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Friday, November 1, 2013

Blue Maps

After I talked about writing details directly on town maps, something occurred to me about old school maps. TSR-era maps are usually printed in a shade of blue, instead of in black. Specifically, it’s non-photo blue, RGB #A4DDED, a shade that can’t be detected by the graphics arts cameras typically used back then. TSR used this shade to prevent high-quality reproductions of their maps in bootleg copies of the modules.

This, of course, is no longer true with digital image techniques, but old schoolers are so used to seeing maps that look like that, there are a number of OSR publishers who do their maps in that color. For example, Dragonsfoot uses it in their modules. New schoolers laugh at the stupid nostalgia of the OSR.

However, when I made example maps GM info placement directly on town maps to reduce lookup time, I was having problems getting both the text and the underlying map to be equally readable. It was only after I posted my examples that I realized the solution is to print the player map in black, but make the GM map non-photo blue, so that that GMs can add notes directly to the map in pencil and still be able to read both the map and the notes. It’s a nice re-purposing of an old tradition.


  1. I think the blue maps give flavor to the game, just like the illustrations in the DMG, PH, and MM. They recreate the experience of childhood and are therefore valuable.


  2. Ooh, very nice! I didn't join the hobby until '99, and though we freely mixed older materials in with newer ones, those blue maps were not part of my D&D experience as a kid. Yet there's still something appealing about them that, unlike so much of the artwork or mechanics from that era, I can't quite explain. They just feel right

  3. It is an unintended benefit, perhaps, that you can read pencil on top of the blue maps. :) I discovered when I printed out maps of The Castle of the Mad Archmage that I needed to go back and make them faint grey, otherwise I couldn't annotate them.