Tuesday, August 09, 2011

two items from Paul and Paul

Anyone else having trouble leaving comments on blogspot blogs?  For the last week or so about 50% of the time I get stuck in a captcha/login loop.  That's why I'm writing this first part here instead of over at Quickly, Quietly, Carefully, where on Monday Paul Gorman turned an eye towards an old Judges Guild map.  In the comments to the post Paul says this:
I'm ambivalent about non-rectangular rooms. They make maps look more interesting, but rooms that take too long to explain piss-off the mapper and bore the other players.

The maps I draw for actual play tend to have something like one odd shaped room for each eight or ten rectangular ones. I'm not above sketching such rooms for the mapper to keep things moving.

I wonder if the maps in published modules tend to be spruced-up with more irregular rooms than the authors might use in their own private games.... 
I think Paul is on the money here.  To avoid bogging down the mapping, here is a simple technique: After sketching out a weirdly shaped room, try explaining its dimensions out loud to an imaginary mapper.  Do this and you'll probably find yourself simplifying your more elaborate rooms without omitting them altogether.  And/or you'll get better at describing room dimensions during play.

Also I think Paul is right that some maps in modules are clearly designed to be appreciated as cartographic art rather than as tools for play.  Its very easy to flip through a module and end up turned off by a bland dungeon map, so it should be no surprise that publishers respond to that.

Meanwhile, over at the blog of another dude named Paul we get this lovely GenCon item:
After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, we headed off to the convention center where my first game was at 10. We arrived pretty early, so I was seated at my table 15 minutes ahead of time: Sagamore Ball Room, Open D&D Area, 8-9. I found table 8 which was empty, and sat down to wait. And wait. As 10 rolled around I started to worry that I was the only person there. I went downstairs to find out if it was moved or canceled, but could find no such listings (really, I swear they posted that stuff in the past, but I couldn’t find it anywhere). I went back up stairs and asked one of the volunteers, as this “Open D&D Area” bit confused me. There was no label for such an area, but then again when I made a circuit of the room every table had a unique number or letter.

Ah, that’s the problem, it turns out the lettered area was the “Open D&D Area”, and I was supposed to know somehow to translate table 8 into table H. Only they weren’t there either. They were at table I. I eventually found them and made it into my game by the skin of my teeth.
Scheduling fubars can happen at the best-run of cons, but this business about having two different numbering systems for the same tables is the sort of stupid bureaucratic thing that can only happen at really big conventions.  One of the things about small cons that I like is that either the people at the reigstration desk are in charge, or they can put you in touch with the people in charge.  Who is in charge at GenCon?  How many layers of personnel stand between you and them?  I had fun Saturday, but I did so while swimming upstream in a river of Too Big For Its Own Good.


  1. When that problem with comments happened to me I found that if I didn't click the stay signed in button when I logged in (or whatever it is called) then I could leave comments again no problem.

  2. Thanks! I'll try that!

  3. Absolutely agree on the rooms. When thinking about my EZ-Map dungeon I tried to think of all the distinct shapes you might clearly convey to players. There aren't very many. You can still get away with things like half a circle, or crescent shaped. But mostly the mental image players get is how big a space is this, and where are the exits.

  4. Same (sporadic) problem with the comments - I'll have to try Jason's fix!

  5. I've had that commenting problem for some time too. Another workaround - using Internet Explorer (*), open a session of "InPrivate browsing", and use that to add the comment.

    (*) Part of IE 8 & 9. I expect Firefox etc have something similar.

  6. Hello! Thanks for the shout-out.

    I'm not sure about your particular comment problem, but I have noticed that Chrome sometimes doesn't render the captcha until I reload the page (hopefully remember to first same my comment).

  7. The idea that the dimensions or shape of the room are of interest to the mapper has never quite clicked for me. When I'm the mapper, every room is a blob/circle connected to all the other blob/circles by lines.

    Sometimes, when more detail is necessary, it becomes a note on or near the blob/circle/line. Usually, no such notes are needed.

  8. @S.J.R.:

    But how do you know where to look for secret doors other than at suspiciously-obvious blank dead-end walls?

  9. @S. John Ross as well: how do you describe the room to the players?

    Crazy that one was supposed to somehow divine that 8 actually meant H.

    "...a river of Too Big For Its Own Good." There is a sad truth in that well-turned phrase, Jeff.

  10. odd shaped rooms:
    Make the odd shaped room too big to see all at once or draw them on a piece of paper and hold it up for the mapper to see, don't hand it to the mapper and avoid scribbling on graph paper for the view.

  11. I tend to adhere pretty strictly to a philosophy of "you only get precise measurements if your characters are taking the time to do that". Otherwise they get approximations.

    This leads to hazy mapping that then translates to people being comfortable with rough approximations of odd-shaped rooms.

    When precision is needed or a room is just thwarting any sort of understanding I'll just sketch it out the shape of it quickly.

  12. I had the hardest time leaving comments with IE. But in Firefox I had no troubles at all. Wondering if there is some sort of browser bug that is causing it.

  13. I don't think it's browser related. This is happening to me in IE, Firefox and Safari.

  14. I started DMing with 3.5, and even when i moved to retroclones, I always kept the newschool conceit of drawing the map for my players as they go. Making them keep track themselves just seems like creating extra work for everyone--I already know what it all looks like, have a map of it behind my screen already. Trying to describe what I see, having a player draw that, telling them "no, see, it's more over here, because it connects to--well, i can't tell you yet," etc, seems so much more complicated than just sketching another room myself onto the big mat or, if we're playing without minis and doing oldschool combat, just onto a spare piece of paper. Can anyone else point out a major advantage to player-mapping that I'm missing?