I have a love-hate relationship with RPG maps. I love the beautiful, professionally-created ones that FFG makes, and I hate my own when they fall short. During campaign prep, I often regret not having a degree in graphic design (a field in which I have absolutely no interest other than this.) On the other hand, I find in my own group, maps tend to decrease the bickering about what’s going on and increase the suspense. My party tends to think that if something’s in the picture, it needs explorin’, which can lead to some hilarious moments when they sidle up cautiously to an innocuous (but mysteriously on-the-map) table.
I generally use Campaign Cartographer in spite of its steep learning curve–which I have to learn again each time I use it because I use it so seldom. I had high hopes for Ortelius, but as I said here, it doesn’t yet seem to fit the bill, so I find myself returning to CC over and over again. Yet I do hesitate to pull out CC when I only need a quick little image; it can take me an incredibly long time to remember how to use it, and I hate having to move from my Mac to my PC to work.
I was excited, then, when the link to Pyromancers’ online mapping software floated across my Facebook feed the other day. (Thanks, Rob!) This free, web-based mapping program doesn’t have the extensive graphics library of CC, but it does have quite enough to make a very nice sketch of a generic dungeon, tavern, or ruin, and you can import your own existing graphics if you’re feeling up to a bit of clicking around. I easily figured out the commands in about two minutes. You can save the maps you’ve made onto your hard drive; export them as PNGs, JPGs, or PDFs; or share them via an online gallery. The program supports both hex and grid maps, and will mark coordinates for you for ease of tactical use.
Here’s the simple tavern map I made start-to-export in about three minutes:
The website offers a way to include a map in a forum post and have players manipulate tokens on the map directly from the forum itself. I’m not playing in any forum-based games, but for those wanting to do online play, this solution might be just the ticket.
Overall, Pyromancers offers a great set of tools on their website. It strikes me that contributors to fan supplements and e-zines might make great use of this tool, and it’s certainly useful for any GM looking for uniquemaps. Do check it out!