The September Annual is now available. Sue Daniel created a wonderful set of connecting symbols that let you draw precipitous cliffs in your city and town maps with just a few easy clicks, along with special features like gaps, stack, ascending roads and waterfalls.

The symbols come integrated with the Jon Roberts Cities style, which is included in CC3+, but can also be added to any other city style (for example from City Designer 3) easily. The accompanying mapping guide not only explains how to do that, but also gives a step-by-step overview of the workings of the connecting symbols.

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

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.

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 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.

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 »

CA157 MiddlesboroughThe January issue for the new Cartographer’s Annual (Vol 14) is now available for download. We are taking a look at the wonderful medieval fantasy city generator by Watabou and how to import its results into CC3+. The Watabou Cities style allows you create beautiful city maps with an easy-to-learn conversion process all on its own, and you can then use City Designer’s tools and resources to build upon the result for even more elaborate maps.

If you have already subscribed to the Annual 2020, you can download the January issue from your registration page. If not, for a few more days you can still take advantage of the early subscriber discount. Just follow the Subscribe Now button on the Annual website.

Curious what’s around the next street corner? Let us show you.

From the sprawling imagination of award-winning cartographer Mike Schley comes a whole new style of cities for Campaign Cartographer 3 Plus, featuring leaning shanties, decrepit ruins, gleaming palaces and soaring towers.

Unashamedly old school in outlook, but with the quality and beauty you’d expect from a master mapmaker, The Cities of Schley features more than six hundred high-resolution symbols and textures and all the tools, effects and templates you need to create breath-taking cities of your own. A simple setting allows you to transform a full-colour map into a black & white illustration, or a sepia-colored parchment. There are houses, workshops city walls, tombs and crypts, boats and wagons, shrubs and trees – everything you need to design great cities.

Check out the SS5 product pages for more information.

Weepingford Eample Map

Briarpond Example Map Detail
Briarpond

Step into the streets, if you dare, of the Cities of Schley!

It’s an extremely busy desk that the Cartographer is dealing with at this time: Not only is the next Annual issue waiting to be published and GenCon getting very close, there is also the latest Symbol Set to finish up. Everybody is eager to get SS5 Cities of Schley into their hands and I’m happy to report that the first beta version has been sent out to the testers. The chance to pre-order Mike Schley’s new symbol set and get your hands on the early access copy will arrive very soon after GenCon. In the meantime, here are two example maps created with the color version of the Cities of Schley style:

The Town of Weepingford
SS5 Weepingford

The Village of Briarpond
SS5 Briarpond

This is part 2 of the “Making New House Symbols in CC3+” tutorial by Sue Daniel. Read part 1 here.

Download the full tutorial in pdf format here.

Drawing the map file

Show all the sheets, set the snap grid to 10’ grid 2 snap, and copy the whole house to one side, leaving about 30 feet between the original and its duplicate. Zoom in on the duplicate, edit the label to show that it is the map file, hide all the sheets except the two ***Separation shadow sheets and delete the shadows from the map file drawing. Show all the sheets again and delete the chimney pots.

Using the change properties button move the entire map file drawing to the MAP FILE OBJECTS layer, and make the MAP FILE OBJECTS layer the active layer. Right click the hourglass button on the left and choose Move to Sheet, and move all the parts of the house as follows:

IMAGE ROOF – level 1 -> MAP ROOF – level 1
IMAGE RIDGE – level 1 -> MAP RIDGE – level 1
IMAGE ROOF – level 2 -> MAP ROOF – level 2
IMAGE RIDGE – level 2 -> MAP RIDGE – level 2
IMAGE ROOF – level 2 -> MAP ROOF – level 2
IMAGE RIDGE – level 2 -> MAP RIDGE – level 2
CHIMNEY -> MAP CHIMNEY BLANK

You should now have something that looks like this, with a white line defining each section of roof.

Using the change properties tool, change the fill of all the roof ridges and the chimney stacks to solid white.

Back when we aligned the fills and amended the automatic shading for the image file drawing, that amendment only worked for the textures. As soon as you change the properties of these aligned fill polygons to a solid colour the shaded polygons will show again and affect the blue and red values of the map file drawing, so we need to undo the alignment on all the parts of the roof that are aligned.

To do this make each of the 3 ***MAP ROOF sheets active in turn, and explode all the roof parts that are aligned on the active sheet (not the ridges or chimneys) so that the texture falls back to its default state. It is important to be on the right sheet for each roof part or the explosion may have unexpected results.

