For a recent superhero adventure, I went looking for a map, preferably a 5′ scale map that I could use with miniatures. I couldn’t find what I needed, and that surprised me greatly. After all, there are so many maps and map tiles on offer through RPGNow – there are umpteen castles, marshlands, swamps, forests, forest clearings, villages, and so on. Heck, you can buy entire cities. So I felt sure that anything you could think of would be catered for by someone.
The more I looked into it, the more maps I was able to place on my wishlist of maps that were simply not available. So this post is for all you mapmakers out there. I don’t know how big a market there would be for any of these specific items – but there is going to be some market, and – the last time I checked – it was a market that no-one was catering for.
Circus Tent, Arena, and/or Amphitheatre
The specific map that I was looking for was a circus tent, complete with audience seating, central rings, acrobat platforms, high-wires, etc. But I was prepared to compromise – I could have worked with almost any arena or amphitheatre map and dressed it to my needs.
I couldn’t find any of them (heck, I couldn’t even find any maps or blueprints on Google). And the surprises, well, the heck out of me.
Arenas and the like have been part of the landscape from just about as long as we’ve been building cities. The Ancient Greeks used amphitheatres for debates. The Romans had their coliseums. In medieval times, tournaments were regular events. Modern times have the circus, plus rock concerts, and plays, and heaven knows what. Scientific Conferences, perhaps. University lecture halls. And in the future, any of the above might come back into vogue.
Solving the immediate problem
In order to solve my immediate needs, I had to get creative. I used wall panels as rows of bleachers, stone floors as a set of elevated stages (I thought about putting dice under them to raise them, but it proved enough to use some unwanted tiles as a layer underneath the “stage” to raise it just a little). I used portals to represent major supports for the tents, pits for recessed areas (like an orchestra pit and a hidden passage beneath the stage where the dressing rooms were located). Burning torches represented the position of spotlights. Pieces showing something else – spiderweb, I think, but I’m no longer sure – became the anchors and platforms which were connected by high wires.
A really important factor was the size of the end-product. I had assembled stacks of the different component elements before I started laying the ‘map’ out on the playing surface and roughly added up the amount of space that I could fill using those tiles.
While it took an extra half-hour of game time to lay out the map, it worked reasonably well. While there were undoubtedly holes and flaws within the resulting map, neither the players nor I could spot them in the course of play. So it was good enough, in the end.
Getting back to the main point of this article, we come to Labs.
Frankensteinian Labs. Gothic Labs. Futuristic Labs. Chem Labs. Electrical Labs. Robotics Workshops. Leonardo’s Workshop. Labs, Labs, Labs. You can never have enough diversity in Lab Spaces.
And of course, most of these have fantasy analogues. The Chem Labs work for alchemist’s labs. Leonardo’s workshop could definitely be useful in a steampunk setting. Frankenstein’s Workshop works for all sorts of Necromancer’s workshops, not to mention golem construction workshops. Astronomical observatories and astrological workshops can be interchanged – at least well enough for one map to be used for another.
Some of these maps are available, most don’t. But its the futuristic labs that are really hard to find.
There are a number of special rooms that recur in various game genres time after time. The throne room. The conference room – one with round or elliptical tables and one with rectangular tables. Armories – which will be different in different time periods. Mobile armories, like those that might be used by a Swat team. Armored Cars. Ambulance interiors. Operating theatres. Caves with entrances that look like giant skulls.
Most of these just aren’t around. Some of them can be replicated using standard map tiles and appropriate dressings – but having a baseline to work from would make things so much easier.
Finally, there are a few “special” locations that keep coming up, and that are very hard to fake with something else. Cemeteries, Casinos, Las Vegas showrooms, Medieval Japanese Castles, and a period-correct Egyptian Palace. Oh yes, and the TARDIS, or some other sci-fi starship bridge.
So, there you go
These are all examples of locations that I’ve needed to use in adventures in the past – and couldn’t find. And if I needed them, so could others. So it’s over you, mapmakers. Who will take up the gauntlet?
Only a short article this week, for a change. Don’t expect it to last…