Dungeon Maps for the Players?

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So, as an almost brand new DM of an almost brand new group, I've just introduced my group to the third dungeon of the storyline. While I generally understand how most things are done in DnD at this point, one thing has bugged me, and it's mapping the dungeons.

More specifically, my players are REALLY bad at mapping dungeons, even when I hand them graph paper. We're only on session 8 or 9 or so, and my players are having trouble navigating through dungeons, since none of them seem able to draw a good map. I give them dimensions of rooms and corridors whenever they ask or do Spot checks (we're playing 3.5) and make sure they know the layout, but it's highly tedious. Lately I've been wondering how to fix this issue.

So, two sessions ago, the group was entering a temple, abandoned and ancient. The temple was haunted by scores of ghosts that did not attack but caused illusions, voices, strange apparitions, etc. I decided to change my original plan up and give the party a map of the temple at the entrance, left there by the builder (like a blueprint in a safebox).

From what I can tell, the group was much better able to navigate, but I'm stuck wondering if this was a good idea. It takes a bit of the suspense out, they knew which rooms were the biggest, which corridors to take to get somewhere. On a side note, I didn't give them the locations of traps, enemies, treasures, or doors. Just the rooms and hallways.

I'm kind of stuck with no answer. They can't draw maps, so it takes FOREVER to get through dungeons, but a given map may take immersion out. In this next session, I plan to give them a map, but the map will be hidden in the dungeon somewhere, ala Zelda. I just hope they don't get too dependent because I planned on trying a small labyrinth somewhere down the road. As a beginning DM, this could be a headache for the group and for me.
Any suggestions from wiser, more clever DMs?
DM: "Who wants to be the mapper this session?"
Everyone: "NOT IT!"

At least, that's how it went back in the day in my circles when the players were asked to keep a map.

You can pretty much abstract dungeons. The exact square footage of floorspace, how the corridors exactly connect the chambers, is rarely as interesting or important as the thematic elements and challenges that reside therein. You don't even have to hand them a map. They just need enough to know the general relation of one section to another enough to be able to refer to places they need to go. "We go back to where we fought that minotaur and search the area again."

As far as "immersion," you've seen how much that concept is worth compared to the players being better able to navigate and play the game more easily. So don't worry about "immersion." It exists only in the heads of your players when they themselves allow it to and is thus out of your control. All you can do is make the dungeon as cool as possible and as tied into their interests as possible. The "immersion" will take care of itself.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
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To be honest this was on my mind as well today for my starting campaign and my answer is this. Any excuse I can give my party to have a map or see the dungeon without all that extra work of drawing it at the table during the session the better.  My other DM does this, it annoys me to no end personally but I keep my mouth shut.

Walk down a corridor... you see a left and right passage... he draws it and it... travel down left path, you find a big huge room that dead ends... he draws it.  Do you go in? No I go back and check the right passage.  You find a three branching corridor... draws it again only a few squares down each passage. It goes on like this

*someone cue the sandlot movie sound bite for me please*

foooorrreeevvvverrrrrrrrrr

nope not going to do that in my game.  I'm pretty sure I’m just going to give them the map lay out beforehand so I can pre draw it and make it actually look halfway decent and not some second graders floor plan in the sandbox... it’s a bit of meta gaming but who cares the benefits sound so much better to me then the annoying parts and personally big deal if they know where the big rooms are or the most direct paths.  I plan to switch tings around on my party from time to time.  Maybe the direct path is not the safest or perhaps it is.  (Teleport traps to different parts of the map anyone?  Rotating rooms and doorways that reverse gravity for all I know in that room.  Just because they have a map doesn’t mean they know what to expect in each room)


Edit


Had a fun afterthought if you wanted to give them something to explain why they know the map and something I might do.


A magical device that can be used say oh once per day that generates a sonar magic pulse in say x miles around it and generates from that it generates a map of the area for you.  Presto instant click map printer, yes a little corny I admit but it’s an idea.  This could lead to some abuse however; never give the party anything really nice I guess… But hey it was a fun afterthought

My group loves making maps and is good at it, so this isn't as much of an issue, but we've only needed to make them very rarely. Maybe because we use 4th edition and are putting our minis on a map already in many cases. The most detailed cartography session we've had involved a giant ant hill. My map for it was ten pages, with quarter inch squares representing 10 foot squares in-game (so 1/8 scale compared to a standard battle grid), and was generated in a semi-random fashion based on an algorithm to simulate the behavior of the ants. Yes, this was insanely complicated and took me most of a semester to draw. No, they didn't explore the whole thing; probably about a third of it by the time they found what they were looking for. Even this much we spent like three or four sessions on. Would I recommend something like this to most other groups? Not at all. But it was great fun for our group. I loved it because I was obsesssed with ants when I was a kid and had been wanting to make that ant hill ever since I saw the giant ant monster profiles a couple of years earlier. The rogue liked it because he got to draw the map. The Artificer liked it because these ants created a glowing magical mulch that he could use for reagents. The fighter liked it because it was a target-rich environment. The Drow liked it because it was tunnels. But I imagine most other groups would hate it.

All of that to say, tailor things for what works well with your group. 

