As a general rule I try to keep things simple, and so I try to use reasonably simple tools. Over the years I’ve evolved a few strategies for creating my maps. That said, there are cartography tools out there that do a spectacular job creating maps of different kinds with different styles. I simply don’t use them. I prefer my own homebrew style, for no particularly good reason, other than I like the way my maps turn out.
For each of the three types of maps the first thing to understand is – what is the purpose of the map? I will go through each of the three and offer my thoughts, and methodologies for creating them.
My Tool Kit
I’ve tried a number of mapping tools over the years. Some online mapping tools are very good for certain kinds of maps. However, in the end, I found that using a simple set of tools is my preference.
Outdoor Maps: Pen and Paper – I prefer magic markers, and in particular sharpie pens with the thick tip. After I finish coloring and polishing in the software tools an outdoor map looks like this:
Indoor Maps: I have experimented with using Excel for making Dungeon Levels. I reduce the size of each cell to a square. I set the color of all cells to dark gray. Then I set the grid lines to show using the border tool. Then I “paint” corridors using the cell color format of white by selecting an area (can be one line of cells, or a block of cells) and using the format background color White. I number the rooms and use letter codes to indicate various things about the room, such as “s” for secret door, “d” for door, etc. I also figured out a way to add icons for stairs and such. The result is a dungeon map that looks like this: