Guidelines for Map Packs

As discussed in Marketplace Item Types and Categories article, Maps are categorized on the Marketplace as Map Packs, Tile Sets, World Maps, Dynamically Lit Maps, and Dashboards and can be accessed from the Art Library tab of the VTT or a user's "My Marketplace Items" page.

This article will walk you through best practices for creating Map Art.

Click here for specific instructions and guidance for creating Non-Map Art Packs.  

Map File Types and Dimensions 

When creating any Maps for Roll20, be mindful to adhere to our Image Guidelines in addition to any information found below, paying close attention to image resolution recommendations. 

We recommend creating Map art at 2x scale to prevent image pixelation when zooming in on a Page past 100%. (Example: a battle map that is 25 square grid cell units wide by 30 tall would have a final image dimension of 3,500px wide by 4,200px tall.)

The following table displays the recommended pixel dimensions at which to create Maps by grid type. Non-Square Grids have pixel approximations for some of their cell height and width values as the grid is mathematically drawn. Unless you're specifically creating Hex or Isometric/Diametric artwork, use the square grid dimensions.

Image Dimensions for Maps

Grid Type Grid Cell Pixel Dimensions Pixel Scale for Map Art (per grid cell)
Square Grid 70px wide by 70px tall 140px wide by 140px tall
Hex Grid (Vertical) ~75px wide by ~88px tall 150px wide by 176px tall
Hex Grid (Horizontal) ~94px wide by ~81px tall 188px wide by 162px tall
Isometric Grid ~121px wide by 70px tall 242px wide by 140px tall
Diametric Grid 140px wide by 70px tall 280px wide by 70px tall

Note: These image dimensions are for static art assets (not animated). Animated art for maps should try to use the smallest pixel dimensions and image resolution possible to mitigate file size.

File Types

We recommend creating JPGs whenever possible. PNGs should only be used if transparency or translucency is required in your map. For animated map assets, create GIFs or WEBM files.

We don't recommend including an entire map graphic as an animated file. Isolate the elements on the map that will be animated as their own smaller animated art assets where the Purchaser can then overlay the animated pieces over a JPG of the full-sized map.

General Map Design Recommendations

Here are general recommendations for optimizing the performance of Maps on Roll20.

Gridded and Gridless Maps

You may wonder if you should include a grid on your map art. This is up to your discretion based on your art subject and map type. 

If you do include a grid on your artwork, you will want to make sure that the art’s grid matches up with the VTT’s grid and that it snaps correctly into place when the image is dragged out onto the Tabletop. You will want to avoid frustrating the Purchaser by forcing them to do a lot of manual custom scaling to align your artwork so the two grids match up.

We also recommend including a gridless version of each Map in your Marketplace Packs to provide a choice based on the preference of the Purchasers.

Best Positioning for Dungeon Walls

When creating rooms and doorways for top-down battle maps, a good rule of thumb is avoiding drawing the line art of your walls and barriers to terminate right up against a grid line. Instead, you want the grid line to bisect the wall so that elements of the wall can be seen from either side of a grid cell. This allows Players to get a better idea of where walls and doors are when navigating a location with Dynamic Lighting turned on.

The following two images will show the difference of the Player's view with Dynamic Lighting Enabled. We've used one of Meditating Munky’s Modular Mansions Maps with a Token from Devin Night’s Heroic Characters 2 collection.

In this first image where the grid lines bisects through the maps walls, the Player here will still see hints of the perimeter of the room as well as being able to note the locations of elements such as doors and windows.

Map_Wall_Location_Down_the_Middle.jpg

In the second image, we shifted the map art so that the gridlines sit on the perimeter edge of the wall. With Dynamic Lighting on, you'll note that the only visible portion of the door is the far right edge of the doorknob. The Player will likely find it very difficult to find this door unless the GM manually points it out on the Tabletop. If this had been an open entranceway with no door graphic at all, the Player would not have seen any indication of its location.

Map_Wall_Location_On_the_Edge.jpg

Whole Maps or Individual Rooms? Furnished or Unfurnished Maps with Prop Assets?

When building a campaign, the design of maps is subject to GM preference. Some may want to piece together their ideal map, room by room, adding props and furniture with deliberate care. Others may prefer utilizing a fully constructed map that best fits the theme of an encounter.

