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Thread: Bladechapel battlemap (using Illustrator)

  1. #1

    Wip Bladechapel battlemap (using Illustrator)

    I'm running a Pathfinder campaign set in Ptolus (a city setting created by Monte Cook). Within this setting is a group called the Knights of the Pale (sort of anti-outsider/anti-undead crusaders with the blessing of the government), based in Bladechapel, the mansion/fortress of their leader.

    Some bad things are about to happen to the Knights of the Pale, so I thought I'd flesh out the house as a battlemap, both to use in my campaign and to learn Illustrator a bit better. I prefer vector software for mapping, but want to try some tricks to make it look not quite so stark. As this is a battlemap, and I don't want to go totally insane, I will probably furnish the map using raster bitmaps placed in various places rather than build couches and beds and stuff from vectors. I want floor textures and such to be vector textures though.

    I couldn't find any existing maps of Bladechapel on the net. The only source comes from the Ptolus book itself, and the city map that accompanies it. On a very high resolution map of the city, the building is represented like so:

    The description in the book says:

    The two-story house is practically a fortress and could easily be made truly defensible if needed. It boasts its own chapel dedicated to Lothian, an impressive martial training facility, and a large armory. … The major decorations in every room are shields, crossed swords, and unique or historical weapons carefully mounted and well cared for.
    Scale on that map shows the building to be about 200 feet wide.

    I'll try to post progress as I go.
    Last edited by Wordman; 02-22-2013 at 02:23 AM.

  2. #2


    Some preliminary work, mostly just blocking out the rooms. Also a bit of texture work using vector patterns (mostly live traced from bitmaps). A couple of places have some detail (the table, carpet and other objects in the "war room" are placed bitmaps, just to see how that works). The shadows on the stairs in the chapel is me trying to learn how to use meshes.

    At battlemap scale, a 200' building is really huge. I'm making the map bigger than I really need at first, so there is quite a bit of space dedicated to the grounds. Will probably trim that off in the final version.

    Oh, the swirly bit at the top is a fountain, based on the Knights of the Pale's emblem, which is a sword stabbing deep into a blue vortex (killing the outsiders before they come through, I suppose).

    Anyway, the ground floor, with labels (and very reduced in scale):

  3. #3


    Second floor is a bit weirder. I'm making the building a bit "split level", where the rooms on the ground floor don't all have the same ceiling hight. The rectangular core of the building (the parts of the first floor that support the rooms of the second) are quite high (perhaps 20 feet or so), with the outer bits of the ground are shorter (perhaps 12 feet, still pretty high). This does slightly hard to follow things to the stairs, but don't worry about it. Just realize that the residential part of the second floor is actually a bit higher than the stone roof.

    Obviously, this is even more blocky and unfinished than the progress on the ground floor. The parts currently in pink typically overlook down into the ground floor.

  4. #4


    The roof is pretty much just blocking at this point. It also has a bit of a "split level" thing going on. The outer part is flat, meant to allow patrols. The block of blue will be a sloping roof; however, it is elevated by a row of short windows that let light into the ballroom below. For a soldier walking on the flat roof, the windows would be right at his feet and only come up to his mid thigh or so. None of that will be at all obvious from the map itself, which makes me want to build a Sketchup file of the bones of the place.

  5. #5


    It's looking good - I like the way you have tried to remain faithful to the building footprint.

    If I may offer a few suggestions, I would be tempted to have the roofed upper floor section be really high so it can have massive windows to allow in light. I think your outer building wall should be thicker too as currently it is the same width as the internal walls. And some large pilllars in the central atrium to support the upper sections would make sense structurally and would be interesting features.

  6. #6


    Nice job ! I like the way you've defined the role of the different rooms.

