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 »

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.

Campaign Cartographer 3+ is an outstanding tool that excels in helping cartographers, authors, artists, and hobbyists bring their ideas to life. I imagine we all know this well!

It’s also a fabulous tool for the well-prepared DM/GM, for creating homebrew maps or spawning maps for existing published content that better fit the needs of a particular gaming group. Drawing maps and exporting or printing them before a gaming session is a wonderful way to immerse your players in a tabletop roleplaying experience, whether you prefer “theatre of the mind” style combat or gridded battlemaps with miniatures.

But did you know that CC3+ is also an excellent tool during a gaming session? This article explores the many ways that DMs can use CC3+ as a “game-time”, not “design-time”, gaming aid.

Overview: CC3+ During Your Gaming Session

There are several advantages to using CC3+ to help power your next gaming session. Some of these require a bit of advance preparation; others can be used immediately no matter what maps you use.

1: Dynamic battlemaps for sprawling or unexpected encounters.
2: Easy-to-hide secrets.
3: In-person VTT capabilities.

Solution 1: Dynamic Battlemaps

If you’ve been a dungeon/game master for any length of time, you know that no matter how much you prepare, and how many different paths you predict and plan for, the players are going to do whatever they damned well please. While that element of surprise is arguably the best part of a tabletop RPG experience, it can also be very frustrating–not only for the GM who has to scramble madly to accommodate the unexpected, but for the players, who one minute are dealing with elaborately-drawn battlemaps and the next minute are using hastily-scribbled pencil drawings on a pizza box. (This latter example may sound extreme, but in middle school I resorted to drawing encounter maps on the lids of pizza boxes all the time. If my seventh-grade self could have seen what CC3+ made possible, he would have exploded in envy!)

Succinctly, then, the problem is, no matter how many different individual battlemaps you prepare ahead of time, PCs’ actual use of those in an encounter could very easily expand beyond the boundaries you drew. This is especially true in open-air or wide-space encounters: plains, wilderness, ocean, mountains, and expansive underground chambers and caverns.

How, then, can CC3+ help this phenomenon during a gaming session?

Simple: don’t export JPGs or print out battlemaps before a session. Use CC3+ to display the battlemap that applies, on-screen, DURING the gaming session.

I started using this approach during gaming sessions as an extension to my “Unified Battlemaps Approach” to drawing maps. You can check out a complete description , but essentially, instead of drawing individual battlemaps, you have a single, giant map file for an entire “level” or region of your game. Then, you zoom into pieces of it as areas of interest, and flesh them out with detail.

If you take this approach, you’ll end up with a massively-detailed regional map, and you can zoom into it for individual battlemaps. But even if you don’t take this approach, you can still use Dynamic Battlemaps during a gaming session using CC3+.

The approach involves the following steps:
1A: Create Named Views
1B: Use Named Views
1C: Zoom & Pan as Needed

1A: Create Named Views
Sure, you can use Zoom Window to get a close-up on a particular map region. But if you have certain areas of interest you know the PCs will have encounters in, you can save yourself some time by creating Named Views, so you don’t have to draw the zoom window precisely during a game session.
Mine Level 6 Overview Continue reading »

Map Section
Battlemaps are the best. Whether your gaming group prefers “theatre of the mind” (TOTM), or if they like moving physical miniatures about a printed gaming surface, having a battlemap for an encounter brings a sense of visceral visuals to what could end up being just another fight in a dungeon. And CC3+ / DD3 makes it ridiculously fun and easy to make battlemaps. I’ve found a mapping approach that adds a lot of advantage to battlemaps and makes it super-easy and super-flexible to generate them for your adventures.

The Problem with Battlemaps

Typically, you have a battlemap for every major fight, or area of significant interest. If you’re very lucky in buying a pre-made adventure, or very diligent if you’re making your own, you might have dozens of these.

One problem I’ve found is how to control secrecy and significance. Players tend to notice something is up when you thunk down a battlemap. It’s pretty unusual to have a pre-printed, ready-to-use map for, say, selling gems and buying potions. If the DM has a battlemap for the shop, chances are pretty good there’s a fight to be had, or a secret to be found. So ironically, part of the problem with using battlemaps is having battlemaps for Location X, and not having them for Location Y – players being the smarty-pantses that they are, they’ll figure out which of those two places to spend their Perception checks on.

