GameMastery Map Packs
By Paizo Publishing
Maps with No Folding Problems
Map Packs are one of Paizo’s offerings to make life easier for game masters. A Map Pack contains 18 one-sided themed maps each measuring 5″ x 8″. These full-color maps are neatly and fairly unobtrusively marked off into one-inch increments, making them ideal for use with miniatures and Your Favorite Role-Playing Game™.
Basically, Paizo seeks to replace your generic tan wet-erase vinyl grid map with something that (a) looks nicer, (b) takes less time, (c) has detail and flavor, and (d) puts a couple bucks in the Paizo coffers. Makes sense. Gamer Bling wishes he’d thought of it.
The individual map tiles may present a complete map on their own (the “town gallows” map comes to mind; not much need for a lot of space there—other than vertical, that is), or may be part of a larger map (like the inns, each of which covers 6 maps).
Early versions (item numbers PZO4005 and less) are printed on 10-point cardstock, which makes them marginally thinner than your average TCG card or, for that matter, Paizo’s Item Cards. Later releases (PZO4006 and up) have been upgraded to 12-point stock. Thus they are durable for average game use, but will crease easily if you toss them carelessly into your backpack after a hard evening of smiting evil.
The artwork is very good, thanks to Corey Macourek, who is both an excellent cartographer as well as a real nice guy (yes, Gamer Bling knows him, though only professionally).
For example, let’s consider the tabletops seen in the tavern maps. Far from being generic brown circles, you can see the planks from which the tables are made, plus the wood grain, etc. A casual inspection will show that the same table is cloned throughout the tavern—no surprise—but the tables are rotated to different angles, the candle on each table is in a different place, and the varying quantities of chairs are strewn in different positions at each of them. All of these small touches add to the lived-in realism. Sure, having each table individually drawn would have been better, but there’s only so much time one can spend developing a product like this, especially for under $15.
There are other nice touches, as well, all of which add to the realistic ambience: a spilled glass on the bar, rats in the store room, scuff marks by the doors, carpets being just a little askew.
As with the Item Cards, most everything is colored pretty dark. No daylight encounters in these maps; everything is gloomy to help set the mood of danger.
Each of the building maps (i.e., the shops in the Village and City maps, not the rooms in the Haunted Mansion) includes a frame of outdoor terrain at least one square wide. Thus, given an 8 x 10 map of a building it would have, at most, a 6 x 8 interior surrounded by a ring of grass and dirt. After all, the ninja have to assemble somewhere before they crash through the windows…
Probably the greatest weakness you’ll find is that these maps are all small. No huge chapels, mansions, or even large dripping caverns. Even the outdoors encounters are small, and not a happy place for archers or missile mages. Still, even if your campaign uses large encounter areas, placing a few of these maps on your large vinyl game board will improve the look of things.
There are no labels on the maps, which only poses a problem if you do not keep them in order. Fortunately, starting with the Fortress set (PZO4003), Paizo has put helpful arrows in the corners of the 4-piece maps to help direct you how to assemble them. Still, Gamer Bling suggests taping the larger maps together. Just a strip of tape on the backside will hold them together, yet still allow you to fold them up for transport.
Every so often there are is an oddity that might give one pause. For example, the gravedigger’s hut is, presumably, where the gravedigger lives (these being medieval times, commutes were not terribly common, especially for the underclass). However, the interior of the hut shows no bed. What is does show is a table with a book and papers. Not terribly literate, most gravediggers, or so Gamer Bling thought. Maybe the local merchant was confused between paper and bedding when the gravedigger asked for “several sheets.”
Finally, if you find these maps as attractive as Gamer Bling does, you may find you have another problem: keeping them organized. And the problem will only get worse as the line expands. As soon as Gamer Bling finds a good answer to that, it’ll get posted.
The Bottom Line
Nicely rendered, affordable, and very useful, especially for folks making up adventures on the fly. And they fit in your glove compartment.
Bling Factor: 5
Price: $10-$13 per set
You Need: 2-4 sets
You really ought to be able to find Paizo products darned near anywhere. Well, in a FLGS darned near anywhere. Which may be a challenge since they are going belly-up left and right, which, given the girth of many game store owners, is a frightening image. So if you end up ordering online, use the very large and obtrusive button to the right, if you please. Thank you.
With map packs being cranked out on a regular basis, Paizo looks like they plan to keep this line going for a long time. That, and Gamer Bling would not be surprised if their Pathfinder Adventure Paths started employing Map Pack templates.
Here are summaries of each individual map pack, given in the order the packs were printed. And, as an added feature, Gamer Bling will even give you a gratuitous mispeling.
Map Pack: Village ($9.95)
These contain generic maps of common sites and haunts. Very useful for city encounters, although when you dig out a map of the store your characters go to, they may get suspicious…
The tavern, bazaar, and shrine maps will all serve good use, as these seem the most likely areas to have combat. In addition, the bazaar and tavern are the roomiest.
