Sunday, 6 October 2013

Isometric Maptool

A recent posts exchanges on Maptool forum reminded me of an old idea about using Maptool using isometric maps and figures. So, I decided to try it, to see how difficult it would be. To my surprise, it was very easy, much more than I anticipated.

The first step for me, was to make an isometric tilable background, to be able to draw maps on it, for gaming situations without full maps. Having to choose a square size, I decided to go with 150 pixels across and 86 in height.

Here is the background (the markings at the midpoint of faces are there to help drawing):

Just use it as background when making a new map and you can already draw isometric maps.

Next step, was to see how difficult to turn a squared map into an isometric one of the same proportions as the background above. Really easy. You can turn any square map in an isometric one in two minutes flat. You just need a program like Photoshop or GIMP and do the following:

- Step 1: Open your map and count the numbers of squares in size. Add the height (in squares) to the width (in squares); divide by two and remember the result for later.
Here, we have (10+7)/2=8.5

- Step 2: pivot the map 45° 

- Step 3: resize. Take the number found in step 1, above. Multiply it by 150 for the width in pixels, multiply it by 86 for the height in pixels.

And... It is done. But now, we need the figures to play on it. We'll need four views of each figure, one for each direction.

Making basic figures, like standing tiles that are used in some games (I think with Pathfinder), is as easy as making them in Tokentool. Just add those four new frames to the program and drag an illustration into it (once for each view). The result can be seen here:

It is possible to make better looking figures, like cardboard standups (using cardboard standups as a base), but it requires some work in Photoshop. I'll have to make a separate tutorial about it if there is any interest. Anyway, here is how those figures look like:

There still a better solution that I intend to explore, which would be to draw directly the views in an isometric perspective, but it would need four drawings for each figures and it looks a little like overkill for a style of gaming that is not very widespread.

Now, the last thing to do is to use all this stuff in Maptool. And, that also, proved amazingly easy.

First, as there is no isometric grid available in Maptool, you need to disable the grid view and the snapping.

Secondly, we'll need a new stat, called Table that should be added in the properties.

Now, for each figure, we must make a table. The table name shall be used as the value of the Table stat we added above. You must add the four views of the figure in the table and the value in the first colums should be 1 for the view going up-left, 2 for down-left, 3 for up-right and 4 for down-right.

There are a group of macros to add, to move and turn the figures.
The eight first buttons move the figures and the four last ones change the orientation.

There is still a problem to overcome. When a figure is moved, it must be placed above or under other figures, depending on where they are on the map. There is a line in the macros that take care of that when moving the figure with the buttons. To have the same effect when dragging a figure, there is a lib:token that must be added (this command is not mine, I found it in a post by aliasmask on the Maptool forum, so, thanks aliasmask).

You'll find all of this and a few stuff to experiment in the campaign file here.

There are still two questions that I would like to ask:
Is anyone interested in this style of gaming? I can see myself making maps and figures for peoples to use in their games. But probably not if there is not much interest. For my own use, it shall be used only in very prepared games. I am mostly trying those days to reduce the amount of preparation needed before play, and it takes myself in a very different direction (but that's for another post).

Is there any chance to have Maptool next version supporting an isometric grid. This system works without problem, but being able to use snapping would be fine.

Anyway, let me know what you think, here or on the Maptool forum.


  1. That isometric tutorial was brilliant! You said you might do a tutorial on converting the front facing flats into isometric figures if there was interest. Well I'm interested :) (and I'd also love it if you could then draw backs for all your classic figures ;) )



    1. With a lot of delays, I am ready to continue publishing some works for using Maptool in isometric view.
      The delay was due to two factors:
      First, I wanted to find a way to use immediately the isometric view. Which did mean that enough figures could be made (or converted) to it. I experimented with different solutions and I think I have some working stuff (easier than those presented above).
      The second reason was that all the tutorials for using Maptool in iso had to be ready at the same time, because you need figures, the maps and the framework to have a usable capacity.
      All of this is ready and works easily within Maptool (and should work with Mote). It has been tested for a few months.
      I should publish all of this during august.

    2. If you want to have a look at what to expect, go there:
      Among other illustrations I am working on, there is a "new style" moving figure.

  2. Hey, any chance on you releasing some of your work as token packs for roll20? I've been a fan for a long time. Cheers,

    1. I could easily, but they wouldn't work. The drawings of the figures could be opened in Roll20, but I don't think there is a way to change between them to change the orientation. Maptool can be clunky at times, but it is a far more advanced VTT.

  3. A fantastic post, great tuto!