When I see a hand drawn RPG map, I just can’t help but feel nostalgic. They bring me back to my early teenage years where I huddled over a sheet of graph paper with my pencil designing dungeons in far off lands, and devising the next devious trick my players would come across.
Now don’t get me wrong, pre-printed maps and map tiles are fantastic. And it’s really hard to beat an encounter taking place on your own homegrown DIY 2.5D map tiles.
But for my money, playing with a hand drawn dungeon map is still the best thing to an old gamer like me!
Map Making from the DM to the Stars
Despite my affection for hand drawn dungeon maps and gaming on an actual tabletop in general, much of my gaming lately has taken place on the virtual tabletop. So tangible maps have been a bit off my radar. Until recently…while surfing around YouTube looking at some actual play videos, I came across the D&D Robot Chicken game run by Chris Perkins.
I had watched this series before, but this time I was really struck by how cool Chris’ hand drawn battle map looked. I was inspired anew!
Fortunately, Chris doesn’t hold back on his Map Fu. In fact, several years ago he wrote an excellent article for the Dungeon Master Experience called what else…Map Fu. This is pure map making gold! He shares several of his tricks for jazzy up what otherwise could be pretty dull lines on a wet-erase canvas. Be sure to check this article out.
Dysonize Your Dungeon
My other “hand drawn map muse” is Dyson Logos from Dyson’s Dodecahedron. Dyson’s maps really remind me of the stuff I used to draw as a kid (except that his are waaaaaaaay better). His creations aren’t built for 1″ square battle maps, but rather encompass overviews of entire dungeon systems…or even an asteroid base. He also creates impressive side-view maps and geomorphs.
Dyson is well known for his signature cross hatching which really help the actual dungeon floor plan to stick out. If you want to learn how to “Dysonize” your own dungeon, be sure to check out the tutorial section on his blog (you can even order printed versions of his maps for old school play).
Here’s a quick video of Dyson doing his thing…
Try It For Yourself
Here’s all you need to get started:
Lacking in your artistic skills? You can use a software mapping program like Campaign Cartographer to create Old School style dungeon maps digitally. Here’s a quick one I put together to show you the possibilities:
Software Tools Used: