Map Example

Map software!

In a recent GM Quick Tip we talked about websites for gaming maps.  We got a lot of great feedback on the Tip as well as some good comments from a lot of map makers.  However, one cannot build a gaming empire on randomly generated maps and Google Image searches! So what software do you use when you want to make your own maps?

Below are a few of the resources that I employ at the Thirdwalling table when I’m building maps for my current Trials of Everrun game for map and dungeon building!

Browser-Based – Dungeon Painter – This is a favorite of mine. It is browser-based, free and really easy to pick up and use.  It seems to be an internet favorite as well, and there’s YouTube videos full of tips and tricks on its use.  I’ve struggled to get it to work on my phone, but it works pretty easily on my tablet for brainstorming and on-the-fly map design. Dungeon Maker – Browser-based simple dungeon lay-out for free?  Yes please.  It’s a grid layout with some basic buildings and room shapes.  I use it for brainstorming and quick-sketching a dungeon when I’m in a hurry or on the fly and only have my cell phone.  When inspiration strikes and there’s no graph paper around, this is my go-to!  They also have a World Painter but I have not used it much.  I use Auto-Realm for that. – When I run games online, I run them on  It’s that simple.  You can design your dungeons, taverns, woodland scenes and roadways ahead of time right in the campaign.  The features are pretty impressive for a free program and I expect they’ll start charging for them soon!  The best part is, after you’ve designed your maps you can bring your players in via a Google Hangouts tie-in and play right through the program.  I do not run a lot of online games, so I don’t give Roll20 the attention it probably deserves, but I do use it when I’m laying out Taverns and other buildings (as opposed to dungeons) because the tool pack is good for that.  Recently I started using it for caves, and it seems to be great for that as well!

Free Downloads – 

AutoRealm – Free, with good symbol and tool sets out of the box.  I will admit that there was a steep learning curve on this, but there are many, many great YouTube videos for this free software that really sold it to me.  Some have reported problems when printing on Windows 8 64-bit but I’ve not experienced it.  For dungeon and city design there are better and easier programs out there, but I use AutoRealm exclusively for designing my worlds including country, continent and global maps.  Once I’ve got it sketched out, I dump the raw image file into GIMP and add textures to give it an “old map” look for props.  This got a lot of use when I was running the LARP and continues to see use in my Trials of Everrun campaign.

Dungeon Crafter III – This was recommended to me on a Google+ community a few weeks back.  I downloaded it and played around with it for about 10 minutes and haven’t really done much else.  There was a much less significant learning curve as compared to AutoRealm, but it seemed to have fewer tools and symbols out of the box.  It seems pretty solid, if basic.  Just a simple dungeon builder at the right (free) price.

Premium Downloads – 

Dunjinni – This reminded me of a more full-featured AutoRealm.  There are a lot of great art and symbol packs available for sale in their store and at about $40 USD for the core software it is very affordable. Like everything these days there are good YouTube videos detailing its use and the learning curve was lessened considerably.  There’s also a great gallery on their home page which can be good for inspiration in designing your own, or fodder if you need a quick map and don’t have time to build one.

Campaign cartographer – A very highly recommended and powerful tool.  Packages run between $100-$650 depending on how many symbols and tools you need.  Not quite the steep learning curve of AutoRealm and a lot more functionality. The price tag makes it prohibitive for my gaming hobby, so I have not used it personally, but if you’re a serious mapper it’s worth checking out.

What are you using?  What experience do you have with the above?  Take it to the comments!

A note on this entry:  None of these companies are sponsors or have endorsed Thirdwalling in any way.  If, for some reason, they just feel like giving me money they certainly can but they haven’t as of the posting of this entry.  They’re just the products that I personally use, and your experience with them may be different from my own.  That is all!

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3 thoughts on “Map software!

  1. I am a pro artistic cartographer and I rely on Xara Photo & Graphic Designer 9, a vector drawing application similar to Inkscape or Illustrator. I am currently writing a series of Map Tutorial Guides using any standard graphics software (Photoshop, GIMP, Illustrator, Inkscape, Xara) and not mapping applications per se, called 25 Quick & Dirty Map Tutorials. Many use my maps in their VT app based games, though I often print my maps large format for my tabletop game.

  2. Outstanding, Michael! I’d love to see your Tutorial. I use GIMP occasionally at my day job, but I’ve struggled in using it for map making beyond cleaning up images created in AutoRealm.

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