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I recently came across this problem when I DM'd a ready-to-use oneshot - its main battle took place on the town square, and the map supplied with the rest of the campaign guide would have required me to use 4 flipchart-sheets (which are already at ~1m² each).
I ended up ignoring that map and just drew a custom map on one flipchart-sheet, but that town square was only around 20 squares across - and 100ft. / 30m is not that huge for a town square.

Anyway, since I'll be starting a real campaign next week (as the DM), I figured I might run across this problem again, eventually. Of course, I could just avoid planning battles in big, open spaces, but I don't want to limit myself or the story plot because of issues like this.

Just using an empty flipchart-sheet or no map at all is of course also always viable, if the space really is just wide open, but that might not always be the case. Also, I love drawing maps, so if there's a solution that allows me to use maps without having to use under-proportionally small town squares or similar, that would be great, so - thanks for any suggestions in advance!

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I might be misunderstanding something, but how is a 10x10 map 1m^2? 1 square is usually 1 inch or so, which would make the whole 20x20 town square a bit wider than 50cm. Not that hard to manage. \$\endgroup\$ – Szega Jan 27 '18 at 22:47
  • \$\begingroup\$ the flipchart sheet is 27 squares (=inches) on the short side, and something like 40 on the long side (didn't count that). What you probably misunderstand is that the ~20x20 town square was my custom map - the original would have been 40x40, not including any of the surrounding buildings. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Jan 27 '18 at 22:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ I want to say just make the squares smaller, but that feels too obvious, like I'm missing something. Have you tried that? \$\endgroup\$ – Stop Being Evil Jan 28 '18 at 0:49
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, unfortunately, the squares are pre-printed on the sheet, and while I could just quadruple the number of squares by doubling the number of horizontal and vertical lines (effectively halving each square twice), I could then no longer use 1-inch miniatures etc. \$\endgroup\$ – PixelMaster Jan 28 '18 at 1:01
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D&D 5e does not need a battlemap ... but you knew that already, right?

However, to take it further, a bettlemap adds to D&D 5e for close range (melee) combat but adds next to nothing for long range combat. Unless and until the combat reaches a range where melee combat is a possibility, just do without the map until that happens.

Instead, keep track of how far the groups are from each other until the range closes. You can do this precisely if you like or, for normal movement creatures (20-40 feet) if you just keep track of how far apart they are in 30 foot increments and each time a group uses movement (or Dashes) to close the distance, reduce the range by 30 feet. In general, most groups will want to stay in support distance of each other so they will move at the speed of their slowest member. If some do want to dash ahead or stay behind, just break up the group into as many as you need.

If you like, you can get each side to set themselves up 6 squares apart in the relative positions they want and write the range between them, when it reaches 0 they are in melee range and use the map normally.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This only works well if everyone has a speed of 30, otherwise it hurts tactics \$\endgroup\$ – András Jan 28 '18 at 13:08
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You can use a cardboard square map.

That was my first step on doing bigger and better maps. You take the largest piece of cardboard that you can fit into your gaming space (piece of the floor, table etc), make the 1 inch squares on its surface, now you can print your structures, just use your print paper in the shapes of the different features you want on your map or use blank/ordinary paper to delimit space (like a dungeon wall) and pin them on the cardboard sheet at the lines. With this you can have a big map that you can edit quite easily without having to make huge structures everytime.

Buy a whiteboard and square it!

That was my second step. After buying the whiteboard I used a permanent marker to make squares on it's entirety, then I used markers of different colors to draw my structures and enemies around the map and after everything done, wipe it all and you can use on another map again.

Buy a table, square it and put a glass cover.

That was my last step. It works the same way as the whiteboard but in the whole 10 ft.x4 ft. table (dimensions of my table). Sometimes I even made a cardboard structure and fixed it on place with tape and let my players play on several levels of a tower, fortress, city or wherever. It worked well for me (my players and I bought the table and the glass cover together).

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I'd really like a pic of that custom table! \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Jan 28 '18 at 20:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @HeyICanChan Sorry, I left the table to the group, I don't even live in my old city anymore. \$\endgroup\$ – Aguinaldo Silvestre Jan 29 '18 at 11:15
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On the expensive side, people will just custom build tables or surfaces.

You can also find wet erase battle mats that are 24"x36". So two of them will give you 48"x36" which is pretty close.

I have also printed battle maps in the past. My local print store (Kinko's) has a 36" wide printer. Typically used for banners or engineering design documents. I have printed several of these for various adventures I've run.

Note that 36" seems to be a recurring maximum. That's just under a meter. This number is about as wide as many tables can handle. My kitchen table just barely fits this size. So you may not find them significantly bigger.

Hopefully your town square can afford to lose a couple of inches on the outside.

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Use a vinyl table cloth with a 1-inch grid, then draw on it with erasable pen. Though hexes are always better for outdoors.)

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    \$\begingroup\$ Hello and welcome! Take the tour for a quick site introduction. Could you elaborate a bit more on this answer? Namely justifying why hexes are always better for outdoors and how this solves the question. Thank you for participating! \$\endgroup\$ – Sdjz Aug 11 '18 at 8:47

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