So my second attempt at a town map for my own D&D campaign was a lot different.

Again, I used the tutorial I found on the Cartographer’s Guild as a base, but I really stepped outside of the box and put in some hand-drawn elements.  this particular endeavor was all about Layers for me.  I had a LOT of layers–upwards of 70!  And I learned that I had to change the file type in order to not let my computer slow down so much that it was unusable, which led me to .psb files, Photoshop’s Large Document Format files.  This was the first time I created an image using that particular file type.

As a result, it has become very difficult to actually share all the detail in the work, since the file has to be so big in order to actually see all the tiny little things I put in the file…

Westbridge is another town that isn’t really fleshed out very well in the pre-written campaign I’m using (Princes of the Apocalypse if you want to know).  It goes through a bit of a “journey” as the story develops, but I won’t give too much away…

But before that happens, there’s the potential that my players may end up visiting it.  And I wanted to be prepared.  There’s less of a reason for them to go there, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.

And it was an excuse for me to practice and expand my Photoshop skills even more!  🙂

There is no bridge in Westbridge.  It is a town that is the “Gateway to the West”.  It has more churches than Beliard  has (my first “town” map), and less affluent citizens, but it’s still a key locale on that same east-west trade route that Beliard exists on.  This one, however, is on the western side of the valley, where Beliard was on the eastern side.

Again, only a hand full of NPCs are described.  And even less text that describes the town itself.

So I dove in, making it a community that I got to define myself!

I decided visually, this particular map would have less “pre-packaged” elements than the Beliard map.  I would follow the tutorial’s instructions, but I also wanted to make it my own. I added a lot of hand-drawn layering, fleshing out textures in ways that I hadn’t before, and really investing my drawing skills on a cliff face on the western side of town.

As I alluded, I had a lot of layers going on, and that meant there was a lot of detail.  I inserted hitching posts, clothes lines, water troughs, wells, shadows on the ground, high spots, textures in the roads, etc.  I even put apples and lemons in the trees.  And a magic “henge circle” high on the cliff, rife with opportunities for adventurer abuse…  hehe…

But because I’m a file-noob, all that detail is really difficult to share if you can’t post it in all its glory.  The file ended up being 2 gbs,  and that is really quite large…  I’m hoping that the image below is big enough to help indicate all that detail even if it can’t outright show it entirely.

I learned a lot on this map.  How big is too big.  Starting with an understanding of how far down the rabbit-hole you want to go so things don’t devolve outside of one’s control is a good idea, and adapting one’s illustrative style to accommodate.  Better color palette.  I think the map itself comes across as a bit more organic by virtue of the hand drawn elements.  I made a lot of my own brushes for the first time.  I also added a Key for all the locations.

Here it is:

Westbridge with Key

I’ve also made a brighter version without the key (but with the numbers on it still for easy table reference) that might print out a little better. It is very large, (over 50 mb) so be prepared if you decide to download it.

Westbridge Brighter

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, I use a particular program called PosteRazor to print these out at home.  It allows you to scale them up however big you want, then it creates a PDF file that can be easily printed out on individual sheets of paper on your own home printer, allowing you to tape them together into one large piece.  It’s free, so you can’t beat that.  🙂

Anyway, there it is!  🙂

Whew!  Onto the next project!


Beneath Kekise Map

So I have completed my first map.  It went through some permutations…  I had originally hoped to make some notations on the map itself from some thief who originally stole the map from it’s source, and escaped as the last member of his party…  I had his notes on the map with little symbols he had drawn to indicate what was in each room.

But the idea didn’t match my capacity to execute it in reality.

It ended up looking somewhat muddy.  Too many small details and too many poorly drawn “notes” made the map look hokey.  And I tried to make it look like he hadn’t taken very good care of the map, so I stained it and added water smudges and such.  But in the end, it was starting to get even darker and less clear, so I trashed that idea.


Before I did, I tried to go even further…


But nothing I could do could fix it.  I tried different fonts, different locations of each notation… nothing worked to my eyes.  Finally, I gave up, and decided the map had enough history as it was–the staining added age, and I figured it would still read as an “old” map.

