Class Index » Master Mapping: Map a Fantasy City

Map a Fantasy City


An Introduction to City Map-Making

Some of my best role-playing game memories were forged in glorious city-settings, such as the City State of the Invincible Overlord and Thieves World. While dungeons are deadly traps and monsters, cities are full of very different, but just as deadly traps: political intrigue, betrayal, criminals, heists and brewing revolutions.

City adventures make fantasy worlds more PERSONAL.

And it's not just the people and places... a city itself can have personality. In fact, it is essential that it takes on a character of its own. Each city should be as unique as the people that dwell within it.

In this Master Mapping Tutorial Series, you'll learn how to create a beautiful little city using Profantasy's Campaign Cartographer's City Designer 3+ ad-in module.  

While most of the tutorial has been created for a beginner or novice user of CC3+, there are also some more advanced skills and lessons.

The tutorial is broken into small 'bite-sized' chunks, so you can focus on mastering one specific skill or activity before moving on.   You can also skip parts of the tutorial that cover things you already know. 

So... let's get started! 


* Note: I will be expanding the video in future to delve into the entire brainstorming process. But for now... let's get into action!

Before we start this tutorial, please download  The city Builders Checklist.

This document will help you brainstorm your new city. It's not just about mapping the physical city. It's about uncovering the stories, plots, intrigues and potential plots that will take place in your city!  

The checklist will help you consider:

  • where is the city and how does location impact...
  • why the city grew up here and why it still exists,
  • what should be in the city,
  • who are the inhabitant
  • what adventures may happen within it.

So grab that document and go through the checklist.  Better still, team up with a friend and bounce 'what if' ideas off each other as you plan the city!

The next thing to do before even touching campaign cartographer is to sketch out roughly  your city .   What goes where... and based on your checklist, why!

This is really important for cities, because they're complex living, evolving environments. So having a good understanding of what is going to look like is important prior to powering up Campaign Cartographer 3+ (CD3+) and City Designer 3+ (CD3+).    Knowing roughly what you need to map out in advance will save you a bucket-load of time!

I am using a wonderful Microsoft Surface Studio computer and Photoshop for this sketching activity.  But you could use pen and paper, or a Surface Book or any other pen based computer.  Just as long as you sketch out a rough plan - and I do mean rough - before starting with CD3+.

And it doesn't have to be a high resolution image!  In this video, I only use 800 x 600 pixels.

For  this tutorial, I've decided to create a fishing village that grew into a city.  The reason for it's growth is that it started off as a wealthy town due to the abundance seafood in the area. But that enough would not be enough to have it grow into a city...

So in this case, the town grew into a city due to gold-panning in the river upstream.  The gold traders came downstream with their treasure and the town became a trading port for gold.

Start you sketch by drawing the coastline.  In this case, I'm adding a river right through the middle of the city.

Next draw the main roads - and map out the main points of interest. In this city, the original fishing co-op has now become a small castle, and the new docks expanded to handle both fishing boats and traders.

Also, the city expanded over to the other side of the river.  A bazaar is positioned near the main gates and a religious district (on the opposite side of the river) expanded into an upper-class area.  The city also retained a central park area, again with wealthier houses and traders surrounding this choice bit of land. 

Ok. Sure. My sketch looks terrible.  And that's ok. You  are NOT drawing your city.  Do not approach this activity as a final destination.  Your sketch map can, and will, change even as you map it out in CD3+.  

The sketch is NOT about accuracy or beauty. It's about planning ahead just enough to make your mapping process intentional.

Preplanning will help a great deal in getting things done fast in CD3+.

  • Homework
  • Tips

Brainstorm your city

  • Download the City Builder's Checklist
  • Get together with a friend and jointly fill out the City Builder's Checklist.  As you do so, continually ask each other questions such as: What if?  What happened then?  Who was involved,  Why.
  • As you work through the Checklist, note down any ideas for adventures, plots or interesting characters you generate .

Sketch your city

  • Based on your brainstorming, sketch out your city.  Use an erasable or digital medium if possible, as you may wish to make changes as you map.  
  • As you sketch, be sure you include all the ideas for areas you developed while brainstorming.



Geography determines a great deal about your city.  We all know that to grow a city needs fresh running drinking water, outflow for wastes, farmlands and grazing fields.   In addition, natural minerals in the area shape trade of centuries, climate impacts the city's architecture and, importantly,  the natural geography can provide protection from invaders... or obvious lines of attack!

Starting Your New City Map

  • You will need to have CC3+ installed, along with City Designer 3+  (CD3+).  
  • Start CC3+ and then click on New Map
  • Select From Template and select Cities


Part 1.1 - Drawing the Coast and Waterways

Armed with a great idea and a sketch, it's time to map out the coastline and the river that runs through the middle of our city. In this tutorial, you will learn how to: 

  1. Start a new city map in Campaign Cartographer 3+ (CC3+) 
  2.  Select a template for a mid-sized city 
  3. Use the "All city tools" function to select the Default Water drawing tool 
  4. Draw you city's coastline and river in such a way that your water cuts off neatly at the edges of the map. 

