Monday, August 8, 2011

Observations about Judges Guild map 1 from JG17

In 1976, Judges Guild released a pack of four dungeon level maps (JG17). I believe the maps were originally from the Thunderhold installment. I spent a few minutes last night making notes about the characteristics of the first map, with an eye to producing original maps with similar features.

  • No closed doors near starting area
  • Early & obvious descent to level 2
  • Access to various deeper levels
  • A couple of very large rooms
  • Environment hazards (slippery bank)
  • Notes written directly on map
  • Dimensions noted on map (no counting squares)
  • Blank lines for color key (used how?)
  • Sounds noted on map (buzz, grunt, etc.)
  • Smells (stinky) noted
  • Curved & diagonal passages
  • Multiple pit traps
  • Peanty of odd shaped rooms—almost a third
  • A couple of dead ends
  • Blank lines for revisions (used how?)
  • What goes on the first set of broken lines/labels? A dungeon complex and level number?
  • Water feature
  • Statue
  • Mix of rough (cave?) & regular/constructed rooms
  • Some dimension not evenly divisible by 5 or 10—especially the rough/cave areas (108', 62', etc.)
  • 34 rooms total

A PDF of the four maps is available from RPGnow.

5 comments:

  1. Dimensions noted on map (no counting squares)

    That's a really good idea that I am going to start using immediately.

    Plenty of odd shaped rooms—almost a third

    Increasingly i'm starting to think that the odd-shaped rooms are much more trouble than they're worth. They're difficult to convey verbally and I'm not really sure what they add. The occasional weird room is OK but I'm leaning toward "square rooms, straight corridors" for the most part.

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  2. I've used the "color" blanks in two ways, both with colored pencil notations on the map - to denote dead magic zones, silence areas, dark zones, etc., and (more recently) to indicate which if any major dungeon faction controls a region so I can figure out relationships.

    I also have a complete list of interlevel connections for the same reason.

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  3. Increasingly i'm starting to think that the odd-shaped rooms are much more trouble than they're worth.

    I'm ambivalent about non-rectangular rooms. They make maps look more interesting, but rooms that take too long to explain piss-off the mapper and bore the other players.

    The maps I draw for actual play tend to have something like one odd shaped room for each eight or ten rectangular ones. I'm not above sketching such rooms for the mapper to keep things moving.

    I wonder if the maps in published modules tend to be spruced-up with more irregular rooms than the authors might use in their own private games....

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  4. "I wonder if the maps in published modules tend to be spruced-up with more irregular rooms than the authors might use in their own private games...."

    Would not be surprised. See also any map with natural caverns. I love a realistic cave map and they are probably needed for the DM to get the feel or tone of the place, but how are you supposed to describe them? "No, no that wall needs to be more squiggely, and the room is shaped like a thin banana . . ."

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  5. This is a big reason that I want to playtest my Caves levels, which have many twisting passages and very large, irregularly shaped caves. (My usual MO for low-level dungeons is right angles and rectangles.)

    I'm trying to mitigate this for the prospective mapper by including plenty of landmarks - unusual cave formations, artificial features, phosphorescent fungi, waterworks, weird effects, and other dungeon dressing by which they can orient themselves.

    My assumption is that experienced mappers will devolve to the bubble-and-line form of mapping, with notations on their maps for landmarks. This assumption may prove incorrect.

    Obviously the "map every single square correctly" model of player mapping won't work here, but there's honestly no need for it in levels without important secret areas to be revealed by precise maps.

    The experiment may fail, but I like to try out new things. In any event, I don't think I'd run those levels for total n00bs.

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