Saturday, September 25, 2010

Easy-Map Dungeon III

I realized last night that I was making the same mistake in a few places on the map that Koren n'Rhys pointed out on Thursday.  Uggh, embarrassing to have problem with something so trivial, but I'll forge ahead and assume that other people might have the same problem.

It comes down whether you are counting the 10' corner square or not when you are giving dimensions.

So, using this little bit of wall I forgot to label on yesterday's draft, should that be 30 or 20 feet?  Should I always give the full wall distance, or, try not to double count that corner square?  How would you describe that passage to a player?

Regular Features

To cheat and avoid the problem, I realized last night, that if we say there are torches in wall fixtures, we could say they are equally spaced.  If there is one sconce per ten feet of wall, all we need to do is tell the new mapper how many sconces they see ahead.  (You might also do this with decorative motifs carved/tiled in the floor: "You see two more murals carved in the floor before the corridor ends in a door").

Torch Radius Distances in Design

Another idea is that if you don't have any regular features like sconces, and you don't have light, you will need to use light source radius as a measurement.  See a post here by Delta on torch illumination radius.  So at pretty good light at 60 feet, we should probably take that into consideration when designing a dungeon easy to map.  I mean, having doors or corridors at 30' would be easiest to describe: "You see the corridor turn to the right, just at the edge of your torch light." That seems pretty limiting though.  Ideas?


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  2. I’m on about my 9th beer (watching baseball… hey it happens) but I’m happy to give this fairly complicated matter some attention. If the party is coming from F traveling south, let’s pretend the passageway had continued ahead past the turn off to the west (or right). I would describe the scene as “The passageway continues south (or ahead) 30’ before your light drops off the wall on the right - there, a 10’ wide opening begins a passageway to the west (or right), the passageway you’d been traveling continues as it had after this for X number of feet.” Otherwise if it had not continued straight, it’s 40’ from F as you state. This is subjective and one reason why (although I originally liked it) the map shouldn’t be labeled this way with distances. That is, coming from area F, it’s clear that the way ahead extends 40’ south before it stops. Coming from G, it’s clear that the passageway extends 30’ ahead before it does the same. The only way the distance labeling scheme can work is in an environment where there the mobility of the characters is somehow limited to only one direction.

  3. Whew, I have only had one drink and I couldn't follow all that! ;-)
    My two cents: I would go to the full length of the hall, as the hall does go a full 40 feet then turn, it still goes 40 feet, that doesn't change with the fact that it turns. I am a bit of a 'simple' gamer but I don't like when things get complicated. So I would just stick with the "Hall goes 40 feet, then turns to the left" Is that exact? Maybe not, but the adventurers aren't building a castle either.

  4. This brings back memories to my first mega dungeon. I developed, and taught the mappers, a very specific terminology, so we were always sure they received the correct information.

    If I remember correctly, we would have gone with 20 feet. "The corridor leads to the south for 30 feet, before turning to the right, and then going another 20 feet before terminating in a door."

    As for the torchlight idea, I think that might actually be an idea for the hardcore guard who doesn't believe in delvers mapping down distances to exact feet.

    Now for how I would make the map really simple:

    That map doesn't really leave much room for error. Has a few more rooms, but they could just contain dungeon dressing.

  5. Thanks so much for the comments.

    @ze Bulette: It was interesting to see you hesitate on giving compass directions or not. I actually decided not to put in a compass rose on because I thought using cardinal directions would be more confusing than the mappers' right, left.

    Also, thanks I hadn't thought that measuring the detail above as 40', then 20' would essentially only work one way. So, printing number distances on the map won't work that way. Now, you could try to design the map so that it could only be experienced one way, which I tried to do. But in the interest of, well, interest, I added those secret doors. So it is possible to go through that loop either direction depending on if they found the secret doors.

    @m.s.jackson: I am the simplest of simple gamers :) I would say the "Hall goes 40 feet, then turns to the left" too. The problem I was running into was how to describe the hall after the turn: is it 20' feet to the door or 30'?

    I know this seems trivial but my fluctuating inconsistently back and forth between these two choices actually created mapping errors for poor Tavis Allison at the LA MiniCon, so I want to figure it out.

    @rubberduck: First, it's nice to hear someone else actually sat down and systematized this. Second, I'm humbled by that map you made. I think I was being constrained too much in thinking there are corridors and there are rooms that open off of them. I like how you've complicated that. I also like how these presumably new players will encounter a choice of four directions to go in right off the bat: exploratory decisions!

    I think I'll take some of your changes and revise my map if you don't mind.

  6. Not at all. Feel free.

    As for the systematization I just felt it had to be done. I didn't want the players to get lost because they misunderstood what I said. After all, their characters wouldn't be able to misunderstand what they had measured, or at least not in the same way. And I didn't want to be looking over their shoulder going "No, this side of the corridor should be 30 feet. No, the door should be there, not there." I wanted them to make their own maps. Thus I had to systematize it.

  7. Hi Telecanter. I'm with Rubberduck on this one. The new section of corridor is itself only 20' long. I wouldn't include the extra 10' for the corridor the party is currently standing in. Now I'm off to see post IV!

  8. Presenting distances as fractions of light radius for the win! I wish I had thought of it before.

  9. Really, really interesting series of posts, thank you. When 3e was published I had been not playing D&D for about 6 or 7 years, and I had little desire to go back. Then I had the idea of doing a D&D game that totally abandoned naturalism to rely solely on all the stereotypes I remembered, where space was only divisible into 10' cubes (and gelatinous cubes filled corridors perfectly), monsters were deaf and the only things in the game world capable of learning were kobolds and chests. I hadn't thought of using linear-falloff lights, but back then realtime 3d games were still in their infancy. This set of posts provides a sensible and human rationale for some of those conventions and provides me with a way back in, I think. It's as if I M Pei were designing dungeons

  10. Thanks.I don't know a lot about I M Pei but this quote of his seems to apply here "An individual building, the style in which it is going to be designed and built, is not that important. The important thing, really, is the community. How does it affect life?" If you replace building with dungeon and think about how it will affect play at the table.