D&D 5E Mapping Software Input [What's in your wallet?]

ProgBard

First Post
I've done a number of perfectly serviceable maps for my current campaign using OpenOffice Draw. Like any other design software, it has its own learning curve and quirks, but you can do some pretty slick stuff with it once you get the feel.
 

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Funny, I was just about to come here to start a thread on this, and this thread pops right up! :)

I have been looking at Campaign Cartographer, and I do see a good amount of advice here. How steep it the learning curve (for someone who really hasn't used a CAD-type program before)? How quick can one whip up decent-looking maps? It looks like the "Core 3" as plenty of options and art assets - are they enough to create varied and interesting maps, with nothing important missing?
 

innerdude

Legend
A follow-up to my older post ----

Fractal Mapper (~$35)
Type: Raster
Summary: An interesting hybrid of a basic image editor + fantasy mapping assets
Pros:
Focused specifically on fantasy mapping.
There are some tutorials and examples for use --- Do a Google search for the Vintyri (sp?) project.
A small set of built in assets.
A decent number of live layer effects.
Seems to be targeting the same basic demographic as Campaign Cartographer, but it's much easier to use.
Cons:
The built in assets aren't terribly inspiring / somewhat same-y.
The program doesn't seem to be terribly well supported / actively maintained (the makers, NBOS, haven't updated it from Version 8 since 2010).
The rendering engine can slow down significantly with lots of layer effects.
The drawing tools aren't as robust or intuitive as an actual drawing program.

Felonius's Verdict: My time spent demo-ing Fractal Mapper was interesting. By the time I really considered using it, I had already moved on to more "professional" tools and had a wealth of digital assets on hand, but there's a lot to like here. If you're an ABSOLUTE, TOTAL beginner to digital mapmaking / digital image manipulation, this would probably be my recommended starting point---with the understanding that later on, if you want to get more "professional" about it and make higher quality stuff, you'll probably need to move up to something else.


Not Related to Any Other Drawing Program --- But Interesting

Another utility I've found that's incredibly useful is Genetica Viewer. It's a free program (get it at http://spiralgraphics.biz/viewer/ ) that lets you build tiles/textures that you can then use as brushes and fills for other drawing programs. It takes a bit of fiddling to get stuff that looks the way you want it, but if you're starting from scratch and don't have a lot of assets, it's a great tool.



Final, Real-World Recommendations

If Money is Absolutely No Object / You're a Hardcore Digital Mapmaker

  • Get Serif DrawPlus or Xara for doing layouts and city designing
  • Get a $9.99 a month subscription for Photoshop CC
  • Buy 2-4 sets of asset packs from Campaign Cartographer's catalogue (not because you'll use them in CC3, but to import into DrawPlus and Photoshop)


You Want to Make Good Stuff, But Money Doesn't Grow on Trees

  • Get Serif DrawPlus
  • Get Serif PhotoPlus, or go find a used copy of Adobe Photoshop 7, CS, or CS2 (you can find used copies of CS2 on Amazon / Ebay for around $40-$50). Compatibility with older Photoshop versions may be problematic with newer operating systems, but it's worth a shot.
  • If you have the money, find a good texture/fill package, either from Campaign Cartographer, or hunt around at cartographersguild.com


Entry-level Hobbyist
  • Buy Serif DrawPlus and download GIMP for doing map touch-ups, OR
  • Buy Fractal Mapper and download GIMP for doing touch-ups


Casual / Weekend Warrior
  • Download Inkscape and GIMP
  • Play around with one of the free, simple tools mentioned in this thread.



Final Words About Campaign Cartographer 3

Notice that I don't recommend CC3 anywhere above. This is not because it's necessarily a "bad" program for all uses. For someone willing to put up with the user interface and speed issues, it produces decent-looking maps. I personally bought a license and have kept it because I like the digital assets it came with (I just use them in other programs). For me, it just doesn't do enough of what I want, in the quality that I want, to put up with the UI/UX and speed of the software.
 

innerdude

Legend
Funny, I was just about to come here to start a thread on this, and this thread pops right up! :)

I have been looking at Campaign Cartographer, and I do see a good amount of advice here. How steep it the learning curve (for someone who really hasn't used a CAD-type program before)? How quick can one whip up decent-looking maps? It looks like the "Core 3" as plenty of options and art assets - are they enough to create varied and interesting maps, with nothing important missing?

Man, how to respond to this? On the whole, my experience with CC3 was "positive," in that the software generally works as advertised. But once I understood what it was doing, and that 1) I could accomplish EXACTLY THE SAME THINGS using tools that other people actually use in the real world (i.e., Illustrator and Photoshop), 2) do it much faster, and 3) actually get some "marketable skills transfer" using those real-world products, I abandoned CC3 completely.

