[RPG] What collaborative mapping software would meet the needs?



I am the head of plot for a boffer LARP that runs monthly. A given game has anywhere from 10 to 50 players. We have around 5 people that run plot. I need the entire plot team to be able to view the maps. We built an overall campaign map on 4 pieces of printer paper, scanned it in, and stitched it together with Gimp. Right now, we have that image hosted in a Dropbox accessible folder and edit it in our own image editors. Unfortunately, this means that we haven't really changed it much, as it is not particularly easy to manipulate in that manner.

Prior Research

  • I read the topic "What's the best software for mapmaking?" and considered the software described there and linked to from the Cartographer's Guild link, but didn't run any of the software myself.
  • I personally used AutoRealm, but not extensively.
  • I personally used Gimp (but not with any addons or specialized brushes)
  • A plot member used Campaign Cartographer 2. It seems to have the map editing features down, but I'm not sure about the rest.

The features that I am looking for are:

  1. May be used collaboratively. If it does not have sharing features itself (for example, an online web interface), it should at least support multiple people editing it in a shared Dropbox folder. If that is by forcing the second person to open it read-only, so be it.
  2. Has a decent feature set for map editing. I'd like to be able to say "this region is forest, this region is ocean, this region is plains," and have the software fill it with a chosen or appropriate texture. I'd like to, on the same map, but on a different layer, be able to label this part of the map as the County of Ashenwood, this part as the Duchy of Volensworth, etcetera. I'd like to be able to draw a road and later modify that road as an independent object.
  3. Simple to use – both to build and modify maps.
  4. Ability to link areas on a main map to a sub-map. Optimally I would want to be able to generate an HTML / image export that would allow me to click on a City icon and load up the map for that city, and then I'd like to be able to host that HTML on the internal wiki (or link to it from there). I could manually write these links, but that is a pain…
  5. Either has a very comprehensive set of "stamps" (city, town, dungeon, etc) or lets users add them.
  6. Can label and notate objects in the world.
  7. Can be used to generate maps for players or plot members with differing levels of information, without much hassle.
  8. Is well suited for use on an internal campaign wiki, particularly with regard to the map linking described above. Currently we are looking to switch from TikiWiki. We're considering MonkeyPirate TiddlyWiki, but if someone proposes a map software that works perfectly with only one particular wiki, that will greatly affect our decision.
  9. Can work with an imported, hand drawn map so that we can trace over it.
  10. Can generate professional looking maps for players (note that one of the plot members has a Photoshop license, so if she can export to Photoshop and build something from there, that would be fine).

What mapping software best fits that criteria?

Best Answer

Actually, I think you might want to get yourself a copy of Maptools. It doesn't do all the features you want (such as linking a city to the city map, though I'm sure someone could script that up) but it does allow for collaborative map building, token (stamp) placement, addition of new tokens (stamps), adding of terrain, etc.

What makes it so useful is that it is an online system, meaning that people can log in, make changes, and log out, and then everyone can see those changes. The 'owner' of the map can set priveleges on who is allowed to touch what parts, who owns what 'stamps' and such. This also applies for if you want to mark where certain NPC's are and their stats, as they're just another type of token.

I guess the biggest features that you're requesting that it is actually missing is the ability to link into a wiki or other websites. You can, however, view and print the map, and it does have different layers you can activate/deactivate for that sort of thing, as well as being able to store multiple maps at once, so you can see your overworld map and then switch to the city. If there's things you want to do with the linking but can't, it does support an in-program scripting language that will let you add that functionality. It's very versatile.

The cons are, however, that since it's an online collaborative tool, you'll need a server with enough dedicated up-time that people can get on and mess with the map at any given point (It runs it's own server, but you'll need something like no-ip.com so that everyone can remember the url to it) and it all still lives on a single machine, so there's a single point of failure.

Also, it won't integrate into a wiki or a website like you mention, but with a little bit of AJAX programming and some imagemap making, you can take the maps exported out of MapTools and convert them into HTML. Not exactly an ideal situation, I know.

However, given all of this, other main options would be a custom programmed solution. Someone should do that, it'd be big. Maybe I'll work on it in my spare time.