Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Resource Spotlight: Worldographer

In the early days of D&D, there were no rules for outdoor travel. When overland journeys had to take place, the manuals had recommendations for other war and exploration games whose rules would handle the job well. This kind of piecemeal game-jumping and rules hacking was a huge part of the 'zine-driven war game culture of the 1970s.
"Gettysburg" Game Board (1988 ed.)
© Avalon Hill

The most popular tools for large-scale exploration and warfare were hexographic maps. They are significantly better than square grids for accurately measuring travel distance. Games like Gettysburg made Hex' maps the gokd syandard in war games snd tactical simulations.

As D&D evolved into AD&D, there was a need to provide a more complete-feeling game, including their own rules for overland travel. The game adapted a hex' map exploration system based on the games they recommended to cover exploration in the past. Hex Crawl adventures became part of the D&D structure. Many modules like Expedition to the Barrier Peaks mixed a hex crawl and a dungeon crawl into a single adventure. The entire world of Mystara (The Known World, Hollow World, & Savage Coast settings) were presented in hex format.

Eventually, D&D discarded hexographic maps for artistic cartography. Partially because this allowed for more immersive fantasy and medievalesque maps to be crafted. It was also in part because hex crawling adventures were harder to fit into the D&D paradigm from 3e onward.

Hex Crawl adventures done right, however, can become of the most compelling adventure styles available. The Dark of Hot Springs Island is a masterclass in creating compelling environment and story using the Hex Crawl structure.

Hex maps also help to facilitate sandbox and West Marches style play.

Aside from enabling play styles I enjoy, I also appreciate hex maps because they are easy to draw. For several years I made campaign maps using clone stamps in Adobe Photoshop, which took time, but usually gave me a satisfying result. Unfortunately,  it was slow going. A few campaigns ago, I decided to look for an alternative,  and discovered Worldographer.

Screenshot of Worldographer in use
© 2018 the Orr Group Inc.
Worldographer is a windows mapmaking tool that can create dungeon, town and world maps in both square grid and hex format on multiple scales. It csn generate random maps very quickly to your terrain preferences, or be used to paint custom maps.

I have made detailed continent-scale maps for several campaigns and am very proud of the results. I have discovered some issues with clipped labels during export, but that is a minor gripe.

For my personal Grognardesque tastes, it is an ideal tool. Especially as you can tag content as GM-Only and hide it on export. This is how I am keeping which adventures are hidden where in my sandbox campaigns.

I have little experience with the advanced features, as I have stuck with the trial, but I would not hesitate to add it if I had the cash to burn.

Here's the map I created for my current Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG campaign:

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