Are maps bad?

edited December 2011 in Story Games
I was just thinking that situational maps, as opposed to geographical maps, can tend to suck the detail out of the situation. Im thinking of maps that show the location of characters in a fight, or maybe even maps of the immediate area showing 'entries' and 'exits' ans significant features etc...

1) having a visual aid tends to demand the focus of players, pulling them out of their headspace
2) it replaces words (1000 or less). But words are what its all about. Words can be much more evocative than a crude map
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Comments

  • There are people that believe that. There are people who don't believe that. I don't see that either category is wrong. It's probably a good thing to know which category you belong to. It's also good to be flexible, and try not to let your preference from letting you enjoy the other approach when that's what the table prefers.

    Me, I like maps. And I'm not personally convinced by your #2.
  • Posted By: Peter AronsonIt's probably a good thing to know which category you belong to. It's also good to be flexible,
    Yup.

    Personally, I suck at maps. I don't like drawing them, I don't get any particular thrill out of using them, I don't feel all that enriched to have them available in a game. Even the big, pretty maps like you used to get in old box sets leave me cold. I can find them useful in specific situations, but if it's left up to me, there are no maps until one of those situations comes up, and then the map is discarded again.

    But it's not just up to me; there are other people in our group, some of whom really have a hard time visualizing spatial relations or who prefer knowing exact positions where I'd be comfortable with loose descriptions, and so I'll gracefully go along with maps when they want 'em. It's not my thing, but I can cope for the sake of everyone else's fun.
  • I've seen too many games where one person says "I'm over by the door"...only to say "but I was near the crates" a few minutes later when it becomes a better strategic position.

    For this reason I love maps, and even figures.

    The map doesn't have to be elaborately drawn, and the "figures" can be scraps of paper. You can leave the evocative description in the spoken words.

    I just find it's really useful to have a visual cue that gets everyone on the same page (and curtails the blatant cheating from some players).
  • Pictures.

    That is to say, use a picture of a cool location to set up relationships, suggest where characters might do crazy stunts from, hide, etc.

    (old Feng Shui advice, thank you Mr. Laws)
  • yeah, pictures! Maps are you know - devoid of evocative content.
  • Posted By: stefoidMaps are you know - devoid of evocative content.
    Maybe yes (if it's a very simple situation map), but often no. And they certainly don't remove any evocative content that's already been established.

    It seems to me that you're trying to take a preference of yours, and elevate it to being a general rule. Except, it really isn't one.
  • No, maps aren't bad. They're awesome. Easiest question ever. (To support my position, I'll gesture vaguely over at that shelf, which contains 875478 amazing games that use maps to greatly enhance play.)

    "Devoid of evocative content." Holy crap.
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: John HarperNo, maps aren't bad. They're awesome. Easiest question ever. (To support my position, I'll gesture vaguely over at that shelf, which contains 875478 amazing games that use maps to greatly enhance play.)

    "Devoid of evocative content." Holy crap.
    You have pre-drawn situational maps in your games? holy crap.
  • edited December 2011
    Your mileage may very. I am a kinesthetic, visual learner so verbal descriptions don't do much for me. So maps are good. Great maps are even better.

    Current maps that are useful, maps, and evocative (Zac's and Tony's maps are situational maps as well). I also think these qualify as great maps:
    The maps in Vornheim
    Sample map from Vornheim

    Tony Dowler's maps

    Dyson Logos' maps

    Just to name a few...

    ara
  • The old non-gaming saying is: "The map is not the territory."

    Forget that at your peril.
  • edited December 2011
    Pre-drawn situational maps are, like, fundamental to gaming, for me. So, yeah. Stuff like this:

    image

    The alternative is everyone keeping all that in their head and hoping we don't forget key details. The map on the table means all that stuff actually gets used in play (marked up to hell and gone as we go). That's why it's awesome.

    Everyone's played Ganakagok, right? Sorcerer? Apocalypse World? They're pretty good.
  • <blockquote><cite>Posted By: Roger</cite>The old non-gaming saying is: "The map is not the territory."

