I like maps. I like drawing maps. When I play RPGs I like drawing the map the DM/GM/Judge/Whatever describes to us as we venture into the unknown. I like pretty maps. I like full-colour intricately detailed maps, and I like simple, black-and-white maps. I especially like maps I can use in a VTT since one of the two games I run is entirely on-line and sometimes using an existing map is quicker than drawing one (which is one of the many reasons I like Dyon’s maps, as his are very good for that sort of on-line gaming).
Recently, after one of Gus’ posts over on Dungeon of Signs, I have been re-thinking my maps (a bunch of which are shown in various pictures below), and how best to utilise them in my games. When it comes to the maps I draw (not the ones I keep posting off to people, but the ones for my own use in my games) I tend to approach them in a logical fashion: who built the dungeon, what was it for, has it been abandoned long and what- if anything- now inhabits those lost rooms. I tend to avoid going too wild, in favour of semi-realism, although I think that is largely the more practical side of my brain keeping me constrained (sometimes a good thing, sometimes not); I also plan on drawing one that will allow me to use it in a VTT (Map Tools at the moment, although I do want to try out Roll20 in the near future), so it has to be easy for tokens to be move around on (so few, if any, corridors or rooms overlapping, as it makes it difficult to replicate in a VTT).
My map criteria is therefore:
- Needs to make sense;
- Needs to be usable in Map Tools.
I like colouring in my maps too. Some of them don’t need it and are spoiled if I get carried away, but I do like a bit of colour. Reminds me of the maps I used to draw back in my early RPG days when I’d spend way too much time drawing a map, the details of which only I would ever really see…
…which brings me back to the re-thinking of my maps, which is meant to be the subject of this post.
In an adventure, what is the purpose of a map? For me, it is a map intended for the DM to use, not something the players are going to look at. Depending on the way the adventure is written, that map is going to be keyed with some corresponding text describing what’s in the room. So, the map doesn’t really need intricate details or dazzling colours (the basics of the room, its layout, for quick referencing should be enough), and doesn’t really need to be a work of art. Some of the maps I draw, pretty much all of the on’s that Dyson and Matt Jackson and others draw are all great examples of maps that fall into this category; Gus’ too often fall into this, although like me he also goes in for some colour and more detail, and it has to be said that his maps inspired me to try out alternative ‘hatching’ techniques, to various degrees of success (his are generally better).
Then you have the maps that Zak puts together, which are more visual aids than what the rest of us put together. These are great for referencing during play, and many have the added bonus of being able to show a player an overview of where they are.
In my Sunday game yesterday I had two types of maps: one was a player map, which was large and colourful and more suited for miniatures really. To be honest, it didn’t need a map, but I wanted to draw one, so that’s what we ended up with. The other was drawn out on a series of small business-card-sized cards, one ‘room’ or section of a dungeon, that I just laid (geomorphs I believe that are called) as they were discovered, and that just showed what was necessary; the rest I described from my notes. I quite liked that, as it was much more practical that simply drawing a GM-only map for my own pleasure.
Some maps now, to illustrate (all mine, since I can post my own without stepping on anyone’s toes. Follow the links above to check out all the other wonderful maps).
Thanks for reading :)