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D&D General Experiences Re-Drawing Adventure Maps?

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Note: Possible spoilers for Ghosts of Saltmarsh and the classic U1-U3 series.

I don't know about you, but I often find myself redrawing maps for pre-published adventures. This may be because of my tendency to run 1E modules and 1e/2e adventures from Dungeon (for whatever the current edition I am running - currently 5th). I am currently prepping U3 - The Final Enemy out of Ghosts of Saltmarsh (I lost track of my copies of the original modules, unfortunately) and was really annoyed to find that the maps are still presented with one square equaling 10 feet rather than have them re-scaled to be 5 feet per box for easy representation on the grid. So that is the first thing I usually do ahead of time so that I don't mess up trying to do it on the fly on the battlemat during play and waste time (some areas I pre-draw entirely using 1 inch box graph paper).

The other thing I am doing is just making the levels (especially the top level) just smaller overall. These maps are just too big and logistically speaking would take too many sessions to get through (Heck, I made the maps of the swamp lair in N1 - Against the Cult of the Reptile God significantly smaller and it still took my group four sessions to get through - not including a session of travel to get there). Furthermore, as written, the PCs are expected to go here twice, stretching out the time even further.

Anyway, while some individual areas need to be as big as they are drawn because they are meant to hold 60 sahaugin at a time or whatever and it is meant to be a huge fortress, other areas are needlessly huge and spread out, so I try to redraw the whole thing to fit on a two page spread on my graph paper journal. This means removing some rooms entirely (since the fortress is still under construction, I just make some tunnels/rooms - like area #3 - end in rubble or incomplete walls) and making some rooms smaller. (For example, I see no reason why the Spartan-like sahuagin would need roomy quarters - even a champion does not need a 30' x 30' room, when a 15' x 15' cell is still bigger than the average American college dorm room). This also means moving some rooms (for example, I put area 13 - the slave pens - halfway between levels 1 and 2 by looping a hallway and adding a sloped passage). However, it also means carefully considering what that means for sound carrying and the opportunity and speed with which reinforcements can arrive if the PCs make too much noise.

I just cut the hall with the guest rooms (areas 14 and 15) on the top level because sahuagin don't seem like the type to have "guests."

Lastly, sometimes these modules have unusually shaped corridors and layouts for no good reason (in this case I think the reason is to keep sound from traveling too easy around the place, but that actually makes little sense given that it is a fortress mean to go on alert on a moment's notice). So, while I try to keep a little of the idiosyncratic shape, I also straighten a lot of it out. It is one thing if the map is of natural caverns being put to use as a lair, but a designed and engineered place presumably is designed towards its uses.

Levels two and three are even bigger and I am considering trying to combine them into one - but that may be too much work and undercut the sense that there are enough enemies in here to be considered an army that threatens multiple communities, so we'll see. . .

All this said, this is not a complaint (well, it is partially a complaint - the 10' squares thing is annoying), since I find drawing/re-drawing maps to be fun and sometimes a challenge (like I have said many time before drawing and crafting to me is as much a part of the hobby as encounter design or what have you). I was mostly wondering if other people run into this issue and how they handle it.

Anyway, below is the original map from Ghosts of Saltmarsh (1 square = 10') and my (still not inked) quick re-do of it (1 square = 5') .

263987273_634052588029830_4970957769845310515_n.jpg
263589834_1352107551869368_8615410927010676802_n.jpg
 

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payn

Legend
Since the beginning of my use of published adventures I have always made minor adjustments when I saw fit. I dont complain either as a few minor edits here and there are just simple disagreements with the publisher. If I feel like the majority of the product needs to be rewritten, thats when I start to complain.
 

pogre

Legend
The ten feet thing does not bother me, because I use mostly 2" x 2" tiles. I occasionally redo maps so that I can better represent the areas with Dwarven Forge or Hirst Arts pieces. I tend to make combat encounter areas larger, and lately add elevation and more furniture to give more tactical possibilities.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
The ten feet thing does not bother me, because I use mostly 2" x 2" tiles. I occasionally redo maps so that I can better represent the areas with Dwarven Forge or Hirst Arts pieces. I tend to make combat encounter areas larger, and lately add elevation and more furniture to give more tactical possibilities.

