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View Full Version : Dungeon Maps in your game



Rahva
01-21-2009, 08:29 AM
I was curious to see how you guys n gals handle dungeon maps at your roleplaying sessions.

Do you show maps to your players?
Just for encounters?
For the entire dungeon?
If there are more rooms than they can see (secret rooms, rooms behind doors) do you trust your players not to metagame or do you cover the invisible areas somehow?

For me, I've used full dungeon maps only as a reference for myself, and battle/encounter maps I usually scribble on paper on the spot if players want to know where everything is (we kind of wing combat at our table).
But now that I'm getting into DD3 I'm making some maps that could actually be of use to my players, plus they aren't crappy enough for me to want to hide them.

Obviously if you game over the internet this is not really an issue, since FantasyGrounds can mask whatever area of the map you want, and I'm sure similar applications have a similar feature. For actual physical tabletop gaming though, I'm at a loss. The only solutions I can come up with involve a) a truckload of Post-Its and/or b) a lot of duct tape.

So how do you handle this?

Hoel
01-21-2009, 08:46 AM
I'm turning more and more to minis for my irl gaming. My gaming club has a huge supply of terrain, buildings and even dungeon parts (those printet-folded-paper-things).
I GM a sci-fi campaign where we use 6mm minis on warhammer tables. The players can't see the table all the time (everyone takes their turn on the table) and the maps are used as reference. Most of my players have military experience so the combat chatter over radio and between players are intense and very in character.

Greason Wolfe
01-21-2009, 11:49 AM
Oh man, it's been a long time since I've table-topped, but back in the good old days when I did play/GM at the table, we used to use a "battle mat." I don't remember what they were actually called but they came in various scales with both hex and square grids on a light brown cloth/vinyl background. You could get them at pretty much any gaming supply store and could use dry-erase markers on them as long as you didn't let the ink set there too long.

I wouldn't map things out for the players in detail, but when they needed the limits of the encounter space, it came in handy both for drawing and as a means of measuring distances for the miniatures that we used.

As for myself, I drew out fairly detailed maps for my own reference and often typed/printed up a detailed description of potential encounters/inhabitants and other assorted information. These, I usually kept in a notebook of some sort or, at a minimum, filed away.

GW

Sigurd
01-21-2009, 02:10 PM
I play online with a program called Fantasy Grounds. My players actually move tokens ontop of the maps on their screen and I can see where they move and what they role. We have an open chatlog and often a skype call going.


I play with a friend from High School, even though we're in different cities. Our games are 3-4 hours which wouldn't cover the travel time between us one way.

There is very little reactive automation. Virtual dice and role playing rules work just like the face to face real thing. It has its challenges but I get to play with people I miss and I don't go out in the nasty cold.

Next game I'll take a screenshot to share, or you can go to the website for the program. http://forums.fantasygrounds.com/home/

I'm not affiliated with them at all but I do like thier system. The biggest challenge is that you burn through maps and its really nice to have good ones. :)

jfrazierjr
01-21-2009, 03:03 PM
Myself, Torstan, RPMiller, GamePrinter, as well as many others who lurk here use Maptool for online gaming(and sometime face to face also.) Although some of the features are built with D&D in mind, it is easily generic enough to play any style of RPG game.

fink
01-22-2009, 04:09 AM
I use maptools as well. It is flexible enough to work over the internet or via projector if everyone is at the table. We use it at the table with a projector every session for both battle and overview type mats. Tokens can be user or GM created and controlled. It has its warts, but overall it works quite well.

Rahva
01-22-2009, 05:09 AM
Roleplaying by projector :D That's pretty awesome.

Midgardsormr
01-22-2009, 12:06 PM
I run an HDMI cable from my wife's laptop to our HDTV and use Maptool. Maybe not quite as cool as a projector, since we can't place physical minis on the table, but I think it works.

I am considering setting it up so that my desktop runs the GM instance so that one of the players can be responsible for moving the PC tokens around on the laptop. It gets a little bit cumbersome to be moving everything around myself, and I like to give bookkeeping jobs to the players to keep them a little bit more engaged when it isn't their turn.

Morkhdull
01-23-2009, 09:45 AM
I use map only for city and country.

Years ago, I also used dundjinni for the dungeons maps... The whole map was placed under a plexiglasssheet and convered by shhets of paper to be removed when character entered a zone.

The plexiglass layer prevent from soda and hamburgers patches :P

We played that ways for years...

But it lacks something : Verticality.

So 2BE3. Since march last year, I cast plaster bricks and build 3D modular dungeons...

As you can see, the 3D setting add some dimension to the encounters.

Enjoy :)

Steel General
01-23-2009, 05:48 PM
Very cool Morkhdull!

