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Good Maps Make for Good Adventures

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nothing ruins a session of Pathfinder RPG more than a badly drawn map. You sit in your chair, your character sheet and dice firmly in hand, and stare at the crudely drawn map the GM sketched on the mat, struggling to discern exactly what those squiggles on the board are supposed to be.

"So, where's the door?" you ask and the GM points to a series of more complicated squiggles in the mass of squiggles. You put your mini down on the map and your GM sighs and says something like, "That's not even a room," and moves your mini over a few squares—like you could even see a room in the spaghetti shapes spattered on the mat.

Good maps make for good adventures. A bad map, whether it's drawn on a mat by your GM or published in a printed adventure, can ruin everything. If you can't tell where anything is supposed to be or what those squares, lines, tags, squiggles, or eraser marks are supposed to represent, it's going to be awfully difficult to explain them to your players—or, heck, to even figure them out for yourself. Pathfinder RPG, like its predecessor, is a game wherein eventually minis come out, get placed on 5-foot squares, and action happens. That action can either happen in a lavishly detailed temple of Cayden Cailean, or it can happen on a board that looks like a cross between a blood stain and a chalk board full of combinatory mathematics.

I have a handful of authors for the Pathfinder Society scenarios who turn over absolutely amazing maps with every adventure—sometimes these maps are so good I question why we're sending them to a professional cartographer to, essentially, just be colored. Tim Hitchcock is easily my best author-turned-map artist. The sample map below was his turnover for the temple of Cayden Cailean in Absalom for Pathfinder Society Scenario #40: The Hall of Drunken Heroes. As soon as I opened that image I knew exactly what the hall looked like, where everything was, how to get in and out, and where every set of stairs, every door, and every window was. In my art order to Mike Schley, the Pathfinder Society cartographer (and an amazing artist), I simply said, "Awesome author turnover—follow his lead."

Turnover by Tim Hitchcock

I wish I could say it was always like that. I wish I could say every turnover we receive at Paizo is art and requires no extra work on the part of the developers. I wish I could say every turnover had a one-line art order to the cartographer like mine above. Unfortunately, we receive a lot of really bad maps. That's not to say we have a lot of really bad designers or anything—far from it. It's more to say that perhaps we haven't emphasized enough what a gargantuan pain in the tail slap a bad map turnover is. Let's say you're designing a small 5,000-person city for us. Your map turnover comes in with 5 box shapes, a circle, and a few smudges. Now, we can read through your text and pull out all of the relevant tags and information about the city and add those to the map (which we'd rather not do, mind you) but, in the end, we're going to have to redraw that map ourselves—which is time we should be spending making the adventure or city write-up better, rather than fixing the turnover.

A good map, like Tim's, tells us immediately everything we need to know about the location. I don't have to redraw his map and I don't have to send a novel with the map order that includes tags and descriptions for every room so the cartographer can get the map right. Were we to send our cartographers the bad map example from above, without also sending along the entire article that goes with it, we'd get back a nicely drawn, full-color drawing of 5 box shapes, a circle, and a few smudges. Our cartographers are awesome, but their base for quality is only as good as the hand-drawn map they receive. A cartographer should be able to open the author's map and immediately get to work turning a good map into a great map rather than reading a wall of text and then turning a terrible map into a mediocre map.

A lesson for all of you would-be future Paizo authors and current Paizo freelancers: a map turnover can make or break your submission. When you're done drawing it, look it over with a careful, discerning, player-focused eye. If you drew that map for your table of players, would they have any idea what it was on first glance or would they, like the first example, put their mini in the wrong place when combat started? Your map doesn't have to be a work of art—it just has to be interpretable so our artists can make it one.

Joshua J. Frost
Events Manager

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Cayden Cailean Maps Pathfinder Society Tim Hitchcock
Sovereign Court

Damn, Hitchcock draws really kickass maps...

The Exchange *****

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Callous Jack wrote:
Damn, Hitchcock draws really kickass maps...

I think he just spends a lot of time in bars.


I'm just awed. Really. I wouldn't know where to start. Could Tim or some other enlightened individual give us some tips on map drawing? That would be awesome, and an excelent topic for a post.

