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Author Topic: Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?  (Read 2722 times)

Sacrificial Lamb

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« on: January 11, 2011, 01:33:55 AM »
Hey, guys! :) I'm hoping you can provide me with a few ideas or point me towards some resources that might help me. I'd like to draw some truly awe-inspiring overland maps for my campaign.

I have no Photoshop skills, so I'll be drawing everything by hand. However, I'm still unsure of what's most appropriate for my needs. Should I use a hex grid, or rather a square grid for mapping? Which is "better"? Or more precisely, what are the strengths and weaknesses of using either type? Also....what scale should I be using? I eventually want to cover a large area, but I'm still a stickler for the smaller details. Where can I find some great sources of both hex and graph paper? I've seen normal graph paper in stores, but nothing that gets me excited, and I've been completely unable to find hex paper locally. There are online sources of both types of graph paper for me to copy with my printer, but I don't know how I feel about them.

I'm going to be delving big-time into cartography, so any input would be appreciated. :)

P.S. I'm currently fooling around with 1 inch square graph paper. It's not bad, but I'm still open to new ideas, as I'm considering a "sandbox campaign" for my group...

jeff37923

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #1 on: January 11, 2011, 01:38:58 AM »
What game system?

Pseudoephedrine

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2011, 01:41:53 AM »
I use Hexographer. It's a fantastic program and uses hexes, as you can probably guess. You can export the files as pngs and convert them to jpegs using MSPaint or print them straight off.

I tend to use a scale of about 1 hex : 20 km.
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SineNomine

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2011, 02:11:01 AM »
Quote from: Sacrificial Lamb;431871
Hey, guys! :) I'm hoping you can provide me with a few ideas or point me towards some resources that might help me.
I'd recommend Hex Map Glossary as being the first part in a handy set of small articles on hex mapping. Pseudoephedrine's mention of Hexographer gets a thorough endorsement from me, too. Also, for just about all your fantasy cartographic needs, the Cartographer's Guild is indispensable.
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Sacrificial Lamb

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2011, 02:18:56 AM »
Quote from: jeff37923;431872
What game system?


Both AD&D and 3.x. I've DM'ed both game systems recently, and I guess I'll focus on those two for now.

danbuter

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2011, 02:26:47 AM »
Hexes work better. They allow you to determine distances much easier.
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Benoist

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #6 on: January 11, 2011, 02:40:51 AM »
I'd go with hexes too, mostly because distances are indeed easier to figure out, it's cooler in hex-crawl mode, as it's different from the dungeon environment, it's cool to roll d6 for random directions, etc.

As for the scale, it all depends how big you want your sandbox to be?
30 miles per hex seems to be the standard for large regional maps (as per 1st ed DMG which lists between 20 and 40 miles per hex, explaining the way to zoom in on the scale for closer maps, p.47+). Think Darlene's Greyhawk map in the 1983 boxed set, more or less.

For regional maps, you can have around 5 miles per hex.

My Dunfalcon area map for instance has a scale of 6 miles per hex:

« Last Edit: January 12, 2011, 01:01:41 AM by Benoist »

Sacrificial Lamb

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #7 on: January 11, 2011, 02:54:31 AM »
Quote from: Pseudoephedrine;431873
I use Hexographer. It's a fantastic program and uses hexes, as you can probably guess. You can export the files as pngs and convert them to jpegs using MSPaint or print them straight off.

I tend to use a scale of about 1 hex : 20 km.


How "n00b friendly" is it? I'm mostly computer illiterate, so I often don't know what I'm doing when fiddling with map-making programs. Also....how precisely can you map with it? Hexographer looks pretty, and kinda cool too...but not very precise. I'd be focusing on shoreline details, roads, towns, mines, battle sites, major cities, etc.

Quote from: SineNomine
I'd recommend Hex Map Glossary as being the first part in a handy set of small articles on hex mapping. Pseudoephedrine's mention of Hexographer gets a thorough endorsement from me, too. Also, for just about all your fantasy cartographic needs, the Cartographer's Guild is indispensable.


