Tag Archives: fantasy rpg

How to Draw RPG Maps – Part 1, Dungeon Maps

(Step by Step)

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been tackling a growing problem in my role-playing gaming sessions – maps.

Maps can really bring your game to life, focus the players and help keep track of locations and events as the game progresses. The problem, however, is that if you’re not 100% confident of your drawing skills, you may be disinclined to draw your own or pay someone to use theirs. This is fine, but you’ll likely not get a dungeon map in the style or layout that you want.

So this is where my practice comes in: you can read the following and hopefully learn a few tricks and see just how easy it is to draw clear, atmospheric maps in a very short space of time.

I’ll be emulating some of my favourite styles, with the mind to develop my own style from the industry benchmark.

Tools

In the UK currently, it is very easy to get your hands on the tools you’ll need to draw out your own dungeon maps. Here’s a list of the pens and pencils I use, which I’ve selected for their inexpensive price tags:

  • Derwent hard pencils – a set of 5 pencils shouldn’t cost you an arm and a leg. There’s a huge variety out there, but frankly you can get away with a pretty standard HB, 2H and 2B set of pencils. HB is your standard pencil, 2H is a harder pencil which gives you a harder and lighter pencil line, whereas 2B is soft, giving you a darker and softer pen line.
  • I use Uni Pin fine liners for the inking of my maps – they’re pretty common and over the last ten years have dropped in price significantly. For my practice, I use different thickness of nibs: 0.5, 0.2 and 0.05 mm pens, with a brush pen for extra thick lines.
  • For practice, I bought a really cheap pad of 50 sheets of drawing pad paper, A4. If I’m sketching I got to town a purchase A5 sketchbooks, these shouldn’t cost you too much, but I like the thicker paper sheets.

All of these items are available at the Range – I was amazed that 10 fine liner pens were around £10 per pack, giving more pens than you will ever need! A4 drawing paper can cost as little as £1. Art pencils can cost a little more than regular pencils, but there’s no need to go crazy for your first time. A simple clean eraser is helpful.

So, here follows my method for quick, simple and effective dungeon maps.

Zero

To save on buying fancy pads of paper, I start by drawing the framework on a new piece of paper. Using the edges of the paper, I mark out inch wide dots to form a series of squares. You can create 1-cm lines if you want, but for the use of tabletop maps, I prefer 1-inch tiles. It’s a standard format, with 1-inch acting as a 5ft space for your players. My example is below. I’ll only really need to do this once, so its best to get it right and save the page for multiple uses in the future.

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

One

Once I’ve got this right, I can start using it to map out my err, map. I place the framework page underneath a fresh page and mark where the lines intersect with a cross. I’ll draw in the walls of the dungeon room, all in pencil. I’m going to just be using a simple square as the dungeon tile, normally you’d leave space for a door in and out, but my examples are just that, examples.

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Two

The next bit is where it starts to get a little more tricky. My first step here is to draw the outlines of the room in a thicker pen. Here I used the 0.5mm pen, but sometimes I use a brush pen for an extra thick line. So long as the pen you use is the thickest pen for your dungeon map tile, you’ll get a good edge. It needs to be thicker to stand out as the walls of your room.

Next, I switch to the 0.2mm pen and draw the lines of the stonework – this is a simple process, but you should be aware that you don’t want to draw the tiles like a literal grid. For best effect, you want to give the impression of the stonework. I do this by lightly bouncing the pen up and down on the paper as I draw the lines, creating a staggered line. It looks smarter and more realistic than if they were a simple grid.

Using the really fine pen, the 0.05mm pen, I add in some cracks randomly to the stonework and add a few lines to the edges of the room. This is purely fanciful and down to your own preference!

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Three & Four

In these images, I’ve tried to convey a bit of lighting. Dark and damp dungeons are not airy and light places, so it adds atmosphere – I added some shade or shadows. Shade and shadows can be used for different purposes here – they act as both an absence of light and potentially dirt or dust.

For tile 3 I used lines to suggest shadow, for tile 4 I used simple dots that grow in concentration the darker the shadow becomes.

