Saturday, July 14, 2012

My RPG Map Banner



I recently came across a great idea for an enhancement to my role-playing game experience. I decided to have a large, high-quality vinyl banner printed, depicting a huge dungeon map. This will allow me to have a large dungeon at my disposal any time I need one. I used Banners On The Cheap to print my banner.

The rationale behind creating the huge dungeon map is that I would be able to use portions of the map for any RPG session. Since the map is printed on a 4’ x 8’ banner, it can easily be used on a table-top, floor, wall or other flat surface. Portions of the map not being used during any given gaming session can simply be folded up or covered, to be used at some later time.

To design the dungeon map for the banner, I used the Random Dungeon Generator at DizzyDragon.net. This is currently my favorite free dungeon generator on the web. It doesn’t have as many features as some of the other free dungeon generators out there, but it uses predefined dungeon tiles, designed to give the dungeon an authentic feel. Most other dungeon generators can only create rectangular shapes, but the one at DizzyDragon.net is able to seamlessly combine the tiles into a realistic-looking map, complete with caverns, pools, rubble and anything else you can imagine that would populate a massive dungeon.

Once I had the idea for the map fleshed out, I headed over to Banners On The Cheap to determine what size map I should create. I decided on a 4’ x 8’ banner, meaning that my dungeon map should be roughly the same proportion, to keep the aspect ratio consistent, which would hopefully result in the best resolution and the highest quality map possible. Banners on The Cheap has their banner sizes listed in a drop-down menu on their homepage, so deciding on an appropriate size and material for my banner was quick and easy.

After determining my banner size, I went back to DizzyDragon.net to create my dungeon map. The dungeon generator maxes out at 200 squares, both high and wide. I knew that I wanted my dungeon to be about half as tall as it was wide in order to fit my custom banner. Therefore, I set the width at 200 squares, and the height at 100 squares. If each square represents 10’, that dungeon will be well over 1/3 of a mile wide!

The dungeon generator at DizzyDragon.net also creates room contents for each chamber. I didn’t need these for my map, but since I have the seed number of my random map, I can go back and reload the map on their site at any time and have random room contents generated. My dungeon contains over 1500 rooms, so it will be nice to have a head start on populating it with creatures and features.

Once I had generated my design, I checked the entire map to make sure that the dungeon tiles were distributed well.  Satisfied, I used a free .pdf creation tool called CutePDF to save the entire website as a .pdf file. Once saved, I selected only the map portion, and imported it at high resolution into a free photo editing program called GIMP2. Once I had the map imported, I saved it, first as a .bmp file, then as a .jpg file. The .bmp file was very large, but I wanted to make sure that I kept the graphic resolution as high as possible (sometimes, .jpg files can lose a little bit of resolution.) Be sure to check the resolution of your graphic file when you’re finished. It should look pretty much like the original map design for optimum printing.

Here's what my final map file looks like:

Huge Dungeon Map
Dizzy Dragon Dungeon Map
You can get the .jpg file HERE.

Once I had my .jpg file saved, and was satisfied with the resolution, I went back to the Banners On The Cheap website. Their image uploading process is super simple, so I was able to load my map quickly. My large .jpg file ended up being a little over 4 MB, so it was well under their online upload limit of 20 MB. After my map had uploaded, I was able to preview it on my banner. My map ended up being a tiny bit smaller than the banner size, so I just centered my map on the banner, chose my background color and saved my banner design. I could have also added text or clipart to my design if I desired, but I decided to keep my banner relatively simple. At the end, I was able to view a larger proof of my banner before completing my order.

The Banners On The Cheap checkout process was very simple. Before finalizing your order, you can change your banner type, size, and whether you want single or double-sided. All of this likely depends on the banner size that you select in the beginning of the process. You can also choose to add options for easy hanging, which I decided I didn’t need for my table-top dungeon map.

I placed my order at Banners On The Cheap, and they shipped it the next day. A few days later, I received my banner via UPS. It came rolled up length-wise in a box that measured approximately 4" x 4" x 4 1/2'. The map is centered on the black background exactly how I placed it in on their website. There is also a white border around the entire deisgn, which may be an automatic feature of this type of banner. The banner seems to be very durable, with a consistency similar to a large table-mat. I tested the surface with water and am pleased to report that nothing smudged or smeared.

Here are a few pictures of the banner:

RPG Map Banner
Full Length Banner Shot

Map Close-Up
Close-Up Section of the Banner

Map Side View
Dungeon Map Banner Side View


As far as the map looks, everything is exactly as I designed it. The one exception is that the print appears to have bled into the banner material a little bit, so the resolution is not quite as sharp as my original .jpg file. This won't be an issue for the functionality of the map, as the fine print (room numbers) is still very legible and everything else on the map (symbols, etc.) is larger and/or very readable. The colors are distinct as well, with no issues.

Overall, I am very pleased with my finished product. The banner looks as though it would last for many years. My one recommendation to anyone wanting to produce a similar banner would be to keep your map scale somewhat large (my dungeon squares are about 3 per inch, which seems to work well.) If I had printed the same map on a 2' x 4' banner, I'm guessing that the room numbers would have been less legible. I would think that an overworld map would have the same issue with the small print (city names, etc.)

Thanks to Banners On The Cheap for producing a fine and creative product!

8 comments:

  1. Very cool - thanks for sharing your experience! Have you actually used your map in play yet?

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  2. I haven't actually tried it out in a gaming session yet. I think I'll work on generating the room contents first - at least the first hundred rooms or so.

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  3. Nice! I'd like to see the high res version though.

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  4. Yeah...every time I try to get a close-up picture of the banner, the focus on my digital camera gets blurry. I'll try to figure out a way to post another close-up shot.

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  5. Why did you use 3sq/inch instead of 1 square per inch so you could use minis or tokens?

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  6. @Mediaprophet...Well, I was thinking more along the lines of how much dungeon I could fit onto the banner that would still have a good resolution to it. 3 squares per inch was as low as I was willing to go, and I didn't want to go any higher than what the design indicated.
    So, i wasn't really envisioning this as a map for miniatures, but for using wet-erase markers.

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  7. Scott, I'm curious how do you effectively use the maps you create to work in your gameplay? Do you take them to a local print shop and have them blow them up on a larger sheet and laminate them or do you print these from home on standard size paper? Also when you play are you just using small pawn icons (assuming from your comments you do not use miniatures)? Appreciate the feedback.

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  8. Gordon,
    It depends on the map, but normally I just print them off on my printer and increase the print scale if I need to. Nothing too fancy.
    Pencils work great for tracking gaming events on the map, but I could use generic markers if the need arose.

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