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Kid Jake
2014-04-29, 12:17 AM
I can't speak for anyone else, but I absolutely hate drawing maps for my next session. I almost dread it week by week and that's with using Roll20 to keep from having to redraw the thing once combat starts. Partly it might be that I couldn't be less artistic without smashing my hands with hammers, but it also just takes up so much time and I'm never happy with the results. So I reuse my maps to an almost ridiculous degree (No, that jewelry store isn't next to the restaurant from earlier and that restaurant definitely didn't used to be a bank, you're obviously delirious.) and try to coast along with just the power of imagination as much as I can get away with.

With Mutants and Masterminds it's not that big of a deal (when a character can have a movement speed of 'twice around the earth' as a move action the system is obviously meant to be abstract), but with more down to earth and tactically focused games it's a bit harder to hand-wave without losing part of makes the game fun.

So Playground, how do you handle maps in your games? Have any tricks to throw them together faster? Or is penciling in ventilation ducts the best damned part of the day and I'm just lazy?

BWR
2014-04-29, 02:07 AM
For combat maps, we usually don't bother to go all out. I'll do a rough sketch for my personal use, then we use battlemaps and tiles. for the most part this is all we need, and other detail is added as necessary.
But you don't necessarily need to use maps. Just describe the terrain and determine whether or not the PCs can perform the moves they want (and be a bit generous in allowing them to do so).
Encounter maps are really only necessary if there are lots of participants, to let people know how many there are and their relative positions. If it's only the PCs against one or two opponents, you don't really need a map.

Of course that's all pure tabletop and I don't know how things work with online stuff.

Gamgee
2014-04-29, 02:26 AM
Imagination. I give relevant details. Like the screaming tyranid gargoyle swarm flies down from the skies, it's currently 200 meters away from you and approaching swiftly. They scream, hiss, and froth at the mouth eager to kill anything in sight. To the west in the abandoned mine you see a large swarm of hormagaunts climbing over the edge of the black abyss and machinery to reach you. They are much closer at approximately 100 meters and closing fast. I would have given them some key locations of interest around the area. Like an old fortified mining cabin could be reached for cover. Or if they think of something to suggest they can ask me. If I think its a reasonable request for something to be in the area it will have been there. A player could ask if there is anything closer to him. I could hypothetically say yes there are some large cargo trucks that offer some cover, and are close enough to be reached immediate so you can open fire. Instead of having to waste more time running further to the building to set up.

If it's absolutely necessary I'll grab some paper and scratch out a rough layout and indicate any distances and points of interest. I really hate minis and maps. Slows everything down so much.

Edit
A player could just as likely ask if there is any fuel tanks left over. So for example if earlier in the mission I mentioned that the mine was abandoned quickly during a delivery and refueling operation and a player picks up on that and reminds me. I would place some around for them.

I might also aid them if I feel they have been doing bad and need an edge. So even if they don't ask for anything specific and I feel they might need it I would add in the tanks. The players don't know this, and they think I am a killer GM. Well I am and I enjoy it greatly, but they don't realize just how much I fudge things their way sometimes. Keeps them off balance, and the grim dark of 40k interesting.

Yora
2014-04-29, 02:31 AM
I use flowchart maps for dungeons and play combat without any grid. Instead I use combat zones as in Fate Core (http://www.evilhat.com/home/fate-core-downloads/) (p. 157).

Mastikator
2014-04-29, 04:07 AM
I like drawing maps, not very good at making them pretty and I prefer to not reveal them to the players. Sometimes I draw maps without having any intention of using it. I draw them in stages, like Dwarf Fortress, first adding the foundation, using some randomness to dictate mineral richness, then add forests and wildlife based on climate, then add civilization based on availability of natural resources, then let some history occur and perhaps end up with a few ruins and old cities, perhaps national and racial tensions based on history. It's fun.

ArendK
2014-04-29, 04:30 AM
I, too, cannot draw to save my life. I can envision exactly what it looks like or I need it to look like in the end, but getting it there? Negative.

So, I do what just about anyone does in this day and age of technology; I google it.

