CA152 Tomb of the Mad QueenFor the August Issue, our Master Mapper Jean-Michel Bravo continues his Ancient Tombs series, now with isometric versions of those Egyptian-themed catacombs! Hundreds of isometric symbols and dozens of bitmap textures allow you to create wonderful perspective maps haunted by mummies and filled with traps!

If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe to the Annual 2019 here. If you are already subscribed, the August issue is available for download on your registration page now.

SS5 WeepingfordDear mappers, welcome to ProFantasy’s July newsletter! We have news on Symbol Set 5 – Cities of Schley for you and lots of beautiful maps to look at.

News

Resources

Articles

  • Christina Trani talks about Craft Mapping, i.e. turning your digital maps into amazing props on the gaming table.
  • Jason Payne has some interesting ideas on how to combine regional and battle maps into one cohesive endeavour.

It’s an extremely busy desk that the Cartographer is dealing with at this time: Not only is the next Annual issue waiting to be published and GenCon getting very close, there is also the latest Symbol Set to finish up. Everybody is eager to get SS5 Cities of Schley into their hands and I’m happy to report that the first beta version has been sent out to the testers. The chance to pre-order Mike Schley’s new symbol set and get your hands on the early access copy will arrive very soon after GenCon. In the meantime, here are two example maps created with the color version of the Cities of Schley style:

The Town of Weepingford
SS5 Weepingford

The Village of Briarpond
SS5 Briarpond

Dear Cartographers, before we head off to GenCon next week, let’s take a quick look at some beautiful maps that have been posted in the Profantasy community!

Lorelei (Christian Trani) and LoopySue (Sue Daniel) collaborated on the amazing Sanctuary city map. While it has been featured in this series before, it is now fully complete and featured in the Community Atlas project, so we thought it need to be seen again.
Sanctuary Continue reading »

GenCon 2019 is just around the corner – next week in fact – and ProFantasy will be there of course! Visit us at booth 1417 to chat about mapping, check out our products and get a sneak peek of the new Symbol Set: Cities of Schley.
GenCon 2019 Exhibitor Map

Map Section
Battlemaps are the best. Whether your gaming group prefers “theatre of the mind” (TOTM), or if they like moving physical miniatures about a printed gaming surface, having a battlemap for an encounter brings a sense of visceral visuals to what could end up being just another fight in a dungeon. And CC3+ / DD3 makes it ridiculously fun and easy to make battlemaps. I’ve found a mapping approach that adds a lot of advantage to battlemaps and makes it super-easy and super-flexible to generate them for your adventures.

The Problem with Battlemaps

Typically, you have a battlemap for every major fight, or area of significant interest. If you’re very lucky in buying a pre-made adventure, or very diligent if you’re making your own, you might have dozens of these.

One problem I’ve found is how to control secrecy and significance. Players tend to notice something is up when you thunk down a battlemap. It’s pretty unusual to have a pre-printed, ready-to-use map for, say, selling gems and buying potions. If the DM has a battlemap for the shop, chances are pretty good there’s a fight to be had, or a secret to be found. So ironically, part of the problem with using battlemaps is having battlemaps for Location X, and not having them for Location Y – players being the smarty-pantses that they are, they’ll figure out which of those two places to spend their Perception checks on.

Another is flexibility. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30+ years as a DM/GM, it’s that no matter how much you plan in advance, the PCs are likely to surprise you. If you meticulously plan out and map Area X, and assume a certain amount of movement, the PCs might go very far afield of what you had in mind. Battlemaps are typically very “zoomed-in”, and concise: this area and only this area. If the PCs move beyond those boundaries, the whole battlemap concept gets frustrating, complicated, or just less useful pretty quickly.

Thirdly, it takes a fair amount of time to create battlemaps. If you have, say, a giant underground mine, and you have 8 areas that are potential areas of interest (AOI), that means you likely have to create 9 maps, all in all: one as an overview map of the mine level as a whole, and then 8 individual battlemaps for the AOIs. That takes time, and is prone to error and issue, if you’re hoping that the battlemaps each line up to and represent the detailed version of the overall map.

