Recently someone emailed me and asked about how I approached using maps in my various games. This question is a bit bigger than my usual “Ask the guild” fare, so I decided that it deserved a longer response by itself – because it’s quite contentious! There are actually two general schools of thought for how you should present and use aids like maps in a game, with one being “Not at all” and the other having a variety of different styles. Depending on what you’re trying to do, providing your players with a map or making them draw it themselves can be a core part of the gameplay. On the other hands, sometimes you might not need a map and there are various circumstances where that speeds up play quite substantially.
So, firstly, let’s talk about where you might want to use maps and why you might not.