There's a wealth of generators that I use for different purposes and games;

For Shadowrun, I have a stockpile of blueprints, layouts, and similar designs for a variety of different buildings just from googling them; things can be repurposed and refluffed pretty easily, so it was mostly size issues I had.
For smaller buildings where everything has to be accounted for or I just want hyper detail, there was a program online that allowed me to place furniture and such online, with dimensions and such pretty easily. An old group of mine had a blast with a fire-fight in an apartment complex where gangers were diving behind couches, opening the fridge to make a shield, etc. etc. that they normally wouldn't have thought of without the set-pieces.

For fantasy style games- I find something close; there are a lot of map making programs available, but I'm a cheap (also broke) person, so the quality ones are a bit alien to me. On the dungeon scale, I find working with donjon (?) is one of the easiest; I give it X parameters, and generally, it will give me a layout in either pdf or jpg format. You can have it populate with creatures, but I thought it more fun to do that myself; I use the pdf as my master copy that has comments added in to each area for description, traps, notes, or anything else i might need for that room.

Rhynn
2014-04-29, 04:36 AM
Hexographer (http://www.hexographer.com/) and Dungeonographer (http://www.dungeonographer.com/). Since moving on from D&D 3E, I no longer use combat maps (we keep a bunch of minis on the table to illustrate marching order in ACKS, though). For probably 3-5 years of playing D&D 3E, we didn't use battle maps anyway, and never used them for any other game. Sometimes the minis come out to illustrate formation, etc.

scurv
2014-04-29, 06:55 AM
I tend to use https://unity3d.com/ anymore for map production (as it has a nice free version) . One or two weekend of tutorials and you should be mostly good to go. Also if need be I tend to look for birds eye views of real cities and just reproduce that layout in period.

And there is enough free prefabs that you should not run into any world-stopping issues. But if you get really really motivated you can try blender as well. Alot more work on that end though.

ElenionAncalima
2014-04-29, 07:36 AM
Unless I have a dungeon where the dimensions are crucial, I tend to just wing it with my map drawing. I draw out a space that roughly fits where they are fighting.

I do like to give my players a map though and a few notable things (like pillars, tables or rubble or something), because one of my players is fairly tactically minded and will get creative if I let him.

Madeiner
2014-04-29, 07:52 AM
Google it!

I always search for
battle map d&d
on google.
Add your type of map to find what you want.
If you want a cave, try searching for

battle map d&d cave
battle map d&d dungeon
battle map d&d cavern

Repeat search without "battle" or using "battlemap" with no spaces.

You'll find what you want in 5-10 minutes.
I then import those map in maptools

RFTD-blog
2014-04-29, 07:53 AM
For Dungeon Maps, it depends. Battles in my campaigns are limited to 1-3 during an entire session because they have many other things to do as well. One thing I did was cut out the back sheets from the DMG and paste them onto small pieces of cardboard which fit a grid. I'm sure you could find a plethora of other things like this on the internet. This is great because I never have to draw pillars, tables, rubble, etc. because I already have a cutout version of it and can just plop it on the dungeon floor wherever they go.

As far as random/computer generators, I stay away from that as FAR as possible. I don't want a computer designing my game. I think one of the greatest things about roleplaying games is the human touch to everything. I had a DM once who randomly generated almost everything, and honestly, what's the point? Why don't I just go play a video game at that point? The human touch, the human generation of the map rather than the computer one, I think leads to funner overall results.

I do highly recommend having some sort of grid or battle map, however. That visual representation is appreciated by players, and you'll never know what sort of creativity they're capable of when a detailed battle space is put together. They might think of interesting bull rushes, a weird flanking move you wouldn't expect, or perhaps a well-placed tumble that foils the villain's plans. They yearn for that visual representation because it lets them know in total what they can do. If the DM restricts the visual space, then the PCs don't know what they're capable of, and they fail to find new creative directions in combat.

However, there's another topic within maps that I'm surprised nobody has mentioned (or maybe I just don't read well enough). Dungeons have maps, indeed, but what about world maps? I think it is crucially important to design a world map, as it sparks the imagination of not only the players and where they could potentially go, but also you as DM to get a better sense of the world in which they occupy. I have some sample world maps in the link right here, and they don't need to be complicated:
http://www.reflectionsfromthedungeon.com/halfling-smugglers-2/

Airk
2014-04-29, 08:26 AM
Yeah, this really depends on the type of map.

