Click on towns to view their details
Show Towns: | Country Names / Pops: | Show Dungeons: | Show Roads: | Show Doodads: | Show Grid: |
Normal View: | Show Countries: |
These are "More Stuff" premium-only features:
Show Climate: | Show Elevation: | Show Population Density: |
Advanced World Generation
Continent Size: Shore Smoothness: Island Scatter: Shore Scatter: Distortion: Finer Distortion: Elevation Factor: Elevation: Sea Level: Continent Factor: Heat: Dryness: Population Factor:
Use the + and - buttons in the top right to zoom in and out. You can pan around the map either with middle mouse or by clicking and dragging. The 3rd ✥ button will make the map fill the screen, pressing it again will go back to normal size.
While looking around you should see various black and red dots, these are towns and dungeons respectively. If you click on black dots you can view the town, its population, jobs, businesses, and each individual person. If you click on red dots you can view the dungeon map, its rooms, traps, inhabitants, etc.
Below the map is a button to save the map on your device as a png image. There are checkboxes you can toggle to show/hide towns, dungeons, and country info. Every country is named and displays its population info. If you'd like to see the actual country borders, switch the button from "Normal View" to "Show Countries."
There's a [Permalink] in the top right that will always bring you back to the same map. If you save that link to your Campaign Notes then you'll always be able to access your world map no matter where you are.
If you register an account and get premium there are additional options available. You can view the hot/cold climate of the world, a heightmap of elevation, or the population density of where people prefer to live. The advanced world generation lets you fine-tune the type of world you'd like to generate, if you'd prefer lots of islands or more of a pangaea, adjust the climate, elevation, populations, etc. Play around, you'll get the hang of it.
A note on hamlets: hamlets and smaller homesteads or other wildlife living aren't shown as they can be expected on average every 50 miles or so. If you wish, when doing travel you can assume a hamlet every day's travel in high population density, and every few days in lower density.
Shout outs: Stacey, Max Puplett, Gordon Alexander Fallon, Gary, John Nazario, Lucia Rahberger, Sunscryer, Grey, Michael Sangregorio, Moonstar Morris, Keaton Permenter, Shazear, Richard Cotterill, Isaac Bergum, I_Maximus
Their contribution stands as a beacon of hope for all adventurers!
Have you ever came across a beautifully designed world map (perhaps in a fantasy novel or RPG) and thought to yourself, “I want to do that for my D&D campaign“? If you’re like me, you’ve excitedly grabbed a blank piece of paper and a pencil and gotten straight to work on your masterpiece. After an hour or so of diligent work you take a step back and. . . fuck. Somewhere along the line things got a bit jumbled up between ‘thinking it’ and actually ‘doing it’.
Frustrated from my own struggle, I decided to put together How to Make a D&D World Map: A Non-Artist’s Guide. This multi-series post will walk you through the basics: from choosing the shape of the land and placing terrain features, to placing cities and establishing “end-game” material for your party to work towards, as well as converting your world map to a digital copy.
How to Make a D&D World Map: A Non-Artist’s Guide
Part 1: Introduction & The Lay of the Land (you are here)
- Why Make a D&D World Map?
- Software Options
- General Shape of Landmass
- Large Bodies of Water
- Terrain Features
Part 2: Civilizations & Regions
Part 3: Roads, Transportation, & Unique Features
Part 4: From Paper to PDF
By the end of Part 1, you’ll have created a map similar to this one:
Why Make a D&D World Map?
There’s a handful of reason that you might want to make a world map for your D&D campaign. One reason to make a world map is so that you can give a copy of the map to the players in your party. I know when I’m a player I absolutely love getting physical items, especially maps. This gives your players something to huddle around (err… stay 6ft apart) and plan out some of their bigger upcoming moves for the campaign. Having access to a world map is especially beneficial if the campaign is being ran in an “open-world, sandbox exploration” style.
Another reason that you should make a D&D world map is because the process will improve your worldbuilding skills, both in general and for the specific campaign. As civilizations are being placed, for example, it might become clear why two kingdoms are at war (proximity to resources, limited room for expansion, etc). Additionally, having a map will make your world feel much more complete and concrete than if you didn’t have an established map. It will give the illusion of a fully developed world, while in reality you may only have a sentence or two description for each area (until players start heading there, that is).
