Sunday, April 5, 2020

Day 16: Drawing Maps

This article is part of The 100 Days Offensive.

With Pen&Paper Role Playing Games, maps always held some significance. This was especially when you were playing heroic fantasy. Now with holding the campaigns online, this has become even more important. So how to create a nice fantasy map? I need one (and quickly) for my session this afternoon.

Historically I have been working with the Profantasy Campaign Cartographer 3+. The functionality of that tool is impressive. It is some kind of Swiss army knife for drawings. Below you can find my map for the "Fortress of the Damned" campaign I have been playing with friends for some years now.

I did not manage to use more than 10% of the capabilities of the tool. Even though, the map above represents at least half a day of work in addition to even more hours reading and viewing tutorials. The learning curve is very, very steep and the usability of the software is pretty low. You feel on every start that the software was designed decades ago and just got features on top of more features. It is a great tool to design the most intricate map you can imagine. From other users you can see marvels of art that I can only admire.

The software comes at a cost. In total (with all the expansions I bought), I've spent more than 200€ on licenses. The licenses are absolutely worth their money even if you would only use 50% of the capabilities.

But to be complete honest, drawing maps for me is just about getting the job done. I have an idea about what I want to illustrate and get there as quick as possible. The knowledge necessary to operate the Campaign Cartographer is just too high. I dig myself into the tool, draw a map. Then, 6 months later, I want to expand the map or draw a new one and I realize, I have to re-learn a lot of the skills.

So that brought me over to Inkarnate. Instead of a software, this is an online service where you can draw your map in a browser and export it afterwards. My first attempt ended with this maps:

This is a very rough sketch and could be improved, but it was done in just 30min. So from my point of view, the productivity was quite high. With 25$ for the "pro" version of the service, it is quite cheap and you can start making maps in a limited quality for free.

The asset list is much smaller than with Campaign Cartographer and you will probably not reach the same level of artistic details, but for me it seems the tool that better fits my needs.

I will report on my future endeavors in the map making business.

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