Battle maps? Pfff. Unless you've got some amazing setpiece battle where the PCs have decided to like, storm the altar room of the Thunder God or something, no one really cares as long as they can tell how far it is to the nearest enemy (and some systems don't even care about that.) A rough scrawl on a piece of paper is fine. Hell, I've made "maps" by scattering dice over a table and saying "d4s are uneven ground, d6s are low rocks, d8s and d10s are trees, d12s are big boulders."

Dungeon maps? Meh. These are SUPER EASY to make, imho, because they're usually all nice straight lines and right angles (and even if they're not, it doesn't really matter because then it's all irregular rooms and corridors where it really doesn't matter how it looks as long as you get a vague shape down on paper.). Plus there are tons of random generators out there for this.

Overland maps? Okay, NOW we have something worth putting in some time on if you want people to know or care what the world LOOKS like. However, these are the ones most likely to be included in a published setting AND there are tons and tons of good maps out there on the interwebs that you can use. Though again, a rough, ugly sketch is usually sufficient if you don't want to provide something that looks polished.

So, er, I guess what I'm saying is...get over it, maps aren't that important unless you want to make them that important.

Vedhin
2014-04-29, 08:32 AM
I use Pyromancers (http://pyromancers.com/dungeon-painter-online/), or just sketch it on graph paper.

AttilaTheGeek
2014-04-29, 09:33 AM
Disclaimer: I am only a 3.X player, not a DM, so I'm only speaking from a 3.X background and don't know how much work goes into making maps.

As a player who plays very tactically in combat, I like having grids for larger combats to be able to understand exactly where everything is in relation to everything else. In my experience, a battle grid becomes helpful when there are about 10 relevant distances and is necessary when there are more than 15-20. By "relevant distances", I mean distances from characters to enemies and from enemies to each other.

For example, take a party of four and a single enemy. A battle grid is not necessary there because there are only four relevant distances: how close each character is to the enemy. It might be helpful if there are several important environment locations nearby (terrain, objects, cover, and so on), but I would never expect so see a battle grid come out for a fight against a single enemy.

If the party of four instead goes up against two enemies, there are now nine relevant distances: how close each character is to each enemy and how close the enemies are to each other. A battle grid might be helpful there, but it's perfectly possible to do without one.

If the same party fights four enemies, there are 22 relevant distances: how close each of the enemies is to each other and how close each of the party members is to each enemy. At that point, it becomes next to impossible to run the combat gridless without someone misunderstanding a location. Imagine two typical parties- a fighter, rogue, mage, and cleric on each side- fighting each other without a grid. It's practically infeasible for the entire combat to go down without someone forgetting an attack of opportunity, being accidentally caught in or left out of an area attack, or saying "I thought this location was over there".

Rhynn
2014-04-29, 11:50 AM
Oh, also, when I did do battlemaps, or when I need to sketch out anything to do with spatial relations, I use wet-erase markers on this sheet of... stuff with squares on it that we have spread over the gaming table. I don't even know what it is, my players randomly found it in some crafts store, bough it, brought it, and we've been using it for years. (I am lazy about cleaning it after sessions sometimes, so it has very faint red and blue lines from I think green and black markers respectively.)

Airk
2014-04-29, 12:50 PM
Oh, also, when I did do battlemaps, or when I need to sketch out anything to do with spatial relations, I use wet-erase markers on this sheet of... stuff with squares on it that we have spread over the gaming table. I don't even know what it is, my players randomly found it in some crafts store, bough it, brought it, and we've been using it for years. (I am lazy about cleaning it after sessions sometimes, so it has very faint red and blue lines from I think green and black markers respectively.)

Basically one of THESE (http://www.amazon.com/Chessex-Role-Playing-Play-Mat/dp/B0015IUAAG/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1398793771&sr=8-3&keywords=grid+map)

Very helpful if you are playing a miniatures game. Pretty useless if you are not.

RFTD-blog
2014-04-29, 01:18 PM
Battle maps? Pfff. Unless you've got some amazing setpiece battle where the PCs have decided to like, storm the altar room of the Thunder God or something, no one really cares as long as they can tell how far it is to the nearest enemy (and some systems don't even care about that.)

I have to respectfully disagree with you, sir. Some people do care about battle maps, and some of those people are too timid to speak up about game preferences. Just take a look at the post right below you by AttilaTheGeek:


As a player who plays very tactically in combat, I like having grids for larger combats to be able to understand exactly where everything is in relation to everything else.

