RPG Map Illustration Package
Pro Fantasy Software
"I want to go and see that dead squid over there."
"That isn't a dead squid.
That's lake Maharlana."
"Oh. Pause. "I thought it was the corpse of
Cthulhu's baby brother...."
Well, okay, maybe that's a little far fetched; but how often have you spent
weeks working on a scenario of depth and complexity, getting the balance right
between deviousness and hackery just right, figuring out clues, developing your
NPCs till you'd be able to recognise them walking down the street.... and then
you lay the map on the table. Suddenly, you look at it through the eyes of your
players - and see a mass of crude squiggles, without finesse and apparently at
different scales in different parts of the world.
"Tough," you mutter. "I can't draw."
Well now you don't have to. All you need is access to a PC, a printer, and
ProFantasy's Campaign Cartographer. Let me modify that. All you need is access
to a reasonably fast PC, and a decent printer. On the other hand, this is a DOS
package - that makes it fast and not too memory hungry: you can even run it
from floppies only. However, I've been trying to use it on my little 386sx
portable, with a mono LCD screen, and believe me, it isn't easy. The problem is
more to do with the screen than anything else, though, for reasons I'll explain
in a minute.
Campaign Cartographer is a computer aided design package, specialised to let
you draw fantasy maps. The basic module (which is the only one I've seen) is
for wilderness fantasy maps. An add on is specifically for drawing dungeon
At its most basic it allows you to draw maps at any scale you choose,
incorporating different geological and built features. These come from
libraries of symbols, and you can scale them up and down. The version I used
had libraries for fantasy maps - castles, palaces, stone circles, walled towns,
etc. etc. - but I'm told that additional libraries, covering science fiction
(and possibly other?) themes will be made available in the future. Mountain
ranges, forests and so on are shown fantasy map style, as if you are looking at
them, but you can also draw "real" maps with contour lines and shading to show
vegetation. You can't, however, switch between the two.
Maps are built up in layers - one layer for the coast line, another for rivers,
a third for roads and so on. You can choose which layers to print out. This
means that you can have a master map for yourself, but give your players one
with bits missing (e.g. if it shows a far off land). Later, you can let them
have a better one. You can also print out to different scales; this is the
world, this is the area that you are going to, this is the area immediately
around the village - and you don't have to redraw anything; this means that
even people who are good at map drawing are going to save a masses of time.
I'd love to say that everything in this program works fine, and that it's
transformed the life of a mapping klutz like me. It wouldn't be (quite) true,
though. I found the scaling feature difficult to follow (all right, largely
because I didn't RTFM (Read The Flaming Manual - first). Also, the drop down
menus don't drop down in the same way as Windows menus, but that's a minor
point. It also took me quite a long time to get used to switching between one
set of menus and another. My real problem was remembering which layer I was
working on; the main way of telling is by the colour palette you are given to
work with. As I said, I have a mono monitor, and, since one grey scale looks
much like another, I was stuck. But don't let this put you off - I don't
suspect that it will affect many people.
It's easy to draw a simple map with Campaign Cartographer - but if you only do
that, you are not making anywhere near the most of it. Once you start wanting
to do more, you may find yourself on quite a steep learning curve. Everything
you need to know is in the manual, but it isn't necessarily easy to find (there
is on-line help available). However, I'm assured that there are plans to sort
that minor problem. ProFantasy Software have also said that existing users will
be fully supported through upgrades as changes are made to the software.
I don't want this to sound like a puff piece. You can live without this if you
have to. But, at this price, it's a real bargain, and your players will love
you for it. Besides, even if you are good at hand drawn maps, the "secret
layers" feature will save you scads of time, and add depth to your campaign.
Overall: Highly recommended.
Review by Liz Holiday
Product supplied by ProFantasy Software
Editor's Note: The most important difference between CC version 1.0 and
1.1 is that the latter has no copy protection. Copy protection, according to
ProFantasy, is a major turn-off for potential users. Existing copy-protected
users will be sent a newsdisk which will break the copy protection before the
end of the year.