Learn to Master CC3+

I’m on a mission.

I don’t just want to learn Campaign Cartographer.  I want to master it- become an expert in it.  Compose beautiful maps (like, Michael Schley and Pär Lindström beautiful) and eventually see my maps make their way onto your dining room table amid your bags of funny-shaped dice.

I want to create something that you cannot not use – a regional map, battlemap, city, dungeon, inn, anything! I want to create something that inspires you.  Something that allows you to focus on the story you are trying to tell about the heroes within it and not on the resources needed to support it. I want my work to save you time.

You get on The Road expecting you know where you are going; along the way, you learn differently

“The Road goes ever on and on, down from the door where it began…”

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

~ Bilbo Baggins to Frodo
J.R.R. Tolkien

Time.  There’s the rub. Between obligations to both family and clients, the amount of free time I have to learn is somewhat limited.

I have to admit that, while I have a hope, I’m not entirely sure where I’ll actually end up on this journey.  I also don’t know how long it is actually going to take.

That’s okay.  At least I have a map that will help me find my way.

To make the most of the time I do have, I put together this Learning Plan. Which, if you think about it, is just another kind of map.

A good map provides a framework that supports and bounds a story.  With a good map, you know or can more easily prepare for what might be coming next.  Most importantly, a good map can help you to know when you are off-track so you can find your way back to where you need to be.

That is what this learning plan is about.  Figuring out the best path to follow in order to get to my final destination. I’m hoping I’ll learn of short-cuts along the way but, even if I don’t, at least I have a strategy to follow.  Like any serious traveler, I’ll keep a record of my journey – which you can read here.

Learning Plan: Overview

The approach I’m going to take to learn CC3+ is to expand upon the suggested “course” of study laid out by Ralf Schemmann in the ProFantasy Community ForumSupport Resources” topic. As I go through the various materials, I’ll describe my experiences and pass on to you any lessons or tips I learn along the way.

The job of an apprentice is to learn!

A workshop of artisans: masters, journeyman and apprentices. Some learn, some teach.

The learning plan is divided into three phases: Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master. Each phase has its own list of criteria that must be satisfied before I will consider the phase complete.  These phases are not hard-and-fast and the borders between them are somewhat fuzzy.  Just because I’m an “Apprentice” does not mean I won’t try to learn and succeed at “Journeyman” tasks.

Apprentice Learning Plan

Learning the fundamental tools, skills, knowledge and lore of Fantasy Map-Making is the goal of the Apprentice.  In medieval times, an Apprentice was paired with an accomplished Master who could teach them what they needed to know. Unfortunately, I’m not aware of any Fantasy Cartography Masters currently accepting Apprentices. Thankfully, we have lots of access to resources from which to learn: community forums, manuals, built-in help, etc.

These tasks and objectives do not need to be accomplished in order but they should all be accomplished before moving on to Journeyman.

  • Tools (Features. Layout. Configuration)
    • Basic Select Techniques, Part 1
    • Basic Select Techniques, Part 2 
    • Learn the purpose and use of each menu item
    • Learn the purpose and use of each button
    • Learn and understand the difference between Layers, Sheets and Views
    • Learn to read, interpret and use the Command line
    • Learn to read, interpret and modify symbol properties
    • Learn to script commands
    • Learn to create new mapping styles
  • Skills (Application of Tools)
  • Knowledge (Terminology. Books. Manuals)
    • Read and follow the Quick Start Guide linked from the Help Menu
    • Read and follow the Campaign Cartographer Essentials Guide
    • Read and follow the Campaign Cartographer 3+ User Manual
    • Read and follow the Campaign Cartogrpaher 3 section of “The Tome of Ultimate Mapping
    • Learn to find answers to questions first in the Help Menu and then via other online resources
  • Lore (Tips and tricks, Anecdotes, History)
    • Apply what you learn to accomplish tasks more quickly and efficiently

Based upon the list above: Yep. I’m one of those guys. Just Read The Fine Manuals provided with your software.  Those are your Master-in-a-box.

CC3 is not difficult to learn but, if you spend a few minutes looking at the depth provided, I think you will agree it is a non-trivial tool to master.  When you wander the ‘Net looking for help, if you know how to ask a proper question.  It starts with not asking for assistance with things that are covered within the manuals or that can be found with a quick Google search. If you can pop for it, pickup The Tome of Ultimate Mapping. This behemoth of a book is about 619 pages and covers not only Campaign Cartographer 3, but also Dungeon Designer 3, City Designer 3 and other software sold by Profantasy. The treatment of Campaign Cartographer 3 alone is 181 pages, more than twice the content provided in the User Manual.

I get it; people have different learning styles: some people are more hands-on than others. Some are auditory learners who like to hear people explain things. Me? I’m a visual learner; I like to see things demonstrated and laid out in front of me on paper. Regardless of your preferred learning style, it is beneficial to combine multiple approaches for maximum retention: hear it, see it, say it, write it down. The more senses you apply to the task the better your retention and experience with the subject matter will be.

