Welcome back, mappers! I hope by now you’ve read the through the blog article series up to this point (part1, part2, part3a, part3b) because we have still more cover! Last time we talked about planning each city district’s road network, understanding your symbol catalog and deciding on your district’s style. We also talked about how to draw your inspiration from real cities. In Part 1 we also talked about deciding whether each district is “Functional” or “Residential.” In short, we should now have a solid foundation for most of our city’s stylistic elements and each district’s purpose. This article is the first part about how to tactically execute on these, on a large city scale. So put on your hard-hats: we are talking street construction!

The Random Street Tool is your Friend

If you’ve tried building a city in CD3 or followed any tutorials, you probably already know about the Random Street tool. This tool is going to help us establish the basics about each district we work on which will express to the map-viewer what kind of place this is. There are two parts to this: one, roof styles and colors, we’ve already discussed; the second is your “street configuration” – i.e. the settings in your Random Street tool (right click the icon to open the settings panel).

There are four Street settings that I believe will make the biggest difference in giving your district unique character:

  • Building size range
  • Building spacing
  • Roof style mix
  • Building shape mix

1 Random Street

There are other settings such as the distance from center of the road and street width which you should absolutely play around with. But those four are the ones I’ll cover in greater detail.
Continue reading »

Drawing Inspiration from Real Cities

While we’re looking at other cities, it’s a good time to talk about drawing inspiration from the real world. There are many marvellous structures of cities that have been built, or evolved, over the years. It is well worth your time to explore cities you know and cities you’ve never been to with some sort of GIS program. My preferred option is Google Earth. Since New Cassia is a coastal city, I explored a variety of different coastal towns in Italy on Google Earth to see if there was anything interesting I could use. Some were on mountainous ranges (not the terrain I’m going for, but inspirational if I was), and some were boring. I chose Venice as the basis of my inspiration because of its network of canals, but I added elements from Barletta and also drew some inspiration from cities like Bruges and Prague:

Venice

Venice, Italy – note the major canal and smaller ones acting as roads. Buildings have hip roofs, red clay tiles.


Barletta

Barletta, Italy – notice the mix of dense and looser packed buildings, intermingled with park, a church and a castle. Buildings have mostly flat roofs, with a few gabled roofs intermingled.


Bruges

Bruges, Belgium – another city with canals. Buildings have mostly gable roofs, with some hip roofs, and also red clay tile.

It can be helpful to search for things that you’re looking for and which cities have them. The city of Manfredonia’s marina was helpful inspiration when I wanted to build a shipyard:

Marina

Marina of Manfredonia, Italy

You can also draw inspiration from the roof styles (see next section) of various cities – different regions will have very different styles, so you can decide if there’s anything you want to mimic (all 3 of Venice, Barletta and Bruges above have different roof styles).

Experimenting with Building Styles for your District

Now at last, let’s draw a building! But just one. You can either use symbols which you’ve picked out from our earlier symbol set review, or use the house drawing tool. Similar to your symbol set review, review all the options of house drawing style. Pick one you think looks good and draw it – the shape doesn’t matter.
House Shapes 1

Now maybe draw another one next to it, with a different shape. Finally, do one more, either the same or different shape, but select a different house drawing style. Examine the three buildings: do you like how spaced apart they are? Is this district going to be very crowded with very little space between the buildings, or will there be wide alleys, or even room for fences and gardens? Does the roof style match the theme of your district? Are there multiple styles of roof (e.g. a mix of thatched roofs and shingle roofs) in the district? What about the color: do you want a single color of roof in your district, or do you want multiple colors? We’ll talk about the potential significance of building color in the next article.
House Shapes 2

If you are still unsure, draw a few more buildings with different roof styles and/or colors. The most important part of this phase is to experiment and see what “feels right” for your district. Refer back to your notes/micro-decisions about roads, terrain, purpose, etc. to help guide you on what feels right; there are no wrong answers!

After enough experimentation, you’ll start to get a feeling for your district’s building style: spacing, roof style, color – combined with the local road networks and the landmark(s) present. With these technical attributes, you can start dreaming up in your head the answer to the most important question when in comes to district planning: “How will characters know they are in this district, versus another district? What sounds, sights, smells will they perceive to know where they are?” Note: it is a valid answer to say, there is no way to distinguish! Maybe your city is intentionally homogeneous or nondescript and it’s hard to tell where you are – this could make getting lost very easy, which would necessitate the main characters to have other ways of wayfinding and locating themselves. The process of answering this question will give you a lot of information and micro-decisions to write down in your notes about this district, which in turn is excellent fodder for city story/history material.

