Campaign Cartographer 3+ is an outstanding tool that excels in helping cartographers, authors, artists, and hobbyists bring their ideas to life. I imagine we all know this well!

It’s also a fabulous tool for the well-prepared DM/GM, for creating homebrew maps or spawning maps for existing published content that better fit the needs of a particular gaming group. Drawing maps and exporting or printing them before a gaming session is a wonderful way to immerse your players in a tabletop roleplaying experience, whether you prefer “theatre of the mind” style combat or gridded battlemaps with miniatures.

But did you know that CC3+ is also an excellent tool during a gaming session? This article explores the many ways that DMs can use CC3+ as a “game-time”, not “design-time”, gaming aid.

Overview: CC3+ During Your Gaming Session

There are several advantages to using CC3+ to help power your next gaming session. Some of these require a bit of advance preparation; others can be used immediately no matter what maps you use.

1: Dynamic battlemaps for sprawling or unexpected encounters.
2: Easy-to-hide secrets.
3: In-person VTT capabilities.

Solution 1: Dynamic Battlemaps

If you’ve been a dungeon/game master for any length of time, you know that no matter how much you prepare, and how many different paths you predict and plan for, the players are going to do whatever they damned well please. While that element of surprise is arguably the best part of a tabletop RPG experience, it can also be very frustrating–not only for the GM who has to scramble madly to accommodate the unexpected, but for the players, who one minute are dealing with elaborately-drawn battlemaps and the next minute are using hastily-scribbled pencil drawings on a pizza box. (This latter example may sound extreme, but in middle school I resorted to drawing encounter maps on the lids of pizza boxes all the time. If my seventh-grade self could have seen what CC3+ made possible, he would have exploded in envy!)

Succinctly, then, the problem is, no matter how many different individual battlemaps you prepare ahead of time, PCs’ actual use of those in an encounter could very easily expand beyond the boundaries you drew. This is especially true in open-air or wide-space encounters: plains, wilderness, ocean, mountains, and expansive underground chambers and caverns.

How, then, can CC3+ help this phenomenon during a gaming session?

Simple: don’t export JPGs or print out battlemaps before a session. Use CC3+ to display the battlemap that applies, on-screen, DURING the gaming session.

I started using this approach during gaming sessions as an extension to my “Unified Battlemaps Approach” to drawing maps. You can check out a complete description , but essentially, instead of drawing individual battlemaps, you have a single, giant map file for an entire “level” or region of your game. Then, you zoom into pieces of it as areas of interest, and flesh them out with detail.

If you take this approach, you’ll end up with a massively-detailed regional map, and you can zoom into it for individual battlemaps. But even if you don’t take this approach, you can still use Dynamic Battlemaps during a gaming session using CC3+.

The approach involves the following steps:
1A: Create Named Views
1B: Use Named Views
1C: Zoom & Pan as Needed

1A: Create Named Views
Sure, you can use Zoom Window to get a close-up on a particular map region. But if you have certain areas of interest you know the PCs will have encounters in, you can save yourself some time by creating Named Views, so you don’t have to draw the zoom window precisely during a game session.
Mine Level 6 Overview Continue reading »

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.

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

Goblin Magic-userWe are happy to give you a first little glimpse of a new product line we are considering and working on: the Token Treasury. Rich Longmore – the artist behind Character Artist 3 – is working on a set of monster tokens that can be used in virtual tabletops like Roll20 or Fantasy Grounds, as paper tokens on your own battle maps, or as symbols on any floorplan created with CC3+ and its add-ons.

The first TT pack will contain about 50 different monsters covering the “typical” range of enemies a group of fantasy heroes might face, from lowly kobolds and goblins via trolls and ogres to giants and dragons. Each will come in multiple varicolor varieties, allowing you to easily identify different types or individuals of the same kind of monsters. It is tentatively scheduled for release in July.

Tokens on Battle mapThe monster tokens will combine with a set of “ring” symbols, that add can another layer of information, like facing, wound status, conditions and so on.

Depending on our users’ interests and wishes, we plan to produce more Token Treasury packs with rarer and more obscure monster types, heroes and their allies, and possibly even more exotic options. We’d be happy to hear your ideas and wishes for the Token Treasury!