The tavern apparently serves no food, as all of their storage is barrels, and there’s no cooking fire. Well, some of those barrels could hold popcorn. After all, those rats have to be after something other than liquor. Right? Right?
The apothecary and general store are, in Gamer Bling’s opinion, not likely to be used, except perhaps if you’re running an Eberron inquisitives campaign.
15 x 16 tavern with stage, bar, storage, and worker’s quarters
8 x 10 religious shrine (also suitable for cultists’ sacrifices in the deep woods)
8 x 10 general store
8 x 10 apothecary / magical goods store
four 5 x 8 bazaar maps (geomorphic, can be 5 x 32 or 10 x 16 or whatever)
5 x 8 stables
5 x 8 gallows
Map Pack: Graveyard ($9.95)
This is the best of the map packs, since the maps are designed to be geomorphic. You can easily create a whole graveyard as Gamer Bling did just a moment ago. There was a large mausoleum in the center, with a row of graves on the left side. To the right stood a shrine fronted by some formerly beautiful cherry trees, as well as the gravedigger’s hut and an entrance to the catacombs below the structures. It looked cool, it was a good 25 squares wide and 16 squares deep, and it took Gamer Bling maybe three minutes to get it the way he wanted (see illo above).
There are a few anachronistic jokes in the map set. As you may have surmised from the review of Hero’s Hoard, Gamer Bling is not keen about inside jokes that disrupt his suspension of disbelief. These are not a terribly big deal, though, as they are restricted to the writing on the headstones. Yes, if you peer closely you can read them, but they do not stand out in the midst of play, reminding you annoyingly of their presence.
This pack is clearly the best value. Whether you’re shooting brain-eating zombies in Dawn of the Dead or hacking at fiendish hellspawn in Diablo, you can’t go wrong with this one. Gamer Bling says, “Buy this now before it goes out of print or has its price raised.”
10 x 16 church complete with stained glass casting a colorful light on the flowers strewn about
10 x 16 crypt
5 x 8 cemetery gate
5 x 8 gravedigger’s hut (his hut is a measly 15′ x 25′ with a terrible location, location, location)
5 x 8 monument or shrine
5 x 8 mausoleum
6 maps of graves, dead trees, and other assorted ambience
Map Pack: Countryside ($12.95)
Gamer Bling doesn’t know why they raised the price on this—they don’t consult with him on such things—but it does make this pack less of a bargain.
The campsite has a cooking fire, which is more than can be said for the inn. And the toll booth appears to have two guards—there are two chairs for them—so Gamer Bling assumes they sleep in bunk beds, because only one bed is visible, and the idea of hot-bunking in the middle ages is just to horrid to consider.
The ambush site is a small, cramped affair. It has ruined walls for cover and hiding, yes, but the short distances are liable to make short work of archers… which is what Gamer Bling would be, were he the type to try an ambush. Still, even though the maps are not geomorphic, you can use them in either the A-B or B-A arrangement for the sake of variety.
And the rickety rope bridge? Its graphic presentation lends all the nervous energy you could want to any combat on this structure. Yeeks.
The shrine, ambush, and toll bridge maps all have roads. It would have been really nice if the road on the ambush site could have meshed with the road on the shrine, toll booth, or especially the rope bridge (which has no road). You can get the shrine to match up with the toll booth pretty well, but in all other cases you’ll see the road texture make a sudden and dramatic change. Sure, maybe Gamer Bling is being picky, but a little geomorphic capacity shouldn’t be too hard, right?
15 x 16 coaching inn
10 x 16 ruins (L-shaped map)
8 x 10 ambush site
8 x 10 campsite
8 x 10 rope bridge
8 x 10 toll bridge
5 x 8 roadside shrine
Map Pack: Fortress ($12.95)
This is another solid set, very useful for fighter-heavy games. The most useful map in Gamer Bling’s opinion is the drawbridge, moat and gatehouse. It provides everything you want, from the drawbridge itself to a crenellated wall for archers to the guard rooms just beyond. Frontal assault has never looked this good. Although the moat waters are moving, not stagnant, so the castle is either built on a stream, or it has really big moat monsters, or the wizard has a thing for large Jacuzzis outside the castle walls.
The throne room / banquet hall has lots of pillars for cover, plus a curious half-covered arcane circle beneath the banquet table. A good map for innovative role-playing.
Most of the other maps are generically useful and well done. The kitchen is low on counter space and the master bedroom has no wardrobe (hmm…), but these are minor quibbles. Oh, and the treasure room has a pile of coins that, on close inspection, look curiously American. The metals look like copper and nickel, not silver or gold.
The worst tile is the arrow-slit corridor. The corridor is only 40′ long yet 25′ wide, an odd measure, to be sure. Plus the arrow slits lead to off-map areas. If they’d shrunk the corridor to 15′ and given the GM a square on each side to place miniatures for the archers, Gamer Bling would have been happier and his disbelief would have remained suspended.