In the next article, we’ll discuss how to translate this district building style into the Street tool, and other ways we can enhance our district style (squares, markets, terrain, trees, additional landmarks, etc.). Until then, Happy Mapping!

Ari Gilder is a software engineer, and has been interested in maps for a long time. He spent seven years working on Google Maps, working on features like local business search, Google Maps and Navigation on mobile, and studying the way users understand maps. He even proposed to his wife using maps. He often spends hours staring at maps in fantasy novels, and in 2013 starting putting together some of his own dungeon and battle maps for a D&D campaign. After a hiatus of several years, he recently dived back into cartography with CC3+, tackling more overland and city maps in preparation for a new D&D campaign. He is a father of two, and has recently introduced his older daughter to cartography, both hand-drawn and with CC3+ where she insists that black and purple varicolor trees must surround everything.

Welcome back to our series on city mapping as worldbuilding/storytelling. Last time we talked about some of the basic building blocks of a city – roads, terrains and textures. We also thought about building our first major landmark – the one that is most important in the city. This led us to consider the nature of what’s most important in the city – a government structure, a religious shrine, a war memorial or an imposing wizard’s tower. Along the way, we also started building questions to ask ourselves about each micro decision – and hopefully got some good, creative answers out of that, starting to flesh out the story of our city.

Let’s continue our exploration of the process of simultaneously building a city and a story. This time, we’ll consider how to use symbol sets, house styles, colors and roads to define unique styles for each district. Note: this will focus largely on the initial steps for when you’re starting out a district and seeking out its nature and unique character (and thinking about other shared elements across districts). The nuts and bolts of doing the construction will come in a future article.

Exploring your Symbol Catalog

There are a few different building shapes to choose from in SS5.

There are a few different building shapes to choose from in SS5.

Let’s begin with symbols. By now you have probably chosen a symbol set to start off your map file with. Take a few minutes and look through each symbol catalog within your chosen style (don’t forget to expand collections of symbols with the + sign in the upper-left corner!).

Ask yourself a few questions about the building symbols you see: do you like the default color of buildings? Is there a varicolor option for each symbol? Do the buildings stylistically match the nature of my town or city? If you are building a Middle-Eastern themed city, but you don’t like the buildings under the Middle East catalog, you may want to explore other symbol sets/styles. Is there enough variety in the buildings, or will you be placing the same 3 symbols? Note: this might be exactly what you want for a town – low variation in building style can convey a simpleness or a humdrum kind of daily life; this could make the recent Ogre raids all the more terrifying!
There are a few different building shapes to choose from in SS5.

SS5 has a few other useful city structures included

SS5 has a few other useful city structures included

Now, look through the non-house structures: guard towers, walls, bridges, fountains, statues, etc. Does this symbol set have the kinds of things you think you’ll need? If you’re building a port city, you will probably need docks. If there is no symbol for docks, not to worry! There’s a great tutorial in the Tome of Ultimate Mapping on how to hand-draw docks pretty easily. But it’s good to know what you have and what you’ll need to find in other sets or draw yourself.

Repeat for symbols of vehicles, creatures, symbols, etc. until you’ve gone through all the symbol catalogs in your chosen symbol set. By now, you will have a sense of what you do and don’t have (you may also not yet know what you need, that’s okay too! You can also figure it out as you go, but its helpful to start with an initial understanding of what you can expect). If you’ve identified any gaps, ask yourself: how important is it to stay artistically consistent in this map? The CD3A Bitmap style is very different artistically from the CD3C Vector style. Are you okay mixing styles? (It’s okay if your answer is yes! It’s just important to know what constraints you’re working with.) Continue reading »

The Town of AbbasiBringing Your City to Life – Part 1
By Ari Gilder

Recently, I completed a large-scale city map over the course of about three months. It is only my second map with City Designer 3, so I am by no means an expert, but between the two maps I’ve recently spent a lot of hours with the tools, learning some of the ins and outs of the how as well as the why.

Both of the cities (well, one city and one town) I’ve built have been quite large for their size. I’d specifically like to consider these kinds of settlements, as opposed to a quaint fishing village or a small farming hamlet. Because these are smaller settlements, by definition less time will go into them. Also, when I was doing my research on how to start mapping a large city or town, I found very few resources on how to tackle such an ambitious project. Continue reading »