[generic] RPG a day lockdown #85 - maps


Rune Priest
But more seriously, unless I'm running an existing property that came with a map (in which case see option 2), I'm probably going to go through stages 4, 3 and 1 in roughly that order.

Most of my home grown game maps start as scribbles, either on a whiteboard (A4 dry-wipe boards are amazing, I have no idea how I managed to exist for so long without them) or on a bit of paper. That's how most of the maps will probably appear the first time I run an adventure, because I only bothered doing a map for those two locations I was sure the PCs were going to, and only then if I thought they were interesting enough.

After the session, if I think the location is going to get another visit, it might get a nicer sketch in a notebook, or it might go straight into the computer. Up to now Inkscape has been my vector graphics package of choice, but I'll be trying out Affinity Designer next.

For fairly generic places (alleyways, inns etc) I will scour the interwebs for quality free images I can reuse (or look in some of those art packs that I've acquired in bundles over the years). Failing that I may grudgingly draw something, or just say to the players "it's a generic alleyway, you tell me what it looks like".


The Guvnor
Staff member
I do them more and more.
I have also realized that a map isn't necessarily cartography. It can be pictures in a series of shapes, or a mindmap or a chess board.
I like detailed maps, which sadly, take time to draw, but obviously, for the younger generation with more free time, they are so wroth it. I did take courses in technical drawing in school and that was one of my to courses too. ;-)
I mostly scribble them on the blank side of recycled paper, but sometimes I’ll draw them up in CAD or even Sketchup. I’ve made some 3D maps of cities and terrain this way. It’s only worthwhile if you’ll spend a significant amount of time there, though sometimes the 3D modelling is satisfying in itself.

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
I fiddle about with wonder/dungeondraft to make maps or make good use of those out on the web or on Drivethru. Pathfinder has brought me to battlemaps, but otherwise I like some visuals, drawing on my Tolkien maps of my youth.

Abstract and zonal work for me too.
Faded out over the years. I can’t do them in any format- by hand or using any kind of digital hardware or software. So if I need any I scrounge them from whatever sources is available.


Rune Priest
For the worlds I create I do love a good map. The Empires Rising maps have to be in play, because of the nature of the setting. My newish High Fantasy shared setting has a map too and again, it helps as an aide for the game and for the players. My maps often start out as quick sketches before I take them into photoshop to make them look nice.

First Age

D&D h@ck3r and Hopepunk
Staff member
85. Maps - Do you draw nice ones, buy them, adapt them, scribble them on the back of a napkin?
All of the above.

Draw them: I spend longer than is probably healthy fiddling with contour lines on topographical maps or wondering where the spreading ridges are on my planetary maps.

Buy them: I buy a lot of real world maps. My players have fought battles on the "alien planets" of Namibia, New Zealand and Greenland, for instance. Real world maps can also sometimes generate plots, when I, or my players, spot a particular feature on them. For RPG product maps I'm after things like deck plans of a spaceship.

Adapt them: estate agent websites are a fantastic source of floor plans for houses and flats! And I re-use maps from one scenario/system in other games. There's a military base in the desert from a Challenge magazine scenario which has been (so far) attacked by werewolves, stormed by an infantry company, and been the 'crime scene' in a horror game.

Scribble on the back of a napkin: grab the scrap paper or the gamerboard and quickly sketch out a few landmarks or bits of furniture to explain what is where.
I'm a landscape architect previously trained as a geographer, so I basically see the universe in map form. I like maps that contain as much information as possible so as to minimise the amount of text I have to remember or look up when running a game. I think I'm heavily influenced by Judges Guild's older maps, which achieved this very well indeed. I cannot envisage running an adventure without maps, but I have run adventures with nothing but a map.

Ordnance survey are my favourite maps in the Real World. I also have an amazing tiny orange book full of tales and maps of all the tiny islands in the world, which I can get lost in for hours at a time. Did you know you can look at the Pitcairn Islands with Google Streetview now? Somehow that diminishes them for me, i much prefer a good map.

And let me just say that nothing could be healthier for body and mind than fiddling with contour lines.