26
Mar

Tuesday Tips: OP Maps

Maps and RPG’s are like peanut butter and chocolate, and they’ve been that way since J. “Rowdy-Roddy” Tolkien and his generation first started adding fantasy cartography inside the front covers of their books.  Maps are stories unto themselves.  Obsidian Portal has a special section just for maps for your campaign(s), and they can really add a lot of visual interest to your legendary layout. Assembled here are a few tricks and tips to help you advance your atlas onto your page.

ORIENTEERING ORIENTATION

Firstly, all the instructions about how to manipulate your maps inside O.P. are here, in the help section.  There are step-by-step lists of what to do and videos, too.  Here’s a rundown of the important bit:

  1. Go to your campaign.
  2. Click on the “Maps” Tab in the sidebar.
  3. Click on the “New Map” button.
  4. Type a Name for the map.
  5. Click on “Click here to upload” and choose a file (use a square image or it will appear stretched).
  6. Click the “Open” button and wait for it to upload.
  7. Max size is between 2 and 5MB, depending on your subscription level.
  8. Leave the Public Checkbox checked to let anyone view the map or uncheck it to only allow campaign members to see it.
  9. Click the “Submit” button.
  10. It may take a few minutes to process the map for all users to see.

Once it’s up, you can rename it, zoom in and out to see details, and stick fancy map-markers onto key locations and link them to other parts of your site.  When you’re finished with the map, you can delete it or swap it out with another one to keep everything nice and tidy.

CARTOGRAPHIC CAPACITY

As of this writing, a free user on the Basic plan can have two campaigns, one map per campaign, and those maps cannot be larger than 2MB each.  The Adventurer tier upgrades that number significantly, giving you five campaigns, three maps per campaign, and storage space for up to 10MB in total.  For a little bit extra, you can move up to the Ascendant subscription, unlocking an unlimited number of campaigns, ten maps per campaign, and 10GB of storage space in total.

So, if you’re looking to streamline the scope of your sketches, here’s a few tips to shrink those scrolls and keep things orderly:

  • Use fewer colors — a couple of colors can convey a lot of information, and maps in sepia tones are often quite attractive.  Gray-scale or black-and-white maps can also free up storage space.
  • Reduce your canvas size — most image-manipulation programs allow for resizing canvases and cropping out unneeded sections.  Obsidian Portal can handle fairly large images, but those that go beyond 2000 x 2000 pixels may not be worth the extra bulk, since you can zoom in anyway.
  • Split maps into sections — if you don’t want to make them smaller, just cut maps into chunks and only reveal the relevant pieces, as needed.  If you run out of storage space, swap one region out for another.
  • Lower the resolution — if you reduce the number of pixels-per-inch (PPI) in your image, you will reduce its size in memory at the cost of losing some clarity.  If you go too far and the map becomes blurry, it isn’t very useful however, so experiment and save copies to see what looks best.  Some high-quality maps can suffer a lot of detail loss and still look fantastic.
  • Change your file type — different kinds of graphics files take up different amounts of space.  Usually, a jpg will be about as compact as you can get an image.
Campsite clearing.

Campsite clearing.

ROOM TO ZOOM

O.P. maps feature a five-level zoom function that allow those viewing your campaign to zoom in to see more detail or step back to look at the bigger picture.  You can use this to put a lot of information on the page, and the tricks below should give you a better sense of where to start:

  • For a 2000 x 2000 pixel map, fully zoomed-out, your map will appear somewhere around 3-inches on a side, assuming you’re using a standard computer screen to view it.  You will likely be able to read 120-point fonts with ease, and the largest features that go all the way across your map will be recognizable.  Fonts below 48-points will be mostly impossible to make out, as will the details of objects smaller than 60 x 60 pixels.
  • For a similar map with a similar screen at the mid-level zoom, you should be able to read 36-point fonts and see the details of objects around the 30 x 30px. mark, give-or-take.
  • For a similar map with a similar screen at the closest zoom, you ought to be able to read 12-point font and see details of objects as small as 10 x 10px.  A 400 x 250 pixel object will fill up the entire map viewer, and very large fonts will be too big to view.  These benchmarks will vary based on your screen size and quality, so some experimentation may still be necessary.
  • If your map-making software or drawing program has a function to change opacity (how transparent something appears), consider using it to lower the opacity of larger features or text on the map — they will remain visible when zoomed out, but you will be able to fit smaller, darker features and words “beneath” them that still show up when zoomed farther in.
  • Less is more — consider what information your viewer really REALLY needs to know and only put that in.  An uncluttered map may be more useful than one that is stuffed to overflowing and unreadable.

Lastly, don’t forget to check out my previous articles on maps:  40 Magnificent Mapping Resources which has a lot of mini-reviews on map-creation goodies, and 27 More Mapping Marvels, with which you can draw inspiration for your own world-building.  Happy mapping!

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