Above all else, you should make a map if you enjoy it. I’m a big believer that the purpose of TTRPGs is to get a break from the real world and have some fun. The purpose of tangential hobbies (miniature painting, worldbuilding, map making, terrain crafting) is also to have fun! I find the act of ‘creating’ by itself is enjoyable, rewarding, and relaxing. Don’t feel like you need to limit yourself to only creating maps that will get used. After all, the more practice the better!
A Quick Note
As the name of this series suggests, this post will be geared towards people like myself who are only mildly artistic. Maps created by following this guide will probably not be beautiful or realistic. However they will give players a sense of the world they’re exploring, and that is the main goal we’ll be trying to accomplish here. Aesthetics and realism will come with continued practice and constructive criticism. Consider this guide a jumping-off point for your map making endeavors.
Although the rest of this guide will focus on how to make a D&D world map by hand, I feel that it’s important to give a run-down of different software options that can be used to create maps. As a fellow non-artist, you may feel pulled towards using software so that your maps are polished and professional looking. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and in-fact I’d encourage you to use the software rather than not have a map at all. The major benefit is that you can create high quality maps for your D&D campaign settings, without much artistic ability of your own. The downside is that you may be limited by the software itself and the learning curve associated with it. Additionally, maps made through software will share aesthetic styles with maps from other users, but this isn’t a deal-breaker for most people.
Inkarnate is probably the most popular map creation tool used across the internet. There is a free version, as well as two different paid versions (Pro version is only $25/year). This tool can be used to create world maps, regional maps, town maps, and battle maps. Check it out for yourself at inkarnate.com and be sure to head over to r/inkarnate.
Donjon Fantasy World Generator
Dammnnnn Donjon, back at it again with the useful DM tools! Seriously if you haven’t ever used their site, go check it out. There’s loads of useful generators and tools for both new and experienced Dungeon Masters. Specifically, today, I’m talking about their Fantasy World Generator. This free tool gives you a hex-grid world map filled with cities, ruins, and features of the land. Give it a try and create a world map here!
Worldographer falls in-between Inkarnate and Donjon’s generator, with the ability to sculpt and create your own maps but maintaining the hex-grid aesthetics. There is a free version available to try, as well as the full version which can be purchased for a one-time fee of $30 (check it out here). I honestly haven’t used this program before, but it frequently came up as a suggestion when I was doing some searching so I figured I’d include it.
Speaking of searching, feel free to look around (ie: Google) if you’re set on using software to build your D&D world map. For now, though, I’ll be proceeding to the main event.
General Shape of Landmass
First things first, grab yourself a blank piece of paper and some writing utensils ’cause we’re about to go old-school! I’ll be using blank printer paper and pens/markers, but feel free to use whatever you prefer. Just keep in mind that in Part 4 of this series, we’ll be converting your D&D world map into a digital format (ie: using dark crisp lines will make this process easier).
Second things second (as they say…), you’re going to want to determine the general shape of the landmasses that will be on your map. There’s no right or wrong way to do this. If you already have an idea in mind, perfect! Don’t worry if not; I’ll lay out a couple of different options to get the creative juices flowing.
Moving forwards, it can be useful to take a moment to consider “how you want the world map to look”, geographically speaking. Do you want a single large landmass surrounded by vast oceans, a few medium sized continents, or perhaps your world is primarily an archipelago of small island chains? It really just depends what you’re trying to build!
Method A: Tiny Objects
This method is great for brainstorming, as it allows you to play with the shape of your world without locking anything in place. Essentially take a bunch of tiny objects (aspirin, dry beans, elbow noodles, skittles, etc) and dump them onto your paper.
Move them around until you’re satisfied with how the world looks. It’s easy to make small changes, or add and remove islands as you see fit. Once you’re feeling comfortable, trace the outline of your landmasses and remove the tiny objects.
Method B: Stains
This method utilizes stains as the primary shape of land in your world. These stains can come from anything really. For example: grease stains on a pizza box, coffee stains on a napkin, or water stains from a leaky pipe. Once you’ve picked out your stain of choice, try to recreate its shape to the best of your ability on the blank piece of paper. As you’re doing this, feel free to change anything that you see fit. Remove a splatter here, add a peninsula there. Whatever feels good!
