Monday, March 5, 2012

Multiple Drafts of Maps

How often are you satisfied with first drafts? Me? I’m rarely satisfied even with my 3rd or 4th drafts.

Way back when I started my megadungeon project I envisioned a great mohole with sections of the dungeon branching out from it. I scrapped that idea, and then moved onto an early draft of the current incarnation of the project. I was greatly inspired by Michael Curtis’ Stonehell, and the popular 1 page dungeon format. I expanded my dungeon from it’s initial map out into several levels and many maps.

Original Dungeon Map

Recently I’ve gotten to play in Stonehell, and I’ve run my own megadungeon a couple of times. It has shown me some of the shortcomings of my own design. For one thing, the map needs some reworking. It’s already gone through several incarnations, each of which incorporated some minor tweaks, but for the most part it remained true to the original design. I recently set it aside, and redrew it from memory, doing my best to simplify the lines and make describing it easier to players over G+. The result shown below isn’t bad, still fails.

Current(ish) map

Map from memory - an interesting experiment, but ultimately I’m not pleased with it. For one thing, it's missing an entire section that I forgot about. For another, it doesn't really do what I wanted - it's not really simplified.

Of course the option remains of scrapping the whole level and starting over, or keeping the original map in front of me when I redraw it. I think I’m going to try to redraw it one more time after I make note of the specific changes I want to incorporate into it.

This all leads me to my new poll - Do you do multiple drafts of your maps?


  1. I tend to sketch maps and make notes, then open up Inkscape and work on it until I am satisfied. If I had a scanner at home I'd probably do more hand-drawn maps, and not sure how many drafts I'd go through then; no more than two or three, based on past experience.

    1. Unfortunately I don't have the time right now to spend using a computer to draw my maps. If I did I'd probably spend some time using google sketchup to make 3d maps. How do you like inkscape? Easy to use?

  2. Yes and no - I will re-draw sections if they come out very poorly, with crooked lines or mis-judged ruler position. I'll re-draw small sections if I realize the stairs on level 1 don't actually line up with the ones on level 2. I may tweak them if I realize they need fixing for some reason, like being too bottlenecked or wide open). But that's it. More than 90% of my maps drawing is one-shot drafts, with a few erasures to add or subtract doors or make ceiling collapses or add pits.

    If I have another idea, or a better idea, I just put it on another map. Why spend 4 drafts on one map instead of just whipping up 4 maps? I can assure you my players don't give a rat's rump that my maps aren't perfect realizations of my vague pre-drawing visualizations, so if I have something workable I just go with that. Besides my players are going to knock down doors and rip holes in walls so the actual floorplan won't survive contact with the enemy. :)

    1. Some very good points. It comes down to the fact that I want it to be good for my players, and I want to like it too. We're going to be spending some time at it, so it should be up to the task.

      On the other hand, I totally get your point about drawing new maps...