Cartography to Conjure By pt. 2: Beneath the Chateau

As a follow-up to Eric’s post about the beauty of player maps, I present some maps by myself (grotty pencil) and Maldoor (beautiful GIMP):

The first level beneath the Chateau d'Amberville

One level further down, connected by the curving stairs in the SW of the L1 map

An outbuilding of the main Chateau, suspected but never proven to connect with its dungeon

The map of the aboveground castle in Eric’s previous post was my hand-drawn copy of Eric’s GM map. Here, I started with a player map hand-drawn during a session I wasn’t able to attend, copied it over into my own sheet of graph paper, added notes about what was encountered in that session, and then drew in new rooms and comments as we explored.

The room on Level 2 had a three-dimensional geometry which proved difficult for us to understand and especially for me to map:

ERIC: Let me see what you’ve got there. (Shakes head) Do you just want me to draw it in for you?

ME: Yes, please.

ERIC: (erasing) How did you get it over here?

ME: I think I confused east and west.

ERIC: You’re not a very good mapper.

ME: That’s true, I just like drawing them.

Although it’s frustrating when my maps are inaccurate due to my miserable spatial sense (which frequently includes an  inability to tell left from right), I think map-making has several benefits:

  1. The act of making the map causes you to think about how things connect. For example, when we retreated from the termites, I was able to run to the east and be confident I could link up with those fleeing to the south even without consulting my map (as my PC would be too busy to do), because having just drawn those rooms made their layout clear in my mind.
  2. Likewise, it leads you to think about what might lie beyond the edges of the map. Sketching out the double-wide corridors led us to theorize these were main hallways and more likely to take us somewhere interesting than the narrower ones we thought were originally built for servants to use.
  3. Unlike swinging a sword, making a map is an action you can perform in real life just as your character is doing in the fiction. This creates a satisfying sense of the difficulties involved in map-making, and causes you to value maps all the more. For example, copying out the previous player map made me appreciate the effort involved in making sure that the hard-won knowledge of the dungeon layout doesn’t perish when one cartographer falls into a pool of acid along with the sole copy of the map. And when my previous PC mapped some of the watchtower dungeon, he didn’t own any parchment and I didn’t have graph paper, so I had him carve lines and notches in his shield and tried to draw what that would look like on my character sheet. The result was versimilitudinous and surprisingly useful for navigation, but much less nice looking than Maldoor’s.  Our experiments with mapping structures in NYC in real time also suggest that even with parchment in hand, our PCs are doing a similar thing – jotting down paces counted and directions taken or not, and only compiling this into a drawn-out map readable by others.

5 Responses to “Cartography to Conjure By pt. 2: Beneath the Chateau”

  1. 1 Naked Samurai
    April 22, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    What are the blobs around the perimeter of the statue/pit room? Are those doors? I don’t remember that part (cf. never paying attention).

  2. April 22, 2010 at 11:27 pm

    Yea, I do think they were doors, but see above about being a bad mapper.

  3. 3 Naked
    April 22, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    Nonsense, your maps have great charm.

    Between your occasional direction lapses and my inattention, we’re aces.

  4. April 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Not unlike the map carved in the shield example, it’s interesting to assume that maps are drawn “in character” (Quendalon does this by enforcing the need for a character to actually use writing tools – precluding use of weapons in that hand).

    An outgrowth here is multi-generation maps. What happens when one character copies a map from another character – then ads to it? Surely their memory, skill, and intelligence (not to mention the areas they are most interested in) will color the evolution of the map.

    One assumes some errors will be made, perhaps compounded. it’s an organic evolution. We saw this to some extent with Maldoor’s map (taken from an absent players notes … although very accurate).

    Anyway – I’ve hand copied your map somewhat in character, and will be evolving it tonight – I’ll post the progress, we can all point and laugh.

  5. 5 John
    October 14, 2010 at 6:16 am

    “Although it’s frustrating when my maps are inaccurate due to my miserable spatial sense”

    There are always going to be issues when one person is trying to describe something to another person, like a referee describing a room to a mapper.

    There is an exercise you can do which I did years ago. It is a team-building sort of exercise to show how difficult communication is. You take a couple of people and sit them down back to back. One person has a blank piece of paper and a pencil. You then give the other person a picture with simple lines and shapes on it. That person then has to try and describe the diagram to the person with the blank piece of paper, who has to draw it. You can give them a time limit or just let them go until they think they are complete. After the time limit is up, compare the two to see how accurate the copy is. You could also try this with dungeon maps. Make sure you include rooms of strange shape and size, different levels and winding corridors!

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Past Adventures of the Mule

April 2010

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