The past few days I’ve been enjoying playing around with my two new pieces of mapmaking software. It’s been really fun to work directly on something that I can also use in my RPG sessions. I’ve tended to have general ideas of what I’d want in maps but I currently lack the drawing skills to realize those ideas. These pieces of software have allowed me to sidestep that part with nice results.
I’ve been working bit-by-bit on the map for my Burning Wheel campaign, slowly adding a thing here or there. The first version can be found in this post. However, since then, I’ve updated it, both based on what happened in Session 1 as well as just my growing understanding of the software.
It’s rather empty by design, as I want the players to have the freedom to create the world through play. I’m quite pleased with the coloring so far, and the mixing of foothills and mountains.
In Dungeondraft, I haven’t been creating things that I can use directly, as I’ve been making small vignettes to practice with the software. It would be interesting to see whether I can make use of them somewhere in the future, though. The second map I’ve made in this software gave me a chance to try a little environmental storytelling:
I’m fairly happy with the objects in this map; I feel like there are enough to make it varied, but not so many that it looks cluttered. Furthermore, I tried to make the scene as a whole suggestive of far more through the use of the objects themselves. What I think could use improvements is the muddy little courtyard – it’s quite plain so far, and next time I would like to improve it by adding more clutter in that part. Perhaps some differently colored sections, a splash of water on the ground suggesting recent rain, or some hoofprints would have been good.
Yesterday, I went ahead and bought both Wonderdraft and Dungeondraft as well. I’ve mostly played around with Wonderdraft right now, because it will be more immediately useful to my Burning Wheel campaign. I can tell you, it is tremendous fun to be playing around with it! My first experiences are really positive, as just in the first ten minutes of figuring out what options and settings are, I already managed to make a map that looks fairly decent. And that’s just with ten minutes of messing around!
While I’m not running any battlemat-focused games right now, I was thinking of using Dungeondraft to make some set pieces to spark people’s imagination. After all, a general inn or a house image, or depiction of a wilderness scene can help spark as many roleplaying ideas as a solid description could. On top of that, the visual storytelling as well can serve to be evocative for players as well.
Installing the two made me fix some things I’d been sleeping on for a while too regarding my laptop; for a while now, my Bumblebee service was bugging out (pun intended), which means that my discrete videocard (an NVIDIA card) wasn’t being used and my laptop ran purely on the Intel integrated videocard. That meant that both Wonderdraft and Dungeondraft would not run well at all, so that gave me an impetus to finally fix that as well. Now, I have some flexibility on where I can start mapping!
Over the past weeks, with the repeated delays in starting up my Burning Wheel campaign due to personal situations of various people, I’ve been looking around more and more to prepping tools for tabletop RPG sessions. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how much has been developed in recent years, and the sheer quality of what’s been put out there. There are three products in particular that I’m looking forward to getting, once we have some spare disposable cash earmarked for hobby expenses.
The first is Wonderdraft, which is a mapmaking software package that is less complex and expensive than something like Campaign Cartographer 3+ but more full-featured than something like Inkarnate. I enjoy an evocative worldmap that helps focus players’ imaginations at the table. Or, alternatively, validates it retroactively by starting with an empty map that gets filled in as the players’ progress in a game. While I’ve been enjoying slowly learning to draw, for one my skills are nowhere near the point where I can confidently create handmade maps nor would it be possible at a pace that is practical even if I did have the ability to do so. This software looks like a great solution to more quickly create regional maps. I’ve seen some interesting examples of people using it to make maps of entire regions, such as this video:
And I’ve also seen somebody use the software to create a detailed village:
Relatively recently, the creator of Wonderdraft, Megasploot, has released a companion piece of software to Wonderdraft called Dungeondraft. Apparently, the software itself is reminiscent of Wonderdraft in operation but is focused on creation battlemaps or more localized, zoomed-in maps. For me, there were always two major blocks to running a Pathfinder style game, which were balancing encounters and providing the detailed maps needed for miniature battling. This software seems to make basic map creation almost trivial, and with practice could even allow for the creation of beautifully intricate maps. The creator’s trailer provides a lovely overview of some maps:
Lastly, as far as a Virtual Tabletop System goes, I discovered Foundry VTT recently. Roll20 has long-since been the staple of my online tabletop RPG experience, but it’s always felt very dated and clunky in its controls. Foundry is a much-needed update to this type of experience. However, what I appreciate more than anything is that it’s a self-hosted, one-time payment solution to tabletop hosting. On top of that, it’s modular, so it’s easily expandable; apparently, people have created many modules for the system, so there’s a lovely open market of expansions out there. To be honest, I’m just astounded by how many options there are:
I’m quite excited to get some of these pieces of software, but I’ll have to do this in steps for sure. Foundry VTT runs at $50; Wonderdraft at $30; and Dungeondraft at $20. So, all in all, it’s a $100 pricetag (or €87 for us). While that seems like a pretty reasonable price for everything included in each piece of software, I’m not willing to spend €87 on a hobby right now. So, I’ll have to see if we can pick up some extra money through our company that justifies such a luxury expenditure, so that I can start playing around with it. I figure it may make the most sense to purchase Foundry first, followed by Wonderdraft, and finally Dungeondraft. The latter two are great additions to a VTT experience, but you’d want to have a good VTT experience to begin with. While I could import Wonderdraft and Dungeondraft images into Roll20, of course, it does seem like putting the cart in front of the horse.