Sunday, February 26, 2012

Dungeon Mapping with "Microsoft Picture It!"

After struggling for a long time with how I'd make dungeon maps for the West Kingdom campaign, I finally figured out the trick to making dungeon maps with Microsoft Picture It! I've had reasonable success making wilderness maps with the program. But dungeon maps have been problematic. Last night I finally figured out how to do it and here's a sample of the result.


I had tried demos of dungeon-mapping software, but wasn't terribly pleased with them (all a combination of too user-unfriendly, to "flashy," and/or too labor-intensive).

So I tried a multitude of other approaches: hand-drawing, Word tables, Excel sheets, MS Paint, and Picture It! photo editing. No matter what I tried, I was displeased with what I produced. My Picture It! results in particular always ended up looking awkward and "gangly" somehow.

The trick is not to use long corridors. It's that simple. It took me a while to figure this out, but I finally realized that the long corridors were what always, consistently, looked wrong. Just removing them, and placing all (or nearly all) the rooms butted up against each other does the trick. I've even had success now using the "insert shapes" feature to create round, octagonal, and other non-square rooms, and they turn out quite well.

Now I can produce a map that looks nicer than my hand-drawn ones (which frankly are not a pretty sight) in about the same amount of time it takes me to sketch one with pencil and paper. The dense packing of rooms means there are always multiple paths of access to nearly every point on the map, which should promote player planning and avoid architectural railroading. And the dungeons look like they were built by sensible architects who tried to make a reasonably efficient use of space.

14 comments:

  1. Another bonus, less wandering monster checks. The only problem I can see is that "secret" rooms may be easier to find by looking at the map. This kind of makes sense though as it is kind of realistic that if there is a "void" somewhere on the map observant adventurers would tend to look for ways to access the area.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was thinking exactly the same thing about the secret doors (the void + observant adventurers = realism). Also, secret doors may often only reveal hidden compartments in a wall (loot!), or hidden chambers beneath the floor, or escape routes placed at the map edge, etc.

      Delete
  2. Nice clean map Bard. I'm curious as what you're putting into it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Tim! I intend to put more detailed materials out (for others to borrow, pillage, or just learn what not to do) once my players have gone through them. Overall I'm planning for the campaign to have a mix of both large, medium and small (sometimes very small) dungeons, just so the players can have some variety in the types of things they tackle.

      Delete
  3. Nice looking map. I am looking forward to seeing them in the game!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dan! I can't wait to get you guys into the danger zone - insert evil grin here.

      Delete
  4. A great map, easy to read and to the point!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Ray! That's exactly what I was aiming for, and I'm pretty glad to have hit it.

      Delete
  5. I like this, Bard. It's so fun to see what you are all working on. Keep these posts coming. They are fantastic.

    Cheers and boogie boogie.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Will do! I'm having a lot of fun doing these. Hope you're having a great day!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I am. It's my day off and I just hit blog number 304. I'm resting mostly the entire day. Worked on Tim's room and then prep over the weekend. Just kickin' back, reading blogs today.

    Tim will be so glad to hear that King Poopyhead is catching on.

    The pups are passed out on the couch. They spent the morning outside and now they are zonked.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Apologies as well as you had dropped off my blogroll but rectified now.....

    ReplyDelete
  9. Good looking map. I really look forward to see them in the game. When will they be released?

    ReplyDelete