Javier


That is a really awesome-looking map. Kudos to Tim and thanks to Joshua for taking the time to show it and talk about it.

Grand Lodge ***

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Well I agree with the Blog 100%. Should the use of Piazo flip mats be incouraged?

**

Herald wrote:
Well I agree with the Blog 100%. Should the use of Piazo flip mats be incouraged?

Absolutely!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Mr. Frost, I think James Jacobs knows of an "ok map designer", maybe you'd like to give him a nudge :P

**

We talk about that OK map designer plenty and, for the record, he's an awesome map designer and not just "ok." :-)

Liberty's Edge

A suggestion to map designers - hand your map to one of your players or a fellow GM, and ask them if they understand it. Tell them to point out features important to the adventure ("Where's the south entrance? Where's the hidden trapdoor? Where are the wall sconces?").

If you notice them hesitate over anything, that's something you need to fix. If they ask "What's this?" that's something you need to label or clarify.

Just like technology, adventures should be peer-tested for usability :)

Scarab Sages ***

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Jagyr Ebonwood wrote:

A suggestion to map designers - hand your map to one of your players or a fellow GM, and ask them if they understand it. Tell them to point out features important to the adventure ("Where's the south entrance? Where's the hidden trapdoor? Where are the wall sconces?").

If you notice them hesitate over anything, that's something you need to fix. If they ask "What's this?" that's something you need to label or clarify.

Just like technology, adventures should be peer-tested for usability :)

wow, what a great and simple idea! I'll have remember that when I submit again. And I thought my grided map on paint (but with NO detail at all) was decent enough. I guess I'll have to hand draw next time and put in the details. Appreciate the heads up, Josh.

Paizo Employee ** Developer

William Sinclair wrote:
And I thought my grided map on paint (but with NO detail at all) was decent enough.

I thought the same thing...on my actual turnover. When I later worked with Tim on my second scenario, and saw the map he put together, I was both shamed and humbled. Needless to say, I will spend much more time on my next map(s) and invest in a scanner so that I can more easily convert hand-drawn maps into digital format.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Here's another way to look at it.

If you write 2,000 words a day (a good average number for productivity over several days), that means you basically take 20 days to write something about the size of a 32 page module.

If you take 20 days to write an adventure, it doesn't make sense to build all the maps for it in one or two hours. Adventure designers should put the same amount of effort into their maps as they do to their words. This doesn't mean you should take 20 days to draw your maps, of course... but it does mean that if you treat your maps like an afterthought, chances are good that the editors will as well. And since the look of a map has a pretty huge impact on first impressions... you don't want to lead with an afterthought is all.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

I owe this one to Noel,
He invited me over to his penthouse for cocktails with hot chicks. I always draw better when there's hot chicks around.

But seriously. I like to draw maps first (and tweak them as I go along), It really helps organizing your thoughts for an adventure to have a visual cue. Having an idea of how everything is going to look helps you describe things better and may inspire certain tactics that you might not have considered.

The other inspiration is to have Wes scold you in an e-mail for sending him a crappy color computerized map. I got one of those, and for fear of never being able to write another adventure again, I quickly dug out a pencil, some ink, and a scanner.
Pencil first.
Then write,
make changes in pencil
then write,
then make more changes in pencil
etc.
When you're done. then Ink.
Erase the pencil,
scan
Add text in pencil- check it against your manuscript,
then digitally overlay the Text and Location Number in a program like Photoshop.

Silver Crusade Dedicated Voter 2013, Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

Great advice. When building an adventure for my players when I sit down to work on the initial inspiration I usually sketch out a map and start from there. I love drawing maps as much as i love writing adventures. Plus maps are fun and the most reusable part of any adventure. File off the serial numbers, throw some different monsters in there and redecorate, You've got a whole new adventure.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Hey Tim Kudos on the map skills. It looks great!

Sczarni *** Venture-Lieutenant, Connecticut—Manchester aka Cpt_kirstov

yoda8myhead wrote:
William Sinclair wrote:
And I thought my grided map on paint (but with NO detail at all) was decent enough.
I thought the same thing...on my actual turnover. When I later worked with Tim on my second scenario, and saw the map he put together, I was both shamed and humbled. Needless to say, I will spend much more time on my next map(s) and invest in a scanner so that I can more easily convert hand-drawn maps into digital format.

