Sunday, August 27, 2023

Virtual TTRPG Maps

So our TTRPG group has been playing online for several years now.  We started during the pandemic, but having group members kind of spread out and most of us having jobs that require getting up kind of early means that not having to drive 45+ minutes home at the end of the night is enough of a bonus.

I like the map options.

Pathfinder offers a lot of options for tactical combat, but virtual maps also mean that I can more easily plant clues or potential rabbit holes on maps than I could when I was just using theater of the mind or dry-erase combat maps.  Chekhov's gun is too obviously Chekhov's gun sometimes when you're describing the space (or you have party members who ignore potential plot hooks completely).  But when I put something weird on a map, I'm doing it for a reason (which may be because I found a neat graphic in the asset set, but I will improv plot around them if someone takes an interest).

I have been using Dungeondraft to make maps for a couple years now.  The ability to load additional assets (I've gotten some modern ones, some Cthulhu-esque ones, and high-level city grids) gives it flexibility beyond the basic fantasy RPG set that comes with it.  It lets you export both with and without the grid, and with or without lightning, so if you want to import it into a virtual table top that lets you set those up, you can just do an image, or if you're going to print for actual table-top use, you could print it with the additional features.

Now that I've been using it for a while, once I know what map I want to make (say, a forested encounter map), I can set it up in about twenty minutes.  More complicated maps (like the Clue house) take longer since I have to place a lot more assets, but I don't usually need a lot of those.  It does mean that, if I need to, I can probably slap together a battle-map while the PCs are talking themselves into a fight.

I'm putting together a setting for a 1930s game, and for that I'm looking at using public domain images of locations from that era for non-combat maps - lobbies, offices, restaurants, theaters, etc.  I don't know how well that will work yet, but for combat I'll still be putting together standard top-down maps; I've read some things about using isometric maps, but I haven't worked out the technical aspect of it yet.  I'll also need to put together some Empire State Building floor plans - which should be easy, since they're available online - especially since I learned that only one or two of the floors was actually occupied in the time-frame I'm looking at.

There are a variety of places to get asset packs; here are some I've used:

I have not yet found great options for Art Deco assets, but hopefully by the time I run that game, I can at least approximate it.

One of the other nice things about these maps is that I'm now playing with two groups, and some of them can be repurposed for the other.  I haven't needed to do this yet, but I have them in the same overall campaign setting at the moment, so should they wander into areas the other has already been, I could reuse some of the maps for my own personal continuity's sake.

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