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Thread: dnd mapper trying digital approach

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      Gold is offline
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    Default dnd mapper trying digital approach

    Thank you all for the helpful website and cool maps gallery. I have been reading Cartographer's Guild on-and-off for a couple years, studying especially recently, and finally decided to Register, join, post and say hello, and thanks. Seems like there is a wave of Introduction posts from new people like me, saying thank you, introducing ourselves, and mentioning what we are working on map-wise.

    Always loved maps, don't we all! Many maps hang on my walls and in my collections. I admire the cartographers of print and online published maps. Real world and fantasy RPG (old school D&D and Tolkien inspired are favorites of mine). Atlases of the real world are cherished and studied, along with Google Earth and Google Maps. AD&D world settings like Forgotten Realms (many box sets with poster maps) and third party published or creative-commons shared maps, are all excellent for looking over, as well.

    For some decades since childhood I have created novice handdrawn maps, occasionally. Mostly dungeon maps on graph paper, overland maps handdrawn not-to-scale.

    Recently I am trying my hand at digital map making. I have Photoshop and Illustrator with moderate training. I use them for work, and I know they are plenty powerful for creating maps from scratch, but I think it would be fun to work in a map-making program instead of starting with a blank page. I'm interested in the fantasy map making software, for faster world creation and displaying at different map projections, then zooming in to campaign-level, regional level, and city-state level.

    Currently trying the 14-day trial of Fractal Terrains, and interested in trying Campaign Cartographer -- might buy, both from ProFantasy. Also looking at NBOS products, Fractal Mapper.

    What I am trying to do, restated --- Create a whole world overview, view it as a globe, zoom in and make a map of a continent level. Then zoom in, make a regional level map. Then zoom in, make a state map. Then zoom in, make a city-area map. Each map with more detail, but not needing to detail the whole world at the regional detail amount. This world is completely made-up, however, as DM, I am fitting some module settings into the landscape, and I have certain restrictions for where these towns, environments, climates, should be located in relation to each other. Example: Coastal town with lizard swamp nearby, mountains off to the North. Some of the usual tropes to get the variety of overland settings. Then be able to overlay a nice grid (probably hex, with smaller hexes inside it), and be able to demonstrate and measure distances.

    Any overview tips on how to approach this ^^ would be welcome. Which software, which tutorials, which add-ons or macros or annuals or styles to start with? (From lots of reading online, I currently lean towards buying CC3, along with Fractal Terrains. Also I am picking up on the tip of getting a Wacom tablet to try with my Photoshop.)

    Thanks for making this forum as a place to find tips and answers, and ask when I have specific questions!

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      Hai-Etlik is offline
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    Well, depending on how in depth you want to get, you might want to try looking at some real world GIS software (QuantumGIS for instance) rather than things like Campaign Cartographer which is really more of a specialized graphics editor (which isn't necessarily a bad thing as it is a lot easier to use than a GIS)

    Working with true spherical geometry with only graphics tools is hard. Working with spherical geometry even with the right tools can be hard. So if you want to make your world really work as a sphere, you are going to have to learn a bit of theory behind geography/cartography and spherical geometry.

    Most of the people on the guild don't bother with this and if you don't know how to do it right, then you probably won't notice it being wrong. Many people get by with maps where their world is effectively flat or cylindrical rather than spherical (let alone the spheroidal models we use in real life). Such maps will often look blatantly wrong to anyone who knows anything about geography though.

    The zooming in thing you want in particular is difficult. If you want a decent map, you need to pick a projection suitable to the particular extent of the map. A projection suitable for a global map is not going to work for larger scale maps. (In cartography speak "scale" is what you might think of as "zoom" so "large scale" is zoomed in). This is because all projections of the curved globe onto a flat map will cause distortion. If you have a restricted extent, you want to pick a projection that minimizes distortion within that particular extent. So just zooming in will cause problems if you zoom in on a distorted area.

    Web maps like Google Maps cheat by using the Mercator projection which gives passable results at large scales but is only really a good choice at smaller scales for certain kinds of navigational map (which is what it was designed for). it was widely used for world reference maps for a while, but wasn't a good choice. It's a really bad choice for maps at the scale of continents or large countries particularly in high latitudes (It really screws up Canada and Russia for instance.) The reason it sort of works is that Mercator preserves angles, while distorting area. Over extents where the amount of distortion doesn't change much, it looks pretty close to what a tailored projection would have given you. Over larger extents though, it is quite obvious.