Another is flexibility. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 30+ years as a DM/GM, it’s that no matter how much you plan in advance, the PCs are likely to surprise you. If you meticulously plan out and map Area X, and assume a certain amount of movement, the PCs might go very far afield of what you had in mind. Battlemaps are typically very “zoomed-in”, and concise: this area and only this area. If the PCs move beyond those boundaries, the whole battlemap concept gets frustrating, complicated, or just less useful pretty quickly.

Thirdly, it takes a fair amount of time to create battlemaps. If you have, say, a giant underground mine, and you have 8 areas that are potential areas of interest (AOI), that means you likely have to create 9 maps, all in all: one as an overview map of the mine level as a whole, and then 8 individual battlemaps for the AOIs. That takes time, and is prone to error and issue, if you’re hoping that the battlemaps each line up to and represent the detailed version of the overall map.

So, how to battle these issues with battlemaps?

The Unified Battlemap

My advice is simple: don’t make battlemaps at all.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that, otherwise it wouldn’t be too helpful. But my approach is: don’t create nine maps, when you could just make a single map, and zoom in on the detail. “Battlemap” then becomes a semantic distinction of “I want to zoom in on this area because something interesting is happening there now”. Instead of making 8 detailed battlemaps, you have a theoretically unlimited amount of battlemaps, based on how you zoom in on the overview. Let’s use an example, because that’s tricky to describe in words.

Consider the underground mine level in the example above. With the “Unified Battlemap” approach, I first draw the overall dungeon level in broad strokes, and then zoom in to each region and populate the detail.

As a first step, draw the level’s overview. Let’s say it looks like this:
Mine Level 6 Overview wo Detail

That’s a decent overview. Export it as a JPG and you’ve got something you can share with the PCs to help guide navigation and play in a general sense. “We walk to the west”, and so on. However, your gaming group normally plays with an overview map. The example is annotated with AOIs, marked with numbers for DM reference.

Let’s say AOI #11–marked with a yellow rectangle–is a necromantic shrine, with a bunch of corpses, and is typically swarming with wandering monsters… probably the kind of location that you’d want to use a battlemap for!

With a typical approach, you’d fire up CC3+, and draw the battlemap for that shrine. Let’s say it turns out like this:
Mine Level 6 AOI 11 Battlemap

Looks pretty cool and useful. But now you’ve got a battlemap that has details and information that your overview doesn’t. In addition to the overview map now looking comparatively bland, your Shrine Battlemap is limited in that it can only describe to the boundaries you’ve defined for it. This example is particularly volatile, since it’s a gigantic, wide-open mine level, so there’s no stopping the PCs from wandering off the edge of the map in ANY direction!

With the Unified Battlemap approach, you don’t create a separate battlemap for each AOI. Instead, you just zoom in on the AOI and start drawing detail. Do this for each AOI, and you have a single overview map, and you can simply zoom in to any area to export a detailed battlemap for that area.

The results, after doing this “zoom-in detail imbue” across the whole map, looks like this:
Mine Level 6 Overview

As a result, you have a single map file that serves as dozens, if not hundreds, of battlemaps: just Zoom Extents and Export Rectangular Section and boom, you’ve got a battlemap!

Other Details / Recommendations

You might note that the examples use two different grid scales: The “overview” maps use 20′ gridlines, and the “battlemap” examples use 5′ gridlines. This is really easy in CC3+: just create a separate Sheet for the different gridline scale, and draw the different grid on that Sheet. Just remember to hide one, and show one, of these Sheets when you do an export!
I also use this approach for AOI annotations: one at “overview” scale, and one at “battlemap” scale for the individual AOIs.

Here’s what the Sheets for the examples look like in the example map:
Unified Battlemap Scale Sheets
So why would you, and wouldn’t you, use this Unified Battlemap approach?

