How do you GM "dungeon" exploration ?


Advice


Ok, so I know many threads treat this subject, but I need advice for something specific. We just had our 5th game of rise of the runelords yesterday (I won't spoil anything here), and since the beginning, I'm trying to figure out the best way to do "dungeon" or location exploration...

1- I tried on one game to just describe them the location they were in, kind of "you turn left, then walk some 50 feet and there is a closed door in front of you...". One of my players got frustrated because I wasn't drawing a plan for them, and after trying to do it himself, he just abandoned and rather made a logical plan with words rather than drawings, kind of left, left, right... The experience was not satisfying for anyone.

2- In another game, I did a lot of prep and cut tiles piece by piece and when they moved their minis on the map and opened a door, I added another piece to let them see further. It was not a good-looking result, just blank paper, but my players didn't seem to care and seemed to prefer that option, but honestly, I found doing that prep extremely long and boring, and I won't do it again (it's not just the players that need to love their experience, isn't it?).

3- In the game yesterday, I switched to maptools, and I had "players view" on on my TV for everyone to see, but the thing is, it's in a dark place, and many times, I had to move the screen just to my computer, add a monster or recheck the map with the GM view to be sure of where they were going, and then put it back on TV, and they found the experience too long for what it brought to the game.

It just seems there is not an optimal option both for my players and myself as a GM up to now... I think I'll go with maptool just for the encounters in broad daylight, when I will be able to let them see all the map and monsters, and for the dungeon parts, I'll go back to minis. The thing is now, do I let them "guess" the exploration part, or do I give them the answers ? Do I give them the map, do I just skip to the encounters and important stuff, or do I let them figure out everything ? Do I just tell them to roll survival/dungeoneering and tell them info regarding their scores ?

I really don't know how to handle this... They often argue with me when I tell them they are lost, and they say "if I were there, I would see the rooms and I would orientate myself, but just with words, I can't see that the corridor angles at 30 degrees east...".

SIGH !!! GM in desperate need for the ultimate way to do this, all advice will be appreciated. Thanks !

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Option A: Draw the whole map on a flip mat or two. Should take about 10-20 minutes depending on the complexity of the map. Take post-it notes, and cover the map in the post in notes. As the players move they can remove the post-its.

Option 2: Draw the whole map on paper (or photocopy from the book or use the interactive maps). Take that map put it on the table and say: "You are here, please don't metagame." It's surprising how well that works.

Option iii: Seriously just relax, theré's no perfect method.


Option 3: Draw Visual Blocking in MapTool before hand, it is quite easy then you have tried it a couple of times.


Is there any way you could get two computers to the session? You could simply run the game through a maptools server, allowing the players to share one computer to navigate the dungeon (using the TV display), while you can handle the DM side of things on your own computer. Once you learn vision blocking and how to reveal, it can really streamline the process.


I don't draw the whole map out, just rooms the PCs are fighting encounters in. It goes a lot more smoothly. You have to communicate to your players a lot though, I found myself repeating where they could go a lot, but it was easier than drawing the whole thing for me.


I typically just do like your first option, and tell them "you travel 50ft, the road forks, which way do you go" etc, and let them make their own maps. Sorry, but if you were in the dungeon, there'd be no minimap like a video game, you'd have to either remember where you went or make your own dang map. If you're no good at it, pick someone in the party who is. If none of you are, make a wis/int roll and if it's high enough I'll draw out where you've been so far. Otherwise, tough cookies.


If it is some kind of complex dungeon I draw the whole thing out on my huge Chessex BattleMat, proceeding as the playsers are going.
If the layout does not matter, I draw just the encounter areas, if combat ocurs.
I already considered using my Descent (1st Ed.) dungeon tiles to lay out the dungeon as the players proceed.

When playing APs I sometimes print out the dungeon on a full page or two and use two letter-sized sheets of paper to cover the unexplored areas.


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I use either a flip mat or some kind of dry erase surface and draw out the dungeon as we go. I could have a player do it but it often gets mixed up. Also I've used Dwarven Forge 3d tiles or homemade ones made with Hirst Arts molds.


Thank you all, I think I'll try different methods...

Oh dwarven forge are really great, but on the expensive side unfortunately...

With maptools, yes, I did the vision blocking option, let's say with a closed door, but when the pcs opened it, they were invisible on the other side, so I had to hide maptool from them to click on the player with GM's view, then put back player's view and put it back on tv, and they found it too long, maybe because they are not patient or maybe I really was too long or doing this too often due to lack of experience...

So my question : if players want to draw a map (not their characters, just the players to help them out), do you forbid it, saying like thegreenteagamer that they don't have minimaps, or do you allow it ? Or would you allow it only with a DC 15 or DC 20 dungeoneering check maybe ?


Another question regarding maptool : do they get to control their pcs or do I do it for them if they have a pc computer ? If they go beyond a blocked vision, do they see the other side ?


Avenka Thalma wrote:

3- In the game yesterday, I switched to maptools, and I had "players view" on on my TV for everyone to see, but the thing is, it's in a dark place, and many times, I had to move the screen just to my computer, add a monster or recheck the map with the GM view to be sure of where they were going, and then put it back on TV, and they found the experience too long for what it brought to the game.