    Forget that at your peril.</blockquote>

    Well though the finger pointing at the moon is not the moon, sometimes we need that damn finger to find the moon.
  • edited December 2011
    I use carefully drawn maps for lands and cities to give some feeling for the setting, and I want those maps to be as clear in writing and as evocative in design as possible.

    But I prefer not to map specific situations in a scene. As a GM in classical fantasy I find it better to frame the scene verbally, and demand action on the fly from my players. It makes for a faster game, and more fun, even though they may be acting on very sparse info sometimes.

    It happens that I make a situational sketch anyway, if the game somehow demands it, but it is far between.

    The reason I use situational maps so seldom, is that I do not believe in the so called "tactical" doctrine; that you need to see your characters in relation to enemies and friends, on a battle ground/grid, to make realistic decisions and have the fights play out to the satisfaction of everybody. The minute you put something down on a map like that, it stops being realistic, in my view, and makes the tactical element totally un-founded in any real experience of close fighting. The dynamic, flexible and wildly raging elements of a fight is lost, when your focus is drawn to some static plastic counters on a board. You may move them, but they won't move you.

    What makes for realistic decisions, is that you (the character) are highly subjective in what you see and understand, and react on base of a fleeting impression of what goes on (beyond the simple fact that a fight is on). It also makes for a more realistic decision by you, if you are subject to the simple and effective workings of a living GM.

    The GM using voice, mimics and body language to communicate the volatile situation, while also communicating danger, fear and rage, is far better. It makes for a better simulation of "me being in danger", in my experience. It makes the players focus on you, as a possible enemy. And that's a key; you (the GM) can easily portray a dangerous enemy; by standing up, leaning forward, talking loudly at your players, demanding action AT ONCE!!! (OR I WILL SMOTHER YOU ALL!!!).

    "AT ONCE" is another key: by upping the tempo, bringing it into a frenzy of descriptions, actions and reactions, you end up with a way of doing fights that is far more efficient in spurring inspired and realistic interaction. The tactics applied by stressed players will be closer to real life battle tactics, as it will include some reminiscence of real life reactions and emotions. While a fight is all physical action on the surface of it, the inside of a fight is a churning psychodrama of adrenaline, and other fear and rage induced reactions. Tempo is key to making such things happen in the players.

    And you don't get tempo with combat-sketches and plastic figures.
  • edited December 2011
    I knew a map once that done killed a man. Shot him dead, right there in the street, front of everyone, just fer questionin' the socio-economic implications of its projection. But bad? I wouldn't say it was bad. Just diff'rent from regular folk, like you and me. Folks like us, takes a lot to push us to killin', but for a map like that, those lines were drawn a little further out, so as you never knew until it was too late when you'd gone and stepped on over 'em.
  • Posted By: akooserYour mileage may very. I am a kinesthetic, visual learner so verbal descriptions don't do much for me. So maps are good. Great maps are even better.

    Current maps that are useful, maps, and evocative (Zac's and Tony's maps are situational maps as well). I also think these qualify as great maps:
    The maps inVornheim
    Samplemapfrom Vornheim

    Tony Dowler'smaps

    Dyson Logos'maps

    Just to name a few...

    ara
    The downunder map doesnt do much for me - a bunch of rooms connected to other rooms. But the pictorial 'map' is full of evocative content.
  • Thomas: Whoah, yeah.

    John: Im not talking about relationship maps, Im talking some other crap, but lets just say youve made some kind of point, ok?
  • Stefoid, I suspect several people (including me) aren't sure what kind of maps you are referring to. Can you give us some examples?
  • To answer the original post, I don't think maps are bad. But I do think certain maps can disrupt certain player's imagination when used at certain parts of the game.

    The same is true for words. For some players, too many words, means to much specificity, which means limiting their imagination. But not always. It depends on the players. For some players, having a number next to a stat is more evocative than a verbal descriptor. Strength 8 out of 10 is more evocative for them than Amazing strength.

