This thread is very exciting! I am a big fan of all sorts of tools that go into making tabletop RPGs a more interesting experience.
I cannot wait to play around with MakeHex, that looks really cool!
Most of the things I am going to list below cost money. As such I will try to give some fair thoughts about the software so that folks get a sense of whether it may be worth their time to investigate further.
Note; do not open all of these programs at the same time to remind yourself of various things, it may press your GPU past its patience. I nearly lost this screed like tears in the rain, and other Dutch things.
My favorite tools follow:
Realm Works: I liken it to making a Wiki for your campaign. Realm Works is pretty powerful software and you can create some elaborate RPG fodder with it. Its pretty intimidating to get started if you are not familiar with this sort of program (though many students, professionals, and other sorts of human are familiar with OneNote and its ilk, and this is in that vein) but with the manual and some YouTube tutorials you’ll be on the way. It plays nice with conventional image file formats, so priceless pictures can enhance the scene. Its still a work in progress so there is ongoing improvements in optimization. This is especially apparent with the player view tools, which are going to be super duper cool when totally streamlined, but on the laptop I use to run my game there are significant hiccups when trying to manipulate maps. The cloud features are really nice, especially if you have a desktop and laptop, though the price for that is a regular fee.
The GM Edition will set you back $59.99
Campaign Cartographer 3: This is the big one. It is built off of CAD software so if you know how to use Auto-CAD or similar programs you are in business (those familiar with Photoshop and GIMP might have an edge too). On the other hand, if you have never used a mouse to draft you’re looking at a very steep learning curve. Nothing is insurmountable however, and between a tutorial manual, the full manual, and ubiquitous YouTube tutorials you’ll be up and running in about three hours (Mileage may vary, no Warranties made). Once you wrap your mind around the unique perspective that is CAD you’re on the go, and the maps one can make with this software are pretty special. Take a look at the galleries on their website and you’ll see the worlds that human fingers can forge. Couple this with the various Annuals, which add Map Styles and Icons without end, and you can forge any place your players might find themselves. Beyond CC3 (that’s what we Cartographers call it, now you can call it that too!), there is the city builder, the dungeon designer, the character builder, the isometric map builder, the 3d terrain modeler. Not to mention the fractal terrain generator. You can create an entire new world in seconds! I mean, why doesn’t every person have this software? Well, the price is dear. The base CC3 software costs $44.95. Each of the cool additions mentioned above is another $39.95. Each volume of the annual will cost as much coin. Woe to the poor pleb of normal means. ProFantasy do offer bundles, and these provide the best savings. In fact, if you go for the whole shellac you’ll get a cool 46% discount, dropping a mere $620. Doable if that ain’t the value of your rent check. None of this is to imply that the value for money is absent. In another time, when I had the means, I picked up the whole deal, and its glorious. With all of that, most folks will get along just fine picking up the base CC3 software. It comes with a ton of content, and you can go on to buy other elements of the full suite a la carte. The Facebook group dedicated to this software is a critical resource as a couple of legit mapping geniuses regularly post tips, tricks, and WIPs.
Wonder Draft: Catching a tweet from DM Guild super designer M.T. Black turned me on to this gem. Wonder Draft is an amazing piece of software that will make you feel like a cartography wonder child. I’m a big fan. It whips up a quick map like a meal al fresca, just take a look at the trailer to see some real-time map drawing action! Plus I have used it in conjunction with CC3 and GIMP to do some very cool stuff with my maps. Comparing this to CC3 is craven and wicked. Each program stands on its own, and while I haven’t spent a terribly long time with Wonder Draft, I do know if I want crazy granularity or control I’ll use CC3, if I need to throw together a really good looking map in a relatively short period of time, I’ll go to Wonder Draft in a heartbeat. The icing on the cake, its fairly priced at $29.99
Illwinter’s Floorplan Generator: I just fired this up on Steam to refresh my recollection and noted that I’ve spent 22 hours using this software, so a good amount of time in my world. This is a really cool program that will let you either create or randomly generate dungeon floor plans. I love the randomly created ones because they are absolutely huge, and therefore give you a lot of choice of where to zoom in. Zoom in you should, as huge labyrinthine dungeons are a bore to run (unless that’s your bag, then get on with it) and start DECORATING! I honestly don’t remember how many icons the base program comes with as I pretty quickly added a couple of mods for more. Now I have a ludicrous abundance of icons that is truly a plague of wonder. It takes a bit to load it all. I got bored of counting seconds. You can lay down some really cool dungeon fodder, and coupled with the dynamic lighting in Realm Works, you can cue up some pretty slick reveals. That portal spewing demons into the material plane. Looks sharp. The price is right too, $6.99.
A New Day?
GIMP: GNU Image Manipulation Program, or GIMP. There is a bad pun here, I will spare you as we are not acquainted. You can do anything in here that those other programs profess to do. Here your hands cast worlds. Your thoughts, mere whispers, grow into beasts that tower over intrepid adventurers. The scene, the set, the story. It can all come from here, its just a matter of time, will, ingenuity, and more YouTube videos on screen with manual on phone. This is not for the the faint of heart. If you know Photoshop you’re home, if you don’t just get ready to think in layers. Oh wow, you can do some cool stuff with layers. You don’t even really have to get fancy with it, use it to crop down your map to the region the players are traipsing through this week, use it to make portraits of your friend’s characters that the DM can use for initiative counters, use it to have some fun. After all, its free. Hats off to them…(Donations at the Door)