You may find that you see greater success creating Map Packs that cater to the visual needs of both types of GMs. We recommend including unfurnished versions of fully-assembled/furnished maps in your Pack, as well as including additional art assets that allow GMs to add or block entranceways, windows, etc. in addition to whatever furnishings you may want to provide.

Catering Towards Page Defaults

The default page settings for all new games in Roll20 display a square grid measuring 25x25 units. You might want to cater some of your map artwork to be set to those exact dimensions for GMs who are in a hurry and need to quickly build a page during last-minute prep or have to assemble one mid-session.

Keep Track of your Image Dimensions

Covered in-depth in the Marketplace Creator Upload Guide walkthrough, Roll20's Bulk Uploader provides fields to assign the default height and width of all assets so that they can be resized automatically when dragged from the Art Library to the Tabletop.

mceclip0.png

If these fields are not updated, the VTT will resize the image to 3x3 grid units on the Map & Background Layer or a single grid unit when dragged out to any of the other Layers, forcing the Purchaser to manually resize and scale your images. Keep track of how many grid units each image asset should take up on the Tabletop so you can add those image properties when you’re uploading the art assets to your Map Art Pack.

Keep Map Title, Symbols, Labels, and Legends as Separate Art Assets

To make your artwork as versatile as possible, consider avoiding incorporating these elements on your Map itself. Provide them as smaller art assets that can be placed on top of the map image, or include labeled and unlabeled variants in your Art Pack. The Purchaser might want to use their own symbols and naming conventions or ignore all those elements entirely. 

Types of Map

To optimize Marketplace search results, Creators must choose the correct Map categorization during creation. You can review all Marketplace Item Types and Categories here

As a summary, the Categories for Maps are:

  • Tile Sets: Art assets that are assembled by the Purchaser to build a complete map
  • Map Packs: Complete maps that are ready to use
    • Some include a grid, others are gridless; many packs offer both versions 
  • World Maps: Overland, city, world, universe maps
  • Dynamically Lit Maps: Installed as Game Addons with Dynamic Lighting
  • Dashboards: Map borders and play dashboards

Next, let's take a look into the specifications and use cases for each: 

Tile Sets

Map_Tile_Set_MP_Example.gif

(credit to Creator: Modular Dungeon Craft)

Tile Sets are a collection of modular images that serve as building blocks for Purchasers to construct their own maps. It is crucial when building a Tile Set that the image dimensions for your assets are correctly sized to fit the grid type you’re creating for. Otherwise, the Purchaser is going to have a very frustrating experience piecing your content together on the Tabletop. Without proper care taken in the creation phase of the art, the scaling and snapping of the tile images might not function correctly, resulting in modular items not lining up seamlessly when placed together. Set ample time aside before you release your Tile Set to test out your images on the Tabletop to make sure they are aligning and snapping to the grid in the way you expect them to.

For furnishing and prop image assets, you’ll want to make sure they follow the same rectangular image dimension ratio as your map graphics. That way they'll fit neatly on the grid without aspect warping.

Map Packs

Map_Pack_MP_Examples.png

(credit to Creators: Gabriel Pickard, The MAD Cartographer, NovemberRush)

Map Packs typically include fully assembled battle maps drawn from various perspectives and may or may not feature a grid drawn on the artwork. Common variants featured within Map Packs include:

  • color or style options (example: blue, green, red, full-color, parchment, black & white)
  • situational options (example: day, night, summer, winter, rain, snow)

They also often include furnished and unfurnished versions as separate maps in the same Pack, as well as decoration elements to be overlayed.

World Maps

World_Map_MP_Examples.png

(credit to Creators: Misjay Maps, Mythic Portal Games, Deven Rue)

World Maps are overland, city, world, universe or other maps not meant for use with Tokens. Despite the nomenclature, they don't have to incorporate an entire world, and often feature a singular continent, kingdom, city, or town. Additional stylized legends, keys, labels, or icons may also be included in World Maps.

Sizing Your World Map

When setting up a World Map in their Game, the GM will likely enable the grid briefly on the Page to snap the image into place. Then in the Page Settings, the GM can adjust the Scale so that every grid cell can be any increment of distance they want to define it as (ex. feet, miles, kilometers, fruit rollups, etc). Once that’s set they may disable the grid so that content on the Page no longer snaps to the grid, but the Ruler Tool will still be able to measure with whatever scale the GM stipulated in the Page Settings.

