Writer, game designer and award-winning potato salad maker Robin D Laws has written three posts about how he uses Campaign Cartographer 3. This is the first:

Campaign Cartographer, the Writer / Designer’s Friend

Part 1 – Better than the hideous scanned-in scrawl

Here’s a paradox for you. I consider Campaign Cartographer an indispensable tool of my work as a game designer and writer and use it on a regular basis.  I am at the same time a lousy mapper. When I see the gorgeous maps produced by Profantasy’s cadre of dedicated mapmakers and by its fan community, I am reduced to fits of envy.

After all these years of using the program, I lack mapping chops because I only infrequently use it for its intended purpose. Instead, I’ve press-ganged it into service as an outlining tool. I use it to create product mock-ups, build diagrams for game books, and, most of all, visually organize my thoughts when plotting fiction projects.

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Campaign Cartographer, the Writer / Designer’s Friend

Part 2 – Moving stuff around

by Robin D Laws

CC3 offers the primary benefit of a CAD-based illustration tool in a gamer-friendly form. Whether creating a map or using it for any of the purposes I’ll discuss below, that benefit is ease of editing. It lets you think visually, by allowing you to easily and continually manipulate its various elements. Changing either an element or its position relative to others proves blissfully easy.

When sketching out an encounter map for publication, you’re always going to realize midway through that you need to make an adjustment—you’ve left a tactical bottleneck at the entrance, placed a trap where it won’t get tripped, or given a confusing position marker to a creature. You can move stuff around in Photoshop or one of its equivalents, but it’s a pain. On paper, forget about it. Moving stuff around is what CC is all about—for me at least. Continue reading »

Campaign Cartographer, the Writer / Designer’s Friend

Part 3 – Developing fiction

By Robin D Laws

Outlining a work of fiction is also about moving stuff around. Some writers prefer to hit the page and start writing, and then sort out the structure during subsequent revision rounds. Personally, I need to have the narrative line worked out in some detail before the first draft starts.  Minor transitions and obstacles are often stronger if you think them through on the day, but the broad sweep has to be in place. (Outlines are also essential when you’re working with an editor who has to sign off on your story before you start writing in earnest.)

Plotting never gets easy. For me, it typically starts with a few key situations or images. Then I bash around on a scratch document in which I trawl for some kind of unifying spine. During this phase I  ask myself the defining questions shaping the story I’m about to assemble. What is this story about, in a single sentence? Who are my characters? What drives them, and to what actions? Continue reading »