I think it's important never to set DM strategies in stone because you can never know what the players are fully capable of. This is especially true when there's new players involved. Some people have very visual mindsets, so they'll never be able to come up with new combat strategies unless there is a representation they can see and process. Those players like battle maps. By taking away that potential at all times except for against "Thunder Gods," you are also taking away the possibility of visually-minded players from inventing a new strategy which even you as DM might have never foreseen. The unforeseen solutions are some of the most universally appealing aspects to roleplaying games.

In addition, some classes/characters are better when combat is more tactical. I speak from D&D 3.5, but a rogue wants to know how far it is to flank, or a fighter wants to know if they're bull rush that monster into a pillar--and sometimes, they don't want the DM to know that's their plan. This is only possible with the shared visual experience which is the battle map. Without them, these tactical classes suffer compared to DPS, tanks, and spellcasters.

I do like your idea with using dice as pieces on the battle map, and I have done this as well when the battle needs to be set up quickly.

Some might say that an emphasis on actually setting up battle maps takes too long, and I would agree that combat (at least in D&D 3.5) can be tedious, especially if you take the time to draw out the entire dungeon or battle. This is why my campaigns tend to be <50% combat and more about roleplaying. I would rather do 1-2 really great battles in a session than 5-6 average ones.

Airk
2014-04-29, 02:05 PM
I have to respectfully disagree with you, sir. Some people do care about battle maps, and some of those people are too timid to speak up about game preferences. Just take a look at the post right below you by AttilaTheGeek:


You don't need a grid for that. You just need a sketch so everyone knows where they are. These things are not mutually exclusive. Yes, if you have a game that is all about precise measurement of distances (*cough*SomeversionsofD&D*cough*) then you may "need" a grid. Otherwise? No. As long as you understand relative distances and positions, you don't. And I see no conflict between that statement and what AttilaTheGeek said - namely that they need to "understand exactly where everything is in relation to everything else." That doesn't mean they need to know "it's exactly 17.5 feet to the table". They need to know the answer to "Can I get behind the table to take cover from those archers?"



I think it's important never to set DM strategies in stone because you can never know what the players are fully capable of. This is especially true when there's new players involved. Some people have very visual mindsets, so they'll never be able to come up with new combat strategies unless there is a representation they can see and process. Those players like battle maps. By taking away that potential at all times except for against "Thunder Gods," you are also taking away the possibility of visually-minded players from inventing a new strategy which even you as DM might have never foreseen. The unforeseen solutions are some of the most universally appealing aspects to roleplaying games.

I disagree again. I think that if you have a visually minded player at the table, and they think a map is important, that you should encourage them to draw one. But the idea of preparing a big, carefully detailed battlemap in advance is unnecessary unless you have a very complex environment. The advantage of NOT drawing all the crap on there is that people can ADD things to the environment. And should be encouraged to do so. Battles are more dynamic when they are not constrained by "only what's on the map."



In addition, some classes/characters are better when combat is more tactical. I speak from D&D 3.5, but a rogue wants to know how far it is to flank, or a fighter wants to know if they're bull rush that monster into a pillar--and sometimes, they don't want the DM to know that's their plan.

See, this is where I start to seriously disagree with you. Are we adults here? The GM knowing the plan should not be an issue. And the answer, in a game with a more casual map is "Yes, you can get there and flank, yes, you can bull rush him into the pillar." The GM should be, generally, ruling in the player's favor if they have cool things they want to do.



This is only possible with the shared visual experience which is the battle map. Without them, these tactical classes suffer compared to DPS, tanks, and spellcasters.

I respectfully disagree. However, there needs to be a mental adjustment on the part of the participants - they need to start taking a creative hand in visualizing the battlefield instead of expecting you to give them a big pile of setups to play with.

RFTD-blog
2014-04-29, 03:25 PM
Airk, I agree with your first points, and that's actually how I do battles when they aren't very important. But I'm skeptical here:


The advantage of NOT drawing all the crap on there is that people can ADD things to the environment. And should be encouraged to do so. Battles are more dynamic when they are not constrained by "only what's on the map."

