Dungeon Maps »


I run Dungeons & Dragons games.

I’ve always struggled with the way certain things in D&D slow down the pace of a session. There’s many: in combat, there’s the hassle of rolling initiative (my group runs 3rd edition, or some descendant of it—3.5, Pathfinder, etc.—so every PC has a separate initiative score, which must be rolled anew for each combat encounter); there’s players taking their sweet time deciding on the best spell to cast; there’s the headache of keeping track of the combat state of ten monsters at once. Out of combat, you’ve got your hours-long planning sessions when your players discuss, ad nauseam, the best way to sneak into the enemy’s castle; or, god forbid, the arguments about morality…

But in combat or out, handling the map is surely one of the biggest time sinks.

Map handling

What do I mean by “handling”?

Well, first you have to draw the map. If you’re playing in the traditional way, with everyone sitting around a table, your dice and your miniatures (or tokens, or colorful pieces of glass, or dice that you’re pretending are monsters, etc.) on the table in front of you, then you've probably got one of those roll-up vinyl battle mats with a grid on it. (Some groups might use a whiteboard instead, or something else that performs a similar function.)

So, do you draw the map during the game? That takes time, slows things down, breaks the pace. You have to consult your copy of the map, draw on the battle mat (which might be big, and hard to reach across, and have miniatures on it...), erase when you’ve made a mistake...

Do you draw the map beforehand? But what if your battle mat can’t contain all the areas your players characters are likely to end up exploring or engaging in combat in (and it almost certainly can’t)? And how do you hide what you’ve drawn from the players? After all, they shouldn’t be able to see the whole dungeon layout right from the get-go.

In short: it’s a huge pain.

Virtual tabletops

My friends live far and wide, so I mostly run games online. We use IRC for the verbal communication (in-character talk, descriptions, OOC commentary, and everything else; we’ve got a dice-rolling program right there in the chatroom with us), and an online “virtual tabletop” (VTT) as a battle map. (These days, our VTT of choice is Roll20, but many others exist.)

(Note, by the way, that a VTT can be useful for a traditional, in-person game as well. If you’ve got a projector or a large-screen television, you can have one of your players open the combat map on the computer connected to the large display, while you have your DM’s view of the map open on your laptop or tablet.)

Ok, so a VTT means that you don’t have to deal with the hassle of reaching across a table to draw a dungeon corridor on the far side of your battle mat, knocking over miniatures and cups of Diet Coke in the process. And, ok, if your VTT app supports preparing multiple maps (as Roll20 does, for instance), you could draw your dungeon map (or outdoor encounter map, or overland exploration map, etc.) beforehand. You can even use your VTT's “fog of war” feature to hide the unexplored parts of the map from your players, to be revealed as their characters progress through the dungeon or across the landscape. Great!

But drawing maps in a VTT is still a pain. Heck, it’s even more of a pain than doing it by hand with a marker on a physical mat, because most VTTs have rudimentary drawing tools — a far cry from those found in a dedicated drawing program like OmniGraffle (to say nothing of Illustrator)—and awkward (and often buggy) user interfaces to match.

Ah, but a good VTT lets you import images and set them as the background or map layer of your combat map. Now we’re getting somewhere!

Published maps?

If you're using a published adventure module (like The Sunless Citadel or White Plume Mountain), it certainly comes with maps. Modern modules come in PDF format, so extracting the maps is trivial; even if you’ve only got a printed copy, digitizing the maps is easy.

But there’s a problem: the maps that come with most modules are DM’s maps—they have room labels, they show secret doors and hidden passages, and in general are quite unsuitable for use as combat maps!

The solution

So, obviously, you can create your own “player’s version” of the provided maps and import them into your virtual tabletop app. That still sounds like a lot of prep work, though.

And that’s where I come in.

Obormot’s Dungeon Maps

On this site, I'm going to be posting maps of various dungeons that are ready for use with Roll20 (or any other VTT, probably; but I can only vouch for Roll20, since that’s what I use). Most of the maps are from published adventure modules (by TSR, Wizards of the Coast, or other publishers). Some will be my own creations.

All of the maps will be available in multiple resolutions and formats, and all are free for download. I hope you find them useful. Happy gaming!

Check out the list of available maps!