Holy crap. The maps on Cartographer's Guild are fucking incredible. I'm feeling a little inadequate right now. Seriously. :(

Benoist

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #8 on: January 11, 2011, 02:59:21 AM »
As for your issue of graph paper, my advice is to design and print your own! :)

You can decide the size of the hexes or squares or whatnot, the thickness of the lines, their color, etc etc. Then you download the PDF of the graph paper you want, and you print it out as much as you want for yourself.

jeff37923

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #9 on: January 11, 2011, 03:04:50 AM »
Quote from: Sacrificial Lamb;431876
Both AD&D and 3.x. I've DM'ed both game systems recently, and I guess I'll focus on those two for now.


Another vote for hexes, I'd also suggest making a handwritten map on just plain paper (unlined) to use as the baseline or even a prop. You can always match the original map to hex paper at your convenience.

Sacrificial Lamb

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #10 on: January 11, 2011, 03:19:08 AM »
Quote from: danbuter
Hexes work better. They allow you to determine distances much easier.


Could you explain that? I'm not completely sure that's true. I like hexes, and want to experiment with them, but I've never drawn any hex-based maps myself, so I'm not seeing the advantage here. For example, what I've done in the past when using square grids, is line them up next to each other, and link them together. It seems that it would be more difficult to do that with a hex-based map.

Quote from: Benoist;431880
I'd go with hexes too, mostly because distances are indeed either to figure out, it's cooler in hex-crawl mode, as it's different from the dungeon environment, it's cool to roll d6 for random directions, etc.

As for the scale, it all depends how big you want your sandbox to be?
30 miles per hex seems to be the standard for large regional maps (as per 1st ed DMG which lists between 20 and 40 miles per hex, explaining the way to zoom in on the scale for closer maps, p.47+). Think Darlene's Greyhawk map in the 1983 boxed set, more or less.

For regional maps, you can have around 5 miles per hex.


I'm probably aiming for 30 miles per square or hex, and I'll probably experiment with both types of grids to discover what's best for me. I also think I'm going to draw these maps by hand, as I sense that it'll be good practice for me. When I want to zoom in on the smaller areas, I'll use either 3 mile squares/hexes or 5 mile squares/hexes. Haven't made up my mind yet.

Quote from: Benoist
My Dunfalcon area map for instance has a scale of 6 miles per hex:



Yo, Benny...that map looks really good. Did you draw it, and if so...what medium did you use? Also....what's going on with that hex grid? It looks numbered. Did you buy some hex paper?

Pseudoephedrine

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #11 on: January 11, 2011, 03:29:59 AM »
Quote from: Sacrificial Lamb;431882
How "n00b friendly" is it? I'm mostly computer illiterate, so I often don't know what I'm doing when fiddling with map-making programs. Also....how precisely can you map with it? Hexographer looks pretty, and kinda cool too...but not very precise. I'd be focusing on shoreline details, roads, towns, mines, battle sites, major cities, etc.


It's the most beginner-friendly mapping program I know, let alone hex-mapping.

It can be as precise as you want. You just need to decide on your scale. There's a free-paint option for doing rough edges if you don't want to follow the hex boundaries.
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Sacrificial Lamb

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #12 on: January 11, 2011, 03:43:34 AM »
I should probably share with you guys my normal methods for designing maps. What normally happens, is that I take a number 2 pencil and a ruler, and start drawing on graph paper. When I'm done, I go to the drugstore, and use their photocopy machine to photocopy it. I then take the photocopy, and color it in with colored pencils. Here's an example of a map I've done using this process:



Practically speaking, the grid isn't always perfectly copied, which is why I'm considering using a faint square grid, as it might make things less complicated. However, I haven't drawn on a hex grid before, and I want to experiment with it. I mean, I won't know how I feel about it unless I try, right? :)

Quote from: Pseudoephedrine
It's the most beginner-friendly mapping program I know, let alone hex-mapping.

It can be as precise as you want. You just need to decide on your scale. There's a free-paint option for doing rough edges if you don't want to follow the hex boundaries.


I'll have to look into that...

estar

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #13 on: January 11, 2011, 07:27:20 AM »
Quote from: Sacrificial Lamb;431886
Could you explain that? I'm not completely sure that's true. I like hexes, and want to experiment with them, but I've never drawn any hex-based maps myself, so I'm not seeing the advantage here. For example, what I've done in the past when using square grids, is line them up next to each other, and link them together. It seems that it would be more difficult to do that with a hex-based map.