    The amount of maps and the amount of verbal descriptions I use depends on what the players ask me. If the players ask me what something looks, feels, smells, sounds, or tastes like... I will start to get more detailed. If players start to ask, where exactly is the exit and where are all the guards situated, I will draw a map. For me the key is not to do more than is necessary since the players may not care.

    The other key is that I accept that different players are imagining different things. Very few things I say or draw will be more vivid than their imagination. So I try to limit what I detail so we are at least on the bare minimum same page while still allowing different people to imagine different things.

    I do find though that if I write something down, even if the players didn't ask for it, it helps ensure the players will give it extra care. Of course if I write down too much, it has the opposite effect! Jotting down a brief list of clues or a list of environmental features or a list of major NPC usually means at minimum players will reincorporate many of those elements.
  • In the case of miniatures games - a beautifully laid out terrain field is very good. In those games the board is the thing.

    Chris Engle
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: MatrixGamerIn the case of miniatures games - a beautifully laid out terrain field is very good. In those games the board is the thing.

    Chris Engle
    Yes, but it is central. And it's there from step one, and effort has gone into its creation.

    I think folks in this thread are missing that Crappy Map is Crappy, and then exrapolating a whole 'nuther bunch of stuff from experience with Crappy Map.

    In RPGs, folks tend to pull out those situational maps and markers when combat busts out. They put a screeching halt to the freeflowing RPing and suddenly start playing a minis wargame of dubious quality.

    No wonder (some) people are having a terrible time!

    It's the second part, the bolded part, that's the problem, and the part people are extrapolating from.

    There are ways around that.

    Possibilty one: Don't stop the Freeflowing part.
    Possibility two: Don't bring one kind of game to a screeching halt to start an entirely different sort of game.
    Possibility three: Don't suddenly bring everything to a screeching halt, then completely set out a whole new sort of game in the physical space you're using to game in.
    Possibility four: Use the map or whatever else as a starting point for creativity and inspiration for fictional content, not as a block to it.
  • edited December 2011
    Next up on Action News 12, are maps bad? Then, at 10:00, are vegetables killing your children?

    But seriously, I think maps make great props. They can help people get on the same page or help explain what they're trying to say (If you meet me in person I'm always trying to draw a picture to help explain what I'm saying). However, in most cases where maps interface with the mechanics, role playing breaks down.

    I also feel that maps fly in the face of "play to find out" style games because maps of interior spaces inherently railroad (for example most FPS level designs). In most cases, map-as-you-go works so much better and, as a bonus, its a subjective character-centric map that is easy to violate as plot demands (as opposed to a factual GM/player map).
  • Posted By: John HarperThe alternative is everyone keeping all that in their head and hoping we don't forget key details. The map on the table means all that stuffactually gets used in play(marked up to hell and gone as we go). That's why it's awesome.
    You see, the interesting thing is that this is true for most forms of maps (and not only limited to relationship maps and the like).
  • edited December 2011
    image
  • http://jankcast.com/archives/1662

    The Jank deals with visual manipulables to record game decisions, not just offer the space in which they are made.

    Also: I think that a picture of a warehouse might encourage the players to visualize 3 dimensionally instead of schematically. But it is a perception thing. I can visualize my PC doing a Batman swing across a warehouse whereas even a well made, high-resolution map doesn't do it for me
  • @Stefoid: I re-read your OP, and yeah, I was way off. "Situational map" confused me. Sorry about that.

    I do think that quickly-sketched maps to orient everyone to the physical space are good, but I'm super visual. I agree that getting too attached to the map and tactical movement (in a game that does not call for that) can be a bad thing.
  • Maps are a tool. Like other tools, they are good at achieving certain things and bad at achieving other things. Also like other tools, some are of better quality than others.

