I left off working on my campaign map some time ago. This was largely due to there being a number of things I didn’t like about it but didn’t know how to fix. I think it’s high time I moved forward.
My program of choice is Profantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3 (CC3). There are many alternatives but I like this one for a number of reasons. Primarily it is because it is a vector-based program, allowing me to view the map at different scales with no loss in quality. As a CAD-type program (CC3 sits atop a FastCAD engine), it has a variety of CAD commands that I am already familiar with and supports layers that may be turned on and off as needed. It also includes sheets (very similar to layers but tied to special effects). Secondly, it is extremely popular which means there is a rich support structure of existing users. Lastly, I like Profantasy. They produce quality products and I know they will be around for years to come.
What I don’t like about CC3 is their cartoony graphics and the fact that all (or at least most) of their symbols are perspective or side view instead of top-down. But we’ll get back to that.
About My Map
As I said earlier, I stopped working on this map because I didn’t know how to approach a number of aspects of the map that I didn’t like. Often if I stop working on a project and let it percolate in the back of my mind, I will eventually have an epiphany an then be able to move forward. Sadly, no such enlightenment came this time so I’m going to try to force my way onward.
- The coastline is not organic enough
- The shape of the mountain range in the lower right doesn’t work for me.
- The placement of the surrounding islands doesn’t look realistic.
- The three brownish orange areas are too glaring.
- The forest and swamp areas need some texture.
- The forests don’t blend into the mountains effectively.
- There is no indication of height in any of the features.
- The graphics are too cartoony.
- The hills and mountains don’t accurately represent actual terrain.
- Rivers don’t reflect width or depth.
- There are no river beds (rivers are simply blue lines).
Many of these issues can be dealt with fairly easily. The coastline could be redrawn. It’s tedious but not especially difficult, although this may slow down redraws. The mountain range in the lower right could be redone. Varying the width of the range and adding a couple spurs would probably look more natural. Redoing the surrounding islands would involve expanding the map to give room for more realistic archipelagos. The forests could be redrawn so that their edge doesn’t end at the mountain but instead goes under it. That way, the feathering of the forest border won’t pull it away from the mountain leaving the gap that is there now. That would require placing the forest layer above the mountain background layer but below the mountain icon layer.
Other problems are trickier. Adding texture to the forests and swamps requires a vector-based repeating pattern that looks good at varying scales. I’ve tried many but the few I like only look good at a single scale. I could use different patterns at different zooms or rescale the forest/swamp pattern at each zoom but that solution doesn’t really work for me. Height could be indicated with contour lines but I find them a huge distraction and think they detract from the look of the map. The brownish orange areas contrast too greatly with the surrounding areas. However, I have been unable to incorporate graduated color changes that I liked that didn’t cause other problems. The cartoony graphics for towns, towers, etc, really don’t bother me too much. Being perspective images, they actually are better representations than would be top-down images. But the mountain and hill icons are terrible. I want top-down, realistic representations of height for hills, mountains, river beds, etc. Even if I could resolve everything else, this problem isn’t easily handled in this type of program.
Recently, I’ve been beating my head against Fractal Terrains. It is a height map editing program also produced by ProFantasy. It is extreme promising but in practice just isn’t delivering. Most likely, this is because of my unfamiliarity with the software. Creating a random fractal world is extremely easy. A new user could create an entire world in a matter of minutes and be extremely happy with it. With a bit of work, river beds can be carved into the surface and a realistic river system could be created (although Wilbur, a similar free but more complicated program, would be a better choice for river systems). Unfortunately, creating a world based on an existing map is not well supported. Again, it may be my lack of familiarity, but I have been entirely unable to access the fractal routines used to create the beautiful random worlds and apply them to achieve a similar result on a predefined map.
I will continue working with FT, as well as Wilbur, but I am losing hope that this will lead me anywhere useful. Don’t get me wrong, I’m confident that both of these programs are capable of doing what I want. But achieving those results may require mastering an art form (which I don’t believe I am capable of) opposed to discovering the correct sequence of commands.
Where To Go From Here
One solution is to fix what I can and accept the rest the way it is. In fact, that’s probably the best solution. However, it bugs me that I haven’t been able to master FT yet. Therefore, I’ll continue to postpone working on this map in CC3 in hopes that I can replicate it in FT.
No matter what though, I will eventually continue on in CC3. FT can create amazing terrain but it does not have the ability to add cities, roads, forests, text, etc.
If I am successful, what I hope to do is create the terrain I want in FT and export CC3 maps AND png images to use as backgrounds for those maps. Then in CC3, I will add icons for cities and towers, draw roads, add forests, etc.
Since ProFantasy does not produce 64-bit programs, memory is limited and thus the size of the background image must be limited as well. This memory limitation may well cause my plan to ultimately prove to be unworkable but for now I’ll cross my fingers and hope that won’t be the case.