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Role Playing (Games)

Map-Making Software for RPG Campaigns? 57

Posted by Zonk
from the five-foot-adjust dept.
mandrake*rpgdx writes "I'm looking into downloading/purchasing some map making software for my Table Top RPG group. I've heard about the free (GPL'd) AutoRealms and wondered if anyone with experience can compare it to commercial products like Campaign Cartographer, and if there is any Linux based map-maker I can grab?" The one I've been most impressed with, and might pick up at Gen Con this year, is Dundjinni. Anyone else have any software favorites?
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Map-Making Software for RPG Campaigns?

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  • by mandrake*rpgdx (650221) on Sunday April 24, 2005 @01:29PM (#12329954) Homepage
    or zoom out, or let you just print sections of maps. Nor does it let you build electronic atlas's for your games. And the extention packs are pitiful.
  • Game Table (Score:5, Informative)

    by biryokumaru (822262) * <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Sunday April 24, 2005 @01:30PM (#12329962)
    Casey and Andy [galactanet.com] author Andy Weir has put together "gametable"

    http://www.galactanet.com/gametable.html [galactanet.com]

    "Gametable is a remote RPG host/client app that allows use of a D&D style battle map, die rollers, etc online."

    Not exactly what you're looking for, but in the ballpark of nifty RPG related software.

  • FractalMapper (Score:5, Informative)

    by SirBruce (679714) on Sunday April 24, 2005 @01:35PM (#12330009) Homepage
    I was given a version of Fractal Mapper [nbos.com] a couple of years ago, but I found it difficult to use. It seems to be very powerful, though. The new versions might be more user-friendly.

    Bruce

    • I bought version 7 of fractal mapper. It is 100x easier to use than campaign cartogropher. There are a few things that I wouldn't mind them improving, but overall it is a nice program.
  • Linux Options? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    So, Dundjinni will actually run on Linux, but you have to run the installer under Windows, and then copy the files over. (it's Java) There are some other big complaints here. It uses bitmapped graphics rather than vector drawing, and so you can't zoom in/out, scale elements, etc.

    AutoRealms could be ported to Linux, save that it would depend upon Borland's Kylix Open Edition (free as in beer).

    CC and its cousins are nonfree/nonopen, windows only.

    The same seems to be true of Fractal Mapper.

    I was always i
    • You can't redistrubute the maps you make with it. It's as non-free as could be, including the fact that they LEGALLY own any maps you make, and expect royalties on them even though you paid for them.
      • by damiangerous (218679) <1ndt7174ekq80001@sneakemail.com> on Sunday April 24, 2005 @06:01PM (#12331978)
        Perhaps you should read the Fractal Mapper FAQ [nbos.com]. You can publish any maps you created under whatever terms you like, so long as they don't contain any Fractal Mapper map symbols (because the map symbols are art that they have created and own). They do not "legally own" any maps you create under any circumstances, even if you include their map symbols, copyright law doesn't work like that. If you create maps with Fractal Mapper distributed map symbols you have created a derivative work based on their work. You cannot distribute it, but they certainly can't distribute it either (nor do they own it). If you use Fractal Mapper as a tool, and do not include any of their pre-made art then they have no more claim on your maps than Adobe would have claim to an image you created in Photoshop.
    • I've had Autorealm working fairly well under Wine, but I haven't tried it recently. I may try it out with Codeweavers Crossover, I bet that would work a little better.
  • Umm... (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...it's called MS Paint or The Gimp.
  • by Bootle (816136) on Sunday April 24, 2005 @02:04PM (#12330274)
    Remember this? [d20srd.org] The real reason to get map software
  • A good question... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by fm6 (162816) on Sunday April 24, 2005 @02:22PM (#12330417) Homepage Journal
    ... and not just for RPGers. I contribute to Wikipedia, which is really undersupplied with maps, due to copyright issues. Sometimes the only thing to do is draw it yourself. But I, for one, lack the skill.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Bite the bullet and learn CC. It's an incredibly powerful mapping program.
  • ...from an AutoREALMS developer (project admin?) asking me to help with their port from Delphi to C++/wxWidgets.

