wyrmshadow/wiki_pages/112011
    "OP's COTM April 2012":http://blog.obsidianportal.com/a-god-rebuilt-aprils-cotm/

    Just trying to help out.

  • KenSee
    KenSee
    Posts: 93
    Arsheesh - Thanks so much! I was about to start researching all this on my own when I saw your post by chance. You have saved me tons of time! I appreciate it!

    Calion - That is an awesome idea! I may borrow..er...steal that idea. :D

    -KenSee
  • Jayph
    Jayph
    Posts: 26
    Found this great resource. Online map generator/dungeon painter "Pyromancers":http://pyromancers.com/dungeon-painter-online/

    "Guardians of the Frontier. OP's CotM July 2012":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/guardians-of-the-frontier
  • GMBill
    GMBill
    Posts: 3 edited August 2012
    For old school hex maps I use: "hexographer":http://www.hexographer.com/
    There's also: "dungeonographer":http://www.dungeonographer.com/

    For dungeonographer, I think it really needs another set of icons (which is easy to add, though I haven't), or I need to learn it better, but I really love how hexographer maps come out. You can use them free on the site, or pay the modest amount to DL them and use them offline. I understand he's working on a cityographer, too. Here's hoping!

    Examples for my campaign are "here":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/swampy-refuge-inn/maps/32269 , though I haven't figured the best way to upload reasonable sizes yet.

    EDIT: Oh, I also recently used Google Docs to draw a dungeon. It was challenging, but free it's "here":http://support.google.com/docs/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=179740
    Post edited by GMBill on
  • Thorvaldr
    Thorvaldr
    Posts: 141
    I'm surprised nobody mentioned "Autorealm.":http://sourceforge.net/projects/autorealm/ It's how I made my map "here.":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/tyellador/maps/41307 It's a somewhat old program, but if you have any familiarity with CAD software, it's pretty easy to pick up. One of its best functions (in my opinion) is the ability to easily draw fractal lines, which is what I used for all of the coastline. You can also use layers, which I've found extremely useful. They also have a system for putting in somewhat random groupings of objects, which is basically how I did the mountains.

    And for me, that was a great way to make and edit a basic map. My girlfriend has been working on a much more "photo-realistic map":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/tyellador/maps/46488 mostly using GIMP since then.
  • killervp
    killervp
    Posts: 2,594
    Sweet looking campaign Thorvaldr...

    Just trying to help out.

  • Thorvaldr
    Thorvaldr
    Posts: 141
    Much appreciated! I remember looking at your campaign when I first really started on Obsidian Portal and just thinking "Oh my god, what did I get myself into?" _Especially_ when looking at your NPCs!
  • killervp
    killervp
    Posts: 2,594
    Thanks for the compliment!!
    killervp
    "A God...Rebuilt":http://www.obsidianportal.com/campaigns/a-god-rebuilt
    Unabashadly pushing for 300 fans!

    Just trying to help out.

  • Huffdogg
    Huffdogg
    Posts: 2
    So...any idea if we'll ever get to use maps of any shape other than square?
  • weasel0
    weasel0
    Posts: 36
    While a pain, you could always just put your (whatever) shaped map onto a square canvas(insert program's term of choice) and make the "blank space" transparent as a gif or such.

    Also, yes, not having the image forced into a square shape would also be nice.
  • Maesenko
    Maesenko
    Posts: 34
    ^ Why did I never think of this...
  • weasel0
    weasel0
    Posts: 36
    Perhaps the Battōsai should stick to swinging reverse blade swords. :p
  • UselessTriviaMan
    UselessTriviaMan
    Posts: 56
    Because the site doesn't support maps that are GM-Only, I had to find a work-around. This is what I came up with for each city district in my campaign:

    !http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v310/UselessTriviaMan/Ptolus/OP%20Navigation/Braggin_zpscwyvlagt.png!


    "*Ptolus, City by the Spire*":http://ptolus-city-by-the-spire-by-bryan.obsidianportal.com/
  • Matt__Horam
    Matt__Horam
    Posts: 1

    inkarnate.com is pretty rad.

Sign In or Register to comment.