So, how to battle these issues with battlemaps?

The Unified Battlemap

My advice is simple: don’t make battlemaps at all.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that, otherwise it wouldn’t be too helpful. But my approach is: don’t create nine maps, when you could just make a single map, and zoom in on the detail. “Battlemap” then becomes a semantic distinction of “I want to zoom in on this area because something interesting is happening there now”. Instead of making 8 detailed battlemaps, you have a theoretically unlimited amount of battlemaps, based on how you zoom in on the overview. Let’s use an example, because that’s tricky to describe in words.

Consider the underground mine level in the example above. With the “Unified Battlemap” approach, I first draw the overall dungeon level in broad strokes, and then zoom in to each region and populate the detail.

As a first step, draw the level’s overview. Let’s say it looks like this:
Mine Level 6 Overview wo Detail

That’s a decent overview. Export it as a JPG and you’ve got something you can share with the PCs to help guide navigation and play in a general sense. “We walk to the west”, and so on. However, your gaming group normally plays with an overview map. The example is annotated with AOIs, marked with numbers for DM reference.

Let’s say AOI #11–marked with a yellow rectangle–is a necromantic shrine, with a bunch of corpses, and is typically swarming with wandering monsters… probably the kind of location that you’d want to use a battlemap for!

With a typical approach, you’d fire up CC3+, and draw the battlemap for that shrine. Let’s say it turns out like this:
Mine Level 6 AOI 11 Battlemap

Looks pretty cool and useful. But now you’ve got a battlemap that has details and information that your overview doesn’t. In addition to the overview map now looking comparatively bland, your Shrine Battlemap is limited in that it can only describe to the boundaries you’ve defined for it. This example is particularly volatile, since it’s a gigantic, wide-open mine level, so there’s no stopping the PCs from wandering off the edge of the map in ANY direction!

With the Unified Battlemap approach, you don’t create a separate battlemap for each AOI. Instead, you just zoom in on the AOI and start drawing detail. Do this for each AOI, and you have a single overview map, and you can simply zoom in to any area to export a detailed battlemap for that area.

The results, after doing this “zoom-in detail imbue” across the whole map, looks like this:
Mine Level 6 Overview

As a result, you have a single map file that serves as dozens, if not hundreds, of battlemaps: just Zoom Extents and Export Rectangular Section and boom, you’ve got a battlemap!

Other Details / Recommendations

You might note that the examples use two different grid scales: The “overview” maps use 20′ gridlines, and the “battlemap” examples use 5′ gridlines. This is really easy in CC3+: just create a separate Sheet for the different gridline scale, and draw the different grid on that Sheet. Just remember to hide one, and show one, of these Sheets when you do an export!
I also use this approach for AOI annotations: one at “overview” scale, and one at “battlemap” scale for the individual AOIs.

Here’s what the Sheets for the examples look like in the example map:
Unified Battlemap Scale Sheets
So why would you, and wouldn’t you, use this Unified Battlemap approach?

Advantages:
1: Saves Time: Since you zoom in to an existing area when creating a battlemap, you don’t have to draw the outline and general elements of that map to begin with, so you can hit the ground running.
2: Flexible: There are no limits to the battlemaps you can export, create, or zoom to during a game. No matter what the PCs or monsters do, you’re covered!
3: Detail: Having detail automatically reflected at the macro level makes your “overview” map much more richly detailed… for zero extra effort!

