When playing tabletop roleplaying games like Dungeons and Dragons online on websites like Roll20 or Foundry VTT, players look at a map where they can move their character tokens 90 percent of the time. Here we want to give you some tips and tools to make perfect maps for pen & paper sessions. Also, you will learn about some exciting sources for map generators that can help you as a game master.
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Maps for your pen and paper world
You have no idea where to start? Find it helpful to have a map to find ideas and get an overview? Then Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator is probably the best place to start. Here you can randomly generate whole world maps or continents for your homebrew world.
There are many settings from the size of the world to the design and art style of the map. You can also set the number of factions and the type of location names. After you have played around with this tool, you can save the map in different file types. Besides the possibility to save it as an image, there are many other export options like SVG and even GeoJSON which can be very useful for certain applications.
If we zoom in a bit, we need a map for the players that represents the region. This is where Inkarnate comes in handy. Creating simple world or region maps for your pen & paper session is very easy with it. The editor feels like a fantasy version of MS Paint in which simple functions and shapes can be used to quickly put together beautiful maps.
Unfortunately, the free version of Inkarnate is a bit lacking in choices. Maps like the ones above are therefore only feasible with a lot of creativity or not at all. For somewhat simpler maps, however, this tool is very well suited.
Maps for cities
Watabou’s City Generator lets you generate beautiful city maps within seconds. All parts of the map can be edited very easily to get the desired size or orientation of the city you want to create. This allows game masters to focus more on the story and characters and worry less about these technical things.
This map can be downloaded as a PNG file, so it can easily be used in Roll20 or other VTTs. Also, you may want to print this type of map and give it to your players as a handout.
Battle maps for pen and paper fights
You’ve come up with a cool location for your campaign and need maps for your pen & paper sessions to show players where they can or can’t go? If you need it fast, Donjon’s random dungeons are perfect! The design is very simple, but the amount of work you have to do is almost zero.
If you’re willing to put a little more work into creating maps, you’re in good hands with Dungeonfog. Using this tool you can create your own maps relatively quickly, but also experiment for hours. Especially the lighting mechanics are super cool, because they often make maps look much better and allow for day/night versions of the same map.
Similar to Inkarnate, there is also a free and a paid version. Here, however, the free version feels much less restrictive. The important functions can all be used for free and by recoloring textures, a lot of otherwise paid content can be recreated.
We wrote a whole article on battle maps in which you can learn more on the topic!
Now that you have prepared an impressive map for your group, you can make the moment even better by accompanying it with appropriate music. Here’s a guide on where to find the best music and how to incorporate it into your game.