Saturday, February 03, 2007

RP Tools

Ever since I got my new DLP tv, I've been looking for a way to use it to display maps for my players. Now that I have my new notebook and my wireless network set up, it seemed that I had everything but the software.

There are tons of mapping software out there, but to really make the maps useful, I needed someway to put things on the map and move them around during gameplay. So I began looking and found RP Tools.

Their map tool software would let me show a map, block parts of it if I wanted, and most importantly, would let me move tokens around on the map.

Token Tool was easy to use once I figured out how to get an image in the tool. In the first hour I knocked out tokens for the 6 pcs (and most of that because I had to hand draw and digitally ink the artwork for one). The next hour I knocked out about a dozen and a half NPCs, though this was greatly aided by the fact that they were Marvel characters so artwork was easy to find.

The Map Tool was more challenging. It seems that I am cursed when it comes to mapping software. I find the UI's cumbersome and often counter-intuitive. I shouldn't have to fight to draw a simple four wall building on a scale I want and I almost gave up the whole project in frustration.

Even ProFantasy's Campaign Cartographer was a pain in the ass to use. While fairly simple for doing basic outdoor maps, it again became a fight to try to figure out how to do a simple building, not to mention one on the scale that I wanted. Much swearing ensued.

Importing a map into Map Tool is straight-forward, though it may require some tweaking for scale. But I was gnashing my teeth at these damned programs to make me a simple building map. Then it hit me.

I fired up an old version of MyHouse, a cheap-ass home design software. Fifteen minutes later, I had a six room block of a no-tell motel, complete with furniture and a couple of cars for my heroes to wreck. I took an overhead snapshot and loaded that into Map Tool. A couple of tokens showed that the scale was close enough, so I went to save the "campaign". The program gave me an error message.


Fortunately, now that I have the map image and the tokens, I can set it up in fifteen minutes. All of my hours of frustration and prep will pay off.

Unless, of course, my players decide to run away in the first round of the battle. :(


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