It might just be a matter of style, but I'm not sure I like the idea of giving this type of power to the players or the DM in combat. Where to draw that line between believable terrain and benefiting characters in the middle of a battle could become a big point of constant contention. Maybe not when the player hides behind the bush, but what do they say when their life is on the line and the orc conveniently finds a nearby bush? This orc example wouldn't be my intentional malice, but I'm sure a person at 1 HP could interpret it that way.


See, this is where I start to seriously disagree with you. Are we adults here? The GM knowing the plan should not be an issue.

I guess I should've rephrased my original sentence. I didn't mean it in an us vs them mentality. I just think that element of surprise can be very exciting when a player does something you wouldn't expect, and if they constantly have to ask "is there a ledge here? is there a pillar behind there?" then a lot of that surprise is ruined.


And the answer, in a game with a more casual map is "Yes, you can get there and flank, yes, you can bull rush him into the pillar." The GM should be, generally, ruling in the player's favor if they have cool things they want to do.

I do this as best as I can, and I agree that ruling in the player's favor is usually the best idea. However, there's also a flip side to this. In order to bull rush an opponent into a pillar, that opponent has to be front of the pillar. A certain condition outside of the DM's rulings has to be met. When the player takes steps to make sure that condition is met, they are playing more strategically and tactically, and I see that as a good thing, rather than constantly asking the DM what they can and cannot do.

I think a lot of what we debate comes down to a matter of style. I see the battle grid and map as good because it is a shared experience outside of the DM's control (somewhat), and that seems to encourage fairness, which I think is important when people have their lives on the line. I would hate to deal the striking blow to a player for them to say, "of COURSE that pillar would be there..." whereas if the battle took place on the shared experience of the battle map, they can easily trace what missteps they took that led to their death.

Airk
2014-04-29, 03:51 PM
Airk, I agree with your first points, and that's actually how I do battles when they aren't very important. But I'm skeptical here:

It might just be a matter of style, but I'm not sure I like the idea of giving this type of power to the players or the DM in combat. Where to draw that line between believable terrain and benefiting characters in the middle of a battle could become a big point of constant contention. Maybe not when the player hides behind the bush, but what do they say when their life is on the line and the orc conveniently finds a nearby bush? This orc example wouldn't be my intentional malice, but I'm sure a person at 1 HP could interpret it that way.

Fair enough. I usually use the "popular consensus" approach to this sort of thing - if someone says "Is there a bush I can hide behind?" then if the answer isn't "Of course there is, you're in an overgrown field" then the answer should be "Do we think it makes sense for there to be a bush here?" There's always the sort of halfway point of "Well, there is, but it's not real convenient, so you're going to have to [make a full move|roll a stat|defy danger|whatever] to get under cover."



I guess I should've rephrased my original sentence. I didn't mean it in an us vs them mentality. I just think that element of surprise can be very exciting when a player does something you wouldn't expect, and if they constantly have to ask "is there a ledge here? is there a pillar behind there?" then a lot of that surprise is ruined.

I guess it's fun to 'surprise' your 'opponent' with a 'clever move' but I don't know that that's something we should be 'designing for' here. There are lots of things that are fun but don't need to be deliberated included in an RPG.

Also, most of this stuff, you shouldn't need to ask questions to discern. I mean, it's not like we're dealing with a situation where the GM says "Okay, you go into a room, and there are some orcs! Let's fight and make up the terrain as we go!" The GM is saying "You break down the door into the many pillared hall, and a line of orcs is ready to receive your assault! This is their last stand - there's a chasm at their back and they have nowhere to go, so you expect savage resistance! The orc chief roars a command and the archers loose towards your party! What do you do?" and all of a sudden it immediately becomes clear that, hey, there are both pillars and ledges here. And archers. This stuff isn't meant to be done in a vacuum, it should be based on the game fiction in much the same way it would be if you were drawing it on a map. You just... don't draw it on a map.



I do this as best as I can, and I agree that ruling in the player's favor is usually the best idea. However, there's also a flip side to this. In order to bull rush an opponent into a pillar, that opponent has to be front of the pillar. A certain condition outside of the DM's rulings has to be met. When the player takes steps to make sure that condition is met, they are playing more strategically and tactically, and I see that as a good thing, rather than constantly asking the DM what they can and cannot do.

