Jon Hodgson is a professional artist and the founder of Handiwork Games. He’s trusted by the likes of Onyx Path Publishing to bring the Scarred Lands to life and his cartography Patreon has an impressive 215+ supporters. Suffice to say; Jon Hodgson knows how to create amazing maps.
His Map Tiles project just hit Kickstarter, and it is a smart collection of designs that align together to create hundreds of different battle mat designs. You can find out more details over at Kickstarter or watch the video below.
A pledge of £10 gets you the map tiles in a digital pack, and £15 gets you a physical copy.
One set means 30, double-sided, full-colour tiles printed on card stock. You get to pick which set you want once the campaign is finished. You can go higher though, pledging £27, £40, £51, £62, £72, £82 and finally £90 for more. At £90 you’ll get eight sets from the forest, mountain pass, heathland and cavern styles. That’s two of each.
The linking styles set unlocks if the campaign hits £750 and the extra details tiles unlock if the total gets to £1,000.
7 tips for creating fantasy battle mats
Gamemasters sometimes need to create their own maps, though, as stories take characters to weird and unlikely locations. Plus, it can be great fun designing your own.
Jon kindly agreed to share X tips with Geek Native for any budding GM-designer that will help avoid problems and get the most out of any map design.
The enemy is boredom and repetition. The enemy is the 20×30 rectangle.
Start simple and then add detail. Even if you have some very specific details in mind, get them noted down, and then put them to one side. A map is like any drawing – you need to define the broad strokes first. Get the shape of the encounter area down. And why not take the opportunity to make it interesting? Before you get too bogged down, imagine the flow of battle, and give it a shape. It doesn’t have to fill a rectangle corner to corner.
Here’s a list to consider: Lines of sight vs hidden areas, flow of movement vs choke points, open spaces vs claustrophobic spaces, split levels going both up and down. What would make the battle more interesting?
Offer different approaches: Sometimes it’s ok to just line up and scrap it out. And the map exists to just contain the battle and give it a context. Other times you might want to make a map that suggests other options like stealth, or avoidance of battle.
What parts of the map help adversaries? It can be fun to create that moment where the players realise in *this* terrain an opponent is more dangerous. If you’re playing D&D, then lair actions are great for this.
Boost player powers – it’s also nice to try to create situations where your players can shine. If they’re a halfling thief who likes to hide, give them some opportunities to move around out of sight. Everyone likes to feel special.
A map can present challenges that are more than just combat and moving between combat. A “dexterity” style ability check to get from A to B is just the start. Mini objectives that involve map features can be a lot of fun. What about social checks? Or feats of strength to temporarily open a section?
What about areas that inflict conditions or movement penalties?
What if there’s a clock or countdown timing when certain areas move? Or flood? With lava? Or flesh-eating beetles from the sarcophagi of the gold sick sorcerer kings of old?
Thanks to Jon for those map tile tips. What tips or battle mat recommendations do you have?