Map Building

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Dude, this is friggin' hard!  Making a map from scratch is the hardest undertaking I've had as a DM.

I gave up and have decided to translate In Search of the Unknown (thank you, dndclassics.com).  I noticed that The Caverns of Quasquetan map uses 10 ft squares.  Has anyone ever drawn up a map to scale with 5 ft squares?  And, just how many Chessex mats would that take?
Yeah, I'm off making map or using them for dungeons. Not my thing, I don't enjoy it, and I never thought the complexes as presented were that interesting or made very much sense. So, my advice is not to use large scale, gridded maps, and just have a more general sense of where areas are in relation to one another. A zonal approach, basically, with some thought given to the "cost" of travelling between zones.

Also, enlist your players to help you come up with the kind of area layout they'd be interested in. Not everything, necessarily, but some basics. They'll probably add in details it never would have occurred to you to even mention.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I've just started an Undermountain campaign and I think that having the whole map in the first place only makes it more difficult for you in the long run. I personally feel like I have to stick to the map and represent it to the PCs. It's also time consuming. 



For the next level of Undermountain I'm just going to write custom areas and roleplay to link them together. I think this way is less constrained and you have more flexibility when it comes to setting up tiles/grids etc.  
For the next level of Undermountain I'm just going to write custom areas and roleplay to link them together. I think this way is less constrained and you have more flexibility when it comes to setting up tiles/grids etc.  

Yeah, this is how I see it. I can do much more narratively, and have it make much more sense without limiting myself to what I'm capable of representing or fitting on a sheet of graph paper.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

Same. I don't mind going the ol' graph paper route if one of my design goals is "old school feel." Which admittedly I do like whenever I come up with dungeons. Otherwise, narrative all the way. The current location I'm working on is a mix of both.

Of course, I was running an online game the other day gridless and trying to describe the map I drew so that the players could understand what was going on spatially really made me wish I never drew a map in the first place. Lesson learned on that one. Sometimes maps just get in the way.

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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Maptools is free, and is good if you play via PC, though you could also hook up to a projector and display it on a tabletop or screen or whatever. Aside from that, do a single-page 'rough draft' of an area so your players get a bit of a visual layout (either graph paper, or printed map, or other source).

On a side note: Is the 4e Undermountain changed much from 3.5's version? I just found my 3.5 Expedition to Undermountain, and was going to just replace the encounters with 4e updated stuff, since spending $ on the same book would be pointless...that, and the City of the Spider Queen- did they do that one in 4e too? I forget. Anyway, I'm planning on updating them both into 4e at some point. (Yes, I realize Undermountain already has been, but I meant on my own rather than the 'new' book version)
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Thanks, guys!

Actually, drawing stuff out on graph paper and then prepping a battle mat ahead of time is what's new for me.  I've used random dungeon tiles as they've explored rooms (like the map itself is a random encounter) to great success.  I've also used premade fold-out maps, and the theatre of the mind.

So, yeah, I guess I'm trying to go old school.  I feel like like the previously mentioned methods lack details for the players to discover.  While reading In Search of the Unknown, I was very impressed with all the little quirks of each room.  They each had a history, purpose, and oddity for the players to puzzle over.

Centauri, I really like the idea of PC's helping put together an area.  I'm very big on being a "yes" DM, as described in one of Chris Perkins' articles.

Thank you for the example, MadIceQueen.  Impressive!
So, yeah, I guess I'm trying to go old school.  I feel like like the previously mentioned methods lack details for the players to discover.  While reading In Search of the Unknown, I was very impressed with all the little quirks of each room.  They each had a history, purpose, and oddity for the players to puzzle over.

Interesting. I didn't really feel that. I'm sure it's possible for really engaged players to imbue those things with meaning, but generally there was nothing inherently interesting about the rooms to me, and if there was it was not obvious to the players and they had little incentive to investigate.

Centauri, I really like the idea of PC's helping put together an area.  I'm very big on being a "yes" DM, as described in one of Chris Perkins' articles.

