GURPS · How We Play

My Campsite Battlemap for GURPS Dungeon Fantasy

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Hexes disguised as flagstones.  This is a good trick for making dungeon floors and city streets, but it’s no help at all when you’re trying to create an outdoor slope, forest floor, or patch of grassland.

Having created a whole bunch of hex boards to represent indoor spaces, I decided to try to make a hex board representing an outdoor space.

It wasn’t easy.

Q: What was the problem?

A: Those damned hexes, obviously.

The great thing about making battlemaps for indoor spaces like dungeons is that you can pass off the hexes as flagstones.   This allows you to create a vaguely naturalistic-looking scene, despite the fact that you’ve plastered a totally artificial hex grid over everything.

honeycomb hexes.jpg
Ok, yes, I hereby concede that nature sometimes DOES come with a hex grid.  But, you know, there’s only so many times you can use your patented Beehive Battlemap to play through “The Golden Gardens of the Honeycomb Queen” before you begin longing to run a more conventional module.  

But if you’re representing an outdoor space, this is a real problem.  Nature doesn’t come with a hex grid, so there’s a real danger of the whole thing looking silly and fake.

What to do?

Well, I could have created an “outdoor” map representing a cobblestone street, or similar – with the cobblestones conveniently laid out in hex patterns. But this doesn’t really solve the real problem of the outdoors, which is the problem of representing nature. (And in fact, for the record, I tried to make a nice cobblestone street with a hex pattern, but the initial prototype didn’t turn out so nicely – maybe I’ll give it another go some day).

So instead, I just decided to suck it up and lay down a hex grid on grass, without pretending to conceal it.

Here’s what I came up with.

My Campsite Battlemap

In my experience, a non-trivial proportion of wilderness adventures involve outdoor campsites – either the PCs are being attacked in their own campsite, or the PCs are attacking their enemies in the enemies’ campsite.  Hence this campsite battlemap.

I tried to make it look as if there’s a little path wandering across one of the corners, with another even fainter path leading over to the campfire itself.

sta71505The hexes are obviously artificial, but I was pleased to find that they don’t entirely ruin the look of the thing (in my view, anyway!)  I tried to make them fairly faint, which helps, but mostly I think it’s just a matter of not pretending that they’re anything other than what they are.

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A close-up of the little campfire.  It’s easy enough to see the hexes when you look for them, but I think it’s also easy enough to ignore them and focus on the scenery instead.

I guess my guiding principle here was: if you’re going to disguise the hex grid as something else, disguise it properly – but if you can’t disguise it properly, it’s better not to try to disguise it at all.

The one thing I’m not very satisfied with here is the flatness of the whole board.  Flat battlemaps are certainly more practical than hilly ones – the minis have an easier time staying upright – and flat maps certainly work well enough visually for representing the floors of indoor spaces.

But obviously, flat is not ideal for simulating nature.  Really, I think this whole piece would have looked better if I’d introduced even just a bit more of a gentle undulation in the ground.  (I did texture the top a bit, as well as digging out the path a little to make it look properly worn down, but the whole thing could really use more vertical contrast.)

But that’s for another day.  For now, I have a nice little hex–grid battlemap to whip out whenever anyone – friend or foe – attacks a campsite.  And it wasn’t really at all difficult to make.

Just for fun, and to tie us back to my last post, I’ll close with this:

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Blurry the burly barbarian breaks camp and prepares to enter the dungeon…
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