RPG Map Design Part 1


Aside from work, my main creative outlet over the last year or so has been roleplaying. Specifically I’ve been running a D&D campaign for a group of friends, and designing maps and encounters on Roll20 has been pretty enjoyable. Naturally, most of the stuff I’ve made for the campaign will only really make sense for the people playing it, but a handful of the things I’ve made/written might be worth posting on here.

I’ve always had a liking for in-game maps – they capture the link between the mechanics of what you’re actually doing and fictional narrative that runs in parallel to the gameplay. I.e. you might literally be navigating a level, avoiding hazards and enemies, but ‘in-fiction’ you could be robbing a bank, exploring a forgotten temple, etc.

I’m hoping to post some annotated maps that represent more complicated encounters, but for now, here are some fairly basic ones:

Pretty straightforward – a large arena with shifting terrain, to keep things interesting between encounters. Each version has four different ‘biomes’ from top left going around clockwise.
Left: Desert Mesas, Hot Springs, Canal, Grassland
Right: Volcano, Graveyard, Forest, Snowscape

Underground Market
I knew the group would be visiting here quite often as one of the main shopping areas in the campaign, and might end up involved in a scrap with the enforcers or try to sneak past them at some point, but so far things haven’t kicked off to the point where I’ve had to use it.

Blessed Crane Warehouse
And finally, an underground warehouse with a smuggler’s dock, a wine cellar, two large storerooms and a ‘war room’ (the one with several chairs around a map). The group has visited this place a few times, and most recently defended it from a group of zombies that attacked from the canal. Meanwhile, two larger monsters were smuggled into the central storeroom in a shipment of exotic teacups (most of which were sadly broken). It was pretty fun, although I don’t think the combat necessarily made full use of the encounter space.


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