Method C: Real Life Inspiration
By using this method, you will be taking regions of places from real life and reshaping, resizing, and rearranging them to make your D&D world map. You wouldn’t be the first to do this! The different regions in Pokemon games as well as Westeros from Game of Thrones are (supposedly) based off of real-world regions. Pick somewhere with a coastline that you like and change the perspective a bit until it’s unrecognizable as the original location.
Method D: Signature Outline
This is the method that I’ll be using as we proceed through this guide. Essentially you will be tracing the outline of your own signature. Of course, you will only be able to generate a single world map using your signature. However if you like this method, you can always write out short phrases or words in cursive an achieve the same effect.
To begin, start by largely signing your name on the blank piece of paper. Be sure to fill up at least 60-70% of the page. Next, trace the outline of your signature. This shouldn’t be a super precise outline, as we don’t want the continents to be recognizable as your signature.
You may want to add in an island or create a break between some of the letters in your name. Once you’re satisfied with how the outline looks, trace over it with a dark marker. The reason for doing this is that we’ll be overlaying a blank piece of paper over your outline and retracing it. This gives us the outline (now the shape of the lands), without having to worry about erasing your actual signature.
Large Bodies of Water
The next step will be to add in some large bodies of water. Primarily, this includes any large lakes as well as filling in the surrounding ocean. Keep in mind that this is a world map, so it doesn’t necessarily have to include every single lake that exists within your realm. Feel free to exclude some smaller lakes from this map; those belong on smaller, regional, maps.
I don’t have any specific tips on where to place lakes. Honestly I just picked a couple of different places and drew a small oval-y shape there. I chose to fill in the lakes slightly with a pencil to make them stand out from the land. However, in the end any of the coloring (and honestly most of the details) that we do in this step won’t matter since in Part 4 we will be touching-up the map with Photoshop.
Next, you’ll want to begin shading in the ocean that surrounds your continents. Begin by lightly shading around the shoreline, and as you get further from the shoreline make the shade a bit darker (deeper water = darker). Again, this is mostly functioning as a placeholder until we get to the final section of this guide.
Finally, you want to add some terrain features to your D&D world map. You want the players to have an idea of what the world is all about, after all. I’m going to be showing you how to use a few very basic symbols to represent different climates and features of the land.
- Forests (trees)
When adding in these features, less is more! Remember that we’re not going for a realistic look, but rather just a representation of what’s there. 3-5 trees may represent a medium sized woods, while 7-10 trees could represent a giant forest. Additionally, be sure you don’t fill up the entire map! Be sure to leave plenty of blank white space. We still have a lot of things that we’ll be adding later on; this is only part 1 after all!
Hills can be represented by little ‘bumps’ appearing in the land
I use three different types of trees in my maps to represent different climates and ecosystems: pine, palm, and (possibly) maple. You can make these as complicated as you’d like, but I prefer to keep them relatively simple since they’ll be pretty small on the world map.
To make mountains, I start off by making a single peak (/\). Then, create another full peak slightly to the right of it (/\ /\). In-between these two peaks, draw two smaller peaks (/\^^/\). Now, for each peak draw a jagged line from the summit to the base. Color in one half of the mountain face for each peak, but be sure to color in the same half every time (always the right, or always the left). This will give your mountains a bit of depth, while still being very simple and easy to draw.
When adding deserts to your map, consider using a simple cactus and a tumbleweed. In Part 4, these areas will also be differentiated by adding in a sand colored background.
Now all that’s left to do is put it all together and add some of these symbols onto your map. I mostly put things around sporadically where ever it “feels right“. It might not be the best theory, but I’ve yet to have any players complain about map details breaking immersion.
A few tropical trees and a mountain range
More trees, some hills, a small desert. Also added a small mountain and an additional lake.
Finished adding some features to the western continent. I’m now done with Part 1!
Check out Part 2: Civilizations & Regions here
Inkarnate is a very powerful map making tool that has a free version to it. I have to admit that the free version does not contain all the bells and whistles that the pro and standard packages offer, but you are still getting a great deal. Unlike the last two entries on this list, Inkarnate is a map builder in which you can draw out your own continents and populate them with different shades, stamps of images like trees or castles and bridges as well as place text on the map. These can be done in a square grid which is good for making a simple battle map. Free form or hex designs are also an option with this tool. The tools provided with the free version are still robust and there is something really fun about slaving away making maps in this software that I always enjoyed doing.
