Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Creating dungeon tile maps with Pymapper

I’ve picked up dungeon tiles but haven’t been utilizing them much in my game. One of the nagging points was being able to effectively sketch out a map while planning an adventure. I’ve got a fair number of tiles, printed on both sides, and even if sorted into different containers I’d need to spread out almost the entire lot to fully see my options.

Additionally I'd need the tiles recorded somehow before playing to quickly get them on the table. It'd be best to have them put aside and be ready at a moment’s notice, but I don’t have the table space in my household to do that. Not to mention reusing some tiles as I don’t own multiple sets. I think a snapshot with a digital camera would work, but still somewat a convoluted solution.

Enter the free program, Pymapper. This handy mapping program allows me to easily move tile sets around on a gridded area. I can limit my selection to tiles I own, and even allow for duplicate sets. It keeps track of tiles I use (effectively removing them from the pool of tiles available). Best of all I can see all the tiles from each set I’ve chosen, improving my selection of tiles for an encounter map.

Finally, I can export the image in a few graphic formats (including your handy JPEG). So I can print out a hard copy if needed, or plop it down into a document file. There are some nice options to alter the background also if I want something a little more fancy. A neat feature if I wanted to hand out a player map as a prop.

There are some other nice features, including being able to add map icons representing monsters and other notable items. A fair way to record everyone’s position at the end of a night if you’ve got to wrap up a game in the middle of a fight. You can add simple annotations to a map (or link it to a text file for more detail if needed). You can stack tiles which is very nice for the more set piece tiles like pits and statues. Creating a group of tiles of a specific size, you can also make a set of geomorph tiles. Using this set you can quickly generate a random dungeon which is another very nice feature (plus they have some pre-made geomorph sets available).

Lastly, there are a group of tile set files that you can download. While I’ve messed around with some other encounter builder programs that allowed me to make maps, getting the tile sets was a bit of a chore. It’s nice that this program has them available.

Pymapper is not perfect. Moving tiles around once they are on the map can be a little clunky at times. However I’ve found the program very intuitive, and after learning 2-3 keystroke shortcuts and menu icons, I was able to select (and exclude) groups of tile sets, and whip up a few maps with stacked tiles very quickly. Best of all, I could export these maps and print them out, so I’d have a handy reference to help arrange the right tiles needed for an encounter during a game. Pymapper is a great little program and free of charge. Be sure to check it out.