View Full Version : General Maptool Cartography Question

01-18-2010, 08:29 PM
Greetings all!

I'm a newbie DM in general, and I'm planning a 4th Edition campaign for some of my buddies and I using Maptool. I'm starting simple, with a prefab adventure "Rescue at Rivenroar". Although it has maps included with the adventure, as you can see, they have spoiler markers all over them. Now, I have Photoshop and could probably hide them decently, but I figure this is as good a time to learn mapping as any, and reproducing the adventure maps is probably a better tutorial than starting from scratch.

As I'm sure you all know, the drawing tools in Maptool are extremely basic, though this has largely been fine for my purposes. For encounters set inside a tavern, in a stretch of town, or in the dungeon itself, simply texturing tiles and scattering some prefab objects for flavor have sufficed. It's not impressive, but it sets up encounters well enough. For an outdoor map, however, even one as simple as the one attached, Maptool either lacks the tools to draw decent cliffs/elevation, or I've yet to find adequate tutorials on how to do so.

Since Maptool isn't generally discussed as cartography software here, I assume that most experienced cartographers use different software and import their maps into the VTT and align the grids? I'm not a skilled freehand artist, so I'm not certain if more robust software like Photoshop would be to my advantage (besides adding an occasional filter, adjusting resolutions, and the like).

Long story short, I suppose my question would be: can a decent (if not gorgeous) replica of the map below be built within Maptool itself? Or would I be better off using a different program and importing the results?

01-18-2010, 09:28 PM
In the case of an outdoor map like that I'd say you're better off doing it outside maptool and importing it. Maptool doesn't do soft edges well when you're drawing textures so it's hard to have a smooth edge from a road to an angled bluff. Now importing it from an outside program you can do that just fine. Make sure that you set the scale correctly when you're drawing it - probably 50 pixels per grid cell in this case - so that the grid will line up properly when you drop it into maptool.

01-18-2010, 10:13 PM
Thanks for the advice! Any suggestions on which program I should use? I'm still looking for something relatively simple since, as I said, I'm no good at freehanding. Is Dundjinni robust enough to do cliffs/roads/etc?

01-18-2010, 10:31 PM
Dunjinni is more of a stamper...it uses premade pictures and you stamp them down all over the place. It does layers so that you can cover places and all in all it's not too shabby...the guys who really know how to use it make some great realistic looking maps. The only real drawback to DJ is that you have to download a lot of images from the user forums and that takes up a lot of space and then putting them into the right folders is time consuming too. If you're wanting more realistic then that's the way to go. If you're wanting more hand-drawn then I'd suggest a raster program like Gimp or Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro.

01-18-2010, 10:42 PM
Ah, much thanks. I was using loads of prefab objects in Maptool anyway, so I'll give DJ a look.

Mark Oliva
01-19-2010, 12:13 AM
Thanks for the advice! Any suggestions on which program I should use? I'm still looking for something relatively simple since, as I said, I'm no good at freehanding. Is Dundjinni robust enough to do cliffs/roads/etc?

I'll recommend the software our project group prefers, Fractal Mapper 8. It's easy to learn and use, and it can do all kinds of maps equally well. I'm also a Dundjinni user and fan. Dundjinni is great for dungeon mapping and encounter scenarios but has limitations in larger scale mapping. FM8 has the advantage that you can get the complete manual, which is an excellent tutorial, for free, and you can work your way through the manual and test the program free. If it's not the right software for you, you haven't lost a cent (or a pence, haleru or whatever). To download the test version, go to:


The test version and the full version are identical with two exceptions:

1. The test version can print the maps that you make, but it can't save them.

2. The test version comes with fewer symbols than the full version.

To get the complete manual/tutorial free, go to:


Steel General
01-19-2010, 01:37 PM
Welcome Aboard!

01-19-2010, 03:23 PM
Many thanks to everyone! I'll give these all a shot.