[Download the FCW file of “Ancient Rome” example map.]

Cities. Not being a fan of mapping cities, I will admit I wasn’t looking forward to another one. Laying out a city is mostly my issue, so for this map I decided to use a cheat – I decided to loosely trace over an existing map – one where I wouldn’t be infringing upon copyrights. Enter a lovely map of ancient Rome I came across is my many hours of just searching through the internet for old maps. Come on, you know you other cartographers out there do it, too! I had come across this map I had found and it really reminded me of the style of Pär Lindström’s Renaissance City Annual, so I decided I would trace it.

After importing the .png into my map using Draw>Insert File and placing it on a new sheet, then applying a transparency to it, I began tracing out my roads first. Once I had my roads placed, I set about placing buildings, rather haphazardly, as I wanted it to look unfinished in some areas, unkempt or sparse than a regularly crowded Renaissance city.

On this map, once again, I applied some of my favorite effects such as Texturize, RGB Matrix and Hue/Sat Adjustment to give it a more antiqued look and my own personal choice of palettes tend to be more muted hues. Once I was satisfied with my placement of buildings, vegetation, etc. I set about adding any little “extras”, etc. On more than one occasion I had to use the SYMSORT command, which sorts out the symbols you choose on a sheet, setting them in proper back to front order if they are layered over each other within the same sheet, as my ADD gets the best of me when mapping anything isometric in nature.

All in all, this was a relatively easy set to work with. I like the clean lines and style of this Annual and I could actually see myself using it again for my own campaign.

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 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 »

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 »

Welcome back to this article series on mapping as worldbuilding for large cities and towns. In the last article in this series, we covered developing the geographical setting for your city, identifying the main purpose or economy of the city, dividing it into districts, deciding between functional and residential districts, and we even talked a little bit about transportation. Recall that by way of example, I’ve been mostly using the city of New Cassia which I recently mapped as a means of illustration of the ideas here.

In this article, I’d like to cover some more about ways to go about laying out the canvas for your city by exploring textures, terrains and landmarks. We’ll apply this to district building next, and in a later article we’ll go into some more of the technical pieces on how to actually construct each district in CC3+ but for now we’ll stick with planning as it relates to storytelling and worldbuilding.

The most important piece to start with: in general, work on your city one district at a time. Doing so provides cohesiveness in what you’re working on, and also gives you a concrete deliverable that you can complete and then take a break. I like to do a nice quality export of each district I finish as a milestone marker to record my progress over time, as well as share with the CC3 community for any feedback.

We last left New Cassia with some districts and main roads.

Road Types, Sizes and Materials

In the previous article, we ended with defining the major thoroughfares of our city. Let’s cover that in a bit more detail. Not all roads in a city are the same size in most cities you could probably think of, so thoroughfares are the largest of these roads. Depending on the scale of your city, these may be 10′ or 20′ wide (using Imperial measurements, but applicable with the equivalent metric sizes as well). New Cassia is a large city, so its main thoroughfares will be 20′ wide; this will visually stand out as well as define the routes the city’s inhabitants will take for most navigation.

Stepping stones in a Pompeii street

Stepping stones in a Pompeii street

We also need to decide the material of these main roads: are they wide, paved cobblestone walkways? Are they well-entrenched dirt roads? Are they waterways with sidewalks, such as in Pompeii? Or are they other textures like mud, grass, sand or even more exotic materials like lava, water, or sludge? This decision point can have an easy to miss but significant effect on the story and history of your city.

Exotic lava roads in WotC’s City of Brass

Exotic lava roads in WotC’s City of Brass

Also, keep in mind, not all roads in a city need to be the same; you can mix stone, dirt and exotic roads along with varying sizes (I like to swap out stone roads for dirt in poorer residential areas). You can also think about which areas will have no roads at all. Roads are all about access; poor quality or no roads will usually lead to less access to an area. Maybe this is to keep outsiders out (or undesirables in), or maybe the government can’t be bothered to pave an older, decrepit neighborhood.

Keeping a Microdecision Log for Inspiration

Think about the implications of each microdecision. If your main roads are sludge, that suggests a sewer-dwelling city, or perhaps the Underdark. Do people use boats or rafts to traverse them, or do they walk on foot? Each of these questions can lead to interesting story developments, like defining the daily experience of a resident (or visitor, which may differ) or leading to questions about why it is that way, or how commonplace non-walking modes of transportation are.

Each time you make one of these microdecisions, you can write down a question or two about it. For each mapping session, you’ll build up a short or medium list of questions. You can then ponder these in between mapping sessions. You don’t need to answer all or even most of them, but each answer will flesh out your world. You can come back to sticky questions that keep coming up, or discard them and move on.

So hopefully now we’ve at least decided on our main roads, and maybe even begun to ruminate on other road styles throughout the city. Great job! Now we can turn our attention to individual sections of the city.

