Thursday, 31 March 2016

Setting maps and infographics (or just map porn)

A Zac piece got me looking at maps and thinking about how maps help tell stories and suggest adventure. A good map Suggests places to check out. Springboards for adventure. Also good toys for the DM.

the above map looks pretty complete and you could have a few years in game time getting to know the place. I could see five or six sessions from this map easily. A instant sandbox.

Dunno where i stole it but i could just slap a few games here on they fly with tables and recycled stuff. I could run a game on the fly with tables and try to act to players curiosity. I could plant some canned adventures (PDF) off the net. Or steal something from a old fantasy novel or film (preferably something obscure. It might be fun for some players to know it (like happens in cthulhu constantly).

In my Psychon game I have been trying to run Anomalous Sub surface environment as a region on Psychon. I have basic setting notes but lost all dungeon stuff. Got maps and weird new monsters. Players really got into maps.

Players were getting over mt rendon after gate house and morlocks. Party argued if they should go back to that tower they killed a wizard at and a character stayed on to be the new wizard. Others said whats this livid fens and the strange lake and the ruins. I teased them there could be a paddle steamer casino wreck nearby from the ancients. But rumour that someone had seen the medstation doors open the morning after the mountain and they were off. Med station = drugs.So i made up a medical station complex kinda like you might find in fall out.

I hope to find my proper published adventure dungeon but players like it when i bullshit games on te fly and expect a fair amount of freedom. but all his comes from what a good map inspires.

looking at some good maps and ways of adding text and narrative with border art and features

i think most big settings try and offer you a world with lots of choices - in my history games people took a years to get from India to the pillars of Heracles - or from Greenland to Byzantium.

perhaps you don't really need to do whole world just on trade routes and focus locations. Or just major routes, cities and interesting locations. Two or three different scales add a lot to landscape.

I really like pictorial exaggeration of feature on maps. Size of the city equals importance. Whats that cave. Whats that ruin. Mutant epoch calls adventurers excavators and refer to archeology, not just looters. In a fanasy game you are often plundering tho remains of past wealth and hoping to find loot. If you good you might rather find that relic a guy in the pub said was there.

I like borders that are ornate an not just repeated. Realm of Chaos has the best ever. I kinda over the parchment look and find in long run harder to read and find stuff. I like clean textbook for some maps (like DM maps). And fancier for setting and player maps. I like old almanacs and vintage maps with info graphics in borders.

Mountain heights,
River lengths,
Towns by size
Heraldry borders
Pictures of important people
Pictures of haunted places
Pictures of lost relics
Crops and calender scenes
Industry and workers
Famous battles and soldiers kit
Local hats and dress - the wrong hat could got you killed for lots of history
Local animals on farm or wild

If i drew it it would all be adorable retarded octopi

Im thinking in future on Planet Psychon - players leave map hex and see bizarre unfinished terrain like leaving fallout map in a computer game when you mod game to leave the normal permitted play area. Vids on this on youtube. I did a barrier table for the edge of hexes on psychon that the gods use to keep people apart. Maybe a d100 weird hexes and some other weird places for psychon. Failed hexes, disaster or apocalypse hexes. Getting in mindset of tech and superheroics again after seeing Daredevil, BMvsSM and deadpull. And i liked them all.

Seamonsters and octopi and shipwrecks on a seam map are a must. Mysterious forests. Sinister plains. Suggesting a few tables too with Adjective+terrain. Narnia and Middle Earth are of course classics,

Historic maps can be stolen and re purposed. Sometimes the vagueness can be useful and give you more freedom. Give wild rumours of what distant people are like. Then make it nothing like that when you get there. Medieval people believed dogmen and the kingdom of prester john was somewhere on he way to china or india.

This Noah's Ark world map would be great for players. Pretty useless. Cities look good. Is that a dragon?

Id use this in a lost world or for serpent men citadel. (Monster Age I mention in my setting history inspired by zeb cooks forbidden city intro and clark ashton smith. Seven ruled each with a cohort/slave race. Seven rebel races ended them. This might make a good dugeon zone type.

This looks like a good ready made posh ruin

Some maps make you think of plans of attack,
or who lived here and what they did,

A pretty amazing city has a good amount of information for a lot of purposes.

Fortress inspired designs could be use for dungeons too. With magical fire blasting and flying fantasy things dungeons would be logical fortresses. Star shaped post castle fors of gunpowder era were prety amazing. Fireballs in place of cannons these shapes might be better than castle. Many have towns inside or cities.

Some places grow more organically like cells and might even follow old animal trails,

Its good if you find a settlement area or hotel map or deckplan that suits your needs. So much easier to just use stuff from online. I run old dnd clone games as gamer intro sessions and teach that there is a mountain of stuff online for free. Better than buying a hundred bucks of games if you only play a few times. Kids shoould be able to make this a frgal hobby not just adiction to cofeee table books.

Bury some ancient map from a historic culture presto a dungeon with cultural style

Spies SF Superheroes Post Apoc all have free public maps ans interesting locations

I might do again

I'm starting to sort comics collection and will sell some old stuff. Will get a new computer for travel then a scanner and start digitizing my 40 litres of old note books ans another pile of gamer notes going back to 80s so then will see that here.

Some nice links

nice lot of map tangents under this pic

Dont forget my flickr stuff and my tectonic dungeons


  1. I know this borders on heresy but why do we hide the maps from the players so often while playign RPGs?
    Sure in the good old days it was tricky to have multiple copies of the map but in this day and age it isn't all that difficult.
    Player eyes on a good map could drive adventures forward and let the players actually weigh choices instead of leaving them staring at a big empty sheet full of questions with no hints of an answer.

  2. i end up drawing crosroads and rooms which equivalent of crossroads anyhow

    player maps and dm maps good - i draw medieval or kids book style maps for adventurers i use hex maps for me

    i got a A1 lightbox which is good for tracing simpler maps for players

  3. Yep, you are right, maps really help tell stories and suggest adventure. It's like a new piece of information which we need to research. I think it's very interesting thing .


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