Monday, 13 July 2015

The Best: Hand Drawn Maps

Whilst thinking about Geomorphs I was reminded that Dyson mentioned that his style was reminiscent of Chaosium's hand drawn maps in early Runequest modules. 
...why make the maps pretty?
Because it adds to the GM immersion into the game. Gaming is about roleplaying, and anything that gets you further into the mood and setting is a major boon. So old-school styled maps like the ones I draw remind me of the old Chaosium products that I loved when I was a young one in the hobby - and thus they get me in the mood for that style of game again, thus helping me run such a game.
Now I haven't seen much of the old Chaosium products so I can't comment on their maps, but for me, hand drawn maps remind me of adventures in fanzines, such as this one featuring cross-hatching from Demons Drawl #9 Dec 1984:

Lawrence Beckett has done a very nice drawing of the abbey with matching floorplans. Seeing this again triggered a memory of the old Pelinore maps from Imagine Magazine - these by "Kh" from August 84 look like the inspiration for Lawrence:

Side elevations, floorplans, and cross hatching. I particularly appreciate the locations named on the map in lieu of a key.

For evocative hand drawn dungeons I was always drawn to the dungeon levels in City State of the Invincible Overlord. I liked the odd shapes and the odd noises - laughter, moaning, growling...

My own early efforts at the time were sadly a little lacking... but this effort from 1983 (when I was 11) is interesting to me as it's a one-and-a-half-page dungeon (the other half page is on the back):
Don't ask me why I used pink paper! Notice the key fact - there is no key. My earlier efforts had a keyed map, by this time I'd already realised it was better to put the details on the map. In fact many of my old TSR modules have pencil marks on the maps where I'd written directly on the map what was in each rooms.

I see many attempts by people to produce "professional" looking maps using computers, and I look at these hand drawn maps, and I prefer them in every way. It's not just nostalgia - they're evocative, unbounded and free. When you draw free hand you are limited only by your imagination – notes, illustrations, side-elevations, isomorphic, multi-levelled. Anything that occurs to you can be added.

As an aside, my Geomorph investigations also stumbled across "Pythagorean Tiling" which can be used to tessellate 10x10 Geomorphs and 15x15 Geomorphs into a pattern which obscures the joins between tiles by staggering them:

This looks quite appealing, and stops your dungeon from being rectangular. I'm still considering the pros and cons of having edge pieces (which this pattern makes more difficult) or removing any passages which go off the map.


  1. This is pretty much the first time I've seen someone discuss non 10x10 geomorphs, and definitely the first time I've seen someone discuss mixing and matching different sizes (other than edge pieces). I think that's a really clever idea.

    Taking this further, you don't even need to have things tiled regularly, and the different sizes of tiles can really add the the heterogeneity of the dungeon (something I think is lacking a bit with the 10x10s).

  2. Hi Spacelem, thanks for the encouragement. In the previous post to this one (geomorphs-resurrecting-old-idea) I started with non-regular mixing of different Geomorph sizes but in practice I was finding it difficult to mix them without it becoming regular looking patterns, and ironically this regular pattern gave results that looked *more* irregular. I should really post a followup with some real geomorphs showing the results of mixing the two sizes. I do wonder if you could use Geomorphs shaped like Penrose tiles...