    With that said, for me an awesome map used in the right circumstances has-- on more than one occasion-- turned a mediocre session into a good session, and a great campaign into an excellent campaign. I'm thinking, for example, of a game of Werewolf where I drew a rough map of a small town with few details, and then the players went around adding places and color to the map before character creation (and then again afterwards). It made the whole concept of "territory" and "this place is alive" really sing, and that is still one of the best campaigns I have ever played in or run. And the map, which was constantly updated and altered as we played, and which always sat dead-center in the table, had a huge part in the awesomeness of that game and in evoking the themes and tone of our game.
  • Despite being a very visual person, I often run games without "situational" maps. But then again, I often run games with "situational maps". It really depends on the, heh, the situation. I have noticed that for some gamers, having a visual (where the airlock is compared to where the assault droid is lurking for example) helps tremendously. They feel more free to make actions and moves with that quickly digested knowledge under their belt. I'm quite capable of doing beautiful, elaborate, evocative maps that are publication worthy. I don't do that all that often, I have a very large swipe file of good maps to use in a pinch. I'm also very good at sketching a 20 sec doodle on a piece of paper to get the gist of what is happening.

    But a knife fight in an alley way using Burning wheel between just 2 duelists. probably doesn't need one. The system helps enforce the "space" where the fight is happening.

    I sometimes combine a picture or photo with a map. Especially with something that has vertical elements. Scaffolding around the huge statue, for example. One trick I used was using google earth and maps together and taking some screen shots for a spy/espionage shoot-out once. That was very evocative as forests and the hill and the farmhouse in eastern europe became the scene of a fractious firefight and eventual last ditch hostage rescue. Having a "real world" space, feeling like we were looking at Satellite surveillance, while the players planned their approach, that was cool and fun.

    In my online games, I run 90% of the combats with a map, even ones I've quickly sketched out. Because we are not face to face, I find having a visual in our shared Maptool space really, really helps. And it happens that a couple of the players in that are real minis lovers. Which is totally cool.
  • edited December 2011
    Good maps provoke response from the table. Good maps illustrate possibilities and boundaries. Good maps disambiguate the shared imagined space. Good maps can be a GM flag to prepared material.

    Good maps are critical to games in which minis & terrain are significant to the rules -- games like Savage Worlds or D&D4E.

    Negative space in maps can be a powerful call to explore and create. The Isle of Dread module is my favorite in this regard,

    Bad maps are bad.

    edit: Here are some good maps
  • I'm another one for whom maps often work well with role-playing. I really like visualizing the scene, but it bothers me when I can clearly tell that my visualization is different than other players' visualizations.

    For me, there are two common cases that bring play to a halt in mapless play:

    1) Assumption clash about what is going on. For example, I describe how my character grabs the crystal and prepares to run - assuming that the others are some distance away, and another player says that he grabs me - assuming that we are all tightly bunched. However, I wouldn't have chosen to grab the crystal if someone was standing right by me.

    2) Extended Q&A about position. To prevent #1, sometimes I or someone else slow things down with a lot of questions, like: How wide a space is there here? How far are we spread out? What direction(s) are everyone facing? etc.

    I tend to prefer having questions answered by a map up-front rather than slow down play with Q&A or backtracking later.
  • Posted By: johnzoGood maps are critical to games in which minis & terrain are significant to the rules -- games like Savage Worlds or D&D4E.
    yep - rules that (I presume) require a clear, possibly numeric, idea of the spatial relationship between characters. Rules that probably use movement rates and timed actions, etc...

    For rules that dont, I think KomradeBob has probably stated things well. Breaking out the map, which then becomes a focus on what the map represents - spatial relationships only. It encourages a shift from 1st person to 3rd person perspective that, while avoidable, is kind of like having the TV on when your trying to have a conversation.
  • Posted By: jhkimI'm another one for whom maps often work well with role-playing. I really like visualizing the scene, but it bothers me when I can clearly tell that my visualization is different than other players' visualizations.

    For me, there are two common cases that bring play to a halt in mapless play:

    1) Assumption clash about what is going on. For example, I describe how my character grabs the crystal and prepares to run - assuming that the others are some distance away, and another player says that he grabs me - assuming that we are all tightly bunched. However, I wouldn't have chosen to grab the crystal if someone was standing right by me.

    2) Extended Q&A about position. To prevent #1, sometimes I or someone else slow things down with a lot of questions, like: How wide a space is there here? How far are we spread out? What direction(s) are everyone facing? etc.