Determining the distance between two points on a hex map is a matter of counting the hexes between the two points. You can't do that with a square grid unless it is only straight up or down as the diagonal are 1.77 units larger than the horizontal or vertical.

This blog post of mine: http://batintheattic.blogspot.com/2008/10/mapping-with-hexes.html talks about mapping with hexes and how to make adjoining maps.

I hand drew my maps in the harn style. As you can see here. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_mFjy4EWzmtg/SREW5-5tMXI/AAAAAAAAATg/ubuEZaApJgo/s1600-h/csio_regional_sm.jpg

The steps are

1) with a pencil lightly sketch the coast line
2) Check for mistakes
3) With a fine line blue pen (not a ball point). Draw the coasts
4) With a pencil lightly draw the boundaries of the hill and mountain regions
5) With a fine line black pen draw the mountain border and fill it with light diagonal slashes
6) For the hill you want to do a dot pattern. Just take your pen and tap solidly inside the hill boundary forming a pattern of dots. You don't draw a boundary for hills.
7) Take your blue fine line pen and draw in your rivers
8) Note where the swamp and use a swamp symbol to fill it boundary. Note like hills you don't draw a boundary. The swamp symbol is a line with a small V or W on top.
9) Assemble at set of coloring sticks and coloring pencils. Dark Green for Forest, Light Green for normal woodland, Light Blue for water, A golden yellow for crop, light brown for grassland, tan for alpine terrain. Areas of snow and ice (like mountain tops) are left white.
You want to color in the smaller areas of vegetation first.
10) Cropland are generally the smallest areas draw first
11) Then Forests
12) For mountains you will need to decide their elevation. The lowest could completely covered in woodland, grassland, or forest. Higher still will have crowns of alpine terrain, and the Highest crowned with ice/snow. The vegetations for elevations goes from highest to lowest: Ice/snow, Alpine, grassland/woodland/forest.
13) Color the rest of the map with the base terrain which is generally woodland (trees cover 25% to 75%) for temperate regions.
14) With a red pen market various settlements. I use filled squares for towns and cities, filled circles for castles, open circles for keeps, and open diamonds for villages, open triangles for points of special interests, and upside down open diamonds for mines. Also use any other symbols drawn with the pen for things like dungeons, etc.

15) Draw Roads with a red pen. I uses solid lines for Roman style roads, dashed lines for the main dirt roads, and dotted lines for trails and unimproved roads.

16) With a black pen for terrain and red pen for settlements and points of interest label your map.

The advantage of this approach you can freely mix terrain and vegetation in a natural way.

SowelBlack

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Overland Mapping: Hexes or Squares?
« Reply #14 on: January 11, 2011, 10:05:24 AM »
Quote from: Pseudoephedrine;431887
It's the most beginner-friendly mapping program I know, let alone hex-mapping.

It can be as precise as you want. You just need to decide on your scale. There's a free-paint option for doing rough edges if you don't want to follow the hex boundaries.


Thanks for the recommendation!

As for doing shorelines... that is the most time-consuming part if you don't want the coasts to match the hex borders--which most people don't want.  I should point out there is a new approach to doing coastlines... the old way was to draw a couple of thick blue lines over the portions of the land hexes that should be water.  But Hexographer was recently updated with polygons, so you can now go to the "Shapes" tab, click "Polygon" set the polygon's border width to 0 and the fill color to sea blue then draw polygons to cover the portions of hexes which should be land.  Note that you need to click the "save" button near the bottom of the Shapes tab between polygons. (Otherwise you're still editing the previous shape.)

The other option you may not see at first that addresses one of the concerns mentioned is that you can place features (city, castle, ruins, village, mines, etc. icons) freely (such that they aren't centered in a given hex) by going to the "options" menu and looking at the feature placement choices.

And in addition to the Mystara/basic D&D style maps there are now map objects and techniques to support 1st edition Greyhawk style maps.  Here's a short text tutorial: http://inkwellideas.com/?p=1063
Creature (System Neutral) Cards: http://inkwellideas.com/creature-card-decks/
Encounter Cards (Outlines & Maps): http://inkwellideas.com/encounter-card-decks/
Hexographer (wilderness map software): http://www.hexographer.com
Dungeonographer (dungeon/building interior software): http://www.dungeonographer.com
Coat of Arms Design Studio: http://inkwellideas.com/coat_of_arms/