I’ve decided it’s time I developed my map of Akorros, and there are various tools out there, so this seemed like a good opportunity to explore them as well.
Anyway, there are various mapping packages specifically aimed at the role-playing gamer, including:
This post describes my experience with Worldographer.
As a reminder, here’s the map I have created so far:
This was created using Affinity Designer, a drawing package from Serif which I also used for colourising the drawings in Ragnar’s Keep. I have been using the Serif drawing tools for about 20 years since DrawPlus, so they probably colour my view of “how drawing should be done”.
This is created as an A4 page at 1cm = 100 yards. The city is approximately 1 mile top to bottom and half a mile across. Since it’s A4, the page is 2970 yards top to bottom (about 1.7 miles) and 2100 yards across (about 1.2 miles).
Worldographer has three modes – world, city and dungeon. These used to be three separate apps (Hexographer, Cityographer and Dungeonographer) but a couple of years ago version 2 came out which combined all three in one interface.
It has a free version, or you can buy licences for each section individually which supports the developers and unlocks additional features. According to the description on the web site:
- Worldographer’s World/Kingdom code allows: multiple map levels, expand/shrink the number of rows/columns on a map, generate rivers/coastlines/empires quickly, add map notes, and more!
- The program’s City/Village (Settlements) code lets you generate settlements with populations over 5000 people.
- The Battlemat/Dungeon license allows you to autogenerate stores, inns, taverns, and other upcoming building types.
At time of writing (February 2021), you can get a licence for all three for $70, or each individual component is $30. I have the full licence. This was done with Worldographer 2 v1.20 platform 14.
When you create a new City/Town/Village map, you are presented with the following dialog box:
There are quite a few options there for auto-generating a settlement for you, but I’ve already got a pretty clear idea of what I want, so I went for the Blank Map option.
Sizing: There is no guidance of scale here, and I couldn’t find any way to control the scale or idea of what it expects. After a few false starts I settled on 120 hexes tall and 100 hexes wide. This seemed (by eye) to work out closest in aspect ratio to my A4 map.
Importing the original
Worldographer has a nice option where you can import an image to trace as a starting point, so I imported my Designer map.
The underlay settings allow you to specify X and Y sizes and an offset:
This is all very well…but it takes quite a bit of trial and error with the original image on the side to get the aspect ratio right. I originally assumed 120×85 would match A4 (1.41:1), but I realised that was too narrow, so I eventually settled on 120×100. However, it really surprised me there was no option to preserve the aspect ratio of the original image to save me all this trial and error. If tracing I would have thought most people would be wanting to match the proportions of the original.
Laying down the terrain
The obvious starting point seemed to be to lay down the broad-brush features – lake, islands, land, marsh, city districts.
Worldographer gives you multiple layers for your items, with the following default set (in order from highest to lowest):
- Vegetation [again]
- Above Terrain
- Terrain Land
- Above Water
- Terrain Water
- Below All
This seemed a reasonable starting point, so I first laid down a simple rectangle of water at level Terrain Water, then started adding land above it. It has a drawer of Shapes tools which seemed the most obvious for this.
I tried Polygon, Line and Curve, with and without fractal.
I’m not quite clear how Polygon is supposed to work – you can see the points, but it doesn’t seem to fill, so I moved on to Line. This draws straight line segments between all your points which may or may not be the effect you want. If you put them sufficiently close together the straight segments will look reasonably smooth, but after a bit I decided I wanted something with curves so I switched to Curve.
This is where things become idiosyncratic. You give a point for the start, and then the next two points are used to control the curvature to the third point…but you don’t see the intermediate points until you give it the third point. This then repeats – two control points and an anchor, two control points and an anchor.
Idiosyncratic, but I got the hang of it okay after a bit. It made judging the closure of the shapes a bit tricky because I didn’t always leave an appropriate gap between the penultimate point and the start point and had to fudge things, but again I began to get used to it.
It also took me a while to work out how to finish one shape and move on to the next. It seems that clicking on De-select will finish the shape so that the next point becomes the start of a new shape.
It was when I wanted to start tweaking once the shapes had been laid down that things got really frustrating.
