CA165 Derandil - Jon Roberts ExampleRecently we’ve done quite a few video tutorials and Annual issues on city mapping, and I wanted to to collect these into one conventient reference. Let’s take a look what we got:

Annual issues

Blog articles

Live Mapping Sessions

Serpentine City

City Cliffs

Renaissance City

Ryecroft Town

Hello again mappers! Thanks for coming back to my series on infusing your city or town maps with a rich milieu as the backdrop for your stories. If you need to refer back to previous articles in the series, check them out here: part1, part2, part3a, part3b, part4, and part5. Last time we did a thorough deep dive on how to make your districts both unified and unique across the city. This time, we’ll cover a whole bunch of assorted tips & tricks on map-making in City Designer 3.

Tips for Street & Building Placement

Back in Part 4 we covered how to use the Random Street tool in terms of settings for your streets. But beyond just settings, Random Street is going to be the backbone of crafting most large towns or cities, just because it automates a lot for you. But the tool can be a little quirky, so let’s talk about how to get the most out of it:

● If you don’t like the buildings that the tool generated for you, just move the mouse up and down or side to side to regenerate all but the first building (if you want to redo the first building, you need to cancel the tool and try again).

● A key point of the Random Street tool is to quickly make houses that conform to your roads. If you don’t like what you get after placing the buildings, that’s OK! You can move, scale or rotate those buildings (an easy way to do this is Quick Move via Ctrl+Q) or even just erase and hand-draw to fill the gaps. If you have to hand-draw with the House tool for only a few, you’ve still saved a lot of time.

● Don’t worry about overlapping buildings – reuse them instead! While placing buildings, you may find the tool suggesting doing something like the following:
1 Overlapping Placement
You might be tempted to exit the tool and try again until you get a building shape that fits your constraints. Unfortunately, this wastes time when you are mapping dozens of such streets. A better way is to keep everything the tool generates for you. Then, you can move the trickier buildings around to a spot where they fit, shrink or rotate them, and move/scale/rotate other buildings to fit the newly vacated spot. Remember, vertical houses can become horizontal and vice versa. This way, you now don’t have to draw a house by hand.

● Similarly to the last point – let’s say you wind up with houses that just don’t fit:
2 These don't quite fit

That’s OK, don’t delete them! Instead, just Quick Move them aside to an empty area that you’re not working on right now. You’ll start to form a bank of pre-made buildings which you can then use to slot into tricky spots so you don’t have to use the House tool to make a custom fit.

● If you are faced with some empty land and aren’t quite sure where to draw a street, try using the Random Street tool to draw a “road-less street” – click the tool, then click a point that isn’t on a road:
3 Roadless street

This can help serve as a good visual test for what a road would look like there.

● Speaking of the Road-less drawing mode, it’s also a good way to quickly create a bunch of houses which you can then slot in to place by hand, which is quicker than manual house drawing.

● When placing houses – either via Random Street or the House drawing tool – try to select a neutral color in the Color Picker. There is currently a bug where sometimes the selected color bleeds through the edges of the house. It is possible to change this later with Edit Properties but then you need to be sure it’s the same color as the house’s Roof Ridge – otherwise changing the color will change the Roof Ridge color too.

Tips on Sheets and Shadows

Here are a few assorted tips related to sheets, sheet order and how that affects shadows:

● I find if very useful to have at least 3 different sheets for symbols with different shadow heights – a SYMBOLS LOW, SYMBOLS MEDIUM, and SYMBOLS TALL sheet – in addition to a SYMBOLS FLAT sheet (no shadow). For the ones with shadow, the exact scale of the shadow effect depends on your map, but play around and see what looks good to you.

● Take advantage of your sheet order. You can use the sheet order to hide things – for example, hide some terrain under a river, or a house can be partly hidden under a wall. This can help make things more realistic (there probably are some buildings being overshadowed by the city wall, for example).

● Speaking of hiding things with Sheets – this is one of my favorite tips. Some symbol sets, SS5 in particular, have some terrain included as part of the symbol (e.g. a stone floor). This can lead to disconcerting shadows at first:
4 Gate Shadow

We could switch this gate symbol to our SYMBOLS FLAT sheet and get rid of the shadow entirely:
5 Gate no Shadow

But now that looks a little funny – this gate is supposed to be big and imposing; no shadow just looks funny. Instead, we can create a new sheet, one I called BUILDINGS GATE, and place that under the sheet with this symbol (which I called SYMBOLS GATE). I set up the shadow effect on the BUILDINGS GATE sheet to reflect the height of the shadow I wanted for the gate. On SYMBOLS GATE, I put no shadow at all (so, same as SYMBOLS FLAT).

On the BUILDINGS GATE sheet I drew this little House:
6 Building Shadow

Now I have a nice looking shadow, I can layer the gate (which is flat/has no shadow) to get this final result:
7 Final Shadow

The stone floor still obscures a little bit of the shadow, but now this feels like it has a lot more depth to it regardless.

