Virtual Tabletop Maps: Differences of Scale

Posted in EpicTable Development on January 11, 2009 at 1:26 am

As a follow-up to a conversation in the forum about “large maps”, I’ve put together a list of different scales at which maps are drawn, partly as a way to drive conversation about the kinds of maps people want to use on a virtual tabletop, and partly just because it got kind of fun looking at examples.

Map Scales

Encounter: 100s of square feet
King Tut’s Burial Chamber was 188 square feet.
Site: 1000s of square feet
The Tomb of Horrors is 35,875 square feet.
Battlefield: square miles
Gettysburg covered around 25 square miles.
City: 100s of square miles
London is 659 square miles.
Region: 10s of 1000s of square miles
England is 50,337 square miles.
World: millions of square miles
The earth is 197 million square miles.

EpicTable and Map Scale

Designed for Sites and Encounters

EpicTable battle maps are designed for “Encounter-scale” and “Site-scale” maps. On my monitor, running 1680×1050 at 96 DPI, a map with 50 pixels per grid square yields a map that looks very nice at about an inch per square. Let’s say we’re playing a game where each grid square is 5 feet. A 2000×2000 pixel map is 40×40 squares or 200×200 feet in the game world (4000 square feet). That makes for a pretty reasonable encounter.

Larger Areas

Region and world maps are good for storytelling, grand strategies, and journeys, but clearly, we’re not going to run encounters on them. For Battlefield- and City-scale maps, the case is less clear. It would be genuinely handy to track characters’ movements on these maps and then zoom in on the action when there’s an encounter. I ran a campaign based in a city, and there were some battles and chases where it would have been nice to just zoom in on the action. This is tough because an image that encompasses a whole city but is detailed enough to look really nice when zoomed to encounter level would be a very large image indeed.

Lets take that previous example of 50 pixels per 5 feet. At that scale, a map of of London would be 27109×27109 grid squares and the image over 1.35×1.35 million pixels or 6.8 TB. Even if my math is off by a couple orders of magnitude, that’s not workable.

Ideas for Linking Between Maps

For maps larger than Site-scale, you’re pretty much limited to using textures rather than images for maps, or managing multiple maps and switching instead of zooming in. EpicTable lets you have a several maps open in tabs. Switching could be made easier if encounter areas could be linked to maps. One could use map pins to designate the characters’ locations and when they enter a location for which you have a linked Encounter-scale map, click to bring up that map.

warning symbol Fair warning: I’m just thinking out loud here. EpicTable maps are currently Encounter- and Site-scale. While you could display a larger-scale map as an image, there’s currently no support for linking areas to encounter maps. Using map pins on a map image to track character locations is workable, though, because EpicTable “surfaces”already support moving items around on an image background.

  • Similar Posts

  • Recent Posts

  • Tags