Player-safe maps

Lost river cave excerpt (full original)

Lost river cave excerpt (full original)

Too few products come with exploration-oriented maps (as opposed to something like a grid map for use as a battle map) that can be shared directly with all players. For example, consider this beautiful map by Mr. Logos. The under/over dotted line style gives away information that explorers should not know. Added work is needed to create a version of the map that can be revealed directly to players. I do not mean to single out Dyson; this was just the map that prompted these thoughts this morning. Other traditional referee-only features such as secret door annotations have the same issue.

If the map itself is a work of art filled with nuance and detail, it seems like a shame for it to be seen only by the referee in a play context. While I probably notice this more now that I often share maps with fog of war reveal on hangout games, it could be relevant to in-person play as well, since you can cover up parts and use it as a visual aid. If it really is just for the referee’s eyes, the functionalist in me might even prefer something more schematic and less polished.

Honestly I am not sure exactly where I am going with this. Do I think that all modules ever should be done in the most convenient form for me personally? No. Do I think that all modules ever should put more effort into game aids? Well, it would be nice, but there are resource constraints so again probably not. However, it is worth considering the way maps function as game tools. There are still many opportunities for improving the usability and format of modular content.

8 thoughts on “Player-safe maps

  1. Angry Monk

    This might be a new idea for map and adventure makers. Provide one map for the DM with room numbers, secret doors, traps, etc. plainly marked out. Another map for players with that info removed and that is ready to put up on a virtual tabletop like Roll20. I did this for Greg Gillespie’s Barrowmaze. It took me awhile with Gimp to eliminate all the secret stuff, and then I put all that info back onto the map, but on the GM layer, so that I could reveal it when needed. It’s a lot of work, but a designer could make it easier by providing the base Player Map.

    Interesting thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Dungeon Smash

    I completely agree. I’m always so pleased and surprised when a module actually comes with a “player-only” map. I wish every single one did. I’ve also utilized the “Fog of War” effect online, by simply blotting out unexplored portions in black with MS Paint. It’s crude, but it works. I’ve always considered doing the same for live games using black construction paper, but I’ve never actually summoned the energy.

  3. dungeonmasterblv

    As far as player maps go, I’ve only ever experienced the player-made map and the DM-made map prop. I’ve never had a DM provide the players with a copy of a map that they didn’t find in-game. I’m still not sure of how any map that the players didn’t find or make themselves wouldn’t be showing information that players shouldn’t know. I mean, after all, if they have a map then exploration loses much of its importance. Perhaps I’m just not understanding the purpose of the map?

    1. Brendan Post author


      Angry Monk pretty much has it. I would add that it is not difficult to do in-person partial map reveals as well. Just copy/print the map out, removing anything extraneous on the module page, and use a few index cards to cover the areas that have not been revealed or are not currently seen. To do this without revealing hidden information though requires that there not be annotations such as secret doors or the under/over notation used by Dyson.

  4. Jeremy

    I’ve mentioned to Dyson that having a VTT friendly format for some features would be great. I’d particularly like to see a secret-door format that only showed the S on the side that the door was visible from.

  5. nemomeme

    I am running the Caverns of Thracia as translated from both the 1979 Judges Guild and the 2004 Necromancer Games versions. In addition to translating it to Dungeon Crawl Classics, I have spend an inordinate amount of time making player maps for the game. There’re maps PCs can find in game that show parts of the dungeon but such maps were not provided in either edition. There’s other places where a bit of in game scouting provides an overhead view of a large portion of the dungeon. Again, you’ve got to draw that up yourself either beforehand or take up some significant table time to that end. One of the best dungeons ever created but not an easy one on a GM.

    Yeah, many times I’ve looked at a beautiful map and thought to myself, “I’m the only one who’s going to get to see this, even if I made a copy and cut it into pieces.”


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