    One option somewhat simpler than all out GIS is to use "G.Projector", a free Java tool made by NASA. It can take a map in a Normal Equidistant Cylindrical projection (also known as Equirectangular) and project it into a wide range of other projections. Equidistant Cylindrical projections aren't a good choice for finished maps as they have particularly unpleasant distortion. However, you you can lay out your world using this projection, and raw the appropriate distortion into it, you can then easily reproject it and then make finished maps from that. It's not as flexible as with GIS, but it's a lot easier to get started. The big downsides being there's no way work backward from other projections, and that it doesn't support vector data.

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      Gold is offline
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    Awesome reply. Thanks for that, Hai-Etlik. Let me say that I am a rank amateur, and not trained in geology. However I have studied maps in my spare time, for many years, so I know of globes, Mercator projection, and Equirectangular projection. Plus I have played with the Fractal Terrains demo, looking at zoomed (scaled) maps in the 10+ projection types offered (while reading the descriptions of each projection, stating the PROS and CONS of where and how much distortion occurs on each projection type).

    This is for fantasy tabletop gaming. Myself, and all my players, are NOT experts of geology. It is acceptable if the geology is somewhat unrealistic. I want the geology to look cool, and to accomodate the various climate types and locations I need for my game world settings. I want it to scale believably and consistently, so that if there is a large island we find in the game, the island can be located as a spot on the globe if you look at the near-global scale.

    One feature I decided to make "realistic" is matching the Earth size, circumference. Therefore I can overlay a same-scale orthographic projection of Earth (showing North America and South America, Western Hemisphere), on top of my fantasy world map orthographic projection of the important hemisphere where the campaign takes place. That way you can compare, "Oh this would be like the distance from Maine to Oregon". I am experimenting with this (pulled Fractal Terrains orthographic into Photoshop and overlay Earth) and it seems to work.

    So, Hai-Etlik, I have generated a globe that I am happy enough with (Fractal Terrains). When I eventually post a sample graphic, you will see it is not totally "realistic" but it is fairly cool in my opinion. The 4 continent sizes, coastlines, polar caps, and amount of islands, are pretty good. It has some unrealstic massive mountain-region blobs, instead of proper linear mountain range fingers, so this is wrong for geology. But this will not cause any problem in my game-world setting. It's ok. Frost-giants and baddies live in the mountains.

    Note the continent where the game campaign takes place, has ended up matching similar latitude of North America, and the central campaign area is equivalent to Minnesota, Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Vancouver, and Lower Canada. Later parts of the campaign may stretch to an area of the continent that is on latitude equivalent to Alaska and more Northern Canada just below the Arctic Circle. The giant blob of mountains in this continent happens to cover the space that would be half of Canada -- not realistic but acceptable for me, for now.

    I may be wrong here, but I am strongly thinking about using my global from Fractal Terrains (thus not going to GIS or anything like that, only CC3 or Photoshop, unless FT can make something that's compatible with the GIS in a good way... like if I try FT's equirectangular going into NASA's G.Projector.)

    Consider that I have the global world already developed in FT to my satisfaction (for now). If I purchase Fractal Terrains (around $40), then I can export formats properly. Thus I can make my satisfactory globe into:

    • Spinning animated globe;
    • Orthographic projections (how many should I make? 2, 4, 6, or 8? The most important is the "western hemisphere" wherein lies the entire game campaign setting. The other sides of the globe are just for show.).
    • Mercator projection(s) at any scale.
    • Equirectangular projection(s) at any scale.
    • CC3 file at any scale using my projection of choice, so, importing my continent or state/region to CC3 should be Ok in Equirectangular or maybe Mercator right?



    The questions I am pondering right now:

    How many Mercator and-or Equirectangular maps, and what scales? Where to use Fractal Terrains, and whether to use Photoshop, or CC3 at all from there?

    My thinking is currently as follows. Please critique / advise.

