Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's the Biggest Map You Find Convenient at the Table?

As far as a physical object, how big is too big to be useful in play?

Over the years there have been sets published with full poster-sized maps. Undermountain had them, I think Dragon Mountain did? World's Largest Dungeon did as well I think, but if they were also supposed to be battlemats (were they? School me!) that might be more forgivable.

But I know I always had trouble using such large maps at the table. They are just... too... big!

I've got a couple projects (Insect Shrine and the Asylum adventure) that when I get around to finishing them just do not have maps that will fit on a standard page (either the usual size or a spread in my A5-sized books).

So what's just right for you? How big is too big for you to use in play?

26 comments:

  1. I'd be happy with a map up to A3 size, but no larger. A4 or thereabouts is usually good enough.

    ReplyDelete
  2. For something that’s appropriate to show to players, a poster-size map would be fine. I’ve played in spaces where it would unwieldy, but generally we’d make it work.

    For something that is referee’s-eyes-only, then I agree with Simon. A3 is OK, but that’s pushing it. It should really be worth being that size. A4 or A5 works better.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I prefer maps that will fit on a single 8.5" by 11" sheet of paper.

    I can deal with those on 17" by 11" sheets pretty easily simply by keeping them folded in half, and flipping it over as necessary.

    Things get more difficult when we get those poster-sized maps (17" by 22") that are folded in four.

    ReplyDelete
  4. At the table? 11 x 17" if it's a sheet that can stand up like a screen or module cover, otherwise letter-sized.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm with Simon, A3 size. Roughly the equivilent footprint of an RPG book opened up.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Personally I don't mind poster maps at all. I just fold them along the creases to get the piece I want visible.

    On the other hand, poster maps of large wilderness areas (like continent-sized maps) are always neat, if they have some artistic merit and not just boring symbols-in-hexes.

    ReplyDelete
  7. For me 2-feet by 2-feet (24" x 24") is in the gray area between "okay" and "too big". Anything smaller than that is okay. Anything bigger than that is too big.

    ReplyDelete
  8. If the map is for the GM: no larger than A4, and preferably landscape orientation.
    Rule of thumb: It needs to fit behind a GM screen.

    Better yet: publish it as a GM screen. Mood-setting illustration on the player's side, map and key on the GM side.

    I never even looked at megadungeons like Undermountain because I can't handle those unwieldy maps. Stonehell is a perfect compromise.

    If the map is for the players: A4, A3, or A2, depending in the purpose.
    The largest map I ever used was a detailed A2 village map from Games Workshop ("Saltmarsh" or something, not to be mistaken for the TSR module). The map was present on the table for three sessions while the players uncovered a mystery in and around that village.

    The actual layout of the village was hardly important most of the time (apart from during a nightly observation and the finale) but it gave the players a sense of "being there". I guess even today they still know what NPC lived where.

    ReplyDelete
  9. based on wargaming, 3x3ft is the most ideal size for most tables to comfortably fit the map, and have room around it. Otherwise you have problems with the map not being able to fit on the table. Most wargames are run on 4x4 tables, but most tables are not wider than 3ft.

    ReplyDelete
  10. a good example is heroclix, one of the "hidden" features is that their 3x3ft maps would fit on anybodies dinner table. You didn't need to find a good gaming table, or build an extended tabletop. Just plop it on their and you should easily have room on the sides for the rest of the game.

    ReplyDelete
  11. A3 is the useful maximum, A4 is better. A really big map might be okay, if it's not likely to be moved during the game; that way you can put it down almost like a tablecloth and put everything else on top. I have an Eberron map I use in this manner.

    ReplyDelete
  12. 8.5 x 11 is the biggest that is useful to me. It should fit in my binder. Also, a word against things like standup screens with mood art: call me strange, but I don't like my players to know what module I am running or even if I am running a module at all.

    The new age of PDFs is fantastic for me, because I can read the product cover-to-cover beforehand (I still prefer physical books for this) and then print out the pages from the PDF that are most important to have at the table during play (like maps).

    ReplyDelete
  13. A4 for the DM map, any size for the players.

    ReplyDelete
  14. 11 x 17, because I can fold it in half or put it up on my GM's screen. Bonus points if I get to use it as 11 x 17, not turn it on end and have to hold it up at 17 x 11 or turn my head sideways or something. Think "Keep on the Boderlands inside cover map."

    Bigger is harder, but it's okay if it's something the players I meant to see - then I can just tack it up on a wall or use it as a mat or something.

    ReplyDelete
  15. It depends on the use. I like big poster maps for things that I want to share openly at the table. Otherwise, keep it small (think 11x17; but, I'm actually digital at the table so I just shrink an expand at need.)

    ReplyDelete
  16. A3 (or 11x17) in landscape orientation. That's how the main module maps were done back in the day, and that format continues to work just fine for me now.

    ReplyDelete
  17. We tried to use one of those fully-representational Borges-size maps once, but then we realized we were just LARPing.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Letter/A4.

    But then I have a battlemat that doubles as a tablecloth, so I typically draw a lot of stuff out at 5' to the inch or 10' to the inch scale.

    WLD was NOT battlemat-scale. It was just a really large flat dungeon.

    ReplyDelete
  19. The biggest I've ever gone at a table is taping four 8.5" x 11" sheets together. And that, ultimately, proved too large. (Despite my extensive use of side-tables when GMing.)

    So I'd say 17" x 11" or 8.5" x 22" would be the largest I'd want to try to wrangle with.

    ReplyDelete
  20. A map bigger than 8.5x11 isn't usable behind the DM screen.

    My tastes run this way these days:

    Big "world map" with large scale, marked out so you can "zoom in" to any number of smaller maps.

    Example:

    Dungeon Map for Level 1 is a 30x30 grid, numbered X,Y to identify each square individually. Some actual info in each square but not a map.

    Dungeon area map for Level 1, cell 5,12 is a 30x30 grid. Each square is a 10' square and it's mapped in detail. Rooms have room numbers for complex stuff, a word if it's an otherwise unimportant room so you can ad-lib it, and map symbols for common things (K for a kobold encounter, etc). Any exit from the local zone should have the destination written in. All four sides should have the adjacent local zone's coordinates in the margin.

    This gives you a dungeon that's fully detailed, no more than one page visible at once, and 900x900 squares (almost 2 miles x 2 miles). It's usable at the table and segmented so you can develop it in reasonable chunks. It also lends itself to 3x3 geomorphs of standard 10x10 format for each local zone, and conforms to the One Page Dungeon format.

    ReplyDelete
  21. A3 or possibly even A2, bigger than that just takes all the space.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Larger is all right if it can be folded and doesn't need to be completely open all the time. So, like the Undermountain maps, but no larger.

    ReplyDelete