How to make a battlemap, aka ‘set them up the fite’

So you’re a GM and you’re using The Stuff of Legends and you’ve got some players and somebody said something to make someone else mad (probably the anti-authoritative player-character Maple who hates peace and is always mad and hates every single one of your NPCs) and now it’s resorted to the last resort of ULTIMATE VIOLENCE.

Well that needs a map and you’re probably freaking out a bit but NOT TO WORRY! Here’s some tips and advice in varying order.

1) Map Size = Range Size.
I recommend that you start with a diameter 36 map. This is a good default as it allows for melee charge (range 6), standard moves (6), distant weapons/spells (range 24), regular ranged (range 12) to all have an influence and be considered. Your snipers can play range games, melee fighters can mess with ranges, your range 12 attackers have room to play with whats in and out of range and what they’re exposed to, etc.

Going higher than that just invokes diminishing returns and too-large gaps and slowdown.

Going lower and smaller means the longer ranges matter less. The less long range matters, the more midrange and melee matter.

A small map (diameter 15 or lower) will be melee dominated. Smashin’ time!

2) Map Content
Look, it doesn’t have to be a work of art. Putting things on a map is a lot like spicing food – a little goes a long way, slather on too much and you’re overwhelming the base dish.

A pillar here, a hallway there, some walls or barriers about, a lava run, all can go a long way to make a battlefield interesting without making it overwhelming.

As a general rule, pick 2 or 3 things to put on a map that should be considered by the players and enemies. As you know more about what you want feel free to ignore this and make it to taste.

These don’t have to be tiny. Large sections taking up something – such as a bridge or a minefield – work just as well.

3) Unfair (or fair) starting positions adjust combat strength.

So starting positions for forces don’t have to be equal. It’s entirely fine to adjust where players and adversaries start in a map – the better the start spot, the more of an advantage they have. The worse of course is the inverse.

If there’s a minefield on a map, and a sniper perch?

The neutral setup is that both players and foes have equal opportunity to take either one.

The disadvantaged setup is that the enemy sniper starts on the sniper perch and the players start in or surrounded by the minefield.

4) Map Generation is hard, and I can’t draw, and I don’t know what kind of map I want!

Fear not, fellow gamemaster. Neither can I. And sometimes I know what map I want and it’s easy, and other times I just have no clue. When I’m clueless, I resort to Random Dungeon Generators! Sometimes they’re awful. Sometimes they’re perfect. But usually they’re in the middle where theres’ enough to use that I steal that and replace the rest with what the middle range matches inspire.

Here’s some links! Great for dungeon crawls and interiors of things, and it has a Tileable option for making megadungeons or similarly Very Big things Lots of theme and styles, I really like the scifi For the ‘know what you want’ and post-gen polish. Less a generator and more a tool to easily draw great, clear maps.

5) Maps’r’Us?

Assuming I didn’t mess up the formatting and commenting is turned on feel free to share some maps you’ve used that have turned out great in the comments!

If there’s something that’d be useful to put in this post that I’ve missed or any questions I should answer also put that in the comments so I can feel silly that I missed it in the first place.