It’s road race season, which means that my posts may become slightly more sporadic as I try to keep up with the demands of the end of my training. Luckily, my half marathon is on the 20th, so things will calm down a bit after that. In the meantime, though, I’m putting in some longer-than-usual (for me) workouts and getting together a costume for my upcoming race. I’ve never run in a costume before, so we’ll see how that goes.

Anyway, I spent some time this weekend recovering my aching muscles and playing with Ortelius, a mapping software package for the Mac. I have both a Mac and a PC, so Campaign Cartographer has been my go-to software for creating RPG maps. CC’s software is unparalleled; it’s powerful and designed specifically for use by GMs, so it has whole libraries of graphics that a GM might need to make, say, a crypt full of coffins spiced up with a few zombies here and there. Unfortunately, as a full CAD program with a great deal of power, CC has a steep learning curve and can be a real pain in the ass to use. Since I don’t make maps for every game, I tend to have to relearn to use CC again every time I pull it out. That’s great when I have mounds of free time, but not so great if I just need to make a quick map. Further, CC runs only on my PC, and I tend to think of PCs as gaming space, not as serious work space–and I do tend to view GMing as closer to serious work than play. (That might sound horrible, but since I love my work, there’s no real dichotomy between work and fun in my world.) I write all of my scenarios on my Mac, combine all of my sound files on my Mac, create preview videos on my Mac, and keep all of my finished graphics files and notes on my Mac. It would be easier if I could do my maps on my Mac, too.

I noticed Ortelius in the Mac App store not too long ago, and I downloaded a free trial, but didn’t really get around to messing with it until this weekend. It’s a beautiful program for serious cartographers. Like CC, its features can be a bit unintuitive, as it encourages the user to combine and/or cut preexisting shapes to make objects. Most of the advanced features are buried in menus, which kept me away from many of them, although in just poking around the menus, I realized that there’s a whole slew of stuff ‘under the hood’ that would be useful if I put the time into learning it well. The trial program has a great set of simple tutorials to get you started with the basic tools, so you can get up and running quickly.

All that being said, Ortelius is very much designed for the modern mapmaker; its real strength lies in having a whole set of map symbols for the labeling of routes that wouldn’t exist for a GM. (I can’t think of the last time I ran a game in which players needed to locate the snowmobile route.) Since it works heavily on Stamps (the equivalent of symbols in CC,) the lack of fantasy-themed content hamstrings the product a bit for GMs. I haven’t looked into whether or not you could import CC’s objects (or Dungeon Designer’s, or Fantasy Floorplans’, etc.) into Ortelius, partly because I’m not sure I’m going to buy Ortelius; if someone ended up confirming that you could use the CC symbols in Ortelius–even if it took some doing to import them–I’d probably buy and use it for mapmaking from here on out because it makes slightly more sense to me than CC does. Until then, I think I’ll stick with the demon I know, because, well, I’ve already paid for him. Although it occurs to me that I haven’t paid for the third iteration of the demon; I’m still stuck with CC2, I think.

Hmm…in going to the CC website, I just noticed this. Uh-oh. I may need that.