Now that I had a big rough continent map made with my cheap watercolor and pencil techniques I was ready to begin adding some type of form to the elemental crayola chaos. I didn’t want the players to be flying across continents on the backs of eagles quite yet, so I needed to bring my focus down to a smaller region of the map to begin to pick details.
I knew that the area covered by the Wilderlands Of High Fantasy maps in the Judges Guild publications could roughly fit the surface area of New York state (275 x 167 miles in hexes). This helped me to zoom in and pick a spot on the coastline of my rough map that looked nice. The spot had a lot of green, a coastline, and some splots of gray for mountains. A nice variety of land to travel but nothing too crazy on the map, I would save my red leaf tree forests for later.
So I moved into the digital realm and scanned my painted map with my desktop scanner at a high resolution. I set it at 600 dpi because I knew I would be zooming in and I would rather the map details be the tooth and texture of my paper rather than the resulting pixels of a low end scan. I then opened the image file in GIMP and prepared to select my region map. To do this properly I needed to have my region map overlay so I could pick just the right rectangular box of my painted map that would fit my hexes. I needed to find some way of making digital hexes.
My quest was resolved when I found the excellent Boardgame Extensions for Inkscape written by Pelle Nilsson. If you did not know, GIMP and Inkscape are two free software packages that are used for editing digital image files. GIMP is for raster graphics and Inkscape is for vector artwork. The Boardgame Extensions in Inkscape allowed me to generate a hex map that was just the right size and with the right numbering sequence. It just needed a little graphical tweaking to make it look like a simulation of a Judges Guild region overlay.
I then selected my now reduced region of the map and used the Layers function in GIMP to place my hex overlay over my painted section. You can adjust the opacity of the images and change the way the layers interact (multiply) to have only the black of the hexes visible. This way you could have as much or as little information on your map as you want. One layer for roads, one for villages, etc.
There, my region was laid out, and I knew what all my travel distances were, but there were no rivers, roads, encounters, definite regions of mountains, forests, etc. I just had vaguely suggestive color blots to maybe suggest changes in terrain. It was time to start finding out the lay of the land…
Continued in part 4