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CC2 Day 2: Outlining a Landmass


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29 March 2002page first published

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©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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I needed to draw a map in order to learn how to use the software (even though my ultimate goal was to use some of its non-mapping add-on features - I still needed to learn the interface...).

And since most of the built-in symbols were for fantasy subjects, I figured it would be easiest to make a fantasy campaign map. I thought it would be best to start with a small island, a few hundred miles across, rather than to try to build a major continent or entire world.

My current favorite 15mm scale fantasy armies are my Dwarves (Grenadier) and Goblins (multiple manufacturers), so I figured a nice rocky land where they were in conflict would make sense. I've also been painting up some Fishmen from Evil Gong, so I thought they'd make a nice invading force. And my next project will be to paint up some Hobbits, so it would be nice to have a spot to plant them in (maybe as part of an overseas empire, so that there are Imperial/Human forces to back up the Hobbit militias). Bingo - that's my concept.

Starting to Play

So I loaded an appropriate size template (a map file set at the right scale, with a border and miles marker, but nothing else but ocean and compass lines) and started to work. Or rather, to play, since the first trick was to get used to the drawing tools.

some of the drawing tools in Campaign Cartographer

The simplest way to draw land is to click on the landmass icon (right column), start clicking to define the outline of the land (creates a jagged path on screen), then right-click when you're done (to seal the ends together and fill it in with green). Then click another icon to outline it in black so it's more visible.

basic polygon landmass

That's easy to do, but it doesn't look very convincing given my level of talent. Fortunately, Campaign Cartographer has a nifty pair of fractal drawing tools. The first tool lets you "frac" an existing polygon - adding more points to the polygon, and using fractal math to generate a random distribution. For example, here's how my trial hunk of land looked when frac'd a few times:

basic polygon landmass after being Fractalised

The other fractal drawing tool is Fractal Polygon, and works just like drawing a normal polygon except that each line segment is drawn fractally. You click to place the first point, then when you move your mouse, the new line segment is a curving fractal-generated line. As you move your move, you can see the line expand and contract.

drawing using the Fractal Polygon tool - the black part is the current (new) line segment

By using the arrow keys, you control how detailed the line segment is, and how strong the fractalization is (the twistiness of the line). If you don't like what you've got, hitting the spacebar re-randomizes the current line segment.

Mapping by Trial and Error

After playing around with both approaches, I decided that I liked the look of the Fractal Polygon method best. I sketched out the mainland, added an island home for the Fishmen, then put a few islets scattered in various spots.

One problem I ran into was keeping the same level of detail throughout the map. When doing the islets, my instinct was to zoom into that part of the map, draw the land the same way I'd drawn my mainland, and be done with it. But when I zoomed back out, the little islands looked funny because they had much more detail than the mainland did. So I had to learn to keep one level of detail for the main map.

The islands have too much detail compared to the mainland

In trying to fix the islands, I experimented with something called Reduce Nodes. It's a control that supposedly tells the software to simplify a polygon by reducing the number of nodes (points) it is made out of. When trying to fix my over-detailed islands, I found that I couldn't always get it to do what I wanted. Sometimes it would reduce nodes, and sometimes it didn't do anything. (My guess is that sometimes it can't figure out how to simplify a polygon?)

Another problem that I got myself into was trying to draw too much at one time. I had the fractal strength set too high, which did allow me to draw using just a few very detailed random line segments. It wasn't until I zoomed in that I discovered that when the fractal strength is set too high, the coastlines get kinked and cross over each other.

kinked coastline

I didn't want to start over, so I learned to use the Delete Node tool to remove bad points, and Node Edit to move points on the fly.

While I was fixing my messes, I got some practice with more of the basics of the system. Remember how I made the point that in a CAD program, all the "parts" are different entities that the software keeps track of? My land at this point consisted of pairs of entities - the green polygons, and their black outlines. When I edited the polygons, the outlines needed to be edited to match. (I found it easier to delete the outline, then redraw it when I was done editing.)

In Campaign Cartographer, as I mentioned before, you select an action, then click on the map to indicate which entity you want to perform the action on. However, lots of times those entities overlap. When trying to select a black outline to delete it, for instance, you have to be careful to click where the green polygon isn't anymore (because of the editing), or else you'll select both items.

A Night's Work

a night's work

It was quick work to bang out my basic landmasses, then I spent most of my evening fixing kinked lines and getting a uniform look to the map. I think that's just part of the learning process, though.