A road that consists of nothing but packed earth and ever-encroaching weeds, a vibrant and thriving tavern stretching three stories tall, a sprawling warehouse district at a newly defunct dock. Wherever your Dungeons & Dragons adventures take you, DnD map makers, premades, and generators can be incredibly useful tools for immersion, fleshing out your gameplay, and even making it easier.
Table of Contents
Types of DnD maps
There’s three types of maps:
- Region maps – this kind covers a larger area, from whole villages to entire kingdoms or continents, showing you the terrain, roads, and main points of interest. Sometimes this is just used for illustrative or reference purposes so your players can better grasp the world they vicariously live in and therefore plot their travels accordingly. If you play a more sandbox type of game, then this map can take on a more functional role; as it will likely be divided into hexes, your greater exploration charted by which hex you wish to explore next.
- Battle maps – (or battlemaps) theatre of the mind (TotM) games can be very fun and exciting, but it can also lead to a lot of confusion and time-wasting, as the players need to ask repeatedly for clarifications. The battle map solves this, allowing the players to see themselves, visible enemies, and measure the distance in between themselves whilst waiting for their turn to come up. Visuals on the map itself can help fuel a mental picture of the heroic tales the dice are telling, and make keeping track of environmental hazards and hurdles easier.
- Dungeon maps – this type of map is much smaller in scale than the region map and focuses on the layout of a specific area, usually a dungeon or a building, that the players will be exploring. These maps are often gridded and include details such as rooms, corridors, traps, and other important features. Dungeon maps are essential for providing a visual representation of the players’ surroundings, and they also help the DM to keep track of the location of monsters and other obstacles. The players can use the map to plan their tactics and coordinate their movements, and it also adds a layer of immersion to the game by allowing them to explore and interact with the environment in a more detailed way.
Now you know what types of maps there are. But what about where to get them from? How would you go about creating the masterpiece in your mind on screen? Well, since you asked:
Best DnD map makers and premades
If you’re looking to create beautiful region maps (in colour or parchment style), then Inkarnate is a great tool. It offers a variety of ‘stamps’ and models to decorate your maps with, to create the terrain you envisioned when you first sat down and decided ‘this, this is the world I will start the apocalypse in.’ They regularly update the art available and recently added a battle map style for creating encounter perfect maps in which to terrorize your players. You can add a grid during creation or leave it sterile and use the grid in your virtual tabletop (VTT) of choice. The best part? It’s entirely free to use, with a reasonably priced paid option if you want thousands of more art assets and the license to use the maps you create commercially.
Another great tool, Dungeon Fog, takes a different strategy, with a free account you have access to all assets and the full public gallery, the catch is that you can only have 3 created maps at a time and all pro assets will be watermarked. Commercial licensing is separated out into a higher tier, so if you don’t need it you don’t have to worry about paying for it. Overall, a fantastic map maker, best suited to battlemaps and smaller region maps.
Dungeon Painter Studio
One of the oldest options, Dungeon Painter Studio offers a wide variety of tools for creating battlemaps, as well as a choice of online tool (like our other entries) or a standalone app, sold and managed through the Steam store. Since the decline of Flashplayer, the browser based version is now offered as a download. Don’t worry if you aren’t running the latest and greatest from the tinker gnomes, Dungeon Painter will run on most laptops and PCs.
RPG Map Editor 2
Born from a video game developers desire for a good looking, but simple to use map creation tool, RPG Map Editor 2 is a great tool that can be ran in browser or downloaded. The assets support traditional fantasy maps as well as more modern or futuristic settings if you find yourself chasing hover cars rather than carriages. It’s pay what you want and the developer makes sure to say that includes free!
Wonderdraft is another popular map-making software that offers a wide variety of customization options. It allows you to create beautiful and detailed maps in a variety of styles, including topographical, political, and fantasy maps. The software is available for purchase with a one-time fee, and you can use it to create unlimited maps for personal or commercial use.
Dungeoncraft is a map-making tool specifically designed for creating dungeon maps. It offers a variety of features, including customizable grids, room shapes, and symbols, to help you create detailed and immersive maps. The software is available for purchase with a one-time fee, and you can use it to create unlimited maps for personal or commercial use.
Kassoon is a website that offers a variety of tools for D&D players and DMs, including a map generator. The generator allows you to create custom maps in a variety of styles, including topographical, political, and fantasy maps. You can choose from a variety of symbols and icons to decorate your map, and you can even add custom text and labels. The website also offers a variety of other tools, including name generators, encounter builders, and more.