Open the colour palette and look at the top row of map file colours – the one with four colours in it.

The first map shade (178) is correctly set up for a north facing roof of standard pitch. Select it, and change the properties of the north facing rooftops to solid colour and shade 178. The second map shade (179) is set up for an east facing roof. Change the properties of all the east facing roof parts to this shade. This is how mine looks at this half way stage.

The third and fourth map shades are for the south and west facing roof parts respectively. So when you have finished changing the properties you should have a map file drawing that looks something like this.

And that’s all there is to it. The map file drawing is now complete.

Rendering the files

Create a new folder in the C:\ProgramData\Profantasy\CC3Plus\Symbols\User folder to be the home of your new house symbol. Mine is simply called “My Houses”.

Ensure that you have the 10’ grid 10 snap grid active and set to Snap, then use Save As… from the File menu, and pick Rectangular section PNG as the file type. Click the Options button in the Save As dialog and set the Width and Height dimensions to the dimensions you calculated for the render area rectangle, and which you should be able to read off the map. The filename you want is above the drawing.

Turn OFF the Antialias option.

Click ok and ok again, and when prompted for the first corner of the rectangle by the command line click on the bottom left corner of the rectangle around the map drawing, and then on the top right corner when prompted again for the second corner.

When this is done pan back across the map and do exactly the same thing for the image file drawing.

Making the background of both files transparent

Open the GIMP and go to File/Open and navigate to the My Houses folder where you saved your rendered images from CC3.

Open the image file.

Click the magic wand tool in the toolbox on the left hand side and make sure the Tool Options in the panel below the toolbox are set up so that the Mode is set to add to the selection, none of the boxes are checked, the Threshold is set to 130, and the Select by is set to Composite.

Then zoom in really close to anywhere on the left hand edge of the image by pressing CTRL and scrolling the middle mouse button, and click on the white area away from the house.

You should be able to see a black line down the edge of the image if you have zoomed in close enough. You need to click this with the wand, and also the white line right down the extreme edge until all the area that is not part of the house is selected in an area of ‘crawling ants’.

Go to the little thumbnail of the file on the right hand panel and right click it.

Select Add Alpha Channel from the drop down list, hover the mouse over the image in the main window again and press DELETE on your keyboard. This should entirely clear the background from the image file and leave a chequered pattern in view.

Don’t worry about the fact that the area is still selected. Go to the File menu, find where it says “Overwrite House 01.PNG” and click it.

Close the open file without saving it. You have already overwritten it with the new transparent version of the image file.

Select the wand tool and lower the Threshold setting to 50, then repeat this entire process for the map file, remembering to click the wand tool in all the islands of white in the middle of the map image. Make sure that all the white parts are gone.

Importing the new symbol

Go back to CC3+ and click the little button on the left under the Options button on the catalogue browser. There may already be symbols in there, but just ignore these. I have purged my own map of unused symbols just to make things a bit easier to see.

Open the Symbol Manager (menu item).

Click the Import PNGs button.

In the second dialog Browse to the My Houses folder in the Source folder box and double click on either of the files in the folder. The Highest Resolution should be set to 40 pixels per drawing unit, which is the default resolution for a city map. Check the Create other resolutions option and set the Symbol origin to the bottom right corner. Then click OK and wait for CC3+ to do its thing.

You will receive a short message letting you know that 1 new symbol was imported. Now check the view in the catalogue browser and scroll down to see if you can find your house waiting to be pasted.

And there it is.

Your new symbol has no specific settings, so you will have to manually choose the SYMBOLS sheet before pasting it to get the shadow around it.

You can carry on drawing and adding new house symbols in the same file until you have all that you want.

To make proper use of your new symbols you will need to make a catalogue of them. How to do this, and how to add the full functionality of a regular CD3 house symbol is covered in the Tome of Ultimate Mapping, and in part by a range of tutorials available from the sticky resources thread at the top of the Profantasy forum.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial, and that you get at least one new house symbol out of it. If you have any problems creating your new house symbols please drop by the Profantasy Forum and let us know. Have fun 🙂

About the author: Sue Daniel is active as a cartographer and artist both on the ProFantasy community forum and the Cartographer’s Guild. There, she has won 1 Lite Challenge and 3 Main Challenges, and just recently one of the annual Atlas Awards for most creative map in 2017. She has produced many beautiful art assets for CC3+ (such as the “Sue’s Parchments” Annual issue) and mapping in general that are free to use for anyone.

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