Archive for the ‘Mapmaking Resources’ Category

Spherical Grid – Experiment #1

June 21, 2016

After a wonderful partial map posted by Kevin Campbell a couple weeks ago [here on Google+], I did some looking and found a couple blank map forms*.  They aren’t wonderful quality (too dark and heavy), but they’ll still do for doodling.


So this is a quick and dirty try at using the spherical box blank.  It’s little more than a five-minute map, but it’s one experiment at finding an interesting way to use the form.  It’s enough to justify messing around some more later on. (more…)

Planetary Display

April 26, 2016

Here is a planetary display form I’ve made for mapping worlds in science fiction games.

PD Capture

This map uses a “buckyball” geometry, a truncated icosahedron with hexagonal and pentagonal sections, but instead of filling it with hexes, it has been laid out with lines of latitude and longitude. The major latitude lines are in 10 degree steps, with further subdivision into 2.5 degree sub-steps, and the major longitude lines are in 18 degree steps (which neatly works with the pentagonal division of the ball). Longitude lines are shown at 4.5 degrees at the equator, extending to 50 degrees latitude, and then 9 degrees between 50 and 70 degrees latitude.


These quadrants created with this mapping are not all equal, but it does provide a ready way to identify a location anywhere on the surface, and they provide a sufficiently fine-grained division of the planet to allow for distinctions of the different areas.

Part of the inspiration for this was another wonderful “buckyball” planetary display done by Ronald Stepp which he posted on G+ recently. But in his map, each face is covered with a hex grid (which he warps to fit the pentagonal sections in a most interesting way). One of the comments asked about a way to identify the small hexes for mapping and note making purposes, and that got me thinking about latitude and longitude.

This is being made available as a pay what you want PDF through RPG Now and DriveThru RPG.  Once it’s approved, this should be [Update: it’s available now!] the link to get the Planetary Display PDF.

It’s pretty apparent to me that this could be cut out and turned into a 3D object quite easily.  But what seems easy to me isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, so if I need to put together a tutorial for that, that’s something else that could be done.

There will be revisions to this, and if you have suggestions, we’ll be glad to look at them and see about incorporating them into an update.  There could also be a spin off variant that is more oriented for fantasy rather than SF games.

We’re also probably going to have a very large version (maybe 24″ x 36″ or so) that we’ll have to sell direct, rather than being able to distribute through DriveThru.  There will be an announcement about that when that is further underway.

Scannable Papers & Notebooks

April 8, 2016

So there’s a new thing out from Moleskine, a scanning pen and special notebook paper that will let you digitally capture your hand drawn notes as you draw them.  But they’re very expensive.  In addition to a prohibitive price-point, this doesn’t especially appeal to me because it requires the proprietary pen and proprietary paper in order to work.  But there are other alternatives, including the one I used for this Friday map which is (almost) completely free.

20160408-115631In addition to posting this old-school map, I am also reviewing the tools I used to make it, and examining the idea of scannable and digitizable notebooks.

After seeing the announcements (and then the price) of the Moleskine set, I went looking for something I had first seen around the end of last year.  I learned about white line grid paper from Dave Millar (of Dave’s Mapper fame), and I discovered a company that makes notebooks with this kind of paper (with a light gray background and white lines for guidance, rather than dark lines on a white sheet).

When I first found Whitelines, I also found their Whitelines Link notebooks, which can be scanned with an app, so that you can have digital copies of your notebook pages.  I was intrigued, but didn’t want to buy a notebook that had to be shipped from Sweden, so I held off at the time.  But, what I’ve found now is that they have free PDFs of their Whitelines pages that you can print out and draw on and then scan with their app.  So you can try it out for free.*  (The conditional “free” assumes that you already have a device (phone or tablet) with a camera and an internet connection, and that you have a printer.  B&W laser is probably preferable, but you might be able to do it with others, as well.)

So this was drawn on a sheet of Whitelines paper and then scanned with the camera on my phone.  Note that, since Whitelines is a European company, their paper sizes are A5 and A4.  Those don’t exactly fit onto American paper sizes, but it doesn’t really matter, unless the precision of knowing the scan’s size exactly matters to you.  I printed some A4 sheets scaled to fit on a letter page, and I expect they’ll scan just fine.  The app can’t tell whether the paper is full size or not, it is looking for corners and then working with those as its guidepoints.

You’ll notice that the scan is incredibly flat and even, for a hand-held scan.  That’s because it was done using the Whitelines Link app (available in Android and iOS flavors; but I didn’t find a link on their site, so you may need to search for “Whitelines Link” at your app source of choice). This automatically locates the page and takes the picture when the four corners are in frame and the image is in focus. It then processes the image and adjusts it so that you have a completely squared off image, without any keystoning or warping that you’d have just doing it by hand.

