Mapping...seriously how do people handle it?

Pretty much what I said above. Never really messed with it back in the day and now I’m finding it really slows things down. Short of me drawing the map for my players…how do people play it so that you aren’t spending half the night correcting player’s understanding of your descriptions?

There are several options.

  1. Map with an eye to future descriptions. Avoid (or rarely use) oddly shaped rooms. Stick to shapes that are easy to describe.
  2. Draw quick sketches of areas. A whiteboard works nicely, but so does scratch paper. This is what I do mostly.
  3. Don’t worry about being too exact. Only correct major problems. Most PCs are not surveying areas exactly.

There’s an interesting thread at Story Games on this subject:
We’re only two sesssions into our game, but here’s how things have been working so far:

  • When rooms are regular, they have light, and are moving at the normal rate I describe things as clearly as I can. If there’s mistake that would be obvious to the characters I will point it out. The default movement rate is really slow and IMO obviously assumes they’re being careful about measuring things, etc.
  • I very much try to observe the visibility rules: 30’ with a torch.
  • If there’s an irregular or tricky room I might sketch it – assuming they have light and are moving slowly.
  • If the light is bad I describe things less accurately.
  • If they’re moving too quickly to map they must draw the map after the fact. (This is when the proficiency will be handy.)
  • The character who draws the map has it. If the party splits and they have only one map… ooops.
    (In the last session I belatedly realized that I had slipped from these principles on a couple of occasions – and I think it would have been even more intense if I had been a hardass.)

I handle it virtually the same as demoss. Late into the original ACKS campaign I bought an eraseable battlemap and began doing sketches on that as they explored and that’s been very helpful for wierd rooms.

After playing for quite a while in a twisty BX mega-dungeon, my advice is to the DM:
Very simple maps without too many twists or odd connections.
No diagonal passages.
Intersections should be even and not have too many offset passages.
Put doors centered in room walls.
Give exact dimensions regardless of how dim the room is.
Clear descriptions using truthful compass directions.
Try mapping in the center of the table so everyone can see where they are going.
Otherwise the game will tend to bog down between the DM and the mapping player double-checking measurements while the rest of the table has nothing do do. As beautiful as maps can be, the players will never get to see them unless they receive it as an in-game artifact. Players will never rejoice at how beautiful the layout is at the end, they will only curse it’s complexity.
Also on a related note: divvy up your mega-dungeon into modules or chunks that can be “beaten” and give a sense of accomplishment to the players in the short run or else the players will feel like they are slogging through an endless series of death-rooms without milestones.

Greengoat, did you read the link I posted? I’d like to hear your take on it.

So, I started to write up my own, lengthy, response… then I went and read the posting you referenced, demoss… Damn. Great story.

“Greengoat, did you read the link I posted? I’d like to hear your take on it.”
The story games account was a nice use of the simulationist aspects of old D&D to some degree, where the construction of the party map gradually builds up the feeling of “victory” over the dungeon space by knowledge and ownership of the space.
The fun parts of running through the unknown and making it out again because of observation & preparation is one of the hallmarks of OS play. However, after using old school mapping weekly for several years of a campaign, some of the confusion and effort involved in making a complex map really start to wear thin.
That is why I advocate for simplicity on the DM’s end of mapping. Confusion about the dimensions of the dungeon space should be able to be adjusted by the DM and not be innate to it’s structure. Don’t make the dungeon twisty or hard to accurately describe. The mappers of the party shouldn’t have to ask several questions to verify the size and orientation of each passage or room. This is supposed to be a group of adventures, not a surveying team.
If your play group really likes to figure out mazes and spacial traps, then by all means go at it. But the two solutions to complex dungeon maps are either:
1.) Spending a quarter of table-time talking dimensions between the DM and the single mapper, leaving the rest of the players cold without a sense of space.
2.) Having the party always feel lost and dead by wandering monsters because no one wants the chore of mapping and they keep switching the job back and forth.
I think a better concept of describing space to the players at the table is to set each room or particular space in terms of distinctive sights and smells. Instead of giving a foot dimension for each chamber or room, lead with a predominate color or odor. People can remember and visualize “red room” more than “20’x30’ chamber with two exits, one on NW section of N wall, other passage is centered on E wall”
The abstraction of foot dimensions make for interesting maps for the DM to see and use, but the piecemeal distribution of that information in 10’ chunks to the players is insufficient for a visual experience. The DM should just plop simple rooms down and save the design time for evocative descriptions.
Sorry for the meandering, in summary:
So I am not down on mapping, I am just for way, way easy mapping.