October 20, 2021

The DM’s Workshop – Mapmaking (part 1)

The DM's Workshop

My first experience as a DM was abysmal. This was back in the days of 3rd edition D&D and I was completely unprepared for the amount of work needed to run the game. My villains were underdeveloped and my adventure was so basic, the players burned through everything I created with ease. It was at this point that I vowed never again to be unprepared for an adventure. Fourth edition brought new tools to make encounter and adventure design easier and the current fifth edition releases really well created adventures for you to run for your party but there’s something amazing about the homebrew world scrawled onto graph paper and shoved into several folders.

One major part of creating your own campaign is making some intricate dungeons and castles for your players to explore and conquer. When I was first setting out to design my adventures, my dungeons were three or four rooms arranged in a straight line to the objective with only minor deviations. It wasn’t until I saw the map Gary Gygax drew of Castle Greyhawk that I learned what a good dungeon should be. Back then graph paper was expensive and DMs had to make as much fit as possible on the few precious sheets they could afford. Not that it’s super cheap now but you can not only print your own graph paper, there are free tools online that will make maps for you. To me, though, there’s no substitute for the hand drawn maps where you not only have to find your own way through to the end, but add secret rooms and passages in all of the empty corners.

It is in this spirit that I present a little glimpse into an upcoming campaign I am writing with the included video of me map making. It should be pointed out that I cannot draw very well but the beauty of graph paper is that I am mostly tracing along printed lines. This should hopefully give you an example that anyone can draw these kinds of maps regardless of skill level. I hope you enjoy and if this should spark some creativity in yourself, leave a comment or send me a pic of your creation on Twitter to @thealien512.

Thanks for watching!



If it’s a thing and it’s nerdy, this guy wants to do it. Self-taught and self-proclaimed photographer, programmer, and musician, self-described as lazy, indulgent, and pedantic. Give him a task and he’ll do it, except for maritals. Only his wife gets the maritals.

Find Jason on twitter at @jasonkylesmith and on instagram at jasonksmith84

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