If you are a Dungeons and Dragons enthusiast, you could be playing the world’s most famous tabletop game in either of 2 primary ways: the ‘theater of the mind’ approach, where the DM and the players employ their active imagination to turn diverse worlds into reality; and the reliance on maps and DnD miniatures approach that utilizes physical/digital props to offer exploration possibilities.
Regardless of which adventurous joyride you embark on while playing DnD, maps will often serve as a savior, making the game considerably easy to grasp and maneuver while adding to the immersive experience. This article will explore the top 5 D&D map makers that can tap into the vagabond in you.
Types of D&D Maps
Before discussing DnD 5E map makers, first, let’s go through the different kinds of maps offered in the tabletop game:
1. Region Maps: Regional maps tend to cover large expanses of land, from villages and kingdoms to whole continents. It gives you a glimpse of the roads, terrain, and primary focal sites. Usually, the inclusion of the regional maps serves to provide you with a better idea of the world which you will call “home” for some time hereon. It makes the experience more illustrative for players.
If you take on a more sandbox approach, regional maps can prove to be highly practical, for it would have divisions into hexes, with the hex you want to explore next charting your grand exploration.
2. Battle Maps: While the ‘theater of the mind’ approach of exploration can sound quite intriguing, it naturally leads to some confusion and miscommunication. Players often need to inquire for clarifications time and again, wasting a lot of gameplay time.
With the battle map, you can see yourself, your visible enemies and take into account the distance between them as they await their turn. The illustrative visuals on the battle map help you envision the heroic takes recounted by the dice. It also aids in being wary of the hurdles and the environment at large.
3. In-Character Map: The in-character map can be deemed a “handout,” or simply put, the character’s in-game creation. The in-character maps are exceptional for an immersive experience in the area. It adds to the in-the-moment adrenaline rush of dungeoneering.
A little secret for the Dungeon Masters: the maps visible to your players need not narrate the whole tale – that is, if they are legitimate, to begin with.
Best DnD Map Makers
If you look up DnD 5E map makers, you will find them in droves. However, needless to say, not all of them offer an immersive experience and add to the game’s feel. Here are the top 5 best D&D 5E world map generators that continue to color us impressed:
1. Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator
Trying to build a region or even a world for free? Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator is the perfect D&D map maker to do just that! Rated 4 out of 5 stars on the diversity scale, this map maker maintains an Expert level of difficulty. Employing procedural generation establishes the DnD world of your imagination.
With this D&D map maker, you are free to view numerous layers. You can see and edit cultural, political, topographical, and religious landscapes of the world you have created. With a considerably simple editing interface, you can incorporate the social structure of your world in an automatically rendered map.
DonJon is another free-to-use DnD 5E map maker; this one maintains a Novice level of difficulty, boasting the highest diversity score. The website features a wide assortment of random fantasy map generators, be it whole campaigns or random treasures.
Depending on what you want at the moment, you can either be handed a completely randomly generated well laid-out dungeon or manually select the settings, motifs, size, and more. You also get everything needed to populate the dungeon thus generated. Want a history lesson for the dungeons? Donjon has you covered!
The Donjon website also features a D&D city map maker and a D&D world map maker, primarily following the same concept. Give the world builder some time to load up, and you are good to go. The sheer number of features in the city map maker make up for what it lacks stylistically.
3. Dungeon Scrawl
Dungeon Scrawl is yet another great online D&D map maker that offers a rather hands-drawn feel to map-making. This mapmaker features an extremely easy-to-use and clean UI. Want to import from Donjon Random Generator? Go right ahead!
Equipped to create complex building structures, intricate tunnels, and such, this simple DnD 5E map maker is absolutely free to use. You will get numerous pixel exportable options, which can then be integrated with Illustrator or Photoshop.
Note that Dungeon Scrawl lacks in mimicking real-world textures, unlike Inkarnate. Also, you can only get access to battle maps, and no regional maps.
Out of all the available D&D map makers, the Inkarnate map generator clearly stands out as the most fleshed-out and versatile map builder. It is a fully online process, with no need for software installations and downloads.
The Inkarnate DnD 5E map maker has an exceptionally easy-to-use and thorough UI that allows you to create extraordinary realistic maps quickly. This well-streamlined site has both free-to-use and pro versions. Want to import custom assets? Inkarnate allows it! If you want to own the maps commercially, the pro version allows you to do that, too.
As for a few let-downs, building dungeons or similar outdoor places could seem a little complex since walls cannot be snapped together. Another downside of the Inkarnate site is its subscription model for pro members. Needless to say, a one-time subscription model seems way more feasible.
If you are trying to generate large maps with a bunch of assets, or if your network connectivity is unstable, the UI can lag a little. So, make sure you have time on your hands and a stable network while creating large maps.
5. RPG Map Editor 2
Yet another highly recommended D&D map maker, RPG Map Editor 2, is available for online use as well as for download. It primarily focuses on pixel-style maps. Integrating the Donjon Random Dungeon Generator and the Watabou One Page Dungeons tool is a great bonus. With both of the latter being great dungeon-creation tools, the added final touch with the RPG Map Editor 2 polishes it to perfection.
The RPG Map Editor 2 is a completely free DnD 5E map maker, and its pixel-centric aesthetic appeals to many. Want to export to other virtual tabletops such as Roll20? You can do that, too. Now, as for downsides, there aren’t many assets and textures, but RPG Map Editor 2 allows you to make up for it by letting you custom import icons.
There is undue importance on dungeon-building instead of a holistic focus. So, if you wish to create simple dungeons, this D&D map maker is the way to go!
At the end of the day, maps in Dungeons and Dragons amplify the gameplay considerably. You can visualize areas better, and with the plethora of customizable features, you can tailor the maps as per your imagination. You can fill up your desired values, and voila, you have a diverse DnD world!
The trick is in finding your mojo, what works for you, and how to create the map of your dreams; These D&D map makers are exceptional in what they promise. The hands-on approach of choosing each setting manually adds to the customizability of these D&D map makers. Get used to the websites and the array of customizable elements, and you will have a great time questing!