    I tend to prefer having questions answered by a map up-front rather than slow down play with Q&A or backtracking later.
    What do you think of Tomas' view of concrete spatial relationships being a negative rather than a positive?

    I mean, obviously in the (1) example lack of concrete spatial relationship is a problem. With (2), I think thats the behaviour you get when players expect play to emphasize spatial relationships.

    Is there any way to resolve (1) without emphasising/predetermining spatial relationships?
  • That's not exactly what I was getting at actually.

    It's the the breaking it out part that bothers me, not the using it and a shift of perspective that goes with it.

    If anything, I'm advocating having the thing out the whole time, from start to finish, or skipping it altogether.

    And if you do use that situational map (or a table layout) and minis, be willing to be just as freeflowing in your play methodology with that as you would be with al kinds of other stuff in play. Try ignoring the fiddly shit unless you are playing something like D&D 4e where it's really important.

    It's actually very easy to use maps and minis in a positive way in a game, using them to inspire and describe the fiction.

    It makes me deeply sad that I see people failing to make that rather easy ( to me) mental jump. It's really no bigger of a mental leap that we see regularly in game designs around these parts that don't follow some old standby ideas about the ways RPG "have to" work.
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: komradebobAnd if you do use that situational map (or a table layout) and minis, be willing to be just as freeflowing in your play methodology with that as you would be with al kinds of other stuff in play.
    That reminds me of one of my favorite GMs ever, who had a huge bag full of toy spaceships and action figures that he would break out for our space patrol game. We kinda naturally evolved maps and scenes to inform and inspire play in that game without ever shifting gears out of the ruleset at large. Good times. It was like being eleven years old again.
  • Burning Empires' map, which is partly player-created by the use of intel/spying skills, is pretty great.

    Actually a lot of maps are pretty great.

    I agree with Graham's post. Map?
  • edited December 2011
    hey, no one here has mentioned Danger Patrol! DP makes super effective use of a 'map' in play.

    My favorite feature of the DP map is that after making my guy and choosing his uniform's color scheme, I get to customize my player token / figure right there at the table. I will burn through entire forests of index cards until I manage to sharpie up the right art out of my clumsy non-visual brain + fingers. For whatever reason, this massively increases my buy-in to the game. Physicalization is powerful!

    Steve, have you played DP? It's good stuff, check it out.
  • On Mighty Thews relies heavily on its map, and for good reason: increased player buy-in. Each player's main characteristic (and its opposite) are represented on the map by "poles," and the relative locations of this web of poles determines what those places nearer to one and farther from the other are like. It's actually such an integral part of the game that I'd probably skip playing it altogether before I'd play it on a map someone else just made.
  • Posted By: johnzo
    Steve, have you played DP? It's good stuff, check it out.
    You think Ive got enough time to play role playing games?
  • Posted By: johnzoPosted By: komradebobAnd if you do use that situational map (or a table layout) and minis, be willing to be just as freeflowing in your play methodology with that as you would be with al kinds of other stuff in play.
    That reminds me of one of my favorite GMs ever, who had a huge bag full of toy spaceships and action figures that he would break out for our space patrol game. We kinda naturally evolved maps and scenes to inform and inspire play in that game without ever shifting gears out of the ruleset at large. Good times. It was like being eleven years old again.

    Question, how does a situational map inspire play?
  • edited December 2011
    Ever own any of the following TSR Boxed game sets?
    Star Frontiers (Alpha Dawn), Gangbusters, Boot Hill, Marvel SuperHeroes RPG

    Each one essentially came with a large fold out map of a settlement/core city section and character/monster/vehicle chits. They were meant to be played with that map out during regular play.

    All over them were marked various locations withnames attached to them. Some maps were nicer than others with more bits of detail ( especially the much later MSRPG).

    That stuff alone offered the GMs and players plenty to draw on imaginationwise that went well beyond simple tactical considerations. The name of a store (often including the owner's name) or the types of facility or the placement of certain roads/raiilroad/slums whatever near or far from one another, all that kid of stuff played together to spark ideas for adventtures and activities in that area of town.