I added some missing chunks of stonework, which I filled in with some hatching using the 0.05mm pen. You can see where I practised this at the side of the page. You can also add some tiny rocks and surround them with simple dots to create a messy appearance – you don’t need to explain what these are, they could be moss, fungus or just bits of stone or bone.

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Five

Next, I draw a simple border around the room, about half a centimetre, which you can see in tile 5. You’ll notice that I’ve not drawn using a rule at all in my process – I like it to look natural and a bit rough… adds to the atmosphere!

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

Six

In tile 6 you can see the different border techniques that you can use to provide a bit of depth to your maps and also define what is solid rock and what is room space. These three techniques are used extensively across the internet. I’ve adapted mine from Dyson and Dark Realm Maps – both industry leaders and heavily involved in the RPG community – you should check them out on Twitter!

RPG Map Dungeon Cave Dungeons and Dragons DM

So, at the top of the tile, there is line hatching – this is just a series of lines running in the same direction, repeated and twisted to create a pleasing mess to the eye. To top it off, I just added some random singular lines, dots and small stones to give it a more natural feel. It takes quite a long time to do and easy to mess up – make sure your lines come to a stop with another oblique line for a nice finish.

On the right side of the tile is simple dotting – the closer to the wall you are the more dense the dots become. A simple method that doesn’t take too long to do, but keep in mind how many dots it takes to do a single centimetre square!

Finally on the bottom of the tile is “stone support.” You can use this method for underground dungeons or for free-standing buildings above ground. Each building block has its own shape and size but is organised in clear lines. I tend to keep some stones to the guidelines we drew in tile 5, whereas some go beyond it – I prefer to keep it even as a rule of averages: for every extra tall block, there should be a shorter block to match it.

And that is pretty much it!

I’ve included some of my own tiles which I first started a week or so ago. You can see where I’ve messed up in some places. Overall though, this method is actually quite quick and easy for a small to a medium-sized dungeon. You can keep your map to a single piece of paper or cut out your tiles to allow the players to only see them when they enter a new room.

I hope this has been informative, and we’d love to see some of your creations on our facebook page or tag us on twitter with @ FerrisWrites.

Next week I’ll go into more detail about cave dungeon maps and tiles, which can be a little more time consuming but require less initial setup.

Bye for now!

Ferris

Part 2 – Cave Maps can be found here.

Handling Creative Projects: Motivation, Content & Formatting

The Godless Realm was born whilst travelling at 70 mph on a dark, rainy motorway somewhere near Coventry. The Godless Realm is a fantasy world setting for tabletop role-playing (TTRPG, or just RPG). It’s not out yet, but we wanted to write about how we’re doing things to give you an insight in what is involved and maybe pick up a few tips along the way.

Since its initial inception we’ve fleshed out ideas, cut and pasted countless more ideas and edited so many documents and versions of documents that we’ve lost count – our Google Drive is a bit of a mess at the moment too. I started to ask myself, what needs to be done?

Here are a few points on what we’ve tried, failed and retried to give you an idea on how to keep a project going…

Share It

Doing a project by yourself is all fine if you’ve got the motivation and the skills to get a project done. But if you’re like most people, sharing your content with trusted friends really helps, especially if they into the same things as you are. We use Google Drive to share, make suggestions and comments and leave helpful little motivational “likes” here and there for bits we particularly enjoy.

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm

Motivation

One of the hardest things to maintain over a long project like this is keeping motivated and getting the task done. On a personal level, this is something I have to do after getting home from work or spending time with my partner (or for others, juggling a young family). So how do we do it?

Once a week, we meet up for coffee or food somewhere that isn’t our home. The reason for this is quite simple: we get out of the house, have an excuse to meet up and hang our mental washing out to dry. Coffee is great for thinking up ideas and energizing the imagination – and the meal is a great place to discuss ideas without having to dedicate your entire concentration. The key is that it’s a relaxing thing to do.

Since doing this we’ve found that our ideas flow more readily and feel natural without having to engage and force ideas.

Personally, I drive home from work and listen to thematic music to fit the nature of the project (anything from Lustmord to Lord of the Rings), get in, walk the vintage Labrador, eat food and sit down for an hour and write solely for that hour. If I find my attention failing, I spend 2 minutes on Twitter or Facebook, checking the stats and analytics of the various social media platforms, have a stand up stretch and get back to it.

