Archive for March 11th, 2010

11
Mar
10

Cartography to Conjure By: The Beauty of Player Maps

If you’re going to have a complicated story you must work to a map; otherwise you’ll never make a map of it afterwards.

— J. R. R. Tolkien

I love a good map. Perhaps it’s a side-effect of reading too many fantasy novels in my youth; it seemed as though every book had its own map of some strange land — Middle-Earth, Witch World, Earthsea, the Hyborian Age, and so on. A good map is like a good setting: it tantalizes you with hints about the world while actually saying very little, leaving you free to imagine the place in whatever detail suits your fancy.

Few things in a game please me more than seeing a well-drawn player’s map of some part of the game world. The pleasure here is different; instead of teasing me with the mystery of the unknown, a player-drawn map turns a funhouse mirror on the original work. Viewed through someone else’s eyes, we see what the player found interesting by observing what they emphasized or overlooked. And any mistakes on the map turn into entertaining surprises as I wonder how they came to be!

I provided my players with a map of the surface works of my game’s megadungeon, the Chateau d’Ambreville. Tavis proceeded to sketch out the castle for himself, and followed this up by adding various notes based on the group’s reconnaissance of the area. Both maps are posted below for your entertainment!

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Past Adventures of the Mule

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