I don’t have experience with the Pro or Standard versions of the software some if anyone has a membership, comment below and let us know your favorite perks.
To get started with this map designer, you will need to create an account. Try it out for yourself using the link below:
The Best DnD Map Makers
The two types of D&D maps
Because it is a tabletop game, most of the visualization in D&D is left up to the imagination. Some groups may rely on the DM’s descriptions of the locations they find themselves in, while other groups use maps. Whether you play in-person or online and with or without battlemaps, chances are you will be creating a map for something while playing D&D.
There are two main types of maps used commonly in D&D: regional maps and battlemaps.
These maps are typically on a larger scale than battlemaps. They show the region from a bird’s-eye view. These maps can be anything from a world map, provincial map, or city map.
If used for exploration, then these maps can contain a grid. This type of exploration is typically called a “hex crawl” and is addressed in depth in the D&D Adventure Tomb of Annihilation.
These maps are usually on a smaller scale than regional maps. Typically, they are self-contained for a single encounter, though they can grow to display the entirety of a dungeon or building that players are working their way through.
Battlemaps are usually overlaid by a standard 5-foot by 5-foot grid to make player movement and scaling consistent.
How to make D&D maps
There are two primary ways to make maps; they can be hand-drawn or made using online software. Hand-drawn maps have been around since the inception of D&D. These maps, most commonly used for in-person games, can be combined with terrain pieces or miniatures.
Hand-drawn maps can be drawn on anything from a piece of printer paper to whiteboards, but in recent years, wet-erase grid maps have become the crème de la crème solution.
Mapmaking software, due to the sheer number of options, is a much less straightforward solution. In this article, we will explore which software is best for which purposes while making D&D maps.
The Best DnD Map Making Software
There will never be a straight-up “best” D&D map maker. The below-featured map makers will list the pros and cons of each software, as well as their best use case.
Inkarnate is easily the best fantasy map making software on the market. It’s got a slick UI, tons of assets, and can create detailed maps in a matter of minutes.
- Easily the most fleshed out, versatile map building option
- Completely online, no software download or install
- UI is thorough enough to create amazing maps but streamlined enough to build maps quickly
- Free and Pro versions
- Can import custom assets
- Pro version allows for commercial sale of maps
- Walls don’t “snap” together, which can make the creation of dungeons or other indoors areas clunky
- Subscription model, not a one time purchase
- UI can get slow on big maps with lots of assets or slow internet connection
Inkarnate can be used to create regional maps and battlemaps. I have found myself reaching for Inkarnate most of the time I am creating a straightforward battlemap. Because I try to keep my session prep to under two hours, it’s extremely nice to be able to punch out a detailed map in five to ten minutes.
Inkarnate’s regional map maker is also a great tool, though I tend to use it much less often.
I do have to say that creating a map with lots of rooms, such as a dungeon or large building, is a bit of a grind with Inkarnate simply due to the level of detail they require.
All in all, I would compare Inkarnate to a “map-focused Photoshop”. The layering, blending, and usage of assets has a similar feel to the infamous image editing software and while it might not be the most streamlined D&D map-making software, it is a great mix of easy to use and customizable.
Check out the free or pro version at inkarnate.com
Wonderdraft is a fantasy map-making software that focuses specifically on regional maps.
- Regional map-making tools are unrivaled
- One time purchase
- Software download, no in-browser option
- While battlemaps can be created using the software, it is certainly not meant for this application
- No free option
Wonderdraft is unrivaled in its ability to create regional maps. While Inkarnate is a close second, the one time purchase, huge array of assets, and streamlined UI make this the best solution for larger-scale maps.
Buy Wonderdraft for $29.99 at wonderdraft.net
From the same creator as Wonderdraft, Dungeondraft focuses specifically on smaller-scale battlemaps.
- The vector-based system can scale to any resolution
- Walls and floors are seamlessly integrated, making the creation of complex indoor environments a breeze
- Custom assets, brushes, etc. are easily available
- No internet required to use
- Built-in lighting system
- One time purchase
- No additional commercial licensing
- Software download, no in-browser option
- While regional maps can be created using the software, it is certainly not meant for this application
- No free option
- From personal experience, can crash unexpectedly on the M1 Macbook Air
- Fewer assets than Inkarnate
Dungeondraft has been my go-to battlemap creator recently, especially when doing an interior scene such as a dungeon, cave, or fortress. In my opinion, Dungeondraft’s Building Tool is the quickest and most effective way to create indoor battlemaps out of any D&D map-making software available on the market.
