One of the most unique aspects of Dargarth is the land map. It adds elements of diplomacy, leadership, and strategy to a game that would otherwise be a traditional “Boffer Larp.” The map and land rules take heavy inspiration from Darkon, but have been simplified in some places, expanded in others.
This article serves as a basic guide toward making your own land map. It may also offer interesting insight into Dargarth’s own map. This is the second half of a series on Dargarth’s land map. The first article can be found here.
- Element: Anything on the map. A castle, border, title, river, whatever.
- Symbol: An image placed on the map that represents something (such as a castle).
- Brush: A tool used to “draw” on the map. Brushes either draw a line (such as roads) or draws a line and then fills in the middle with a “fill” image (such as with borders).
- Tool: Resizes a symbol, draws a line, writes text, etc.
Dargarth’s map was created using Campaign Cartographer 3. It is easy to alter and adjust elements of the map, which makes for easy updating after events. Some menial tasks are automated (such as sorting into layers) and the respectable art library means you don’t have to draw or find each tree, castle, or road yourself. It is a CAD based program though, so it operates differently than pretty much every drawing program you’ve likely used. It is Dargarth Seattle’s map maker of choice.
The rest of this article will proceed as if you use Campaign Cartographer 3, but hopefully contains enough general information to be useful for other workflows.
Step 1: Get acquainted with the program
Read tutorials. Study the help files on each tool. Make a blank map and try each button. Whatever it takes for you to get familiar with how things work. This article isn’t meant as an instruction on how to use CC3, rather a guide on how to use it to create a Land Map for your local game. Getting proficient may take some time, that’s ok.
Step 2: New map, now what?
Start with a map full of ocean, this makes adding continents and island easy. If you won’t have seas on your map, starting with a base layer of land is fine. Make sure you have more space on your map than you think you’ll need for the first continents. This lets you expand later as your game grows.
Time to lay down a hex grid! Experiment with different sizes/shapes/numbering. Find out what you like. Make sure you can align things to the grid (the snap button in the lower right of the screen). This is useful for drawing land and borders. Things don’t have to be aligned with the hex grid, but it can help with clarity.
Time to lay down some land. You can use the default land brush, but making your own custom brush can be better. Modifying brushes is an essential skill, so you might as well learn it early. Right click on the land tool icon. This brings up a number of different types of land you can select from, but you want a custom brush. Find the advanced button, here’s where you can edit the brushes. Make a new brush and try experimenting with the fill. It can also be useful to change how the outline is made (fractal, rounded, polygon) and what the outline looks like. For Dargarth, we use the default land brush with a thick outline added. This makes land masses much more visible in the printer friendly mode.
Step 3: Toss in some base layers
The default land texture looks like some sort of pleasant grasslands. Your map would be boring if that’s all that existed, so spruce it up. New terrain also offers gameplay opportunities. In Dargarth, terrain can slow travel, and hide different types of monsters.
There are two ways to denote terrain. The first is with the “terrain” tool that CC3 offers. This basically creates another layer of land. The 2nd option is with symbols, such as trees, mountains, and more. For now, we’ll stick to talking about the terrain tool. There are lots of different patterns you have access to. Find ones that you think look good together and start putting them down in the same manner as your land. Think about how the climate works and where different terrains should be.
Rivers are fairly easy to add. You may have to adjust the width of the brush, depending on the scale of your map. In general rivers flow from mountains and hills to the ocean.
You might want to create some shallower waters at this point. Right click the ocean tool and you’ll find lots of different depths and colors of water. Don’t worry about drawing over the land or not, you can fix any problems with proper layering of sheets. Speaking of which…
Step 4: Sheeting everywhere
At this point you might have a few oddities cropping up with how your map is stacking up. The “sheets and effects” menu is a marvelous resource. It aids organization (you can hide/show sheets to select only the objects you want) and lets you adjust how your map elements are viewed. Try moving your hex sheet up and down the list, observe when it gets obscured by certain elements. You may want to create some sheets of your own. Dargarth has a sheet for terrain symbols (permanent features of the map, like trees) and asset symbols (things like boats and castles, which players can alter). You can sort things into sheets with the “change properties” tool, or by editing a brush’s settings before drawing with it.
Another thing to note with the sheets menu is the effects feature. This can add some really impressive details. Select a sheet, then click “edit styles”. You’re presented with a list of filters to add. Try experimenting with them. Dargarth uses a small outer glow on the “TEXT” sheet to improve readability, an edge fade on the “TERRAIN” sheet to fade terrain into the default land, a very minor outer glow on the “RIVERS” sheet, and an inner fade on the “POLITICAL BORDERS” sheet (more on borders later).
