Mar 4, 2024

Stars of the VTT Galaxy: #13 Map Doctor

10 min read - Published: 4 months ago

Greetings Forge community, and welcome to the thirteenth edition of our Stars of the VTT Galaxy series. This regular interview series is meant to shine a light on the already bright stars that make up our community of Bazaar Creators.

With a keen eye for details, she creates high fantasy, cartoony maps for TTRPGs. Her maps are immersive, vibrant, and playful and breathe life into your worlds. We're honored to introduce you to Lera, the creative force behind Map Doctor.

Our sky consists of many stars. Each of them illuminating our planet. As you can guess, the stars are you. Yes, it's you, the great content creators who, in your own unique way, shine on our worlds. Thank you for being part of our heavenly sky and weaving the fabric of our Community.
Let's meet today's star.

Introduce yourself, for those who don’t know what you do, what would you describe yourself as doing for a living?

Lera: I am Lera, a girl from Croatia who decided to turn her passion into a full-time job. I've been drawing battlemaps for our campaign forever, and in Covid, I decided to try to make a living out of it.

I am super happy to be in this wholesome community, full of awesome and helpful people. This has been my full-time job since early 2021, and I'm enjoying every moment!

What’s one random fact about you?

Lera: I've been playing both, Horde and Alliance with the same fiery passion since forever!😂 Talking about World of Warcraft, of course!

How did you get started creating TTRPG content?

Lera: I've been drawing simple maps for our D&D sessions since we started playing almost 6 years ago, and I saw people doing it as a full-time job. I was finishing college and decided to switch all my focus toward the content creation.

And how did you end up getting into creating content for Foundry VTT?

Lera: Foundry VTT started at the same time I did, and I was blown away by its might. I saw how versatile it could get, so I made it a vital part of my creations.

Where does the inspiration come from in the work you do? Or perhaps, your “muse”?

Lera: From WoW, books, TV shows, and our campaign. I am a huge Tolkien nerd, and a massive high-fantasy fan, so I set the tone and style to it. I love folklore, lore, and mythology, especially Greco-Roman and Norse.

For a couple of years, you were a recognizable brand MikWewa Maps. How did you decide to change it to Map Doctor last year? Where does the initiative come from? And did it turn out like a good move?

Lera: The MikWewa name was derived from Mikey (my husband), and Wewa (my childhood nickname). Mikey was, and still is, an integral part of my creations in terms of advice and technical stuff, but then he went on to pursue other projects.

I played a goofy witch doctor warlock in our finished campaign, and the character grew on me. I think the name fits the tone and the style better than the MikWewa ever did. So I decided to take a leap of faith and rebrand everything in the new environment. And honestly, I am very happy with it. I hope that the Map Doctor will be successful and long going like MikWewa Maps was!

You create high fantasy, cartoony maps for TTRPGs. When designing such vibrant maps, what do you believe is the most important aspect to consider to create an immersive and engaging experience for players?

Lera: Absolutely. That and usefulness. I create useful and generic maps that are vibrant and playful. I aim to create maps that can be used in many settings, and on many occasions.

For example, I made the Adventurer's Guild. It's honestly a large building that could be used in many ways. It's up to DMs to decide. I just try to visualize and spark the creativity.

Adventurer's Guild map pack

I don't aim for any particular group or niche, I just create maps as I feel like and what people suggest/would like. I plan, design, sketch, and draw maps all by myself, and I'm pretty proud of how far I've come.

Can you walk us through your creative process from conceptualization to completion when creating a new map? What are some unique challenges you face when creating maps, and how do you overcome them?

Lera: I would be the happiest potato if an inspiration came with a trigger!😂 Whenever I think of something, or something cool that comes into my mind, I write it down on my Trello. No one ever should see my Trello, since it's a chaotic mess of ideas and self-criticizing checklists!😄

When an idea materializes, I quickly sketch it down. Then I find something to grab onto, such as a unique room of a building, or a cave/dungeon shape, and build around it.

Somewhere in the middle of work, I panic a bit and need to stop. I usually reward myself with something I like to do and leave the process for tomorrow, and fresh eyes and mind.

And everything looks bland until I put shadows. Shadows are the lifeline of the maps!🙂

How has the support of your patrons impacted your ability to create and expand your TTRPG content? How did the feedback influence your approach to future projects?

Lera: I would like to take this chance to thank everyone for supporting me on my journey. It's wild how people believe in you and use your content to create their own stories. It's a mind-blowing realization to be able to influence someone else's story and campaign.

I always listen to what my patrons say and always try to create what they'd like. Sometimes it works out, sometimes I hit the wall, and create something else, something I can vouch for.

As for the future, I am very happy with the current state of things, and I'm listening to what people would need or like to see. Every feedback is golden for me.

What are your goals and aspirations for your Patreon page? Are there any exciting plans or upcoming projects you'd like to share with your patrons?

Lera: Rebranding took a toll, I won't lie. Also, I made multipart maps (4 maps connecting to one large), which was very exhausting.

Graveyard I map pack - part 1 of 4 of the huge Graveyard

As for the future, it's looking brilliant for us. I am pregnant with our first child, and I am trying to create many maps in advance while I'm still able, to have some stash for a "maternity leave."😄

Can you tell us a little bit about your coming soon commercial creator license?

Lera: It's hard to create a commercial license to please everyone, and I left that as the last part of the rebranding.

