Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hand-Drawn Mapping During Online Play

SPOILER ALERT! Don't look at the map below if you're planning on playing in The Lost Mine of Phandelver.

In the Ubergoobers' Monday night D&D 5e game run by +Rob Conley, we've been using dynamic lighting on Roll20. Dynamic lighting is an interesting feature in that you, as a player, only get to see what your character can see, based on position and light sources.

What the world looks like with dynamic lighting.
– Wait a minute! How do we get out of here?

It took me a while to get used to it, since previously we had mostly used the fog of war feature on Roll20, which reveals areas as you reach them and lets you see continuously all areas of the map you have explored, even after you leave them behind.

What this meant was that using dynamic lighting, it was hard to keep track of where things were happening, or even where the party was in a given dungeon since, in contrast with fog of war, dynamic lighting causes explored areas get blacked out again as you go.

The solution navigating a dungeon with dynamic lighting? Good old-fashioned hand-drawn mapping.

Hand-drawn mapping lets you see where you are and where you've been.

It may not be pretty, but the last session or two it has worked well, including helping us high-tail it out of the dungeon (before the floating skull off to the northeast spotted us) once it was time to retreat, rest and regroup. We knew exactly where we were, where we wanted to go, and how to get there.


  1. Interesting feature. That could definitely be used to up the tension in a dungeon. It's pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

  2. My groups in Roll 20 have really not liked dynamic lighting very much. However, with the new global illumination feature, once I reveal an area it will stay lit. Given that I don't always know my players very well (pick-up groups, as it were), this is probably a good compromise.

  3. I wouldn't want to use the dynamic feature in a large dungeon.