Craft Mapping

By Christina (Lorelei) Trani

Mapping with ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3+ has brought my home games to life – especially from my humble beginnings. When I first played tabletop roleplaying games our fledgling Game Master strictly used theater of the mind. Some of us, such as myself, needed the visuals for combat, so we graduated to some graph paper, we were luckily required to purchase for math class, some colored pencils (if we were even luckier), a ruler and one set of dice between us. I, being the only female in the group, and the most artistic of the lot, usually was tasked with drawing out our GM’s map vision. This went on for a few months … enter the Satanic Panic of the 80’s, combine that with Italian – very Roman Catholic- immigrant parents and my days of D&D were done.

Temple of the Horned GodAbout 10 years or so ago, one of my old middle school D&D friends and I started playing again. This time I was our Dungeon Master and quickly took up my old habit of making up the maps. I did this by hand for years until 2015 when I found ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3+ and started printing out my maps on poster. I first set myself up with a guide for Dungeon Designer depending on what size map I had intended on printing out as several of the vendors I use print in different sizes (such as Staples, Office Max/Depot, and VistaPrint). For poster sizes 11”x17” set at 55’x85′, 16”x20” set 80’x100′, 18”x24” set 90’x120′ (this is the most common poster print), 24”x36” set 120’x180′ and the largest map I’ve printed to date 36”x48” set at 180’x240′. My players have loved the colored maps, the assets and add-ons CC3+ give my players visuals they’ve only seen on virtual tabletop gaming not ACTUAL tabletop. It was a game changer.
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Always looking to surprise and delight my players with an encounter, I took my mapping to the next step. I decided to start applying my many mediocre crafting talents to use and combine them with my maps. My first foray into craft mapping was a simple as getting some rocks and stones from outside my apartment, cleaning them off and laying them down over some rocks I had placed on an Outdoor Forest Encounter map. My adventuring team loved that they had something to actually hide their minis behind. As a Dungeon Master, I was THRILLED! I started to find some of our encounters were a bit boring as the players weren’t using the terrain on the maps to their best advantage. With this small added addition, it seemed to click, and we were off!

Next project…. Clay. For sculpting amateurs out there like myself, and little to no investment, you can purchase some air-drying clay. This is used to create “mounds” of terrain to place on maps. With some modpodge, acrylic paints and some model landscape turf, and even a few rocks and twigs from outside, I was able to create some fantastic terrain elements to add to my maps. Depending on the kind of investment you’d like to make you can then begin to add in some trees. These can be made by purchasing premade model terrain trees, creating your own with wire and terrain foliage, or even better, this time of year, with all the trees and bushes in full bloom, you can trim off some branches and bushes, insert them into the clay before drying and have an instant forest element!
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Papier-Mâché is another great way to add some cliff terrain to an already awesome map. You can see my original map. It really was just fine the way it is, but this encounter I had planned was a key part of their main story arc, so I wanted to make it special. This section of the cave I knew would be layered cliffs of ice…so how could I achieve this? Yes, back to grade school art class and papier-mâché ice cliffs! I started here with a piece of foam board to use as a base, after sealing that, I began to layer the papier-mâché, making sure to make it jagged, like ice would be. After drying, I painted it with white and shimmering white paints, added some silver and iridescent glitters, some tufts of cotton balls for snow and some broken glass and mirror fragments purchased at a local craft store as a finishing touch.

CraftMapping05My latest crafting project has been my favorite, to date. I knew my players would eventually be taking a boat trip, and I had a pretty cool encounter planned for when that happened. I found a free .fcw file of a three-deck caravel and did what I do with free. fcw’s…. made it my own. I used the bones of the ship and changed the fill styles, changed the symbols to a photorealistic version and printed out the map of the three decks on a large poster. My intent was to play the encounter on the poster, but again I started thinking about how I can enhance the encounter. I was looking at the boat and realized the mast was the exact size of a dowel I had picked up at a local craft store clearance not long ago. So, I began to cut out the ship from the poster, then traced and glued it onto a thin poster board. Cut a 1” wide dowel into three individual 4” masts and paint them to look like wood. I also painted the underside of each deck to look like aged wood planks. Then each mast was glued onto the floor of the deck and put a piece of sticky tack on the top of each mast, to attach to the deck above and still be easily separated for more in depth exploration of the deck. I placed the ship on a map of water I had created, and poster printed, added some undersea monster minis in the water, and turned this boat into one of the most exciting and fun encounters to date!
Crafted Ship

All these crafting ideas can be done on a variety of budgets. There are so many items around your home that can be incorporated into terrain, just use your imagination and a little ingenuity. Just look around and use what you find in your own home, craft closet, workshop, or gardens and enhance your CC3+ maps to this next level of fun!

About the author: Lorelei was my very first D&D character I created more years back than i’d like to remember. When I decided to venture into creating maps for my and others rpgs, I thought I owed it to her to name myself Lorelei Cartography, since it was her that led me to the wonderful world of tabletop gaming in the first place. Since then I have been honored to have worked with companies such as WizKids, Pelgrane Press, and ProFantasy. You can view some of my work at www.LoreleiCartography.com

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