Going for the Details

Forest GraveyardWhen working with Campaign Cartographer 3+ you can make good looking maps quite easily. Templates come with the appropriate effects predefined, symbols and tools draw on the appropriate sheet automatically and most styles have a nice selection of symbols and fills to use in your map. With just a little bit of experience with CC3+ and it’s tools, you can quickly and easily throw together that battle map for tonight’s encounter. Sometimes however, it can be worth spending a little more time with the map, looking at the details and taking it from a good map to a great map.

Vary the symbols

Whenever you have the opportunity to to so, try to avoid creating rows or groups of identical symbols. A graveyard may be rows and rows of graves, but are they really all identical? There are reasons why some (especially modern ones are), but usually each grave will be different as they were dug by different people at different times, using different headstones and different materials. Some graves may be overgrown, while others are tended by the surviving family.

In Campaign Cartographer 3+, symbols often belong to symbol groups, and sometimes these are set up to pick a random symbol from the group for each placement, and also random transformations like slight changes in size and rotation. However, some styles doesn’t have the symbols arranged like this, or you may not want to randomly select from every symbol in the group; In these cases it is worth remembering you can to this manually. It takes a bit more time of course, but it can be well worth it. All you have to do is to pick the symbol from the symbol catalog, and then right click inside the map before placing the symbol to get the symbol parameters dialog and then subtly changing the scale and rotation before placing the symbol. Or, if you prefer to do it visually, just hold down the control key while moving your mouse up/down to scale the symbol, and holding both control and shift while moving your mouse to do free rotation. Do remember to be subtle though.

Looking at the two images to the right, the bottom one clearly looks more natural. While the top one might appeal to the human nature of symmetry and order, the bottom convey the state of an old cemetery much better. None of these maps are what I would call finished though, but it shows how a little variation can make a big impact.

Add More Symbols

Looking at the images above, we can at this stage just call it complete and accept we have a functional battle map. It’s not going to win any awards, and we can easily point out that it might be missing some things, like a path up to the gate and things like that. But it works, and visually it does look OK. My players wouldn’t complain about this one, that’s for certain. But this wasn’t about settling, so let us go to the next step.

The main problem with this map is that it is too clean right now. Yea, it is a graveyard, and it has graves and a wall. That’s what a graveyard is, right? Sure, we have the essentials, but visit any real graveyard and you’ll notice lots of small details. Some of which may not even really have anything to do with a graveyard, but they are still there. All of this helps define our map as a real place. For this, don’t be afraid of getting symbols from other styles. My map here is in the Creepy Crypts style, which means several of the other dungeon level styles by Sue Daniel, such as Forest Trail and Marine Dungeon have symbols in the same drawing style that fits nicely. Symbols from Dungeon Designer 3 also work.

Try to think a bit outside the box here, as I pointed out, a graveyard is more than just graves, headstones and a wall. Imaging what could be found at a graveyard, not necessarily what the core definition of one is. And remember vegetation, it is lovely to spruce up a map. Cover it with bushes, trees, vines, lichen, ferns and more.

As you can see from my image, I have added quite a lot of small details and other decorations here. Now, depending on what you are going to use the graveyard for, some of this may be inappropriate for your encounter, but here I just tried to make a nice atmospheric graveyard with more than one indication that something nasty goes on here. None of those details are required to run an encounter here, but it certainly looks much more interesting now.

Use Background Fills

Look at the map background int he above image. While the grass texture is nice, it gets a bit boring when everything is the same. Most styles comes with a variation in terrain fills, and in the image to the right I have used some color variation of the same grass fill to break up the monotony and make it a bit more interesting. While this map is too small to have a real problem with texture repetition, maps with larger open areas often look quite bad if you just have the entire area in one fill. If the style doesn’t come with enough variation, you can look at my article about getting more from your fills which explains how you can use effects to introduce color variations using the existing fills.

Use more Sheets

All map templates comes with a set of sheets with predefined effects on them, which is a good start for a basic map. But there are good reasons to use more sheets. One example here are shadow lengths. For example, do you want to have both big and small trees in your map? Well, then you may want them to cast shadows of different lengths too. Many styles already comes with SYMBOLS LOW, SYMBOLS and SYMBOLS TALL sheet, so the the first order of business is often to ensure your symbol goes on the correct sheet. But all trees are generally tall compared to other symbols, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to differentiate between different trees. So you might want to add a SYMBOLS TALLER sheet with an even longer shadow length for your tallest trees.

When adding more sheets, keep in mind that you can easily copy the effects of one sheet and paste them to another int he Sheets & Effects dialog. You can then adjust the settings on the copy, for example to increase shadow length.

Also, when adding new sheets, keep in mind sheet naming. Most symbols are designed to go to “SYMBOLS*” if you check their settings in the symbol manager. The important point to notice here is that asterisk. The result of this is that if the name of the current sheet starts with the word SYMBOLS the symbol will be placed on the current sheet, while if it does not, it will simply be placed on the sheet called SYMBOLS. So, if you call your new sheet for extra tall trees TALLEST TREES you’ll find that symbols never go to that sheet even if you have it as the active sheet, and you need to manually move them there after placing them. However, if you instead name it SYMBOLS TALLEST TREES, you’ll find that most symbols go to that sheet automatically when it is the active sheet. Of course, if symbols are configured to just go to “SYMBOLS” (without asterisk), they will always go to SYMBOLS no matter what sheet is active, and if they are configured to go to “SYMBOLS TALL*”, they will never go to your sheet names SYMBOLS TREES TALL because the prefix doesn’t match. So learn to name your sheets based on where symbols are configured to go, and you can easily control which sheet they end up on just by selecting your active sheet rather than having to turn off smart features like symbols selecting their own sheet.

In my image, I have two sheets for flat symbols (symbols that don’t need to cast a shadow). One of them is drawn above the wall to be able to place vegetation like ivy on top of the wall, while the other one is for use for symbols on the ground.


Check out the Battle Maps by Ralf for the December 2022 annual issue for another example of high detail graveyard maps.


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.


Comments are closed.