In short, the license will be for active patrons (as it was), but I still have to word it properly to fit everyone's needs. I think about it frequently, but the wording has to be clear. I expect to finish it soon.

Collaborations are common in the RPG sphere. Have you ever collaborated with other artists or creators on map projects? If so, what was that experience like?

Lera: I collaborated with many awesome people, and the process was smooth most of the time.

I like to add music tracks to my maps, and people such as Ivan Duch, Filip Melvan, Michaël Ghelfi, and Will Savino really add depth to the maps. Shoutout to them, they were a blast to work with!

In the early days, I was a part of two massive collaborations that helped with visibility. Besides, I collaborated with adventure writers, such as Monkey DM, Kelfecil's Tales, Adventures Await, and Elven Tower. Also, when we were MikWewa Maps, Mikey wrote over a dozen adventures, and I drew all the maps for it.

I really like collaborating with people, it's a great deal! Shoutout to adventure writers too, of course!🙂

Can you share some examples of memorable or unique maps you've made, let's say your favorites?

Lera: Sure! I have my favorites!😄

Tavern, Pyramid Dungeon, Multipart Forest, Hermit's Paradise, Lich Queen Multipart, Vampire Mansion, and the Ancient Tomb.

Vampire Mansion map pack

I really like urban/city maps, and really enjoy making those!

And what's your least favorite piece of content you've created? (If it exists).😊

Lera: There was one map of a waterfall I made when I had the flu. It looked okay when I finished it. But when I looked at it when I got better, I didn't like it, to mildly put it. My perspective was off, my coloring was bad, and I even failed the grid dimensions. It's safely away from the public, I think.😂

Do you have the opportunity/time to play games by yourself? If so, what game systems do you play? What VTT do you use?

Lera: Yes, I do! We play around the table once a week when we can. Mikey is the DM, and he made the frame for the TV to lay flat on the table. Then he uses Foundry VTT for map exploration, traps, and fights. Then we place the figurines atop the glass and we fight!

It's the best of both worlds, and Foundry VTT really brings another dimension! We play D&D 5e in a huge homebrew world.
I have a photo of the setup, featuring our dog too.😂

Setup

The spicy question- what is your favorite VTT to run on? What kind of improvements do you want to see in it?

Lera: I love guys over at the Roll20, and I used it initially, but Foundry VTT takes the prime. It's huge, has endless possibilities, it's native and runs smoothly. With integrations such as Forge and Moulinette, it's a no-brainer for everyone in my opinion.

And I know how Mikey loves everyone around it, too. Atropos, Anathema, and Mattexdee helped him immensely, and DestinyGrey and KaKaRoTo were always there when he needed them. Also, Sven from Moulinette is a great guy. And I met you now, so I'm comfortable with the FVTT future.😄 I really hope I mentioned everyone, it's such a great community.

What is your opinion on AI, especially in the TTRPG space?

Lera: A no-no. In my line of work, and speaking of art, it devalues the planning phase, creativity, and ingenuity. Maps shouldn't be perfect. They should have something humane, errors, coloring over the line, and stuff like that.

I believe it has its purposes in coding and automation, but I have little to no knowledge of it, so I wouldn't like to step on some toes with my misinformed answers.

Are there any specific ethical considerations you think TTRPG creators should keep in mind when using AI or incorporating AI-generated content into their games? How do you navigate those ethical dilemmas?

Lera: My two cents on the matter are: If you play your private game with friends, family, etc., feel free to use AI content. But selling the AI content as your own, it's wrong on so many levels.

And if you're a streamer, and especially a streamer with lots of viewers, wouldn't it feel better to feature a battlemap of a real person? I took the streaming as an example, but I am a live-and-let-live person. Do whatever you see fit, but be prepared to face the consequences for your actions, whatever they were.

I generally don't like giving unsolicited advice, nor do I like receiving one. In my country, whenever you give advice, you somehow become responsible for the other person's actions. I am delighted when someone reaches out, and I also ask for help when I need it. I hope this makes sense.

Do you have anything you want to say to the greater TTRPG/VTT community?

Lera: I'd like for all the people to immerse into the TTRPG worlds, weave unforgettable stories, and create awesome memories. It's great for mental health, creativity, diversion, and you can meet brilliant, like-minded people. It's your story, we mapmakers just help you visualize it a bit!

What advice would you give to aspiring mapmakers who are looking to break into the TTRPG community? Are there skills, experiences, or resources you believe are essential for success in this field?

Lera: Advice would be hard work and belief in yourself! It's not an empty phrase. If you love what you do, people will see that. And the best advice for people starting would be to ask, ask, and ask. People in this industry, who have been here for a long time, will happily help you start your journey.

Tom Cartos and Cze from Czepeku helped us when we started, and they did it with open hearts, albeit being the titans of the industry even then. Shoutout to them too! We can do the same, and our doors are open for everyone seeking advice and help.

What are your plans in general for the future as an RPG creator?

Lera: To keep creating the content for as long as the people would like me to!

I have no immediate plans for the future since I'm with the child, and it's hard to focus on a single map.😂 But I believe Mikey and I will team up on some future projects. After all, TTRPG is our life, and I can't imagine not doing what I do!

Thank you Lera, this was a great conversation, I really enjoyed it!
Wishing you the best of luck in the future, both in your private and professional life.

Lera: Thank you for having me for the interview, it was a pleasure!

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