Wednesday, November 6, 2013

How Do You Map? Or Learn How To?

There is a skill that a lot of GMs I know, follow, or like have that I seem to lack. That skill is Maps. Whether it is a world map for a fantasy game, a city map for an urban fantasy game, or a dungeon map for the latest adventure in the local Pathfinder game.

I'm not sure what it is, but my brain is just kind of awkward when it comes to laying out how a space looks. Even if I know what a space looks like, even if I'm basing it off a place I've been to hundreds if not thousands of times and know all the way around, I have issues rendering it on paper or drawing it out on a board for folks.

So, for today, I figured I'd ask all the GMs here if there are any tips, tricks, or resources that you've found helpful in drawing your own maps? I'm fine with it being a skill that takes practice, but having somewhere to start would be a definite plus.

So, how about it, got anything?


  1. CArtographers' Guild is my go to place for maps and they also have a lot of tutorials.
    For hex maps, Hexographer is a great tool. The free version has all you need, but the pro-version has some very nice extras.

    I tend to get too lost in details. A map doesn't really need those, it's to give a broad overview after all. Floorplans, I steal. There are a ton of floorplans and blueprints online that can serve as inspiration or be taken as is.

  2. Do you have photoshop? If so i've got a template that can take some of the pain out of making a map -

  3. I draw the blueprint, asign the functions of each room: information, encounter, task, etcétera. Think about how i want the party progress. Erase and redraw if necessary. I create a buildings based on the need of adventure development.

    Thing is, in my opinion, you don't need to put your imagination in the paper, don't need to make all images to be completely there. Players imagination create the world based on the clues and data you give.

    As players a few images are enough to make us think about a mansion, a dungeon. Because we use our imagination and we think about what we know and we don't know. As DM there is only what we know, what we control, numbers, schemes, so the world seems incomplete, artificial.

    It is the same as when we read a fantasy book and we see a magic castle after a few lines that barely talk about a few things about the building.

  4. Oh definitely, Martin. I use a few images and descriptions and put most of the effort on my players all the time for things. It has worked out well too over the years.

    That said, I'd still like to learn this. If only so I can draw maps for the key city to the game I am running right now. But I suppose we'll see how that goes. :D

  5. My cities are usually... dull :P
    This is the enhanced version of one of them with photshop. It does have the infamous tavern The runaway paladin (in spanish :P).

  6. First I start using photoshop: too much work. Then I used Campaign Cartographer: too difficult. Now I have started to use Hexographer and I think it's well balanced between complexity and usability.