    GLOBAL SCALE:

    Make spinning globe animation in Fractal Terrains. No added symbols, words, borders, or paths. (Rivers are shown).

    Make orthographic projection (in FT) of Western Hemisphere.

    Make supplemental orthographic projection of West, with real-Earth orthographic projection overlaying, to see relative size and latitude of continents.

    Make Mercator projection of the whole world. (No known purpose, might be nice to have it later?). No added symbols or text, for now, because 3 out of 4 major continents will not be developed at this time.

    Make Equirectangular projection of the whole world. (No known purpose, might be nice to have it later?). No added symbols or text, for now.

    CONTINENT SCALE:

    Make a zoomed Continent scale map, Mercator or Equirectangular? (Like Asia or North America). Import or screenshot this to CC3 or Photoshop to add regional borders?

    CAMPAIGN SCALE:

    Make a more zoomed Campaign scale map, smaller than Continent, Mercator or Equirectangular? (Like the Northern half of USA). Import to CC3 or Photoshop to add regional borders, major towns, and show rivers?

    REGIONAL AREAS SCALE:

    Make a more zoomed Starting Area regional scale map, smaller subset of the Campaign area, Mercator or Equirectangular? (Like the state of Tennessee) Import to CC3 or Photoshop to add major towns, minor towns, rivers, river crossings, and roads?

    Make 2nd map zoomed to same scale as Starting Area, but scooted over to the West where the game will progress eventually. (Like Michigan). Import to CC3 or Photoshop to add major towns, minor towns, rivers, river crossings, and roads?

    Make a 3rd map zoomed to same scale as Starting Area, but scooted far to the West where the game will go in distant future. (Like Vancouver Island). Import to CC3 or Photoshop to add major towns, minor towns, rivers, river crossings, and roads?

    CITYSTATE REGION SCALE:

    Make a super-zoomed City-Region map of the Home area. (Like Nashville area in square miles but much much smaller town inside that area). Import to CC3 or Photoshop to add major buildings, surrounding farms, roads, and pathways?

    Make a super-zoomed City-Region map of the Bay-Town area. (Like Chicago area in square miles but much smaller town inside that area). Import to CC3 or Photoshop to add major buildings, surrounding farms, roads, and pathways?

    Thanks in advance for feedback from anyone who has experience in this.

    Hai-Etlik, I do take into account your 1st reply. I thought you might say more once I provided a bit more details of my project.

    Ok, I realized I may need to move my questions to another forum outside my introduction..
    Last edited by Gold; 01-20-2013 at 12:07 AM.

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      Gold is offline
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    tl;dr short summary of the next question:

    So if I have a globe in FT

    And I make a Mercator or Equirectangular projection, and zoom in to a region like a continent or a state,

    from there would it be best to export to CC3, or make a big JPG-PNG-BMP and go into Photoshop,

    for the purpose of adding town locations, roads, political borders, and painting nicer rivers over FT's river-vectors?

    It seems to be a question for anyone who uses Fractal Terrains, unless I switch to another method..

    It's also a question of the best projection to use for a continent in the Northern hemisphere that is like Asia or North America in latitudes.
    Last edited by Gold; 01-20-2013 at 12:06 AM.

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      Hai-Etlik is offline
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    Orthographic isn't usually a good projection for reference maps (It is good for "locator" type maps like the country maps in Wikipedia). It's essentially a view of the planet from deep space. So so toward the edges of the map everything is "foreshortened" making it squashed looking. You mention wanting to measure distance. I'm afraid you aren't going to make a map covering an entire hemisphere where you can measure distances to scale.

    dnd mapper trying digital approach-west-ortho.png

    If you want a reference map of a hemisphere, I'd recommend the stereographic projection. It keeps shapes looking nice and recognizable, but distorts their sizes. In this way it's similar to Mercator (They are both "conformal") but it is centred on a point and has maximum (infinite) distortion at the antipodal point (the opposite side of the globe) where Mercator is "centred" on the equator, with infinite distortion at both poles. Those maps that have the two hemispheres side by side are generally done using stereographic projections centred at antipodal points on the equator.

    dnd mapper trying digital approach-stereo-mars.jpeg
    dnd mapper trying digital approach-west-stereo.pngdnd mapper trying digital approach-east-stereo.png

    Which projections are best for a continent depends on the details of the shape of the continent and a degree of judgement about which properties and which parts are important. My go to projections for reference maps of continents are Lambert Conformal Conic, Stereographic, and sometime Transverse Mercator. In general, LCC tends to be good in high latitudes, particularly if the extent runs longest east-west. Transverse Mercator is good for extents that are more north-south. Stereographic is good for more compact shapes.