Step 5: Terrain Symbols
We took a detour through sheets, but its time to finish your terrain. Some terrain brushes have an option to lay down symbols automatically (certain forest brushes are the most obvious). Those auto placed symbols tend to be very dense, and might not look right for your map. Placing symbols by hand lets you place exactly what you want where you want.
Lets use mountains as an example. There are many different mountain symbols (and clicking the “+” icons reveals even more) and they come in a few different color types. Because they’re all on the same sheet, adjusting how they stack and overlap is a little tricky. Work from north to south, as this overlaps the mountains correctly. You can adjust the size of symbols by right clicking, and can even pick custom colors if you want pink mountains. Try tossing in some of the more unique symbols like pyramids and volcanoes.
Stacking symbols together canYou can create “new” symbols by stacking two or more together. Dargarth uses a whirlpool symbol and a ocean rocks symbol to represent a “maelström”. Dargarth uses lots of terrain symbols. Besides mountains, examples include: lighthouses, ice-floes, many different types of trees, abandoned ruins, low hills, and details for deserts.
Too many terrain symbols can make things look busy, but too few makes them stand out awkwardly. There’s a balance point, and only trial and error can find it.
Step 6: Figure out your borders
Borders can be very simple, or they can make you pull your hair out. Don’t use the default border brushes, make your own. The outline is the most important part, make sure that color stands out from the terrain, and that its thick enough to be seen easily. The fill isn’t required, but it helps avoid confusion over what side is within and without of a country’s border. You might find that the fill covers up your terrain, or that the terrain covers up your outline. These can be fixed with proper layering of course, but you need to make the outline and the fill separate elements before that. Under the outline settings you can type in a custom sheet (or an already existing one) for the outline to be assigned to when you draw with this brush. For the record, you can do this for the fill as well. For Dargarth, the border outlines are placed on the “POLITICAL BORDERS FRONT” sheet, and the fill is on the “POLITICAL BORDERS” sheet.
Separating the outline and fill also allows you to apply a sheet effect to one but not the other. On Dargarth’s map, the inner fade on the borders fill creates an interesting visual effect that an outline alone couldn’t create. It also lets the fill sit over the top of the terrain sheets without obscuring any detail.
Step 7: Figure out your assets
Assets may include fortresses, mines, army camps, boats, or any number of things the players might create. Most symbols have a primary appearance, and an option to set custom colors. You can use these colors to differentiate between multiple country’s assets. Make sure to communicate with the players and keep the colors consistent across the map. The Explorers Guild of Dargarth has green borders, green sails on their boats, and green roofs on their buildings.
Step 8: Label everything!
Its not always easy to tell one symbol from another. Text is essential for the map to make any sense at all. The text tool allows you a fair amount of control. You can load fonts into it as well, so don’t think you’re limited to the basic default ones. Remember your sheet effects. The white outer glow on Dargarth’s “TEXT” sheet makes the black text easier to read against dark mountains or marshes.
Step 9: Updating
Eventually you’ll need to change the map when players start using it. Editing a country’s borders can be obnoxious, since you’re likely to have to redraw them. That’s the way the outline/fill system works though. Selecting elements (for moving or deleting them) can be tricky. Try hiding/showing sheets until you get only the ones you want.
Step 10: Practice
Don’t jump into making your land map as the first project. You need to get proficient (or at least acquainted with) the program before you make something you want your local group to use. Try making a map like you would use in your game, but on a smaller scale. This allows you to experiment with different techniques. Also try making other types of maps. This is useful for getting better with the program. Explore your creativity, find out what you like, and bring it back to your land map. Perhaps you want a parchment and ink look, or a minimalist 100% functional map? You may have to wrestle with the program a bit, but these effects are all possible. The Dargarth map was made entirely from the default CC3 resources, but there are a number of user made resource packs to explore.
Step 11: Teach other people!
You can’t be the only person running the land map forever. If you move away, get burned out, or fall off a cliff, your local game will have no one to maintain the map. Distributing responsibility is essential for a game’s long term survival. Find someone responsible, check that they don’t find map making excruciating, and share what knowledge you’ve acquired. Another option is to write an article and share your experience with the world!
If you have any questions, feel free to email the map’s creator and author at email@example.com
If you’re interested in writing an article for Dargarth’s main page (no need to be so excessively long) and getting a bonus credit or two, email firstname.lastname@example.org