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View Full Version : The best mapping software for my wierd priorities?



Ruin Explorer
07-09-2008, 03:49 PM
I'm starting a D&D campaign, and I'd like to find a piece of software for creating maps with fits with my priorities. Looking at the mapping software market, I can see lots of software for create beautiful overland maps and stuff that's generally incredibly detailed, intricate, in full colour. This absolutely not what I'm looking for!

My priorities in a piece of mapping software are as follows:

1) Available for download. - The timeframe I need it in is too short to potentially wait weeks on shipping.

2) Reasonable price point for the degree of functionality. Cheaper is obviously better, free is great, but not necessary.

3) User-friendly. Ideally I'd like something which let me put a dungeon or outdoor encounter together with just dropping and dragging, automatically fitting to a grind.

4) Fast. Kind of related to user-friendly, I guess, but I want something that works faster than drawing maps by hand on graph paper (which I am quite capable of doing).

5) Maps must be printable on a normal B&W printer printing A4 sheets.

6) Able to easily create maps with an extremely simple, old-skool look. I'm really unsure about most cartography-oriented software, because all they want to show me is incredibly complex and flash maps in full colours with finickity little graphic images all over them. I want something that creates dungeon and encounter maps that look like they came from a 1980s or early '90s TSR adventure. Simple, bold, black and white, with the traditional icons.

I suspect what I'm looking for is probably Dungeon Designer 3, but I'm told this is the foremost place for info on this kind of cartography, and I'm extremely open to opinions. Simplicity is the key here, not beauty. Unless you consider something like the maps in the original Tomb of Horrors beautiful!

töff
07-09-2008, 04:06 PM
http://www.dungeoncrafter3.com/ ...?

Ruin Explorer
07-09-2008, 04:45 PM
Thank you for the suggestion, but no, that's the sort of software I'm looking to avoid, if it's screenshots illustrate how it typically works. I mean:

1) It's clearly not meant for B&W nor going to display well in B&W.

2) It's graphics are complicated and fussy, with floor textures, complex little images for the furnishings etc, big thick walls.

3) Not printer-friendly.

4) Full of pointless features like automated shadowing.

I mean, just to be clear, I'm looking for something that will produce classic-style dungeon and outdoor images, not modern-looking ones. Ones that could have come from the 1980s.

I suspect, though, it's not clear, user-friendly, which is good, but unless it can do images a lot less fancy than those, and a lot more printer-friendly, I don't see it as a possibility.

töff
07-09-2008, 04:52 PM
I believe, if you can't find a premade Dungeoncrafter tileset for the old b&w D&D style, then you could easily make one. You don't have to use all those color graphics.

töff
07-09-2008, 04:55 PM
There's at least one floating around ...

http://www.geocities.com/blood_tyger/guide/images/TSR_original.jpg

torstan
07-09-2008, 04:55 PM
I'd actualy suggest Gimp. I know it can do 10,000 times more things than what you require, but it can do the simple stuff too. I'll put together a short guideline for you if you like. Do you want the blue lines, or would you prefer black?

jfrazierjr
07-09-2008, 04:55 PM
Thank you for the suggestion, but no, that's the sort of software I'm looking to avoid, if it's screenshots illustrate how it typically works. I mean:

1) It's clearly not meant for B&W nor going to display well in B&W.

2) It's graphics are complicated and fussy, with floor textures, complex little images for the furnishings etc, big thick walls.

3) Not printer-friendly.

4) Full of pointless features like automated shadowing.

I mean, just to be clear, I'm looking for something that will produce classic-style dungeon and outdoor images, not modern-looking ones. Ones that could have come from the 1980s.

I suspect, though, it's not clear, user-friendly, which is good, but unless it can do images a lot less fancy than those, and a lot more printer-friendly, I don't see it as a possibility.


I can't say I have "tried" to do a simple old school style of map, but Fractal Mapper is a very simple program to use. I think not matter what software you use, you might have a problem finding old style icons, so I would suggest just going for using the wingdings font as there are some nice neat symbols there.

Joe

Ruin Explorer
07-09-2008, 04:59 PM
I'd actualy suggest Gimp. I know it can do 10,000 times more things than what you require, but it can do the simple stuff too. I'll put together a short guideline for you if you like. Do you want the blue lines, or would you prefer black?

I rather like blue, having seen it, but I suspect black will print out better. I would certainly be interested in any guidelines.

jfrazierjr - Yeah, I'm seeing that, and it seems bizarre, because those icons/symbols are still in use (you can buy pre-made maps with them used, still, and D&D4E, for example, encourages you to use them in the DMG). Oh well.

töff
07-09-2008, 05:10 PM
I don't want to sound like a Dungeoncrafter stock holder
(hahah, a freeware stockholder, that's something I'd do) ...
but if you use that "Classic TSR" tileset,
DC answers all your initial requirements perfectly. I mean perfectly!

OK, nuff said.

(Personally, I'd use Illustrator. But it ain't free.)

torstan
07-09-2008, 05:18 PM
First get the images from here: http://www.dundjinni.com/forums/forum_posts.asp?TID=572&KW=old+style

RobA
07-09-2008, 08:49 PM
I'd give dungeonforge a try http://www.dungeonmapping.com/df/public_html/

You have to register on the forums to download, but it is free. Get Dungeonforge, not MapX.

It is a grid based tilemapper. You can also find a whole set of oldschool icons for drag and drop building.

It is also designed for printing.

-Rob A>

Sigurd
07-10-2008, 05:13 AM
Personally my advice is away from the very simple.

