[RPG] Making fantasy city [non-tactical] maps with GIMP


Does anyone know of good city specific (although I would be interested in others as well) plug-ins for fantasy RPG map making using GIMP?

Edit: I am more looking at macro-scale (so whole city and a little of country side) rather than a tactical map. For tactical maps, of course, using vector graphic is better.

Edit2: I should have asked about brushes. Deviant art has a plethora of good ones that are very useful for making maps.

Best Answer

You don't exactly need plugins for this sort of thing: the most important skill for using raster software like the GIMP for map-making is learning how to use the existing functionality to get the effects you're interested in. However, depending on what you're going for, there are plugins that can help.

The hardest part of making a fantasy city map is laying down the streets—everything else (city walls, surrounding terrain, water, building fill, text, etc.) is the application of more basic cartography techniques. If you've got a small city or are drawing only a high-level view of it you can get away with hand-drawn streets, but for more complex streets like in this city map that would be mind-meltingly tedious.

If you're on Windows using the GIMP, there is a Voronoi diagram plugin binary that can randomly generate street-like lines (as seen here) suitable for a city map, but it's an old plugin that isn't maintained anymore. I haven't been able to find any others, though.

Another method is to use something other than a plugin to generate a network of lines: this tutorial uses a city-generating program to create a street network image, which is then imported as an image and traced by hand. Another sources of "street-like images" you can trace is stock photography of broken glass.

For a less street-dense map, working on improving your map-centric image manipulation skills has more payoff for the time invested than experimenting with plugins to do the job. This tutorial on creating fantasy city maps at the Cartographers' Guild is an excellent place to start even if it is written with Photoshop in mind.

Finally, the unquestionably-best way to learn how to create fantasy city maps in GIMP (if you haven't already guessed from the festival of links) is to sign up at the Cartographers' Guild forum so you can read through the reams of material there. Try a search for "city streets" for pages of discussion and pro-looking maps to get an idea of what's out there.