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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Zoomed-Out Abstract Dungeon Mapping

The game I'm currently playing with Brie (my wife), involves hand-drawn mapping of the dungeon during play. For me, this now feels "clunky" since I'm so spoiled by years of playing online with the fog-of-war function on a virtual tabletop. Add to that the fact that our sessions involve a much more narrative style of combat without requiring a grid to regulate things, and that got me thinking about ways to abstract the map and simplify the process of navigation, since we don't really need a large-scale detail map anyway.

So here is what I've come up with – a small-scale grid where one square abstractly represents the amount of distance a party can cover per turn of exploration or one round of flight/pursuit. So instead of a traditional scale of one (quarter-inch) square equals ten feet, this gives a smaller scale of one (one-inch) square equals roughly 90 feet.


The small white circles are doors, the up-arrows are stairways up and the down-arrows are stairways down. All other details about the room would be noted in the key, including precise dimensions (e.g. 20' x 50', 30' x 30', whatever). In other words just because the rooms appear the same size on the abstracted map doesn't mean they are.

There are several benefits I can see with this:

  1. It's easier for me to make than a detailed large-scale grid map (I'm really bad at that). 
  2. It's easier for FTF in-play draw-by-hand mapping for the player(s) – especially with every square being labeled, and without the need to draw the rooms in detail.
  3. The fact that every square is labeled means I can key everything easily, and re-key as things change without having to erase/add in things on the map.
  4. It should be easier to ensure that things like stairways line up from level to level. 
  5. Counting turns spent exploring might be easier (one square equals one turn -- I'm thinking I might actually put tick marks in the squares themselves, including multiple tick marks if PCs spend time looking about a given room).
  6. I think it will pair well with my abstract battle board adaptation

Now I just have to take it out for a spin. Definitely with Brie, and maybe with +Ken H and +Tim Shorts on Wednesdays, since we're no strangers to "theater-of-the-mind" play there either.

11 comments:

  1. This more or less matches running dungeon adventures in Scarlet Heroes.

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    1. I'll have to check that out -- thanks for the heads up!

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  2. Very cool Chris. I'm wrapping my head around this concept. It seems it would be a lot easier to do this way for ftf game without getting to crazy with detail.

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    1. Thanks Tim. Of course, since I'm going to re-purpose every map I make (might as well get double mileage out of them!) you know you and Ken are going to see these at some point. :)

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  3. Cracking map, plenty of room to get lost in!

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  4. If you don't mind my asking, what did you use to make this map? Thanks.

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    1. I don't mind at all!

      The grid was made with Microsoft Word. I took a screen shot, then saved it as an image.

      Then to draw the map, I opened the grid image with Microsoft Picture It! It's an old drawing program that I've used for years (I don't think they even make it anymore, but I'm sure any drawing program will work). Then the grid just became my background, and I drew the rooms and corridors using the standard shapes available for insert in Picture It! To make them all uniform, I made one of each room and corridor, and just copy/pasted as many as I needed to fill out the map.

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    2. Ah, cool! I really like the abstract nature of the dungeon, so I'll have to give this a go sometime. Thanks very much.

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