I've been looking for a decent tool for making maps for a Roll20 campaign we are running with our DM. Spent some time on the webs and found antes potential apps, like Tiled and the like, but I would like to ask you guys, definitely more experienced, than poor ol' me. What would you propose for a group of players that never had experience with such tools? We are mostly looking for means to map battle encounters, so mostly various caves, buildings, smaller forest areas, mountains and the like. Inns for those random fistfights. Our current problem lies in the fact, there are few fully free tools, that would have the tiles we seek. Our campaigns tend to be very travel heavy, which throws our parties into very varied environments. And we are talking here from mountain ranges, desert oasis, forest clearings, underwater caves, some ruined temples and fey gardens. Eastern themes, Asian themes, some Egyptian and Arabic as well.
We've been thinking of actually using the game Rimworld for overall environment building and using external sprites through Gimp and applying them in a second step.
RPG Maker has potential, but not everyone is fully happy with the jrpg style of the created maps.
Tiled we are still looking into. Mostly for the availability of tile sets that would have a more or less matching style and were offering the stuff we need.
Could anyone with some more experience offer some insight? I feel we probably missed something big in our ignorance. What do you use for creating maps? We are looking for the 70 pixels grid standard.
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I use Photoshop. It's got a learning curve for sure, but you can make anything your heart desires.
Other options include:
Dungeon Painter, a program that I've never tried but that some people like.
Mapforge, a very recent program that uses tile-based content sets. I've played with it a bit but haven't taken the time to really master it.
That said, there are a ton of free maps out there. Take a look at:
The Battlemaps Subreddit, where there are quite a lot of maps of varying quality available for free. Styles vary wildly and there's no good way to search them, unforunately.
The Cartographers Guild has quite a lot of free stuff. Look at users' albums. Here's mine, and you should also take a look at madcowchef -- he went professional a while ago under the name Gabriel Pickard, but his older freebies are still there in his album.
#battlemap on DeviantArt has a bunch of cool maps. Once you've identified an artist whose work you like, go look at their gallery; you'll probably find more. Some names to check include Neyjour, Torstan, hero339, gogots and RonPepperMD.
If you're willing to spend a little money, there are about a bazillion pre-made maps, tiles, and mapping assets available in the Roll20 marketplace and in places like DriveThruRPG. A number of mappers also maintain smaller independent storefronts for their own work, such as Zovya RPG and 2-minute tabletop.
Hope this helps.