I think that the Select button allows you to select one or more shapes, but I was never sure what I had selected or how to make sure I selected the correct thing. All I saw was that there would be points highlighted, and when I clicked on things that would change the points which were highlighted…sometimes… I kept selecting, deselecting, selecting again.
Another thing which REALLY doesn’t help is that the settings don’t seem to update to match the item you’ve selected. So I would change a city block, deselect and then select an island and it would still be showing as city on the city layer. I initially had it set to 50% transparency, which given I was layering blocks on top of each other and being lazy with the outlines of the lower shapes meant that I would have strange gradients showing through, so I went to update the transparency. It also isn’t clear whether 0% is fully opaque or fully transparent… By trial and error, I think it is opacity, i.e. 100% is opaque and 0% is transparent, but I’m not sure.
Anyway, so I click on a shape which should be hiding another shape and it shows me 100%, but the underlying shape is still showing through. I click down on the transparency to 99% and suddenly it becomes a lot more solid. Does that mean 99% is more solid than 100%?
After a frustrating weekend, I think what is happening is that the settings are not updated when you select a block. As soon as you make a change some?all? of the settings which are currently displayed suddenly get applied. This left me with various strange effects. For example, suddenly my lake rectangle jumped to the top because I had been editing the wall (Above Terrain) and then made a change to the lake. and a while later I saw a strange chord of city.
I attempted to reproduce this for illustration, and here’s the mess I made. Somehow as well as the wall (on the 5th attempt) I seem to have selected the lake as well:
Although I’d selected the wall which had no fill, it already showed as filled, so I had to change the fill to get the effect…at which point the lake changed colour as well to my surprise…
Which brings me on to another gripe. Undo is very unreliable. Sometimes it works fine. Other times, it inserts a random point a long way off which gives a long thin triangular wedge. And undoing the undo doesn’t work… There also seem to be far too few levels of undo – it stops working at all far too soon when there are a lot of points in the shape. The only way I found to recover was either to delete the shape completely or to revert to a previous save 🙁
Anyway, after a weekend working on it, here’s what I managed to achieve:
Not too far off the original. Time to start adding some texture.
Terrain and Texture
So having got that far, I thought it was time to start adding detail to the hexes. After all, that’s the point of Hexographer…
And this is where I hit a complete block. Whatever I tried, I didn’t seem able to get the terrain to appear. It seemed the shapes overrode the terrain.
Until I had a flash of inspiration: maybe the hexes automatically are assigned to a terrain layer. So I set the land shape to Above Water (i.e. below Terrain Land) and the lake shape to Below All (i.e. below Terrain Water). Now the hexes appear:
This shows an assortment of terrain blocks in two different styles – classic map drawing and a more artistic isometric style. And here’s a further assortment of lake and swamp in the different styles. Yes, I know it’s a bit garish and random, but it shows you the options.
A city isn’t a city without buildings. So let’s get going with these. They have some gorgeous-looking buildings:
Again, it didn’t seem to do what I wanted… I added buildings and they came out huge. I select them and I couldn’t seem to change the size. Discouraged again…
Then I found the Override Default Scale setting. Now I can resize and rotate, and when I select I can rotate and resize with the mouse. Finally something that makes sense! Here’s a quick mess I threw together which does at least show some buildings being put down:
Those large buildings were put down at default scale. You can see the smaller buildings have been scaled and rotated, and there is one building which is selected showing its resize and rotate handles.
So now I need to work out what the scale should be, and I can start adding them properly.
I was about ready to give up on Worldographer. Its idiosyncracies, particularly around the shape selection and update, were so frustrating, and the fact that the shapes on a terrain layer overrode the symbols and the buildings were too large (and didn’t seem to have any scaling) just were the final straw. I went off and looked at Inkarnate (next blog post..).
It also doesn’t help that there’s next to no documentation – none in the program itself, and fairly minimal on the web, so I’ve had to find it all out by trial and error.
But during the writing of this blog post, I realised how to move the shapes down so the terrain symbols do appear, and I also found the scaling option for the buildings. So I’m willing to give it another chance.
However, I will try Inkarnate and Campaign Cartographer before making my final decision.