  7. #7


    Writing down some steps for making stairs using just semi-transparent gradient fills and meshes (no raster effects), so they can be layered over any terrain. Technique might be useful for others looking to move to vector-based maps. (This is all using Illustrator)

    1. Set grid to gridline every inch, with 5 subdivisions. This puts the main grid at battlemap 1 inch = 5 feet scale, with one foot squares inside each main square. Turn on snap to grid.
    2. Make a rectangle object 1" by 0.2" (at scale, 5 feet by 1 foot). Remove the stroke color. This object will be one stair in the staircase.
    3. Set the fill to be a gradient. You want the gradient to start off strong, but fade to nothing quickly. Three points on the gradient, all black: point a: location 0%, opacity 0%; point b: location 40%, opacity 0%; point c: location 100%, opacity 90%[/li]. The diamonds on top of the gradient control where the midpoint of the transition between the two points is. Since a and b are the same color and opacity, there is no transition, so the diamond between them doesn't matter. Put the one between b and c at 75%, which concentrates the more opaque fill at one end.
    4. With the stair selected, option-shift-drag to duplicate the stair. (Alternately, use the transform dialogs to make a copy 0.2 inches up from the selected stair.)
    5. Use "Transform Again" (cmd-D) to build as many stairs in the staircase as you need (I made a 10 foot section in this example).
    6. Select all the stairs you made and group them.
    7. Set the grid to gridline every inch, with 1 subdivision, making it look more like a battlemap grid.
    8. You can transform the stairs, such as stretching them along their own axis to make a wider staircase, or rotate around:
    9. These stairs will be going down, so shadows need to be added to give depth and indication direction. The shadows are a tricky shape, as they need to get darker as you go down the stairs, but also further from the edge of the wall to show that stairs are getting further away from the floor you are leaving. Since the shape is pretty odd, this is a job for a mesh. Make a black rectangle that covers the stairs entirely. Remove its stroke.
    10. Turn off snap to grid.
    11. Select the mesh tool. It is a tricky beast, and difficult to explain. This graphic will show you the results of the next six steps, right next to each other:
    12. Using the mesh tool, click in the black rectangle to build division points. Click the dead center of the rectangle to divide it into four quadrants. Next, divide the top two quadrants in half by clicking on the center of the line between those two quadrants. Now cut the top section in half again. You should now see what is in the first rectangle of the image above.
    13. You need some more vertical divisions, so click on the horizontal center line, twice on either side. You now have a mesh with five lines running side to side, and seven lines running up and down.
    14. At the intersection of each of those lines is a point which controls the fill of the mesh at that point. The mesh will transition between the points seamlessly. Each of these points works like most Bézier curve points, and they can be selected individually with the hollow arrow tool. Select each intersection point and set its opacity (you will keep the color black at all points). Each row has seven selection points. Set them like so:
      1. All points in the top row should be 100% opaque (maybe 90% or 95% if you want less harsh shadows; we'll stick with 100% for this example).
      2. The ends of the next row should also be 100%, with all the others set to 70%.
      3. Third row should be: 100%, 50%, 45%, 40%, 45%, 50%, 100%
      4. Fourth row: 100%, 40%, 0%, 0%, 0%, 40%, 100%
      5. Bottom row: Ends should be 40%, the rest 0%.
    15. Now move the points around to deform the mesh into a shape that creates the shadows you need.
    16. Deselect the mesh to see how it looks.
    17. Move the mesh on top of the stairs and check it out. Group the mesh to the stairs. You can play with the point positions and values to tune the mesh.

    At this point, you have an overlay which makes any underlying material look like a decent approximation of stairs, vector style. Throw some different materials underneath to see how they look:

    Sometimes, you need to tune the fills and opacity and such depending on the underlaying material. Looking at the examples above, the gradient used for each step may be a little too tight, for instance.
    Last edited by Wordman; 02-27-2013 at 01:31 PM.

  8. #8
    Community Leader Guild Donor Bogie's Avatar
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    Nov 2011
    Maine, USA


    Excellent! There are a number of similar stair shadow overlays that I use from the DundJinni Forums, but you did a really nice job with these. Could you post the ones you made in png format so we can use them?

  9. #9


    I'm running out of time (need to play using this map soon), so this probably won't be as "done" as I'd like it. It's also a bit of a hodge-podge of styles, since I'm grabbing what I can. I'm also starting to hit Illustrator CS5's 32-bit memory limits, which is sort of demoralizing.

    I've been figuring that this entire house was probably built using a bunch of wall of stone spells over an extended period. Since this spell automatically merges new castings into old, the whole building would be seamless and probably gives the appearance of being carved out single huge block of rock.

    The final form of this map will be in a PDF, the map divided up into pages for printing. It will probably not look exactly like this, but I don't think I'll have the time to push it much further. Here is the latest ground floor:

  10. #10


    The second floor is a bit more "done", though still needs some textures in spots and could use some shadows for depth and better walls:

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