This is an introductory level video: perfect for absolute beginners.


Part 1.2 - Adjusting the Coastline

In this City Designer 3+ video tutorial, you will learn how to adjust your city's coastline and waterways to better match your sketch... or just to make additional tweaks. You will learn: 

  1. How to use the 'Node insert' and 'Node edit' tools.
  2. What is a node and a polygon in Campaign Cartographer 3+ (CC3+) 

Difficulty level: Novice


Part 2 - Drawing City Walls

Next up, we draw city walls using the "All City Drawing Tools" function. You will learn: 

  1. How to select a style and thickness of walls 
  2. How to place watchtowers along your walls 

Difficulty level: Beginner


City Mapping - Essential Skills- 


In this tutorial, we take a short break from actually mapping our city to explore the essential skills you will need for drawing roads.

You will learn: 

1. How to draw a default road 

2. How to select different road drawing tools: paves roads, dust, roads, and dirt roads, and roads of different widths. 

3. How to use the Attach and Modifier tools to get your roads to align and join up perfectly with each other. 

4. How to adjust the width of roads you've already drawn onto your map, either individually or many at a time. 

5. How to change the 'fill' (color and texture) of the roads already drawn on your map. 

This tutorial is aimed at absolute beginners, but also gives great advice mappers with a little more experience. 

 I strongly urge you to watch it before going on to the next part of our tutorial series, where you actually add roads to your city map. 

Difficulty level: Beginner 

Time needed: 7-10 min


Essential Skills - The Random Streets Tool - Widening Roads

By default, the Random Streets tool tends to place houses closely along a 10f wide road. But what about when you draw a wider road? Never fear, CD3+ handles that situation. You will learn: 

1. how to change the width of an existing road 
2. how to draw the houses so they fit wider roads 
Difficulty level: Novice
Time needed: 5 min


Essential Skills - The Random Street Tool

In this short video on using the Random Streets tool, we start to explore how you can customize how the tool to draw different streets. You will learn: 

1. How to change the ratio of different house shapes to be randomly drawn 
2. How to change the roof types of the houses 
3. How to choose which side of the street you will draw houses 
Difficulty level: Beginner 
Time needed: 2-3 min


Essential Skills - Random Street Tool - House Shapes & Roofs

In this short video on using the Random Streets tool, we start to explore how you can customize how the tool to draw different house shapes and rooftops. You will learn: 

1. How to change the ratio of different house shapes to be randomly drawn 
2. How to change the roof types of houses 
 3. How to choose which side of the street you will draw houses 
Difficulty level: Novice 
Time needed: 3 min


Essential Skills - Random Streets Tool - Changing House Sizes

The random street styles that come with City Designer 3 (CD3+) are relatively consistent and all relatively small. But you change the minimum and maximum widths for how the houses are drawn and create larger buildings or if you set the min and max values far apart a great deal more variety in your streets. This video covers how to adjust the house sizes for the Random Street tool. You will learn: 

1. how to adjust the min and max lengths and widths of houses to be drawn 
Difficulty level: Novice 
Time needed: 3 min


Essential Skills - Random Streets Tool - Fully Customized Houses

City Designer's true power becomes clear in this advanced tutorial. We explore how to fully customize a house style - changing its fill, how it is drawn, and even placing beams across the roof. You can save any unique house styles and add them to a mix of houses in your streets styles. Then you can simply draw streets and see your new house style added to your city, along with other buildings of your choosing. Wowsa. This is city-mapping on steroids! You will learn: 

1. how to access the House Setting feature of the Random Streets tool 
2. how to change the angle (pitch) of your building roofs 
3. how to change the roof 'fill' (how it looks) to be a bitmap of your choosing. 
4. how to change the width of the edging of your rooftops to create beams. 
5. how to save your unique house as a new House Style 
6. how to add your new house to a street style, mixed with other house styles 
7. set which side of the street your houses will be drawn on (in this case, both sides at once) 
8. how to draw your new houses, along with other houses, randomly along a road on your map. 
Difficulty level: Advanced 
Time needed: 3-5 min - but a lifetime to master!


Part 3 - Adding Roads to Your City

Armed with the knowledge of how to draw and modify roads, this tutorial walks you through adding roads to your map. You will learn how to: 

  1. add roads of different styles and widths to your city 
  2. create looped roads 
  3. join roads together seamlessly 
  4. create paved marketplaces 

Difficulty level: Novice* 

I recommend you watch the *City Mapping - Essential Skills - Roads* video in this series prior to continuing with this video.


Adding Buildings from Symbols Catalogue

With your main city roads in place, it's time to start adding buildings. There are two main ways to add buildings to your city. The most flexible, but also most time-consuming, is to point and click buildings into your city map via CD3+'s extensive symbol catalogue. The second way is to automate the process via the Random Streets Tools. In this tutorial, we focus on the former - placing buildings via the various symbols catalogues. 
Difficulty level: Novice 
Time needed: 7-10min