Author: Alex Schroeder
Crossposted by the author from his homepage
License: You may choose to receive this work under any license that grants the right to use, copy, modify, and/or distribute the work, as long as that license imposes the restriction that derivative works have to grant the same rights and impose the same restriction. For example, you may choose to receive this work under the GNU General Public License, the GNU Free Documentation License, the CreativeCommons ShareAlike License, or similar licenses. This includes the images transcluded from the author's Old School Hex Tutorial Set on his Flickr account.
Start with a hex grid. You can use mkhexgrid to create your own, or you can use online services like Incompetech. Say you want to make a regional map of your player's base. I'd start with a 5x8 grid, each hex being 1in. If you use mkhexgrid, you can also provide appropriate labels; if you use other hex grids, you might have to add them yourself.
I like the faint blue hexes, so I'll use b3b3ffff as the color for the grid. For the particular map I wanted to do, I used the following mkhexgrid specfile:
In Inkscape, use Ctrl-Shift-L to show you the layer list. Rename Layer 1 to Hex and use Ctrl-I to insert the PDF or SVG hex image.
Create a new layer and call it Known Map. Create a third layer and call it Unknown Map. Create a fourth layer and call it Labels. If you want to produce different maps, you can now click on the eye symbol to show or hide that particular layer. And you can move things from one layer to the next using Shift+PgUp and Shift+PgDown.
As my game is an exploration game, I start with the first seven hexes on the Known Map and about twenty other hexes on the Unknown Map.
In another game I might put all the objects on the Known Map but keep the unknown towns and dungeons on the Labels layer.
As the players discover stuff, I keep moving elements to the Known Map. I usually Export this layer (Ctrl+Shift+E) every now and then to share with my players.
Use the Create stars and polygons tool (F1) to draw a little polygon with six corners, spoke ratio 0.8, and rounded 0.5. Call up the Fill & Stroke dialog (Ctrl+Shift+F) and make sure that there is no filling, black stroke paint, and that the stroke has width 0.677.
Pick Object to Path from the menu (Ctrl+Shift+C) and switch to the Edit path by nodes tool (F2). You should see 12 nodes in total. Change all the inner nodes to corners. This should change their symbol from a square to a diamond. For each inner node, drag the two handles such that it actuall forms a corner. Also consider dragging the handles of the outer nodes around to create a slightly asymmetric tree.
Now generate a number of trees by using paste & copy and rotating them a 1-3 times by 90°, and mirror them. You should get eight slightly different trees.
Draw a free-hand (F6) line and simplify it several times (Ctrl-L). Call up the Fill & Stroke dialog (Ctrl+Shift+F) and make sure that there is no filling, black stroke paint, and that the stroke has width 1.000. Then switch to the Edit path by nodes tool (F2) and delete all but four nodes. We want really simple shapes.
Make sure that the nodes within the hill are smooth. Adjust the handles to make a really nice hill. Copy and paste it, make it smaller, reset the stroke width to 1.000. Now you have a big and a small hill. Do some paste and copy and arrange them nicely. Once you're happy with an arrangement, group them: Shift-click them all and group them (Ctrl+G).
Draw a free-hand (F6) hill and simplify (Ctrl-L) if necessary. Call up the Fill & Stroke dialog (Ctrl+Shift+F) and make sure that there is no filling, black stroke paint, and that the stroke has width 3.000.
Draw a circle (F5). If you get an arc insead, switch to the Edit path by nodes tool (F2) and Ctrl-drag one circle on top of the other until a circle is formed. If you get an ellipse, Ctrl-drag one of the two squares until you're happy. Call up the Fill & Stroke dialog (Ctrl+Shift+F) and make sure that the circle has a black filling. Resize to taste.
Use the text tool (F8) to put a label next to it. Group the dot and the label (Ctrl-G) if you want.
Like rivers, but on the Fill & Stroke dialog (Ctrl+Shift+F), pick dashed. Reduce stroke width to one or two.
This is what you might end up with for the start of an exploration campaign (since this is a Wilderlands of High Fantasy game, the names might ring a bell…). There are many more hexes prepared with info, but I'm trying to keep this spoiler-free for my players. :)