The TowerWe are excited to introduce a new contributor to the Annual this month. Community member Christina Trani recently created a series of battle maps for Pelgrane Press’ encounter book “Fire & Faith”. We were delighted with the map work she did with CC3+, so we asked her to create a whole new series of maps for the Annual.

The Curse of the Lich King map pack is the result. Enjoy four gorgeously detailed maps in both DM and player versions. Let the Regional Map lead you to the Lich’s Tower, then navigate the Maze to find the undead’s Vault and, – if everything goes according to plan – destroy its unholy phylactery. Check out the issue’s details on the Annual 2018 web page.

Also see a preview of the Annual’s April issue and it’s star charts style.

You can now subscribe to the Annual 2018 here. Once you have subscribed, the March issue will immediately become available for download on your registration page.

SchleyscapesEarlier this year Mike Schley kickstarted the first episode of his Schleyscapes series. Aimed at producing an ongoing series of quality gaming maps, in combination with bitmap artwork that could be used in any graphics editor.

As you may know Mike is also the artist behind our own Symbol Set 4 – Dungeons of Schley, and the Schleyscapes art naturally matches the art in that symbol set perfectly. Of course we wanted to make that additional material available for our users of the Dungeons of Schley, and Mike was happy to oblige!

And here it is, the Forlorn Cottage extension to “Symbol Set 4 – Dungeons of Schley”. And the best part? It is completely free for the owners of SS4 – no additional purchase required. You can download it from your registration page as an extra install if you already have SS4 installed, or just use the full setup when you purchase SS4 fresh from the web store. All the new artwork is included.

The SS4 Forlorn Cottage Extension contains:

  • 420 new symbols in the SS4 Dungeons of Schley color style
  • 14 new bitmap textures for the same style
  • 1 “Forlorn Cottage” example map
  • 2 SS4 Forlorn Cottage template wizards (imperial & metric)
  • Updated SS4 templates incorporating the new bitmap styles
  • Updated SS4 symbol catalogs incorporating the new symbols

You can either start a SS4 Dungeons of Schley map and just use the additional symbols, or use the SS4 Forlorn Cottage template to limit yourself to the new symbols.

PerinusaSeveral users over on the ProFantasy community forum have recently posted tutorials on various aspects of their map-making. These are wonderful resources for any mapper, and we are sharing them here for your convenience and ease of access.

Charley Wayne Robinson has a huge project going on, mapping his fantasy world in intricate detail. He discusses creating mountain ranges in a two-part tutorial, as well as creating rivers, and – a specialty of his – misty areas. You can download the pdfs from these links:

CliffsAndStreamsEver-industrious Shessar posted two excellent tutorials on drawing streams and cliffs in DD3 Battlemaps. Both are difficult features to depict on a static, 2d map, at least if you want to make them look really good, but Shessar shows you exactly how to accomplish that.

As always kudos and many thanks to our wonderful user community, and here especially to Charles and Shessar. You can find more user tutorials on the Profantasy website.

And here is another tutorial by ArgoForg, showing the detailed river work of his country-scale maps.

Tenrock HoldLike most years, we publish a free bonus issue for the current Annual around Christmas. This time you’re getting a collection of six high detail battle maps created with the techniques described in the December issue.

Raft the tumultuous Razoredge Gorge, defend the walls of Tenrock Hold, and sneak along a Forest Path to ambush your enemies in their Forest Camp. Edit and adjust the maps in CC3+ to your own needs. This bonus issue is a free download, you don’t need to own the Annual 2015 to use it. Just head over to the Annual 2015 page for the download links.

We’ll shortly offer current Annual subscribers the option to re-subscribe to the Annual 2016. If you want to take advantage of the reduced rate, you can still quickly subscribe to the Annual 2015 here.

CA108 WarehouseThe December Annual is now available for download. Check out an 8-page mapping guide on creating deluxe battle maps, with tips and tricks on merging different map styles into one, adding new sheets and effects for features like cliffs, water, height transitions and multiple floors, and using lighting to give your maps that bit of extra polish.

The December issue is available both for CC3 and CC3+ (sample FCW files CC3+ only). You can download both setups from your registration page on the Subscriptions tab. If you haven’t subscribed to the Annual 2015 yet, you can do so here.