Buy Dungeondraft for $29.99 at https://dungeondraft.net/
Dungeon Scrawl is an online map builder designed to create simple maps with a hand-drawn feel.
- Import from donjon Random Dungeon generator
- The UI is very clean and easy to use
- The simplified purpose of the tool allows the creation of complex buildings or intricate tunnels very quickly
- Free to use
- Tons of unlimited pixel exportable options that can integrate with Photoshop or Illustrator to further populate maps
- Assets by Two Minute Tabletop (for non-commercial use only)
- Maps cannot mimic real-world textures like Inkarnate or Dungeon Fog
- Battlemaps only, no regional map options
Dungeon Scrawl is meant to do one thing really well, create intricate dungeons. Whether you are creating a large building with multiple rooms and floors, or a cavern that twists and turns under the ground, Dungeon Scrawl is the best option to create them quickly and effectively.
If you would like your dungeon to be populated with intricate features, Inkarnate is a better bet but it will take much longer to produce a quality result.
You can check out Dungeon Scrawl for free at probabletrain.itch.io/dungeon-scrawl. If you like it, please support the developers 🙂
Dungeon Fog is similar to Inkarnate. It is an online builder that has tons of assets and textures with a freemium model.
- Can organize maps into groups or “floors” as well as into campaigns
- Door and windows snap to walls allowing for easier creation of multiple rooms
- Better organization of assets than Inkarnate
- Can be used to make regional maps and battlemaps
- Much more expensive than Inkarnate
- Less free assets than Inkarnate
- UI isn’t very easy to navigate
- Very hard to find which assets can be used for free users
Dungeon Fog is a competitor with Inkarnate, but in my opinion, it is more expensive with a less user-friendly interface and limited functionality.
The biggest advantage Dungeon Fog has over Inkarnate is the ability to quickly make dungeons or large buildings with interconnecting rooms.
For a full review of the software check out our Dungeon Fog Review. You can check out Dungeon Fog at dungeonfog.com and get 10% off using the coupon code ARCANEEYE.
Dungeon Builder by Hobbyte
Hobbyte is a downloadable map builder that focuses on isometric (3D) dungeons.
- Extremely unique and cool way of displaying maps
- Commercial options available
- Can make small regional maps and dungeon maps
- Easy to mod assets
- You can roll dice, open doors, reveal traps, and gradually present your maps manually or using their fog of war feature. This is important because these maps would be extremely difficult to use in a typical online platform like Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds.
- Scalable exporting to fit any resolution
- The free version is more of a demo than a viable map maker
- Commercial licenses are much more expensive than Inkarnate
- Maps can be confusing to look at
- No online solution
Hobbyte is the best option for isometric D&D maps. Not everybody will be looking for a solution to make isometric maps, but if you are this is the best option.
You can check out the free verion of Hobbyte here and purchase the Dungeon Builder and commercial licenses here.
RPG Map Editor 2
RPG Map Editor 2 is an online and downloadable D&D map maker that focuses on pixel-style maps.
- The best thing about this tool, in my opinion, is its integration with the Watabou One Page Dungeons tool and the donjon Random Dungeon Generator. Both of these tools are stellar starts to creating a dungeon, and being able to manipulate them with RPG Map Editor 2 really brings it home.
- Completely free (even commercial use)
- Cool, pixel-style aesthetic
- Maps can be exported to upload to Roll20 or other virtual tabletops
- There aren’t a ton of assets or textures but you can custom import icons
- Focuses mainly on dungeons, rather than other types of maps
RPG Map Editor 2 is a great tool for creating simpler dungeons. I use it when I want to pre-generate the dungeon using Watabou or donjon and then make edits to the layout with RPG Map Editor.
You can RPG Map Editor 2 for free here. If you enjoy using it, please support the devs 🙂
Profantasy’s Campaign Cartographer 3
CC3 is easily the most intensive (and expensive) map-making software available on the market.
