Mapping Ideas After A Family Adventure

Last Sunday was a beautiful day.  The sun was shining and it was warm despite it being almost the middle of winter here in Tasmania.  I had earmarked the day for some solid mapping time but instead I just could not ignore the weather and had a lust to go outside.

When my wife asked me if I wanted to do something for the day I immediately latched onto a plan to take her and my son to the Gunn’s Plains Caves here in Tasmania.  I had been once when I was eighteen or nineteen and thought it would be nice to go again as my son and wife had never been.

Above ground image
At the top of the caves you would not even know they were there

We piled in the car and drove there (a trip of around an hour) and arrived about 7 minutes too late to go on the current tour.  So we waited around until 3:30 and the guide reappeared and into the darkness we went.  I will put many more photos of the trip onto my Google+ profile but scattered amongst this post there are a few for you to look at.

Shroud formation on cave roof
“Shrouds” hanging from the ceiling


Once I was in the caves I could not help but to start looking around with a budding mappers eye!  I started to see paths and formations from the role playing perspective and I was amazed at what I found here.  How many times had I drawn a natural cave and assumed that it had a flat easy to walk on surface.  the only reason it was easy to do that here was because of the walkways they had put in.  Difficult terrain abounded!

Then when I would reach another cave opening I would look up or down and find that I could see one of the other areas that I had already been in and not realised that both sections were actually one and the same of the same cavern!  I found myself thinking “If I had a crossbow right now I could totally have taken myself by surprise 5 minutes ago!”

Uneven ground formed by crystallisation
Weird formations littered the ground making the going tough at times!

The spaces between the cavern openings also tended to be cramped, moving underneath a massive piece of limestone that had wedged itself against walls after falling from the roof millennia ago.  Twisting around stalactites and stalagmites.

I can not help but think that I will now have to start factoring some of this into my own mapping.  I had once looked at some of the maps that I was learning off of and thought “There is no way that would happen” and in reality I have found in this tourist friendly cave that things are that weird and in reality they are much weirder.

Column structure
Alien landscapes and columns were formed everywhere

Some of these concepts are going to be challenging though.  How do I represent the cave that appeared to be all enclosed but I could have shot myself with a crossbow?  How do I show the horrible nature of the tiny cramped conditions of the natural cave and the steep climbs to make your way to the next area?  In reality, if they did not have the paths there at all how can I represent the uncertainty of an actual path to take.  They had used the most obvious areas to put the path but there were other ways, if you were game enough.

Just when I thought I was getting a handle on this mapping thing I find a whole new dimension of difficulty.  Wish me luck as I start to trial new ideas and look for ways to handle these concepts in my maps.  Try to get out and have an adventure yourself once in a while and, just quietly, try not to think about shooting yourself with a crossbow.  Keep rolling.


  1. That’s certainly a problem I run into. I’ve been in some caves and castles and other places where I can only wonder how I would be able to map those out without using 3d modeling software.


  2. Isn’t interesting how you can take something that you found in real life and apply it to your gaming? I find myself doing that when I am in buildings all the time. How would I assault this building or how would I protect it and my teammates if I was being assaulted by an outside force. Some of the modern architecture is great until you have to defend the damned thing!
    Natural formations really are awesome to see first hand and use them to add to your game. Just telling everyone that the floor is very uneven and tough going making it difficult terrain is going to change a combat situation if you have someone with a bead on you with that crossbow!


    1. I love the ideas that this experience will add to my game. I am a big supporter of inferred issues. Most games I play in the area around the character just feels like a battle on a pokemon game in that the background scenery doesn’t matter one bit. I like to think that I offer up interesting encounters where the scenery affects the outcome as well


  3. So I have just spent two weeks traipsing around the North Island of New Zealand.

    Almost immediately upon getting out of Auckland I thought there is a RPG world right here at my fingertips. I remembered this blog post fondly and I began to gather indigenous stories, histories, photos, videos and maps.

    On day two my middle son aged 10 said “Dad this is where I want to play our next game.” We are planning an RPG day for his 11th birthday in about a month.

    Thanks Mark for this blog that made me remember to take another look at the world around me for inspiration.


    1. Always here to help mate – of course you would get inspired in LotR territory


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