The biggest problem with CC3 is frankly, speed. Digital mapmaking is "fiddly" ---- you're constantly tweaking one thing or another to get it looking just right. These little fiddles on CC3 just took too long, because the rendering engine is so slow. That, combined with the fact that unless you're the type to go out and build your own massive library of textures, tiles, and assets, the stuff that comes with the base program is very limited. If you don't like the basic "style" of map it produces out of the gate, you're going to have to shell out for a set of assets that works.

Now---if your use of CC3 will be "casual," or infrequent --- it MIGHT be worth the investment. To me, I was having to invest huge chunks of time learning how to use it, and then ultimately wasn't satisfied with the end result. For the "casual" user, in my opinion Fractal Mapper is the better choice. Fractal Mapper's stuff won't be as "pretty" as CC3's stuff, but it'll be faster to create, and if you're not getting into mapping "hardcore" anyway, how worried are you about the quality of output? For basic stuff that most GM's want, Fractal Mapper is easier to do.

To me the "big picture" about Campaign Cartographer can be summed up this way --- I've yet to come across anyone who's a raving fan of the software. Most opinions you'll see about it are about like mine --- it's a solid, functional tool that generally works, and will produce a decent-looking map, but its inherent limitations make it hard to say, "Yes, you should ABSOLUTELY go out and buy it."
 
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devincutler

Explorer
Autorealms is free to use, simple, and makes serviceable maps. I highly recommend taking a look at it because it is free. None of the maps you make in AR will win awards, but as you can see it is highly functional for a variety of gaming needs.
 

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hejtmane

Explorer
See I need some of the easy stuff I am no artist and hate the indepth vector maps. That is something my wife would do she being a graphic artist me I am the tech guy i come fix the dam server you run everything on. I need simple map creation anything beats the old school graph paper and ruler days o building a dungeon.

Thanks everyone for posting definitely going to use the simpler ones for my self
 



pming

Legend
Hiya!

My turn! :)

Ask yourself how 'far down the rabbit hole' you want to go with your "Digital D&D Stuff". If you are interested in nothing more than making maps on your computer to print out or show on a tablet/projector during the game... I'd actually go with:

NBOS ...for quick rough sketch, then bring that into Krita (Free: www.krita.org).

However, if you really want to get into the real power of making digital maps and using digital 'stuff' with them for organization of your campaign, printing stuff out, finding info, online use (VTT stuff), and/or use during the game via a laptop...

CC3, and either NBOS's "TheKeep" (http://www.nbos.com/) or maybe "RealmWorks" (http://www.wolflair.com/realmworks/)...combined with LibreOffice (https://www.libreoffice.org/).

Using CC3, TheKeep, and LibreOffice you can create your maps in CC3. Those maps can have "hotlinks" embedded in them. These links are, effectively, the same as an internet hotlink, but can link to anything you want. You could make a map of your world, then 'hotlink' your countries. Clicking on a country brings up another CC3 map of that country. That country map can have hotlinks to city names, for example, which could then bring up another CC3 map of that city. On that CC3 city map, you can have locations linked to PDF's, or internet sites, or audio, or video, or any other 'digital asset' you care to link to. Maps of CC3 can also have "layers", with buttons that can turn them on or off...so you can have a 'layer' button on your country map that removes all the names of the cities, and shows an overlay of weather patterns (which areas get a lot of rain or snow, which direction the prevailing wind goes, etc).

In short, CC3 is MUCH more, potentially, than "just a mapping program". But, and this is a Kardashian sized but, you have to be willing to put in the effort to learn it. That can take several months on the short track...years to truly master and learn/develope your own mapping tricks. Campaign Cartographer 3 is extremely capable...but, the old adage rings true: With great power, etc, etc, etc. ;)

So, yeah. If you just want to make 'simple' pretty maps...CC3 is overkill, to put it mildly. If you want to develop your own digital campaign, I can't think of anything that can stand up to CC3's potential.

^_^

Paul L. Ming
 

Miladoon

First Post
I use the GIMP for my hobbies and professionally. Saying it is a casual toy is BS.

It was mentioned before. If you go to Cartographer's Guild you will get some real advice on map making.

List of Mapping Software LINK
 
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innerdude

Legend
I use the GIMP for my hobbies and professionally. Saying it is a casual toy is BS.

It was mentioned before. If you go to Cartographer's Guild you will get some real advice on map making.

List of Mapping Software LINK

Just to clarify my position --- GIMP is not a toy. It is a highly capable tool and in the right hands can produce very good maps.

