Saturday, December 06, 2008

I Hate Maps

Sure, I love looking at them, especially odd or fantastical maps, I admire people who enjoy creating maps. But I'm the only Dungeon Master I know who kind of loathes sitting down to make my own campaign maps. My last long campaign suffered greatly from this; I wish at some point I'd actually sketched out the area and how it related to the rest of the mainland.

It's mostly that I'm not very good at it, and I'm excessively perfectionist. I especially hate coastlines, because I can never, ever, ever draw something that looks right to me. I can do okay with terrain, as long as I keep telling myself that it doesn't have to be "accurate" and the players will never see it, but coastlines just drive me crazy. Which is a bigger problem than it should be, because while I hate coastlines, I love pirates and underwater adventure.

So for my next campaign, I'm using Google Earth and a ruler to roughly copy real coastline, so I can skip all the coastline stuff and skip right to filling it in with craziness. I'm mostly snagging using Indonesia, because it's all island-y, has a little more scope than the Caribbean, and is right near an awesome lost desert continent, and also because I found the island of Sulawesi:

Which, being much cooler than anything I could possibly come up with, is the starting area for the campaign. Or rather, an island off the southeast corner of it is. There's a good chance the players won't have the time to explore enough of it to see how crazy it is, but at least this way if they decide to sail all the way around the edge of it they'll get something kind of neat.


  1. Ease of coastlines depends on what you use to draw your maps.

  2. (Oops, hit 'publish' instead of 'preview')

    There is a tutorial over on the Cartographer's Guild forums for making coastlines with Gimp.

    There are also mapmaking tools specifically for rpg's that have fractal coastlines. The Midian world map used Izandawo/MapX. Both of these programs (one a later version of the other) have great fractal coasts. Just make the general shape you want, then tell it to make it round, square, or go all coasty.

  3. You're not the only one who hates making maps. It frustrates the heck out of me every time I try.

  4. You're so right. There are plenty of software packages available, some of them free, but all managing to find a way to suck. Why does it have to be so time consuming? Why can't I just set-up a list of logical rules about what borders what, and have it somewhat randomly generated?

    I ran a Spycraft game in which I would occasionally just print out google earth images to use for re-con and it worked pretty well, so I can't imagine that your strategy won't. Post results!

  5. I've never found a good way of making decent maps. Sure, I can sketch something out, but it never looks good enough for me. Academically, I know that it doesn't matter that much. Still, I wish I had the talent to design more interesting maps.

    That said, there are plenty of map-making tools out there. The free ones always suck a bit, because of their low budget, but most are usable if you put in enough time learning how.