Random Settlements – Modifying Symbol Properties to Suit the Occasion

One of the things that are easily overlooked when mapping local scale overland maps for gaming is the sheer numbers of settlements that traditionally dot the countryside. In medieval times, the distances between them could be surprisingly short compared to our modern standards, simply because we are used to larger settlements (and faster transportation) these days.

Now, dotting a landscape with settlements is pretty easy with CC3+, as we have great tools for doing this. To ensure randomness, we can have symbols randomly picked for each placement, we can use Symbols Along to place them along a road, and we can use Symbols in Area to fill a large plain with settlements. Great, job done.

Well, if you try to do this with a standard overland map, you’ll quickly notice that this doesn’t seem to work as desired for this purpose. You’ll notice that the groups in the settlement symbol catalog are set up with groups containing just a single symbol, including varicolor versions of that symbol. Now, that is not going to help us spread settlement symbols of various sizes easily as we wanted.

What we are seeing here is really the fact that you can’t organize everything for every imaginable purpose. It is similar to sorting your contact list on your phone. Should it be sorted by last names or first names? Last names are probably more formally correct, and it ensures that all the people from the same family appear next to each other, but you’re probably more used to refer to people by their first name, making them easier find for you when sorted that way. Neither way is wrong, but you can only have one of them at a time. Symbol catalogs are similar. When making them, the creator need to figure one sensible way to offer them, and then leave it to the users to rearrange things when needed. And that is what I will be showing today. I am using Mike Schley Overland for the example here, but this can of course be done with any map type and any style.

Let us start by having a quick look at the problem. Start a new map in the CC3 Mike Schley Overland style (go with a 100 by 100 map, using the Land_MS fill as the background). Then view the Structures catalog.

Now, try to place a scattering of Villages, Hamlets and Huts on the map. Notice that if you pick for example the Hamlet, then everything you place down will always be the hamlet symbol, no randomness (This is true for the symbol catalogs from the CC3 Standard overland and the CC3 Mike Schley overland styles. Other overland styles may or may not be similarly set up). If you want something else, you have to pick it from the catalog. Then place and repeat. Now, if you want full control of what to place where, then you are good at this point. But often when we make maps, we haven’t planned every settlement, and just want a scattering of random symbols, which this does not give us.

I prefer to have my symbols a bit larger for a local map like this, so hit Drawing Properties and change the default symbol scale to 0.2 instead of 0.1 (The default value found here is based on map size, it was set to 0.1 because our map was 100 map units wide). Now, start placing another symbol from the catalog, but before placing it, with the symbol on the cursor right click inside the drawing area to bring up the symbol properties dialog, hit the Set Normal button followed by the Finished button. This is just to make sure the current symbol scale will match the new default we just configured for our map, since the symbol properties dialog remember it’s last used value regardless if we changed the default or not. Of course, this step is just to set up the default sizes for this particular map, it isn’t really part of the process of making our symbol group, nor will it affect the symbol catalog we make in the end.

Let us prepare our symbols for this randomness. Let us start by copying all the relevant symbol definitions to our map file so we can work on them, as we don’t want to actually change the original symbol catalog. Copying them to our map is easy, that happens automatically whenever you click on a symbol in a symbol catalog, you don’t even need to place it. For this example, I am going to make a random group consisting of the following symbols, so just click once on each in the symbol catalog window (I did not include the varicolor variants, but feel free to do so if you want, everything will still work the same way): Village n, Hamlet n, Ruined Hamlet n, Hut Village n, Hut Hamlet n, NomadicTents n (If you are using a different style, the symbols will probably have different names).

You can check that the appropriate symbols have been copied to your map by clicking the Symbols in Map button. This switches the symbol catalog window from showing the loaded symbol catalog, to showing the symbols in the map. Notice that this view will show all symbols that have had their definition copied to the map at one time, not necessarily just those currently showing in the map. Once you find you have all the symbols you need (Don’t worry about any extra symbols there you don’t need, they won’t cause a problem) we can configure the new random group.