    Having constant, full access to that map meant everyone had a sort of idea-board handy that tied to the setting. Kind of like the way Verbal Kint uses the stuff in the detective's office in The Usual Suspects for inspiration.
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: johnzoedit: Here are some good maps
    Okay, it's official: maps don't really click with me. I mean, those are okay, but not at all inspiring for me. They're just...maps. There's nothing there for me to give a fuck about.

    I guess the Wolverine City one is sort of interesting, but the "mapness" of it is pretty minimal...it was less about the place and more about the people, which is a much swifter and surer path to my heart. Maybe I'll try yoinking the basic concept there for use somewhere else, I might be able to get some mileage out of it.


    For just regular old maps, I'll stick to my original answer: I personally don't like them or appreciate them, so I'll resist using them unless it's called for by someone else in my group.
  • edited December 2011
    Posted By: Stephen PI'm thinking, for example, of a game of Werewolf where I drew a rough map of a small town with few details, and then the players went around adding places and color to the map before character creation (and then again afterwards). It made the whole concept of "territory" and "this place is alive" really sing, and that is still one of the best campaigns I have ever played in or run. And the map, which was constantly updated and altered as we played, and which always sat dead-center in the table, had a huge part in the awesomeness of that game and in evoking the themes and tone of our game.
    Great example! Way to go!
    Posted By: johnzoGood maps are critical to games in which minis & terrain are significant to the rules -- games like Savage Worlds or D&D4E.
    In my view there is nothing "good" about the maps used in such games. They are usually generalized battle boards, with hexes (or whatnot) on them. I squirm with unease when someone put such a "map" on the table; it spells out clearly that now we (the play group) are entering an exceedingly slow-motion battle.

    My last encounter with the type, was in an arabesque game (don't remember what system) where we encountered a minor enemy, and were bogged down with an un-significant combat for 30 minutes. I got to deal two blows to some minor NPC during that time. Bah!
    Posted By: jhkim1) Assumption clash about what is going on. For example, I describe how my character grabs the crystal and prepares to run - assuming that the others are some distance away, ...
    Here we got "Say yes!" to help us out. As a GM I always tries to stay with the assumption of a player doing this; that assumption is actually you putting something into the shared fiction. if you do, and it is cool, we say yes. The player reacting to your action is actually blocking your contribution, so he will be overruled. He may try to stop you, but must accept the disadvantage of being at some distance. So your character will actually be some distance from the others, and thus you are able to "do your thing". It's a way of saying YES, forcing me and the other players to go with the flow of your action.

    Having a situational sketch inhibits such initiatives, and makes the whole situation become less volatile, much more stiff and slow. I see no reason to put up with it.
    Posted By: jhkim2) Extended Q&A about position.
    When you up the tempo, there is no place for such questions; you act, or you are caught off-guard and do nothing. Old role-players have some problems adjusting to such game-play, but they learn soon enough. New role-players take to it like fish to the water, after the first or second critical scene.

    Questions about details should be kept to a minimum. Most details may be invented on the spot by the players; if you need there to be something to swing from; go for it and say: "I jump up in the chandelier, and swings over the bandits!" Bravo!

    The point is to accept that our inner map of the situation must be re-drawn time and again. That always has to be done, so let's do it with as little hassle as possible, and without fixing it on paper. We loose too much energy and opportunities by setting situations in paper.

    A special point here: accepting that we have to re-draw our inner map continually is actually hardest for the GM. I believe our "need" for situational sketches stems from GM-insecurity, more than player-doubts.
  • This is a case of asking the wrong question.

    Are maps bad?

    Is water bad? i mean you need it to live, but it can also flood your neighborhood and kill you if you try to breath it.

