1.11 Details on the Map Rewrite: 1


i fucking hate writing ...
Staff member
Details on the map
The map is a very powerful tool. As a resource, the map is almost always open in front of the GM, or at least a quick flip away. It's an exceptional reference tool for many types of adventures. But, its clear that it is also an underutilized resource. Most maps confine themselves to simply showing gross details and layout, with a basic room key number, "14" on each room. The map has special place in games though, it is the one thing that is almost always in front of the GM. As such it represents a terrific opportunity for presenting more information for the GM to reference during play.

The basics: some layout, a room key, some dimensions and a scale. "one square equals 10 feet" or some such. But there's so much more than can be leveraged with the map. Some adventures like to have a section in EVERY room description describing the light. Why not put that on the map instead, shading the areas for different light? Or put the noise radius, or listening radius on the map, showing what the monsters can hear or what the party can hear? For that matter, why not put room names on the map in addition to the numbers. “11” is pretty meaningless. “11. Throne Room" or "11. Throne Room of Ming” is likely to trigger some memories in the DM. Why even number some rooms? "Decrepit Bedroom" might be enough for the DM to run an empty room. Just noting a room as "Empty" can be an effective technique also. Water? How about depth shading, or a little arrow for current? Put a pool of water or a giant cauldron could liven up a fight.

Xastle Xentillan

Diogo Nogueira did an entry for the 2012 One Page Dungeon Contest called The Hidden Shrine. He’s put a rumor table on the map, he’s put a wandering monster table on the map … and the wanderers are even up to things! He’s also put same-level stairs on the map, alters, statues, streams with the current flow, rubble, chasms, sinkholes, rock formations and included a bit of a third dimension with the same level stairs and the passages passing over others. Those details add a lot to the usability of the DM, both as a logistical resource, with the rumor table and wandering monster table, and in helping the DM’s imagination. The dungeon features go mostly unmentioned in the text, so he’s adding details for the DM’s imagination without even needing to bore the DM with words.

Benoist Poire did a map for an adventure appearing in AFS Magazine #3, the Hyperborean Laboratory. It would be hard to miss his use of color and how it conveys information. Note also the many texture lines, noting elevation changes and even obstacles on the map. These are all extra challenges for the party, and advantages/disadvantages to be used in any encounters they have. This is a map on which you can have an adventure!

Back to Sham again. Take a look at his map for Spawning Grounds of the Crab-Men, from Fight On! magazine #3. Chasms, ledges, lots of details with holes in the floor over in room 39. Rubble and sinkholes. Pretty easy, eh!
In a 2011 post called “Dungeon Quarters” Gavin Norman described a bit of “Keying the Map on the Map” at his City of Iron blog. It’s just an example, but it shows what is possible and with a bit of imagination you can see how this would be a great tool to both jog a DM’s memory and provice additional resources to them.
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So ... slow work day? Every day?
I've been thinking about this lately. A colored map has so many advantages in options compared to a black and white map in my opinion. When I put a gray color or different colors of gray--it usually means water. My latest map, I figured out a way to incorporate light on the map, but it's a different type of environment and wouldn't work for my usual dungeon. Anyways, instead of a 'map', I've been thinking of it more as part of a DM screen--so lots of good ideas here, but I do think there is a limit before the map gets too cluttered and unusable.


8, 8, I forget what is for
Like the post you reference, I am becoming more inclined to at least label areas on the map.
Heck, they are even labels (and numbers) on the Hommlet map.