    North America:
    LCC: dnd mapper trying digital approach-lcc-na.png Stereo: dnd mapper trying digital approach-stereo-na.png

    Western North America:
    LCC: dnd mapper trying digital approach-lcc-west-na.png Stereo: dnd mapper trying digital approach-stereo-west-na.png

    Equirectangular is useful as something to feed into simple software like G.Projector. It's also useful if you want to wrap it around a 3d sphere in a 3D graphic program. It is not a good choice for finished maps though.

    dnd mapper trying digital approach-equidistant.png

    Mercator is designed for marine navigation, and it's also useful for zoomable maps on the web. Historically it has been used for reference maps of the world, although it is poorly suited to this and has largely been replaced by modern projections like Robinson and Winkel Tripel.

    dnd mapper trying digital approach-mercator.png

    I'm afraid I'm not too familiar with any of the software you are using. As I understand it, Fractal Terrains has some limited capability for projections, and the rest (CC, Photoshop, and Illustrator) only work in euclidean geometry. Photoshop should have some filters that can pull off what are effectively come very simple projection transformations (Between normal equidistant cylindrical and polar equidistant azimuthal) under different names.

    You'll probably want to either, do all your design of the world in Fractal Terrains (I don't know how much this is practical) and then export to your finished projection, or export to an equirectangular/equidistant cylindrical image, edit that in Photoshop to add/edit the features (don't worry about making it pretty at this point) then use G.Projector to convert to your final projection, and pretty up the resulting image.

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      Vellum is offline
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    Gold, welcome and thanks for the questions

    Hai-Etlik maybe we should move this to (or make a GIS subforum) a separate post. I've no skill at GIS / projections / conversions etc as we know from my elementary questions previously posted. Gold's questions helped me some with the broad overview of the process. I also for one appreciate the help you give out here.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hai-Etlik View Post
    You mention wanting to measure distance. I'm afraid you aren't going to make a map covering an entire hemisphere where you can measure distances to scale.

    ...

    You'll probably want to either, do all your design of the world in Fractal Terrains (I don't know how much this is practical) and then export to your finished projection, or export to an equirectangular/equidistant cylindrical image, edit that in Photoshop to add/edit the features (don't worry about making it pretty at this point) then use G.Projector to convert to your final projection, and pretty up the resulting image.
    Thanks again for continuing to answer.

    I want to measure "approximate" distances on the world map. For example something like distance from Hawaii to Oregon, or Maine. Or Oregon to Alaska. It would be nice to know the distance rounded-off to the nearest 100-miles. Does not need to be more accurate than 100 miles, at world scale.

    I want to measure somewhat more accurately on the Continent, region, state, and city-state scale. I probably want to overlay a hex-map grid on the state and city-state scales. These distances will be used to measure overland travel -- for example, 6 days ride by horse, or 12 days walking, or how-many-miles.

    Fractal Terrains (world software from profantasy) has distance measuring tool, that even works on the globe. You may not know it has this feature. I do not know if the feature is accurate but it seems reasonable enough. It works to measure even on Orthographic map. It actually draws a curved line on the apparent globe surface indicating the start-point and end-point of a distance route. I understand this measuring may not normally be possible on Orthographic, but remember FT knows the mathamatical layout of the world in many different projections.

    So I put my custom FT Orthographic, and I overlay a "real world" Orthographic. Now using the Fractal Terrains I measured from the point that overlaps "New York City" to the point that overlaps "Los Angeles" (on my fantasy map, different shape continenent but overlapping land mass at similar latitudes). FT measures some 2200 miles. I expected to see 2400 miles. I think it's close enough. It seems to work in my experiment. I could be wrong.

    Later I will post a graphic of this Orthographic overlay, when I feel ready to post and show it here.