Disadvantages / Requirements:
1: Meticulousness: This approach requires a meticulous hand, for sure! Imbuing all that detail across the entire map will take time, but it’s not too much of a chore once you get used to it, and I feel the results are worthwhile.
2: Printing: Although this approach will result in print-worthy battlemaps you can print out and use in your gaming sessions, the resulting encounter will still be bounded by that printout. This offsets the “flexibility” advantage above, but only if you’re using pre-printed physical battlemaps.
3: Beefy PC: Perhaps obviously, you’ll end up with a monster of a map file, and not all PCs can easily handle it. SAVE YOUR WORK FREQUENTLY, and don’t be afraid of saving multiple file versions, just in case. I have a Core i7 with 16 GB of memory and an SSD, and I very, very rarely have performance issues with CC3+, but your mileage may vary, and there’s no question the Unified Battlemap approach requires a lot more processing power than traditional separate overview/battlemap files. My record is more than 5,300 entities in an underground city map, and I’m still able to scroll and zoom around pretty quickly:
Underground Ruined City Overview

Conclusion

Let me be clear that a good GM/DM, or a very flexible gaming group, can work around all of the issues described here. And ultimately, fun it what’s important; it doesn’t matter if you have a detailed, immaculate, battlemap for each and every contingency. But I can verify from first-hand experience that it can add to the fun, and I’ve found that once you get used to this approach, it’s so very much easier to deal with!

Jason “J. Evans” Payne is an indie RPG and fiction author and cartographer with more than three decades of experience as a DM, game designer, and author. He’s been using Campaign Cartographer and its related tools since 2015, and vastly prefers that to his day job. A father of three, he’s also been an adjunct college professor, an IT geek, and a miniatures wargamer. Check out his one-man RPG company at infiniumGameStudio.com.

Accompanying CC3+ and it’s addons are a host of different symbols, all arranged neatly into symbol catalogs. These catalogs are arranged by map type, map style, and symbol theme/content. For example, there is one symbol catalog containing structure symbols from the Mike Schley Overland style, while a completely different symbol catalog contains furniture symbols from the standard DD3 dungeon style. Generally, these catalogs are arranged in such a way that clicking the various symbol catalog buttons (the toolbar right above your mapping area) loads different symbol catalogs relevant to the current map type and style. And if you need a symbol catalog from a different style, you can always click the Load Symbol Catalog button and browse for a different symbol catalog manually.

But did you know that CC3+ allows you to easily manage these catalogs and their content? For example, you can create a new catalog containing all your favorite symbols, collecting symbols from different styles and even map types into one catalog. In this article, I’ll guide you trough making such a custom catalog; for this example, I’ll be making a catalog that collects all the statue symbols from the various dungeon styles I have available to me. I often use statues as dungeon/floorplan dressing, and it would be great to have all of these available in one place. This catalog will mix symbols from different styles, so not every symbol in this catalog will work in every map obviously, but you can often mix symbols from different styles with great success.

Continue reading »

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.
Craft Mapping 01

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!
CraftMapping06

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

ProFantasy Software has released 31 map-making products for PC. For about half of our users our flagship Campaign Cartographer 3+ is all they need to create their maps. But our add-ons give you powerful new tools and symbols to create maps in a huge variety of styles and genres and offer you hundreds of pre-made maps you can use in your campaign.

There are lots of curated bundles which include groups of products at a discount. But this article is about the Big Kahuna, the Full Monty, the Whole Shebang – our bundle of everything single thing we produce

It provides great value at a discount of more than 45% on the RRP of all the constituent products, but its price point means it’s not for everyone.

The Whole Shebang includes 31 products, featuring more than 80,000 symbols, in 163 styles and hundreds of maps across genres including fantasy, SF, modern and historical. It can create character portraits, overland maps, dungeons, floorplans. cities, villages and 3D cutaway maps. It has maps of real word castles, temples and cities. Any map you see on our website or social media, and almost all maps created by are users are made exlusively with these products.

You can use the vast library of high-res art assets in other programs such as Photoshop, too, all covered by our license.

You can get the Whole Shebang here.

We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have about this bundle – email ralf@profantasy.com for more information.

 

CA151 CrownportThe July Annual is now ready for download and installation from the registration page, if you have subscribed to it.

This month Pär Lindström gives us a new style – “Renaissance City” – based on a renaissance-era city map of Paris. Creating the example map for the style was very easy and straightforward and we think you’ll find it equally satisfying to use. Thanks Pär, for another great style!

If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe to the Annual 2019 here. If you are already subscribed, the July issue is available for download on your registration page now.

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