Advanced Symbols – Part 3: Custom Symbol Groups

One of the features for CC3+ symbol catalogs is the ability to arrange these into groups, and then set this group to place random symbols from the group, or apply random transformations to them, like rotations or minor scaling to give variety to otherwise identical symbols.

But, what if you are making a particular map, and you need some other kind of grouping? For example, when placing trees you want to randomly place Decid, Pine and Jungle trees among each other? There are no predefined group like this in most symbol catalogs. Well, for that you can quite easily set up your own personal random collection just for the current map (or you can save it into a symbol catalog if you want it available later).

You can also watch a video version of this blog if you prefer.

Let us start with a simple CC3 Mike Schley overland map here.  In the catalog image to the right, I have circled some of the various trees available in the vegetation catalog. Most of these are already set up in random groups, and you may be familiar with the use, you select one of these groups and start placing threes and you’ll place a nice random assortment.

Well, this is great, allowing me to place different symbols without having to go back and forth and pick each one manually. But it still doesn’t address my initial desire of combining the different types of trees into one random group, so let us tackle that.

To identify random collection in a symbol catalog, look for the small plus sign in the top left corner of the each little symbol window. If there is a plus sign there, it is a group. You can click on this tiny plus signal to expand the group and look at the symbols within, and pick them manually as desired, but be aware that as long as the group is expanded like that, it also disables all the random functionality, so you need to close it back up again using the minus if you want random selections to work again.

Not all groups offer random selections though, some are just groups. To identify groups with random selection, look for the small R symbol right below the plus. You may also see some symbols with an R in the top right. These symbols have random transformations, such as a small bit of rotation or scaling. This gives a visible difference when placing down otherwise identical symbols.


To start preparing for our random groups, we are first going to copy all the relevant symbol definitions from our symbol catalog into our map. This is done simply by clicking once on every symbol we are interested in in the catalog, no need to place it in the map. Here you also need to expand the groups by clicking on the plus so you can click once on each symbol in the group. (These are a lot of trees, so if you are just following along to test this out, perhaps just pick 1 or 2 trees from each group to save you some work later)

Now, just click the Symbols in Map button. This will show you what symbols are currently defined in the map itself. All those threes you just clicked on should show here, using the same groups as the symbol catalog. You can click this button again to go back to the symbol catalog view.

Now, with the symbol definitions copied to our map, we can make our own groups. Doing this will mean renaming the symbols, because groups are defined by names. Don’t worry about doing this however as we are only working with the symbol definitions in our current map, this won’t change the actual symbol catalogs we pulled the symbols from in the first place, so you won’t mess up anything by doing this.

There are a few ways to name symbols to make a group out of them. One way is to have the exact same name for each symbol, followed by a number on the end. So, we could name our symbols like this:

  • Tree 01
  • Tree 02
  • Tree 03
  • ….
  • Tree 24

Another way is to have the same text before the comma, like this

  • Tree, Pine 1
  • Tree, Pine 2
  • Tree, Jungle 1
  • Tree, Decid 1

For this group, I like the latter format, so go to the Symbols menu and pick Symbol Manager. Now, start by selecting the first tree, hit Rename, and name it Tree, Decid 1 (assuming you had a decid tree at the top). The numbering don’t need to match the original numbering. Continue through all your trees, and rename them in this manner. If you have any trees you don’t want, select it and hit Delete.

Now, another rule about groups is that the symbols must appear adjacent to each other in the symbol manager. If you have other symbols interspersed among your trees, use the Move Up/Move Down buttons to order the symbols so all the trees appear together.

Now, the final setup is to define our group. Select all the trees you just renamed, this is most easily accomplished by first clicking on the top tree in the symbol manager to select it, then scroll down to the location of the last tree, hold down the SHIFT key, and click on it.


Now, with all the trees selected, click the Options button in the dialog. The symbol options dialog should show. The important thing here is to make sure the Symbol is one of a collection option is set, and that it is set to match our naming scheme, in this example, text after (the last) comma. Randomly select from collection should also be selected. I’ve also chosen to apply a few random transformation here, to do that, just check the option, and hit the options button next to it. I’ve elected to allow for a minor rotate of 5 degrees, and random scaling between 0.8 and 1.2. Mirroring is tempting, but these symbols have a built-in shadow, so that would cause it to point the wrong way and look weird. Once the options have been set, just hit OK in each dialog to close it.

When back at the map, hit the button Symbols in Map twice, this will refresh the view of the symbols in map. If done correctly, you should now only have one tree symbol here, and if you click the plus, it will expand to show all the trees in our new collection. (Remember to click the minus to collapse it again before you use it.) Using the new random collection should yield a result similar to this.

And that is all there is to it.

An additional hint here is that you can of course include symbols from other styles in your random catalog too. At the step where we clicked once on each symbol to copy the definition to the map, simply load up a different symbol catalog from another style, for example the CC3 standard overland style, and click on a few symbols there too. They will all be in your map, and can be added to the collection just by renaming them to fit the naming standard.

If you wish to save your new random collection to a symbol catalog of your own, just go back into symbol manager, select all the trees as we did earlier, then hit the Save as Catalog button at the top. Then you can load that as a regular symbol catalog in a later map.

One word about symbol naming before we end this. The name of the symbol is treated as a unique reference by CC3+, which means that it is important that each symbol has a unique name, don’t use something already in the map. This also means that if you already have a symbol in your map called Tree 1, and you try to pick a different looking symbol from another catalog that is also called Tree 1, CC3+ will use the Tree 1 symbol already in your map, even if it is a completely different symbols. So keep this in mind when naming them, doing as we did here and just going for Tree, Decid 1 might not be the best name to avoid potential conflicts.

My example map with this collection already defined is available for download. Remember to click Symbols in Map to see it.


If you have questions regarding the content of this article, please use the ProFantasy forums. It can take a long time before comments on the blog gets noticed, especially for older articles. The forums on the other hand, I frequent daily.

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