Friday, November 25, 2011

Windowed Maps & Room Content Cards

I'm at the folks', on a guest account.  Had a couple ideas I thought I'd share.  See, I'm never as organized as I want to be with my game stuff and I have to carry everything to someone else's house so the fewer papers I have the better.

Also, the fewer bits of paper I have to fiddle with during play the better too.  I try to have a map on one side and an random encounters key sheet on the other in a report cover.  That way I can carry it with me if I pace around, whisper in a player's ear, or close it when we take a break.  But invariably there are other things I need to access: npcs, monster hp tracking, random tables.  If I could compress some of the data it would help.

So, what if I print my map on a thicker bit of paper and cut flaps in the major encounter areas.  Then if players go there, I fold open the flap and the info on the creatures/features is right there.  This could be printed on the back side of the map or, if, it's easier, on another bit of paper stapled to the map.

Another idea is to print business card size room contents and staple or paperclip them to the back of the map near their encounter area.  I think this, while cumbersome, might help in two ways: 1) I wouldn't have to go rifling through papers searching for monster hp 2) I could keep track better of what players fought for xp purposes-- put a check mark on the ones they've killed and stash them all in one place for after game tallying.  I could have treasure troves ready made in lettered envelopes, then just have a letter on the business card.

Not as elegant as I'd like but I might try one or the other to see how it works for me.


  1. Advent calender style dungeon map, sounds wonderful though perhaps quite fiddly to set up.

  2. I like the rooms on cards more than the advent calendar thing. It just sounds easier to put together - plus you can shuffle cards for random placement/effects and recycle them in different dungeons. Eventually you could archive them using whatever sorting criteria you like - degree of difficulty, weirdness, etc.

  3. With basic D&D, it's often simple to write all of a monster's stats on the map itself - you just need hp, AC, thac0 & damage (plus any special abilities you can't remember)

  4. You could use the inside of miniature post-it notes cut to overlay the room and just flip them open as needed.

  5. I found folding a BIG piece of paper into a booklet was pretty awesome. This is how to do it with a small piece of paper.

  6. I'd go either with zak-style big paper annotations or acetate overlays myself. But what you're describing is really the dream app of early dvd multimedia and still the province of tourist city guides.

    Relevant to zak's method rather than this one: have you seen Nancy Chandler's maps of Bangkok and Chiang Mai? They're amazing works of data compression on paper - worthwhile research for any DM-artist.

  7. Thanks.

    @David:Yeah, that's exactly what I was thinking of. I still like the idea of something to sit down and make with my hands, but I'm realizing problems with rooms too close together and maybe still not enough room to fit all the monster hp checkboxes I was shooting for anyway.

    @zB:I was thinking more of disposable things I could write all over, but what you are talking about sounds sort of like pre-stocked geomorphs, or actually better, because it doesn't require a specific map shape, a dungeon room ready made. Maybe using Roger's genre tables so they fit a particular setting.

    @Elber: Yeah, I do a lot of this already, but I have taken to using checkboxes the way Zak does to tick off hit points of each creature and that takes up a lot more room.

    @Ry: Thanks, I'm a big proponent of booklets for players and such, but here I was trying to reduce the number of page turns while I DM, because those make me need to think and take my attention away from the play at the table.

    @richard: Yep, on the map is most elegant and I've done some of this including indicating sounds, smells, notations etc. Problem is if you aren't careful it clutters up the map and makes it hard for it to perform its intended function. You can get some mileage with visual icons and colors (I think I could make that B2 map of Zak's much easier to read if I could find some damn humanoid silhouettes).

    I think you linked to them in a comment once before but I'll google and check.

    Now, after turning these possible solutions over in my mind I think my problem as a DM isn't so much keeping track of stuff in rooms (I'm usually pretty familiar with them and only need the briefest mnemonic notations) its wandering monsters, the ones you didn't expect, and haven't rolled HP for, and forget how many there were later. I think I'll post about this.