Worldbuilding: Making and Finding Maps
These excellent cartographers and map making tools are sure to add tangible outcomes to your world building and campaigns.
This list will be updated as more resources are gathered.
Dyson Logos. Dyson Logos has been releasing free hand-drawn B&W maps for home and commercial use for almost a decade. For publishers there are over 200 maps in his free commercial maps archive. Recently his work has been showing up in official D&D books also – such as Dragon Heist and the Guildmaster’s Guide to Ravnica. Check out his blog for more.
Elven Tower. “My name is Derek Ruiz, I have been a D&D and GURPS player and DM for over 16 years. I started playing Advanced D&D but quickly moved to 3rd edition. I started DMing shortly afterwards and have been since then. I’ve played and DMed 3rd, 4th, and 5th edition D&D. I love my craft and live for this game, roleplaying gives us a chance to live other lives and experiment to our minds content.
Thanks to the people who sponsor my work, I can now be a full-time artist. My main line of work is cartography. You can see a lot of my work in the Map Vault section in this site. If you want to further help me keep making these awesome cartography illustrations, you can do so at my crowdfunding site.
I publish content that is useful to craft adventures or to get them moving. I believe that good storytelling is important. Adventure seeds and one-shot encounters or adventures are things that I post often.”
B. Simon Smith. B Simon Smith is a cartographer who initially began his journey drawing on graph paper, and later learned how to operate CAD programs working for a land surveyor. Now he does a considerable amount of freelance work drawing and designing maps for various companies, including dungeon, city, and regional maps. You can find samples of his work here: https://www.deviantart.com/simetradon/gallery/
Mike Schley. As an illustrator and cartographer I’ve created a large number of pieces for publishers such as Wizards of the Coast, HarperCollins Publishing, and Inkle Studios. Of these, I’m most recognized for my development of environmental artwork and maps for the fantastical worlds of Dungeons & Dragons.
The love of storytelling and visual narrative are rich sources of inspiration and serve to compliment the formal elements of my work. As an illustrator, I aim to spark the viewer’s imagination and provide them with seeds for further exploration within their own own minds eye. Creating artwork that is an evocative portal for the psyche is the most rewarding aspect of what I do and has provided a deep well of creative fulfillment over the years.
Donjon. Donjon is one of my favorite tools. I use it whenever I need a last minute dungeon–I just input a few different criteria, and BAM, a fully planned dungeon. It can be slightly tricky to fit it to a roll20 page (and in such cases, it can’t be ‘rectangular’), but I almost always get it to fit. In addition to dungeon generation, it also has other random generators, and supports multiple systems.
Dungeonographer.* Dungeonographer is the “go-to” tool for Matthew Colville. While I have personally never used it, I’ve heard its a popular and capable product. It has both free and pro versions.
Hexographer. Hexographer is a “world level” mapper created by the same people who created dungeonographer. It creates hex-based world maps with dozens of different terrain and asset options. I have found it to be very intuitive and responsive, and my players love the style. As far as I know, there is no free version.
Inkarnate. Inkarnate is a browser based tool for drawing and populating maps. The free version has basic functionality, but is unusable for commercial purposes. The pro version unlocks a larger canvas, more assets, and commercial use rights, and is only $25 a year. Here’s an example of a map I made:
Medieval Fantasy City Generator. This generator is graphically a bit basic, but has several decent customization options to help you outline/map your medieval city. It can randomly generate anything from a small hamlet to a metropolis. Most importantly it’s free. I have had it crash on me in the past if I tried to generate to many maps in a row.
Wonderdraft. Wonderdraft is a premium map drawing software with a nice balance of generation and customization. It can generate realistic looking landmasses, which you can then label, paint, and modify. I haven’t used it yet, but the final products I’ve seen look beautiful.