Amongst the many “adventure” maps, I have drawn over the years…dungeons, temples, cave complexes, an assassins guild, a keep…there’s one type of map you won’t find: the “town” map.
I don’t do towns.
Nor do I map out cities or villages or any other thriving urban center that may be present in a campaign. I am amazed at the folks that actually do.
Sure it’s possible that I’m just lazy and prone to “winging” stuff in the campaign world (or at least I was back when I HAD a regular campaign going). But from a practical point of view, it’s an immense burden for me to worry about where the general store or blacksmith is, which houses are vacant, or how many blocks the temple is from the docks.
I don’t expect players to map a town. When they enter a town, I ask “where are you going?” Bam, they’re there. Heck, they can get info from any passerby if they need a point in the right direction (no Gather Info skill check required…sheesh!).
Keeping towns abstract and anonymous (most villages don’t even have names) allows me to focus my attention on other things…continuing plot development with NPCs, for example.
Even modules that have towns can be burdensome…I don’t like keeping track of where everyone lives in Hommelet or Nulb; heck, even the Keep on the Borderlands has too many numbered “village” entries for my taste. Giant town maps is what turned me off of running some Boot Hill adventures (Ballots and Bullets, I’m looking at you!).
A few names and NPC stats, a few points of interest, MAYBE a name for the place…that’s the extent of my needs for a D&D town.
Well...you’ve also got to have a name for the local tavern, but back in the day my players and I created random tables to generate taverns…everything from the sign above the door, to the quality of rooms, to the daily special, to the drinks (and drugs!) available behind the bar. Wish I still had those tables. I might have to try my hand at re-creating them…though I don’t feel nearly as “bubbling with creativity” as in my youth.
I think it's safe for me to say there's only one "town map" I've ever met, that I liked...that would be I1: Dwellers of the Forbidden City. 'Course, if memory serves, it didn't have a name either.
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