Yoda, not sure what OS you're using, but if it's XP or earlier, I can donate an extra scanner I have to the yoda-writing cause... it isn't vista compatable though

Paizo Employee ** Developer

Cpt_kirstov wrote:
Yoda, not sure what OS you're using, but if it's XP or earlier, I can donate an extra scanner I have to the yoda-writing cause... it isn't vista compatable though

Wow, thanks! I'll take this discussion off-board so we don't clutter stuff up.

Contributor

Tim, you're making me look horrible. And Sean scolded me by proxy by emailing me a link to this blog.

*fist of rage and envy over your map skills*


- Maps are the first thing I check on a new product. If the map fires me up, I'm likely to buy the product without even reading anything else. Does it look good? Can I obviously reuse it or expand it beyond the product's parameters? (Guildsport, from Dungeon's "Maps of Mystery" sold that issue to me off the rack, hands down.)

- It's wonderful to see Tim sharing his process! It is also reassuring to see my own meager efforts are following the same path as one of the masters. I'm a visual writer and always assumed maps started as the settings start and grew as the setting grew.

- Peer-review: it's not just for scientific journals! I'm working on a product designed for DMs, so I'm going to send it to some DMs I respect to find out if I hit my mark of easy usability.

I grew up on maps, literally, and can easily mentally overlay a map onto the reality around me. Or I can place myself on a map and "see" it in my mind's eye. The better the map, the easier I can achieve this. The easier I can achieve it, the better I can do my job as a DM in making the setting come alive for my players.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Doc_Outlands wrote:
- Maps are the first thing I check on a new product. If the map fires me up, I'm likely to buy the product without even reading anything else. Does it look good? Can I obviously reuse it or expand it beyond the product's parameters?

And to be honest, maps are often the first thing I look at when I get in a new submission or manuscript for an adventure. It's VERY important to craft a map that's interesting for an adventure... I'm not necessarily saying "artistic," but I am saying "not boring." I suspect that I've rejected hundreds of manuscripts during my Dungeon Magazine days based on poor maps alone, in fact.

Great writing can often (and usually) saves a project from being rejected if the maps are ugly or cluttered or illegible or boring... but that just means that, often as not, I end up redrawing all of the maps (as a general rule, this seems to happen twice an Adventure Path, as much as I try to avoid it). So even if the adventure gets published, ugly/sloppy/boring maps still aggravate and anger the editors...

So yeah. Best to make your maps neat!

Scarab Sages

Joshua J. Frost wrote:
Pathfinder RPG, like its predecessor, is a game wherein eventually minis come out, get placed on 5-foot squares...

Auugh...I'm melting!...What a world! What a world!

(Which is not to say map-n-minis is not good for your group--cause--you know, there's nothing wrong with that.)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

One peeve that pops up for me with maps is when they seriously disagree with the text description. This seems to be most common with city maps, (sometimes having a 'just outside town' market involving walking half-way around the city to reach a gate). However, it does happen with location maps as well.

So please, before submitting make sure your map and your text are both describing the same thing.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Rick Pikul wrote:

One peeve that pops up for me with maps is when they seriously disagree with the text description. This seems to be most common with city maps, (sometimes having a 'just outside town' market involving walking half-way around the city to reach a gate). However, it does happen with location maps as well.

So please, before submitting make sure your map and your text are both describing the same thing.

This almost ALWAYS has its genesis in a poor author map turnover, and is a great example as to why it's so very important to make your map turnovers legible, crisp, and readable. If the cartographer can't decipher a bunch of scribbles, chances are good that he'll create shapes that aren't the same as the ones you envisioned while writing, and often, since the final maps come in very close to the ship to printer date, we don't always have time to double check every bit of text against every map feature. We do our best, of course, but for the most complex of all maps (cities), this problem is VERY common. And very frustrating.

Scarab Sages

My two cents...

For my hand drawn maps in home campaigns I've always taken elements I liked from other maps and incorporated them into my own. I don't imply here plagiarism in any way. What I mean here is if you like how a map rendered stairs, draw your stairs that way. If their walls are drawn in an eye catching way draw your walls that way. The little details are what make those maps really spring to life.