I think this plays into the above. And maybe involves the player saying "While I exchange blows with the orc chief, I'm going to try to maneuver him so his back is to the pillar!" And, if I'm being selfish, this feels way more -real- to me than "Welp, it's my turn to move now, so I go here, here, here and here, and even though we're fighting, it's not the orc's turn, so he can't move to get out of the way, so I charge and slam him into the pillar!"

It's fine if you want to play a tactical miniatures battle game, in which case I strongly recommend D&D 4th Edition and a bunch of Lego minifigs, because that's a fun game, but most game systems, this degree of tracking is not real important.



I think a lot of what we debate comes down to a matter of style. I see the battle grid and map as good because it is a shared experience outside of the DM's control (somewhat), and that seems to encourage fairness, which I think is important when people have their lives on the line. I would hate to deal the striking blow to a player for them to say, "of COURSE that pillar would be there..." whereas if the battle took place on the shared experience of the battle map, they can easily trace what missteps they took that led to their death.

I guess I'm pretty much past the point of worrying about "fairness". We're adults here. We should be trusting each other or not playing these games. It also doesn't hurt that I've been reading through Dungeon World lately and going "You know, this makes so much more sense than all the nonsense we go through to play D&D." In that game, the player has their back to the pillar because of a result of a previous roll they made, or a decision they made earlier in the fight, and they know it's coming - "Got an 8, huh? You manage to get your knife into the orc's thigh, but not before he's backed you up against one of the pillars that lines the hall! What do you do?" There's no "Well of COURSE NOW there's a pillar there!" because it's been referenced before and the player knows it's coming. Again - this stuff shouldn't happen in a vacuum. There should be no spontaneous "Oh, and the orc slams you up against the pillar!" where the players are going "Wait, what pillar?" The players are necessarily dealing with incomplete information anyway - even if there were a tactical map, they won't know that the orc can slam them up against a pillar for extra damage until it happens - so playing it "from the fiction" gives just as complete a picture, IMHO.

AttilaTheGeek
2014-04-29, 06:54 PM
I guess I'm pretty much past the point of worrying about "fairness". We're adults here. We should be trusting each other or not playing these games. It also doesn't hurt that I've been reading through Dungeon World lately and going "You know, this makes so much more sense than all the nonsense we go through to play D&D." In that game, the player has their back to the pillar because of a result of a previous roll they made, or a decision they made earlier in the fight, and they know it's coming - "Got an 8, huh? You manage to get your knife into the orc's thigh, but not before he's backed you up against one of the pillars that lines the hall! What do you do?" There's no "Well of COURSE NOW there's a pillar there!" because it's been referenced before and the player knows it's coming. Again - this stuff shouldn't happen in a vacuum. There should be no spontaneous "Oh, and the orc slams you up against the pillar!" where the players are going "Wait, what pillar?" The players are necessarily dealing with incomplete information anyway - even if there were a tactical map, they won't know that the orc can slam them up against a pillar for extra damage until it happens - so playing it "from the fiction" gives just as complete a picture, IMHO.

The reason why I prefer battlemaps for all but the most inconsequential maps is because, in games I've played, these sort of "there's a pillar there?" discrepancies come up not out of malice or cheating but because of human error. A GM wouldn't make up a pillar behind a player character just so an orc can slam them into it, but maybe a player misunderstood the GM saying it was there, they forgot to say it was there, the player didn't notice the GM saying it, or the player just forgot about it. In my experience, the most common reason for misunderstandings like that (and the best reason to use battlemaps) is ambiguity in a setting description. For example, let me use your description, not to pick on your writing, just because it's here:


The GM is saying "You break down the door into the many pillared hall, and a line of orcs is ready to receive your assault! This is their last stand - there's a chasm at their back and they have nowhere to go, so you expect savage resistance! The orc chief roars a command and the archers loose towards your party! What do you do?" and all of a sudden it immediately becomes clear that, hey, there are both pillars and ledges here. And archers. This stuff isn't meant to be done in a vacuum, it should be based on the game fiction in much the same way it would be if you were drawing it on a map. You just... don't draw it on a map.

It might be just that I care more about the minutia of the battle than most players, but on my turn, I would find myself asking a bunch of questions about this description: how big is the room? How many pillars are there? Where are the ledges? But I would also want to ask questions about the arrangement of the orcs: how many are there around their leader? Where are the archers? Could I get to them this round? What about next round? A map would let me see the answers to all of those questions by myself instead of having to take up your time to answer each of them.