Since the two lower levels are submerged, I am getting around room size by making some of them more vertical, since sahuagin can easily swim - which will up the difficulty level for PCs, but that's ok. ;)
 

cowpie

Adventurer
Your redraw looks pretty good, especially tidying up the zig-zagging corridors, while preserving the original design's exploration layout and access. You may want to include the east-west access corridor that includes rooms 14 & 15, to preserve another looping route to give the players more ways to get around the dungeon (ie: keep it Jacuayed per the original). I don't remember if there's anything in those rooms, but they might give the PCs another way to sneak around the complex, setup ambushes when assaulting the place, or use the rooms as a safe place to rest. You could just have them go due west from room 12, with 14-15 above room 13, connecting just south of room 16.

As a side note about these older modules' design philosophies:
Since 1st Edition included well defined exploration rules, progressing through dungeons was faster, so players could cover more ground per session than 5e. Typically, a travel turn was 10 minutes long. Players moved 60' (cautious) or 120' (normal) movement in a turn, without necessarily using a battle mat. The DM would just describe "you see a 60' corridor ahead, and 30' ahead there's a T-junction with a double doors bound in black iron facing you (etc)". Then they'd verbally describe their progression as the party moved along and approached landmarks.
Miniatures were only required for a marching order. The battle mat and miniatures would be used when an encounter occurred. Otherwise players could just describe what their PCs were doing in a room, making a sketch map, leaving the miniatures untouched in their current march order on the center of the table.
Some larger parties used a caller system, where the players would agree on a course of action, and have regular actions they would automatically take each turn. A dedicated party caller/spokesman directly interacted with the DM for routine party actions, with players interjecting if they didn't want their PC to go along with the caller's directions, or wanted to try a special action. Then, when complicated encounters occurred, the players would individually describe unique actions. Combat (especially initiative) was much faster, The caller system, fast exploration turn system, and fast combat really streamlined the game compared to 5e, which makes sense because 1st Ed was all about dungeon crawling and exploration. It had well defined game systems to support it.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
Your redraw looks pretty good, especially tidying up the zig-zagging corridors, while preserving the original design's exploration layout and access. You may want to include the east-west access corridor that includes rooms 14 & 15, to preserve another looping route to give the players more ways to get around the dungeon (ie: keep it Jacuayed per the original). I don't remember if there's anything in those rooms, but they might give the PCs another way to sneak around the complex, setup ambushes when assaulting the place, or use the rooms as a safe place to rest. You could just have them go due west from room 12, with 14-15 above room 13, connecting just south of room 16.

I like this suggestion. I may just scrap the rooms and put in a bisecting hall where they had been, since like I said in the OP, the two rooms are empty guest room and guest rooms don't fit how I see sahuagin.

As a side note about these older modules' design philosophies:
Since 1st Edition included well defined exploration rules, progressing through dungeons was faster, so players could cover more ground per session than 5e. Typically, a travel turn was 10 minutes long. Players moved 60' (cautious) or 120' (normal) movement in a turn, without necessarily using a battle mat. The DM would just describe "you see a 60' corridor ahead, and 30' ahead there's a T-junction with a double doors bound in black iron facing you (etc)". Then they'd verbally describe their progression as the party moved along and approached landmarks.
Miniatures were only required for a marching order. The battle mat and miniatures would be used when an encounter occurred. Otherwise players could just describe what their PCs were doing in a room, making a sketch map, leaving the miniatures untouched in their current march order on the center of the table.
Some larger parties used a caller system, where the players would agree on a course of action, and have regular actions they would automatically take each turn. A dedicated party caller/spokesman directly interacted with the DM for routine party actions, with players interjecting if they didn't want their PC to go along with the caller's directions, or wanted to try a special action. Then, when complicated encounters occurred, the players would individually describe unique actions. Combat (especially initiative) was much faster, The caller system, fast exploration turn system, and fast combat really streamlined the game compared to 5e, which makes sense because 1st Ed was all about dungeon crawling and exploration. It had well defined game systems to support it.

