Saturday 27 February 2010

Three Dimensional Mapping

Anyone who has ever played D&D will instantly be familiar with the use of graph or grid paper to draw maps as an adventure unfolds. Often the GM's map will be much more detailed than the players but eventually both sides of the GM screen will have an essentially identical map. But some time ago I discovered a different type of graph paper and it put a hole new dimension into my map making.

Here's an example of a simple dungeon layout but presented in two different ways. The first example isn't strictly 3d but it does allow the GM to show vertical changes in floor level easily and graphically.
Here's the same plan but on standard grid paper.
An excellent site for different types of Paper is Print Free Graph Paper which does exactly what it's name suggests.

"Fundamentally, a good map should enhance the factors which make dungeon crawling enthralling: for instance, exploration, player decision making, uncovering hidden areas and secrets, as well as maintaining the pace of action."
(Source: Melan "Dungeon Mapping" at


  1. I found that no matter how complex or convoluted I made the dungeon, the players would always make their map fit! I never did master the skill at getting players lost using moving room, wobbly cave style corridors or sliding walls.

    Do not get me wrong - every now and then the players did get lost but it never really added anything to the game and for some games we moved away from the map to outdoor or tile based games and found as much fun without the hassle of mapping.

    As for being a player - I did not mind mapping but found the tedious task of 20 foot corridor with two doors distracted from the game itself.

    My favourite way of playing became card based where the area was laid out on the table (using bluetac) and then covered with paper. As you move into an area the cover is removed and opponents placed onto the map. It did aid the players who could see the basic layout and limits you to the size of a table but as we moved away from the traditional dungeon delving game to one of town, country or castle based game these issues became minor.

  2. Many, many years ago, I covered a chipboard off-cut with graph paper, then clear sticky-back-plastic and used wipe off marker pens for mapping. The rule system was D&D first edition.

    I also had great fun developing a huge background story based upon a book by Jim Fitzpatrick called the High King (or High Kings). I never played a game based on this info. but still enjoyed writing the back-story and developing the characters. (I still have the notes - somewhere!)



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