I settled on emphasizing the story of the one who found it in the archives, a simple archivist I name Grinin Fiver.  I felt that he probably found the map, labeled it appropriately and cataloged it, then forgot it.

And back into the vaults it went.  I added a stamp, changed fonts yet again, and settled on a few notes he might have added, instead of the thief’s.  I took out all the detail in the map itself, and pondered the idea that a set of players using this would have information about the cave’s outline, but nothing about what was actually in each area…  And I thought that might be fun!

So I settled on this:


And I think, ultimately, this is a better choice. It’s simpler, and gets things out of the way so the real action can happen within the map’s delineated areas.

I imagine that this map might be a deeper level of a dungeon, between a more excavated area and the ultimate big boss in some hidden grotto somewhere–perhaps beyond the water?  There aren’t any entrances or exits on this map, which might be telling to an astute adventurer.  There are not stairs, no internal detail.  I think that might amp up the paranoia for players, eh?  Who knows where this map came from.  Who knows how old it actually is?  Who knows what culture uses the (almost sic-fi) symbology present on the map before Grinin “rediscovered” it and then processed it away into oblivion?

There are all kinds of RPG hooks possible for this map.  I hope someone finds it useful!  🙂

A Cave of My Own

I have been really inspired by the work I’ve seen on the Cartography Guild’s website, and I”m starting to look at maps and cartography in a different light.  I was able to go back to some of my inspirational artists (Like Jared Blando) and look at their work in a different way, with a lot more appreciation.

For example, I have learned that doing a Neat Line (the alternating color boarder that helps indicate the map’s scale) is not an easy thing to do, depending on the program one is using.  I played around and figured out how to do one, but I never realized how much time they take.  And a compass rose–those are as unique to each map and indicatory of the flavor of what you’re seeing as a thumbprint, I think.  So much of a map’s artistic style is indicated in the packaging of it,  and all those things are “content” that I hadn’t really paid attention to.

I started to develop a map of my own because I couldn’t not do something with all the inspiration I was getting.  I plopped down to a fun session of map-making last night, and drew a touch sketch of a cave.  As the drawing started to evolve, I still had no idea what might be in there–what kind of  creature would use it and for what purposes.


I started to plow forward trying to create a pretty “packaging” that would at least flesh out the visual aspects of the map.  I added shading, a grid, crosshatching, some textures, a background…  And while I was doing that, I  finally started wondering what this subterranean cave might contain.  And a story started to evolve.  The parchment textures I was applying to each layer informed me that I should make things “watercolor-ey”, and bleed out some of the colors into different areas.  And that was the key to figuring out the story behind the map in my head.


I started to realize that not only did the cave itself have a story, but the map of the cave also had a tale.  That the map probably started out in the hands of its makers to serve a very different function than the purpose the latest holder had when it came into his possession.  I think this map was stolen by a dungeon delver of some kind, and over time it has developed notations over the top of the original markings made by the map’s original makers.

So that meant I needed to make “original” symbology,  and then be prepared to layer over the top of that the scrawled notations of the man who stole it away.  And I realized it could tell a bit of a story, this map.  It’s history could inform how it is used by the current band of adventurers to whom it has ended up.


So there are several things I want to do at this point.  I added a border, but I don’t have a neat line yet (well, what I think is called a “neat line”…  I may be getting terminology mixed up there…). Nor do I have a compass rose yet, or title block.  But I’m wondering if all those things have been added after the fact by the ones who came to posses the map after it was stolen.  I wonder if this map isn’t a couple decades, if not a hundred years old…

Regardless, it’s a start.  It has taken me about 3 hours to develop this so far (I’m relying upon a lot of Photoshop tricks and brushes and layering effects) so it’s moving along at a steady clip.  Still don’t have a name for this yet, but we’ll see what evolves.  I plan on putting in more details, so I think the name of the cave is actually going to come from the man who stole it, and that might have to do with some of the details he remembered and wrote down on the map after he escaped with it.  We’ll see.  🙂