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So I don't know if anyone on here has used the 4E Keep on the Shadowfell but when you get to interlude 2 the PCs enter the dungeon, but the map is huge. When we play, I have the characters move over the map to enter rooms just so that when there is a surprise encounter they are actually surprised. however, with the number of rooms - and hidden rooms - I feel like it would be too 'meta' for them to see the entire map.

How would I design the map so that it keeps the illusion of a mysterious dungeon but without needing several different maps? I know I am going to have to draw it out but I was hoping there would be an easier way than piecing each section together as the PCs enter the space.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Is there something about this that make this specifically a 4e problem? That is, this situation is addressed more broadly here. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Feb 20 '18 at 20:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Hey I suspect that knowing it's 4e will be important—at least one answer has missed that battle maps aren't trivially dispensed with because 4e doesn't easily do so. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 20 '18 at 23:22
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Back when my group was playing 4e, we usually printed the maps on multiple sheets of paper and taped them together (a decent quality scanner could get you enough resolution to do that, though you might want to print at a copy shop if you lack a color laser printer, because that's a lot of color ink). Then we'd cover them with paper- you could use gray or black paper to represent areas they haven't been or haven't explored- and reveal the map as you go. Looking at that map, it's something like 62 squares x 54 squares. I don't know what kind of table you're playing on, but with 1" squares, that would be 4.5 feet wide and a little over 5 feet long, which might be doable on a large dining room table. 3/4" squares would get you 40.5" in the shorter dimension and 46.5" in the longer, which would work on more tables, though obviously not all.

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Rather than having PCs navigate over the GM's reference map, it might be useful to have them navigate the dungeon as a node graph - an abstract map of rooms and their connections, which doesn't have to be any more complicated than a bunch of ovals and lines, with unconnected lines representing passageways the PCs know about but haven't taken yet.

4E doesn't pay much if any attention to specific distances outside of combat proper, so navigating a map abstracted in this way provides the PCs with a workable overview of the dungeon and its structure without needing to make an entire grid map navigable.

When it's time for a fight, you can draw the immediate terrain on your battle map and mark out some squares as an allowable deployment zone based on how the encounter started and on what terms. If the PCs are surprised you could forcibly split the party by having multiple deployment zones, none of which are big enough to hold the entire party, or you could create a large deployment zone but not put down most or all of the monsters until the PCs have finalized their initial placement.

This lets you give the PCs the sense of a large place with many unexplored passages, lets you keep secret doors a secret until they're found or, perhaps, used to your advantage, and still restricts initial placement on the battle map to something sensible.

If the battle starts to move too far off the edge of the map, perhaps because the PCs or monsters are trying to run away, it may be useful to break off combat and into a skill challenge (difficulty depending on how outnumbered the running side is) about trying to run down the fleeing monsters or to escape unscathed.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Sorry, I took it as a given that the battle map would still be used for combat. I've added some detail about how a transition might be accomplished. \$\endgroup\$ – Glazius Feb 21 '18 at 4:31
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    \$\begingroup\$ That makes more sense! You're suggesting a third map as an abstract intermediary to give less away. Good thought. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 21 '18 at 16:57
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There's no quick-fix

Disclaimer I do not remember the map itself so my advice will be generic

There is no simple solution but a little preparation may get you what you want. Draw or print (using Photoshop or any other tool) each room and corridor on a separate sheet and put them down as the PCs open them.

The advantages:

  • They only see where they are
  • If they want to see the full dungeon, they should be doing the full map
  • The location of secret rooms is less obvious

The downsides:

  • Longer prep time
  • Organizing everything
  • No overall map
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Take a piece of cloth and place it over the map. Mark rooms with numbers, so you can refer to something in your notes. Or make a mini map in your notes, so you are ready and know what could happen next. As the party progresses reveal the map and slowly fold the cloth.

Or you could just write down interesting ideas mark a vague order in which they should be discovered and then improvise and just make a few lines right on the spot.

Because they will not remember all the rooms they were in, but they will remember that tunnel full of skeletons chained to the walls, clawing at them. So having something interesting in your dungeons is more important than the complex map.

EDIT:

You can make a hole in the cloth, to simulate their field of view, with a big map, they can get lost easily.

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    \$\begingroup\$ The question explicitly involves a published adventure that already has a map, and is asking how to use it. The answer talking about making up the map as you go makes its advice seem unrelated, as if the question wasn't read. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 20 '18 at 23:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe you are mistaken. "How would I design the map so that it keeps the illusion of a mysterious dungeon but without needing several different maps? I know I am going to have to draw it out but I was hoping there would be an easier way ...". I think the author is asking for a method to reveal the dungeon as the adventurers continue to explore the dungeon. The first option requires a full map, while the second option is the easiest, if the author choses to re-draw it. \$\endgroup\$ – Nuloen The Seeker Feb 21 '18 at 13:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm with @NuloenTheSeeker here... he describes a way to obscure part of the mega-map. I use the Mini-map technique myself quite a lot \$\endgroup\$ – JP Chapleau Feb 21 '18 at 14:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ Specifically, "Or make a mini map in your notes, so you are ready and know what could happen next." and "Or you could just write down interesting ideas mark a vague order in which they should be discovered and then improvise and just make a few lines right on the spot.", and the whole next paragraph, are what don't make sense (since the adventure already has a mini map, and the Q is about battle maps), and together signal the reader that this answer has perhaps been written without paying full attention to the question it's supposed to answer. It undermines the reader's confidence. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Feb 21 '18 at 16:33

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