    I'll probably help out, as soon as I finish getting the new version of my other project [cluon.com] to a release state. (Work on which will resume as soon as it's no longer crunch time at work.)
  • I must wonder... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by snorklewacker (836663) on Sunday April 24, 2005 @02:58PM (#12330693)
    ... why anyone actually uses such complex map generating software that does such things as break the whole map into grids and hexes and calculate travel times and such. Let me illustrate, go put on your roleplaying hats and compare:

    GENERIC OMINOUS SOOTHSAYING SAGE (GOSS): You need to go to Ramadamadingdong, which is eighteen hexes out from your location and standard rules are to roll for encounters each hex. Check hex D14 on your map.

    Players: Ok. Let's see we'll need 18 standard ration units then, let's make it an even 20.

    ---- vs...

    GOSS: That which you seek lies in mysterious and distant lands unknown (stretches gnarled finger to emphasize that whole "way out there" thing). Your path is perilous, your tread is treacherous, your fly is unzipped.

    Players: This journey, how many days? And thanks (zip).

    GOSS: I know not, but this burned fragment of a map drawn on the skin of a Dire Wallaby shall guide your path. Beware, for the hand of a madman was that who authored, or the madman guided the mad hand, or perhaps a sane hand of a mad man--

    Players: --Yes, this shall do! (snatches map) ... What demon had to be slain that left its ichor to stain this map?

    GOSS: Oh, I merely ran out of tissue...

    ---

    OK, I'm feeling a little silly, but you can see how even realistic props can enhance silliness. Nothing wrong with the GM having the hex maps, but for godsakes, please stop exposing these to the players.
    • by Worminater (600129)
      the players themselves should NOT be entailed to the extreme details of the rpg map; it is just to assist the dm.

      It sucks when your dm and you lose track of travels times and such; the players may notice and remark; and while it may be forgivin easily; its just another thing that adds depth and believe-ability of the table top experience

  • AutoRealm is nice... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WWWWolf (2428) <wwwwolf@iki.fi> on Sunday April 24, 2005 @03:03PM (#12330728) Homepage

    AutoREALM is pretty nice, however, there's some small clumsiness in the UI. It's the kind of software that you want to use to create really complex maps, because it sure isn't smooth enough to do anything really simple.

    It's sure very powerful, has some nice drawing tools and such. Very nice layering functionality too. The symbol library feature helps too.

    The only problems I had were with snapping/accurate ends, zooming and panning (there's a separate pan tool, no mouse shortcut, and panning tends to screw up the display until done). Also, in this day and age, I'd definitely expect the program to do EPS or SVG exporting, but nooo-oo, not yet! Okay, it's been an year since I used it - hope it's being improved a bit...

    AutoREALM had one curious feature, too - name generator, based on context-free grammars. I found it a pretty strange coincidence that I spent this day tweaking my context-free grammar based text generator, and the first thing I see in Slashdot after that is some question about AutoREALM. This generator of mine [www.iki.fi] happens to have one AutoREALM grammar as an online demo =)

  • Handwritten here. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by JabberWokky (19442) <slashdot.com@timewarp.org> on Sunday April 24, 2005 @04:18PM (#12331242) Homepage Journal
    I still have yet to find one that I really like... I'm still forced to sit down and hand draw all my maps. While it does have the nice side of forcing you as a GM to figure out the specifics of everything on the map, it is annoying because it would be really nice to edit and zoom in and out on maps to give to players.

    I've played with most of the mapping software out there[1] and it all has problems that limit how useful it is, especially for a GM that does not work off a laptop when gaming. I've seriously thought about writing my own; I have many pages of notes on how to implement the system and a few directories full of testbed code and graphics. My biggest problem with mapping programs is how they force you to think within their structure rather than being a more freeform tool.

    Here's a map [cheshirehall.com] I'm using in my current Firefly GURPS game.

    [1] I have not played with Dundjinni. It looks very "pretty", but I prefer Tolkien-esque lineart maps for the simple fact that they don't use four gallons of ink to print out.