Once that is done, the evening is my own to do with as I wish (which usually involves board games, doggo playtime or friends). Do this for five days a week, you’ve spent a minimum of 5 hours working solidly on your project.

A quality 5 hours too.

As a real example, we manage to proof or edit 10 pages of content. If we’re purely writing, you’re looking at 5 good pages a week – and this based on the assumption that it’s just me working! I’m lucky to have the imagination of Mr James and sometimes Mr Steadman working at the same time.

Proof & Edit

This isn’t something you can really do as you go along. If you’ve ever tried NaNoWriMo you’ll see that proofing and editing should be done at set stages or strictly at the end of the project. The reason for this is simple: you need to give you mind time to forget the details of what you’ve written. Do that and the text seems fresh – mistakes stand out like a whale at a cheetahs party.

Personally I find reading something out loud (or just whispering it to yourself) allows you to see when you need to pause to take in a comfortable breath. If you’re not sure on how something sounds, send it to a friend to look over (maybe just a snippet so they don’t lose focus), or get yourself a few books on writing in the language you’re using. Penguin books are good for this, and there’s a host on free online content with good ideas.

Mark in your document how far you’ve got and go back to it when you’re feeling too tired or bored – it’s perfectly fine to feel tired or bored, just give it time and go back to it again.

If you use Google Docs, you can make comments on your work as you go, leaving yourself little messages so that you don’t forget things. We also tag each other at the points where we feel the content is more in someone else’s domain, or if you need help with a section.

Take your time, and read the content for what it is, don’t just skim read it.

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm

Formulating Ideas

Ideas do not just come to a person in a complete form – you need to develop something into more refined or expanding ideas. For the Godless Realm project, this meant that we would start with something small in the form of questions:

“How do the Guilds pay their workforce?”

  • Workers are given a station which supplies their food, an abode and expected duties.
  • To gain more money, luxury or influence a worker must gain promotion to a better, hierarchical post, with more responsibility – but these are limited!
  • So who makes the food? Who manages the houses? Who lights the streets? Who cleans the streets? Are there sewers, who cleans them?

The list of extra questions  builds and goes on and on. You don’t have to answer all of them, but building up the picture gives you avenues to explore and ideas from which to build on. From this method we created various guilds, factions and gangs to fulfill the niches we felt needed filling, whilst making them important to the citizens of the Godless Realm.

Formatting

This should be your final step in any written project!

Formatting is where many of the issues can arise. What program do you use to help format your documents into something legible and professional looking? How professional do you want it to look? Where do you need to add spot-filler art or page breakers?

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm DriveThruRPG

We purchased some stock art from DriveThruRPG (it’s usually a few dollars / GBP for some sets) and grabbed a copy of Affinity Publisher – this was the most expensive part of the project so far, as Affinity costs £48 – but it’s a one-off payment… no subscription (looking at you, Microsoft!).

You can get free versions of publisher style programs such as Scribus, but I found them to be old and stuffy and not as user friendly or efficient with my computers CPU. Affinity also do video tutorials, which I found very easy to follow. That’s my endorsement for the week!

creator consortium master page affinity development blog RPG roleplaying game DnD Fantasy Godless Realm

With Affinity and some simple stock art I was able to start producing master pages and spreads which look reasonably professional quickly – less than an hour in fact.

I’ll say it again: At this stage, you need to have all of your project text finalised, with no changes, edits or additions or subtractions from the main body of text – because doing so once it is formatted is just undoing a lot of the work you’ve already done, i.e, wasting your own time!

That’s it for today – I hope this insight has been a little helpful or inspiring. The key conclusion I think is that if you think it’s impossible, it will be. Set yourself little goals and read around the subject and you’ll start to formulate your own patterns of working.

If you have any questions, leave a comment below or contact me on Twitter (@FerrisWrites) or Like our Facebook page!

Here’s a little free “bare bones” RPG adventure, feel free to try it out and let us know what you think… constructively…

Bare Bones Adventure 1

Ferris, CC

Credit: Some artwork copyright William McAusland, used with permission.