Hexographer RPG Mapping Software
Summary: Hexographer rocks and solves wilderness mapping fast for RPGs. Even left-brain squareheads like me can churn out beautiful and functional maps quick with Hexographer.
I have known about this software for awhile but only recently contacted the owner for a review copy. Erin Smale, publisher of Chimera, put me onto this software and I am so glad he did.
Tile Based Mapper
Hexographer is a tile-based outdoor mapper that will have you mapping in under a minute. I was impressed with how easy it was to create maps after booting it up for the first time. However, the software also offers a deep feature set you can get into over time for enhanced mapping and as a valuable campaign tool. The combo of instant results plus feature richness is rare these days.
After downloading and installing the Java-based application you will be taken to the start-up screen. There you configure your new map, load an existing map or import a map for tracing over (nice touch). Options here let you customize map size and background terrain, plus fiddle with hex settings.
A quibble here is GUI design could be polished up a bit. For example, I selected Solid Terrain > Sea and clicked Generate Map, which generated a random map instead of a sea-based one. I went back and realized I also needed to click the Solid Terrain button. Once I knew this, it was smooth sailing.
Lots of icons
The software offers a large library of terrain icons. All your core needs will be met with this. Further, you can draw lines on top for rivers, roads and other mapping objects. All went smooth.
As you can see in the screenshot, there are also icons, special shapes and text label options galore. Cosmic shapes will interest sci-fi GMs. More icons are available for sale at the developer’s website.
I found working with objects a tad clunky, but again, once I figured out a bit of the software’s design philosophy I was able to work well with the software. For example, each tab in the library represents a different type of object. To edit or delete an object placed on your map, there is no universal select, edit or delete button. Instead, you click on the particular library tab to get the tools you need to edit an object of that type. Easy once you grasp that, but not sleek.
I liked that I could paint terrain hexes by clicking and dragging. This made filling areas and laying down areas of terrain fast. I also think the quality of the icons is excellent – that’s the part that makes me look like a great artist when done.
Great options, lots of depth
Neat features in the Library panel include elevation and GM-only objects. Elevation lets you mark the map so you can tell how high or depressed terrain features are. And you can use GM-only objects to make player-friendly handouts quick and easy.
Speaking of export, Hexographer has you covered. You can print, save as PNG and save as HTML. If you have a PDF print driver, then you can PDF your maps in a snap too. Further, you can select just a portion of your map and export that. Sweet. You can also save your maps in native format for later editing or sharing with other Hexographer users.
The Show/Hide menu will make you look like a genius. You can opt to show hex numbers, centre dots, elevation, certain objects, hex borders and more. So, you can build a detailed, full-feature map and cleave away the information you do not need at any given time for your needs or handouts or simplicity.
The Options menu is a Christmas tree of baubles. I did not get deep into this, but options include freeform vs. snap to grid for natural looking vs. old school style maps, random stuff, and tweaks to the hex settings.
Child Map offers a cool feature. Select a portion of your map and use Child Map to make a blow-up or exploded view for even more detail. For example, a forest might be a few hexes on your continent map, but Child Map can turn it into a new map of say, 50 hexes across, so you can detail this area further, without having to draw a bigger representative map manually.
Draw RPG maps fast
What I like about Hexographer best is you can make your maps fast, but additional features and options can let you become an advanced user with practice. Sometimes mapping software has such a steep initial learning curve that you give up before you have any maps for your game to show for your time spent.
With Hexographer, you just start painting your terrain and you have a map in minutes. Because of the way the software handles terrain and objects, you can return to your maps again and again and add more detail, or apply new features you learn to use.
I highly recommend giving this software a shot. You can download a free version to try out and make usable maps with. If you want extra features, you can get the pro version, which is reasonably priced at around $30.