    --
    Evan

  • SVG for maps (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Bryce (1842) on Sunday April 24, 2005 @04:31PM (#12331327) Homepage

    I'd suggest looking into using SVG for game map creation, because there's getting to be a lot of Open Source tools out there (like Inkscape [inkscape.org], that I help develop) that can edit, convert, etc. them. I've done some map making with it and while it lacks many of the advanced features that commercial map tools have, it's got the basics, plus if you can code, you gain the option of adding the feature in yourself. ;-)

    Making maps with Inkscape / SVG is different than using CAD-style software like Campaign Cartographer, but you can achieve pretty much the same things. With features like alpha blending, text-to-shape, layers, grouping, shape fills, tiling, and infinite zoom, you can make much "prettier" maps in much less time than it'd take to do in a CAD-like program. See the screenshots [inkscape.org] to get some ideas of what can be done with these features. It has a fancy calligraphy mode that could be quite handy if you need to hand-write calligraphic text on a map. There's also a nifty bitmap-to-vector tracing tool that might help in converting hand-drawn maps to vectors. Also comes with several useful tutorials (in the Help menu).

    There's also a site for sharing SVG clipart (like map symbols), the Open Clip Art Library [openclipart.org]. Not a lot of RPG art yet, but there's some and it's likely going to grow a lot. Plus, since all of its content is Public Domain, there's no restrictions at all placed on your maps if you use it. I could *easily* imagine this being a way for RPG mappers to collectively build an open library of RPG map symbols and artwork.

  • by pythorlh (236755) <pythor@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Sunday April 24, 2005 @04:44PM (#12331416) Journal
    Campaign Cartographer is great if you want real maps. It's a CAD program, which means 2 things. 1, It's hell to learn if you don't already know CAD. 2. It's every bit as useful as you want it to be. You can map a continent, zoom in and map a county, zoom in and map a barony. Everything fits across multiple levels.

    The majority of the other "map" making software out there is really drawing software. Dunjinni fits into that category. You can draw pictures, but they are just that, and not functional as real maps. They may be prettier, and easier to use if you have more experience with drawing programs.

    • I realize CC can do some incredible stuff... Just for the love of God and all that is holy provide me SOME sort of tutorial to get started! I don't mind steep learning curves but this is like scaling a frickin' glass wall!
      • And I won't argue with you, either.

        Not that that helps much. There is unfortunately a tendancy on the CC-2 mailing list to ignore such problems. All I can suggest is the standard response you'll get there: Download the UberManual (requires registration of purchase), Do the tutorials, ask questions on the mailing list (Yahoo...Uggh.)

        That third part is probably the biggest help. The community is actually very helpful. But if you haven't done the first two, expect to get a lot of responses that point you

  • Dundjinni and Canvas (Score:3, Informative)

    by DaRat (678130) * on Sunday April 24, 2005 @07:26PM (#12332519)
    Dundjinni produces some pretty maps, but I hope that you save money for ink cartridges because the maps are full color and will probably make your printer go through ink cartridges very quickly.

    I personally use Canvas from ACD Systems [deneba.com]formerly Deneba, since I mostly do deckplans for Traveller. Canvas is wonderfully well suited for doing deckplans, easy to use, and very powerful. But, it's too expensive ($250-$400) for casual use and only practical if you need it professionally (like I do).

  • by mythosaz (572040) on Sunday April 24, 2005 @10:08PM (#12333266)
    ...apparently has a quite liberal "try it before you buy it policy."

    path: pouncer.easynews.com!newsfeed1.easynews.com!easyne ws.com!easynews!novia!newshosting.com!nx01.iad01.n ewshosting.com!216.196.98.140.MISMATCH!border1.nnt p.dca.giganews.com!border2.nntp.dca.giganews.com!n ntp.giganews.com!pd7cy2so!shaw.ca!pd7tw1no.POSTED! 53ab2750!not-for-mail
    x-trace-postclient-ip: 24.77.128.62
    from: Oldbie_won@hotmail.com (Oldbie)
    sender: Oldbie_won@hotmail.com
    newsgroups: alt.binaries.e-book.rpg
    subject: AS REQ: [ [6/7] - Campaign Cartographer 2 + dungeon designer 2 + city designer 2.zip (001/131) Requesting ProFantasy Fractal Terrains - TIA
    x-newsposter: NNTP POWER-POST 2000 (Build 24c) - net-toys.8k.com
    lines: 10002
    message-id: <aT02e.832851$8l.807899@pd7tw1no>
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    nntp-posting-host: 24.66.94.143
    x-complaints-to: abuse@shaw.ca
    x-trace: pd7tw1no 1112054342 24.66.94.143 (Mon, 28 Mar 2005 16:59:02 MST)
    nntp-posting-date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 16:59:02 MST
    organization: Shaw Residential Internet
    x-received-date: Mon, 28 Mar 2005 17:08:41 MST (pouncer.easynews.com)
    xref: pouncer.easynews.com alt.binaries.e-book.rpg:2545391

    ...er, I mean, USENET has a liberal software preview policy.