Open up Symbol Manager (from the Symbols menu). The list of symbols here should be the same as the Symbols in Map button showed. The symbol manager is used to manage the symbol definition in the current map, NOT in whatever symbol catalog you may have loaded in the catalog window. This is one of the reasons we copied the symbols to the map first. Now, groups in CC3+ symbol catalogs are based on two things, a naming scheme and the need for all the symbols in the group to appear next to each other in the list. Now, one of the naming rules we can use is that they all have the same text before the comma in the name, and variable text after it. This allow us to use descriptive text and keep the village/hamlet/ruin names while still grouping them. So, rename all the symbols we want in the group by adding “Settlement, ” in front of each name; Settlement, Village n; Settlement, Hamlet n; Settlement, Ruined Hamlet n; Settlement, Hut Village n, Settlement, Hut Hamlet n, Settlement, NomadicTents n. Symbols are renamed by selecting one of them, hit the Rename button, and then repeat for each symbol.

In addition to renaming them, if all the symbols are not already appearing next to each other in the list, use the Move Up/Move Down buttons to rearrange the list to make it so.

Finally, we need to set the symbol properties. Select all our renamed symbols (click on the first one in the list, hold down shift on the keyboard while clicking on the last one), then click the options button. Now, set the options as per the image to the right (click the image for a larger version). Notice that the leftmost column of checkboxes are only shown when we set the symbol settings for multiple symbols at all. They control if we wish to set this particular setting for all the symbols, or if unset, it means just let each symbol keep it’s current setting. By unchecking everything we don’t plan to modify, we don’t risk messing with things like the varicolor options, which may be different between symbols.

The symbols are now ready to use as a random group. Close all dialogs by hitting the OK button. Back to our main interface, if the Symbols in Map button is currently active, click once to de-active it first, then click it to activate it again (we do this to refresh the view in the symbol catalog window since we have been editing the symbols).

Now, our new group is read to use from the symbol catalog window. Just try it out, and you should notice CC3+ switching symbols on your cursor each time you place a symbol. (Do note that the collection have to be closed, showing the plus-sign in the top left of the symbol. If you expand the group, causing the individual symbols to show in the symbol catalog and the minus-symbol to show in the top left of the first symbol, CC3+ assumes you did that to manually pick the desired symbol, and disables random picking while the group is expanded. You’ll notice that CC3+ shows this by hiding the little ‘R’ [for Random] in the top left when the group is expanded).

What we have done so far is most of the work needed to customize our symbols. As always, it takes a lot of words explaining this, but it is a pretty quick process. We now have the ability to quickly place random small settlements. But to use them with the Symbols in Area and Symbols Along command, we need to store them in a symbol catalog, and not just in our drawing. This is also pretty quick. Open Symbol Manager again, select all our renamed symbols as before, and hit the Save as Catalog button. This creates a new symbol catalog with only the selected symbols. You can save this catalog wherever you want, and you can easily copy it between computers or give it to other people. It will refer to the art files in your CC3+ data directory, so any computer using it will need to have the relevant symbols installed, but that’s it, the location of the catalog file doesn’t matter. And especially here, where we used symbols that came with CC3+, everyone who has CC3+ installed can use this catalog. You can download the version I made if you want.

Now, all you have to do when using either Symbols Along or Symbols in Area is to browse to the symbol catalog you made in the configuration dialog for the command. Below you can see the settings I used for Symbols Along to draw random symbols along the road, and the settings for Symbols in Area which I used to place settlements inside the farmlands. Pay attention to the fact that you cannot select multiple symbols in either of these dialogs, but whenever the checkbox below the symbol list that says Allow random symbol selection from group is checked, it will automatically use all the symbols from the group the picked symbol belong to, and since we put them all in the same group, it doesn’t matter which of the symbols you select here, they will all be used anyway.

My map still need a lot of work, it is a bit simple as it stands, but I was able to easily populate it with random settlement symbols which was the point of this blog. Note that when using the commands, I drew the road and the fields first, and then used the relevant commands to fill them with the symbols. Sometimes you may want to experiment a bit with the distances, here Undo is your friend. Use the command, and if you don’t like the result, immediately hit Undo, and then try the command again with different parameters. It can also be a good idea to save your map first before you start experimenting so you have a clean starting point should you need 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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