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D&D 5E Mapping Solutions (poll)

How do you share maps with your players

  • Players draw their own maps / Theater of the mind

    Votes: 10 21.3%
  • [in person] abstracted maps

    Votes: 8 17.0%
  • [in person] Dry erase mat or board

    Votes: 26 55.3%
  • [in person] Large printed maps

    Votes: 8 17.0%
  • [in person] Terrain

    Votes: 5 10.6%
  • [in person] TV in table

    Votes: 7 14.9%
  • [remote] Theater of the Mind

    Votes: 7 14.9%
  • [remote] Simple B&W map

    Votes: 6 12.8%
  • [remote] Color map with room features

    Votes: 12 25.5%
  • [remote] VTT with as many bells and whistles as possible (animated maps, sounds, 3d)

    Votes: 7 14.9%
  • other

    Votes: 7 14.9%

As are several discussions about current and possibly future VTTs, I was wondering how everyone prefers to handle maps. So how do you map? Are maps mostly things for the DM? Do you have a simple set up, drawing out the basics of walls and doors and leaving the rest to description, or do you prefer maps with a lot of filled in details (furniture, various textures, statues, etc)? How fancy do you get with terrain/minis or VTTs with dynamic lighting, environmental sounds, or more?

Bonus: Mini's, tokens, or random objects to represent the characters?

Players draw their own maps / Theater of the mind


[in person] abstracted maps


[in person] Dry erase mat or board


[in person] Large printed maps


[in person] Terrain


[in person] TV or screen at (or in) table


[remote] Theater of the Mind


[remote] Simple B&W map


[remote] Color map with room features


[remote] VTT with as many bells and whistles as possible (animated maps, sounds, 3d)



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Victoria Rules
In person: I either draw the map on the chalkboard or describe the area including dimensions, and the players make their own map(s) from that.


I happen to be a pro game cartographer, so I create all my maps, and I have a large format inkjet printer and color scanner, not more than 3 feet to left of where I'm sitting at the moment, which means, my table gets awesome, full color printed maps. And because I play on a live table, I have no needs for virtual tabletop. That said, I'm also a publisher, and as a map creator, I sell map products, map tiles sets, map symbol sets (as well as third party products for Starfinder RPG). All my map products include a 300 ppi full size, print ready PDF map, the same map sliced into 8 x 10 chunks as a PDF, so you can print them on a desktop inkjet printer yourself, the same map as both a 100 ppi, and a Roll20 ready 70 ppi map for use in virtual tabletop. So I create for VTT, I just have no needs for it at my game table. We've used terrain before, but tend to stick with maps for most gaming, and we use miniatures, of course. I have maps and symbols for fantasy games, for science fiction games, a few for old west games, some for feudal Japanese games, and post-apocalypse. As a pro, freelance game cartographer, having done work for Paizo Publishing, Legendary Games (over 400 maps), Kobold Press (dozens of maps), and many others, there's a good possibility, you've used one of my maps in your games, even if you've never purchased directly from me.

I have been in situations where an unexpected encounter occurred, and was forced to draw up a quick map on a dry erase board at the spur of the moment - I draw fast, and I am an artist, so it isn't that tough for me to create on-the-fly, but I rarely need a dry erase board.
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At the table, nothing beats a big fat marker on a white board or mat. When the players inevitably jump off the railroad and you need to make a dungeon on the fly, this is the only option.

[Edit] I also considered voting "other" because I do print out world maps or regional maps with roads and towns, which the players can find as loot. But I guess the thread is about dungeon maps, not world maps.


In person touch enabled tvbox on the table being run from a pair of laptops and a vtt that definitely fits under the title of having "many bells and whistles as possible (animated maps, sounds". Although personally I don't much use sounds and use a lot of light/fow I know that plenty of people are the other way around or have their own style.

edit: The way touch screens are handled by windows clashes in some ways with how a ttrpg wants to use them, one computer is basically a potato that fixes that.
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Great Old One
I'm curious about why you choose to have "theater of the mind" as a standalone option only for remote. Why do players have to draw their own map if we are playing Theater of the mind in person ?

Whether in person or remote we use a lot of TotM for many situations and no-one draws a map. We also use abstracted map in remote, for example just putting the tokens on a blank canvas on the VTT so that people can remember who is with which group, for example.

We are also using a lot of this techniques, even today, even in one given session, just using the appropriate one. The only real trend is that, on VTTs, because it's really what people are focussing on more than in person when you focus more on the people, we tend to have really elaborate maps if we have the time to prepare them. But if we don't have the time, then the maps are simple.


I generally break down combat vs. exploration when DMing IRL. I don't own minis or anything, so I usually go with a rough layout when necessary for combat (using dice or chits), and TotM for exploration. As a player, it's usually easier to just mark intersections & room on a sketch map than to try and perfectly map everything. Unless you need to find a secret room (which is bad form these days), it gets the job done.

We've been using Roll20 since before 5E came out, which makes combat pretty easy with minis. Because of that, I draw out the entire dungeon, using it for both exploration and combat. I just draw out the walls, adding in doors, stairs, and other necessary background token, leaving it rather simple. Outdoors I either have a hexmap I've imported for exploration, or just a battlemap I've downloaded for combat. I know other DMs that put in a lot of bells and whistles, but I feel the return on investment of time isn't worth it.

Li Shenron

My favourite and most used methods are terrain for small-scale and printed maps for large-scale.

Terrain is only approximated, using a mix of Lego and other stuff to highlight important features or details, but leaving most to the imagination (mainly due to the staggering amount of time it would require to prepare everything). I don't use a battlemap, but a ruler for distances, so there is no need to have a grid indication on the table.

Printed maps are to show large areas, assuming the PCs are supposed to know. That is often the case for overland travel or when playing in a more "sandbox mode" (when I show regional maps) or for exploring a town, basically anytime when "fog of war" doesn't matter much. I normally don't show dungeons maps, unless the PCs have happened to find an actual in-game map (typically as a reward).


In person - whiteboard that I use dry erase markers on. I have a fairly large one that is a nice size - it's big enough to draw a map on but small enough that I can transport it easily.

Virtual - usually a virtual whiteboard. We use Roll20 and so I have a blank map set up that I can draw on with their drawing tools to create a simple map. If I have a planned encounter that I have appropriate maps for I'll use those instead, but often we're improvising and if a combat comes up when we're improvising I'm not going to stop to look for an appropriate map to play on. The whiteboard is good enough for table play, it's good enough for virtual play.


Moderator Emeritus
I use a wet-erase battle mat and minis, homemade terrain, and pre-(hand)drawn maps for areas I know we'll be going. I also draw maps to hand out as props sometimes. I use these for both my face-to-face and remote game (using a table camera and zoom). However, we also use Owlbear Rodeo for that latter game for the exploration mode and then "zoom in" to an area moving to the mat, if there is a battle.

Edit to add example of pre-drawn map + scatter terrain

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