In Tim's example above notice the little things he took the time to do. The curtain is a wavy line rather than straight, he added lots of little barrels around the walls of his cellar, many of the exterior walls are not just double lines but have interspersed 'character' lines adding more flavor, nearly all items on the floors (tables, chairs, barrels, etc) have shading rather than just boxes, circles and lines. All these aspects are features that pop those maps from just lines on paper to life-like representations needing little or no explanation once the eye takes them in.

That's my (as yet unpublished) opinion. We welcome yours...

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I actually find the Pathfinder maps an over-complicated pain. In some big dungeons and so on, where the locality is the "point" of the adventure, I can understand it. But or many others, they can be very unnecessarily difficult to deal with, especially if it is for a single encounter. I DM Runelords in PbP and a big problem is describing the locality, setting down unambiguous positions and so on in the complex maps we are provided. Even if I wasn't PbP'ing, I would have to draw it out on a battlemap and it is still complicated for someone who is not artistic and very uncoordinated.

The above map would be a nightmare: it's round, and somer of the straight bits don't match up with the actual grid. Sure, it's pretty, but I just get irritated by the way it is so user-unfriendly. WotC (gasp!) worked out that what you need is something you can draw easily and doesn't cause placing problems, complications as to whether you can actually stand on a particular space, and so on. If you want to give the impression of what a place looks like, please draw a picture instead - please keep the maps simple. Players really don't care - they aren't reading the module (or shouldn't be) and most of the detail will be lost on them anyway while they are killing the bad guys.

Dark Archive

Aubrey the Malformed wrote:

I actually find the Pathfinder maps an over-complicated pain. In some big dungeons and so on, where the locality is the "point" of the adventure, I can understand it. But or many others, they can be very unnecessarily difficult to deal with, especially if it is for a single encounter. I DM Runelords in PbP and a big problem is describing the locality, setting down unambiguous positions and so on in the complex maps we are provided. Even if I wasn't PbP'ing, I would have to draw it out on a battlemap and it is still complicated for someone who is not artistic and very uncoordinated.

The above map would be a nightmare: it's round, and somer of the straight bits don't match up with the actual grid. Sure, it's pretty, but I just get irritated by the way it is so user-unfriendly. WotC (gasp!) worked out that what you need is something you can draw easily and doesn't cause placing problems, complications as to whether you can actually stand on a particular space, and so on. If you want to give the impression of what a place looks like, please draw a picture instead - please keep the maps simple. Players really don't care - they aren't reading the module (or shouldn't be) and most of the detail will be lost on them anyway while they are killing the bad guys.

I totally disagree with you; everyone in my group cares about it. Maybe we've been originally spoiled with such modules as 'Temple of Elemental Evil', Dungeon adventures by Willie Walsh or numerous "romps" through 'Undermountain', but the fact is that we love "complicated" maps. If I tried running something like 'Keep on the Shadowfell' or 'Kobold Hall', there would be talk about me not bothering invest some time in the maps. Placing problems or not. Likewise with illustration/picture that didn't match the map.

Maybe my group is an "anomaly" among gamers, but attention to names, details and aesthetic maps is an important part of the hobby for us.

RPG Superstar 2009 Top 16, 2012 Top 32 , Marathon Voter 2013, Marathon Voter 2014, Star Voter 2015

Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
Some good points about the usability of maps.

I was mentioning something similar in another map-related thread. Namely, the players only get to see what the GM is able to draw on the battlemap. If the map in the adventure is so complex the GM ends up handwaving most of it at the table, the fact that it looks pretty on the page is only relevant to the GM. The other 80% of the gaming group will never see that version of the map.

Scarab Sages

Epic Meepo wrote:
Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
Some good points about the usability of maps.
I was mentioning something similar in another map-related thread. Namely, the players only get to see what the GM is able to draw on the battlemap. If the map in the adventure is so complex the GM ends up handwaving most of it at the table, the fact that it looks pretty on the page is only relevant to the GM. The other 80% of the gaming group will never see that version of the map.