- Extremely powerful, vector-based, CAD software
- Frequently featured on HumbleBundle to make the large price tag more palatable
- Add ons can allow for making all kinds of maps from large-scale regional maps down to small-scale, single building maps
- Tons of asset packs available for download that can customize the way your maps look and feel. Plus, some asset packs are by Mike Schley, a professional map maker who has made maps for many official D&D modules
- Gaining access to the entire suite of map-making tools can cost $1245 USD when not on sale
- Because the functionality is so extensive, there is a very steep learning curve
Campaign Cartographer 3 is for hardcore map builders. If you want to invest time and money into becoming a professional or semi-professional map builder, CC3 is for you. If you are a DM who is looking for quick and easy software to make maps for their sessions, I would strongly consider looking at other options.
There you have it! We’ve looked at the best D&D map makers, their pros, their cons, and the use case for each.
Do you have a favorite way to make D&D maps that weren’t mentioned here? Let us know in the comments below!
Mike BernierMike Bernier is the lead content writer and founder of Arcane Eye. Outside of writing for Arcane Eye, Mike spends most of his time playing games, hiking with his girlfriend, and tending the veritable jungle of houseplants that have invaded his house. He is the author of Escape from Mt. Balefor and The Heroes of Karatheon. Mike specializes in character creation guides for players, homebrewed mechanics and tips for DMs, and one-shots with unique settings and scenarios. Follow Mike on Twitter.
Map dnd world
D&D Homebrew Tips: Creating Maps For Your World Part 1
One of the most exciting things about universe building is creating maps for your world. Today we're going to look at what it takes to build a believable map – particularly one for fantasy RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons. In doing so, we'll go into the different types of maps you need to think about and, most importantly, how to get started.
Fans of The Hobbit will remember the first time they cracked the spine and flicked through the first few pages, resting on their first glimpse into Middle Earth. It set up the story in a way words couldn’t. Ever since, every great fantasy novel has had a map or two somewhere within their pages and they are the mainstay of all roleplaying games. After all, without a map, how do you know your way there and back again?
To begin with, we're going to look at hand-drawn maps. How you draw is up to you. Many enjoy the tactile feel of putting pencil to paper, but while there is an authentic aesthetic that this can bring, you may prefer to capture your vision digitally. We’ll look at some tools that can help in a future article. In the meantime, grab your coloring pencils or fire up photoshop, and let’s get creating.
Regional Map of the starting area for my D&D game. from mapmaking
It's good to learn by example. Grab all the fantasy novels and roleplay adventures you have. These are a great source of inspiration as the maps have weathered the scrutiny by readers and players the world over. Another good source is trail maps and town plans. Even house layouts can be important, get some of these from realtors or home builders. Finally, if you are looking to craft entire continents and planets grab a good atlas. These bring an indispensable outlook on geography and geology.
Making sure your reference material is organized properly will save you lots of time further down the line. You can use apps like Pinterest to catalog assets. You can use folders on your computer and even physical document folders, regardless, remember to store things in an order that makes sense to you. Create a log sheet so you know what each folder contains and use tags to categorize, this also makes life a bit easier for someone else should they need to work on something map related.
RELATED: D&D Homebrew Tips: How To Start Building Your World
Size And Scope
How big is your map? What area does it cover? And how are these maps going to be used? Think of the maps you need to create and how zoomed in you want to be. You’ll need to think about scale as well, but we’ll cover that next. World maps should be fully zoomed out, and house plans or dungeons as fully zoomed in. Each map serves a different purpose but the common factor is that the map limits the places a player can go. They can’t step outside the map boundaries.
My first map for D&D from wonderdraft
As a world creator, you will want to create maps of all ‘zoom levels’, as these will help you tell the overall story. Your players only need a zoomed-in map or two relating to the tasks at hand. Don’t over complicate in-game actions by providing a map too large in scope.
You may think that scale is the same as size and scope, but when we look at maps, 'scale' has a specific meaning. You can think of scale as to how much the map maker must shrink their representation of the world to get it to fit into a given size. Don’t worry if you are still confused, it will all make sense as you go. Scale is usually presented as two numbers separated by a colon i.e. 1:60. This means for every 1 unit on paper, we travel 60 units in real life, i.e 1 inch : 60 miles or 1 inch to 60 miles. Using this scale a map of the United Kingdom could fit onto a standard sheet of paper. The higher the second number, the more zoomed out we are.
