10 October 2012

Hex marks the spot

After a slow couple of weeks, geek-wise, I sat down yesterday evening to put mouse to screen and start making my GM level map of Averaigne. I wanted to keep with the old-school feel of the whole project and produce a hex map. Now, a brief scan of the tubes of the interweb throws up gazillions of hits of varying usefulness: some lovely examples, several competing programs (each with their critics and devotees), and some mindblowingly complex cartographic arguments over the precise representation of various fictional worlds.

Fortunately, there was a clear voice which rang out amidst the clamour, that of Thorfinn (or more succintly Thorf on several OD&D mapping fora). As part of his labour of love (the complete mapping at all scales) of the game world Mystara, he has produced a marvellously useful set of tools for the budding hax-mapper to use in Adobe Illustrator CS. I have CS4 thanks to school, so they've worked like a charm.

You get a hex template like so:

You have to add the symbols that come with the download to the correct folder for your installation of Illustrator, but that's a really quick bit of copy and paste. The template consists of half a dozen layers so you have rivers on one, roads and settlements on another, map hexes (trees, mountains, good pasture, volcanoes) on another and so on. The map hexes are done by selecting a hex and choosing to replace it with one of the symbols from the palette. Roads and rivers are done by painting a line and choosing the appropriate style from the included set (major river, track, road etc). Seriously, this is a great piece of kit and a fantastic gift from one geek to the geek world!

Once I'd worked out that pressing 'shift' and clicking allowed multiple selection of hexes, I found it really quick and knocked this up in about 35 minutes. Thirty of them were before I found out about the shift button thing, and five after: I got the same amount done in both sets of time!

It's my first draft of the border marches of Averaigne. I'm learning a LOT about how I want to set things up so that there is a sandbox type experience for the players, but also there are key elements of the history (and therefore likely encounters) of the region that fit with a pseudo-medieval, medium magic, Europe which is my desired outcome. It might not look it, but plenty of thought, pondering, noodling and staring out of the window went into what little is there so far. Unfortunately for non-affected parties, both of the chaps who I hope will play this at some point check in on this blog from time to time, so I can't give spoilers, but shall just leave the teasing note that there is good reason to be afraid of the dark in the Marches. Mwahahahaha...

Anyway, the hex stuff. Thorf's site is: http://mystara.thorf.co.uk/cartography.php

He has a good explanation of the way you can use the layers in his template here: http://www.thepiazza.org.uk/bb/viewtopic.php?f=21&t=2057

And there are plenty of other pointers scattered around that site. I also found loads of youtube videos for how to use Illustrator, which is something I'd never done before yesterday. It really is that straight forward.

Happy geeking,


  1. Dude, that is exactly what I've looking for! I want to set up a Cavern Crawl campaign that allows the players some degree of autonomy as to where they go. I've sketched out a vague region, but will fill in gaps/create adventures as-and-when. Thanks very much for sharing and I look forward to seeing a finished map of Averaigne in the near future!

  2. You're very welcome; I hoped it would come in handy for someone :)

  3. Excellent! I'm glad to see you're having fun with my mapping tools.

    1. I certainly have been. Seriously, Thorfinn, this is a _great_ piece of work you've shared. Thank you.