Thursday, December 10, 2009

Campaign Creation: Map Making Tutorial Part 2

Hey all you grognards out there, sharpen your pencils 'cause we're starting part two of our map drawing tutorial. You can check out part 1 here if you missed it.

This tutorial will help you Game Masters out there add some style and some finishing touches to your campaign map that you may be handing to your players. Everything at the gaming table could be a prop that helps enhance gameplay and nothing sparks imagination more than an interesting map.

I've seen a lot of campaign maps out there in the interwebz, most of which are very inspiring in many ways. Also many fantasy books come with maps so you can follow the progress of the character's adventures throughout the stories and novels. These are all great inspirations for map features and ideas. Use them!

In this part of the tutorial, we'll be going over 'inking' your penciled map. For this I recommend that you pick up some nice pens to work with. I suggest the Faber Castell pens. You can pick them up at your local art supply store or online. The Faber Castell Black, Fineliner Set of 4 comes with four different widths and goes for about $6.99 per set online. They use a nice black india ink. If you can't find the Faber Castell pens you can go with the black Micron pens. These also come in different widths.

Now, the reason for the different pen widths is that you will use them to create a variety of 'line weights' on your map. It is a very minor detail but adds quite a bit to your finished map. For example, I use a thicker line weight for the coastlines and mountains while most other detail in the map use a thinner pen point.

Let's start with the coastline. I'll use the Faber Castell F (fine) pen and I'll start redrawing over my penciled line. Remember to keep the coastline irregular and jagged. I like to leave little inlets for rivers and bays for coastal towns. Don't forget to outline any islands the same way.
Once you are done with the coastline, I like to add some ripples along the shoreline to give the impression of water. I do that by using the Faber Castell S (super fine) pen. I start by adding a squiggly line along the coast in what would be the ocean or sea. I break the squigglys up so it is a broken line but still follows the contour of the coastline. When I finish with that initial line (remember your islands too) I go back an add a second squiggly line (ripple) following the contour of the first shoreline ripple. I keep this line broken up even more than the first. Again, don't forget your Islands. Note that if islands or land masses are close together, you don't have to squeeze a ripple between them. Just make the ripple go around both pieces of land. The ripples are there just to give the impression of land masses in water.
Now take a look at your work. You should see your well defined coastlines appear to be causing a ripple in water. Your islands should look really nice too. If you have any trouble, just keep working at it. After a few attempts you'll soon start to get the hang of it.

You'll also notice how the line-weights already start to bring some dynamics to your map.Now, on to the mountains. Again, I will be using the Faber Castell F (fine) pen to draw the mountains. The mountains are nothing more than overlapping upside-down 'V's'. Remember to vary the shapes of these upside-down V's a bit too. By the time that you're done inking these you'll wish that you haven't made so many mountain ranges!Once you are done with the mountains, there's one more thing to add to them and for that I will be using the Faber Castell S (super fine) pen once again. What I add now to the mountains is some shading and texture by just adding short strokes, all in the same direction and all on the same side of the mountains. Think of it as if the sun were rising on the right side of the page, the left side of the mountains would be hidden in shadows. I like to use these short strokes but you can add a heavier shadow if you like. You can use the same technique with hills as well.To draw the strokes, I find it easier if I turn the paper so that I 'pull' the lines towards me. It is a bit easier to keep them parallel this way. Vary the lengths of the lines too.Your map should really start to be taking shape at this point. The last thing to add are the rivers. For these I use the Castell S (super fine) pen once again. Remember, there's not may bridges over these rivers that are off the main road becoming an obstacle challenge for your PC's to overcome.

At this scale, I like to add sea-trade routes and major roads. For these I would suggest using The Faber Castell XS (extra super fine) for these elements.

You should have a pretty good looking map at this point!You'll notice that I didn't add any cities or forests yet or lables. I like to add them a bit later and that will be covered in part 3.


  1. Neat Paul. I love those Faber Castell Pens myself.

  2. looks great - some good hints here, thanks for sharing

  3. Looking good so far - you are channelling Tolkien here, my friend.

    I daren't ink anything in on my map yet - the amount of 'subtle' changes that I continue to make preclude such definitive acts yet.

  4. Who says the map that you give the players has to be accurate? Cataclysms could have changed the face of the landscapes after ancient maps were made. Mountains rise, seas swallow cities, it can leave more mystery for the players if they think they are going somewhere but end up finding something else.

  5. Ah, well, I'm not actually handing my main map to the players. That was the map about which I was referring - if they get maps at all, i.e. ancient maps, scrolls, parchments, which - by the way - I love making look as old and battered as possible, they will have to act on caveat emptor. I will, of course, bestrew them with inaccuracies, idionsyncrasies and downright lies, as well as some interesting and accurate stuff.

    In fact, I like doing that so much that I may resurrect an idea from long ago and have a container full of parchments that I have made, good, bad, accurate, misleading, etc. I called it The Docs Box - whenever the treasure rolls called for a parchment or scroll I would let the players dip into it and see what they pulled out.

    One scam that I thought my old party back in the day could have pulled (but never did, alas) was to make fake treasure maps and sell them to newbie 1st levellers all fired up and ready for their first (and probably last, if they followed our maps) dungeon.

  6. I like the idea of your Docs Box. I may borrow that idea. I like having physical 'props' at the table that players can pass around.