Oh yeah, I remember those days, but essentially what I am trying to do is find a middle ground between that kind of exploration and short and linear style more popular now. It worked pretty well for my redraw of maps for N1 - so just trying it it again for U3. My group tends to be very visually oriented, so even if I don't draw it on the battlemat as they explore, I end up drawing it on my dry erase wall or on a piece of graph paper.
 

cowpie

Adventurer
I like this suggestion. I may just scrap the rooms and put in a bisecting hall where they had been, since like I said in the OP, the two rooms are empty guest room and guest rooms don't fit how I see sahuagin.



Oh yeah, I remember those days, but essentially what I am trying to do is find a middle ground between that kind of exploration and short and linear style more popular now. It worked pretty well for my redraw of maps for N1 - so just trying it it again for U3. My group tends to be very visually oriented, so even if I don't draw it on the battlemat as they explore, I end up drawing it on my dry erase wall or on a piece of graph paper.
I like the idea of striking a golden mean between theatre of the mind, and visual representation. I tend to draw a map too, but try to only use a battle-map draw and miniature movement only when necessary. I've found when the PCs are constantly moving the minis on a battle map to explore, they focus more on the minis, and treat the game more like a board game, whereas using sketch maps and verbal description engages the player's imaginations more to visualize the place, which helps with verisimilitude. So I roughly map it as they go, and zoom in to "combat mode" or "complicated encounter mode", using the miniatures directly on the battle mat. That way, the routine stuff moves along at a good pace, but we still get to be tactical with the fancy miniatures during the more interesting scenes.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I like the idea of striking a golden mean between theatre of the mind, and visual representation. I tend to draw a map too, but try to only use a battle-map draw and miniature movement only when necessary. I've found when the PCs are constantly moving the minis on a battle map to explore, they focus more on the minis, and treat the game more like a board game, whereas using sketch maps and verbal description engages the player's imaginations more to visualize the place, which helps with verisimilitude. So I roughly map it as they go, and zoom in to "combat mode" or "complicated encounter mode", using the miniatures directly on the battle mat. That way, the routine stuff moves along at a good pace, but we still get to be tactical with the fancy miniatures during the more interesting scenes.

This is basically how I run my remote game. We use Owlbear Rodeo for the exploration map and then use a tabletop camera to "zoom in" to an area when there is potential combat or other situations where more precise positioning is needed.
 

Lastly, sometimes these modules have unusually shaped corridors and layouts for no good reason (in this case I think the reason is to keep sound from traveling too easy around the place, but that actually makes little sense given that it is a fortress mean to go on alert on a moment's notice). So, while I try to keep a little of the idiosyncratic shape, I also straighten a lot of it out. It is one thing if the map is of natural caverns being put to use as a lair, but a designed and engineered place presumably is designed towards its uses.
The placements are supposed to be strategic, but sometimes the designers went with random instead. The sudden jut out of a hallway was meant to allow defenders a place to break line of sight and provide cover against intruders. It's particularly important when dealing with spellcasters, since it reduces their range (and makes fireball much more dangerous).

I totally agree on the room size for leaders, feeling that even a 20x20 is plenty. I also think your use of 3D is really, really good, since it makes sense for lizardfolk/sahuagin and can throw off players who think only in 2D.
 

David Howery

Adventurer
I didn't generally redraw dungeon maps, but I redrew large scale maps a lot. When I combined B2 and B5 into one big gaming area with the Keep in the middle, I had to redraw the outdoor map for B5 a lot to fit it onto the B2 map. Luckily, the outdoor maps for both were grid squares and the same scale, so matching them up wasn't too hard...
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Since I run on Roll20, I end up redoing all dungeon maps. Almost always I'm adjusting someone else's dungeon maps rather than do my own from scratch. There are just so many decent maps out there to use as a starting place. It's an exercise I really enjoy working on, easily my favorite part of the lonely fun of DMing. I often make changes so that the dungeons have more verticality and less linearity. Having a high amount of meaningful choices per unit of session time makes for a highly engaging game in my experience.

