Recently after a 20 year gap I returned to thinking about D&D. I had ran a campaign many years ago and now my daughters are older and interested I wished to run a small campaign for them. This time however I wanted to learn more of the art of making a fantasy world live and breath. Luckily I had joined this website a while ago, when I felt the urge to do some role-playing returning.

My first thought was to make a map, I had often found in the past that just the act of putting something onto paper started me thinking about what was happening in that area of the map. So after some time spent looking at all the cool tools available to people these days I was most intrigued by a product used by a number of people here, Fractal Terrain Pro. I already had access to Photoshop and Illustrator at work, so I went and purchased Campaign Cartographer and Fractal Terrain Pro to round off my Software collection.

Fractal Terrain Pro turned out to be fascinating and the tutorials on this site and the authors helped make it usable. After attempting to make three or four worlds from the ground up, I finally got the hang of it (no expert mind, but I could get it to do most of the things I want). My latest world with the right touch ups, desert making and temperature fiddling turned out the way I wanted it to be. It took that long for me to "get" that I had to use the product to make the worlds I wanted, rather expect it to churn out perfect worlds from scratch. Once I "got" it, it turned out to be a great tool for the job and I would recommend it to anyone "making worlds"!

Armed with a world, I set out to find a 200mile long island to play with. After a quick look I noticed one perfectly placed in the southern hemisphere, and after a quick session of mountain raising and temperature fiddling it met my requirements perfectly. Oddly I also notice it had not had any generated rivers on it, although the rest of my world had a number, but more on this later.

Having found my Island, I named it the "Isle of Cathava" and saved the "View" of it in the view manager, and set about extracting the useful information from Fratal Terrain Pro. First of all I produced a large JPG file about 4096 pixels wide, with the shading turned on for land, and all the altitudes set to white, and the sea was black. I took this and opened it up in Photoshop, where I captured and moved the shading to a new layer, made a blank white outline of the island on another layer and saved it all for later as a PSD file. You can see an example below and if clicked upon will take you to a higher resolution image.

In FTP the island is pretty much covered in Temperate forest, apart from the top of the large mountain, which has some ice and tundra. The background story had a fallen Hobgoblin civilisation inhabiting the island, which had fragmented into a number of different tribes of Hobgoblins, Goblins and Bugbears (with a few other nasties thrown in here and there). Human settlers had arrived 40 years or so ago on the southern tip of the island and had rapidly spread north deforesting and settling en route.

Moving forward I wanted at least three maps, showing terrain, contours and political. As the contour information is held in FTP, I saved my view as a CC2 file, took it into campaign cartographer, where I saved it straight back out again as a DXF file. I loaded the DXF file into Adobe Illustrator, selected all the contour lines and cut and pasted them as a smart object onto my map in photoshop in another window. After a small amount of resizing and placement it fit exactly where I wanted it to and I had the start of my contour map.

With a little selecting and painting of Hypsometric colors stolen from an 1880's french map on I had the basics of a reasonable contour map, after quickly turning on the shading layer (relief from now on) and halving the opacity we end up with a contour map which you can see below, click on it for a larger version: -

With the contour map almost finished (still need rivers), I moved onto playing with textures for the terrain map, this process was more complex than I can explain here. Suffice to say the southern tip has significantly less forest to account for the encroaching settlers. Anyway to cut to the chase here it is, unfinished, but starting to come together. Again, you can click for a larger version: -

As you can see I added a scale, compass rose and some text, I am still unhappy with the scale and plan to remove it and try again with something less modern looking, the rest is ok. Also please note no rivers ...

Then with increasing confidence I grabbed hold of Wilbur (from the author of FTP), exported the view of my island as an MDR and headed off to generate some rivers. Only to be sadly thwarted, when the rivers seemed to do all kinds of weird things. If anyone else can get it working, I would love to see the result, here is a link to the MDR file I exported from FTP.


Not being one to be put off, until I can work out how to get Wilbur to do what I want, I read the river police thread and attempted to add my own rivers. It would be most helpful if anyone could check them over for me and tell me where I have made any mistakes in placement. Once again please click for a larger image, in addition this time a yet larger image is also available below: -

Much larger image (2mb)

There are notes regarding river placement on the map itself, these reflect changes which need to be transferred back to the source maps.

Please note these maps are all works in progress and as such may be a little rough in certain parts. I would be interested in any comments anyone has to share as this is my first foray into mapping.