Saturday, September 8, 2018

Mapping Utilities For Your Gaming Pleasure

Creating maps can take a lot of time, especially digital maps.
So lets discuss some options.

Shadekeep Mapping Tool

This newcomer is what inspired this blog entry. The Fantasy Trip just finished a great kickstarter and among the many discussions it inspired one guy who created this handy utility.
Its a free online clean and simple tool for making hex maps. Start with a blank hexmap, name it and set your size and zoom then pick a palette and start filling in the hexes.
You can save your own copy as a text or PNG file. For a quick dungeon crawl or building layout its great. Even do some outdoor battle maps.
The components tray lets you fill in part of a hex so you can have straight walls,or any non hex shaped boundary, including corridors using the Channel and Junction components.
This is a great tool! I give it an A+

InKarnate

This creates pretty overland maps but is not very intuitive.  Worth a look for a fancy or artistic map like you might find inside a fantasy novel. It is free and lets you save your maps.

Worldographer

Fairly inexpensive this is an updated version of Hexographer and will eventually include Citygrapher and possibly Dungeonographer. Reasonably priced but can get expensive with all the addon sets for different icons. Some of it is pretty intuitive but a lot will require practice or actually reading the manual. Large maps can be hard on your computer but smaller ones load quickly.  It has two options to create a map. Paint using icons as brushes which is pretty easy and fast or randomly generated maps which you can then alter with the paint tool. He does have some Youtube videos to teach or demo it. You can imbed notes to locations and it has built in logic for populating cities and nations.
I prefer this one for most of my maps, especially ones I plan on reusing.

Hex Kit

Another paint brush style mapper rather than a CAD type tool.  It is less sophisticated than Worldographer in that it has no data sets or population mechanics. It is just a drawing tool,but one with a lot of icons.

Campaign Cartographer

This set has been around awhile and creates some very good maps.  It has a lot of nifty and powerful features but many find it very unintuitive to use so it has a steep learning curve. It has a world, city and dungeon version
My copy pretty much sits around unused,however other who invest the time find it a great tool.

Summary

Each of these tools have their own niche, with Worldographer and Campaign Cartographer being more direct competitors. 
  • Shadekeep is great for fast simple maps
  • InKarnate for your artistic overland maps.
  • Worldographer and Campaign Cartographer for more sophisticated and extensive mapping. The choice between them is based on budget and time investment.

2 comments:

  1. This is a wonderful overview! Thanks so much!
    I had much the same experience as you with Campaign Cartographer. I have it, but I've never learned to do more than the basics with it, and the complexity of the tool makes even that difficult.
    I have been using Worldographer for a couple of months, and I like it, but it is still overkill and expensive for 90% of the people out there that need a good mapping tool for RPGs. Pretty, but still a learning curve that casual folks are going to find tricky.
    The thing I like most about the Shadekeep tool is the simplicity. It is clean and easy and very versatile -- and I hope more development will make it more so.

    Guy McLimore
    Line Editor - The Fantasy Trip
    Steve Jackson Games

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