Thinking about and discussing adventure locations from a pure gameplay standpoint (less so about lore/history of the dungeon) is very interesting and useful to me, so more threads like this please!
 

RobJN

Adventurer
A classic, with some embellishments:
Mistamere-colorized.png

This was a working draft, where I was adding stairs up to the castle walls, a walled garden on the northewest, kitchen doorway access, and stables to the northeast
Screen-Shot-2021-08-04-at-7-22-33-AM.png
 

The reason for larger rooms and corridors is so that the party does not have to spend all their early turns doing nothing but moving through the difficult terrain of the squares of party members who are in front of them, but who have lower initiatives. Smaller rooms make it easier for choke points to cut off melee focused characters while still giving ranged characters much more freedom to act. Don't make rooms smaller unless you are o.k. with this.
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
The reason for larger rooms and corridors is so that the party does not have to spend all their early turns doing nothing but moving through the difficult terrain of the squares of party members who are in front of them, but who have lower initiatives. Smaller rooms make it easier for choke points to cut off melee focused characters while still giving ranged characters much more freedom to act. Don't make rooms smaller unless you are o.k. with this.
I kept all the halls the same width and just changed their lengths.

I never knew passing through an allied box was difficult terrain, I always let people do it for free (3E holdover, I guess).

Ranged characters are worse off in close quarters, allies can grant cover to enemies unintentionally and in the way I run the game, they can hit a friend!
 


el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
It took some work to cram level two into a two-page spread, in fact, I couldn't. I had to put the throne room and the baron's quarters on the next page, but the sections break off from each other nicely (I edited them together below). The biggest change are the vertical halls that flank the temple (37), which now have steps leading below areas 27 and 29 - creating a potential place to get trapped. I had to keep the dining room (41) large to fit all the sahuagin, but I am going to describe it as two stories tall with stone tables and benches hanging from the ceiling, allowing for multiple levels of dining in the submerged room. The sharks pens will be similarly described. Barracks (24) is also a pretty large room.

U3-L2-original.jpg
U3-L2.jpg
 

Richards

Legend
I redid the maps for the "Ex Libris" adventure from Dungeon #29 - the one with the shifting rooms in the lower level. As written, each of the fifteen rooms would require a separate 16" by 16" map, so the first thing I did was cut the dimensions in half, since an 8" by 8" geomorph fit much nicer into a 9" by 12" Manilla envelope for transport. (At this stage of our campaign, we were playing at the house of the other family who made up our player base.) As the adventure used the AD&D 1E rules and we were playing a 3.5 campaign, I also ended up swapping out some of the creatures that didn't yet have 3E counterparts, but other than the size I kept the designs of the fifteen shifting rooms pretty much the same.

Johnathan
 

el-remmen

Moderator Emeritus
I redid the maps for the "Ex Libris" adventure from Dungeon #29 - the one with the shifting rooms in the lower level. As written, each of the fifteen rooms would require a separate 16" by 16" map, so the first thing I did was cut the dimensions in half, since an 8" by 8" geomorph fit much nicer into a 9" by 12" Manilla envelope for transport. (At this stage of our campaign, we were playing at the house of the other family who made up our player base.) As the adventure used the AD&D 1E rules and we were playing a 3.5 campaign, I also ended up swapping out some of the creatures that didn't yet have 3E counterparts, but other than the size I kept the designs of the fifteen shifting rooms pretty much the same.

Johnathan

Wow! I stole the lay out of "Ex Libris" for the climactic final adventure for my "Out of the Frying Pan" campaign (3E) back in 2005-6 calling it "Hurgun's Maze" and I made 16 x 16 versions of each room I could lay out as they traveled through the shifting rooms. I love to homebrew and adapt creatures, so I did that - but since the place itself was different I wasn't copying the contents from the adventure, just the setting layout. One of the best adventures I ever ran.
 

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