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    submitted 12 September 2006 @ 05:57
    edited 13 January 2009 @ 21:14

Mapping It

Article written by Jack Morris
Rating: Excellent (4.5) (4.5 rating, 2 ratings)

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You may find yourself frustrated. Likely more often then you'd like. Creating maps is most difficult when you really want to create something in comparison with something else you deem greater. However if you keep in mind what the maps goal is, you may actually find yourself coming to a satisfactory conclusion. So before you start mapping set out a goal as to what you would like to accomplish with the map.

Now some of you lucky folks out there might have access to 3d software or be willing to cruise the net to find something similar to what you like. Even to the point of taking something similar and modifying it in a photo editing program to your desires.

In addition there are of course programs and utilities out there. Buried after hours of search which are either free cause they're essentially not that great, or expensive because they're really awesome. We won't be talking about any of that in this tutorial. The only thing we'll be talking about is creating a map the easy way.

The easiest way of course to create a map is to get a pencil, pen, sheet of paper and to stay off the computer. Remember the goal of any map is to show where things are in relation to one another. That in the beginning all you need to accomplish is this. By keeping it simple you'll actually get more accomplished.

Step One - Outline it!

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Sketch out the outline in pencil till you're happy. Then go back over the lines in pen.

World Map - (outline the continents and islands)
Building Map - (outline the first floor of your building)

Tips and Tricks:
Shaking your hand a bit as you draw a line works well for coastlines.
Building maps are often best done with the help of a ruler.
Use the whole page so that you'll have plenty of room for detail later.

Now because you are keeping it simple you have not overwhelmed yourself with the shere difficulty of creating a map. You've got a basic structure down.

- Magic Trick -

Here is also where you and I can do a bit of fancy footwork. Scan that artwork in and print out a couple copies on your printer. (Note - They sell tranparent paper in which you can print on as well) Also you can copy and paste a continent or room to a new file then print it out larger to concentrate on that one particular area.

- Reminder -
You don't have to do this all at once. Work on it a little at a time. Practice and get familar with your writing implement in your hand. Draw a dozen outlines.


Step Two - Map it out!

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Select a goal.
- World Map
----- Where are your rivers and lakes?
----- Where are your cities and villages?
----- What areas are different terrain types?

-Building Map
----- Where are your doors?
----- Where will you place your interior walls?
----- Where are your windows?
----- Where are your stairs?
----- Where is your furniture?

If you're using the magic trick then you've got multiple copies of your basic map to figure out all these questions. You can also scan the page back in and then use it as a reference to answer more questions. Print out plenty of copies. This is all a safety measure to ensure that your time is not wasted. You can always go back if you feel you've messed something up.

It's a damn dirty lie that you have to draw to create a good looking map. Especially that you have to draw it all at the same time.

Tips and Techniques
For showing terrains types on a map you can always break out some markers or crayons and color in the different kinds of areas you've got on your world. Another method is to use different variations of cross-shading or stipling. When in doubt find a map you like and use it as a reference.

Step Three - Map Elements
Hey wait, I'm not past step two yet!!!! When you arrive step two you might get yourself stuck. This may have something to do with the fact that creating maps is not a stepped process. Especially rp maps. As you start figuring out things like windows, glaciers, cities, walls ect. You are going to loose your train of thought and get other ideas. Making maps requires discipline. So stop thinking about how your stairs are going to be collapsible and the glacier is covered in seals... in armor.

You've got to concentrate. If you've not failed in concentration you may have failed in your confidence to create a map. How do you draw a door? How do you show to someone that this is a door and this is a window. When did it mention anywhere up there about drawing in three dimensions? Stop!

One very simple solution to all this... is to remember the visual roleplaying games you've been playing before you decided to draw a map. How did they do it?

Easy! They created elements of a map and copy and pasted it everywhere. So figure out the method in which you are going to indicate a door, a city, a peice of furniture ect. There is actually an alternative to drawing. Write out things like "White Mountains" with a circle around it to show it's territory. "Couch" inside a rectangle.

Then attack how to draw a couch. Fly up to the ceiling with a sketchbook and look down at it. What does it look like. What is it's basic outline. You do not need the most beautiful drawing of a couch to communicate that it is a couch. You need a drawing extremely basic that says I am a couch.

When creating map elements don't draw them directly on the map. Draw them on a blank sheet of paper. Scan them in. Scale them down to the proper size. Then paste it as a layer atop your map on the computer. The map element you just created can now be used on any map your create.

Step Four - Pixel Sets

Now you can forget about steps one thru three. Though not entirely. Steps one thru three are the methods that will allow you to more freely express yourself in creating maps. Don't be afraid of picking up a pencil and sketching out your ideas. With all that said the easiest way to make rp maps is pixels.

Open a new file in photoshop about 800 x 800 pixels at 72 dpi. Create a new layer and select 20 pixels by 20 pixels. Zoom in on this area. Open the navigator pallete so you can see what you're doing at actual size. Then select your brush tool and color the square randomly and to your hearts desire. Deselect your selection. Select the move tool and hold down ctrl while moving the square. This will create a copy. Select the line tool and set it to 1px. Then outline the square with a black line.

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These two squares are now the base of your set. Cut them in half to make bricks. Manipulate and massage them into combinations in which to use as floors, walls, furniture, doors ect. For instance if you put four of the un-outlined squares into a cube. Merge the layers so it's solid. Use the circle selection tool and hold down alt so you select from the center... you'll create yourself an interesting looking circle. Outline it and you've got a simple table. Scale it down to use as a chair. Ecetera Ectera.

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Suprisingly enough this technique, or at least something similar must have been used in creating alot of roleplaying games. Take a close look sometime. Pixel mapping has a pretty long history.

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