Friday, June 17, 2011

Player Mapping

Running my Gold & Glory and Caves of Chaos as well as playing in Mythrus Tower at NTRPGCON 2010/2011 has totally convinced me of the awesomeness of player drawn maps.

At least for sandbox / exploration type games whether exploring a dungeon or a wilderness.  I guess/I seem to remember it being much less useful (and fun) for plot based story driven games.  In those map is just a DM tool to describe where the next plot point is.  But, for exploration the map is kind of the whole point.

For G&G I originally drew out a very rough map (on plain paper) and the players added to it, very wrongly, based on my vague directions.  When playing Mythrus Tower it was important to have a more or less accurate map, it allowed discoveries (hey there must be a secret door to this big empty space) and decisions (lets find a way round nasty monster's lair).  Making players struggle with wildly wrong wilderness map may be "realistic" but it robs them of "meaningful choice".  A primary requirement for fun sandbox play.

So, I've redrawn the players wilderness map on my nifty new Black Blade Publishing hex paper (which is awesomely same 6to1 hex scale of my master electronic map (made with HexGimp btw).  It's not as pretty as the map drawn by player artists.  But, it does show players where they haven't been, where they might go, etc.

As players explore I will very meta gamely give them accurate info on terrain in each hex (many hexes if they ever figure out climbing a tower or hill they can see 12-24 hexes all around).  I'm thinking when they get lost, easy thing to do in Woods of Woe, I'll flat out meta game tell them they're lost just so they don't jack up their map.
Outlines of woods and things players can see or have heard about.  I put in (parts) of several trails in hopes players will wonder "hey, what's down this road?"  And follow it to their doom, er, I mean fabulous wealth and fame.  One group explored a little bit into Goblin Woods.  It's almost certain that bit of river hooks up with one to south, maybe a group will follow it one day to find out.

The obstacle and challenge I want to present to sandbox players isn't "can you figure out this jacked up map" it's "given knowledge of the area, a map, can you figure out safest path to your goal, where hidden things are, how to travel around the zone of much death and little treasure."  The map below provides that.  I believe it will help game play a lot.

This is about 1/2 the campaign area (higher level stuff is off to right.  Most of it is blank cause it's unexplored.  Mtns can be seen from far off so are filled in.  And "The Wall" (diagonal from center top to lower right) is known to exist (but not every tower is known to players so those weren't drawn in).  That north west section, Fog Meadow, has heaps of adventure.  But, with old maps it seemed unlikely players would ever notice it was there.  Now it's this big, empty, hopefully enticing area relatively close to civilization (and thus lower level like the players).

5 comments:

  1. I love it! Being a total map junkie, I totally dig this.

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  2. One suggestion for handling being lost that doesn't mess up the map - use the method in AH's Outdoor Survival as recommended by OD&D books.

    Roll 1d6 for direction (1 is N, 2 NE, 3 SE, 4 S, 5 SW, 6 NW). Players must move their full daily movement in that direction with only one facing change during the move (ie. if they are lost 'N', then they can at most make one facing change to go NE or NW).

    So this way they still have an accurate map, they just didn't go where they wanted to go.

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  3. Thanks for the plug on the hex paper, Norman---it's good to see it being used so swiftly!

    Allan.

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  4. Maps seem to be popular subject. Try and post more but most of my maps come from my current campaigns and I don't want to subject players to the temptation of peeking ;)

    @Rob that is brilliant! Perfect solution for this particular problem. Thanks

    @grodog yeah I sort of had this map in mind when I bought them. I really like 11x17 or bigger! I always feel too constrained and waste too much time worrying about running off the edge with smaller paper. I used them for two more maps Regional and Local area for ToEE campaign. The Black Blade Publishing logo got integrated into the Nyr Dyv ;)

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