As Game Masters, of any system, it's our job to render the world to our players. The medium we collective use to do this is unique to each GM. Some GM's are excellent wordsmiths and lay out the backdrop, sights and sounds, and feel of the setting via descriptions. Others are more artistically inclined and give more visual cues. For other GM's and their groups, the hack and slash blood and gore is the thing.

Whatever tools you use and have in your GM bag is distinctly unique though as I said. A canned module must, by definition provide as much useful information packed into as little print space and paper as possible. The flip side to that is a canned module cannot, also by definition, provide everything every GM needs. Well drawn maps allow GM's to add their own little spice based on how they run a game. Take what you need/want and ditch the rest.

Again, my opinion. We welcome yours...

Dark Archive

Epic Meepo wrote:
Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
Some good points about the usability of maps.
I was mentioning something similar in another map-related thread. Namely, the players only get to see what the GM is able to draw on the battlemap. If the map in the adventure is so complex the GM ends up handwaving most of it at the table, the fact that it looks pretty on the page is only relevant to the GM. The other 80% of the gaming group will never see that version of the map.

The players don't draw maps of the places they explore in your group? I thought this was a common practise among gamers, but I may be wrong. Anyway, if the map is too complex for me to verbally describe it, I just draw the rooms and passages for them. I would never, ever handwave most of the map -- in fact, I haven't even seen such a map that would make me feel it's "too complex" ('Snakepipe Hollow' comes close, but it's in a league of its own).

As I already said above, the fact that the maps look "exciting" and asthetically pleasing (note: this is not the same as pretty or complex) is relevant to *everyone* in my group. A quick example: all the maps in 'The Infernal Syndrome' are *exactly* what I mean by this -- they look "believable" and exciting at the same time, and you just want to explore these places (especially the Spiral). The same with 'House of the Beast'.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

No, mine don't either. Personally, I'm more interested in plot than dungeon-crawling, which probably explains some of the difference in approach (you quoted a series of adventures which I personally have found pretty tedious to read and actually don't inspire me to play in at all, though obviously your experience is different). I don't look at a map and go "Oooh, exciting", I read an adventure and think "Hmmm, interesting twist" (or I don't, depending). I've abandoned adventures because they were just big maps with monsters in and lacking narrative thrust. It probably depends on how "visual" a person you are - I'm not, very.

Dark Archive

Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
No, mine don't either. Personally, I'm more interested in plot than dungeon-crawling, which probably explains some of the difference in approach (you quoted a series of adventures which I personally have found pretty tedious to read and actually don't inspire me to play in at all, though obviously your experience is different). I don't look at a map and go "Oooh, exciting", I read an adventure and think "Hmmm, interesting twist" (or I don't, depending). I've abandoned adventures because they were just big maps with monsters in and lacking narrative thrust. It probably depends on how "visual" a person you are - I'm not, very.

Sure, an exciting (and yet believable) plot is *very* important, too; I'm totally with you there. However, I'd still argue that all the adventures I mentioned contain well-written, exciting plots -- even ToEE, in its fashion, but maybe 'Ruins of Undermountain' is a bit different from the others as it's not an adventure per se.

It's very rare that you get "best of the both worlds" in the same package -- except these days you do, with Paizo modules. Now -- and this is not just fanboyism on my part -- but I've been constantly amazed by the professional quality of Paizo products. As I'm thinking back to the time before 3E -- apart from a handful of adventures published in 'Dungeon' -- it was *VERY* rare that you'd find an adventure with intesting maps and an exciting plot. And most of the 3E stuff was hardly better. More often than not, I rewrote some parts of the plot and drew all the maps from scratch. These days I can just pick any Paizo module and run it as written -- no changes needed. :)

However, I'm not advocating that "my way" is better than "your way" or anything like it; tastes and preferences differ. I just don't wish to see any sort of public movement for "simpler" maps; at the very least I want to point out that not everyone feels Paizo adventures feature "too complex" maps.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Society games tend to be a bit simpler than the average module so I would expect their maps to be easier to follow. The location and plot tend to go hand in hand.