    It's not the thing, it's how you use it.
  • edited December 2011
    Tomas I like a lot of what your saying there. Can I quote some phrases in my design text? I like 'inner map' particularly and the need to go with the flow and redraw them.
  • I love maps. That's not likely to be a surprise to anyone who knows I run ProFantasy Software. My D&D campaign forms the basis for our example maps, and I've printed out every single one of the hundreds of our Source Maps series to pull out a city, temple, dungeon or castle whenever it's requried. They are an aid to imagination and they stop all your cities looking the same. In game, hand-drawn maps avoid confusion, and focus attention on the game environment in physical and social terms .In a black box game, they support the feeling of character and world immersion. In other games, they are important to the process of shared world creation. They help people agree on the nature of shared imaginary space.
  • Posted By: TomasHVM
    Posted By: johnzoGood maps are critical to games in which minis & terrain are significant to the rules -- games like Savage Worlds or D&D4E.
    In my view there is nothing "good" about the maps used in such games. They are usually generalized battle boards, with hexes (or whatnot) on them. I squirm with unease when someone put such a "map" on the table; it spells out clearly that now we (the play group) are entering an exceedingly slow-motion battle.

    My last encounter with the type, was in anarabesquegame (don't remember what system) where we encountered a minor enemy, and were bogged down with an un-significant combat for 30 minutes. I got to deal two blows to some minor NPC during that time. Bah!



    I suspect any differences I have with you regarding the issue of Maps: Good/Bad? are more one of a degree and not of type.

    That kind of thing bugs the shit out of me as well Tomas.

    It's part of what I really hated about D&D 4e, and why i just plain went back to Basic D&D.

    Unless the play group is volunteering for extreme slo-mo battles, I always recommend treating any kinds of representations of the spaces involved more like a toy company style play mat than a wargame board.

    I suspect some of the difference in opinion ( not all differences, naturally) on situational maps comes from the failure of players to consider that maps need not be used strictly in the wargame-y fashion.

    I blame it on Dain Bramage caused by encounters with rulesets that only ever encourage the use of maps in that fashion, rather than more free flowing play mat fashion.
  • I'm also one of those people who likes "evocative" maps, for a sense of place and style and decor, but I never use "hex" maps or battlemaps, preferring to describe action as you would appreciate it in a film or a novel. It's more interesting to me to have someone swing on a chandelier than to count hexes and see if your movement rate is sufficient to flank your enemy. I like how games like Apocalypse World handle this kind of thing!

    I do enjoy scribbled diagrams which let us all visualize our tactical options better. For example, I could see a group of warriors planning an ambush on their enemy draw out a simple diagram to explain how they are setting up their position.

    However, I have a question about this:
    Posted By: TomasHVM1) Assumption clash about what is going on. For example, I describe how my character grabs the crystal and prepares to run - assuming that the others are some distance away, ...
    Here we got "Say yes!" to help us out. As a GM I always tries to stay with the assumption of a player doing this; that assumption is actually you putting something into the shared fiction. if you do, and it is cool, we say yes.

    There is a fear that comes along with this for a lot of people:

    That if "Say Yes" is operating paradigm for tense action situations, the players will "catch on" (whether consciously or unconsciously). It becomes more like "making things up" than "trying to take advantage of an existing situation". If I can twist the reality of the fictional world to my advantage in this way, play could become more like a contest biased towards the person who speaks up first or speaks up most convincingly.

    What are good ways of managing that issue? Or is it even an issue which needs handling?
  • I've found my players really like the battlemaps. We play a lot of D&D 4E and Gamma World, and prior to that they rarely used maps. I researched how to do 4E "mapless" and suggested it for a session and nearly got shouted down by my players.

    So I like maps, they love maps. I try to plan ahead for encounters so I can add 3D elements to the paper maps, but we've also had encounters where I've drawn on a wet-erase grid map or just pulled a random map and gone with it.
  • Posted By: Paul T.That if "Say Yes" is operating paradigm for tense action situations, the players will "catch on" (whether consciously or unconsciously). It becomes more like "making things up" than "trying to take advantage of an existing situation". If I can twist the reality of the fictional world to my advantage in this way, play could become more like a contest biased towards the person who speaks up first or speaks up most convincingly.

    What are good ways of managing that issue? Or is it even an issue which needs handling?
    If you put something into the shared fiction, and it is cool, you say yes.

