So What’s The Fuss About Campaign Cartographer?
The map has been a feature of many a fantasy novel for over a hundred years. Whether it be Tolkien’s Middle-Earth or George RR Martin’s Westeros, fantasy fans have poured over imaginary cartography since a map of the Land of Oz was first included as part of L Frank Baum’s Tik Tok of Oz back in 1914. Who hasn’t got lost in the maps of their favourite books, wondering what parts of the world only mentioned in passing look like? For many, that idle wondering has led to the creation of their own imagined worlds, spawning stories and novels of their own.
It’s likely, therefore, if you’ve ever attempted to write a fantasy novel, or create a campaign for your favourite RPG, that you’ve also attempted to create a map of the land. This might have been done by hand on graph paper or drawn with your favourite graphics package on your computer.
The problem is, whilst you might have grand ideas of what the map for your world should look like, the initial result always seems to disappoint. Somehow it’s hard to create a map that matches both the level of detail you have in your head and the professionalism of the maps from your favourite novels.
One such answer is Campaign Cartographer 3 by Profantasy Software. This piece of software is specifically designed to create fantasy and science fiction maps, and whilst its primary focus is to aid the creation of your RPG campaigns, it’s perfect for the budding fantasy writer looking to create their first map.
Campaign Cartographer is essentially CAD software and in practise has a similar feel to graphics packages such as Adobe Photoshop. Just as you create various layers in a graphics package, so with Campaign Cartographer do you start with creating an outline of your coastline, upon which you overlay mountains, rivers, towns and forests.
These overlays come in the form of bitmap symbols which can be placed on your map with a mouse click. Put down a line of mountain symbols and you have made an entire mountain range. Similar processes can be used to create a forest or track the route of a river. For those who want to create a map of a town or settlement rather than a world, you can scale up symbols to match your need. It also includes a number of symbols suitable for maps of towns or buildings (such as pieces of furniture).
If the selection of assorted staples of fantasy mapping that are included with Campaign Cartographer don’t match your needs it’s possible to create and add your own symbols. There are also other graphics packs available to buy which include thousands of new symbols for you to use if you don’t want to make your own.
Profantasy also make a number of add-ons for Campaign Cartographer, specifically focusing on such things as cities, dungeons and even star maps. Campaign Cartographer and its add-ons each cost around £30, which whilst they don’t represent bad value can quickly mount up. So it’s advisable to buy only what you need as you need it. Profantasy do offer discounted bundles to make that decision a little harder, however.
In theory, Campaign Cartographer 3 is very simple to use. It’s as easy as choosing the symbol and then clicking where on the map you want to place it. However, whilst the basics are straight-forward, to produce a good quality map takes a bit of skill and it’s not always clear from the software how best to do this. The good news is that in recent years a number of YouTube guides have emerged that step you through the process of how to create the fantasy map of your dreams. It’s still going to take you a lot of practise though and it’s unlikely that your first attempt will match the vision you had in your head.
Making maps for your fantasy worlds can be a procrastination device to stop you from actually getting on with the work of writing, but equally, it can be a way to flesh out ideas about the world and get a better sense of the setting for your next novel. However, it’s very easy when writing fantasy to let the worldbuilding get in the way of the actual story. A good map can aid a good story, a bad map can distract. Therefore, if you are intent on creating a map for your latest world before you embark on the writing, you would do well to check the software out.
Whilst Profantasy doesn’t offer a demo of Campaign Cartographer 3, they do offer a 14 day full money back guarantee. It’s definitely worth looking into if you have the time to learn how to get the best results. Just don’t expect amazing results initially.