IMG_20160408_115755102Camera resolution (for me, currently) is around 2400 x 4200 pixels.  (I’ve downsized the copy of the camera image here just to avoid choking the bandwidth.)  The scanned document is at 1106 x 1550 pixels, so it probably loses some resolution in the process.  But it’s still completely readable and functional.  You can see the QR-esque marks in the corners that the software uses to identify the field of the image and adjust the scan to its final version.

I’ve been using some whiteline grid paper I made using the Incompetech inverted graph paper generator which has been fantastic to work with.  (The old-school map from a couple months back was one of the first experiments working on that paper, and I’ve really liked using that.)

If you’re the kind who can work with a looseleaf notebook, printing a dozen sheets of Whitelines Link paper and downloading the app for your device of choice can be a quick and super-inexpensive (compared to the Moleskine kit) way to start merging your hand drawn maps (or notes, or whatever you want) with your digital life.  Anyone wants to give me a Moleskine set, I would be happy to try it out.  But I expect I’m going to be set just with using the Whitelines system as I have it now.

I’d still really like to try out an actual Whitelines notebook, and that’s probably where I’d make a frivolous purchase (some other reviewers have really liked the quality of their paper, as well). 

We have a new Google+ group for people who are really into their map-making tools: Pens & Grids for RPGs  Come check it out.

If you’re an Amazon customer and you’d like to support me by buying it from them, you can use these links for:

Whitelines Link A4+ Squared Notes (WL241 LinkWA4S)

Livescribe 3 Smartpen Moleskine Edition for iOS & Android Phones &Tablets (APX-00019)

Leuchtturm Whitelines Academy Pad A4 Dots Blk (another notebook manufacturer with Whitelines Link compatible pages – this one has white dots instead of a white grid!)

More Hand Drafted Patterns

February 23, 2016

This is not as extensive as the geologic one, but is certainly another nice set of hand drafted patterns.  This is also the kind of thing that I loved in drawings I found in books; materials keys that explained a building section or a diagram.  And this is also part of the inspiration for the kinds of maps and dungeons I’m drawing now.


The website where I found this has both a smaller- and a larger-size version of this image.  {NOTE: The site is a part of the Florida Center for Instructional Technology, and they claim a copyright on this material, though they do have an educational use permission (ClipArt ETC Free Classroom License).

I think my use here qualifies (though maybe only marginally) as educational, since I’m trying to show you all this style of drawing materials.  If this post gets taken down in the future, though, that’ll most likely be the source of the problem.}  There are a lot of other clip art pieces in their collection, which might be inspirational to you, as well.  And I’d be certain to avoid using anything you find there commercially, even if I am dubious about the solidity of their copyright claim on works over 100 years old.

Table of Patterns for Rock

December 15, 2015

Here’s one of the kinds of things I loved coming across in books when I was a kid.  This is probably a part of why I love drawing dungeons like I do, and that’s why I’m sharing it here.


I think this is a great resource.  The full size plate is a thing of beauty.  This came from the Gutenberg project, so it is a work in the public domain, and I’m happy to see it shared widely.

Already, this has figured into a couple of the maps I’ve posted (whether to good effect or not is a separate question), and I hope to do more from this chart (maybe eventually at least one of each, but there are no promises about that).

For reference, the kind of hatch that I do most often (and that Dyson Logos popularized) is #58, “Massive igneous rock,” but there are clearly other choices available, if you’re open to mixing it up a bit.

Pentagonal Grid Sheet for Sharing

August 20, 2015

A lot of people were really interested in the Pentagonal Tiling Map posted earlier this week.  And a couple people have asked for a clean copy of the grid I used to make that map, so I have a JPG and a PDF version I’m making available.  I would be very interested in seeing any other examples anyone creates using these grids, and I’m especially interested in hearing about it if anyone actually uses the pentagon grid in a game.

type7tilingdiagramThat grid was made using the Type 7 tiling description (see illustration) from Convex Pentagons for Edge-to-Edge Tiling, I – a mathematical paper, but with useful diagrams of the then-known types of pentagonal tilings (14, at that time).  It’s a good resource for looking at the other types, in case you want to experiment with making your own.

For most, a JPG image is likely good enough for your purposes, and the image link at the bottom will probably be all that you need (click on it to go to the full size).  You’ll still have to scale it up to fit your paper size, but I think it should work reasonably well for that.  If you want the Letter size PDF file, you can download that, too.

(Please note, this was a quick-and-dirty version I just banged out to give the idea a try. There was no cleanup, and I see a few errors that would need to be fixed before a final version, but this should be perfectly adequate for experimentation.)

I’m planning to explore some of the other tilings, so there may be better resources in the future, with a collection of more patterns to use.