Advantages:
1: Saves Time: Since you zoom in to an existing area when creating a battlemap, you don’t have to draw the outline and general elements of that map to begin with, so you can hit the ground running.
2: Flexible: There are no limits to the battlemaps you can export, create, or zoom to during a game. No matter what the PCs or monsters do, you’re covered!
3: Detail: Having detail automatically reflected at the macro level makes your “overview” map much more richly detailed… for zero extra effort!

Disadvantages / Requirements:
1: Meticulousness: This approach requires a meticulous hand, for sure! Imbuing all that detail across the entire map will take time, but it’s not too much of a chore once you get used to it, and I feel the results are worthwhile.
2: Printing: Although this approach will result in print-worthy battlemaps you can print out and use in your gaming sessions, the resulting encounter will still be bounded by that printout. This offsets the “flexibility” advantage above, but only if you’re using pre-printed physical battlemaps.
3: Beefy PC: Perhaps obviously, you’ll end up with a monster of a map file, and not all PCs can easily handle it. SAVE YOUR WORK FREQUENTLY, and don’t be afraid of saving multiple file versions, just in case. I have a Core i7 with 16 GB of memory and an SSD, and I very, very rarely have performance issues with CC3+, but your mileage may vary, and there’s no question the Unified Battlemap approach requires a lot more processing power than traditional separate overview/battlemap files. My record is more than 5,300 entities in an underground city map, and I’m still able to scroll and zoom around pretty quickly:
Underground Ruined City Overview

Conclusion

Let me be clear that a good GM/DM, or a very flexible gaming group, can work around all of the issues described here. And ultimately, fun it what’s important; it doesn’t matter if you have a detailed, immaculate, battlemap for each and every contingency. But I can verify from first-hand experience that it can add to the fun, and I’ve found that once you get used to this approach, it’s so very much easier to deal with!

Jason “J. Evans” Payne is an indie RPG and fiction author and cartographer with more than three decades of experience as a DM, game designer, and author. He’s been using Campaign Cartographer and its related tools since 2015, and vastly prefers that to his day job. A father of three, he’s also been an adjunct college professor, an IT geek, and a miniatures wargamer. Check out his one-man RPG company at infiniumGameStudio.com.

By Christina (Lorelei) Trani

Mapping with ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3+ has brought my home games to life – especially from my humble beginnings. When I first played tabletop roleplaying games our fledgling Game Master strictly used theater of the mind. Some of us, such as myself, needed the visuals for combat, so we graduated to some graph paper, we were luckily required to purchase for math class, some colored pencils (if we were even luckier), a ruler and one set of dice between us. I, being the only female in the group, and the most artistic of the lot, usually was tasked with drawing out our GM’s map vision. This went on for a few months … enter the Satanic Panic of the 80’s, combine that with Italian – very Roman Catholic- immigrant parents and my days of D&D were done.

Temple of the Horned GodAbout 10 years or so ago, one of my old middle school D&D friends and I started playing again. This time I was our Dungeon Master and quickly took up my old habit of making up the maps. I did this by hand for years until 2015 when I found ProFantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3+ and started printing out my maps on poster. I first set myself up with a guide for Dungeon Designer depending on what size map I had intended on printing out as several of the vendors I use print in different sizes (such as Staples, Office Max/Depot, and VistaPrint). For poster sizes 11”x17” set at 55’x85′, 16”x20” set 80’x100′, 18”x24” set 90’x120′ (this is the most common poster print), 24”x36” set 120’x180′ and the largest map I’ve printed to date 36”x48” set at 180’x240′. My players have loved the colored maps, the assets and add-ons CC3+ give my players visuals they’ve only seen on virtual tabletop gaming not ACTUAL tabletop. It was a game changer.
Craft Mapping 01

Always looking to surprise and delight my players with an encounter, I took my mapping to the next step. I decided to start applying my many mediocre crafting talents to use and combine them with my maps. My first foray into craft mapping was a simple as getting some rocks and stones from outside my apartment, cleaning them off and laying them down over some rocks I had placed on an Outdoor Forest Encounter map. My adventuring team loved that they had something to actually hide their minis behind. As a Dungeon Master, I was THRILLED! I started to find some of our encounters were a bit boring as the players weren’t using the terrain on the maps to their best advantage. With this small added addition, it seemed to click, and we were off!

