Last week we started a tutorial on how to draw simple dungeon maps in the style of Dyson and other leading artists in the tabletop role-playing game (RPG).
This week we’ll be covering caves and associated natural formations to bring your tabletop games to life with a touch of professionalism!
If you want to read the part where we talk a little bit about pencils and pens etc, you can find it here!
So, onto caves and natural features!
Unlike traditional dungeons, caves don’t have an easy way of defining the typical 5 foot square in inches on the map (1-inch = 5-foot). To get around this, simply place a well-defined sheet of squares under the cave map page so you can see through to the squares.
And now the process…
Place your page of squares under a fresh sheet of paper – this will allow you to draw to scale. You can see in the image that I’ve drawn a rough square shape with a tunnel for access.
In the following image, I’ve modified the outline to look a little more natural by taking the edges of the squares away and redefining the roughly circular shape.
The next step is to really define the outline. For this step, it’s best to use a brush pen or at least a 0.5mm pen. Remember the outline needs to stand out from the rest of the cave and its contents, as well as the dead space between other chambers. I tend to use a wobbly hand technique to apply a rough and believable cave wall for this part – don’t just make it wavey or zigzagged, add depth, create sharp bumps or points and let it look rough!
I decided to add some features to this cave section – two large natural pillars to hold up the ceiling, and a raised platform in the middle of the cave. Define these too, as they’ll be dead space or features that need demarking. You can see that I’ve filled these in using a similar method to the Dyson hatching style – series of lines which move in random directions, with each series of lines capped by another series of lines.
Note that the centre feature doesn’t have full hatching, this is because it’s a raised step or platform which players should be allowed to explore or monsters can stand on.
Now for the outside hatching! I’ve decided to show you three examples of border hatching (although the third method is more fitting for water banks). The Dyson style is quite arduous but very rewarding and therapeutic to draw. The dotting method is very simple (and with a bit of practice is much faster than I originally thought).
I always draw a guiding line around the edges of the map or tile. This is so I don’t draw in too much, or go out too far with the hatching methods mentioned here.
The last method is to use a very fine pen, in this case, 0.05mm, and draw one or two broken lines around the outer edges. As mentioned earlier, this usually marks where the water begins (such as on coastal maps) but is a very quick and easy method if you’re in a rush.
I’ve included some close-up images so you can emulate the style – it only takes a little bit of practice!
This final section is to add details. Details help to populate your map, making it look realistic, but also serves to add a sense of scale.
You can see from my doodles that I’ve drawn rocks of varying sizes. This was so I could determine a clean map space or a messy one, essentially providing smooth or rough terrain.
If you add features such as furniture or treasure chests you can further define the scale to let your players see just how big or small each cave is. Here are some examples of features and how simple little dots and irregular shapes can bring the cave to life!
That is pretty much it! You’ll find that with a little practice you can create some nice, clean and detailed maps in no time at all. Just take the plunge, put pencil or pen to paper and just start – no-nonsense or fussing – just get on with it and the flow will develop from there!
Next week we’ll look at some outdoor maps – a little trickier (especially since we haven’t tried this ourselves yet!)
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