The Gazetteer, Volume I, Issue I
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word “gazetteer” as “geographical index or dictionary.” Since this weeklong set of features will be looking at various tabletop gaming maps that we here at Diehard GameFAN have been sent, it seems like a perfect name for this endeavor, wouldn’t you say? In each issue of this feature, we’ll take a look at three maps and our thoughts on them. It’s pretty cut and dry, so let’s get on with it.
Traveller Deckplans Plan 2: Type M Subsidized Merchant “HIMS The Pretty Penny”
Publisher: Scrying Eye Games
Page Count: 23
Release Date: 7/14/2011
Get it Here: RPGNow.com
First off, this is a very large map if the page count didn’t clue you in. This contains both an interior and an exterior look at this ship, so you can really set up a tactical based adventure around this. Of course, your campaign will need to be in a modern or sci-fi setting since the ship is full of computers, guns, and other tech you wouldn’t find in a fantasy setting. The entire map is full color which the publisher admits will probably drain your printer cartridge due to the size and the fact it is “color-intensive.” Because of this, Scrying Eye Games suggests that you only print off the parts you will actually use. Still, I can’t imagine where you would only ever use a section of the map since it’s all a single gigantic ship.
There are actually three levels to the ship, but in flipping through the pages, there is no discernable difference between the lower interior and upper interior and because of this, people who aren’t used to print and putting together maps might mix up the pieces. In fact there’s no assembly guide, which really should be required for a map this side. With something like this, always assume your product is a gamer’s first or that they are very young, just in case. Instead, the only clue you get comes from the table of contents which gives a page count of what pieces go where. For example pages 4-11 make up the Interior Upper Deck while pages 12-16 make up the Interior Lower Deck. There’s just one problem. The table of contents in your PDF reader will say the exact opposite, It says pages 4-11 are the lower deck and 12-16 are the upper deck. So which is correct? I say go with the paper based ToC rather than the PDF version but the fact a typo/error of this size made it through production doesn’t assure me of quality control with this piece.
Visually the map is pretty good for the interior sections, but lacking in detail and a bit dull for the exterior. The last two pages of the map even have a guide to the different interior sections and what they represent. The interior has a lot of little touches that make the “Pretty Penny” feel lived in and like a real battleship, but the exterior is just a dull blue with no actual texture or detail. I was disappointed by the quality differences here.
It’s hard to recommend picking up the “Pretty Penny” unless you are specifically playing a Traveller campaign, so its geared for a very niche audience, but in a pinch it can work with a modern or sci-fi map as long as you’ve really tailored the adventure around this. The “Pretty Penny” could make a decent Spelljammer after all…
One Dollar Dungeon: Warlord’s Watchtower Map Pack
Publisher: D20 Cartographer
Page Count: 56 (and more)
Release Date: 7/15/2011
Get it Here: RPGNow.com
I was really impressed to see what all you get with the Warlord’s Watchtower Map Pack. I mean, it’s only a dollar and remember maps for D&D Miniatures running between ten and twenty bucks. You’re also getting SEVEN VERSIONS of the map for your dollar. That’s fourteen point two CENTS per version of the map. How is that not an insane deal? So what are all the different versions you are getting here? Let’ break it down.
1) a fifty-six page black and white high definition pdf of the watchtower broken into 7×7 tiles. (A4 and letter sized)
2) a fifty-six page full color high definition pdf of the map broken into 7×7 titles. (A4 and letter sized)
3) a four page guide to the map in full color and how it should look when assembled.
4) a jpeg of the entire map in color with a grid layout
5) a jpeg of the entire map in black and white with a grid layout
6) a jpeg of the entire map in color without a grid layout
7) a jpeg of the entire map in black and white without a grid layout
8) A Maptools pack (for a program called…Maptools) which makes the map great for a pbem or play by web game. Of course, to utilize this option, you’ll need Maptools, but as that is a free program, why wouldn’t you pick it up?
Again, all this for a dollar is insanely impressive, but it all comes down to quality. Thankfully the watchtower is as detailed as it is low in cost. The grass and forest areas on the exterior sections of the map alone impressed me enough to get this a flat out recommendation to anyone running a fantasy game. The interior is also nicely detailed but the decorations are a bit sparse for a the residence of a warlord. There’s a nice armory but no kitchen or treasure area.
I’m still a bit flabbergasted at the sheer quality that this map exudes when it comes to the price point. If you’re planning on running a lot of fantasy oriented scenarios, it’s certainly worth your time (and your dollar) to pick up the whole set of One Dollar Dungeons, but the Warlord’s Watchtower by itself would be perfect for the climax of a long running storyline or even a simple “storm the castle” scenario. For a measly buck, you are getting seven variants of the same map designed to fit any fantasy campaign and a an add on to Maptools. How can you say no?
Wizard’s Staff Cartography
Publisher: Headless Hydra Games
Page Count: 1.50
Release Date: 7/15/2011
Get it Here: RPGNow.com
This is an odd duck. On RPGNow.com’s website it says you’ll be getting a pdf, but what you download is actually a jpeg. As well, unlike the two previous maps we’ve covered in this column, this can’t actually be used with miniatures. It’s just too small. As such it’s a map that works best as a DM reference for campaigns that don’t use mini and instead visualize their entire adventures. I do both, so I’m fine with that, but due to the size it does limit who can actually use this.
Although this map is designed by Headless Hydra Games, it isn’t specifically designed for their Mor Aldenn campaign setting. It’s is a location in the city of Mor Aldenn, but it is designed to work in any fantasy campaign for any rules system. You might also think from the name that The Wizard’s Staff is going to be a magic oriented dungeon or a keep for a high level mage, but in fact the map is meant to be an inn. That’s kind of a neat twist name-wise.
The inn is three stories and there is a little guide to the various rooms, but there is no actual detail to the map. It’s a bare bones grid based diagram and it feels as hollow as it looks. For example, the kitchen is completely empty. There’s no pots, shelves or tables. It’s just an empty room. Same with the bedrooms. There aren’t any beds! Again, due to the lack of detail, this map really should only be used by a DM who wants a specifically visual guide and who is creative enough to fill in the little touches on their own. It’s by no means something that should be handed to the players. It’s a nice layout (even if the structure wouldn’t support itself in real life), but it needed to be fleshed out a bit more.
For a dollar fifty, this is still a pretty decent by in theory, but it really pales in comparison to Warlord’s Watchtower that we covered above, as it has more detail and it is a lot cheaper. It’s also hard to think of when you’ll need a highly detailed map of an inn, but it’s nice to have one on hand it case it comes up in a campaign.
…and there you have it. Three maps and three reviews. Out of the three, Warlord’s Watchtower is definitely the best and the one I’d recommend to everyone who runs a fantasy campaign. The others have their uses, but only in niche situations. Still, all three are much cheaper than the ones you buy in a brick and mortar store, unless you factor in the cost of printing these out. In those cases remember you are paying for the ink and paper yourself. You’ll have to decide for yourself if they are worth picking up because of that.
Till next time!