Feb 17, 2012

DM Tools: Maps, Maps, Maps

In previous posts, I've mentioned how much I like and use minis, and various other props at my gaming table. Along with all those props are the battlefields they stand on.

I currently use a number of different options depending on the need.

First and foremost is my trusty erasable battle mat. There are plenty to choose from, but I tend to like Flip-Mats from Paizo. These mats allow you to use dry erase, wet erase, and (according their literature), even permanent marker and still remove it when you are done.

On side of the Flip-Mats usually has a specific scene, like a forest crossing, a dungeon, or a town square, while the other side is sometimes a simple color pattern, like dark gray for the dungeon stone, like gray for paved city, or green for forest. Since I'm in the middle of running a lengthy dungeon crawl, I have the handy dark gray mat in the DM kit.

The nice part about the scene specific side of the battle mat is that there is usually enough detail to get any DM's mind racing with great adventure ideas. In fact, I was looking at one of their mats the other night, and starting to craft the beginning of an adventure around it.

Recently Paizo have been tying their battle map products into their Adventure Path modules, so for a given map, there may be an existing scenario already available for it.

Beside Paizo, there are a few other companies creating maps and map products. Wizards of the Coast have been including maps in most of their 4e modules, as well as a few pre-4e products. In addition, they've started releasing Map Packs, which are collections of maps, mostly from out of print products (older modules, as well as maps from their miniatures line), along with two new maps in each set. The only downside to their maps are that you can't draw on them, even with erasable markers.

Gale Force Nine is another major company producing battle maps. They have a license with WotC wherein they have re-released some of WotC's older maps, but on vinyl, allowing you to use dry erase markers. In addition to the reprints, they also have original maps covering a variety of different locations, from market square, abandoned town, to evil temple.

All of these companies make great products that I've used again and again in my games. Check them out, I'm sure you'll find something you can use too!

Next time, I'll look at some other map products, like tiles and 3-D terrain.