    It' seriously un-cool to grab the word as fast as possible, and make up magic solutions every time. Magic solutions (something coming out of the blue, saving the characters) makes the game loose its magic.

    But I rarely see players do that. It's not really an issue.

    Players in love with the battlemaps/mats have found a way to have fun with them. That's fine with me. It could be that their enthusiasm would help me enjoy it too, but I would most likely be bored if stranded in such a group.
  • Well, I should note that I can have a lot of fun in games without maps, and also have a lot of fun in games with maps.

    For me, the fun of maps doesn't depend on play not being wargame-y. I enjoy wargame-y combat in a number of tabletop RPGs including Champions/HERO System and Savage Worlds. (I've tried D&D4, which I didn't particularly like, but didn't utterly hate.) I've also frequently used quickly sketched maps for other games, like Call of Cthulhu, Dresden Files, etc.

    On the other hand, I also enjoy plenty of games where I don't use a map. For example, I've never used a map in 1001 Nights or Polaris while enjoying them immensely.
    Posted By: TomasHVMPosted By: jhkim1) Assumption clash about what is going on. For example, I describe how my character grabs the crystal and prepares to run - assuming that the others are some distance away, ...
    Here we got "Say yes!" to help us out. As a GM I always tries to stay with the assumption of a player doing this; that assumption is actually you putting something into the shared fiction. if you do, and it is cool, we say yes. The player reacting to your action is actually blocking your contribution, so he will be overruled. He may try to stop you, but must accept the disadvantage of being at some distance. So your character will actually be some distance from the others, and thus you are able to "do your thing". It's a way of saying YES, forcing me and the other players to go with the flow of your action.
    Just to be clear - in my example, I did not explicitly state that I was at a distance from the others - and the other players did not realize that I was assuming that. They were assuming I was close by, while I was assuming I was at a distance. So there was no intentional blocking.
    Posted By: TomasHVMPosted By: jhkim2) Extended Q&A about position.
    When you up the tempo, there is no place for such questions; you act, or you are caught off-guard and do nothing. Old role-players have some problems adjusting to such game-play, but they learn soon enough. New role-players take to it like fish to the water, after the first or second critical scene.

    Questions about details should be kept to a minimum. Most details may be invented on the spot by the players; if you need there to be something to swing from; go for it and say: "I jump up in the chandelier, and swings over the bandits!" Bravo!

    The point is to accept that ourinner mapof the situation must be re-drawn time and again. That always has to be done, so let's do it with as little hassle as possible, and without fixing it on paper. We loose too much energy and opportunities by setting situations in paper.

    A special point here: accepting that we have to re-draw our inner map continually is actually hardest for the GM. I believe our "need" for situational sketches stems from GM-insecurity, more than player-doubts.
    This sounds like a fine option, but it isn't the only one that's fun for me. I frequently, though not always, enjoy using situational sketches. They can either add to or subtract from the energy, I find, depending on the situation and the mindsets of the players.
  • edited December 2011
    I will use situational sketches when the characters are free to observe, talk and plan. Mostly that is prior to any combat, not during it. Such sketches supports their dialogue in a planning scene, by giving them an overall view of the terrain, and some details to refer to. As a support for such dialogue, the sketch is a good tool. I advice you to remove it once the combat is on.

    Other than that; I'm typically using a city-map and a world- or kingdom-map, plus a plan of a traditional house, to give players a sense of their home/city/land and to inform their dialogue. All these have important written info on them, and together they "paint a picture" of the physical world we play in. On the same page is my use of a double-sided ressource-sheet, with info on popular songs and dances, traditional feasts, coins in use, inns and their menus, goods to be bought, and beasts of the wild. This info-sheet is actually the "GM-screen" of old, put on the table for all to use.

    These maps/plans/sheets are put on the table, easy to reach and read for all. They are there to support the dialogue, by giving players on-hand setting-info. It helps players to use setting-relevant elements when talking in-character. It results in the player having a better feeling for the setting, and a far better feeling of the position of his character, both geographically and socially.

    I find that in general this system of map/info-tools is very beneficent to the interaction in a classical role-playing game.
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