My key tools, inspired by Jennel's Central Casting: Dungeons
- 5 questions...
- Who built this site?
- What did they intend it to be used for?
- Who is in it now?
- what are they using it for?
- Whats the Geology/Geography of the site.
I'd add a sixth one, as it's often very relevant: What have the current occupants and-or any other intervening occupants done to the place since it was built?
I just got done putting together a dungeon that's old enough it really didn't matter what it was originally built for, as the subsequent occupants (most notably, the current one) have made so many changes to it that the only relevant things remaining from the original are a couple of forgotten chambers and the very distinctive exterior.
- Standard Symbol sets for drawing setting maps
- I tend towards the D&D BX symbols out of habit for overland, and using hexographer for D&D mapping.
- I tend to use the following, which is derived from several sources.
- Doors are red, as are swing arcs.
I use brown for doors and a red line to show it in the partly-open position (unless it's not on conventional hinges e.g. a sliding door, in which case the red line just parallels the door). For outdoors maps I've always used squares, as six-way hexes don't play nice with eight cardinal compass points and I do all my narration by compass.
- Walls are black.
- downward hatches drawn to shape, upward use dashed-lines. Black, red, or grey, depending upon mood.
I usually put a 'T' on trap doors or hatches in the floor to remind me what it is. I also sometimes use brown instead of black to indicate wooden balconies and the like.
- Stairs have an overlain arrow pointing in the upward direction. If space and time permit, I also narrow the low end's width, and hit full width at the top.
I also do the narrow-to-wide, and if it still seems unclear I put "up" and "down" text at each end (or, if it'll fit, "Up to [area xx]" or "Down to [area xx"]". Spiral stairs are the worst for trying to show which way goes up/down.
- I occasionally do the dungeon in Google Sketchup (not the trimble versions), as a three-d structure, then take section planes as maps, both orthogonal, 45° rotation isometric and/or perspective.
Sorry, but having run a few published dungeons where isometric maps were all they gave, they'rre hideous to use!
One other tip for mapping that often gets overlooked: unless all the floors are dead level, show elevation differences somehow. Doesn't have to be as fancy (or as messy) as full contour lines, but a simple 0' or +4' or -12' here and there, relative to an obvious peg point such as the floor level in room 1, can really help in caverns and other non-level terrain...or when otherwise smooth floors are on a slope. This can also sometimes be useful for showing the elevation difference between the top and bottom of stairs or shafts or banks.