Revisiting the RPG cartography standard
Once again donning my OCD hat, I’m compelled to implement a standard for mapping areas of my campaign. The goal is to use a consistent scale for areas of a certain size, as well as a static grid system that helps me drill down to sub-maps and note the locations of prominent campaign features. Given my earlier posts this month, it should be no surprise that I find my solution in the hex map.
Hex Mapping Standards
Back in the Dim Ages, Judges Guild created an excellent hex mapping standard based on the 5-mile wilderness hex. Each hex was divided into 1-mile sub-hexes, and each of those hexes could be divided into 0.2-mile sub-hexes. You could create smaller sub-hexes by dividing the current width by five. This approach made mapping easier because each hex was composed of the same number of sub-hexes; this meant you could use the same hex template for any area you needed to map—all you had to do was change the scale of each hex.
Another great format was created by Columbia Games, who placed a Cartesian grid system over a hex map, which was great for atlas-size maps that illustrated land shape, terrain type, and only the most prominent features. Locations were noted by grid coordinates, and sub maps would show the “atlas” hexes for reference.
So why not combine the two for a composite mapping standard?
The Atlas template is composed of blocks that measure 5 hexes square, and is used to represent continents, sub-continents, island chains, or any other large-scale area. If you’re mapping a truly large area, you can “stitch” multiple Atlas templates together.
For convenience, we’ve provided both landscape and portrait orientations of the Atlas template, with a block in each for the map title and key.
- Template dimensions: 625 miles x 625 miles
- Template area: 390,625 square miles
- Hex scale: 25 miles per hex
- Hex area: 540.6 square miles
The Regional template represents a single block on the Atlas template, which measures 5 hexes square. Each of the “atlas” hexes are sub-divided into 5-mile hexes, and there’s a blank area at the bottom for the map title and key.
In the figures below, Atlas (large) hexes are listed first, with Regional (small) hex measurements in parenthesis.
- Template dimensions: 125 miles x 125 miles
- Template area: 15,625 square miles
- Hex scale: 25 miles per hex (5 miles per hex)
- Hex area: 540.6 square miles (21.6 square miles)
The Sub-hex template represents a single hex, divided into smaller sub-hexes. This representation is useful at scales below the Regional level (largely defined by you).
Because the relationship between the large, “parent” hex and smaller sub-hexes is constant (i.e., the width of each sub-hex is one-fifth that of the parent hex), the template’s actual dimensions depend on the scale you choose. That said, you can use the sub-hex template to “zoom in” on areas of the Atlas or Regional template.
Hex Template Scales
For reference, use the table below to determine template measurements (the template has blank placeholders you can use to record the scale):
||Large hex (area)
|Atlas||25 miles (540.6 sq. mi.)||n/a||390,625 sq. mi.|
|Regional||25 miles (540.6 sq. mi.)||5 miles (21.6 sq. mi.)||15,625 sq. mi.|
|Regional ||25 miles (540.6 sq. mi.)||5 miles (21.6 sq. mi.)||~2,162.4 sq. mi.|
|Area ||5 miles (21.6 sq. mi.)||1 mile (0.865 sq. mi.)||~86 sq. mi.|
|Local ||1 mile (0.865 sq. mi.)||0.2 miles (0.035 sq. mi.)||~4 sq. mi.|
The archive ZIP file below contains the hex templates outlined above, in a variety of formats: CC3 FCT file, Hexographer HXM file, and PDF. As noted on the templates, you are free to make unlimited copies for personal use.