    In conclusion, if I cannot measure distances on my hemisphere map, that's Okay. I would like to measure it ("How far is China from California?"), but it won't affect the game. The in-game travel will only cover part of a continent, maybe 1500 miles x 1500 miles region size for the maximum travel to be measured ("in a year we travel from New York to Colorado"), and typically more like 20 to 200 miles (to be measured on a zoomed scale map not on the hemisphere map).

    Quote Originally Posted by Hai-Etlik View Post
    You'll probably want to either, do all your design of the world in Fractal Terrains (I don't know how much this is practical) and then export to your finished projection, or export to an equirectangular/equidistant cylindrical image, edit that in Photoshop to add/edit the features (don't worry about making it pretty at this point) then use G.Projector to convert to your final projection, and pretty up the resulting image.
    Agreed. You helped crystalize that choice nicely, and I had not thought about the G.Projector method until this thread. Now I will consider that alternative.

    As for what I have completed in FT, I probably need to upload images and show you. I feel that the continents and coastlines are good. But FT has zero abilities for adding City, Roads, Political Borders. It only has mountains, oceans, rivers, lakes, coastlines, islands, Climate, Temperature, Rainfall, geophysical features.

    Now I need to export various projections and scales out of FT, and into another software for adding Cities, Borders, roads and paths.

    In the profantasy software line, they expect you to export to CC3 (Campaign Cartographer, $40) to add Cities, Borders, Roads, and Touchup. I have not found a free demo of CC3 so I have not tested how this works & would like to hear from Cartographers on this site who used the profantasy software to do this. Because I don't have the CC3 instructions, I don't know what settings they recommend for exporting FT to CC3. And I don't know what projection and scale the CC3 map would be (?).

    From what Hai-Etlik said, a possibly next step is exporting Equirectangular from FT, import to G.Projector to "pretty up". So would G Projector give me nice features for adding cities and borders and roads? I will look into it.
    Last edited by Gold; 01-20-2013 at 04:34 PM.

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      Hai-Etlik is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gold View Post
    Thanks again for continuing to answer.

    I want to measure "approximate" distances on the world map. For example something like distance from Hawaii to Oregon, or Maine. Or Oregon to Alaska. It would be nice to know the distance rounded-off to the nearest 100-miles. Does not need to be more accurate than 100 miles, at world scale.

    I want to measure somewhat more accurately on the Continent, region, state, and city-state scale. I probably want to overlay a hex-map grid on the state and city-state scales. These distances will be used to measure overland travel -- for example, 6 days ride by horse, or 12 days walking, or how-many-miles.
    I'm afraid it's going to be significantly worse accuracy than that.


    Quote Originally Posted by Gold View Post
    Fractal Terrains (world software from profantasy) has distance measuring tool, that even works on the globe. You may not know it has this feature. I do not know if the feature is accurate but it seems reasonable enough. It works to measure even on Orthographic map. It actually draws a curved line on the apparent globe surface indicating the start-point and end-point of a distance route. I understand this measuring may not normally be possible on Orthographic, but remember FT knows the mathamatical layout of the world in many different projections.
    Yes, that sounds like they are using spherical distance calculations in the background so it should be reasonably accurate. The problem I was talking about is if you try to measure a straight line distance on the map itself and then use that.

    In the profantasy software line, they expect you to export to CC3 (Campaign Cartographer, $40) to add Cities, Borders, Roads, and Touchup. I have not found a free demo of CC3 so I have not tested how this works & would like to hear from Cartographers on this site who used the profantasy software to do this. Because I don't have the CC3 instructions, I don't know what settings they recommend for exporting FT to CC3. And I don't know what projection and scale the CC3 map would be (?).
    Presumably whatever they were when you exported from Fractal Terrains.

    From what Hai-Etlik said, a possibly next step is exporting Equirectangular from FT, import to G.Projector to "pretty up". So would G Projector give me nice features for adding cities and borders and roads? I will look into it.
    No, G.Projector can only reproject and add a graticule. That's it. I meant you could add any features you wanted to the equirectangular map using Fractal Terrains, or a conventional image editor, then run it through G.Projector to get it into the projection you want for the final map, then load it into an image editor again (CC, Photoshop, Illustrator, whatever) and draw your finished map on top of it.

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