Don’t get too caught up on this, the main takeaway is that the scale should be somewhat realistic. Think of the area you want the player to be limited to. Using a standard sheet of paper and a scale of 1 inch to 5 miles gives an approximate world area of 40 miles by 55 miles or a total of 2,200 miles squared.
RELATED: How To Start Playing The Witcher Tabletop RPG For Free
Map Key And Symbols
Maps should avoid the over-use of text, one way to get around this is to use symbols to represent features. You should use the same symbols for all features of the same type and build a “key” to help you remember what symbol means what. You don’t have to think of everything now, but add new symbols to the key as you need.
Designing Your Map
Now comes the fun part – drawing the map. But where to start? Your map should be a faithful representation of the world you have created. Start off by sketching a couple of landmarks and towns. Add roads and waterways, and move onto hills and mountains. Don’t worry if you reach the edge of the paper, grab another sheet. Our aim here is to create a solid foundation to build upon. You will redraw this a couple of times as you refine your ideas, record and label everything. And finally, create new maps for key landmarks, towns, events or where something important should happen when building campaigns and adventures.
Quick Tips On Map Making
Add some registration marks to line up any additional pages later. Use different markings on each edge to avoid confusion and adding a sheet number will help with larger maps.
Label your maps with a name, date, and revision number. Chances are you will always want to work with the latest version, but being able to backtrack easily or look something up will pay dividends later and avoid frustration.
Maps should feel full. Just like in real life, a land with multiple civilizations probably has lots of water, plants, and other bountiful natural features. So don’t leave empty spaces, fill in areas with trees, lakes, rock formations, and other neutral landmarks. You can always come back later and add more details. If you plan carefully, some of these assets can be reused.
NEXT: D&D Homebrew Tips: Creating Maps For Your World Part 2
Explore the city of Winchester at your own pace, without any enemies breathing down your neck.
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These Are The Best DnD Map Makers, Generators, and Premades
A road that consists of nothing but packed earth and ever-encroaching weeds, a vibrant and thriving tavern stretching three stories tall, a sprawling warehouse district at a newly defunct dock. Wherever your Dungeons & Dragons adventures take you, maps can be incredibly useful tools for immersion, fleshing out your gameplay, and even making it easier.
There’s three types of maps:
- Region maps – this kind covers a larger area, from whole villages to entire kingdoms or continents, showing you the terrain, roads, and main points of interest. Sometimes this is just used for illustrative or reference purposes so your players can better grasp the world they vicariously live in and therefore plot their travels accordingly. If you play a more sandbox type of game, then this map can take on a more functional role; as it will likely be divided into hexes, your greater exploration charted by which hex you wish to explore next.
- Battle maps – (or battlemaps) theatre of the mind (TotM) games can be very fun and exciting, but it can also lead to a lot of confusion and time-wasting, as the players need to ask repeatedly for clarifications. The battle map solves this, allowing the players to see themselves, visible enemies, and measure the distance in between themselves whilst waiting for their turn to come up. Visuals on the map itself can help fuel a mental picture of the heroic tales the dice are telling, and make keeping track of environmental hazards and hurdles easier.
- In-character maps – typically seen as a handout or something a character makes in game. Think of it as the kind of maps you’d get at the mall, but with more tea staining. These maps are fantastic for immersion in the area and lend a more in-the-moment feel to dungeoneering. Devious DMs will want to note that maps the characters have need not tell the whole story, if they’re accurate at all.
Now you know what types of maps there are. But what about where to get them from? How would you go about creating the masterpiece in your mind on screen? Well, since you asked:
Best Digital DnD Map Makers
If you’re looking to create beautiful region maps (in colour or parchment style), then Inkarnate is a great tool. It offers a variety of ‘stamps’ and models to decorate your maps with, to create the terrain you envisioned when you first sat down and decided ‘this, this is the world I will start the apocalypse in.’ They regularly update the art available and recently added a battle map style for creating encounter perfect maps in which to terrorize your players. You can add a grid during creation or leave it sterile and use the grid in your virtual tabletop (VTT) of choice. The best part? It’s entirely free to use, with a reasonably priced paid option if you want thousands of more art assets and the license to use the maps you create commercially.
