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As stated. I tried a few specialized mapping tools, but I feel like I'll be happiest just using Inkscape (an open source vector drawing tool).

I'm still working on getting an efficient system down for it, though, and would definitely appreciate any tips.

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Are you looking to create everything from scratch, or pull images of map tiles down and stitch them together for your own maps? –  Agent_9191 Aug 21 '10 at 5:56
    
At this point, from scratch--I'm converting some hand drawn sketches into a more presentable form. –  Numenetics Aug 21 '10 at 14:04
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The Cartographer's Guild (cartographersguild.com) is full of great tips and tutorials. –  Bryant Aug 25 '10 at 13:26
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2 Answers

I use Inkscape for all of the maps for the most recent adventures for Gods & Monsters, mainly House of Lisport and Helter Skelter.

  1. Layers are your friend, and grouped layers are even better. They can make it very easy to use the same map for your own use as game master and for the players use; all you have to do is hide the layers with secret info.
  2. Layers can also be used for different floors, making it easy to not create buildings where upper floors don’t have any support.
  3. Clipping boxes can also be useful if you want a map that is a subset of a larger map. For example, my “world map” is four areas. When I need to print a map that is just the central area, I select the top layer that is just a rectangle surrounding the part of the map that I want.

    • The cropping square object can be in a separate layer. The clipping square must be on top (easiest done by putting it in a layer that’s on top).

    • Select all objects to be cropped, including the cropping square. Order doesn’t matter. (It may help to uncheck “ignore locked objects and layers” in the Selecting preferences.)

    • Choose Object:Clip:Set.

    • The items will be cropped to the layer holding the cropped image. You can now save as a PDF.

  4. Rob Conley has a nice short tutorial making a river at Bat in the Attic. Blur really makes rivers and lakes look better on a map.

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If you build yourself a library of your commonly used objects creating maps will be faster. I don't use inkscape in particular, but in other programs, you can import another picture from the same program, and use as an object inside it.

For example, you decide that you're going to need a forest, so you open a new picture and draw a tree (or maybe a few trees). Then you go back to your original map, import the trees picture into a new layer (like Jerry Stratton says, layers are incredibly useful), and duplicate them to rapidly make a large forest. If you don't like duplication, you should then be able to add bits to modify some of the duplicates (if it's looking too regular).

It's also useful if you're making lots of maps, say you have a signpost picture in one map, you might want to reuse the graphics in a different map (replacing the text).

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