I would like to run a campaign that involves the PCs exploring an unmapped wilderness, including various dungeons and the like. I have it all mapped out myself, but I want the act of them mapping the world from their experience to be a key part of the game.

I would also like to be able to use terrain and miniatures for combat and various other situations that require that level of detail, however I am concerned that if I draw/model the dungeon around them, my players will not bother mapping it out themselves, since I'm basically doing it for them. I've always run combat verbally before, so having physical representations of the game is new to me.

Are my two needs incompatible? Does anyone have any experience of doing something like this, and if so, how did it go?

  • \$\begingroup\$ @PixelMaster Please don't answer in comments. (That goes double for answers that suggest doing something different. That might be the right answer even, but it needs to face the voters to earn this top spot on the page.) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Jan 22, 2018 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


No, as long as the battle mat is on a different scale from the larger map, and it's not permanent

You can reconcile a battle mat with a player-mapped dungeon by focusing the battle map only on the immediate area, such as a single room or hallway (adding more if necessary). After the battle, erase the drawing on the battle map. This strategy lets you give specific terrain details for the purposes of combat, but doesn't give away the larger layout of the dungeon.

In most of the (5e) games that I've played in, the DM has employed this strategy. They would describe our route through the dungeon verbally, leaving it to the players to track their position, but if a fight broke out, they would draw out the surrounding room on a whiteboard or on roll20, and erase everything after the fight was over. In this way, we got the necessary information to have a minis-based combat encounter, but not so much information that mapping was unnecessary.


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