As for TOEE, I can use tact tiles and draw on the fly well enough, but there is little need when you can use gaming paper and draw the more complex areas well in advance. As for its plot, I've used the various temple faction to make plenty of adventures and enemies and one or two nice twists, but I doubt Gary Gygax would recognise all of it now. And it has taken considerable effort.

Although most of the paizo modules are well written and have decent maps, the last one I ran, Crypt of the Everflame had a few issues with doors and the like so no ones perfect in my book.

I'd be interested to hear what you regard as a good scenario, Aubrey?

Cheers

**

I don't mond looking at some of the schnazzy maps that come in the modules, however only the GM gets to really enjoy the nice scenery.
As a side note, I think another way forward would be to re-introduce 'scene pictures' ala the original Tomb of Horrors - where we can flash up a picture of the Beer Hall or ceremonial chamber we are about to fight in etc.

That way we can spend less time trying to reproduce the detailed map to paint a picture, and can just... show the picture :)

That said, in most of our home games, the time in the dungeon is really a means to an end rather than an end in itself - so it's not our focus... indeed 90% of our fights end up overland or urban.

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
French Wolf wrote:
I'd be interested to hear what you regard as a good scenario, Aubrey?

Tricky question to answer, since many modules read better than they play (and vica versa) and I've read many more modules than I have played.

As an example of a scenario I liked but a map I didn't, in RotRL I thought the map of the first level of Thistletop was daft (sorry, James) - a sort of upstairs dungeon. I had no problem with the lower levels but I did think a bunch of idiot goblins would be unlikely to put together such a complex building (especially with a privvy - I mean, they'd just go in a corner, surely?). And in any case, in PbP, I really didn't want to go there, so I just made it a big roundish sort of hut.

Likewise, getting to Fort Rannick, this similarly a fairly odd map - no one builds castles at the bottom of cliffs, you build them at the top, so people can't chuck stuff at you from above. Nor do they have passages behind waterfalls to let you sneak in the back (although, to be fair, Pembroke Castle in Wales has a sort of river cave, so maybe they do). It makes sense as a dungeon for D&D but no real sense as a fortification.

And don't mention the mines in RttToEE.

As an example of something I did like, Red Hand of Doom seemed about the right mix of adventure v mapping. That said, I haven't played it, only read it (but it was about the best adventure in Third Edition produced by WotC, IMHO - i.e. not counting the stuff in Dungeon). Where an AP relies on mini-dungeons and discrete locations, those ones normally appeal to me more than those based on a single site. For example, the CotCT section where the PCs hung out with the Shoanti I thought was great in and of itself (even if it copped some criticism for distracting from the city-based stuff, a view in any case I don't share) because it was a series of interesting individual encounters that pushed the plot along, rather than being a "hack through these monsters to get to the boss and take his stuff" sort of affair. But, likewise, I haven't played it.

My views are probably coloured by the fact I play the Paizo modules in PbP (I use my own stuff in real life games). However, I have never been a fan of dungeon-crawling anyway. Most of the above probably sounds a bit negative but clearly I am a big fan of Paizo adventures (I've been around a while, after all). But what I get out of them, I suspect, is that they are good to read and give me ideas on how to structure and manage a big campaign. I've never been a "maps guy" - I don't think I have ever looked at a map and been excited by the possibilities, more just curious about how they encounters fitted together .

I think the medium of PbP appeals to me more because it is less visual and (at the risk of sounding pretentious) feels more novelistic. Description in any case has to be conveyed either in writing (in PbP) or verbally, not by waving the map at your players, unless the company has added pictures (WotC do this in some of their adventures too, though obviously you want good pictures for this purpose which is probably expensive and takes out pages from the adventure overall). If there are pertinent points about a location I'd like them written down and if they aren't terribly pertinent, well <shrug>.

The Exchange

Generally there are two reasons why I am interested in a map, the first is when it showcases interesting terrain features and shows ways of surprising parties or testing them with something other than straight combat.

There is a great cave in the Three Faces of Evil (Age of Worms) where the party have to traverse down into a pit to carry on, meanwhile two grimlock archers in the darkness have rapid shot and tanglefoot bags to make things difficult. Things like water features and different elevations all add to the danger without just upping the CR of the monster.

