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Mapping Infinity

Lord Zack

Explorer
I have recently come across a conundrum. How to map an infinite plane of existence wherein the rules don't work the same as they do in the natural world? I prefer to run sandbox games, wherein the PCs can explore as they wish. This would also apply to the planes theoretically.

However to run such a game you have to have some kind of record of what places the PCs can go and what happens if they go there. Traditionally this is a map, however, the planes of infinite and you can't make a map of an infinite space. furthermore some planes are kind of wonky with non-Euclidean geometries and the like. For instance Mechanus has gears going off in all directions, and many planes only allow you to progress by certain means, for instance Celestia requires you to follow the path of virtue to ascend the mountain. So how do I solve this problem?

Certainly one measure I will take is to focus on small bits of the planes at any one time. But then if I have multiple maps I'd have to figure out where they are in relation to one another and what's in between. Another idea is figuring out some other way of organizing the information I need, besides a map. But how?
 

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ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
Schematic and node maps, if the relative location is important then a schematic where the relationship is clear but has no scale is best.
If there is no relationship, like for example there is no direction connection to two locations and they are really far apart the relative position is irrelevant, however if there are portals to reach them then map the portals as nodes.
So a location with several portals is one node, (even if it is a large area and the portals are quite far apart locally).
 

cdrcjsn

First Post
The plane might be infinite, but the places that the PCs have been to, and the places that they want to visit are most definitely finite.

Take a look at the 4e DMG and embrace the whole points of light concept.

You don't have to map all the points in between where you are or where you need to go.
 


If the place is indeed infinite then it contains every other place that you have already mapped ever so you have a good start.

See also the Hitchhiker's Guide regarding imports and exports. ;)
 

Merkuri

First Post
If your goal is just to identify places then you could simply make lists or do an outline of the different places you want.

If you want to connect these places, then I second a node map.

Basically, draw circles or squares on a piece of paper and connect them with lines. The circles or squares represent places, and the lines represent the travel between the places.

So maybe you have a circle in the center that represents the PCs' home base. You know they can travel by horse 3 days north to get to another village, so you draw a line from there to another circle, label the line "3 days horseback, north" and label the circle with the name of the village. Maybe there's a set of tunnels under the village that will lead to the underdark, so you draw a line from that village to an "underdark" circle and label the line "tunnels". Maybe there's also set of ruins near the village that has a portal to the Shadowfell, so you can connect a "Shadowfell" circle to the village with a line that says, "ruins, portal" (or make the ruins their own circle).

You can get as detailed as you want like this. It's still a map of sorts, but it can encompass multiple planes and vast distances because it isn't to scale and it doesn't represent real geography. It's basically a group of places with lines connecting them that describe how to get from one place to another.
 

Siberys

First Post
You could perhaps map a section of the plane. The WHOLE PLANE is infinite, but the PCs probably won't be exploring the WHOLE PLANE. So just map the portion they will be exploring, just as you might map only a single kingdom in a material world.
 

maddman75

First Post
You're wanting non-Euclidian, right? Maps make geography make sense, so you can't use one. Here's what I'd do.

Create several interesting things that they might go and see or explore. A temple to a mad god, a field of blood-red roses with a stone circle in the middle, a village full of children, a crossroads with a sign that labels every location in the universe and a cackling old man offering directions. Add to that an encounter chart full of crazy stuff.

Travel should be like a skill challenge. If you succeed, you get where you were trying to go. If you fail, random encounter. To add to it, you can't just go back the way you came. The locals will act like this is perfectly natural - "I know you followed the road from the crossroads to get here, but you can't just go back on the same road, you'll run right into the lake of fire. You've got to go this other way over the mountains to get back where you were!" Any time they object that this strange world doesn't make any sense, make them roll a saving throw to prevent Sanity damage of some kind.

My best example of this was in Call of Cthulhu, when they were sailing over R'leyh.

"You see a large building, perfectly square. Five thin towers rise from it, one at each corner."

"How can there be five towers if there is one at each corner?"

"Hey, you're right. Roll Sanity." :D

If you map it out, that means the players can map it out. That means it makes some kind of sense. That means it isn't alien.
 

ardoughter

Adventurer
Supporter
But I do need to know what is there.
Don't be silly, its infinite, even if you lived forever, you cannot map it, list or detail it.
So you only need to know where they have been and where they are going. They can only go to where you supply plot hooks or if you are sandboxing, to the places adjacent to where they currently are, that is, places they can reach.
They cannot reach places you have not provided plot hooks for.
If the geometery is non Ecludian then, local maps and nodes connecting them or lists are you best options.
A good random encounter table could be useful and a random terrain table.
 

Aberzanzorax

First Post
Which plane?

Bear with me on this. I'm using third and prior edition lore.


The astral plane is a plane of the mind. "Distance" from one place to another is based on intelligence and wisdom checks. How soon you get there is how powerfully you can visualize it.

The abyss has an infinite number of layers, but they don't all connect. For the abyss, I'd get a general idea of a certain number of layers and their types and roll randomly to see where portals between layers take ya. (50% chance that the same portal used before goes to the same place).

etc.



My advice is to make each plane different. Focus on the purpose and nature of the plane and then develop HOW that specific plane is infinite. In the end, all the planes are certain "thematic ideals"...it is the ideals that are infinite, moreso than the space.

In fact, I'd imagine that only the prime material plane really works the way people normally think of direction. Even Mechanus, I suspect, isn't so much gears that can be measured as mathematical measurements given real form.



So, rather than maps, come up with a theme, deterimine how it works, and you'll know what players will meet on their journeys, even if you don't know where they are in relation to other "spaces".
 

