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2011-05-24 I Want A Lot Of Labels On My Maps


I prefer my maps to be  dense. On the right you can see the treatment I give to a map published in Fight On! magazine. If there is whitespace on the map, it should be filled with text that saves me looking at the key. This is true for typical map keys stretching over many pages, but it’s also true for a One Page Dungeon. I really prefer there to be as little separation between map and key as possible.

I’m working on a dungeon map that hopefully illustrates my point. Too bad it takes so long to do, haha. In 2009 I created something like that for my One Page Dungeon Contest 2009 entry which I retracted when I got a position as a contest judge. These days the Water Temple (SVG) has many things I’d change:

  1. The map is too linear. I refer you to Melan’s discussion of dungeon maps for an illustration of what’s wrong with my map. This is the most important fault, I feel.
  2. There but a single named NPCs to interact with. Another one or two would be good.
  3. The NPC is hardly enough to be called a “faction” – this dungeon needs at least one more significant faction. Something cool like mole-men or crab-men, a wasp queen, or something like that.
  4. There are no allies to be found, unless you want to call the hard-to-find necromancer an ally. Perhaps if the dungeon clearly indicated that the party starts out with a dead companion and heard about a necromancer living around here that might be able to help (true or false?) then it might work much better.
  5. There is no opportunity, however small, to effect significant changes for player characters (unless you want multi-class into ghoul?).

Back to the maps I am annotating. The maps are from the Fight On! megadungeon The Darkness Beneath:

Level 2: Warrens of the Troglodytes by Calithena and D. Bowman was published in issue #5.

Level 3: Spawning Grounds of the Crab-Men by D. Bowman was published in issue #3.

I just realized that if I want to print out the remaining levels and mark them up (and not write in my printed copies) I will have to buy PDF versions of the issues I didn’t get contributor copies for (#1–#3 and #11); that would cost me $25. I think I need to figure out how photocopying at home works, ie. scanning and printing.


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The one thing I like about maps for players having no empty spaces is the “exploration” thing. It’s like said in the RPC 2011 interview for the German “ABOREA” system. They gut many details on their maps so you can look at them and ask yourself “what is that thing doing?” and think about it thus serving your gm with many ideas for adventures. It just should have a visible general structure, so you don’t get lost. And between those “big things” you can have many small details that grab the players interest. Surely nothing for a one page dungeon, but something to keep in mind for maps.

TheClone 2011-05-24 13:26 UTC

The only other data point I have are the gorgeous maps for GMs in Paizo products. These look awesome, but when I run the adventure paths, the detail on the maps seems to have no effect on my games. Perhaps my players would disagree and say that my descriptions are better when I look at the detailed maps? I doubt it, but who knows. The problem with the beautiful Paizo maps is that nine times out of ten (made that number up) I found no way to hand them out to players.

They work as (very effective) marketing tools, I guess. I keep falling for them. :)

AlexSchroeder 2011-05-24 13:51 UTC

Your mobile device has a camera that should be “good enough” for a simple scan/print replacement.

– Harald 2011-05-25 09:48 UTC

I’d be surprised if my Apple iPhone 3G has good enough resolution. But it’s worth a try for simple maps.

AlexSchroeder 2011-05-25 14:20 UTC

I have a scanner at home. Alternately, I could bring my camera next time.

– Harald 2011-05-25 20:08 UTC

I actually own a scanner – it’s just that copying a few pages each from a couple of magazines is annoying. I’d pay $5 for somebody else to do it – but not $20. And what I find a bit annoying as well is that I bought the print copies and don’t get automatic access to the PDF.

AlexSchroeder 2011-05-26 14:00 UTC

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