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Phystus

Sidebar: Map Scale - Size does matter! (Part 2 of 2)

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This is a continuation of the previous post about map size. It turns out blog size is important too, and the full post exceeded the allowable size, so I had to split it. You can see part one here...

Map Area

The other factor that influences the size of a map file is the size of the area your map covers. Youíve probably already figured out that, if all other factors are equal, a map thatís 50 squares on a side is four times as large as one thatís 25 squares on a side. So how big do you need a map to be?

Clearly, the map needs to be big enough to depict the encounter area. When thatís a wizardís tower, or a small house, that may be a fairly small area. A dungeon level might be quite a bit bigger, but at least you know the map wonít have to be bigger than the dungeon. But what if the encounter area is outdoors? You obviously canít make a battle map of the entire kingdom, but how big is big enough?

In my opinion the map has to be big enough that it doesnít provide an artificial restriction on the playerís choices. For example, one of the characters in my campaign is a ranger with the Far Shot feat, which means that short range for him, using a composite longbow, is 165 feet (33 squares), instead of the normal 110 feet (22 squares). That should let him out-range his opponents, giving him an advantage. If the distance from the edge of the map to the nearest enemy is less than 23 squares, the advantage of the Far Shot feat has been negated. Now, I may not need to let him use that advantage every battle, but to me it would feel unfair if he didnít get to take advantage of it once in awhile.

Finding the Balance Point

Clearly, the desire to keep the image file size small is at odds with both the desire to map a large area, and the desire to produce photo-realistic maps. Every GM will need to find their own balance of these factors, but I do have a few suggestions to help you out.

First, ask yourself if any of your players is on a slow or dodgy internet connection. If so, youíre going to have to lean heavily toward small files. Remember that if just one player canít see the map, the combat is going to grind to a halt for everybody until they can.

Second, ask yourself if the characters in your campaign benefit from a big map. If your wizard specializes in summoning and nobody uses ranged weapons much it may not be important to have a big map since the battle canít be properly joined until they get close to the enemy. On the other hand, if the party weapons specialist gets a new sniper rifle, throw him a bone and put him on a big map where he can use that rifle to good advantage. We want our players to get invested in their characters, but to do that there has to be a promise of a dividend.

Finally, ask yourself how important it is to you and your group to have a pretty map. Not everyone has the same standards for this, but you need to know what yours are.

Once you have answered these questions you can start balancing the factors. If you need small files that cover large areas, you can sacrifice stunning visuals. If you need the eye candy but you donít need to depict large areas you can indulge your artistic side with only a slight nod to file size. If youíre playing a face-to-face game with FG on a big TV, you can go as wild as youíd like with file size knowing you donít have to worry about file transmission problems.

My Choice

I have pretty well settled on a scale of 30 pixels to the square, and a map size (for outdoor maps, at least) of 90 squares to the side, for a 2700x2700 pixel map. Indoor maps depend on the size of the structure of course, but I keep the 30 pixel per square scale. A couple of my players live in rural areas with less than spectacular internet speeds, and another player insists on using wifi, so I keep file size under a megabyte when possible (almost all the time). My players have never lamented the lack of artistry in my maps (at least to my face), but they are quite willing to complain bitterly about a slow download, so Iím totally willing to sacrifice detail and color depth to keep the file small. As a bonus, it takes less time to draw the map since I donít include so much detail, and I can use my prep time to improve other aspects of the adventure, which the players may appreciate more.

Whew! That went a bit long, and I apologize for that, but hopefully someone will find it useful. The sad thing is, I still havenít said all I think I need to say about mapping. So next time around Iíll discuss how mapping has changed in the 35+ years I have been gaming.

Thanks for reading!

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Comments

  1. Minty23185Fresh's Avatar
    As I was reading your post, I found it particularly interesting that you designed or implemented maps keeping character abilities in mind. Furthermore, specific characters, those of "the old Band". In one respect, that's convenient, some worldbuilders might not have that information to work with when designing their maps, unless they exclusively use pre-gen characters.

    Thanks again for the post.
  2. Phystus's Avatar
    That's a good point. Running a homebrew campaign gives me the luxury of tailoring a lot of things to the party's capabilities. Of course sometimes it lets me tailor things to their weaknesses too. Bwahahahaha!

    I think in general you should make outdoor maps pretty big in terms of ground covered. Most game systems include weapons with pretty substantial range capabilities, whether it's bows, firearms, wire-guided missiles or laser rifles, and players tend to buy them, at least in my experience. They also want to play with these toys, so you should give them the opportunity to do so if you can.

    Making maps that encompass a large area also gives the players more tactical options. One of the things I enjoy the most about GM'ing is seeing my players come up with attack plans that I would never have considered, so giving them more opportunity to do so makes it more fun for me as well as for them. It also helps ensure that nobody feels like they're being railroaded, which can be a hot button for a lot of players.
  3. lesliev's Avatar
    Zooming doesn't work properly on Linux. I try to keep all my images within 800x600 so there's no need to zoom.
  4. Phystus's Avatar
    That's a drag. Have you reported it in the house of healing? I'm pretty sure that's a bug.
  5. Phystus's Avatar
    Have you tried the suggestion in the last post here?
  6. lesliev's Avatar
    Wow, I had tried the 101% scaling trick but it didn't work before. Now it does seem to be working!

    I'm not sure what it is that made the difference: I am now running FG with Wine 1.9.10 and using primusrun (which renders graphics with my NVidia GPU and then displays it on my Intel GPU). Most likely the difference is the newer version of Wine.

    Everything looks a little fuzzy at 101% but it might be worth it for Zooming to work properly. Thanks!
  7. lesliev's Avatar
    95% looks nicer than 101%, in my opinion. I think I'm going with that.
  8. Phystus's Avatar
    Great! I'm glad it's working for you now.
  9. lesliev's Avatar
    Strange - now that I'm playing with this, I can't get the maps to overflow any more at all, not even on 100% scaling. It definitely was not working before on this version of Wine, so I wonder if something changed with FG.

    In any case, it's nice to have it working!

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