There are 3 days left on the Campaign Cartographer Humble Bundle from ProFantasy. I picked it up a couple weeks ago and have had some time to play with it, so thought I would review it in time for others to make their decision before it ends. My opinion of it is subject to change, probably improvement, as I become more accustomed to it, but we don’t have months to wait before this massive discount goes away.
The Short Short Version
$1 tier: probably worth it for VTT GMs.
$25 tier: probably not worth the jump, but keep reading.
Average ($27) tier: an awesome set of real world maps make this a great resource for game masters and history lovers alike.
$30 tier: hard to recommend, unless you want to make maps for sale, despite the small step up.
The $1 tier comes with some decent floor plans (but those are available in droves for free online), some (mostly broken) battle maps, and some decent tokens. If you play games on virtual table tops, you’ll probably get your bang for your buck. I ran a one-shot a couple nights ago using a few of the tokens and probably have the value.
The $25 tier is a huge cliff up in price with not much added value. You get a year of the software, which is super unintuitive, but by the end of that year you might be fluent in it. You get Perspectives which does a decent job at isometric dungeon drawing within Campaign Cartographer, but again, clunky, and a pdf that I found too dense to read thoroughly but which seems to be a guide to the software. I might want that some time, if I decide to give the software much more of my time, but it’s weird to consider it a separate item.
At the average tier, currently $26-$27, you get what I consider the real value here. The Castle and Temple Sourcemaps are an incredible repository of detailed maps of (mostly) real life places that will be at the top of my list to use when my sandbox world needs a realistic ruin for the players to come upon on short notice. I would consider getting in at this level if you like having realistic buildings at your table as a Game Master. I haven’t used any, yet, but I am already very happy with my purchase; it’s a pretty epic set of maps. I’m not sure how impactful the symbol set is. I assume it adds more templates to the Campaign Cartographer software, and it’s possible some of my favorite assets from my brief usage so far.
At the top tier, $30, you find the lifetime license for the software, as well as the add-on software for dungeons and cities. These have some powerful tools and since it will probably take me a lifetime to become proficient with the software, the extended license is pretty good to. This level is just a little above the average, so it might be worth the leap if you like making your own maps and are willing to deal with some frustration. It could also be spending another $4 to suffer to no avail. I can’t recommend it as a Game Master (for reasons I will detail later), but I do think the fact that the EULA outlines using it for commercial maps will be incentive enough for me to dive in and learn it to improve the quality of my module maps. If you are a creator without a preferred software like me, this might be the right move, maybe.
My Problems with the Software
Well, they are manifold, but I’ll try to remember some of my frustration in brief.
First, it is very slow on my computer. Now I don’t have a super beast, but doing 2D drawings shouldn’t take so much out of it. When you turn on the effects, yeah, it’s a little more understandable, but then the software becomes unusable. There is something very wrong about what’s under the hood if this chugs like this while GIMP is fine.
Second, the way they use layers is super inconvenient, to the point I just wish I was in GIMP again, but then I wouldn’t have all the texture assets and symbols. Is it worth it to be able to use the symbols? Maybe, but the selection is still pretty limited and I haven’t figured out how to add my own.
Third, it is crazy non-intuitive to use. To make a 10 foot wide corridor with walls I have to specify 15 foot wide and 5 foot walls, because the walls will overlap the corridor floor, but if I want to draw it without walls I have to drop back to 10. I’ve given up on drawing rooms with the walls included because they overlap the floor for half of their width, so it’s just easier to add them later. But then again, the wall drawing tool can’t use the wall texture I chose for the rooms and corridors, so to draw walls I instead end up drawing 0 width corridors, but if I make the walls 5 feet wide that way, I have to turn off snap. *Breath* I’m sure I’ll figure it all out eventually and it will be as second nature as the terrible CAD tools I use for work, but surely there’s a reason ProFantasy reads as Profanity every time I see it.
Fourth, it takes a long time to realize you don’t like a template you’ve started into. I’m sure eventually I’ll get a taste for all the add-ons and templates, but so far few of them have worked out like I wanted and I get pretty far along before I decide to scrap the whole thing. Often this is the result of the auto-save prompting me to save and then realizing that now that I’ve saved I can’t undo at all. I’ve been satisfied with two maps so far, but I haven’t been happy with any. Experience will probably help, but this is a hobby and I’d like some benefit right out of the can.
All in all, I think this will probably be a powerful tool I will use a lot in the future and I’m glad I picked it up. The many real world maps alone are a great find, but I also think in the next few months I’ll be churning out much prettier maps in the same time as my hand drawn offerings so far, and for me at least that will be a big step in the right direction.