Mapping time

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I need maps. Scratch that, I need ideas for maps. Encounter maps, specifically.

I run my game using a projector shining onto a table, and for prepared encounters I always draw up a custom map beforehand. The problem comes when the players go off the rails and do something unexpected and I am left drawing maps with dry erase markers like a sucker.

This is a problem for several reasons:

  1. I can't draw maps by hand.

  2. It's pretty obvious that this wasn't an encounter I planned all along.

  3. Player: "Is that a... portal? Or a some sort of diabolical trap? Or... a fire?"       Me: "It's a tree."       Player: "Is the tree on fire?"       Me: "No."

  4. I like drawing maps for real.


"Legendary Teeth, that sounds horrible! How can I help?" you might ask.


"It is not, drawing maps is fun! Shut up! I hate you!" I would say.


"No no, the other stuff. About how you don't have enough maps... I'm sure it's lots of fun..."


"Ah... Right. Umm... sorry about that. Bit touchy, you understand. Maybe... you could give me some ideas for maps to draw?"


I want to build up a stock of pre-made maps so I can just whip them out like a pro when an unexpected fight comes up. If you suggest something and I like it, I'll draw it up and post it back here when I'm done. Natrually, you are free to use that map in their own campaign if you like.


Map specs


The maps I create are 1024x768 since that's the resolution of my projector, and 28x21 squares since that works out to each square being about 1 inch with my setup. If you suggest the map, and want a different resolution (either for a better projector, or to go and print yourself) let me know and I can hook you up. I can't really do different numbers of squares though.


You can see some examples of the sort of things I've been doing on my blog, Undercover Yeti, but let me show you something I haven't put up there yet:



I envision this as some sort of pit someone will get dumped/found in, or something a monster might be living at the bottom of for some reason. But I haven't used it yet, so who knows!


Maybe you do. I'm mostly looking for ideas for the maps themselves, but if you have thoughts on a cool encounter to go with it, I'm all ears. My party is heroic tier right now, so please no demi-gods. Unless they really suck.


Let's map it up!


Maps by me, maps for you: Undercover Yeti Follow me on Twitter: @PBernhardt
Are you asking to people to draw things for you?  I'm not sure what you are asking here.  If you are just looking for odd encounters, the search feature will get you tons.
It sounds like their comments are getting to you.  If you can't shrug it off, talk about it before or after the game.  I can't draw for crap either, and it never stopped me.
Are you asking to people to draw things for you? 


As far as I understood, not to draw but to give ideas. On topic, some of the more interesting places I have used or plan to use:


  • generic road ambush is better if it is Underdark, with 10-feet raised ledges and 5-foot deep pits all around, and half of these potential hiding places has archers in them. Spiders dropping from the ceiling on third round also spice things a bit.

  • stereotyped 'dark cult main chamber with Dark and Scary altar in the center', the altar was an area of living stone (immobilize or damage, every other round) with narrow (low Dex check to cross) bridges over it. 

  • guardian chamber of mud sorcerer's tomb. Rectangular hall with 2 lines of columns, the floor is an iron grate with water underneath , with small openings around the columns. It is guarded by several lesser mud elementals (60 feet speed in water, 30 feet climb speed), which can hide in murky waters, climb up the columns, either shoot or jump at PCs from there and sink back into the water through the grate

If you can scan stuff, take advantage of the huge number of premade maps out there to save yourself time and energy. Those can be your random maps while you draw all the primary ones for your game.
Hirou is correct, I am just looking for ideas, I can draw the maps myself. In 4th edition, you want to have interesting encounter areas, with lots of different elements that will provider cover, obstacles, choke points, and things to avoid/push monsters into. Makes things more interesting, and lets your players use all the forced movement powers they have.

Basically I don't want to draw a bunch of empty forests with rocks.

@Bohrdumb, I definitely have used other maps I've found, but I do actually enjoy building my own. And you can never have enough on hand.

@Hirou, those are good ideas. I think I might do something similar to the first one, although more set in a generic cave close to the surface than the Underdark (since it doesn't really exist in my campign). What I think really inspired me was that comment about bridges though. I'm seeing a rickety old bridge across a deep chasm. Maybe day, maybe night. Maybe stormy. Shaky, unstable. A blurr effect to show the ground is hundreds of feet below.. Hmmm...
Maps by me, maps for you: Undercover Yeti Follow me on Twitter: @PBernhardt
I'm seeing a rickety old bridge across a deep chasm. Maybe day, maybe night. Maybe stormy. Shaky, unstable. A blurr effect to show the ground is hundreds of feet below.. Hmmm...


Who approaches the Bridge of Death must answer me
these questions three, 'ere the other side he see...

If I may suggest... From testing, rope bridge is way too easy to defend (cut the rope, say bye-bye to flying party, worry about restoring the bridge later) and party is actually quite reluctant to step of it, seeing the danger. Apart from stealthy approach (have rogue sneak through the bridge and hold the other end for a round or two, until cavalry arrives) there's not much to do there.
My another half-done encounter template involves ~70 feet stone bridge which has 2x1 squares platform with cover in the middle (with some defenders), but is otherwise open and narrow (think Moria bridge from LotR, but with additional support and widening in the middle). The idea is to remind players of delayed actions and ability to drop down the initiative list to allow some heavy-armored fighters to go first and clear the middle, because it's impossible to go past someone standing on the narrow part of the bridge (without dropping him down). This needs some thinking done, but I think I conveyed the idea
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I need maps. Scratch that, I need ideas for maps. Encounter maps, specifically.

