The dungeon mapper’s lament

In the olden days, mapping a dungeon meant breaking out a stack of graph paper and painstakingly documenting each 10×10′ block. This was true both for paper-and-pencil Dungeons and Dragons games and for early computer RPGs—today most computer games provide in-game maps that track your exploration progress, but back in the First Age you had to play Bard’s Tale with a mapping pencil in hand.

Enter Legend of Grimrock, a throwback computer RPG released this year. Reproducing as it does the gameplay of early computer dungeon crawls, it gives you the option of an “old school” game mode, in which the automatic mapper is disabled and you’re forced to map out your progress on your own.

I couldn’t resist. I’m old-school, right? I’m hardcore. I broke out the graph paper. And I started mapping.

Now, as any old-timer knows, choosing where on the page to start your map is important and tricky. You don’t know which direction the dungeon’s going to extend. So, because my first glimpse of Dungeon Level 1 suggested that it seemed to be oriented in a northerly direction, I started my map in the bottom-center of my sheet of graph paper.

It went well for a few minutes. Then, what’s this? Dangit, the dungeon’s turned east and is headed straight toward the edge of the graph paper sheet.

The star in the large chamber is my starting location.

Sigh. OK, I can deal with this. I’m a seasoned veteran. If the dungeon’s headed east, I’ll skip over to the west side of the page and continue my map from there. It’s not like the dungeon is going to… going to turn back around and head west. NOOOOOOO!

Exactly five squares into this new map section, I got a bad feeling about it.

Now there’s only one place on the page to which I can move the map, since I’ve used the bottom third of the page for notes. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present to you the worst dungeon map ever created?

At least this should get me out of party mapping duty in all future D&D games.

I’ve got to believe that level 2 is going to go better than this.

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4 Comments

  1. michele says:

    I never thought to use graph paper. My zork maps straggled haphazardly all over plain paper. Probably that’s why I needed Invisiclues…

  2. KDC says:

    You should come out to our local game store for D&D Encounters… well, only a thousand miles away.

    You realize that you could just pretend your dungeon was a Pac-Man map (wraparound). What you have here actually looks like a Möbius strip dungeon, or possibly a Klein bottle or projective plane. Wow, that just oozes with cool possibilities…

  3. KDC says:

    And what about polar coordinate graph paper? Some dungeons might find that useful – e.g. http://www.math.binghamton.edu/calc2/polar_graph_paper_degrees.pdf

  4. greymagistrate says:

    You should check out the “Etrian Odyssey” series on the Nintendo DS. You have to draw and annotate the map in-game with a stylus, so you get the pleasure of mapping without the hassle of using graph paper.

    Yes, I think this is the fifth time I have suggested you play an Etrian Odyssey game. I’m an Etrian evangelist. EO forever!

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