Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dungeon Mapping Software

Can anyone recommend to me some good, easy to use dungeon mapping software? And by "good," I mean software that isn't just a pared down version of a CAD program with some dungeon tiles added into it. Most of the ones I've encountered are far, far too complex for my purposes. I just want to be able to draw some simple maps without having to read a big manual or an anti-intuitive interface.

Do such things exist?


  1. Ah, the dream of many a GM. I think I know what you are looking for, but I don't think it exists. Something fast, that boots up quickly and is easy to use and doesn't impose it's aesthetic on your maps.

    People might recommend Dundjinni and it certainly is a neat program, but it still takes me way too long to get anything made and because it is tile-based, the maps all look to be the style of the icons.

    I'm wishing for something like MacPaint, but geared towards map-making.

  2. OpenOffice.org Calc or Excel or equivalent is cheap (as in, free), easiness depends on just how basic you want to go.

    Shape the fields to be squares, use black background for walls, white for empty space, brown or such for doors, gray for secret doors, so on. You can even write there, if necessary and desirable.

    Circular rooms and so on will be a problem, though, unless using very small squares.

  3. I don't know if you've tried it, but I'm fond of Gametable. It's simple, just lines and sketching on a grid, but it comes with a chat protocol and its own minis.

  4. I have several suggestions.

    One, and the easiest, is to use the random dungeon generators until you get something that you like, and want to modify slightly to your liking. There are probably thousands of dungeon maps on the Intertubes today that people have cropped up with, and there's probably something you can use with paint/GIMP to cut/crop/paste to get something you like.

    A second recommendation is Dundjinni. It does cost some money. It can be very easy to create basic dungeons, but it also has a lot of fiddly bits that can be distracting. Plus, well, it's Java based, which can make it dog slow on some machines. I've had good and bad luck with it overall, but it does have a very easy to learn/use inteface.

    Thirdly, and I suggest this only as a last resort, if you just need to throw something together, you can try an old utility found on WotC's website: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=dnd/dnd/20061121t - The Dungeon Tile Mapper. It works best when you download/run it from your machine. it's easy for the "quick throw it together" applications or you want to create something to show to your players.

    Other than that, pen and paper. :)

  5. I recommend at least downloading the Dundjinni demo and giving it a whirl. I find it pretty remarkable how nice-looking a map you can make just drawing lines with one of the stone textures and plopping down some icons of doors and the like, even before you fiddle with things like filling areas with stone or wood textures.

  6. Interesting...I don't have any insight into dungeon-mapping software, but I knew if I clicked through to this post, I'd find some likely candidates in the comments section. And I wasn't disappointed. Thanks to all who replied.

  7. Hey James,
    So you don't want tiles... That's a tough order. Nearly all of the modern stuff uses tiles of one sort or another. There's a couple of freeware products out there that are pretty nice:
    Dungeon Crafter
    Map Tool
    Dungeon Forge

    A pretty sweet random generator can be found here:
    Dire Press

    Thing is... those are all tile based and therefore they're pretty poor choices if you want caverns or oddly shaped chambers, halls, etc.

    I'd suggest possibly importing a blank hex image as a layer into your image editor of choice and drawing a map freehand. It's not hard and you can do whatever you want.

    There are a plethora of great mapping tools out there. Most of the good ones have a high entry cost in both learning curve as well as price point. Many of the freeware ones are really nice, but they're not quite as full featured. Good luck James.

  8. I recommend hand drawing, scanning, and importing it into Gimp etc for editing. Personally I like to use Inkscape to trace the bitmap resulting in vector graphics.

  9. He didn’t say he didn’t want tiles. He said it didn’t want an overly complex program with tiles added as an after-thought. At least, that’s how I read it.

    So far, I always come back to OpenOffice’s drawing app or graph-paper and pencil. I keep thinking someday I’m going to get annoyed enough to actually write my own.

  10. WotC has a Dungeon Tile Mapper.


    It's pretty easy to use: you just pick a tile and paste it onto a grid.

  11. I love that random dungeon generators exist, but the thought of anyone playing the results - of that being the extent and content of the game - troubles me no end.

    OTOH, that was pretty much my first year or two of D&D, right there. I wonder how much fun it would be, with a good group.

  12. @Richard - I find that they can serve as useful starting points or if you just have something random going on and you need a "quickie", it can be useful. Just depends on how you use the Great RNG's wisdom. :)

    Something like this one (http://www.gozzys.com/article.php?cm_id=8) is nice to run grab a quickie map from.

    As well, you can use the Host a Dungeon generation/game system to move a dungeon through history, and plug in the randomly generated dungeons with some edits into your game.

  13. I find Autorealm useful. It's fairly simple to use, and generates decent-looking maps. I just used it to map out a massive city, and enjoyed working with the software. It also happens to be free.

  14. When I get lazy, I just use the HeroQuset software, and press Print Screen. Your are limited to a 26 x 19 square grid, but it still has a lot to it.


    Oh, its also a really fun game!

  15. http://www.inkscape.org

    It works similarly to other high end vector graphics software like CorelDRAW, Adobe, etc and doesn't come from a CAD heritage like Campaign Cartographer.

    You can setup a grid using the Document Properties and make a dungeon of any shape.

    And it free to copy and use.

  16. Our ol' pal S. John has some peculiar custom TrueType fonts (Flagstones and HexPaper) which might be usable.


    This would let you "draw" your maps with your handy word processor.

    Random thoughts, no charge, c/o
    Bob P

  17. http://www.autorealm.org/

    I swear by this thing. It is easy to use, it takes a few minutes to figure it out, but that is true with all software. As noted above, it is 100% FREE so the price is right. Before this I just used MS Paint.

  18. What I personally use is "MapMaker" from the old AD&D Core Rules CD (1996, with the 2E rules on CD). Very basic and simple (even primitive), but it gets the job done quickly for small maps (15x20 squares), and even has a 3D walkthrough mode.

    What I *don't* recommend is the free AutoRealm. I've tried twice to make use of it and given up both times. Scaling is wacked out, tilesets limited or broken, etc.

  19. I recommend Dundjinni with the Old School art pack.

    I pretty much have the same history with mapping programs you seem to imply: I picked them up wanting to get professional looking results. But I would usually end up spending 10 times as long on a map and it wouldn't look any better than what I could quickly sketch out on a piece of graph paper.

    The full version of Dundjinni is pretty nice by itself: I spend about 5 times longer on any given map, but the results look great.

    But with the Classic Dungeon pack, I've found mapping nirvana. I can actually sketch maps straight into Dundjinni -- something which I've found to be virtually impossible with other programs -- and with just a little bit of extra work I can get results that look like professionally-drafted old-school maps.

  20. I realize that this is long after you asked the question, but I would have to agree with Rob Conley and what Gamer Dude suggested above, namely to just use a vector-based drawing program like illustrator with your hex or grid on one layer and your dungeon on another. It is quick, lets you do irregular shapes, and there is almost no learning curve. I have had terrible luck with the programs specifically designed for building dungeons, I always seem to run into things they can't do.

  21. Try DTiles by Undermountain Games. Very cheap but excellent dungeon mapping, extremely easy to use... and it's fun!