Alright, you’ve spent the last couple of hours preparing for this week’s session. You have the monsters, the plot, the npcs, and all the other bits and bops that go into three to four hours of pure fun. All you need to do now is find the perfect map. But what exactly makes a map “perfect”?
Well, if we’re talking about the more technical aspects of the map, a good map should suit your type of campaign. That’s to say that if you’re playing in a live campaign you should make sure that your map is large enough to be easily viewed by all your players, and since you’ll most likely be printing or hand drawing it, it’s probably also a good idea to do so in in stark black and white unless you have the time or means to make color maps work.
On a similar vein, if you are DMing an online campaign (like those run over at roll20) you should make sure that your map is a decent resolution for computer monitors. Another problem you might find with maps when running an online game of Dungeons and Dragons is whenever the picture’s grid won’t line up with that of the platform you’re using. A well lined map can save a lot of time and stress for both players and DM during combat encounters.
Now that we’ve covered the more technical side of things, let’s talk about what makes a good map in terms of dynamic encounters.
It doesn’t matter how great looking your map is if you’re just going to use it as a blank backdrop for combat. Over the course of years we’ve found that even the simplest looking of maps can be used to create extremely interesting and diverse combat situations. Ideally you’ll want to look for maps that allow you to build fun dynamic encounters for your players. Maps that play on key mechanic or story base bits of Dungeons and Dragons. That play with altitude or difficult terrain, visibility and environment….the more of these things a map offer, the more likely it’ll be that your players come up with fun creative solutions for the encounter than don’t just involve “hitting the thing”.
There are hundreds and hundreds of map artists out there who are working very hard towards providing you and your players with wonderful maps. Do consider finding one or two of them who you would like to support so they can continue doing so. If you want to take a look at our current pick, you should check out Haven Maps over on their Patreon.