Technical & Performance Tips

Here are a few assorted technical CC3+ tips and performance speedups:

● When you complete work on a district, create a Layer for it and move all the buildings, symbols and roads in that district to that Layer. Then, you can just hide that Layer entirely when you move on to the next district. This will help with rendering speed a lot, since CC3+ doesn’t have to redraw all those extra symbols. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.

● You can disable Aligned Fill Styles for a slight boost in speed; this can be helpful when working with a large map. You can also change the bitmap quality to Medium (I don’t recommend Low for a city) for a little bit more of a boost. These are available in the Display Speed Settings dialog:
8 Display Speed

● Don’t be afraid to create your own drawing tools, especially for things like roads which you may need many of, but may also need to vary the size, shape and smoothness. This especially applies for Roads as well as Terrain. Here are some of my drawing tools:
9 Drawing Tools

● For some symbols, you may want them to always go to one particular sheet. For example, I want all my docks symbols to go directly to my SYMBOLS DOCKS sheet. To do this, I need to open up the Symbols Manager (Symbols Menu > Symbols Manager or the SYMMGR command) and find the symbol(s) I want:
10 Symbol Manager
Then, I click Options and I can check off the Force Sheet option and specify which sheet:
11 Symbol settings

● Remember the keyboard shortcuts! I find the most useful one is Ctrl+Q for Quick Move. By default, Quick Move will only move one entity you click on, put you can press S when you need to select multiple entities.

If you are feeling brave, you can edit your .mnu files to create keyboard shortcuts for other common commands like Erase and Random Street. Make sure to edit the correct .mnu file – for example, SS5 and CD3 have different .mnu files.

Applying Finishing Touches

When you complete a district, or even your entire city map, make sure you take the time to put the text labels you need! You can choose to do this on the map, or on a side legend.

Some things to consider applying text labels for: District names, major landmarks, major streets, parks, squares and other noteworthy features (see Part 5). You can also label more minor locations which may be significant to your characters or players.

When you finish each district, and once again when you finish the whole map, I suggest you do a “consistency check” for your sheets and layers. Hide all except one sheet and check all the entities/symbols on that sheet. Make sure the ones you see are the ones that are supposed to be there (it’s easy for some things to snap to a SYMBOLS DEFAULT sheet, so be meticulous! It will pay off in fewer mistakes when you print or export your map).

Repeat this process for every single sheet and every single layer. This is a last-ditch backstop intended to prevent missing or awkward shadows.

Thank You for Reading!

Well, my fellow mappers, with those final tips, I’ve finally concluded everything I wanted to share with you about City Building. When I started, I wished there was some tutorial that detailed the process of city building, not just a guide on how to use the tools. As anyone who’s mapped a large town or city can tell you, it is indeed a process. Building the map for New Cassia took me about 3 months, with several hours each day (though I didn’t work on it every day, it was just a few hours on the days that I did).

As you build your city, you’ll become very familiar with all its nooks and crannies (it was you that put them there, after all) – turn that familiarity into your city’s history! Takes notes, jot down adventure ideas as you map. I set out to build this city so I could conduct an immersive urban-setting D&D campaign (versus a traditional wilderness or dungeon setting). These can be harder to work with, but if you follow these tips throughout this article series, you are sure you have a great handle on the complexity and intrigue that a large urban setting can offer.

So that’s it, mappers. If you’ve read this far, I’d love to continue the conversation. You can find me over at the CC3+ Facebook Group where I sometimes lurk and try to offer advice when I can. Thank you for reading; I hope I’ve helped you learn a thing or two about how to Bring Your City to Life.

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.

So, here you are, having just prepared the main location for tonight’s adventure. But then it dawns on you, you have no idea when players will actually visit this location. They may even drop by multiple times.

Well, today we’ll be having a look into how to set up effects to it is easy to switch between day and night views of the same map. In the day scene, we will be using regular wall shadow effects to have the buildings and symbols cast shadows, while the night seen will use the point light system in CC3+ to have light sources in the scene that causes the symbols to cast shadows. We will be using this to show how symbols around a fire casts shadows away from the fire, and how we can have lights coming from the windows.

Continue reading »

Hello again mappers! Welcome back to this series on weaving the cartography and tale of a city or town using CC3+ and City Designer 3. I hope you’ve read the back issues (part1, part2, part3a, part3b, part4). Last time we delved deep into the Random Street tool, an essential part of large city mapping. There’s still more to say about the particulars of that tool – we’ll cover that later.

Today I’d like to continue the discussion from Part 4 about district style. I’ll of course continue using my example map of New Cassia to demonstrate. We talked last time about what makes a district unique from its neighbor, and we explored using building style to differentiate. Today we’ll cover other flourishes that can be sprinkled strategically throughout a map.