Ascension
01-23-2009, 06:11 PM
Yeah, that is pretty cool. Looks like a huge time killer but if it's worth it or if it's fun then it's all good.

Nebulous
01-28-2009, 01:52 PM
I desperately want to buy some Dwarven Forge, but the cost is just too high for me to justify the use. Maybe one day. I typically use printed maps taped together.

Here's the one i did for Shadowfell Keep:

http://www.zikadik.com/images/keep1.jpg


Here's one i put together recently for a big aboleth encounter:

http://www.zikadik.com/images/abo1.jpg

One thing i've been using extensively recently, starting with Shadowfell, is mapping out an entire complex on huge posterboard for the players. It gives them an excellent sense of place, rather than having a little map scribbled on notebook paper.

http://www.zikadik.com/silverymoon/shar2.jpg

Gandwarf
01-28-2009, 02:17 PM
Hehe... time consuming indeed.
This is why I started playing Descent :D
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/100699

It's a boardgame version of D&D basically. Even D&D players love it, but it's not for everyone of course. There's several expansions and one called "The Road to Legend" bringing campaigns to the campaign (which could span 100+ hours).

Nebulous
01-28-2009, 02:29 PM
Hehe... time consuming indeed.
This is why I started playing Descent :D
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/image/100699

It's a boardgame version of D&D basically. Even D&D players love it, but it's not for everyone of course. There's several expansions and one called "The Road to Legend" bringing campaigns to the campaign (which could span 100+ hours).

Indeed, i've played my fair share of Descent long before 4e rolled around.

Tiles look familiar? This is from the same campaign as the aboleth one above.

http://www.zikadik.com/images/ambush.jpg

I liked Descent well enough (and the tiles and monsters are top notch, and i've plundered the tokens too) but the game itself was too slow. For our tastes, 4e does everything Descent did and does it better and faster. They both have some strong similarities though. If the Road to Legend or future expansions have cool tiles and monsters, i'll grab those too.

Gandwarf
01-28-2009, 02:42 PM
I saw you were a Descent player as you used the Descent doors in earlier photos.
Descent base game was really slow and not a lot like D&D. The Road to Legend expansion is a lot better and dungeons can be played very quickly. The other two expansions have added a ton of monsters and cards. Be sure to check it out... it's really my favorite boardgame. I have even won over a few 4E players :)

Nebulous
01-28-2009, 03:13 PM
Be sure to check it out... it's really my favorite boardgame. I have even won over a few 4E players :)

I might do that. Right now Arkham Horror and its gazillion expansions has my love as best board game ever, and it's hard to juggle so many good games with so little time.

Rahva
01-28-2009, 04:04 PM
Arkham Horror hell yeah :)
Nebulous, when you have the huge paper maps for your players, like the Keep, and they haven't discovered an area yet, how do you cover it?

Nebulous
01-28-2009, 04:29 PM
Arkham Horror hell yeah :)
Nebulous, when you have the huge paper maps for your players, like the Keep, and they haven't discovered an area yet, how do you cover it?

I keep large and small sheets of black construction paper around and just cover them up. Sometimes the full maps are in "chunks" and i just fit them together as they come across new areas. I'll say "Ok, guys, look away for a sec," i'll load the map on the table, cover the areas with black paper, and i'm done. Takes about 10 seconds. But it takes a bit of prep, having your maps handy, and knowing exactly what you want covered up.

Redrobes
01-28-2009, 05:06 PM
As another VTT app author it would be silly of me to suggest anything other than using my app. I mean, I wrote it to do exactly what I wanted the way I would want an app to do it. If I GM then I make it with the app naturally but sometimes I get to play and then its really down to the GM too and what needs mapping. I usually still use my app but its a lot more approximate and rough as it has to be done live. If I GM I put the map on a big TV behind me and if I am playing then I use my laptop and show the players in our party huddle.

A long time ago we used to have this large sheet of chipboard veneered white (melomane plastic ?) and we drew a grid on it for 5ft squares and then sticky plastic coated that. Then use dry erase markers and miniatures on top. Whilst that is absolutely the quickest way to map, its rough and you lose it after its wiped whether thats for the next session or you just want to keep your old maps. Another issue is that you would like to draw the room from the corridor on the map glued to that corridor but with limited chipboard you have to erase the corridor and then put a new one on it at the edge and then put the room on. Using the live app mapping you at least keep the map for the future like this one below where we were in some Egyptian pyramid kind of tomb thing.

The GM used to call out 5ft north, 20ft east, east door, 10ft east, 20ft north etc but now he has to say something like 30x20ft room with 10x10 alcove on the east wall, door on north wall far east. Or something like that because you have to grab blocks of floor and patch the rooms together instead of specifying the outline.

