30 Nov 2015
My Custom map project has been a long time coming, so it’s time to provide some more details on what is to come. The nature of it has more to do with software development that art, so like many other software projects you run into problems that takes time to solve. My goals have been set high both in the features and quality offered, but the most difficult thing have been to make it efficient. How to create good looking detailed terrain maps was something I figured out some time ago. So one of the main things to achieve this time was to make it easier flexible. So I could cover all sorts of overland maps without having to invent the wheel all over again for each project.
So far this project have been about overland terrain maps. So far this have been my specialty, because I love to make maps of this type, but also because this is where I have seen the most room for improvement. Small area maps like dungeons and villages have been well covered for a long time with lots of great artists and several tools that can create good results. So I decided to start with the bigger picture.
The word map in RPG terms usually means a single image, in this case the word survey would be more appropriate. When I map an area it is with the goal of producing way more than the usual top down view with symbols and labels. The result is a wealth of information that can be used in various combination to produce a range of maps, from simple handouts to photorealistic posters and videos. It is in fact based on the same techniques used to create the landscapes you see in major movie productions. The images presented here are from my test to make sure that all the features work the way they should and are not the final quality. I haven’t had time to fine tune the terrain colors and fractals yet, and production maps will also receive a Photoshop work over up by hand before being considered ready.
Maps like this are there for you to inspire and plan adventures, use as base for encounters and battles. With a coverage of 30 ft per pixel you can get really detailed information. The example below is a 5 miles map, the enlarged section is the red square. Click on it to see it in full resolution, and it can take a little bit of time to download its a 10 000 pixel 20MB file .
This map above is made to be 5 miles across, but that doesn’t mean you have to use it at that scale. The version without buildings can be used to cover larger area if you want it to, that is up to you!
A 3D view of the area can give you useful information of what the land looks like.
Here is an overview of the technique I use:
The lay of the land – where the hills, mountains rivers etc go. I build define a basic elevation form the base that everything else is calculated from. Then I add major rivers and lakes manually to make sure they match the what is needed for this particular map.
Each area of the map is then given a terrain class: Arctic, Sub-Arctic (tundra), Temperate, Mediterranean, Desert, Savannah, Tropical and Badlands – special terrains like volcanic, other planes etc.
This will determine the detailed look of the land like craggy mountains or rounded hills, sandy beaches or rocky shores. The colors and textures, snow cover and much more. A number of varying themes within each terrain will ensure endless variation. Different types of terrain can blend into each other like Savannah gradually turning into desert och temperate forest giving ways to tundra.
Vegetation is controlled separately and I can either be left to vary with the terrain type or placed exactly where you want it!
What the land looks like in the various seasons (for the Terrains that has seasons) like winter spring, fall etc. Texture maps for this will be generated automatically.
Since the level of detail can be as small as 30 ft per pixel things like roads and buildings can be added.
Roads – that follows the land and even dig into mountain sides as needed
Buildings – from small huts to large structures and entire cities with randomly or precisely placed buildings.
Format and Pricing
The Basic Generic map, a top down map in the form of JPG files. Great if what you need is just a ready to go map to use in your games. Generic maps sold through various channels live DrivethroughRPG, Realm Works Content Market and others. These maps will will be single maps or a matching series of maps covering various landscapes. Different seasons will be offered when appropriate. For these the prices will be around $5 per area, and series will offer discounts.
The Advanced Generic Map for those who wants a bit more will include 3D views and altitude maps of the terrain as well to increase the immersion. The price will be around $10 per area.
The area covered is still to be determined but will probably be somewhere in the range of 10 – 50 miles, I will present examples and your feedback will determine what will work best. Printing options are something I will look into as well.
The products mentioned above will probably work well for the casual DM who just want something to use in his games that doesn’t break the budget. But what about the those who have spent countless hours creating fantastic worlds and who wants a map that matches perfectly? The custom map service are for you!
Custom map service. Provide me with a sketch and notes and I will create a map based on them. The result will make you to be able to play with your world and create things like 3D views, political maps, parchment or stone tablet or etched in metal, written in sand and lots other special maps.
The following maps are included:
Grayscale Height-maps in various versions – with and without water depth, and vegetation.
Texture maps in various versions – seasons, with and without vegetation, roads and buildings.
Shadow maps – ready made shading
Masks – grayscale TIFF images ready to use as mask layers in Photoshop (and other image editors) and 3D tools. There will be masks for things like water, vegetation, roads, buildings and more
Elevation map – color coded with and without vegetation, roads and buildings
All the maps can be had in the format of your choice, JPG, PNG, TIFF etc. Sometimes PNG are the most appropriate due to transparency support. The resolution can be as precise as 30 ft per pixel and the whole world can be covered as a set of images. This is because of the limitations in file formats, most of them tops out at 30 000 pixels in either direction.
You will have the right to use the maps in your games and copy them for personal use. This is the rights that most RPG products comes with. The price is still to be decided but will start around $50 and offer discounts for larger areas.
The Custom map service and extras are of course open for publishers who wants to retain all the rights! The prices will be individually set depending on the scope of the project and results needed.
Special symbols, labeling, Photo realistic 3D views, video fly overs and many other services can be arranged as well.
The various height maps,textures and masks opens up a whole world of possibilities for further enhancements by yourself or professionally done. Close up renderings using computer generated trees buildings and atmosphere can create photo real scenery of your world. Free tools like Blender can be used this type of work.
I’m currently working on a large commercial project, yet to be announced that will use this mapping technique. Hopefully I can tell you more about that soon!
My next step is to refine each terrain type and then create finished examples that you will be able to download and see for yourself what they look like. I will try and use Greyhawk for these examples as much as possible so I can include examples of proper labeling.
Thanks again for your patience, I wish I could do this a lot faster but it takes time to get things right. But the coming spring will be the time to start dusting off those old campaign maps!