Thursday, October 17, 2013

Plug And Play: Maps For The Lazy

I used to spend so much time as a kid with my graph paper and pencil, crafting elaborate dungeons for my players to explore. Even when I was not running a game, I was at it, drawing in secret doors, statues, pit traps and the like. Half the fun was painting yourself into a corner and trying to, to use a writing analogy, let the character figure his way out. Why is does the dungeon transition from being carved out into a natural cave feature? How could you use the underground river to get around the bugbear lair? Why didn't Gygax make a map icon for the toilet?

I tended to put curtains all over my dungeons. No idea why.
Creating this environment for pcs to explore was always at least as much fun as actually letting them explore it.

As many of you probably agree, creating gaming maps is, to a large degree, a kind of art-form; there's a reason Christopher West gets paid to do it and not me!

Now that I'm older, not only do I not have the time to play as many games as I'd like, but the prep time available to me to prepare for my own game is limited as well. This annoying logistical complication is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the lot of us here at Station53 espouse such a player-driven narrative, since it has the bonus effect of eliminating much of that much of that preparation. That being said, even with an pseudo-abstract, non-tactical system such as Edge of the Empire, I still need maps to keep everything straight in my brain. Fortunately, the Gods have provided us with the internet.

Google Image Search is a powerhouse for locating good maps. A search string consisting of "[game system] map layout" works wonders. For my Star Wars game, I need something a bit more modern than most of the gaming maps you find online, and modifying that search string with [Modern Warfare], [Halo], [Black Ops], or any multi-player FPS brings up a great deal of usable maps. Though I don't play The Old Republic*, Torhead has all the game-maps on their site, which is quite useful for porting into your game.

I've a game coming up tomorrow, and needed a few maps, but none of the usual suspects were doing the trick. Fortunately though, I discovered Dave's Mapper! This site is a collection of artists who contribute modular tiles you can cycle through to build just the map you want - perfect! Best of all, its free! Here's a few random examples below. As you can see, the image is generated by combining a set amount of predefined tiles (in this case, 3x3), and their site allows you to cycle through each tile location to find the one that works:

I generated this at random, so lets see what we can do with it. This looks like a well-used mine. The dwarves in the mountains have been taking ore from this vein for centuries, and have slowly upgraded the access to that vein as the go. This is represented by the fact that the 'dungeon' portions all enclose the rough natural passages in the center. Once that ore runs out and all of those passages are sculpted, it will make a fine lair for a lich. Over on the left side we have a few passageways that go under/over each other; might this be designed to allow for mining carts to move through different levels? The shaft in the top left corner is how the miners go from the surface to this area. To the right of that (top-center) is where the miners sleep, eat, fight, and drink while not on duty. The tile in the top-right corner is interesting; might that be a well they draw their water from? A temple to Dumathoin? Perhaps they stumbled onto something Dwarves Were Not Meant To Know in that chamber, and it wiped them all out.

Here's another, from spaceship tile-set. I generated it randomly, then made a few changes. Below is the Procrastinator-Class System Patrol Craft:

Affluent systems use a ship like this to patrol the hyperlanes for pirates, with a drop ship for any surface excursions needed. To port lies cargo storage and extravehicular access via an airlock; engineering and crew quarters to starboard. Two turbolaser batteries flank the bridge to blast those filthy pirates into elementary particles. Behind the bridge lies the captain's office as well as a multimedia room that can be used to brief the crew before a sortie or watch old Buck Rogers serials. To the right of that room are two heads. Our esteemed ship designer added a personal touch and placed two rooms stern with large view-ports for relaxation.

I think I'll be using this site frequently going forward.

Here's a few other links to mapping sites I find helpful for my Star Wars game:

*general Star Wars rant coming soon...