But in my opinion, pretty much any raster image editor you can purchase between $80-$100 on the market today is a vastly preferable option. From a usability, speed, and overall value proposition, the approximately $80 I'd spend on say, Serif PhotoPlus, is a value investment that gets paid back multiple, multiple times versus having to deal with the UI/UX of GIMP. In my experience (and believe me, I've tried nearly every commercial and a number of free image manipulation programs out there), out of any tool in its class, GIMP's user experience is the least enjoyable. The fact that Serif PhotoPlus supports live layer effects and GIMP doesn't is worth the price of admission alone --- to say nothing of the more intuitive interface and UX. And if you can find a copy of Photoshop 7, Photoshop CS, or Photoshop CS2 inexpensively, it's hands-down a no-brainer. Photoshop 7 is a better tool than GIMP is now --- and Photoshop 7 is over 15 years old.

For someone just getting into digital mapmaking, and they really don't want to spend money on a raster image editor, GIMP is a fine choice. I just know for me, the value of spending $80 vastly exceeds the value of "free" I get from GIMP.
 

Whirlingdervish

First Post
I use a combination of things when i design a map. I start with a peice of square or hex graph paper then i take the drawing and sketch it into CC3 then i export the image into gimp and finally pull the cleaned up image into fractal mapper making use of its native scenario builder for dm notes, encounter text which i can then export and convert into PDF format for use on on my tablet.
 

Miladoon

First Post
I use a combination of things when i design a map. I start with a peice of square or hex graph paper then i take the drawing and sketch it into CC3 then i export the image into gimp and finally pull the cleaned up image into fractal mapper making use of its native scenario builder for dm notes, encounter text which i can then export and convert into PDF format for use on on my tablet.

I might try and play around with fractal mapper. Tks for the idea.
[MENTION=85870]innerdude[/MENTION], Mea Culpa. It was not my intention to strawman your position. I have been using the GIMP for over ten years and photoshop cs5 for about three years. GIMP is not created to replace photoshop but it has always been the best free alternative, IMHO. The GIMP has not had a major interface change in almost ten years. New things come online as new versions are released. So the interface only becomes clunky when you change between applications, like going from GIMP to Photoshop. But as the versions update you have less of a learning curve because you don't have to relearn the interface...that much. And the updates and plug-ins are free. Not sure about the newer versions of photoshop, but I can use .abr files in GIMP as well as .psd files. As far as I now, Photoshop CS5 won't handle .xcf, .gih and .gbr files. I like that flexibility.

I like Photoshop too and live layers are nice. But I don't need them to create my maps.
[MENTION=85870]innerdude[/MENTION] again, How long have you been paying for updates/new versions for SerifPhotoplus and Photoshop?
 

innerdude

Legend
How long have you been paying for updates/new versions for SerifPhotoplus and Photoshop?

For a long while, my wife had a photography business, and for most of the time she ran the business she and I both used good 'ole Photoshop 7. There were a few things she wanted with the newer versions later on, so we upgraded to the 9.99 a month for the Photoshop Creative Cloud. But then she decided she no longer wanted to actively pursue the business, and we just left her web site up, without actively trying to market it. At that point we deactivated our Creative Cloud account.

In the interim, I picked up a copy of Serif PhotoPlus X6. If you play Serif's pricing game a little bit, you can get the previous versions for cheaper than the current versions. They have all kinds of online discounts floating around as well.

At the time (this was around a year ago) I picked up PhotoPlus X6 for $50. They're now on version X8 for both PhotoPlus and DrawPlus. For DrawPlus, I picked up version X4 maybe three years ago, and only spent $30 on it---talk about a FANTASTIC investment.

PhotoPlus will do as a competent Photoshop replacement in a pinch, and has live layer effects (which for me is a huge deal). However, there's a few shortcuts it doesn't have that were just head scratching. The big one is PhotoPlus (at least version X6) doesn't have a draw or erase on a straight line action (which in Photoshop is as simple as holding down the SHIFT key while moving the mouse). It also doesn't have some of the basic pattern stamp functionality that Photoshop does (which I use all the time for doing terrain texturing). That said, there's nothing that's a real deal-breaker, and for the $50 I spent it was overall a good purchase. The interface for PhotoPlus is a near facsimile of Photoshop's as well, so the transition to the new software was minor. I've used GIMP in the past, and it's certainly powerful enough in most cases to work well, but I was just fighting the UI so badly, having to relearn shortcut keys, etc.

