Hail from Knoxville, TN
Hey all. I came to know of this Guild through Deviantart and, I gotta say, it looks pretty cool. I have been playing D&D for the better part of nine years and have always made my own maps, though not on the level I have seen on this site. As such, I am really amped to learn from all of you to hone my craft.
So, does anyone have a good starting point for me? My experience doesn't go much outside of using pencil to paper. I have yet to ever try out any sort of photo editing software.
Welcome to the Guild.
I'm sure more will reply with their suggestions, but I'd recommend deciding on a type of map you'd like to make first. Type really means size - as in do you want an entire Campaign map (could be thousand of miles in size), a regional map that is maybe 100 miles in size, or a local map that covers a small village or dungeon and is hundreds of feet in size.
Once you decide that, then I'd suggest going to the forum for that type of map and start checking out existing Works in Progress (WIP), and certainly the featured map archive. If you find one that really nails what you'd love to have, then you have a starting point to try and achieve.
From there, check out the software forum stickies. In there are links and info on many different types of Software, ranging from completely free like The Gimp, Inkscape, and RPG Tools:Maptools - to paid software like Paint Shop Pro, Photoshop, Illustrator and Campaign Cartographer 3.
Check out the Tutorials section as well, since many of them supply variants on different styles of making a mountain range - as just one example.
Whatever you decide, know that you've discovered a veritable treasure trove of info akin to the great archeologists of lore.
Cheers and good luck,
Of the maps I typically draw, they range between all three that you mentioned though I lean towards making campaign-sized maps the most. Right now, I am working on a fully realized campaign setting for D&D 3.5 that I call "Wild Country". The continent is called Pedheros (pronounced peth-uh-ros) that is made up of two majorly fortified cities and unforgiving wild outside their walls.
The maps I would like to start with would be the campaign map of Pedheros and then two city maps, one for the Human kingdom of Darganon, an immense walled-in city akin to something like Minas Tirith and one for the underground Dwarven city of Benmar.
If your experience has all been paper-based, does that mean you have no digital graphics tools at hand? Many Guildspeople get good results out of The GIMP, and it's both free and capable. It's a raster type app, if that makes sense. There's a free-and-excellent vector-based tool as well - Inkscape. I use a product that's free in it's early versions; still modestly priced at its current version - Serif Software's PhotoPlus. If you don't need nor want to stick with the free end of the spectrum, there are many possible tools - check out a thread that reviews dozens of map-useful graphics packages, the List of Mapping Software thread. There's some other good info in that Software Discussion forum too.
The Quickstart Guide to Fantasy Mapping thread is a good place to start. And the FAQ thread.....
Oh, and welcome! I used to live in Oak Ridge - nice surroundings you have there.