Remember that it's "Yes, and...." Don't just accept the players ideas, add on to them. And yes, it's a very powerful technique. Details aren't added for their own sake, but because players have focused on those details and are helping invent them. People are in general much more engaged and able to remember things they have taken part in, rather than things they have just listened to descriptions of. "Yes, and..." gaming and collaborative adventure design really put this to powerful use.

If I have to ask the GM for it, then I don't want it.

I've knocked some business out on the battle mat.  This is only some of the southern half of the first level, so I've got a ways to go.  And, it's no professional map, but I still hope it'll make an impression.

large image
I've knocked some business out on the battle mat.  This is only some of the southern half of the first level, so I've got a ways to go.  And, it's no professional map, but I still hope it'll make an impression.


It's a good start.  Remember that if you are going to have areas where monsters are encountered, there needs to be space for those monsters, the party, and room to maneuver.
The room in the bottom right looks like a spiral with no connecting walls.
You have sections of the map walled off.  If this is supposed to be a building, remember that the walls aren't so thick.  If it's supposed to be a cave system(that isn't carved out), then right angles are going to be rare.  Also, some of the walls are just a line, and some are thicker, but I can't see a reason for the added support.
I've knocked some business out on the battle mat.  This is only some of the southern half of the first level, so I've got a ways to go.  And, it's no professional map, but I still hope it'll make an impression.


It's a good start.  Remember that if you are going to have areas where monsters are encountered, there needs to be space for those monsters, the party, and room to maneuver.
The room in the bottom right looks like a spiral with no connecting walls.
You have sections of the map walled off.  If this is supposed to be a building, remember that the walls aren't so thick.  If it's supposed to be a cave system(that isn't carved out), then right angles are going to be rare.  Also, some of the walls are just a line, and some are thicker, but I can't see a reason for the added support.


Thanks!  It's actually The Caverns of Quasquetan, which is a very old module.  I was thinking about adding some doors (the only entrance is farther north than is visible in the image).  I think the empty space actually matches with the story of it having been carved into a rock mountainside.

I'll see what I can do about having more maneuverable space.  I agree that it's pretty congested.
I've knocked some business out on the battle mat.  This is only some of the southern half of the first level, so I've got a ways to go.  And, it's no professional map, but I still hope it'll make an impression.




Gaming paper

They have rolls of battlemat style paper.  They also do single sheets.  I've tried the roll myself and I think it's awesome.  I have not tried their singles selection.

The old D&D board game came with a big map.  On the other side was just one inch squares.  I got it laminated at kinkos, and used erasable markers to draw and keep track of things.  It was awesome and I still use it today.
Kinkos will laminate pretty much anything.  You can have them print a huge sheet of paper out with one inch squares and laminate it for you.  Same usefulness.  Though I suggest having it printed two sided so you can flip it over when needing more space.

Storage was easy too.  I got a cardboard tube, the kind you can get at any post office or kinkos.  Put it in there and fit the cap on.  Put the dice bag in the tube, pens, character sheets.  It all fit.
I'm running the 4E Halls of the Undermountain and deciding if I should provide the map and when the group faces encounters I can just use dungeon tiles, the map would serve as a point of reference.  Secret doors are shown on the map but maybe I can say it can only open on a d20 check roll (17 or higher).
I recently read and wanted to share this article, it reminded me of this thread: www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/184783/th...

it's pretty much some theory on how to build a Dungeon, video game style. Some tech talk, but nothing a clever DM can's sort out ;)
I am going to jump into this post as it is close to what I am doing. I am wanting to make some maps and such old school style but I am curious what is the proper spacing for the graph paper. I know it doesn't really matter, scale can be adjusted to suit the needs. But was trying to figure out what size graph paper was the 'official' size if that makes sense.
But was trying to figure out what size graph paper was the 'official' size if that makes sense.

There isn't one.

What I really, really suggest is getting some "pica" grid paper, which is ten squares per inch.  Also get some 1" grid easel pads.  Everything you'll ever need to do is easily fulfilled by one of those.

Both of those should be found at either OfficeMax or Office Depot.

The scale for 4th edition is 1 inch = 1 square = 5 ft, but for the most part that only matters if you're using minis or tokens that are scaled that way.
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