During the past week, I have been working almost exclusively on my large scale campaign map. It is coming along very nicely. Another week should see it close to being done. However, “done” may not be the right word. There will always be more that can be done, new ideas to try out, more development to do in some areas. As the campaign itself progresses, story ideas will certainly inspire more modifications to the map. I had intended to work on it for a couple of weeks and then send it off to the printer. Now I suspect I will fiddle with it, off and on, for months before I commit to it being “done” enough to send to the printer.
I am so pleased that I decided to design my map in Campaign Cartographer! Although I have used it for years, I’ve never taken the time to develop any real skill with it. It seems pretty intimidating but once I set my fears aside and just started trying to learn it, I picked it up very quickly and feel that I’m really getting quite good already.
Being based on a CAD engine has a number of significant benefits. The greatest of which is the resolution independence. I decided that my map will cover an area of 500 miles square. But I don’t have to even consider the size of the image. I can export the finished image at a size that fits my computer screen, or a tiny thumbnail, or an enormous map that shows one mile to the inch. Each map will have the same quality and no pixilation. If I designed the map in PhotoShop to be printed at a certain size at 300 dpi and then decided I wanted 600 dpi instead, I couldn’t do it. I’d either have a map half the size or resize it and create pixilation. I love working in PhotoShop but I will probably do all my future mapping in CC3.
My Current Map
I am by no means finished. But I think it is really starting to take shape. The large scale design work is done and now I’m working on details to give it a more finished look.
My biggest stumbling block at the moment is what to do with the “Valley of a Thousand Caves”. I want to create a visual that implies that the area really lives up to that name. But what I’ve done so far ends up far too busy and just looks out of place.
Another feature I’m struggling with is what to do with the forests. I have a bright green background where all the forests go but I can’t come up with a texture I’m happy with to represent the trees. Campaign Cartographer comes with a number of tree symbols and textures that use those symbols to make it easy to map them to an area. But I don’t want the trees to be the size of mountains. If I scale them down to a more reasonable size, the texture just doesn’t have the look I want. I do, however, have a number of realistic, top-down images of individual trees. I’ll try using those, at a very small scale, and see if I can create what I’m looking for. I really kind of like the look of the forest background that I’m using now. I’m considering leaving forests as they are and not bothering to put any texture over the background.
Recently, I added a number of icons indicating something about the area or feature they are next to. Particularly nasty threats have an evil skull next to them. Friendly ports have a ship anchored nearby. Dwarves, elves, gnomes, and hobbits have a symbol indicating their settlements. I’m still debating as to whether I like these or not. Sometimes I think they look great and really add something. Other times I think they just look silly. I’ll just have to mull that over a while.
What Not To Show
The human, and demi-human, civilization occupies the central portion of the map. Major features of the rest of the map are shown but there are vast, fairly featureless sections that are that way intentionally. They are, for the most part, unexplored lands. There are a few tidbits thrown in to pique my players’ interests but they need to explore those areas themselves to see what is there.
I will detail those areas but that work will be stored on “secret” layers that I can toggle on and off. That way I can print maps for me, showing everything, and still have maps for my players that leave those areas as a mystery. As they uncover what is there, I can always print them new maps showing these newly discovered areas.
Where do We Go From Here?
As I said, I have a lot of work left to do. When I’ve made some significant advancements, I’ll post a link in the sidebar to the current version of the map, which I will then update as I go.