Next project…. Clay. For sculpting amateurs out there like myself, and little to no investment, you can purchase some air-drying clay. This is used to create “mounds” of terrain to place on maps. With some modpodge, acrylic paints and some model landscape turf, and even a few rocks and twigs from outside, I was able to create some fantastic terrain elements to add to my maps. Depending on the kind of investment you’d like to make you can then begin to add in some trees. These can be made by purchasing premade model terrain trees, creating your own with wire and terrain foliage, or even better, this time of year, with all the trees and bushes in full bloom, you can trim off some branches and bushes, insert them into the clay before drying and have an instant forest element!
CraftMapping06

Papier-Mâché is another great way to add some cliff terrain to an already awesome map. You can see my original map. It really was just fine the way it is, but this encounter I had planned was a key part of their main story arc, so I wanted to make it special. This section of the cave I knew would be layered cliffs of ice…so how could I achieve this? Yes, back to grade school art class and papier-mâché ice cliffs! I started here with a piece of foam board to use as a base, after sealing that, I began to layer the papier-mâché, making sure to make it jagged, like ice would be. After drying, I painted it with white and shimmering white paints, added some silver and iridescent glitters, some tufts of cotton balls for snow and some broken glass and mirror fragments purchased at a local craft store as a finishing touch.

CraftMapping05My latest crafting project has been my favorite, to date. I knew my players would eventually be taking a boat trip, and I had a pretty cool encounter planned for when that happened. I found a free .fcw file of a three-deck caravel and did what I do with free. fcw’s…. made it my own. I used the bones of the ship and changed the fill styles, changed the symbols to a photorealistic version and printed out the map of the three decks on a large poster. My intent was to play the encounter on the poster, but again I started thinking about how I can enhance the encounter. I was looking at the boat and realized the mast was the exact size of a dowel I had picked up at a local craft store clearance not long ago. So, I began to cut out the ship from the poster, then traced and glued it onto a thin poster board. Cut a 1” wide dowel into three individual 4” masts and paint them to look like wood. I also painted the underside of each deck to look like aged wood planks. Then each mast was glued onto the floor of the deck and put a piece of sticky tack on the top of each mast, to attach to the deck above and still be easily separated for more in depth exploration of the deck. I placed the ship on a map of water I had created, and poster printed, added some undersea monster minis in the water, and turned this boat into one of the most exciting and fun encounters to date!
Crafted Ship

All these crafting ideas can be done on a variety of budgets. There are so many items around your home that can be incorporated into terrain, just use your imagination and a little ingenuity. Just look around and use what you find in your own home, craft closet, workshop, or gardens and enhance your CC3+ maps to this next level of fun!

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

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.

Software required:
Campaign Cartographer 3 Plus (CC3+) with the City Designer 3 (CD3) add-on
A bitmap editor (The GIMP v 2.10 is used in this tutorial, but any editor will suffice)

You can download a zip folder of the three files that comprise the template for this tutorial called
“House Builder (basic)” used in this tutorial from here.

Download part 1 of “Making New Houses in CC3+” in pdf-format.

How CD3 house symbols work

Whenever we paste a house symbol into a map what we are actually pasting is a very flat image that probably looks a lot like this one.

CD3 symbols do not have roof shading. There are no ‘dark sides’ or ‘light sides’ in these flat-packed roof images, yet they appear on the map fully shaded the instant the symbol is pasted in the CC3 environment. So how is this happening?

CC3+ obtains information about the pitch and facing direction for each part of the roof by reading the colour coded message in a second file stored in the same location as the image, but which is never shown in the CC3+ environment. This second file has the same name as the image file, but with a “_map” suffix.

We need to make both types of file for our new house symbol, so to distinguish between them I will call them the image file and the map file respectively.

And here (below) is the symbol House 01 arranged in CC3 to show how the shading changes with the rotation of the building – all calculated by CC3 using the information contained in the map file, and adjusted to take account of the global sun setting and the rotation of the symbol.

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