How to Draw a Dungeon with Excel

An example of Excel dungeon maps
You can make attractive, incredibly functional and easy maps using Excel. I will show you the basics here. They may not be the prettiest maps in the world, but they work great for D&D or Pathfinder games played on grids. Read on for more information!

Row Height 21, Column Width 3.43
After opening Excel and selecting a worksheet, the first thing you need to do is resize the cells to a square grid. Make sure you have all the cells of the worksheet highlighted (ctrl+a) and select “Format” from your ribbon. Click on “row height” and change the value to 21. Then select format again, this time selecting “column width” to 3.43. The dimensions are not exact, but this is the value I use.  The important thing is that the cells become a uniform grid.

Start with a simple outline.
Select "Draw Border"
Now you may draw walls along the grid lines by selecting the “draw” tool from the "borders" toolbar, usually located underneath the font drop-down. When you select the draw tool, the mouse pointer will become a pencil. Clicking or dragging your mouse across the edge of a cell will draw a border along that cell. You can select the line thickness, pattern, color and eraser from the “draw borders” menu.

Change the line style to draw doors.
Place Doors in the map by selecting the double-line style and drawing them as you would a wall. Using this method, the door is drawn on the edge of a square, meaning that it does not occupy any square. If you require a door that occupies a specific square, you would have to draw the line by using Excel’s “Shapes” Function.

Add shapes to the map.

Excel is not a drawing program, and so does have limits to what we can do, but with creativity you can stretch the program to cover just about anything you need. We can use the Shape function to place specific objects in the room. Go to the Insert tab at the top of the program, and then select “shapes” for a drop-down list of available schema to insert into your map. I put some circles in several squares to represent pillars for players and monsters to hide behind. I also added a star, which represents a statue. I will key this statue later in this tutorial. You can use the default shapes, or you can import your own.

Highlight cells outside the dungeon.
We have a room with a door and some set dressing, but it does not stand out from the rest of map very well, so I am going to highlight the room by formatting the cells around the room to a darker color. Select the cells outside the room, which would be the solid stone of the dungeon walls. You can add to your selection by holding the CTRL key and highlighting those cells with your mouse. When you have the cells selected, use the “fill” tool next to the “draw border” tool to paint each cell you highlighted the color you selected.

An example of the near finished dungeon.
You can add encounter notes, stat-blocks, and information directly to the map by drawing a text box “shape”. The text box lets you write inside it. Here I have added details about three ghouls who make this dungeon their home, information about a locked door in this dungeon, and a note about a trap!

You can add a key to the map by drawing a square shape, then placing more shapes inside of it. Use the symbols on the map keyed to text boxes with a corresponding description. The “group” function is a good way of keeping your key and other more complicated shapes linked together like a single object. If you need to alter the key you can “un-group” the object to make the changes.

Commenting in the cells is a great way to key the map

Finally, each cell of the map can hold a ridiculous amount of information, so you can add notes relating to the spaces in the map directly to that square. You can select the cell and start writing, but your notes will clutter the map. It may be a better idea to right-click a cell and select “add comment”. A comment box will pop up, which you can type in, re-size, and move around the screen. Right-click the cell again, select “Hide Comment” and it will shrink into the cell until you hold your mouse over it. You can still see that a cell has a comment because the top right corner of the cell has been highlighted red.

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