I have the same set up as you (computer and TV) and also use maptool. The answer is pretty simple. Set you TV to be monitor 2, then run 2 copies of maptool, place one copy on your computer screen and the other on the TV, then use the computer copy as host and the TV as client. Finally in the host copy set lock player view to my view and you are good to go.

hope that makes sense :)


Avenka Thalma wrote:
Another question regarding maptool : do they get to control their pcs or do I do it for them if they have a pc computer ? If they go beyond a blocked vision, do they see the other side ?

you can do either, you can set a setting that makes it so only you can reveal the fog of war, and another setting to allow players to reveal it themselves while moving around


Oh thanks, I'll try that tonight :)


I find it really difficult to do with words alone. As a GM you have the map so it will seem easy.

You can draw the map as they go on the table. Another idea is to use roll20.net instead of map tools. Once you get use to it, it takes no more than 5 minutes to align a map to the grid then you can uncover the map as needed.

Personally for playing in person I think it is better to draw the map as the PC's move forward.

Sovereign Court

I bought a roll of flipover paper with a square grid on it. I can pre-draw the map and cover it with some paper, then peel away those sections the players explore.

It really works for me. I have rolls of paper for several PFS scenarios at hand now. The advantages over chessex maps and such is that you can easily have multiple maps prepared, for a multilevel dungeon for example, or for multiple scenarios.


Phonix86 wrote:
Option 3: Draw Visual Blocking in MapTool before hand, it is quite easy then you have tried it a couple of times.

Yeah! We often even use map tools for live games on my friends TV. Not only is it visually more fulfilling, it speeds up gameplay.


@GreyFox776 : I try to do the host/client thing with the same computer (like you said, I would take the client instance to go to tv), but I don't know how to "link" those two instances to the same game. Do I need to start a server in the Files option ?


We only worry about mapping anything if we're having a tactical encounter. Past that we're good with 'You walk down the hall 30', then it comes to a T-intersection. Which way do you go?'


Avenka Thalma wrote:


So my question : if players want to draw a map (not their characters, just the players to help them out), do you forbid it, saying like thegreenteagamer that they don't have minimaps, or do you allow it ? Or would you allow it only with a DC 15 or DC 20 dungeoneering check maybe ?

I don't forbid them from drawing their own. I just won't correct them if they screw it up, and they might get lost as a result. I'm also not going to draw one FOR them unless they manage to make a relevant check. The only time I draw out a map for my players is when they hit combat, and then I only draw the rooms they're in and MAYBE the surrounding ones for combat purposes.

There's no reason that a party without decent ranks in dungeoneering or survival or a high int/wis, etc, can magically know where they are in a maze-like dungeon without using magic or the like. It doesn't make any sense.


Zhayne wrote:
We only worry about mapping anything if we're having a tactical encounter. Past that we're good with 'You walk down the hall 30', then it comes to a T-intersection. Which way do you go?'

We have a 2' x 3' white board with 1" squares carved into it. We do the same thing that Zhayne mentioned, unless the area is small enough. For larger areas we just get a standard piece of paper and draw a rough line sketch, stick figure style, of the layout. It's generally enough to know where we've been.


Avenka Thalma wrote:
@GreyFox776 : I try to do the host/client thing with the same computer (like you said, I would take the client instance to go to tv), but I don't know how to "link" those two instances to the same game. Do I need to start a server in the Files option ?

Yep on the host go to file menu and start server, then on the client go to file menu connect to server, look for the one you hosted in the LAN section


I like maptools and Roll20. I know a guy who uses an overhead projector with it at his table.

As for mapping at the table, I pre-draw the dungeon using a battlemat. I block out the map using "fog of war" maptiles that I place upside down, and reveal as I go.

Alternatively, draw the map, or encourage THEM to draw the map as they go along.

Alternatively, do it like we did back in the old days. They have graph paper and a pencil, and they map the dungeon as you describe it to them. (That circular chamber in Lost Caverns of Tsjocanth was a doozy!).

Don't be afraid to let things reside in their imaginations.


To keep the players attention on the game,give them strange sounds, some-times near, sometimes far away. Small tricks to keep pc's alert.Change
the pathway,stairs with badly cut steps. Or have somebody find and keep
a magic item,that caues the pc to hear voices in his head.Dose.t last
long.


Thanks to everybody, great advices ! I'll try different things and hopefully I'll find the perfect balance for my group.


Stuff I've seen done:
Laminated 1" square sheets or whiteboards with dry-erase
A GM who made us map ourselves or we were lost, and our characters had to own paper, ink, pens, etc.
A projector top down onto the table with lines and terrain photos
A used plasma tv face up with same terrain maps, various software to fog of war it.
Laminated Pathfinder maps, couple bucks a sheet to laminate, double side them for utility.

In general its like the old war adage, "If all things are equal between two forces, it will boil down to the army with the simplest uniform wins"

Get a big pad (3' x 4') of 1" squares paper from Staples for 15 bucks, a sharpie, and draw as you encounter.

That's your map, the players don't own it for returning or getting un-lost. And they don't know where traps, secret doors, etc. are until they find them.

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