The Only Map You Need For Your Campaign

Yes, I know that a real click bait title for this post. But you know it kind of fits. Let me start of with saying that I understand that maps are cool. Some are even works of art but how valuable and efficient is that work of art at the gaming table? Sure they can inspirational and evocative but I’m looking plain old utility and ease of use at the gaming table.

I’ve been playing around with Inkarnate for a world map for the reboot of my original campaign and while also playing around with online campaign managers I got to thinking about the way I actually keep notes which is a lot of bullet journaling and mind maps. This lead me to the idea of using “one map” for each thing in my world and basically here it is:

Wait? What? That’s it? Yep. I started with the simple concept of a group of hexes then changed it up to off-set squares just to make it easier to use with a word processor. As you can see, it’s numbered from 1 to 19 (20 is “outside” the map) in case I want to do something random. I also grabbed some inspiration from Index Card RPG with the zoned combat and the Ultimate Dungeon Terrain from Dungeon Craft on Youtube.

I figured if you can do this combat then why use it on a bigger scale?

Here’s how it works. Let’s start with the big picture. The World. You may be tempted to put that Big City in the middle of the map. I say no. Put where the characters start in the middle. Build the map from the character’s perspective. Let’s say you’re starting your campaign with the classic Keep on the Borderlands. Put that right in the center. What do the characters know? Since this is the “world” map at this stage. They would know that say the Dwarves come from “Far Away” to the north. So put the Dwarf home there like in Box 9. The Elves are far too but to the south east and so on. All that matters really is that something “near” to where they are or faraway. Fill in what extra bullet details you want.

Then you can do the same thing with a region. Once again with Keep on the Borderlands. Put the Keep in the middle then add the Caves of Chaos, Caves of the Unknown, the Mad Hermit, and the other adventure areas on the region map. All that really matters, is it close or far?

And you can do the exact same thing with a city. I know that the actual distances are abstract. Personally, I’ve found it better to measure the distances in actual miles or whatever but how many days it will take the party to get to their destination (for supply purposes) and what may be between them and their destination (making getting rumors even more key to survival).

This idea is also handy for my DM World Notebook. I can squeeze just about all of the information for a city or region that I need quickly into a single page.

And there you go. A single simple tool with many uses. And here’s a PDF of it:

Enjoy. Roll those dice and have fun out there.

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