  • Why do people keep calling these things "automatic". I want a program that makes a map for me. I want it to draw the continent, rivers, roads, cities, towns...

    All this does is draw things that I can imagine. I want it to make maps for me.
  • But does anyone know of a good Mapper for Linux of a different type? I do a little bit of GBA home brew, and on Windows, I use Tile Studio [sourceforge.net], but it doesn't have a Linux port. Does anyone know of similar tile based mappers for Linux?
  • by okoskimi (878708) on Monday April 25, 2005 @07:50AM (#12335188)

    Like someone already said, most of the other programs are bitmap-based, wherease CC is a real CAD program and thus vector-based. The difference is that there is very little you cannot do with CC (aside from the primary RPG use, I have used it e.g. to draw floorplans for selling an apartment, and plan to use it for garden design). Also, CC is professionally produced software - the UI might not be completely "Windows Standard", but it does work logically and provides all the functionality you need (I have had some bad experiences in this regard with other software where UI design has been less competent).

    The tradeoff is the steeper learning curve, though the manuals are quite OK. The available extensions cover most if not all RPG illustration needs, so you can expand the software as your needs grow. A host of free content (maps and symbols) is available from the Profantasy website.

    I guess it mainly depends on the quality you want to get and the time and money you are willing to invest. If all you want is to sit down and quickly create some relatively simple maps, then you are better off with a simpler and cheaper program (or pen and paper...). If, on the other hand, you want to have the ability to create beautiful and detailed maps and are willing to spend some time on it, then it is worthwhile to invest your money and time in CC. It is worth repeating that both investments are required - frequently people who have the money don't have the time, and vice versa :-(. If you e.g. wanted to create maps for illustrating a fantasy novel, CC would really be your only sensible alternative.

    By the way, if money and time is no object (I wish...), look into the Vue Esprit [e-onsoftware.com] + Poser [curiouslabs.com] combination for creating illustrations. You can get some pretty decent results without any drawing ability, but buying both the software and the content will cost you an arm and a leg, not to mention a significant chunk of your time.

    Disclaimer: I own CC and most of its extensions. I have not tried all possible pieces of mapping software that exist so there might be something better out there but I seriously doubt it. I am not in any way affiliated with Profantasy, e-on software or Curious Labs.

  • Was this article just an advertisement for AutoRealm?
  • Flash Magic Map (Score:4, Interesting)

    by r4nge1217 (878825) on Monday April 25, 2005 @01:14PM (#12338210)
    I have been creating software in flash for this purpose for a few weeks. Its a simplistic approach NOT meant to take over the game. It isn't quite done yet. Flash Magic Map [csgmedia.com]
  • I run Warhammer Quest and D&D games where we rely on minis very heavily. I like to have a realistic looking dungeon and go so far a to put 3-D props and such onto the map as I lay it out. I'm looking for a good (preferrably free but not required) tile generator that will let me make dungeon maps with scenery and then print them out at a scale suitable for use with minis, not just as a DM reference. Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!
  • by Thenomain (537937) on Monday April 25, 2005 @03:30PM (#12339683) Homepage
    As a long-time gamer and sometime-artist (that is, I know enough technically to not be laughed out by my artist friends), I'm somewhat surprised that nobody has mentioned that before you get into all this mapping software, you really should think about the map. Sketch things out, make notes -- whether they're on paper or in a word processor or on MS Paint/GIMP/Photoshop. There has not been one map-making program I know that will help you out with the planning stage. In fact, most of them are detriments to it.

    If you already have a map, that's another matter.