A picture is worth a thousand words, and a map by definition gives more information than a verbal description can. For me, a very tactically minded player, a map allows me to understand all the elements of a battle in a way that is not only more complete than what I would get from a description but also guaranteed to be the same as what my allies are seeing. I understand that drawing a map has an immersion cost which makes it not worth doing for many groups; I only wanted to explain why I, personally, prefer to use battlemaps.

INDYSTAR188
2014-04-29, 08:00 PM
In our game (4E), I use a battlemat and markers with mini's or some token for monsters. I try to make the maps as nice as this but I don't take the time to make every detail. I try to add little details, just to help the experience a bit - I like the idea of not leaving empty spaces on the map for cavern/castle walls, rubble, etc.

http://www.wizards.com/dnd/images/DMXP_051%20Trick%204.jpg

Airk
2014-04-29, 10:22 PM
It might be just that I care more about the minutia of the battle than most players, but on my turn, I would find myself asking a bunch of questions about this description: how big is the room? How many pillars are there? Where are the ledges? But I would also want to ask questions about the arrangement of the orcs: how many are there around their leader? Where are the archers? Could I get to them this round? What about next round? A map would let me see the answers to all of those questions by myself instead of having to take up your time to answer each of them.

Big enough that you can run across it a round if you hurry. A lot. Behind the orcs on the far side of the room. In a knot around the leader, shields in front, archers in back towards the chasm. Yes, but only if you exposed yourself. Sure. And that took a whole HELL of a lot less time than drawing a map. :)



A picture is worth a thousand words,

Maybe, but it also takes about as long. :)


and a map by definition gives more information than a verbal description can.

This is not correct. Many things are not represented on maps to keep them from being too cluttered. Do you always draw all the windows on your buildings? The locations of the torches on the walls? How do you represent sloping terrain? Maps have many issues and necessarily very incomplete.


For me, a very tactically minded player, a map allows me to understand all the elements of a battle in a way that is not only more complete than what I would get from a description but also guaranteed to be the same as what my allies are seeing. I understand that drawing a map has an immersion cost which makes it not worth doing for many groups; I only wanted to explain why I, personally, prefer to use battlemaps.

You also probably play games with strict rules for movement and which probably use miniatures. Please enjoy your tactical battlemap game. I have already pointed out that these games are well served by maps, but please don't assert that you are saving anyone time by using them.

Edit: I would also argue that having a perfect picture of exactly what the battlefield looks like, with how many paces between each pillar and the exact number of foes in that clump at the other end of the room makes the situation very game-like and not very fight-like. Also, the odds of a player "forgetting' there is a pillar there when something like what I described ("Hey, the orc is backing you up against a pillar, what do you do?") seems pretty low to me, don't you think?

AttilaTheGeek
2014-04-30, 08:39 AM
You also probably play games with strict rules for movement and which probably use miniatures. Please enjoy your tactical battlemap game. I have already pointed out that these games are well served by maps, but please don't assert that you are saving anyone time by using them.

It's a personal preference: I happen to enjoy tactical battlemap games, and I prefer maps because they do save me time. If you prefer to run combats without maps, that's your own preference. I only wanted to say why I, personally, prefer my combats with maps, but there's nothing wrong with not using battlemaps. I really didn't mean to offend; can we agree to disagree?

Airk
2014-04-30, 08:51 AM
It's a personal preference: I happen to enjoy tactical battlemap games, and I prefer maps because they do save me time. If you prefer to run combats without maps, that's your own preference. I only wanted to say why I, personally, prefer my combats with maps, but there's nothing wrong with not using battlemaps. I really didn't mean to offend; can we agree to disagree?

I think we already have, since I've already stated that maps are important in certain game types, which are the game types you prefer. :P I am still a little bit vexed by the assertion that maps are a time saver however. The time required to make a decent map of a vaguely complex environment is substantial.

I also think you should explore some other game types when you get the chance. :)

Garimeth
2014-04-30, 09:23 AM
In Roll20 I use a scratch sheet, pictures and overland maps.

