Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Map Insets

I watched the Lord of the Rings again with family over the weekend.  And when Strider points out Amon Sûl, something struck me.  An icon on a map isn't going to give players as evocative of sense of that place as an actual image.  And I thought of Victorian illustrated texts with their illustrations framed in circles and rectangles that nestle right into the text.  Why not do that for a player map?
I'm pretty sure I've seen these on tourist maps and historical ones, but I can't seem to find any.  And I don't remember ever seeing a module with a player map that utilized this kind of zoomed in insert.  I hope you correct me with a bunch of examples in the comments.  Anyway, I wanted to mock up a crude proof of concept:
I realize now that this is basically the same as Zak's illustrated dungeons.  But then those are meant for the DM, and what I'm imagining would be meant for players, to help them decide where they wanted to go in a sandbox.

The inset pics would need to be things that were fairly common knowledge to the surrounding communities.  Essentially, the pics are a stand in for the rumors, descriptions, and lore people tell the players about locations.  If players are exploring new territories, and you feel up to it as a DM, you could add insets as players pass close enough to featured locations.

Update: I played around with the idea a little more.  Imagine these insets bordering the whole map, those near the starting point of the campaign filled in, those farther away unknown.  But, you know something is there.  You could give players XP for every Wonder of your campaign world they uncover.


  1. It's a good idea, and I've tried this in the past, albeit with smaller maps. Doing it with a sandbox region would be a great idea.

  2. you could add insets as players pass close enough to featured locations

    With stickers, perhaps.

  3. I like it. A player map could start with the close areas of interest already illustrated, and then when they travel further, more are added to their map.

    Having the illustrations fit on a business card or 3x5" card would be pretty handy, and the DM could have a little deck of them ready to hand out.

    Obviously this takes more work, but if you are already using the Zak method, then you are most of the way there.

  4. It occurs to me that I have a map that uses this feature, albeit very crudely.

    Shown is the hex map, and then it has an inset view of the main city from the east

  5. @ Simon: Thanks.

    @Paul: Or print your landmarks, cut, glue with rubber cement.

    @lasgunpacker: Yes, I like the idea of sheets of these ready to go. What if you chose them randomly? Hah, have to improv. And yep, your example is the same thing. It isn't a new idea, but I haven't seen people taking advantage of it.

  6. Your map template reminded me immediately of the Peter Pan Neverland movie map:


  7. You could use your new map border and have the random deck of wonders for extra map exploring fun. Start players in the middle of the map, give them a couple of wonders nearby, and then have the others determined randomly as hex "specials".

    hmm... I like this idea, since it seems perfect for a random map, or otherwise undetermined area.

  8. May I direct you to

    Could something like this also work?

  9. @Allan, cool.

    @lasgunpacker: I have a bunch of tomb entrances, and tors and such, could make a deck of business cards with them on it. I would probably want more variety than I have, add in geysers, tall trees, pyramids. But yeah, I think it might be a short hand way to get a sandbox up and running.

    @C: That's beautiful, but seems different. I suppose you could have an entire hex like that as local knowledge, say a religious center. But what I was thinking would be more like having a close up of that huge face idol/statue the players know about and then when they travel there everything else would be new to them.

  10. Love it. Thanks Telecanter!!

  11. the precedent is earlier - 17th and 18th c maps of the Indies (look for Blaeu mappamundi) - and yes, this is a really cool application, although unlocking images feels railroady.

  12. Would work nicely in a town adventure. Modern city maps often use this technique for large buildings like cathedrals.

  13. Thanks! Yeah, I'd like to see monuments and giant brass heads and other swords and sorcery weirdities illustrated or even just important buildings.