But when it came right down to it, I ended up just wanting actual Photoshop, so maybe 3 months ago I went out and bought a used copy of Photoshop CS2 for around $40. It's hardly "modern tech" these days, but it's more than competent.

Serif plays the "upgrade" game, trying to get people to upgrade every 18 months when they release their new versions. But really their product offerings are like Windows, or Microsoft Office, where you can easily skip 2-3 versions and not really miss anything.

When DrawPlus and PhotoPlus versions X9 come out late in 2016 / early 2017, I'll give them a serious look. DrawPlus has been absolutely fantastic, and if they'd fix the few minor niggles in PhotoPlus and make the rendering engine a bit faster, I'd have no qualms switching over entirely and never looking back at Adobe again.

Also, I'm sure the "hardcore" photographers and graphic designers might beg to differ, but for digital mapmaking the differences between Photoshop CS2 and Photoshop CS6/Creative Cloud are mostly inconsequential. Yeah, the UI is cleaner, and there's some "advanced" features and a few new layer effects tools and options in the newer versions, but overall CS2 is just as effective.
 
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Miladoon

First Post
...Serif plays the "upgrade" game, trying to get people to upgrade every 18 months when they release their new versions. But really their product offerings are like Windows, or Microsoft Office, where you can easily skip 2-3 versions and not really miss anything.

I think that is pretty standard operating procedure, I suppose. GIMP just released 2.9 LINK

Another thing that might be worth mentioning when I compare Photoshop and GIMP, I have to reboot Photoshop very very often so I have to keep remembering to save my work. Still a good habit, but I have a good copy of GIMP 2.8 right now and it may of bottomed out once. The GIMP guardian is unhappy at my lack of faith every time I hit save.

Today, using GIMP, I created this map from adobe brushes that I found on deviantART(StarRaven,redheadstock). It was about 3.5 hours of time.

CrumblerCanyon.png

Cartography Brushes LINK
Arcane Brushes LINK

 
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Li Shenron

Legend
Today, using GIMP, I created this map from adobe brushes that I found on deviantART(StarRaven,redheadstock). It was about 3.5 hours of time.

I must say this is an utterly awesome map, I've hardly ever seen a mapping style better than this :)

Do I understand right that you basically only used free sources? Or did you also have some libraries (pictures, fonts) from commercial programs?

I don't do digital mapping, normally when I want a map I either draw it or google for something close enough to what I want (and then maybe overwrite the names) and print it out. I wouldn't normally even consider something that takes more than 1 hour of work, but your sample map here is seriously tempting... although I guess it took 3.5 hours to you because you already know how to use the program :)
 

Miladoon

First Post
I must say this is an utterly awesome map, I've hardly ever seen a mapping style better than this :)

Do I understand right that you basically only used free sources? Or did you also have some libraries (pictures, fonts) from commercial programs?

I don't do digital mapping, normally when I want a map I either draw it or google for something close enough to what I want (and then maybe overwrite the names) and print it out. I wouldn't normally even consider something that takes more than 1 hour of work, but your sample map here is seriously tempting... although I guess it took 3.5 hours to you because you already know how to use the program :)

Tks. The style really belongs to the brush maker. All the resources I used for the map are free and quickly download, save my 2008 Mac. Time is what you pay when you go digital, regardless if you go for premium products or open source. But you should at least give it a try, since you won't be stressing the financials. You are also welcome to take the image above overwrite names if it suits you.
 

Beleriphon

Totally Awesome Pirate Brain
I'm going to throw down in the GIMP camp. As well as suggesting that you check out the Cartographer's Guild. Some of the folks on that website have produces maps using dozens of different types of software, and a number of them have produced tutorials to create different looks (including one that does random maps using layers, filters and all kind of cool stuff) in most major digital image software. GIMP is extremely popular by virtue of it being free. I've used Photoshop and Illustrator CS3 and will confirm as far as power and utility they beat GIMP for most applications, there is a good reason they are the digital art world gold standard, but GIMP is more than serviceable for casual use.

Cartographer's Guild: http://www.cartographersguild.com
 

I use Photoshop for mapping, along with a digital tablet (nothing too fancy, as mapping is essentially the only thing I know how to kinda use it for!).

Though not the best mapper, I admit I love drawing these damned things; it's sort of zen, I suppose. Very relaxing.

The map that's currently taking me the longest to finish is this one, for one of my homebrew settings (full size here):

flammarion_small.jpg

Dungeon-wise, I did this one following Immolate's tutorial for drawing isometrics in Photoshop, from the Cartographers' Guild. It depicts a formerly abandoned hotel in Sigil that serves as the party's HQ in our current Planescape campaign (full size here):

cofradia_small.jpg
 

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