Another benefit of reading the various manuals and help files is for ease of future reference. If you’ve read these documents through at least once, you’ll be able to find what you are looking for more quickly when you need it.

Journeyman Learning Plan

After learning and practicing the skills of a trade under a Master, the Apprentice becomes a Journeyman.  A Journeyman is recognized by others of his trade to have learned the fundamental skills required to practice the trade and to be a functional and productive member of the community.  Unlike the Apprentice, a Journeyman can start a business or hire themselves out to any Master or business-owner they wish.

The goal of the Journeyman, then, is to expand their skills to learn the trade and the craft.

  • Learn the Community
    • Find and become a member of one or more online communities that can help you to grow and to expand.
    • Seek out those who are more skilled than you for assistance and advice
    • Seek out those who are less skilled than you to assist and advise
  • Learn the industry
    • Which publishers (game, book or magazine) may have need of a map-maker?
    • How are Fantasy Map-Makers paid? Commission? Fee for Service? Work-for-Hire?
    • What other companies are producing map-making software? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each and how can you use them to your advantage?
    • Take on commissions to produce maps to the specifications of other users.
    • Produce maps in response to ProFantasy Challenges
  • Study and learn from the work of Master Mappers and skilled Journeyman
    • Who are the Masters you most admire?
    • What is it about their work that you like most?
    • What can you learn from the style and technique of ProFantasy Challenge winners?

The path of the Journeyman is one of exploration and expansion.  It is about going out on the (virtual) road, meeting people, and seeking opportunities to challenge and push yourself to produce more masterful works with each engagement.

Whether or not you want to make Fantasy Map-Making a business, you should be open to commissions.  Paid or unpaid is not important. The value of the commission is that it will force you to work to the specifications of others. This, in turn, will challenge you to consider new ways to use your tools to meet the needs of your client. Opportunities to learn and grow in your craft present themselves.

Study, really study, the work of those you admire.  If possible, connect with them online and see if they would be willing to share their original files with you so you can pull them apart, layer by layer, to understand how they put them together.

I think being a Journeyman is really hard.  It is pretty clear when you’ve left behind the role of Apprentice: when you know the tools inside and out and can perform, as needed, to produce a map to meet a particular need.  It doesn’t have to be artistic or awe-inspiring.  It just needs to be functional.  When the skills required to produce functional maps have been learned and can be repeated without a lot of effort, you’ve completed Apprenticeship.

But when does a Journeyman become a Master?

Master Learning Plan

A MASTER woodworker's toolchest.

Photograph by GREG SUTTER

I don’t think you can “learn” to be a Master.  You are a Master when other Masters recognize you as such and accept you into their ranks. Even if you can’t, technically, learn to be a Master, I do think there are characteristics that define mastery and certain social obligations that come with being a Master.  In some sense acting like a Master is part of being a Master.

  • A Master seeks to extend the trade and craft in new and interesting directions.
  • A Master teaches and assists Apprentices to learn the skills of Fantasy Map-Making.
  • A Master teaches and assists Journeyman to learn the trade and craft of Fantasy Map-Making
  • A Master takes on challenges that stretch his or her ability outside of his or her comfort zone in order to learn new techniques

I’m not sure if I’ll ever achieve Mastery.  That’s a commitment that, over time, may become more than I can handle – but I certainly hope that I meet some Masters along The Road.  When we meet, I hope they will be giving of their time and helpful with their critiques.  I hope that if I never become a True Master of Fantasy Map-Making that I’m able to act like one.

If we all acted like a Master, imagine how our community might grow, what we might learn from one another.  Imagine how that attitude might bleed over into other areas of our lives and the impact that might have on others around us.

Better living through Fantasy Map-Making.  LOL.

What do you think?  What approach are you taking to Mastering CC3 or your tools of choice?  What resources have you found that have made the journey easier?  You should talk to me!

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4 Responses

  1. I just found your blog via the Profantasy fora* and I have to say this is a fascinating coincidence: I’ve owned CC in some form or another since CC2 Pro, always meaning to learn it, but never taking the time. It was only with the release of CC3+ a few weeks ago that I’ve finally said “You’ve paid good money, you love maps, learn the program!” Your program looks remarkably similar to the path I’ve laid out for myself. It will be interesting and educational to compare our progress. 🙂

    *(Where I post as “Barliman.” I think you posted in a thread I stated about an odd line artifact appearing in my map.)

    1. Robert Jacobs

      That’s awesome. Glad you found my little neck of the woods. I’m presently working on an article about Scaling and I have another planned around moving around within the View Window (Zoom, Pan, etc.). Are there any other topics you’d like to see addressed?

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