4/5 times the back ground is a picture of the terrain (painting of a forest, bustling city, etc.) or a good overworld map. I use 13th Age as our system so I have a zoomed in and editted map of the Dragon Empire that I made near Glitterhaegen for what I call the "Trade Region"


THE SCRATCH SHEET: (aka my electronic pad of graph paper)
Empty page blacked out with fog of war. The only visible area is the "board" which has the PC's "minis". Of the board I have pre-made monsters, guards, NPcs, etc. So we will have the minis in marching order, but that's it. When the combat or actual need of a map comes up (if it does) I use the draw tool to sketch it out roughly with the disclaimer its not to scale. As they progress further I will draw more and reveal more of the page with the fog of war tool. (sometimes if its really complex I will sketch it in advance while we are playing and then move them to it.) So when combat starts, I just copy and past these pre-made monsters or w/e into the board to indicate position. (it should be noted that distance in 13th Age is much closer to FATE than 3.5/4e)

For me this works out best, because making a good map in Roll20 is, imo, very time consuming - and if I'm going to do it, I want it to look good. This saves me time, it serves its purpose, keeps the action moving, and let's the players fill in the fine details. "I want to grab a low hanging tree branch and kick the guy in the face" sure, why not, there's a tree there! If I need that higher level of detail then I can quickly sketch it out. "Nope the trees are here, here, and here."

ElenionAncalima
2014-04-30, 12:49 PM
The reason why I prefer battlemaps for all but the most inconsequential maps is because, in games I've played, these sort of "there's a pillar there?" discrepancies come up not out of malice or cheating but because of human error. A GM wouldn't make up a pillar behind a player character just so an orc can slam them into it, but maybe a player misunderstood the GM saying it was there, they forgot to say it was there, the player didn't notice the GM saying it, or the player just forgot about it. In my experience, the most common reason for misunderstandings like that (and the best reason to use battlemaps) is ambiguity in a setting description.

You can certainly play without a battlemap...and for simple fights they are probably waste of everyone's time. However, I do think that battlemaps help for the reason you listed.

Playing without a map gives an advantage to the enemies and NPCs, over the players, because no matter how well the GM describes the battlefield, he/she is always going to understand it better than the players. It makes it a little easier to fall into the the problem that the GM thought it would be obvious, but the players didn't know it was an option.

Overall, I think it depends on players. The game I currently GM, both players are far more visual than auditory. If I don't draw things out they get confused ie) letting someone escape because it didn't occur to them that the semi-hidden entrance to the creepy basement might not be the only way to escape from an otherwise normal house. However, when I give them a map they become master strategists all of a sudden. For other players, a map limits their options and stifles their creativity. One way isn't wrong or right...its whatever works for your players.

scurv
2014-04-30, 08:28 PM
Look outside of the DnD niche a little. game making has got to the point where the software for it is very very intuitive to use. An afternoon in some choice software and you can make highly realistic maps with the only financial investment being the ink used to print them.

VoxRationis
2014-04-30, 10:59 PM
I love drawing world maps, regional maps, etc., but I tend to avoid city maps (so many little squares to draw...) and I often go a little light on the dungeon maps, only keeping a rough sketch in my DM notes. If tactics become absolutely important the use of spare dice, pencils, books, etc. to define where things are is usually sufficient, in my experience.

Mark Hall
2014-04-30, 11:32 PM
Any character with the Cartography skill can make a map. It's up to them to ask relevant questions.

Rhynn
2014-05-01, 01:55 AM
Any character with the Cartography skill can make a map. It's up to them to ask relevant questions.

The way I run it in ACKS, I (as the GM) help out with mapping (looking on as the mapping player draws the map and commenting) if the mapping PC has the Mapping proficiency. If there's no proficiency, they can still draw a map of a dungeon, but get no help.

For wilderness mapping, with no Mapping proficiency the players don't get a blank hexmap grid to draw on; they just have to go freehand, which is going to produce really vague and inaccurate maps that are only useful for very approximate distances between two points ("took us 6 days from here to here") and what was seen along the way.

Fun related note: after agonizing over how my players would be able to map irregular, natural caverns (which are very common in old D&D modules), I came across Gary Gygax's advice in one of the Against the Giants modules: he says not to give the players exact distances, etc. just vague information (turns right, twenty feet, etc.), and that this will produce the kind of vague maps of these natural caves that the methods available to the PCs would produce.