GM Tips: Making Fantasy Maps



As a longtime GM, I understand the complexities of creating a homebrew world. I use a lot of published material as adventure fodder, but even when I do, I sometimes take the content and place it into my own fantasy continents. But the question for many GMs remains - how do I make my own fantasy maps? And will I have time for that on top of setting up all the various NPCs and encounters? Should I just scrap the idea of a home brew world and set everything in a more familiar locale?


Quick Aside


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Well, we here at Headless Hydra Press have been working hard on our Mod Maps Kickstarter which you can find HERE. With Mod Maps you have access to physical pre-made battle maps which you can place terrain and miniatures on, without all the hassle of physically or digitally creating a map to use for your game. The maps come in a variety of terrain (temperate grasslands, rivers, etc.) and work well with most miniatures.


However, if you're looking for other solutions look no further. I've got some ideas for you.


  1. DRAW THE MAP BY HAND: This is the most straightforward method. There are several ways to go about it, though. You can draw it freehand if you are able to, just make sure to dot it with terrain and settlements and areas of note. This is difficult sometimes for GMs who don't possess a lot of artistic ability.

  2. SWIPE FROM REAL COUNTRIES: Some GMs take existing countries and straight up copy their outlines, or even turn the countries upside down or sideways. This is much easier than drawing one, but if a player recognizes that they're in upside down United States, it may take them out of the immersion.

  3. THE DICE METHOD: A popular way I've seen lately is to drop a bunch of dice onto a sheet of paper and trace the outlines around the dice. Different dice can mean different things, for example a d4 might indicate a spot where some mountains are, and if so you could draw in four little mountains on that spot. Or a d6 might indicate the size of a city. Just make sure you set in stone what each die means before you cast them.

  4. INKARNATE: If you don't want to draw the map in any way with the above methods, you can do so digitally with Inkarnate. We here at HHP use Inkarnate a lot. It's really easy to use and produces amazing results.

  5. WORLDSPINNER: If the above methods still seem too involved but you also don't want to use a published world, then Worldspinner might be your thing. You can try it for free, and all you do is enter the type of map you want to create and some of the elements and it generates one for you!

  6. HONORABLE MENTION: We've got some great battle maps with our ModMaps Kickstarter, but if you're looking for more then check out the Battle Map Ultimate Bundle from Game Night Battlemaps. They've got an insane amount of battle maps on sale for $14.99! It's an awesome deal.

Have we helped with your game night map woes? Do you have any other methods? Let us know in the comments below! Thanks for reading!


-Joseph Carro




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