I run my game using a projector shining onto a table, and for prepared encounters I always draw up a custom map beforehand. The problem comes when the players go off the rails and do something unexpected and I am left drawing maps with dry erase markers like a sucker.

This is a problem for several reasons:

  1. I can't draw maps by hand.

  2. It's pretty obvious that this wasn't an encounter I planned all along.

  3. Player: "Is that a... portal? Or a some sort of diabolical trap? Or... a fire?"       Me: "It's a tree."       Player: "Is the tree on fire?"       Me: "No."

  4. I like drawing maps for real.


"Legendary Teeth, that sounds horrible! How can I help?" you might ask.


"It is not, drawing maps is fun! Shut up! I hate you!" I would say.


"No no, the other stuff. About how you don't have enough maps... I'm sure it's lots of fun..."


"Ah... Right. Umm... sorry about that. Bit touchy, you understand. Maybe... you could give me some ideas for maps to draw?"


I want to build up a stock of pre-made maps so I can just whip them out like a pro when an unexpected fight comes up. If you suggest something and I like it, I'll draw it up and post it back here when I'm done. Natrually, you are free to use that map in their own campaign if you like.


Map specs


The maps I create are 1024x768 since that's the resolution of my projector, and 28x21 squares since that works out to each square being about 1 inch with my setup. If you suggest the map, and want a different resolution (either for a better projector, or to go and print yourself) let me know and I can hook you up. I can't really do different numbers of squares though.


You can see some examples of the sort of things I've been doing on my blog, Undercover Yeti, but let me show you something I haven't put up there yet:



I envision this as some sort of pit someone will get dumped/found in, or something a monster might be living at the bottom of for some reason. But I haven't used it yet, so who knows!


Maybe you do. I'm mostly looking for ideas for the maps themselves, but if you have thoughts on a cool encounter to go with it, I'm all ears. My party is heroic tier right now, so please no demi-gods. Unless they really suck.


Let's map it up!



To keep my post simple, I'll just refer you to my blog post: Collaborative mapping. I think it was Centauri that gave me that good advice on handling the players who might want to take advantage of the system, if so thanks for the comment Centauri!
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@hirou - There definitely can be issues with a bridge, but I think they can be solved with the proper setup. Either some sort of time pressure so they can't go around, or an attack from behind so the idea is to get everyone across and then cut the bridge, or flying enemies or something. Anyway, I cut off a quick bridge map.

Day:


Night:


@chaosfang: My players don't have my cool mapping software
Maps by me, maps for you: Undercover Yeti Follow me on Twitter: @PBernhardt
The only thing I can think of that might help, is if you don't try to create complete maps, but create "tiles" which can be used in different configurations to make maps on the fly.

I don't know if the software you use supports multiple layers, as that would make it much easier to combine some tiles with a quick background sketch.

That's about the only thing I can think of.

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)

Legendary teeth - nice maps! You should head over to Cartographer's Guild (www.cartographersguild.com) where you will find lots of people making 4E maps - there's even a specific battlemaps forum. 
I would also recommend that when you are making maps, use a separate layer for map markers that is slightly transparent.

The map markers indicate what kind of terrain it is (i.e. difficult terrain, impossible terrain, cover, etc) such that you will never again get questions from your players as to "does that tree grant me cover?", "Can I ford this stream, etc."  All they need to do is look at the map markers.
@RogerWilco and Atua: I have definitely considered making some tiles. I probably will at some point. I use Campaign Cartographer 3, so doing layers is quite possible. I'm not sure it's less work than just answering the player's questions when they ask though. Plus, the maps don't look as pretty.

@Jackttannery: Thanks! I've been to the Cartographer's Guild before, but I somehow missed the battlemaps forum every time. I'll have to check that one out.

Maps by me, maps for you: Undercover Yeti Follow me on Twitter: @PBernhardt
@Jackttannery: Thanks! I've been to the Cartographer's Guild before, but I somehow missed the battlemaps forum every time. I'll have to check that one out.



Well, its actually a Work-In-Progress thread for battlemap creation (www.cartographersguild.com/virtual-table...) . Finished battlemaps are usually posted up in the Finished Maps section (but get lost amid all the world maps). Still, there are thousands of battlemaps suitable for 4E on those forums if you use your google-fu (learn how to use google to search WITHIN a particular site) and search around. 
@RogerWilco and Atua: I have definitely considered making some tiles. I probably will at some point. I use Campaign Cartographer 3, so doing layers is quite possible.


I've only used my beamer when we have complex maps, otherwise we use a plexiglass board with a grid underneath on which we use a combination of dungeon tiles and drawing with whiteboard markers. You could do the later with a graphics tool as well though, which is my original suggestion.

My more complex maps I've drawn in the GIMP, with one layer for the grid, one or more for fog of war, buildings, sewers, tree tops, roofs etc.

For example, below is a map of a kobold quarry and mines/cave system you can see the initial view, and then the tree layer, the cave layer and the layer on which I made marks as the story progressed. The original is 2000x2400 and 240 MB, so I only post this smaller version.
It's not really what you're asking for anyway, as this is exaclty not modular. I use it here purely to illustrate the use of layers.

Kobold Quarry and mines

5e should strongly stay away from "I don't like it, so you can't have it either."

 

I once asked the question (in D&D 3.5) "Does a Druid4/Wizard3/ArcaneHierophant1 have Wildshape?". Jesse Decker and Andy Collins: Yes and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Rich Redman and Ed Stark: No and the text is clear and can't be interpreted differently. Skip Williams: Lol, it's worded ambiguously and entirely not how I intended it. (Cust. Serv. Reference# 050815-000323)