In my app the map is not one large bitmap but is made up of lots of bits of map. Those bits can be simple sections or groupings of lots of tokens which might make up a whole room for example. So I dont use fog of war like most apps, you might put down a corridor with all the doors closed then when the party open one you get that room and put it down like a print template thing. So secret doors don't exist on the map even under any kind of fog of war till the players find it then you pop it down. I might use some black fog of war icons to mask bits of the template that they haven't seen yet tho.

On the chipboard we used real lead minis. On the PC we use top down tokens. People like the tactile nature of real minis but players used to continuously pick them up and move them when the GM was paying attention to somewhere else like "I'm heading over here" out of turn. So having GM control the tokens or specifically granting access to move them stops that nonsense. I write a dice app too but I still like my real dice even though they roll onto the floor and go under the bookcase... Oh and as a player I like real paper character sheets but as a GM I keep duplicate virtual ones which I update and reprint for them now and again (wipe that incoherent scrawl and doodles off them). I still like to play the pen and paper style game. I don't like the computer calculating all the damage, adjusting stuff for me etc. Might as well let a bunch of laptops play the game and go off and do something else. :D

Showing height has always been a problem in both real minis and VTT versions tho. Was hoping to see RPMillers post about the chap using polystyrene blocks under the projector - that sounds like an excellent strategy. We used to pop our mini on a D6 and put another D6 next to it with the height in 10's of feet on the die. Any more than 60 ft and your pretty stuffed if you fall.

Well thats a little RR insight and history from my ole times.

Gandwarf
01-28-2009, 05:54 PM
I might do that. Right now Arkham Horror and its gazillion expansions has my love as best board game ever, and it's hard to juggle so many good games with so little time.

Yes, Arkham Horror is very cool as well. I own a lot of Fantasy Flight Games products. And I mean a *lot* :D I need a bigger house to store all my games.

I have been playing Battlestar Galactica lately and that game is pure evil fun. It's so funny to play a game where everyone seems to be working towards a common goal, but some are actually traitors.

Nebulous
01-29-2009, 08:59 AM
Yes, Arkham Horror is very cool as well. I own a lot of Fantasy Flight Games products. And I mean a *lot* :D I need a bigger house to store all my games.

I have been playing Battlestar Galactica lately and that game is pure evil fun. It's so funny to play a game where everyone seems to be working towards a common goal, but some are actually traitors.

Fantasy Flight is amazing. I have Game of Thrones but haven't even played it yet. I can't actually afford to buy all the great games they have, much less find time or people to play them, unless i went to game conventions on a weekly basis!

Nebulous
01-29-2009, 09:00 AM
FF also made the Midnight d20 game setting, which is still one of my favorites from the 3e era. Just a gorgeous, gorgeous book, and fun to read.

Morkhdull
01-29-2009, 10:44 AM
Well... All of these paper walls remember me that I build a mix between Dwarven Forge and 2D maps... Talk you about that soon ;)... Just let me say "matchboxes are about one inch"

jfrazierjr
01-29-2009, 11:45 AM
I don't like the computer calculating all the damage, adjusting stuff for me etc. Might as well let a bunch of laptops play the game and go off and do something else. :D

I can understand that for the most part, but for me, it's a matter of time. I will be starting a new 4E campaign with my FtF group I play with in March. I plan to use Maptool and some people will be using their computer and others will not, so I will plug up to an external monitor to show them the board and have one of the players with computers to do the moving for those that don't.

As for calculating stuff, I just just want to save time. In the other campaign I play in (3.5 using Elements of Magic ruleset around 8th level average), we typically spend 2+ hours on combat lasting roughly 5-8 rounds on average, and since we only play for 5 hours once month(if that), we hardly get anything done. 4E helps to simplify this to some degree, but we have a few players who are not really "fast" with making up their minds on what they are going to do, so I plan to implement a round timer, just like in Chess... I am thinking 30 seconds per player, plus another 15 seconds if you spend an action point to do something else, and thats total time including all dice rolls. Granted, there will be a few special situations where information needs to be clarified that I will have to rule on a case by case basis, but for the most part, if you can't complete your action in 30 seconds, you character is indesicive and loses out.

On a side note when 4E came first came out, we had another of our players take a turn a GMing our session for a 4E one shot. I had used another of rptools utilities for dice rolling that allows for setting up named buttons with saved formulas for my most used actions. I paid VERY close attention to the time it took me compared to others and while everyone had various different average times, my use of a computer tool undercut everyone elses time drastically.


