Images for use with MapTool

I’ve talked at length about how much I love MapTool, but it’s important to understand that having the MapTool software itself is only half the battle. You also need images.

MapTool comes with a few images pre-installed, but if you want maximum power and flexibility in creating maps and running games, you’re going to want a larger library of images.  This includes images of objects such as tables, stairs, roofs, etc.  More importantly, though, it includes textures – dirt, grass, stone, snow, water, fire, wood and many more.  With textures, you can easily draw great-looking maps.

So where do you get these images?  Why, at rputorials.net!  What you’re looking for is a big file with a lot of data – and that means a torrent.  No, not some illegal pirated stuff – this is just a big file put together to share for the role-playing game community.  The link to that file is here.

Once you have the file downloaded and saved to your MapTool directory (or wherever you like), you’ll need to tell MapTool where to find it.  Open MapTool and go to File – Add Resource to Library.  Browse to the location of the library on your computer, and voila!  You’ve got images!

The folks over at rptutorials.net have put together videos about drawing maps and so on, which I won’t even bother to try to replicate – they’ve done it right the first time!  Here instead are just a few basic pointers for creating nice-looking maps in MapTool.

  • Start with a new map, picking a good background color or texture.  I’ll often pick a grass texture for an outdoor map and either a gray color or stone texture for a dungeon map.
  • Click on the Drawing Tools icon and select the Background Layer from the window that pops up.  This is important!  You don’t want your floors and walls in the same layer as your tokens – the tokens should be on top.
  • To make a building, click on the top left box in the drawing window and browse to a stone texture.  Click on the top right box and browse to a wood plank texture.  Set the line width (the stone) to about 40% of your grid box (I use 20 pixel walls for a 50 pixel grid).  Select the rectangle tool from the top menu.  Click on a spot, let go, drag out a box, and click again.  Poof – it’s a building with stone walls and a wood floor!
  • The same process works with irregular filled shapes, too (cavern rooms, lakes, lava pools, pits, etc.).  If you don’t want a border (I usually don’t when drawing caves, for instance), left click on the white box with the red slash through it (this will set your border color to “none”).  Use the freehand line tool instead of the rectangle tool to draw these.
  • To just draw lines, right click on the white box with a red slash through it (that will set your fill color to “none”) and left click on the top left box.  Select the line texture you want.  Select the line width you want.  If you want freehand lines or straight lines, select the appropriate tool from the upper toolbar.
  • For objects, go back to the Interaction Tool (the default tool on the upper left toolbar, to the left of Drawing) and select the Object layer.  Browse to things like doors, stairs, beds, etc. and drag them onto the map.  Resize them by clicking on the box in the lower right corner and dragging.
  • Don’t use TOO many objects in maps that people will be accessing online.  The more different types of objects you have on your map, the longer it will take to load.  Try to draw background objects (such as pits) rather than using an actual object image whenever possible.
  • Feel free to add multiple maps to your campaign file and set them as not visible to players, then make them visible as needed during the game session.  This seems to help with loading times as well.

That should get you started on the path to creating great maps in MapTool!

LFR Maps – Finished products

Amazingly enough, I think I’m now ready for the Living Forgotten Realms game that I’ll be running in three weeks (WATE1-1 Heirloom), at least in terms of putting together the materials.  I blogged yesterday about the tokens I’ve created for the enemies and the day before about the maps that I drew in MapTool.

To bring things full circle, I thought I’d share the finished map files in all three forms:

I’m excited about the prospect of running this adventure now!  If our in-person game on Monday runs out of prepared material (unlikely, but you never know), maybe I’ll bust this out as an impromptu game.  More likely, I’ll ask if we can run it some future weekend before I run it for real.

Creating tokens for in-person gaming

Victory is mine!  In my last couple of posts, I’ve talked about the fact that I’m going to be serving as dungeon master for a real-life D&D game at my local game store, Enchanted Grounds, on July 24, 2010.  It will be a Living Forgotten Realms game.  I don’t own any minis (little statues to represent creatures), so I decided to make my own tokens (little flat representations of creatures) using the guidelines from Newbie DM’s blog.

After a little bit of trial and error, I succeeded terrifically.  The steps are as follows:

  • Find a good image for a token online, such as this one for a paladin: Paladin
  • Drag the token into PhotoShop
  • Resize the canvas in PhotoShop to be way bigger than the current image, and fill the additional background space to match the background that came with the image (I recommend using the eyedropper tool to get the right color and the paint bucket tool for the fill):Paladin2
  • Open up Token Tool and drag this new image from PhotoShop into Token Tool
  • Pick a nice border in Token Tool.  Also, go with 256 x 256 for the token size
  • Resize and re-center the image in Token Tool to look the way you want
  • Drag the image from the top right corner of Token Tool into PhotoShop:Paladin Token
  • From here, follow the instructions from NewbieDM to copy the token to a new letter-sized image (8.5″ x 11″), duplicating the token image, dragging a bloodied layer over it and making the bloodied layer semi-transparent (note that minions don’t get bloodied, so minion tokens don’t need a bloodied image – you can put one minion on one side of a token and another minion on the other side)
  • Rinse and repeat until you have a whole sheet of these tokens:Token Sheet

Play around with the size a little bit; I found that you actually want them to be a bit bigger than 1″ across, even though the ultimate size you’ll be punching out is 1″.  I like to have no border on my physical tokens – I like them to take up the whole 1″ circle if possible.  You’ll want to get a 1″ hole punch (I paid $10 for one at Michael’s – it’s pretty heavy duty) and a bunch of 1″ fender washers (I paid $8 for a box of 100 at the local hardware store) and a glue stick.  Below you can see my first pass at the paladin token (when I was aiming for 1″ exactly) and my second pass (when I went bigger) – the second looks way, way cooler.Paladin Tokens

The overall result was awesome, in my humble opinion.  I made tokens for the paladin I play in LFR games (Rhogar), the Avenger I’m playing in my in-person game (Kern), Barbara’s dragonborn Runepriest (Zaaria), and the enemies I’ll need for the LFR module.  These include a wererat, a gnome arcanist, some gnome skulks, some guard drakes, and a whole bunch of human bandits (generally minions).  On the back of the bandits I put goblins and kobolds (common minions, I think).

