I love maps for role-playing games, almost as much as I love dice. I can spend hours flipping through old game maps, remembering past sessions or dreaming up new ways to use a particular location. I haven’t knowingly thrown out a gaming map in over twenty years. I keep them all neatly organized in a series of magazine boxes on my game room shelf. Good maps can serve as inspiration for an evening’s encounter if you need something on the fly, or spark an entire campaign if you are casting more broadly.
If you don’t already have a collection of your own maps from which to choose, here are three on-line resources for free table-ready gaming maps. You’ll need to print or project them yourself, of course, but the hard part of creating the maps has been done for you.
1) RPG Map Share – As the name suggests, RPG Map Share allows map creators to upload their maps to be disseminated by the site’s users. Creators mark each map they upload as available for personal use , professional use, or both. There are a wide variety of map types available, ranging in scope from single dwellings/businesses to entire continents and worlds. There is also an active forum where map-makers can exchange tips and ideas, and it may be possible to commission something specific for your mapping needs. It should be noted, after seven years of being a free service the site is contemplating a switch to a subscription model in order to keep the site running. For what the site offers, though, a subscription is well worth your coin; the seven-year backlog of maps alone makes the suggested yearly subscription rate worthwhile.
2) Paratime Designs RPG Freebies – Sometimes you just need stock dungeon maps, and the RPG Freebies on offer from Paratime Designs fit the bill. Nine volumes of dungeon maps and two volumes of cavern maps ensure you’ll have plenty of underground spaces for your party to explore. Even if you don’t need an entire dungeon level you can pick out a smaller section of 3-4 rooms and you’re all set with a smaller encounter. I particularly love the old-school look and feel of these maps. They remind me of the misspent afternoons of my youth, pouring through geomorphs and thinking of all the ways I was going to smoosh my players (“smoosh” is an old-school and very technical GMing term. No, really.). Check these guys out, and while you’re there check out some of their other, not-as-free material. Well worth the visit.
3) Cartographer’s Guild – I love everything about this site, from the name on down. Be forewarned, it is very easy to fall down the rabbit hole of beautiful maps on this site and I have lost entire
afternoons days weekends to this place. Not only is it a great site to find maps, but it is also a great site to learn about creating maps of your own. The forums boast a wide array of talented cartographers, from professionals to talented amateurs. If you want to start on the road to creating your own landscapes, this is the place to come for advice and help. Just be careful of the aforementioned rabbit hole…
Those are three of my go-to map resources. In a future post I’ll talk about resources for creating your own maps, and why mapping yourself can be creative and helpful. If you have any favourite map sites, please share them in the comments.