By Ivan Sorensen
With the pre-order of Five Leagues From the Borderlands going live, I thought I would talk a little bit about how the world map works, since it is one of the biggest new features and for many players creating a world map will be the first thing they do.
Now, you can make your world map any way you like, whether using a computer drawing program, any of the map making apps for RPG campaigns or simply using pen and paper. You could use even an existing map from an RPG or the real world as a basis.
Here is an example of a map generated by using the Inkarnate app for example.
The Starting the Campaign chapter of the rulebook explains the practical elements, such as how many things you need, so I won’t go through that here. Instead, I am going to talk a little bit about what some of the concepts mean. The way the map system works can feel a bit abstract because it is meant to be as flexible as possible and usable regardless of whether you are using hexes, drawing a map by hand, using an RPG map or even downloading a real world map of where you live and filling it with goblins!
How should the map be structured?
You can structure your map in any way you like. Hex maps are very common for role playing games and make it easy to divide up the table into Map Areas, however you can also draw rough blobs if you prefer or simply add a small marker, flag or digital icon to show each location.
Roleplaying maps (and many tools for making RPG maps) will tend to fill the whole thing with hexes, which is fine but you do not have to do so in advance. Only the areas that have an initial Location need to be marked on the map at first.
Please note that the size of any hexes or blobs used does not matter.
What exactly is a Location?
A Location is any one “thing” on the world map. Whether it’s a settlement, a dungeon, a camp or unexplored, it’s a Location and this means our characters can travel there.
Most Locations have a specific purpose (for example there’s no reason to travel to a Delve location other than to explore the dungeon) while others may simply be a meeting point or a destination for a task.
Whenever you arrive at a Location, you can undertake the activities tied to it. For example if you travel to an Unexplored Location you would roll on the appropriate table, while if you traveled to a Delve location, you could play the appropriate scenario.
A Location may not result in a combat encounter. If you are returning to town, unless you are waylaid while traveling, you will not have a battle.
What exactly is a Map Area?
A Map Area contains one or more Locations and is a distinct area in the game world.
On your map, each Map Area will be a hex, blob or other marked area.
Map Areas exist to govern travel in the game world. To move from any point in one Map Area to any point in a different Map Area requires a Travel roll.
Moving between Locations in the same Map Area does not require Travel.
Note that it does not matter where two Map Areas are in relation to each other or how many other Areas lies between them: Travel from one Map Area to any other is always ONE travel roll. We do not count hexes or anything like that.
As you play, anytime a new Location is placed on the map, check the rules to see if it is placed in an existing Map Area. If not, it creates a new one and you can just draw one anywhere that looks suitable. If you are using hexes, pick any hex that does not currently have a Location and add the new Location there. Once a Location exists in the hex, it is considered a Map Area by the rules.
You may of course be guided by the campaign events and the world map you have. If you are in a settlement and hear of a nearby Location, it would make sense to place the new Map Area in some nearby terrain such as a forest or the mountains. If you discover something while traveling between two Areas, it should be placed along the route you would have taken and so forth.
Does the world map affect combat?
The world map does not directly affect game play in the battles, but you will find it a lot more fun to theme your tabletop terrain based on where you are located. If you were traveling to a location, get waylaid by enemies and there's a large forest between the two Areas, you might fill up your gaming table with trees for example.
With hex maps in particular, each hex is likely to have a particular type of terrain within it, which makes it easy to theme your gaming tables. This is also an excellent opportunity if you are looking to expand your terrain collection or build some new pieces!
I hope this helps set things straight and I look forward to seeing all of your adventuring maps as you explore your game worlds.