This fantastic website has over 200 map and asset packs for use in your games (with easy to print pdfs if you play at a physical table). You’re probably thinking this is really expensive, right? Well that’s entirely up to you, many maps and assets are pay what you want (PWYW) with a recommended price of $1, but you can get them completely free to try out or if you’re on a tight budget. Other maps are a fixed price of a dollar or bundles are available for more.
Many talented artists now take to Patreon to support their craft and provide their audience with great art. A few great map-orientated Patreon pages are: Afternoon Maps, Cze and Peku; for the more technically-minded, Animated Dungeon Maps, provides maps that feel alive, whether it be through dancing flame or flying arrows.
Best DnD map generators
Watabou Fantasy City Generator
A fantastic tool for generating map style region maps for your cities of interest. I personally use a map generated with this in my campaigns.
Azgaar’s Fantasy Map Generator
Actively in development, Azgaar’s generator can provide maps for a whole continent. You might be thinking that would be random shapes, but the generator even draws borders, roads, and names the various kingdoms and towns it creates. Go ahead, zoom in and see all the details for yourself!
Donjon’s Random Dungeon Generator
If you’re looking for a more barebones map, or want to give your session more of an old school feel then look no further. Donjon’s Random Dungeon Generator not only generates a map, but will also generate encounters, traps and environment details for you. A few clicks and you can have an entire session of content created for you, for free!
Best physical DnD maps
Versatility may as well be this product’s middle name, this is a mat with a square grid on one side and a hex grid on the other. So whether you’re dungeon diving or in the middle of your hex crawl, this mat’s got you covered. Not bad at all! And if you want to add some details, and walls, etc., but don’t have any fancy terrain, you can draw right on the grid as they’re wet erase! Clean it well after each use, and this staple of tabletop gaming will see you through many campaigns.
Running a module your friends have been talking about for months, but worried about conveying how epic the world is at the table? Want to use the maps in the book but don’t want to cut the page out or keep flipping it to the players? Grab some full size maps to put on display, like this lovely set for the Tomb of Annihilation or this set that’s cherry picked from some of the best adventures across editions.
Maybe you prefer a more modular approach. If so, then dungeon tiles are for you. These are small sections you can arrange to create the dungeon layout you want, some are preprinted with art like this official set, or are blank canvases for your imagination, like this dry erase set.
Feel free to ease up on the sharpie marks on your table; you’re now well-equipped to prepare beautiful backdrops to your parties (mis)adventures. Just be careful you don’t fall into the age-old trap of map prep: getting sucked in and forgetting to prep anything else! If you’re happy with the hoard of maps you’ve just created, then you should head on over to our campaign ideas article and get some inspiration for what to do on those maps. Happy DMing!
Thanks for this. I was looking for exactly this site that gives it to me straight and simple. Cheers from NZ.
Thank you, Jimmy, for your kind words. We’re glad to hear that our article was helpful in your search for map-making resources for your D&D games. We hope that our straightforward and concise descriptions of the various map-making tools available made it easier for you to choose the right tool for your needs. Cheers from the other side of the world!
Thank you for your work on this. I have had so much trouble finding affordable tools like the ones you have pointed out here. I am definitely going to try them out. Greatly appreciated!
Thank you, Miles, for your positive feedback. It’s always great to know that we’ve been able to make a difference in someone’s quest for the perfect tools for their game. Thanks again for your support, and happy map-making!
Awesome list lots of useful sites here. I however would be remiss if I didn’t say you forgot Kassoon. They have a huge selection of premises, and generators for nearly every type of map.
Thank you, Jared, for your valuable suggestion. We’ve added Kassoon to our list of map-making tools for D&D players and DMs. We appreciate your input and agree that Kassoon offers a wide variety of useful tools for creating custom maps. With their map generator and other tools, Kassoon is a great resource for players and DMs looking to bring their game world to life.
I’d just like to add Wonderdraft to the list for larger scale maps and Dungeondraft for battlemaps. I used Inkarnate for a really long time (just ended my sub this year) because it is one of the best options for larger scale maps and I used Dungeon Fog for a while. You can do great things with Dungeon Fog but it is pretty clunky most of the time and everything I did with it took way too much time.
The software being browser based is a pro for some but for me a single purchase program that is run locally is much more valuable and the software is cheap in comparison to these subscriptions.
Thank you, Joakim, for your valuable suggestion. We’ve added Wonderdraft and Dungeondraft to our list of map-making tools for D&D players and DMs. We appreciate your input and agree that having a single purchase program that runs locally can be more valuable than a subscription-based service for some users. We hope our readers find this information useful in their map-making endeavors. Thanks again for sharing your experience and insight!