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What do you use for Maps as a DM of PbP game?

Chronikoce

Villager
I am hoping to do a PbP game for some friends as practice before I try my hand at anything with LPF but I am struggling with how to run combats from a map perspective. Since I've never ran a PbP game before I am planning to use a published adventure which will have maps included in it.

Do you upload a new map for each round of combat where you have moved the PC's to a new location? If so, what are you using to edit the maps? It seems like using photoshop or another image editor would be really slow and inconvenient. Is there a free program where I can load an image of a published map, add some character tokens and 'fog of war' style blackout for unexplored areas that would be easier to use than an image editor?
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
I'm a big fan of pretty maps.

For published products I convert the included map to a .png file and use Photoshop to edit it. This works because both the file type and the image editor allow the use of layers. I put each token on it's own layer, and fog of war on a layer by itself as well. So at the beginning of each round, I open the image in Photoshop, move the tokens to their correct place, erase whatever bits of the fog of war they've uncovered, and then save it with a new file name (just so I have a visual record of each round of the combat). Once you get the initial map set up, it's actually not that much work to update each round.

The only thing I don't like about this method is that the grids for published maps are often not actually square - it just bothers that "neat and tidy" part of me :D.

Getting it to ENWorld can be either simple (just attach it to the post) - requiring participants to open the file any time they want to look at it - or slightly more complicated (put it in Photobucket or some other image storage service) and the put the image file directly into the post. This way they can look at the image as they write their post.

Some folks use MapTools - I've tinkered with it some, and like it OK but have never really sat down to learn how to use it well.

There's also a site a lot of folks on MythWeavers use that actually allows individual players to move their own tokens around, but I can't remember the name of the site right off hand.

And some of my friend actually use very simple Excel spreadsheets with the grid adjusted to square size. The use simple lines to make the maps "old style" without any fancy graphics, and letters to represent each player on the board. That way works quite well.

For my current LPF game, I actually reproduced the map using Campaign Cartographer, and then printed it as a .png and am using the method described above. Mainly so I could get the aforementioned square grid . . .
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
For free image editors, it seems like a lot of folks us Gimp, though I've not ever tried it out.

MapTools is also free.
 

Chronikoce

Villager
Cool thanks! I think I am going to try and give photoshop a try. I previously was trying to use Paint which was a terrible decision because there is no layering after saving and closing the file.

Completely unrelated question. For some reason I am no longer getting notifications of replies up at the top of the web page. Do you have any idea why that would happen? It is rather annoying because I have to check under all subscriptions tab to see if I have any replies.
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
Don't know. I've got my "home page" for ENWorld set to my "Settings" tab, which shows any subscribed threads with new posts. I don't rely on the notifications for that.
 

GlassEye

Community Supporter
Layers are vital for the reasons Mowgli describes above. As long as an image program has layers it's really just a matter of preference. My favorite is Paint.net (which is different than Paint) but I use a method almost identical to the one Mowgli uses.
 

jkason

Villager
The only thing I don't like about this method is that the grids for published maps are often not actually square - it just bothers that "neat and tidy" part of me :D.
Is that why I can't ever seem to get my map coordinate grids to line up with the grid on the maps? I spend more time getting the bloody ABC 123 to line up with the built-in grid than anything else... Drives me nuts, that.
 

Maidhc O Casain

Na Bith Mo Riocht Tá!
Is that why I can't ever seem to get my map coordinate grids to line up with the grid on the maps? I spend more time getting the bloody ABC 123 to line up with the built-in grid than anything else... Drives me nuts, that.
That's the very reason. I haven't found a map yet in a published PDF where the grids are actually square. Usually I just use the grid on the published map and extend the canvas enough at the left and the bottom to type in my own X-Y coordinates, lining them up as best I can.

For Coils of Flame I actually did my own map so I could use a grid that's actually square. A little more prep on the front end, but I got to make a cool map - which is also fun for me.
 

Satin Knights

Villager
I use MapTool. It works great for updates, because you just move the PCs and critters, zoom to the level you want, then export as a .png file. Most of the time I load that .png file into PaintShopPro just to crop it a little. It works great.

Maptool is designed for the GM to create all the maps, then use Vent or Skype to get people together online and play in real time. I haven't tried that yet, but all the bits are there. I just use it for creating maps. All the tools needed are there, and more.

It uses png files with transparencies for the art objects. So, you can layer the objects to get the right display effect. There is also four layers to put objects. Background, hidden, objects, tokens. So, the GM can put an invisible creature and track it easily while the exported pic doesn't show the creature.

If I don't have an overhead pic for a creature, I can open the bestiary pdf, click, copy, paste into PSP, background erase, resize and save as .png in about 30 seconds. Then, I can import that into the map. Creatures are auto-sized to small/medium/large/huge/colossal as you choose. Or you can go native size and grab the corner to resize. .png files can be rotated. Shift rotate goes in 1 degree increments. Without holding the shift key, it is 90 degree rotation.

Size: It can handle any size map. I have the Forbidden Island all on one map. A1 to EK185 is a little far out, but that is the far corner of the map. Converted, that is 925 x 715 feet for the island. I can scroll in or out to any section. While it is possible to do a map of the eastern En continent at 5 pixels per mile, that map did make my machine grind quite hard. :lol:

Light sources can be defined per object. PCs sight can be defined, including darkvision. Walls can be made as vision blocking. If you turn on halo colors for PCs, you can get the vision capabilities of the PC in a pastel overlay color, showing just what it can and cannot see. Fog of war can be manual or automatic.

And the whole map/campaign is stored in one zip file so it can be emailed to someone else. All the necessary art objects are included, so they don't have to have the same base set of art as you do.

MapTool has a couple of stumbling blocks though.
a) All but the latest required Java 6. Well, Java 6 has been killed. You can't get it from Oracle any more. I still have it loaded, and call Java6 directly in the batch file that starts my MapTool. The latest version is supposed to work with Java 7, but I haven't updated to it yet.

b) It doesn't come with many graphics for creatures, buildings, or other artwork. It has a few generic pieces and points you to various web forums to go grab the rest. For those that want artwork for it, I have nearly 3 GB of artwork. So, I have many critters, tables, treasure, weapons, land textures, etc. Anybody wants it, I can give you a small or large subset of that artwork.

- ~ -

The following example took probably 15 minutes to create, and takes less than a minute to update. It is an oval with a dark gray outer wall and light gray center. Then, fog of war clear the same oval. Use the pen to draw the dark gray wall segments. Then drag and drop the stairwells, doors, and items. I think there are about 30 separate items. The bed, the four posters around it, and the bedspread are all separate and layered. Add the PC tokens and critters. Adjust "front to back" layering for a few items and its ready. Zoom and export. Crop the export from the 16x9 of my monitor shape to the section needed. Publish. Voila.
[sblock=example map]
[/sblock]
 

airwalkrr

Villager
I've recently discovered ditzie, which has a bit of a learning curve (not much, but expect to spend about an hour figuring out how to make maps and tokens in a workable form), but is incredibly simple to use for players. It only has one disadvantage of which I am aware. Whenever a player makes a move, they have to remember to save it (a simple process of pressing Enter) and post the link to the new map, as every time a map is saved, it changes the URL. Aside from that it is an incredible piece of web software for gaming.
 

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