There are a lot of programs and resources out there for creating world maps for D&D and other role-playing games, but all of my maps start before opening a program with one of two things. (1) An idea of what kind of setting I want or (2) a scrap piece of paper, a pencil, and some free time.
When you have an idea about your world the map is going to fall into a specific category. For example one of my realms in the South Reaches and Nevre setting is an island nation. Making a map for that is fairly simple in that it’s a series of islands in separate parts of the ocean. For this map, I went straight into Worldographer, which I have the free version of.
For my map of Nevre, I had some paper, a pencil, and some free time. I just scribbled out the map, labeled the continent, and named the countries. After that, I scanned the map into my computer and using Paint I sketched the map. It would have been better to do this in Gimp, a free image manipulation program, but I didn’t have it at the time. After doing that I decided what regions had what features within the countries and color-coded them.
After doing that the map stayed in this state for a long time. I was using it as a reference for a book and didn’t need anything different for it. Recently, however, I started running a game that is in Nevre so I made a version of the map using Hexographer (because the free version supports map overlay) then imported that into Worldographer.
If you look closely on both versions of the map you’ll see a continent to the east and to the south. I haven’t drawn those out yet, but because of the way I built the original map I will probably sketch them out and scan them in.
Whichever way I make a map, it’s always a fun experience. While some people love to make their own maps from scratch, like me, not everyone does. Thankfully, Worldographer has the option to generate a map within parameters. I haven’t messed with those setting very much, but the few times I have the maps have turned out nice. I don’t have any maps I use that were generated this way, but I may use some in the future.