I move here.
I attack foo and bar with Twin Strike<click>
I rolled "x" on foo and "y" on bar and if hit, foo takes "a" damage and bar takes "b" damage.
I am done.


my average time to complete my entire turn was 10 seconds. Everyone else averaged 30+ seconds, with many players taking 1+ minutes to complete some actions (yes, everyone was new to 4E and may not have been as well prepared as me in terms of knowing their character, but in 3.5 at least, that did not seem to make much of a difference). Also, on a side note, we are all pretty smart, but no math wiz's here.... Using Elements of magic rules, we typically roll 6d6, 7d6, 8d6 and once in a while 9d6 for a few characters who are the highest level close to every players turn. I kind of have to do the math to add up each die and that takes a few seconds, so having a dice tool do the rolling and totalling for me can shave drastic combat time off when aggregated over a session. With that said, I will allow the people who don't use a computer to roll dice manually, but they will still be limited to 30 seconds for their round and as GM, I plan to have all the monster's rolls calculated as well as copies of the players character sheet to do the comparisons to the defense and have damage calculated, but I won't apply the damage to the players token property since there are things that a player can do (Halflings luck, certain item powers) that may negate the damage or require another attack roll....

jfrazierjr
01-29-2009, 11:49 AM
some cool stuff......


some incredible stuff!!!!

Thanks for sharing. I loved seeing both. Morkhdull, that is an incredible way to play and I would love to play with a GM who did stuff like that, but for me as GM, it's to time intensive just to do the set up stuff, not to mention the prep work involved. Would be great for something like a Con though where people don't have as strict time commitments.

Lwaxana
01-30-2009, 05:07 PM
I don't need to worry about godmode issues so I usually show the maps parts which are on the same piece of paper.

Sagenlicht
01-30-2009, 05:57 PM
I was curious to see how you guys n gals handle dungeon maps at your roleplaying sessions.

Do you show maps to your players?
Just for encounters?
For the entire dungeon?
If there are more rooms than they can see (secret rooms, rooms behind doors) do you trust your players not to metagame or do you cover the invisible areas somehow?

For me, I've used full dungeon maps only as a reference for myself, and battle/encounter maps I usually scribble on paper on the spot if players want to know where everything is (we kind of wing combat at our table).
But now that I'm getting into DD3 I'm making some maps that could actually be of use to my players, plus they aren't crappy enough for me to want to hide them.

Obviously if you game over the internet this is not really an issue, since FantasyGrounds can mask whatever area of the map you want, and I'm sure similar applications have a similar feature. For actual physical tabletop gaming though, I'm at a loss. The only solutions I can come up with involve a) a truckload of Post-Its and/or b) a lot of duct tape.

So how do you handle this?

Actually Rahva I am having the same issues as you have. I usually prepare battle plans for encounters (if outside) and floor plans for the dungeons. I usually do this in DIN A2 to cover one complete dungeon floor, which means I need some paper sheets to hide not entered dungeon parts. Imo this is an atmosphere killer but I havent found a better solution yet. I am considering to switch to an VTT and a beamer but I am not sure about this yet...

ravells
01-30-2009, 06:01 PM
Ah do it the old fashion way! Describe in words and get the players to map it!

Sagenlicht
01-31-2009, 05:41 AM
Hehe ravs we used to do it that way... once I started with the maps they didnt want to go back to that old school style :)

Kihmbar
01-31-2009, 02:31 PM
In response to the OP, my group typically plays on the maps (like a board game) but we don't usually see maps until there is a need for the players/characters to have spatial awareness. At first we used a dry-erase board and just drew the maps, by hand, on the board whenever it was needed. Then we got some Star Wars minis (we play Star Wars RPG) and we used the minis for figures on the dry-erase board. We found someone who made transparent dry-erase sheets with a 1" hexgrid and got one of those to have a sense of scale. [I'll have to look up where I got it if someone is interested, it was 5-6 years ago. When the WotC SW minis came out, we picked some of those up (and the maps that came with them). We put the dry-erase grid on top of the SW minis map and the GM could then modify the SW minis map (e.g. "there is a wall here instead of a door") so that each map is a little different. The dry-erase grid would also protect the SW minis map, similar to the use for plexiglass that Morkhdull mentioned. Now we use maps with the dry-erase grid on top of it. There is a "blank" SW minis map if the GM does want to draw their own map like we did at first.

RobA
01-31-2009, 02:46 PM
I have worked with printed battlemaps before (for interior gameplay) and have often used post-it notes to cover the hidden areas.

I found something I want to try next game I DM (depending on the price...)

http://www.3m.com/intl/ca/english/centres/office/postit/digital/sticky_paper_features.html

Post-it paper in 8.5x11 sheets! I figure I can print each room on a sheet and stick them down as they go into them... And for things like hidden doors and traps I can just have those printed out as separate overlays to stick on top as they are discovered!

-Rob A>