Thursday, June 7, 2012

Myth and History GM notes

I talked a little about my Servants of Gaius campaign last week and want to continue with some notes from behind the GM screen. I must warn you, these are far from pretty. There is a good reason we hire artists to do our interior map work. But the maps below show how I plan things like background details and travel.

As I mentioned in my last post, Rome is at war with a ressurected Cleopatra and Mark Antony. This had been building for a while in my personal Servants of Gaius setting and so the prefect of Aegyptus had ammassed legions and allies to break away from the empire. Personally I like to have procedures for this sort of thing, so it doesn't become a matter of me as GM decreeing all the real world events (I just find this makes for a more live and surprising setting). So I used the abstract mass combat system from the Servants of Gaius rule book (adding a small rule for levying troops) and began to chart from month to month the progress of the conflict:

Again, this isn't pretty. But it marks the location of Rome's legions and Cleopatra's legions (as well as her allies in Mauretania). It is quite rough, but does the job for me. Presently Rome is winning but they are taking losses in the process and their biggest concern is the stability of the northern legions along the Rhine (where there are rumors of Neptune activity).

The PCs spent some time in Tarraconensis (in Tarraco) so I made a small map of that as well knowing they would probably investigate local businesses and personalities. They did manage to find the Cult of Sertorius at a local wine shop called the Golden Fawn (I also included some brief notes about major political personalities, and had a few off page notes in my NPC and power group chart):
This one was very rough as well but it had the major points of interest I needed (plus I had a city entry in my notes with population, exports, etc). These are just highlights of course. In addition to these details I had other stuff mapped out, like a small Iberian village where the cult was active, a cave used for their mystery rites and similar details.

Here is the GM map of Thule. Not as pretty as the handout. For foliage I just scribbled green inside a dark border. On it you can see the colony of Heca, a couple of minor villages that arose nearby, and the Amazian city of Forbad. There is also a small encounter chart for when the players failed their Survival rolls:


  1. Sketches don't have to be pretty. They have to be functional, first and foremost. And the maps published in a game should totally follow that order of priority as well, IMO. There's nothing more disappointing than a really gorgeous map that proves to be totally useless in actual play (some maps in the Paizo modules come to mind. See this post on the RPG Site: ).

  2. I agree. Good looking maps are fine, but if they can't help you play there isn't much point. Increasingly I am in favor of the player maps being more good looking and evocative, with the GM having the precision. Before TSR completely transitioned away from hexes they had an interesting method of supplying a clear hex overlay with pretty nice looking colorful maps (often marked for elevation, terrain, etc).