In a thread about mapping – who likes it, is it really necessary to the D&D or old school experience – I offered some advice about when to eliminate it and how to make it easier. It might be worth it to address the topic here, too.
People who hate mapping, as either a GM or a player, often switch to flow charts instead of precision mapping… and that’s fine. There might be a few potential experiences you could miss by not using a precise map, but for the most part, it’s fine. It’s even preferable in some kinds of play. You can save precise mapping for individual rooms, when you suspect there’s a secret area or want to figure out a physical alignment issue.
The exact shape of a room, especially an irregular area like a cavern, does not matter. All that really matters is making sure that the door the players go through and the door the GM thinks they go through is the same. If there’s a real question about shape, position, and orientation, the GM could just do a quick sketch of the room, possibly on an erasable surface like a whiteboard, a Magic Slate, or a sketch app. Players are free to copy the sketch before it is erased, if they feel like it.
Since I’ve suggested recording the contents of each sack or container on a separate index card so that cards can be taken by the GM when players drop something, the same could be done with maps. One index card would be a sketch of the tunnel system with letters or numbers indicating the position of important areas that are on separate index cards. If the players lose their map, the GM confiscates the cards. If the map is torn or damaged, the GM takes a random number of cards.
There’s more that could be said about keeping track of directions underground and getting lost, but I’ll discuss that tomorrow.
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