Friday, April 2, 2010

Dungeon Mapping

I started gaming in either late 80 or early 81, can't remember (I know that I was in Junior High - yes, not Middle School dagnabbit - Junior High). Anyway, I'm a grognard, I guess... I've been playing this game for...shoot, 2/3rds of my life...

But I came to a realization the other day - it's mostly about maps. Now, I love maps. Maps of anything. But what I realized is that in rpg stuff - what I want is a map that is interesting. So from the classic B2 - I've never been too entranced by the keep itself, but I love the caves of chaos - the map itself just suggests so much.

And I also realize that I will put up with big, steaming piles of really bad module - if the map is interesting - at least a little bit. Case in point, I was looking over a 3.5 ed module, DCC #28 Into the Wilds which has some okay points - but has great maps - the maps were what caught me - then I read the adventure - there's bits in it I could use, of course, but the maps are great.

So - I know that for some the release of DL1: Dragons of Despair spelled the beginning of the end for AD&D (the dawning of the "silver age" or whatever) but that module breathed new life into my gaming. But maybe not for the reasons you might think.

The adventure? Yeah, it was okay. But the maps. That 3D perspective map? It was great. What I really liked about it (and still do today) is that the dungeon is finally in a 3 dimensional space - not just rectangles on a flat paper - but a cavern - with stuff at the top AND at the bottom. And the outdoor maps were just as evocative for me.

So I have a special place in my heart for these, whachacallit, isometric maps. I've poured over what is allegedly one of the worst adventures ever published - XL1: The Quest for the Heartstone - but again, not for the adventure itself (it's of middling quality - not the worst, by far - but won't make anybody's top 50 list...) but the map of the dungeon - working out all the interrelations between the levels. I think it's great (published the same year as DL1 - TSR was obviously moving in a new direction).

So - here's a low res (don't want to violate copyright - I'm pretty sure this is unusable) scan of XL1's dungeon map:

I was so smitten by the map style that I tried my own hand at this isometric stuff - but, of course, I didn't have any of that fancy graph paper - so I made my own. I still remember using a yardstick and drawing all the horizontal and then diagonal lines to make my own isometric graph paper (I was like 15 at the time - so, yeah, I had no life). I've reproduced the 25 year old pencil drawing below - original is on 12x18 inch paper. It was my first attempt at a pseudo-megadungeon. Kind of small, considering, but it has portals to other planes and ridiculously powerful creatures in there - and some as yet uncreated monsters - like the Great Greybat. I think the PCs would have even encountered a demigod or something by the end... I learned to write megadungeons from EX1&2 - so that should tell you something about what my early attempts were like (yes, I know they weren't even dungeons - but I was a kid, okay?).

No comments: