View Full Version : Hills and Swamp 3x3

07-31-2009, 03:36 PM
I'll be posting here as I go with a brief rundown on my steps. This is by no means a tutorial because the truth is: I have no freaking clue of what I'm doing! Here is some background to what I'm trying. I'm running an online game for 4e D&D. I first drew the map of the area the game will take place and showed it during character generation. You can see it here (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showpost.php?p=55362&postcount=12).

The players then decided they were going to base their operation from the small village of Kyndale. For the first session, I drew an area map posted below. I didn't post it before because it was a quick job that heavily borrowed elements from the first and didn't have much to contribute.

After the first session, the players determined they will explore the Twilight Swamp. You can see it to the southwest of Kyndale. Now I'm off to drawing that map. However, for this one, I wanted to do something different than the hand-drawn parchment style of the earlier two. I checked out Google maps and other drawn maps for that scale -- approximately 3x3 miles. From Google maps, terrain has shadows and discernible ridges. Forest show as textured bumps with shadows too. Other cartographers went with a 3D look. Now I had a direction.

I first considered doing the map with a 3D program and taking a snapshot from above, but the terrain didn't look good overhead. Shooting it from a different angle looked a lot better, but it was useless as a map. I don't know if it will work, but I'm going to try taking the pictures of the hills from a slight angle then dropping them into Gimp and tweaking from there. Below are some 3D symbols of a few hills. Over the weekend, I will draw four more and see what I can do in Gimp with it. This may work or be a complete waste of time. We'll see.

07-31-2009, 05:30 PM
Interesting method! I kind of like the idea of rendering the semi-isometric views, I can't say i've seen a map done that way yet, usually the isos are hand drawn :)

curiosity, which 3d program are you using? and the obvious question (since you didn't mention), did you set up a displacement map and a bump map when you tested it?

Steel General
08-01-2009, 08:37 AM
Interesting idea, looking forward to seeing your progress.

08-01-2009, 12:08 PM
Yeah, I'd draw the hills myself if I could draw! I figured instead I'll have the software draw them for me. ;) The textures and bumps are a prepackaged one that came with the software. It is Bryce 5.5 and at the time I downloaded it, the program was free. I tried finding it again to link to, but it looks like they took it down. :(

Before I continued, I thought I'd give placing a hill with Gimp and seeing what it looks like. I used the slate pattern as an overlay on a green background for texture and tweaked the color balance and hue. I then faded the edges of the hill and dropped it down. Here is the result along with the faded hill. I think it has potential.

08-02-2009, 08:14 AM
Here is an update. Below is the area surrounded by hills and two that may be considered mountains. You'll probably be able to spot which two. That's what I like most: the shapes are distinct. It's not realistic, but for a game, I think it is functional and aesthetically pleasing, especially an online game. As the players explore the area, more of the map will become visible. The hills will be immediately identifiable.

Those are done, but I still need to do a small river that comes in from the northwest and makes a swamp penned in the middle. I'm looking through the site and there are some amazing forests, but they seem to done with Photoshop. The rest of the map I will complete in GIMP, but I'm new to it and feeling a bit out of my element. :? If you know a link to a good tutorial for water and forests that will look good with this map and done in GIMP, please point the way.

08-02-2009, 08:36 AM
I suggest this link to a few people...


its the land registry in New Zealand and has lots of high res photos of the place covering a range of terrains including mountains and forests. Its a good source of what real terrain looks like and I think its of higher quality than the google set so far.

08-03-2009, 02:33 AM
Thanks, Redrobes. I agree those look better than Goggle Maps. It's good to know what the real thing looks like and at the high resolution, they should be good for grabbing textures.

Thanks to torstan's outstanding tutorial (http://www.cartographersguild.com/showthread.php?t=2035), below is the map update with water. I'm getting to experiment and following the tutorials allows me to see what the tools do. The irony of the map is I think it looks better the closer you get. The next and final step is the forests.

08-03-2009, 10:57 PM
Whew, I'm done! And not a moment too soon. The game is this Wednesday and I still have to stock the swamp. :)

I certainly learned a lot about GIMP working on this map. The advice and tutorials on these boards are truly top notch. I probably won't revisit this map again (like I said, game is this Wednesday) but I'd still appreciate any constructive criticism for my future maps.

08-03-2009, 11:27 PM
The only thing that I would add are some dead logs but you don't really have time for that. Looks pretty cool. Nice job.

08-04-2009, 11:30 AM
Thanks, Ascension. I considered throwing in more details, but I wondered how much would be visible from that altitude. Still, I know I took many liberties in showing stuff.

As a novice, I am realizing map making is a juggling act with three pins in the air. There is the aesthetic: a map should make someone want to examine it further. Then there is realism: we should be able to identify with objects because we immediately recognize them at the appropriate scale. The final pin is utility: we need to draw meaningful information for our task. It seems we can make some compromises, but we can never let a pin fall to the floor. I know you know this -- your maps are incredible. I'm just getting to know it and exploring how to balance all three.

08-04-2009, 04:43 PM
The fourth juggling pin is text and the fifth is extraneous graphics (compass, title, scalebar, grids, nice little pictures around the edges) and I always drop those :)