My Map-Making Approach

I currently develop maps with a VTT (virtual tabletop), such as Foundry in mind. For this reason, when I draw a map, I am only drawing the static portion. I leave off lights and anything that might be overhead, so I can add it in-game.

Here is an example.

In this image, I placed the light shines from the fireplace using the light tool in Dungeon Draft. Once I pulled it into foundry, I animated the light using a ghostly lighting effect in Foundry. The result is more diffuse shadows that I would have gotten using Foundry alone, and a very cool-looking fire that I could not have produced in DungeonDraft.

Speaking of shadows, I have a light touch with shadows, generally adding only a diffuse 20 or 40% shadow patch under substantial furnishings, and I don’t attempt to cast direct shadows. It is just a diffuse shadow under the object itself, to give it some depth. I don’t have any such shadows in the above image, but I do in this homey yurt:

There is a shadow under each camp chair, the desk, the chair, the hammock, and the junk to the left. I did not place a shadow in the firepit area, because it is supposed to be just above the ground. I probably could also have placed some small shadows under the chest and the box. Oops.

There is also a shadow path around the entire yurt. I will write more about shadow paths in an upcoming post.

I also like to make use of either an overhead map or overhead tiles to bring another dimension to the map. So I plan for this by leaving things like tree shadows and trees off of the map, and I pull them all together in the VTT.

Here is an example of how another part of this map looks when you look at the map image by itself:

Here’s how the same map looks in-game with trees, tents, fire, lighting and tokens (people and creatures):

It’s hard to believe it is the same map. This is why I love creating for VTTs.

If I were to create this same map for print, I would add another layer in DungeonDraft for the tree shadows and another for the treetops, make them slightly offset from each other, add lights, and include all three layers in the exported image.