DMs Guild Review – The Tome of Cartography

A review copy of “The Tome of Cartography” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work via Patreon.

Published by: Arturo Garcia

Unless you run your tabletop games purely within the theater of the mind, you need maps. Overland region maps, settlement maps, dungeon maps, hex grids, squares, cut-aways, oh my!

The Tome of Cartography” aims to improve your map-making skills, but fails at providing any new information beyond the obvious, and is further hampered by numerous grammatical errors, poor organization, and basic font style.

The 40 page guide is divided into nine chapters, as well as including a series of blank map templates designed to print off and laminate. The first three chapters are all but useless fluff, including notes on how to go to a print store and print and laminate a map, and the tools you’ll need to draw on it, including rulers and dry erase markers.

Even as someone with zero artistic ability and who exclusively uses Roll20.net for creating maps, this all seems painfully obvious.

The best part of the guide is sadly the shortest. Chapters 4-7 are literally a single page long each, and half the page is taken up by the example map. The example maps are solid and some of the information is helpful, like the average size of a house and how that translates into a 5ft-grid map.

I would’ve liked to see a lot more of that kind of helpful map-making information, rather than how to draw abstracted rivers and mountain ranges using various colors and squiggle lines.

It also would have been nice if the guide spent any time on the proper elements and components to building regions, using real-world examples. Such as making sure rivers flow into bodies of water, or how swamps and tributaries are formed, or that most settlements are built around a water source.

dms guild

Chapter nine is a good example of what this guide should have focused on when it comes to abstract map-making: step-by-step building instructions for making full maps. It uses the settlement map as an example, and includes steps on adding properly sized buildings, followed by trees, ponds, and farmland, and finally zoning the streets.

At the very least we should have a solid map-making guide for each of the four types that are listed. Instead the guide moves on to an incredibly awkward section that reads like a technical manual for using digital art programs GIMP, MS Paint, and Microsoft Publisher.

To their credit the author does mention that YouTube is a good source for learning these programs. They should have taken their own advice and simply mentioned these programs with maybe a few links. I can’t imagine anyone would follow these written instructions, no matter thorough and competent, over watching any number of YouTube walkthroughs.

“The Tome of Cartography” tries to paint with far too broad a stroke, and should have focused on the few areas of useful map-making, providing many more samples and steps rather than trying to cover to include the obvious physical materials and styles as well as digital art programs.

Pros:

  • Includes helpful tips on how to draw battle maps, including map keys and scaling.
  • The step-by-step drawing instructions for making a grid-less settlement map are nice.

Cons:

  • Numerous grammatical errors.
  • Plain font.
  • The first three chapters are superfluous and rambling, and needed to be condensed.
  • Most of the drawing tips are painfully obvious (“Use a ruler.”)
  • How-to chapters on using GIMP and other art programs feel archaic and unnecessary.

The Verdict: Despite being 40 pages long “The Tome of Cartography” doesn’t offer much more than a few tips on drawing battle maps and a few resources and tools you can employ.

A review copy of “The Tome of Cartography” was provided by the publisher. Find more DMs Guild Reviews on my website and YouTube channel.

Support my work via Patreon.

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Author: roguewatson

Freelance Writer

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