Constructing our First Landmark

As a warm up exercise to district building, let’s do our first exercise in landmark construction. I recommend thinking about what the most defining building is going to be in your whole city. You figure out what “defining” means to you – it could be culturally, religiously, politically or economically. In some cases this might be a seat of government – a keep, a castle, a mayoral palace, a parliamentary house or any other such building. Sometimes a city may be oriented around this place; other times it might be at the city edge, and still others may have accidentally evolved the location of this building. These are all okay, but are microdecisions worth writing down and maybe asking yourself questions about.

Mages Academy

Sapphire Citadel, home of the Mages’ Academy, is one of the most notable landmarks in New Cassia.

Once you’ve identified this building and a suitable location, build it! Whether it is a symbol (we’ll talk more about symbols later) or some more custom construction, orienting around it will get you a feel for what characteristics you want to demonstrate. Don’t be shy about experimenting – place something, delete it, try again, change size and color…try things out until it seems right to you. And even if you need to settle for good enough, you can always come back to it and redo it easily.

Now you’ve built or placed one building. Think about what supporting buildings may surround it, and place those. A keep may have additional administrative offices around it. A military training facility may have barracks nearby. A mages’ academy may have a library nearby. Or, maybe you’ll decide this building is solitary: a grand wizard’s tower at the peak of a tall hill, with nothing else daring to surround it!

Sapphire Citadel

The Sapphire Citadel, with some supporting academic buildings and the Great Library of Ytron. Notice how the mix of grassy terrain gives more depth to the district. Also note the dirt path mixed with stone roads.

Terrain Surrounding the Landmark

Think about what terrain you expect to surround the main building. A castle may be built atop paved stone; a monument to a town’s founder may be in the heart of a central park, surrounded by grass and dirt roads; a demon’s spire may be surrounded by a lava most. Now place that.

As you’re placing the terrain and supporting buildings, ask yourself a question or two (not too many, we don’t want to rathole on this) about why they are there or what their nature is. If something (or even better, someone) interesting pops up, write that down somewhere.

Now, one finishing touch: label it! Just plop some text down on or near it with either a name (if you’ve got one; if not, you can punt on that till later) or a short description to remind you of what it is and why it’s there. Note: you do not have to do this on your main TEXT sheet; you can create another one such as TEXT ANNOTATIONS that you can use just for your own notes and labels about notable buildings. This sheet can be hidden during your final export if you don’t want to show them (we’ll talk about labeling towards the end of the series). But recalling the purpose and name of each place can help us build up stories in our city.

Congratulations! You’ve just constructed your first (and most important) landmark! We’ll be going through this process a bunch, but hopefully you’ve learned a few things from doing this:

  1. It’s okay to experiment, sometimes extensively. We’ll develop ways to keep this from ballooning too much all over the city.
  2. The process of building a landmark does not have to be scary, and can be as simple as a few local decisions.
  3. A landmark can help define the area around itself, such as the terrain and the nearby roads. We’ll need this as we build up our districts.
  4. Noting down random thoughts about why a building is where it is can lead to interesting story hooks.
  5. Textures, terrains and materials can define a lot of character, history and culture about an area.

Next time, I hope to cover planning each district, and discuss how to make each district unique stylistically and feature-wise (including landmarks!).

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.

The Town of AbbasiBringing Your City to Life – Part 1
By Ari Gilder

Recently, I completed a large-scale city map over the course of about three months. It is only my second map with City Designer 3, so I am by no means an expert, but between the two maps I’ve recently spent a lot of hours with the tools, learning some of the ins and outs of the how as well as the why.

Both of the cities (well, one city and one town) I’ve built have been quite large for their size. I’d specifically like to consider these kinds of settlements, as opposed to a quaint fishing village or a small farming hamlet. Because these are smaller settlements, by definition less time will go into them. Also, when I was doing my research on how to start mapping a large city or town, I found very few resources on how to tackle such an ambitious project. Continue reading »

CA151 CrownportThe July Annual is now ready for download and installation from the registration page, if you have subscribed to it.

This month Pär Lindström gives us a new style – “Renaissance City” – based on a renaissance-era city map of Paris. Creating the example map for the style was very easy and straightforward and we think you’ll find it equally satisfying to use. Thanks Pär, for another great style!

If you haven’t done so already, you can subscribe to the Annual 2019 here. If you are already subscribed, the July issue is available for download on your registration page now.

CA126 FellhavenThe June Annual is not the only new download available now from your registration page – you can also download the Random City command by Lee Saunders for CC3+ from the same place. Coincidence? Hardly!

For the Annual we’ve created a lengthy tutorial on how to use the Random City command and what to do to customize and enhance the maps the command creates for you. That way you can quickly create a base map and continue to map the city after that as far as you like.

The Random City command was originally created for use with City Designer 3 and is listed separately under CD3’s downloads. But it is also included in the June Annual download, and if you do not own CD3, you can use it with the basic city style in CC3+.

In addition to the Random City command itself, the June Annual contains a 9-page tutorial and 2 example maps created with the command, one done with City Designer 3, the other with CC3+ alone.

The issue is now available for CC3+ from the registration page for all subscribers. If you haven’t subscribed to the Annual 2017 yet, you can do so here.

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