Try The Gimp if you have a keen interest to get a project done. Your current project will give you drive to learn the program and the next time you need a graphic you likely will have better skills to make one. Yes it may be more than you need right now but it represents growth for the future.

One simple distinction you should consider is Raster or Vector drawing.

Raster drawing ie Photoshop, Gimp, etc is very free form and colourful. Its arguably easier to paint coloured pixels onto a screen with a raster program - most DMs will find it ideal.
Its drawbacks mostly come from the jagged edges your image might have if you zoom too far or rotate it.

Corel Draw, Inkscape, and Illustrator use Vector drawing. This sort of emphasizes pattern over colour and splash. Your lines are recorded as formulae in the image. This has the advantage that if you rescale or rotate the image the formula is revisited and clean smooth line is recreated to suite whatever change you've done.
The drawback of vector drawing IMHO is that the precise lines have to be a little better planned than raster images.

It sounds like either approach will get you where you want to go. I really suggest that you look at your old school maps as a first step on a slow journey. You might as well get a few miles down a productive path rather than learn a dead end simple simple program that fits only your immediate needs.


Sigurd

Just my .02

The Cartographist
07-10-2008, 11:04 AM
Torstan - I'd be interested in a short guideline for old school mapping. Don't know if you're going to do it, but you have my vote.

RobA
07-10-2008, 11:25 AM
I'd give dungeonforge a try http://www.dungeonmapping.com/df/public_html/

You have to register on the forums to download, but it is free. Get Dungeonforge, not MapX.

It is a grid based tilemapper. You can also find a whole set of oldschool icons for drag and drop building.

It is also designed for printing.

-Rob A>

Just wanted to follow up with an example. Here is a dungeonforge map made using the "Classic TSR tile and object set" available in the download section:

5086

-Rob A>

torstan
07-10-2008, 11:50 AM
I'll see what I can put together.

töff
07-10-2008, 12:36 PM
As mentioned on somebody's awesome redo of the Palace Of The Silver Princess maps, the old-school D&D style lacks door-opening-direction info. Amend it!

Another thing that bothers the holy-be outta me is the 10' grid. Now, there's nothing wrong with a scale system per se, but it seems to me that the 10' grid encourages dungeon designers to make 10' wide hallways, or even 30' wide hallways ... and we get these humongous 330'x590' rooms that are just absurd. Come on! You guys ever visit any medieval buildings? We got Brits in this forum come on, speak up: the doors are like 2' wide, the halls 3' wide. The hallway in my modern (i.e., not medieval) house is not 10' wide. My bedrooms are somewhere around 120'sq, which would be a little over one square on the grid. OK, I live in a small house, but I hope you get my point. Let's see some hallways that take HALF a square on that classic TSR 10' grid! Let's really think about scale, please! Don't let that darn default cyan grid overpower your common sense.

torstan
07-10-2008, 12:46 PM
Okay, I've started a tute on this over here:

http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=2461

I will be using a 5' grid as I am well aware that medieval buildings were pretty titchy :). I know that Gimp isn't the best tool for this job - probably illustrator or inkscape is the best weapon - but I prefer Gimp so that's what I'm writing the tute for. If someone else wants to do it for one of the other ones, please be my guest!

RobA
07-10-2008, 01:13 PM
Come on! You guys ever visit any medieval buildings? We got Brits in this forum come on, speak up: the doors are like 2' wide, the halls 3' wide.

That recalls this discussion on using a 1-meter grid (http://forums.gleemax.com/showthread.php?p=16134776)... (reposted in case you missed the first time.)

-Rob A>

töff
07-10-2008, 01:25 PM
I will be using a 5' grid ...
discussion on using a 1-meter grid... The thing is, TSR very well established the classic style as 10' squares. If you change the size of your grid, you need a really clear conspicuous scale on every map, because all the potbellied forty-something 1st-ed vets (like me) will assume 10' otherwise.

There's nothing wrong with a 10' grid. It's just when people don't think about the sizes of their designs that you run into absurdities.

töff
07-10-2008, 01:57 PM
Apologies to the mapper in question, as I know he was not really designing a dungeon, but ...

Here's a perfect example of how following that durn grid can seduce and corrupt one's mind.

torstan
07-10-2008, 02:31 PM
I absolutely agree. I'm recreating a TSR map, not drawing a realistic one. Obviously if I were to draw a good map I wouldn't have corridors of varying widths just because they were diagonal. However that diagonal corridor is exactly the style used in the early maps, so I thought it would give everyone a nostalgia hit :) Looks like it just brought out years of suppressed hatred of these maps :D

The request was for a simple map. This is simple, and if you don't want to be doing trig, in your head, the snap to grid gives you diagonal corridors that you can rule to be 10' wide (or 5' in this case actually :) ).

Edit: @Torq: it's okay - you can use my name. I'm not proud :)

töff
07-10-2008, 02:40 PM
drifting OT ...
years of suppressed hatred of these maps I wouldn't call it hatred, on my part, anyway. D&D occupies a position in my heart similar to Star Trek: I love them both, but I cannot delude myself into believing they are without many serious flaws. You just have to take them for what they are ... and when you see people doing NEW stuff in the same vein, warn them against falling into the same old pits.

Uther
07-13-2008, 05:24 PM
I don't want to sound like a Dungeoncrafter stock holder
...(Personally, I'd use Illustrator. But it ain't free.)

There's an Illustrator clone that is freeware. It's called Inkscape.
Check it out at:

http://www.Inkscape.org