A couple recently:
First - a post on using a map as an aid to worldbuilding, and my process for quick and dirty worldbuilding
Hey guys - you're welcome! I'm glad they're coming in handy. And yes, a lot of the work in mapping is figuring out a symbol set that tells a story quickly and clearly.
Today - in honour of all the old-school posts floating around - three different line art wall styles for dungeons.
That looks great! Sorry for the delayed response - I've been travelling over the last few weeks.
You can free rotate in maptool by the way - you need to hold down shift and control and that lets you smoothly rotate by scrolling the mouse wheel. You should post that upon the CG if you haven't already - it's definitely worth showing off.
No matter how good you are at designing, you're always going to tend to fall back on a set of layouts for combat encounters. There are a couple of map libraries that you can check out, but I'd recommend the Wizards Map a Week archive from the 3.5 days. It's a treasure trove of maps.
Not all are high resolution, and not all are available without tags, but they do all have different encounter layouts, and you get to pick the brains of other designers for your combat encounters.
For designing your own encounter areas, think of how you want the combat to flow, and then design the area around that. So, if you want it to be an ambush, then you're going to need cover and an area that restricts player movement. Traditional areas are gullys and cuttings with the ambushers on the ridge and the PCs in the gully. A rock fall can block their forward and backward movement. If your players are good at spotting ambush terrain, then reward them. They should be able to sneak around their ambushers and catch them out. Then you have a fun combat on the cliff top beside the gully!
If you have a combat with an opponent that's vulnerable in melee, give them terrain to protect them - like a stream, a fallen tree, a cliff, difficult terrain, or a river of lava. That switches things up from just placing them behind two mindless brutes with lots of hit points.
Think about how the terrain can be dynamic. Have treacherous ground that can be set to slide by dislodging a boulder, piles of barrels that - if struck just right - will collapse on a hapless foe, pools of oil that force acrobatics checks and make PCs flat footed for enemy rogues to sneak attack. Then make sure that your enemies make use of the terrain - particularly if it's their home environment. As soon as players see enemies using terrain agains them, they'll start using the terrain to their advantage too. Higher ground, slippery areas, movement hampering difficult terrain - it can all be just as effective as a wall if ice spell, if used correctly. With more dynamic terrain, you'll get more dynamic combat environments.
@Aberzombie - Any software that allows you to collate pngs into a single document will allow you to create a map - and powerpoint actually does that surprisingly well. I know I used to crate posters (not for mapping) using powerpoint. However powerpoint suffers when you have lots of objects, and (I think) lacks the means to group sets of items easily to show/hide. That might not be the case as I've not used it for a while.
@DeathQuaker - You're absolutely right. I know I said 'start with the streets' but that was a little disengenuous. You need to know where the streets are going to and from so you do need to know the locations of major landmarks first. So I think it's better to say - start with the important tactical terrain. Rivers and hills. You don't need to pin them down precisely and render them up beautifully, but you do need to know where they are.
Power centers are almost always on top of a hill as they started off small, and needed to be in the best place to stave off attack. Or they'll be in a bend in a river, so that they're defended on 2 or 3 sides by water. If a city can be beside the water it will be, and again as the city started small, the power center and the old town will be at the waterside. So you need to know where the rivers/coastline and hills are.
Once you've got that, you know where the old town is. All main roads to other cities will lead to the power center, because that's where they started. They'll follow the contours of the land and will be constrained by where they cross rivers. Draw these in, and feel free to put in wiggles and kinks - roads don't necessarily go straight.
Now you start creating the rest of the city. The old town normally has a wall around it - again from the history of being attacked. You need to decide on whether the newer wider city has walls around it too. Walls restrict the passage of major roads - so they're important.
So now you should have:
At this point, pick some major locations that people are going to need to get to/from. Some ideas:
It's also worth pencilling in the different demographics of the quarters of he city now as well such as:
The major locations will work as focal points for your roads - people need to get there, so large roads will come off them like spokes off a wheel. Again, don't make them rod straight, allow them to have kinks and doglegs in them - but make sure they go in one clear direction. If there needs to be a road from the barracks to the palace and from the Barracks to the city gates, make sure it's clear that it does - but still remember that roads also go round places, and are designed to leave roughly rectangular spaces for building houses.
Now you should have a spider's web of main roads and you need to fill in the big irregular spaces with little roads to define the different districts. This is where the demographic of an area comes in. Slums are unplanned and ungoverned, so roads go where they need to , not where they should. let your pen wander and lay in a messy labyrinth of twisting alleyways.
On the other hand, merchants and nobles live in large houses with land around them on straight tree lined avenues. Place straight(ish) or gently curving roads in these areas, with lots of space for mansions. Grids look good for this too, and quickly give off a sense of ordered planning. Middle class areas are similar, but with smaller areas between roads, or with tenements, and more alleyways. Keep the roads to straight lines and sharp angles here too to retain a contrast with the slums.
Now you should have a reasonably clear city plan - and you've defined it by drawing the roads. I hope that does the trick?
Thanks guys! I'm glad you're finding them useful.
Deathquaker - you're in luck. This week the posts have been about map scaling:
And yes, you're right about CC3. I created an overland and a Dungeon style for it - but I personally mostly use Photoshop for my work.
I've been putting together a few mapping tips and tricks and posting them on G+ and facebook at lunchtime 2-3 times a week. If you're interested, you can find them here:
I hope the tips come in handy to people, and let me know if there's something you'd like to see covered.
Tips so far (from the last 3 weeks):
Okay, here you go.
1. Open map in Gimp.
Hope that helps.
Hey Blakey - sounds like a fun trip.
What you need to do is the following:
Hope that's not too late to be useful.
Jon (torstan from the other forums).