Tokens

I’m really happy with the way these turned out.  I now have all of the minis that I need for my LFR game, and the maps that I shared yesterday ended up working out great when I used PosteRazor to print them out (I’ve just printed them in black and white for now as a proof of concept, but I know they’ll be fine in color, too).  I’m feeling good about this!

I’ll make the individual token files that I created available on the Downloads page of my blog, too, so you can get them all one by one.

Living Forgotten Realms DM Preparation – Maps

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ll be a first-time DM for a Living Forgotten Realms (LFR) session at my local store on July 24, 2010.  I’ve gotten the adventure module (WATE1-1 Heirloom) and read through it once, which is a good start.  The things I haven’t been certain about are what to do about maps and what to do about tokens.  I’m pretty sure I’ll follow Ismael_DM’s suggestion in the comments of using the tutorial on Newbie DM’s blog to make flat tokens using metal washers.  More on that as I actually give it a shot.  (Thanks for the tip, Ismael_DM!)

As for maps, I’m pretty sure I’m going to stick with what I know: MapTool! While I’d love to set up a projector with my laptop to project a MapTool screen onto the tabletop (and there is a person at the local store who does exactly this), I’m not ready to lay out the cash required to build that sort of thing.

I’m pretty sure, though, that I can build my maps in MapTool and then print them out as “posters” to put on the table for my players to use.  DM Samuel has talked on his blog about doing this, building the maps in a program called GridMapper (which I probably would have loved a few weeks ago before I learned how to really use MapTool) and then printing them out to scale using a program called PosteRazor.  I haven’t tried the printing part yet, but I figured I’d start by building the maps in MapTool.  Printing can come later.

There are three combat encounters in the module I’ll be running (no real spoilers here).  There’s a battle outside of a random inn on a random street, a battle inside a shop and the room beneath it, and a battle that can take place either in a room in an inn, next to a stable, or on the city streets depending on what has happened earlier in the adventure.

The adventure describes how to build each encounter area using Dungeon Tiles.  Now, I don’t have any Dungeon Tiles myself, but Wizards of the Coast has a program called Dungeon Tiles Mapper that you can download for free and which contains images for a bunch of different tiles (not all of them, but a good variety).  Combining that with the big MapTool image download that I have, I was able to recreate the maps pretty well (in my humble opinion).  In some cases I tried to be as faithful as possible to the original, but there were some cases where I decided to make my own improvements.

First, I created a map that serves as both the inn exterior for the first battle as well as for the last battle (the downstairs part of the inn).  I used a texture to paint the cobblestone streets, a Dungeon Tile image for the inn itself, a stairs object from the big MapTool download and a roof object from that same download to represent the building next door.Inn Exterior

Next, I created the main room of the shop from the second encounter.  This was dead simple – one Dungeon Tile image.

Shop Interior

After that, I created the hideout beneath the shop.  This one was much more involved.  I used some Dungeon Tiles for the spiral staircase, the blue rune, the wooden stairs and the trap door.  I used some flooring from the Dungeon Tiles to paint the stone floor as well as the wooden platform floor.  I used images from the MapTool download for everything else (tables, bookshelves, chair, chest).  I think it turned out really nicely.

Hideout

Next up was the room in the inn.  Nothing here was from Dungeon Tiles.  The stairs, beds and windows were from the MapTool download and the floors and walls were painted using various wood textures from that download.

Inn Room

Finally, the exterior of the stable.  It’s a lot like the inn exterior with the streets and the roof.  The horse and cart came from the big MapTool download.

Stable Exterior

My next task will be to try to print these out using the correct scale in PosteRazor.  Wish me luck!  And as always, I’d love to hear your feedback, whether about the maps themselves or about the general idea of printing these out to use at the table (probably on card stock).

Downloads are getting organized

I’ve decided that it’s time to organize my downloads page.  Rather than just leaving everything on one main page, I’ve created separate pages for Gametable maps, OpenRPG maps and monster minis.  I plan to later add pages for character minis and environmental elements (stairs, treasure chests, etc.).  Most of this is content that I’ve posted into individual blog posts as I’ve created it, but I hope that this blog will eventually become a useful resource for other online dungeon masters.  If that happens, I want it to be easy for new DMs to find the content and use it on the blog.

As a side note, I’m still in Boston and planning to play our second online session within the Keep on the Shadowfell tomorrow, if everything goes according to plan.  I’ve got the whole first level of the Keep set up in an OpenRPG map, so we should be ready to go.  I’ve also done some more work on the party’s back story and given a lot of thought to what comes AFTER the Keep on the Shadowfell (even though it will probably be late summer 2010 before we get there).  I’m having a great time with all of the planning – the hard part is knowing that I have to wait to reveal it all to the players (and therefore to my blog audience).  I can be patient.