You've hit the nail on the head. This is the reason people accuse Planescape of not making the planes interesting enough. No matter how much detail you create for an infinite plane, you've only described an infintesimal amount of the plane; if you were to look a random part of the plane you would almost surely see just plain plane without any noteworthy features.

There are two solutions I would propose. The first is to simply say "planes aren't infinite". This is the solution I prefer as it matches the actual case for all practical intents*. Currently there are approximately 10 dead people for every living human on this planet, so that should give you a sense of scale relative to population density assumptions.

The second potential solution is to make a "center" of the plane, i.e. the place where most of the interesting stuff happens, and then gets increasingly generic as you radiate outwards. You could use this approach and detail areas as the PCs move, keeping them at the center of the "spot light". This approach would also allow interesting "stacking"; you can think of the "center" of the planes as being the skewer they all rest on, and different planes have similar stuff in the same "place" relative to the center, but with a twist that flavors them to the local plane (for example, the realm of Pelor in Celestia sits almost directly on top of the realm of Nerull in Tartarus).

*Keep in mind, even at teleportation speed there has not been enough time since the creation of the Multiverse to go literally an infinite distance away.
 

maddman75

First Post
Which plane?

Bear with me on this. I'm using third and prior edition lore.


The astral plane is a plane of the mind. "Distance" from one place to another is based on intelligence and wisdom checks. How soon you get there is how powerfully you can visualize it.

The abyss has an infinite number of layers, but they don't all connect. For the abyss, I'd get a general idea of a certain number of layers and their types and roll randomly to see where portals between layers take ya. (50% chance that the same portal used before goes to the same place).

etc.



My advice is to make each plane different. Focus on the purpose and nature of the plane and then develop HOW that specific plane is infinite. In the end, all the planes are certain "thematic ideals"...it is the ideals that are infinite, moreso than the space.

In fact, I'd imagine that only the prime material plane really works the way people normally think of direction. Even Mechanus, I suspect, isn't so much gears that can be measured as mathematical measurements given real form.



So, rather than maps, come up with a theme, deterimine how it works, and you'll know what players will meet on their journeys, even if you don't know where they are in relation to other "spaces".

I like it. If you use my method, you could do this not just by changing what you see, but what kind of skills you use to get around. Maybe in the Astral plane you need Arcana checks as the main roll, to follow the flow and eddies of the stream. In a Valhalla type setting, maybe you need to fight your way everywhere, and while its all minions, you roll a basic attack as part of a skill challenge to represent hacking your way through the honored dead.
 

Lord Zack

Explorer
There are some specific planes my PCs are likely to travel to. They are very likely to travel to the Abyssal layer of Shedaklah as Zuggtmoy is, mistress of the upper areas of that layer, is a major antagonist in the campaign. They may also travel to the Demonweb of Lolth to entreat her for aid against her ancient foe. They may travel through the Plain of a Thousand Portals to get to those two planes, though perhaps not (I'm using the GDQ series, so there is a portal to the Demonweb they could use). For the Demonweb I've already got two sources, the Queen of the Demonweb Pits and the Expedition to the Demonweb Pits. I'm envisioning the Demonweb as more of a wilderness environment then a dungeon one, so my Demonweb will probably be closer to Expedition's.
 

Huw

First Post
Non-Euclidean geometries are perfectly describable and mappable. We live on one for example. Just realise that a flat world map can only approximate a globe but is still good enough, and you can map an infinite world with a few approximations.

IMC I have a spirit world. It has a finite circumference, but an infinite area. It actually gets bigger the closer you get to the centre, which is infinitely far away. You can map this by just drawing a circle. You might have a hut on the outside taking up the same area on the map as a city a bit further in.

(Yes, I've grossly distorted the behaviour of spacetime around a black hole for campaign purposes. It works!)

For added fun, you could make it a fractal. Inside this world there can be other zones of finite circumference but also showing infinite internal area. You could fit an entire city inside a tower. First floor is as big as it looks on the outside, but go up a level and it's four times the area (while still looking normal from the outside).
 


Theo R Cwithin

I cast "Baconstorm!"
If you don't have a really big sheet of paper, I'd tend to go with the "thematic" approach mentioned above. Don't worry about where a given locale is relative to the rest of the locales on that plane, and relative to other planes until there's need to define it.

In the case of random teleport errors, crash-landings, and the like and the like, you could just use the planar theme to randomly generate the local conditions, possibly going so far as to randomly determine that locale's location.

As long as there's a consistent way to generate directions & spatial relationships (either on the fly, or during world design) in a consistent way, you don't need to map everything out. Reduce the "map" or each plane to an "algorithm" or set of rules, and then keep notes in the form of a nodemap, a formal map, outline, or whatever works.

Honestly, imhoHeck, the coolest thing about extraplanar realities is that they are by and large UnUnderstandable, almost by definition. :)
 
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Southern Oracle

First Post
...the Abyssal layer of Shedaklah...
There is a map of Shedaklah on page 144 of the 3.5E book Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss.

...Demonweb of Lolth...
Besides the two sources you mentioned, there are also maps of the Demonweb in Dungeon #84 for the adventure "The Harrowing." You can still buy it in pdf format here. (And incidentally, "The Harrowing" deals with Lolth's daughter, so you might want to work that adventure into your campaign.)

...Plain of a Thousand Portals...
The Plain of a Thousand Portals is also called Pazunia. There's a map of it on page 115 of the Fiendish Codex I: Hordes of the Abyss, as well as the 2E Planescape adventure In the Abyss.
 


Lord Zack

Explorer
I should specify, I mean the maps in Fiendish Codex. The ones in the modules are, of course designed specifically for actual play.
 


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