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Guide to Map-Making

By R E Johnston

Making maps of where you are going to be beating up on the charac- *cough* *cough* erm, running an adventure can be lots of fun, but is often time consuming. Using an image editing program - in this case Paintshop Pro - can save you lots of time. Here's a few ideas on how.

1: Image Size

It's usually a good idea to be able to fit the map onto one sheet of paper (but sometimes this won't work, due to detail/size), and one sheet of paper can usually hold a width of between 600-700 pixels (while maintaining image size). Since A4 paper is a little under one and a half times as long as it is wide, it can hold about 900-1000 pixels along its length. For this example we'll use a map that is 600 x 400 pixels.

2: Laying a Grid

Grids allow you to maintain a scale throughout the entire map and let you know how far a character or monster can move on the map. Choose a grey colour for your gridlines, dark enough to be seen but light enough to stand out from the walls etc that you will add. Most picture applications have a flood fill tool which lets you lay a pattern across an entire background. To do this, we must first make a smaller image to act as the pattern (20 x 20 pixels will do nicely). Set your brush tool so that it is drawing one pixel lines (size one, usually) and put a grey line across the extreme bottom and right of the small image. Now use your flood fill tool (set to pattern, and the pattern set to the smaller image) and fill the larger image. Ta-da! You have a nice grid.

3: The First Level

Layers are a very handy tool when it comes to making maps. Whatever you put into one layer has no effect on whatever is in any of the other layers! As far as I know, layers are only available in Paintshop Pro 5+ (but I'm not sure) but anyway... To add a layer go to Layers > New (or Add). You will not have to change any of the settings (usually).

On the new layer you can draw, say, the first level of your dungeon (or the city's layout, etc). Below it, the grid is still visible. Don't worry about being too neat and tidy at this stage... editing comes later.

Tip: use a brush two pixels wide for your walls (size 2).

4: The Second Level

Again, add a new layer. New, select the first level again, and set its transparency to 30% (there is a slide bar in the layer viewer... you'll see it). Now reselect the layer you just added, and draw the second level (this way you can match up important features on both levels).

5: Tidying Up

Ok, now you have the general outline of the dungeon. Go back to the first level and tidy it up, making a note of where doors, secret doors and traps will be (make sure you select it then return its transparency to 100% visible. You can make the second level completely invisible, so that it doesn't get in the way). Where rooms/corridors join (without doors), remove the lines and make it look like they do. Again, what you do to one layer does not affect the others.

6: Choosing Colours

If you have a colour printer, this is no real problem, just make sure everything is different enough to be picked out (doors, traps, walls, the grid, staircases, etc). If you don't have a printer, you are a bit limited.

Choose black for the walls, as these are rather 'fixed'. Put doors in brown (with a letter on them signifying trapped, locked, secret, etc). Basically just pick colours that will stand out in black and white. Below are some examples.

7: Text

Choosing a text/text colour is pretty important, because it will have to be small enough to fit and clear enough to be read. For text I use Arial Narrow (or an equivalent), with black text and on about 10 pt. Make sure antialias, bold and italics are off. If you can't use black text then try grey.

8: Printing

When you print your map, make all layers but the background (where the grid is) and the layer you want to print (the first level of the dungeon) invisible, using the method discussed earlier. Move through the map and print each layer over the grid.