Maptool.   Posted by Jhael.Group: 0
 GM, 243 posts
 RPoL Moderator
Thu 7 Oct 2010
at 00:33
"Maptool is one of the gaming tools produced by an opensource group called RPTools.  It is "an online, multiuser, networked, graphical, interactive, programmable virtual tabletop."

At its simplest, it is a good tool to draw maps.
At its most complex, it can be used to run real time role playing games with interactive chat, dice rolling, moving tokens around the map with a wealth of customisable macros to give almost limitless flexibility.

The posts below are designed to help novice users get started with it - particularly using the basic map drawing capabilities and some hints and tips on where to find images for the image library...

Maptool does take a little bit of getting used to.  And you are right, the default image library is naff...  HOWEVER, there are quick ways to get images into Maptool.

Firstly, under the File menu, you'll see "Add Resource to Library ..."
   Choose that and you'll see three ways to import images - from a locally stored folder, a web address, or from the "RPTools Library".  There are some pretty good sets already included within the latter.  Go for that.

Secondly, check out the RPTools Forums - particularly the one found here:  (The Board index / General / Links & External Resources forum.)
   The first couple of sticky posts on that forum have a good list of links within which you can usually find an image of whatever it is you want - typically you download them to your computer, unzip them into a folder, and then use the first of the Add Resource to Library options mentioned above to get them into MapTool.  Note - if you keep one master folder for your images, and then keep them organised by folders within that - then you only need to import that folder once - add other images to it outside of MapTools and they automatically appear in the library!

Although the above mentioned RPTools forum is dedicated to external links for finding graphics, there is (not very intuitively), under the Tutorial website (, some more suggestions on where to find graphics - particularly pre-sorted collections of images...

The biggest of these is the CSUAC collection.  This can be found here:
I HIGHLY recommend downloading each of the collections - there are hundreds if not thousands of images here, neatly categorised!

Ok - so now you have images in MapTool's resource library.  What next?

Well, to pick up Maptool quickly, there are a number of things you need to remember.
  1. Maptool works with 4 layers. 
    • Token (where the icons representing the players/NPCs/Monsters go)
    • Hidden (where you can pop DM visible only stuff - personally I never use this layer)
    • Object (where you typically put the various images to represent scenery/furniture etc)
    • Background (where you typically put the walls/floors).

    If you use the drawing tools (see below), NOTE which layer you are on before you start to draw!  You can drag images from the resource library to any of the layers, and they will automatically stack on top of each other (and can be brought to the front or sent to the back), but they will always be UNDER any drawing on that layer.  Note - if you copy & paste an image, the pasted image will appear under the mouse.  Note there is no move forward or back - merely move to THE front or THE back - so if you want complicated layers of objects, think about the order you need them in before you start dragging them from the library.

  2. Maptool drawing tools are limited and don't necessarily follow the standards of other drawing tools you might have used.  Here are a few of its quirks:
    • On the colour palette, a left click on a colour sets the line colour, a right click sets the fill colour.  (The two boxes at the top show what is selected - left click on either of those to pop up a texture selection box - useful for creating stone/wooden floors and walls etc)
    • On the Draw freehand lines setting, it will automatically close the shape and fill it...But only if you have a fill colour. If you chose no colour (in the pallet it is the white square with a red line through it), the shape will not be automatically closed. - Thanks Rubberduck!
    • On the Draw straight lines setting, a left-click, move, left-click, will draw a single straight line.  If you want to do a multi-sided shape, then do left-click, move, right-click, move, right-click etc  Finish with a left click and it will automatically close the shape and fill it (assuming a fill colour has been selected)
    • If you hold down ctrl while drawing you activate "stick to grid".  - Thanks also to RubberDuck!

  3. The scroll wheel has different functions. 
    • Using it on its own will zoom in and out of your picture.
    • Using it with the Shift key held down whilst an object is selected will cause the object to rotate through 90o.
    • Using it with the Shift key AND the Control key held down will rotate the object freely. (If you need to scale an object, do so BEFORE you rotate it, otherwise it won't react as you think!)

  4. When drawing, if you hold shift down, it deletes instead of draws!
  5. When you switch from the Drawing Tools to the Interaction Tools - note how it automatically changes layers back to the Token layer.  If you switch to the Pointer tool - to say drag an object image into the scene, then you don't want to drop it into the token layer.   The program assumes tokens are representing "people/monsters" and treats them differently from other images.  You need to check and change the layer first!

  6. Once you have generated the map itself - if you want, you can then populate it with the characters/monsters etc.  This is done on the Token layer.  If you want to take the images from rpol, then right-click on the images in rpol, save them to your computer somewhere, and then use the Token-tool (downloadable from  This is a useful tool to neaten the image for use as a token.  Very simple to use.  Once used, you can import the folder of icons into the Resource Library as described above.

  7. MapTool has a fantastic capability to work out line-of-sight and operate with the "fog-of-war" .  By this, I mean that you can have your characters see exactly what they would be able to see - you can put walls in the way that hide things from view, you can create a night scene where they can only see the to the radius of their torch-light.  As they move their characters, more of the scene can then be exposed to them.  This is the capability that makes MapTool my favourite mapping tool.  To enable this, you need
    1. use the Vision Blocking Layer.  This is where you put in blocks/lines of blue that block line of sight - usually a thin lime through the middle of your walls.
    2. ...and to enable Vision on the Map drop down menu.
    3. ...and make sure your PC tokens also have vision - double-click on them to bring up their properties, choose the Config tab and make sure "has sight" is ticked and the correct type of sight is chosen - you want your dwarf to have darkvision, your elf to have low-light vision, and your human to have normal...

    (The program also has another whole layer of capability which is directly orientated towards playing remotely - so several players can log in remotely and move their own tokens around your map, exploring it as they go - THAT is where this line-of-sight capability really comes into its own.)

  8. MapTool offers the ability to take its own screenshots (which you can choose to be a Player view or DM view) and if you have the ftp details already, you could even upload it directly from MapTool straight to wherever you host your images, all ready to be seen in rpol.

  9. Finally, MapTool offers all sorts of macros and additional functionality that sounds great, but is a nightmare to configure.  Mostly orientated towards the remote group play, where people can use macro buttons for their character to roll dice automatically etc... but that is going way beyond its basic function as a tool to create maps and I haven't really got into it - so I have no intention of documenting that here!

Phew!  But the results can be fantastic...  Here are a selection of some previous maps I generated on it:  (NOT that I'm saying my maps are fantastic!  I know they aren't!)

Further reading:  :)

Here are some more good links for information on using MapTool:

Video Tutorials
These are a good introduction to how to use some of the features of MapTool - though they do demo an older version of MapTool - so some features may not quite look like that anymore... It was where I first started - and kept re-watching them as I tried to remember how things were done!

This is probably more orientated towards the macro programming side of MapTool, but does have some useful hints and tips as well.

Here is a written tutorial on how to create a basic map: Forum discussion re removal of gallery:
(I've read it and it has good info in it, though it was made using an older version of Maptool, so there may be some inaccuracies.  Also, personally, I prefer to have the Vision Blocking Layer covering up less of the walls so that the players can distinguish between walls and say simply darkness as they explore your map...)

This message was last edited by the GM at 15:23, Thu 19 Mar 2015.

 GM, 244 posts
 RPoL Moderator
Fri 12 Nov 2010
at 00:39
Re: Maptool
Information courtesy of user matthewfenn. :)