The second is when the map is part of the game for years and I keep being jogged by it, until eventually I have to run the darn adventure. The mines in RttTToEE were a sour example of this, because I gave up after the dire apes sat in one cave had ripped apart everyone's replacement characters (I know you said don't mention it but..it slipped out). A better example is the Monastery of the Fire Opal in one Dungeon which used the map from the 1st Ed DMG, if I remember correctly. That had a decent storyline too, which obviously helped.

Oh and yesterday I realised a third reason, when I draft out the map, I generally get ideas for how to populate and plot out encounters and dungeons. It happens alot when I'm doing a map of a kingdom or set of islands, because I am subconsciously thinking about the history, geography and politics and how it all fits together. Even the small three room map that I was colouring in for my Frostbite pbp yesterday, evolved as it came together.

Cheers

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
French Wolf wrote:

Generally there are two reasons why I am interested in a map, the first is when it showcases interesting terrain features and shows ways of surprising parties or testing them with something other than straight combat.

There is a great cave in the Three Faces of Evil (Age of Worms) where the party have to traverse down into a pit to carry on, meanwhile two grimlock archers in the darkness have rapid shot and tanglefoot bags to make things difficult. Things like water features and different elevations all add to the danger without just upping the CR of the monster.

The second is when the map is part of the game for years and I keep being jogged by it, until eventually I have to run the darn adventure. The mines in RttTToEE were a sour example of this, because I gave up after the dire apes sat in one cave had ripped apart everyone's replacement characters (I know you said don't mention it but..it slipped out). A better example is the Monastery of the Fire Opal in one Dungeon which used the map from the 1st Ed DMG, if I remember correctly. That had a decent storyline too, which obviously helped.

Oh and yesterday I realised a third reason, when I draft out the map, I generally get ideas for how to populate and plot out encounters and dungeons. It happens alot when I'm doing a map of a kingdom or set of islands, because I am subconsciously thinking about the history, geography and politics and how it all fits together. Even the small three room map that I was colouring in for my Frostbite pbp yesterday, evolved as it came together.

Cheers

That's not wildly dissimilar for me. Most of my encounters tend to be big "blockbuster" encounters where you have high ELs but the party is fresh. So rather than hacking their way through mooks to get to the boss, they walk up and he's there, but so are his buddies, and a really big fight breaks out. I guess what I dislike is lots of attrition - a bit is fine, lots, not so much. But interesting encounter design (like the grimlock example) and the sort of difficulties you can introduce are all fine, and interesting. However, I see that as an example of encounter design, less about mapping as such.

However, one example of a map I did like was the one from the Dungeon adventure set in the beholder hive, which was full of vertical shafts and odd geometries. That one I liked a lot, mainly because it was so unusual but also so fitting for the sort of monsters and incorporated lots of stuff to give the PCs a headache, all at the same time.

RPG Superstar 2009, Contributor

I'd be curious to eventually learn what you guys think about the maps and encounters for Realm of the Fellnight Queen. I'm both an admitted "maps" guy and a "novelist"-style GM. I also thoroughly enjoy PbP games here at Paizo. Given that you guys prefer a lot of those things as well, I'd love to know how much of it came through in the adventure. If nothing else, it would help me better understand how others perceive my design work. And maybe that helps me improve down the road.

The Exchange

If I get my hands on a copy I'd be happy to give my views, Neil. That probably relies on a mate getting a copy since my wallet is concentrating on Kingmaker and the APG for the next few months, oh and PaizoconUK in July.

Cheers

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I expect I will get mine through the subscription but, again, being in the UK it might take some time. And, ironically, I will be in the US for most of March.

Dark Archive

Aubrey the Malformed wrote:
I expect I will get mine through the subscription but, again, being in the UK it might take some time. And, ironically, I will be in the US for most of March.

If most of, why not tweak your shipping address?

I had the same thing with a 5 day trip last year, books shipped to UK, opened, packed into hand luggage flew to Kentucky, read, flew back to UK... Bloody books are more well travelled than I am!


Dang, my cartography skills are very rusty. If I had power over Bryce, maybe I can whip something up like that, but by hand . . . I'm suffering from rust. The best I can do is a flowchart for mapping and get someone who has refined his cartograph skills to a fine point.

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