A magical device that can be used say oh once per day that generates a sonar magic pulse in say x miles around it and generates from that it generates a map of the area for you.  Presto instant click map printer, yes a little corny I admit but it’s an idea.  This could lead to some abuse however; never give the party anything really nice I guess… But hey it was a fun afterthought




I can't remember the exact name or source but I'm almost certain taht something of the sort exists. A map that draws itself according to its surroundings.
I can't remember the exact name or source but I'm almost certain taht something of the sort exists. A map that draws itself according to its surroundings.



Map of Unseen Lands.

@JTheta: That sounds like lots of fun... every part but the mapping. I do not miss this. 

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
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The "mapper" exercise in D&D is tedious and not fun. It gets in the way of the things that make D&D truly enjoyable. You know, keeping track of arrows and rations.  ;p
The "mapper" exercise in D&D is tedious and not fun. It gets in the way of the things that make D&D truly enjoyable. You know, keeping track of arrows and rations.  ;p



Exactly! Don't forget gold and XP too... if I didn't have to track all that inventory stuff, I don't know why I'd even be playing D&D.

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

The groups I've played with for the last several years have all operated on the "DM draws it" principle. It's faster and gives a better result, and if you're using dungeon tiles (some of those groups do some of the time) then it's pretty much the only practical option.

That said, it isn't really necessary to draw things out in precise detail unless the situation is about to become tactical. If you're just moving through ruins and it's mostly expository then you can forego the map. (A good picture of some ruins that shows everyone what the place looks/feels like is probably more useful at that point.)
So, two sessions ago, the group was entering a temple, abandoned and ancient. The temple was haunted by scores of ghosts that did not attack but caused illusions, voices, strange apparitions, etc. I decided to change my original plan up and give the party a map of the temple at the entrance, left there by the builder (like a blueprint in a safebox).

How the engineer designed the dungeon, and what a few hundred years of neglect and kobods can do to a dungeon tend to be quite different.

Go ahead and give them a map.  It doesn't need to be particularly accurate, though.
I like that idea. Show something on the map that isn't there anymore (or seemingly so) and mark it as containing an awesome treasure that isn't necessarily the goal of the PCs in that dungeon. Then make that section a nasty Lair Assault-like battle with big rewards. Completely optional - if they unclog the collapsed hallway to reveal the section marked on the map, they can go and deal with the threats therein for a big payoff. Will it be worth it? Play to find out...

No amount of tips, tricks, or gimmicks will ever be better than simply talking directly to your fellow players to resolve your issues.
DMs: Dungeon Master 101  |  Find Your GM Style  |  Structure First, Story Last  |  No Myth Roleplaying  |  5e Monster Index & Encounter Calculator
Players: Players 101  |  11 Ways to Be a Better Roleplayer  |  You Are Not Your Character  |  Pre-Gen D&D 5e PCs

Content I Created: Adventure Scenarios  |  Actual Play Reports  |  Tools

I'm Recruiting Players for a D&D 5e Game: Interested?  |  Follow me on Twitter: @is3rith

Maybe you could have an optional pre-dungeon quest to get a dungeon map? Something with a lot of roleplaying and skill checks and that takes a couple of hours at most.

It's just an idea, not sure if it's a good one.
If the map-making device feels too contrived, you could give them a ritual that makes maps, perhaps with certain limitations on accuracy.
We're currently running a campaign that is entirely a dungeon crawl. There are 9 bosses in separate dungeons that all overlap and interconnect. We've been taking a lot of pictures of things as the DM draws them and using a google doc to keep track of everything. It's working pretty well but we're a rather techo-savvy group and I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.
I allow my players to draw dungeon maps as I go, but I only allow an accuracy that their characters could achieve, and will feed them innacurate information depending on the tools and skills that the PCs have available. So if their characters have no mapping/surveying skills or equipent, of for that matter pen and paper and aren't taking careful note, in character (such as pacing the corridors, stoppign to ake notes etc, and skill checks) then I will feed them all sorts of innacurate measurements.


A couple of my groups didn't realize this until their maps became gibberish and they were nearly lost (although some details were able to be made out) Which can be used as a plot device in of itself   


  
We're currently running a campaign that is entirely a dungeon crawl. There are 9 bosses in separate dungeons that all overlap and interconnect. We've been taking a lot of pictures of things as the DM draws them and using a google doc to keep track of everything. It's working pretty well but we're a rather techo-savvy group and I know it's not everyone's cup of tea.



Maybe you could have an optional pre-dungeon quest to get a dungeon map? Something with a lot of roleplaying and skill checks and that takes a couple of hours at most.

It's just an idea, not sure if it's a good one.





I have done this a couple of times in the past, and it is a good way to start an adventure, and because the map is generally in a city it also allows the players a chance to spend abit of time getting their gear together and a time to think of the more mundane gear/supplies they might need

Another benifit of this is the opportunity to introduce a competing party who might actually be in the dungeon, or add in a couple of side quests for them to do in the dungeon "You are going there? Yes I have a map, I was there before adventuring in my youth, lost a good friend there, I've always felt bad that we couldn't recover his sword, if you could retrieve it for me, you could have the map for free, i would liek to give it to his son"


Also, as well as side quests, maps can be outdated, which can be used to set up the players for suprizes, as things change, some areas might have caved in, or new areas added. The PCs can really blunder into something they don't expect. A "secret" back door might not be so secret, and an added area could hold anything unepected.   
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