One thing to note: for all of these suggestions of unique or common elements, don’t feel limited only to my suggestions here! Find things that are applicable to the particular characteristics of your city.

Common Elements Checklist

Before we cover that which makes districts different, let’s talk about what makes them similar. Take some time and think about what buildings you want to be present in all/most districts. What kinds of things do all walks of life tend to have? Maybe your city has some unique elements based on its government (maybe a major magistrate’s office per district and smaller satellite branches throughout), its geography (perhaps regular watering stations for pack animals in a desert trade city) or its religious history (statues of Orcus throughout a city of necromancers). Think carefully back to your notes about why the city exists and what its primary function is to guide you.

Once you come up with this list (some of this may be trial and error in your first few districts), you’ll actually have a checklist for every district to make sure you’ve appropriately placed these elements (or not – perhaps no taverns allowed in the religious district). Decide if each district needs one or multiple of these elements, and in what concentration. Doing this will bring a beautiful unifying theme across your map, emphasizing that it is one city. I use color to highlight these elements, but they can be done with other methods (certain buildings, effects or spacing).

Here are some examples of common elements I’ve used in New Cassia:

Inns & Taverns
Taverns
Most cities will be full of houses of lodging, food, recreation and of course drinking. You can easily consider those to be some of the buildings laid down by the Random Street tool, but I wanted to specially call out these buildings by having a unique brown-colored roof (a rarity in the city) as helpful waypoints wherever adventurers may be – they always know they can stop nearby. I tried to ensure that at any given point, there is a tavern close by, except for some of the poorer districts, or the religious district. Continue reading »

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 »

Isometric Town
Download the CC3+ file here. Note that you need the Annual 2019 installed to view it properly.

Mapping with the Isometric Town Annual

Now THIS was a challenge as I find city/town maps a personal struggle. Here is where the Mapping Guide comes in handy. Often, with an Annual, I am guilty of just diving in and figuring things out on my own as I go, occasionally referring to the mapping guide, but not usually. This time, since I do struggle in this area of mapping, I stuck with the Mapping Guide provided, as far as the steps in creating this little town and followed them along.

Also, quite useful when mapping with a style you aren’t very comfortable with is deconstructing the multitude of maps that are often provided along with each Annual. In this instance I was able to copy a few of Sue’s Effects from her Corvallen map and Ralf’s Menzberg map, in particular Sue’s brilliant use of the RGB Matrix. This effect is worth a dive into as it can produce some great color results on your sheet effects.

Some of my own favorite effects to use are the RGB Matrix, the Hue/Sat and a big favorite of mine, Texturize. The last one I often put on the entire map. On this one I used a common texture that everyone should have concrete. The textures I use can be found in the CC3+>Filters>Images file, though you can use just about any fill with some kind of texture. I love the look I can get on a map with just the right settings and the fill to texturize. Try it!!

I also was unable to recreate Sue’s lovely parchment….well, I probably could if I really sat for a while, but I wanted to map in a way that the average mapper would, not someone with some sort of artistic skills on the manual side, rather than digital, so instead I created a legend on the bottom of my map – I think it’s a fine substitute if one is unable to recreate, copy and paste the scroll or just doesn’t want the look of scrolled parchment on their map – either way it’s just another variation. I do, of course, use my dear friend’s lovely parchment fill she provided for this Annual. Text/Labels are pretty standard here, with no special flair, and naming wasn’t anything special either….with the exception that I DID get the name of the town from Sue’s beautiful willow trees provided with this Annual. I LOVE willow trees, on a personal note, and these are just so pretty, so Willow Field it became. I hope you enjoy it and find it useful for your own mapping needs!

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

Welcome to a brief article about the creation of Orde-on-the-Rock (or just Orde for short), in which I will be attempting to answer most of the questions I have been asked about this map since it was first released last year as a new example map for City Designer 3.

Orde was designed as a map to demonstrate what could be done with CD3 without using any additional add-ons or extra art assets.

Over the years I’ve been using CD3 I’ve done lots of cities using only the assets that come with CD3, so to make it more of a challenge for myself this time I decided not to use any of the regular Bitmap A house symbols.  In their place I used buildings generated by the Building and Street tools, and added a few shaded polygon constructions for variety. Continue reading »

The May issue of the Cartographer’s Annual 2020 has just been released. Glynn Seal of MonkeyBlood Design has created a wonderful new town and city style for us, the Ryecroft Town style. Easy to use for anyone with the latest incorporation of the city tools into CC3+, the Ryecroft Town styles gives you a wonderful new look for your fantasy or medieval towns and cities. As usual the issue comes with a mapping guide, that takes you through creating a whole town using the style on 6 pages.

If you have already subscribed to the Annual 2020, you can download the May issue from your registration page. If not, you can subscribe here.

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 »

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