Another great tool, Dungeon Fog, takes a different strategy, with a free account you have access to all assets and the full public gallery, the catch is that you can only have 3 created maps at a time and all pro assets will be watermarked. Commercial licensing is separated out into a higher tier, so if you don’t need it you don’t have to worry about paying for it. Overall, a fantastic map maker, best suited to battlemaps and smaller region maps.
Dungeon Painter Studio
One of the oldest options, Dungeon Painter Studio offers a wide variety of tools for creating battlemaps, as well as a choice of online tool (like our other entries) or a standalone app, sold and managed through the Steam store. Since the decline of Flashplayer, the browser based version is now offered as a download. Don’t worry if you aren’t running the latest and greatest from the tinker gnomes, Dungeon Painter will run on most laptops and PCs.
RPG Map Editor 2
Born from a video game developers desire for a good looking, but simple to use map creation tool, RPG Map Editor 2 is a great tool that can be ran in browser or downloaded. The assets support traditional fantasy maps as well as more modern or futuristic settings if you find yourself chasing hover cars rather than carriages. It’s pay what you want and the developer makes sure to say that includes free!
Best DnD Premade Maps
Inkarnate and Dungeon Fog
Whilst both of these sites are great map making tools, they also provide large libraries of community-created maps you can download and use at leisure.
This fantastic website has over 200 map and asset packs for use in your games (with easy to print pdfs if you play at a physical table). You’re probably thinking this is really expensive, right? Well that’s entirely up to you, many maps and assets are pay what you want (PWYW) with a recommended price of $1, but you can get them completely free to try out or if you’re on a tight budget. Other maps are a fixed price of a dollar or bundles are available for more.
Many talented artists now take to Patreon to support their craft and provide their audience with great art. A few great map-orientated Patreon pages are: Afternoon Maps, Cze and Peku; for the more technically-minded, Animated Dungeon Maps, provides maps that feel alive, whether it be through dancing flame or flying arrows.
Best DnD Map Generators
Watabou Fantasy City Generator
A fantastic tool for generating map style region maps for your cities of interest. I personally use a map generated with this in my campaigns.
Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator
Actively in development, Azgaar’s generator can provide maps for a whole continent. You might be thinking that would be random shapes, but the generator even draws borders, roads, and names the various kingdoms and towns it creates. Go ahead, zoom in and see all the details for yourself!
Donjon’s Random Dungeon Generator
If you’re looking for a more barebones map, or want to give your session more of an old school feel then look no further. Donjon’s Random Dungeon Generator not only generates a map, but will also generate encounters, traps and environment details for you. A few clicks and you can have an entire session of content created for you, for free!
Versatility may as well be this product’s middle name, this is a mat with a square grid on one side and a hex grid on the other. So whether you’re dungeon diving or in the middle of your hex crawl, this mat’s got you covered. Not bad at all! And if you want to add some details, and walls, etc., but don’t have any fancy terrain, you can draw right on the grid as they’re wet erase! Clean it well after each use, and this staple of tabletop gaming will see you through many campaigns.go
Running a module your friends have been talking about for months, but worried about conveying how epic the world is at the table? Want to use the maps in the book but don’t want to cut the page out or keep flipping it to the players? Grab some full size maps to put on display, like this lovely set for the Tomb of Annihilation or this set that’s cherry picked from some of the best adventures across editions.
Maybe you prefer a more modular approach. If so, then dungeon tiles are for you. These are small sections you can arrange to create the dungeon layout you want, some are preprinted with art like this official set, or are blank canvases for your imagination, like this dry erase set.
Feel free to ease up on the sharpie marks on your table; you’re now well-equipped to prepare beautiful backdrops to your parties (mis)adventures. Just be careful you don’t fall into the age-old trap of map prep: getting sucked in and forgetting to prep anything else! If you’re happy with the hoard of maps you’ve just created, then you should head on over to our campaign ideas article and get some inspiration for what to do on those maps. Happy DMing!
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D&D Maps n' Stuff
Troy’s How to Run Kobolds just hit our blog! There’s battle maps bundled in, a dash of geeky humor, and enough kobold-content to build a campaign around.
Come check it out:https://www.2minutetabletop.com/how-to-run-kobolds/
“Everything you could need to know for running kobolds in and out of combat. Dig some tunnels, rig some traps, and then throw your party in the deep end.”