Fantasy writers listen up: Campaign Cartographer 3 creates visually stunning maps to represent new worlds

This is a guest post by David Brown

I like to believe I respond well to feedback, whether it’s positive or negative. One criticism my debut novel, Fezariu’s Epiphany, received was about its lack of maps. I took the reader on a tour of Odrica, Merelax Island, Valadomiar, Emeraldon and Himordia during that book but these were just names, and picturing them in the world of Elenchera was no easy task without a map. I held my hands up and agreed with my readers that maps were essential to any future novels I wrote.

During the world building for Elenchera, I produced more than 500 hand drawn maps, a statistic which still makes me shudder today. Despite a good grade in GCSE Art at secondary school, drawing has never been my strongpoint, though I wish it were. I wouldn’t have allowed my basic maps to grace the pages of any of my novels, but I did want readers to have maps to refer to with my next novel, A World Apart. I needed to find a way to improve the maps I already had and make them look more professional and easy to navigate. The hand-drawn maps have been my essential guide when planning and writing my novels, but I knew the reader deserved better quality.

My muse and dear wife Donna, who is a constant support when it comes to my writing, gave me some useful help in enhancing these existing maps. She handed me a program by the name of Campaign Cartographer 3 along with an intimidating instruction manual. Campaign Cartographer 3 is considered to be one of the best pieces of software out there for producing maps, so I was naturally worried. Given the simplicity of my hand drawn maps and my basic drawing skills, would I be able to transfer them into Campaign Cartographer 3 and give them the visual substance they so desperately needed?

As well as an extensive but useful instruction manual, you can find some very good tutorials on YouTube to help navigate your way through Campaign Cartographer 3. The YouTube ones became my sanctuary, and I followed them step by step in recreating my first map for A World Apart. In a nutshell, I scanned one of my hand drawn maps, traced it into Campaign Cartographer 3, and then utilized the program’s many functions to add a more realistic look to the map before adding loads of mountains, trees, rivers, towns and villages. Despite my embarrassment at my hand drawn maps I have shared them here along with the ones I have produced in Campaign Cartographer 3 to give you an idea of how much the software can improve things. They certainly look better than the ones I drew but as far as Campaign Cartographer 3 goes, these are among the simplest maps you will ever see! The truth is if I can produce these maps from my hand drawn efforts than anyone can.

Of course, using Campaign Cartographer 3 hasn’t been easy. Many times I’ve found myself pulling my hair out trying to figure things out but more often than not the answer was straightforward. The online tutorials, instruction manual and a selection of forums are all worth seeking out and are easy to find if ever you get stuck.

I currently have some rather pleasant looking maps, and despite the difficult learning curve with Campaign Cartographer 3, I am pleased I persevered. I now feel that the world of Elenchera has taken on even more life. Looking at the close-ups of the maps and the color of the landscape, seeing the towns, tracing the journeys of my characters and the experiences they have, it has all taken on a far greater level of realism.

To my wonderful readers that wanted maps, I promise there will be some in A World Apart and all future novels in The Elencheran Chronicles series. This humble author has endured blood, sweat and tears to get there. If it brings a smile to the faces of my readers, it will all have been worth it. This is proof that I do listen to feedback and that readers are not to be ignored whenever they do offer constructive criticism.

About this post’s author:

David Brown could be considered a fantasy fanatic, especially since he has spent the last 10 years developing a 47,000-year history for his fictional world of Elenchera. When converting his obsession into literary form, David commits himself to a rigorous writing and editing process before his work can meet his approval. Combined with the critical eye of his wife and a BA Honors in History and English, David’s dedication leads him to his goal of inspiring readers through heartfelt stories and characters. David himself certainly does not lack a spirit of adventure; in fact, he left his job in 2007 in order to spend a month traveling. Second only to meeting and marrying his wife, David counts this as one of the most amazing experiences of his life.


2 Comments

  1. I am good at drawing maps but a software like Campaign Cartographer 3 would definitely improve the visual effects. I had stumbled across it once when I was looking for a map generator and decided against buying it since I thought it would be too hard to work out. How has the learning curve been? Steep?
    Anyway, this was a wonderful post. I especially liked the part that you actually care about your readers’ suggestions to go through so much when it comes to creating maps. Thank you. :)
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  2. This is a great post. Thanks for the information about the learning curve. That makes all the difference when you start using a new tool, to realize that you’re not slow – it’s just that the software is complicated. ;-) Very useful article.
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