We recommend following the 2x scaling for World Maps to allow Purchasers to view them full-page without much scrolling, as well as slightly zoomed in. 

Dynamically Lit Maps

Dynamic_Lit_Map.gif

(credit to Creator: Meditating Munky)

Dynamically Lit Maps are installed as Game Addons with Dynamic Lighting. They feature Maps already added to Pages, aligned to the grid, and with fully-prepared Dynamic Lighting.

When to Create a Dynamically Lit Map

Not every map needs Dynamic Lighting. Outdoor battle maps that don’t involve buildings or any other line-of-sight obstructions will use Global Illumination (if used at all) and will not need obstruction lines drawn on the Dynamic Lighting Layer.

Examples of maps best suited for Dynamic Lighting are interior or exterior spaces that feature walls, corridors, streets, etc. If there’s potential for a Player or NPC to get lost or use walls or other obstructions to hide or set up ambushes, your map is a good candidate for Dynamic Lighting. The more complex the dungeon, the more beneficial a Purchaser will find your product if you offer it with all the Dynamic Lighting work done for them in advance.

Creators often bundle Map Packs with Dynamically Lit versions of the same art. 

How Many Maps Should I Include in a Dynamically Lit Map Addon?

An example of a Dynamically Lit Map Item that can get away with being a single Page (and a single battle map) would be a large sprawling dungeon. For smaller spaces, you might want to include different variations of the location on separate Pages. If you have a multi-floor location with a lot of complexity, you might want to separate the individual floorplans on their own Pages. Purchasers are going to judge the value of what they’re getting with the price you set for the Item. What will draw a Purchaser to a Dynamically Lit Map is the time saved by the product and the quality/content of the artwork.

Dynamically Lit Map Addon Elements

If you aren’t familiar with the Dynamic Lighting feature, you can read up on how it works and how to set it up over at the What Is Dynamic Lighting? help document.

Dynamic Lighting Line Colors

Wall_and_Door_DL_Colors.jpg

We use the following colors for our in-house Publisher conversions when drawing the obstruction lines for Dynamic Lighting.

Wall Lines: Blue Palette Color Selection | Hex Value: #0000ff

Door Lines: Orange Palette Color Selection | Hex Value: #ff9900

The chosen colors are ones that are more accessible for a user who might be color blind. There’s nothing programmatically different about these two line types. Using two colors helps the GM differentiate what are doors (line fragments that can be moved aside easily) and what are walls (linework that the GM shouldn't need to select, move, or edit).

Adding Light Sources

Adding_DL_Lights.gif

If your battle map art utilizes lighting elements such as braziers, open flames, and other sporadic lighting features, you should include light-emitting Tokens on the map. Either use your own artwork for the Token and set its Dynamic Lighting Token Settings to Emit Light or use the Place Light Tool on the Tabletop Toolbar to add default torch Tokens that automatically Emit Light.

Using Other Features of the Tabletop

Rollable_Table_Map_Asset_Example.gif

(An example of using a Rollable Table Token for a portion of a dungeon map that can transform from Wizards of the Coast's Tomb of Annihilation adventure) 

Just because you’re creating a Dynamically Lit Map Game Addon does not mean you are restricted to just Pages and the Tabletop. If other elements in the VTT such as Journal Tab Handouts or Rollable Table Tokens can add more functionality to your maps, you're welcome to use them. Nearly everything you add to the Game that will be used as the template for your Dynamically Lit Map Marketplace Item will become part of the Addon and added into the Purchaser's game. You have the same VTT options available to you that are available in: "What Can Be Included in a Marketplace Adventure?"

Dashboards

Dashboard_MP_Examples.png

(credit to Creators: Martin Pedersen, Domille, and 2D Storyteller)

Dashboards create a bulletin board of your progress in a TTRPG game. This content is often seen when a Player first joins a game, so the art sets the theme and mood of whatever is being played. GMs will typically add their own art and text to the Dashboard Page that represents significant events that have occurred in their collective story between game sessions.

Sizing Dashboard Assets

Similar to how World Maps are scaled, a Dashboard covered landing Page will likely be made small enough so that a GM or Player won’t have to do too much scrolling around the Page to see its entirety. Depending on what you’re designing, expect to have your art being placed on a Page that’s not much bigger than what can be seen at first glance on a browser window.

 

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