    I don't like Campaign Cartographer specifically because it's a CAD program. It's slow and a pain to fix or alter things on other layers. The one thing it does better than (so far as I can tell) any other gaming-mapping program is link and keep track of notes. In today's XHTML computing world, though, this isn't that impressive.

    Even so, I've seen more interesting maps drawn by inartistic DMs using a pencil than I have with inartistic DMs using mapping software.

    But that's just map-MAKING software. What I'd love to see is software that has a GM map and a player map on the same computer. The GM map would include pop-up notes for the GM, icons for who's where, but the player map would only have those areas flagged by the GM to be player-viewable. I'd love a SIMPLE interface, or an interface I could use simply.

    Normally we just use a Battle Mat, erasable markers, and dice representing where we are. We save more money for pizza and elvish hookers that way.

    There are simply so many ways and reasons that someone would want, or care for, RPG Map-Making Software. I just touched on the two that meant the most to me.
    • I have to agree. I'm not looking for professional level maps. Something simple and tile-based is all most people need. Nothing that I have seen posted here has addressed the issues that I (and apparently Thenomain) find to be most important.

      Give me a program that allows the GM to create a map, including creatures, traps, doors, passages, etc. Let the players view the bits of the map (remotely even, possibly through this thing they call the "Internet"?) that I want them to see. Allow the GM to reveal

    • Very true. For any non-trivial map, I would start with pen and paper and only move to CC once the paper version is at final draft stage. The editing aspect is what makes using a program really worthwhile (aside from getting really nice looking maps); after a few editing cycles and a few dozen game sessions pen-and-paper maps get smudgy and hard to read, not to mention lost. For maps that you only use a few times though, pen and paper might be better (if you don't care about getting that nice professional lo

  • by Ankh (19084) * on Tuesday April 26, 2005 @04:47PM (#12351709) Homepage
    Every now and then a map I drew about 15 years ago of a fragment of a quasi-mediaeval European town shows up. I was fed up of American maps of "mediaeval cities" in which there were perfectly square city blocks with a FedEx drop-off box on every corner.

    Pro Fantasy [profantasy.com] used some of my pictures and plans of castles [holoweb.net] from my pictures and texts from old books [fromoldbooks.org] Web site, so I link back to them, but as far as I can tell their products or for Microsoft Windows. They gave me a free Castles program, but I didn't try it under WINE.

    On Linux today I'd probably look at using either Grass (a fairly complex GIS program for the hard-core enthusiast) or a vector-based drawing program such as Inkscape.

    It's useful to have a drawing program that handles layers (Inkscape does these days), and a vector-based rather than bitmap program is good because (1) the maps print OK, (2) when you ditch that old 640x480 screen and go for 24,000 x 9,000 pixels :-) you can still find the map, and (3) you can zoom without it getting blocky, and (4) you can edit it later.

    If you insist on using a raster/bitmap program like GIMP, use a separate layer for everything and keep text layers as text for as ong as possible, so you can edit them. Maps with spelling errors look really stupid. Plus it's neat to be able to go back and add detail during the campaign.

    If you give the players a copy of the map file, export it to a bitmap first, with the layers containing your own notes well hidden! Or first save the file, then carefully delete the layers you don't want them to see, and then save a copy under a different name and send that. But that process is error-prone especially if you're tired.

    I sometimes gave players incorrect maps, e.g. badly remembered or done with "poor cartography", and they'd end up piecing the truth up from the obvious contradictions. E.g. one had an entire country whose existence was censored :-)

    There are a number of clip-art fonts around with map symbols. Some are commercial (I'm sure you respect commercial licences, since you want the GPL to be respected, right?) such as Adobe's Carta, but there are some free ones too. There are also some low-cost fonts especially for making RPG maps by David Nalle at Fontcraft's Scriptorium [fontcraft.com]. I think they have some non-Free non-free software for Microsoft Windows too.

    An alternative to clip art fonts is to make your own symbol library, e.g. by drawing pointy muontains and so forth with a pencil, colouring them with crayons, and scanning the result before and after adding colour. You could then trace these in a program like Inkscape, too.

    Liam
  • www.irony.com
    They have sevearl web-based apps and links to some perl scripts and other little files (Some GPL, some not).
    Definately worth a look.

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