15 x 16 drawbridge / moat / gatehouse
10 x 16 throne room / banquet hall
8 x 10 library that doesn’t get a mention on the packaging
5 x 8 kitchen
5 x 8 master bedroom
5 x 8 treasure vault
5 x 8 barracks
5 x 8 arrow slit corridor
5 x 8 prison
Map Pack: Haunted Mansion ($12.95)
For Ravenloft and other spooky settings, this set is a great asset. It has a dark & abandoned look that deftly illustrates the abandoned manse, from the chandelier fallen in the entryway to the untrimmed hedges in the maze.
As you might expect from the House of No Escape, the maps—other than the hedge maze, of course—are purely indoors; any windows are at the edge of the map. Not that you need to leave; we’re talking about a house that has 14,000 square feet of mapped floor plan. Way beyond Al Gore territory here.
It also has a feel of a place that was once normal, but took a ghastly turn for the worse: blood smears, candle stubs, and, in the nursery map, an abandoned doll that looks disturbingly like Terrance from South Park…
10 x 16 hedge maze
10 x 16 entry hall
8 x 10 sitting doom– er, room
5 x 16 attic with an attic window casting scant light
5 x 16 hall of portraits and statuary
5 x 8 cellar
5 x 8 nursery
5 x 8 sacrificial chamber
5 x 8 staircase
Map Pack: Dungeon Chambers ($12.95)
Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the worst cover art of the line graces the front of one of the weakest offerings in this line. But even Paizo’s weakest offering still has merit.
The big spiked pit is as useful as a map can be when 40% of the map is fatal to enter (which can be pretty darned useful for those who specialize in bull rush). The beast lair is reasonable; the cage walls restrict movement while allowing ranged combat.
The treasure room and barracks offer little beyond another square room. The ruined temple and lava bridge are pretty cool, if you have need of such things.
The interrogation room—and we’re talking Jack Bauer interrogation here—is a curious one. It has cells and chains and stocks, but as far as interrogation goes, it has a whip and a couple iron maidens. No thumb screws, no branding irons, no boots, not even a tongue depressor. Probably for the better, anyway.
10 x 16 beast lair
10 x 16 bridge over lava lake
10 x 16 ruined temple
8 x 10 spiked pit
8 x 10 interrogation chamber
5 x 8 guard barracks
5 x 8 abandoned storeroom
Map Pack: City ($12.95)
Expanding on the tiles given in the Village pack, this set provides some additional useful common areas and several upscale establishments for your use. If you like the village pack, you’ll find this every bit as useful.
The best pieces here are the alley and the blacksmith shop. The blacksmith shop just begs for a big fight, what with the fire and the anvil and the weapons and… where is his dining table, anyway? Poor blacksmith must be starving. And the alley smacks of poverty and neglect, and just begs for an ambush. Lots of papers strewn around on the ground, though; there must be a very literate underclass in this city.
The other maps are fairly standard urban templates. If you need them, they’re useful. The maps all have a border of outside terrain, with the exceptions of the fighter’s guild maps.
15 x 21 wizards guild (cruciform map)
10 x 16 shady alley (L-shaped map)
10 x 16 fighters guild training floor
8 x 10 blacksmith shop
8 x 10 magic shop
5 x 8 fighters guild armory
5 x 8 fountain square
3 x 6 wizard guild annex (could be underground, could be extraplanar)
Map Pack: Ancient Forest ($12.99)
Lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!
Since 1939, dark forests have terrorized Gamer Bling’s dreams, so there’s no reason not to include it in the map packs for your fantasy game.
Of course, one of Gamer Bling’s pet peeves is small outdoor maps, but that is a necessary evil. That said, this map pack does an excellent job of creating dark and moody places to fight.
In fact, this batch of little outdoor maps is so good that the only thing that Gamer Bling can find to mock is the fact that in the briar maze, all of the skulls are face up and unbroken. Aside from that, this is really an excellent set without odd oddments.
10 x 16 overgrown ruins
10 x 16 desolate glade
8 x 10 briar patch with winding paths and skulls
8 x 10 stone circle
8 x 10 flowery spiral of doom
Map Pack: Waterfront ($12.99)
Throughout fantasy literature the docks are known as a lawless place, and also a popular locale for sahuagin invasions and piracy both dread and foppish.
Unlike all previous map packs, this one creates one huge map 150’ wide and 120’ deep. There’s 25’ of dockside land, followed by 75’ of docks, ships, and watery goodness. The three docks are interchangeable, as are the waters between them, so you don’t always have to have the same layout.
In addition to the docks (one of which is half wrecked), there are a 75’ 3-mast sailing ship, two rowboats of 20’ and 15’ lengths, and assorted flotsam since, apparently the stevedores are none too good. Or else they panicked and ran when the sahuagin showed up.
There are some very nice touches in this set; a sunken boat, schools of fish, hungry seagulls, bird poop on the docks. And, as usual, some oddities, though less than normal. In fact, the only thing that really rings awkward is the fact that neither the 75’ ship nor the 20’ rowboat are tied or anchored. Well, okay, the flotsam is also a little odd.
Altogether this is another awesome map pack.
One big ol’ map!
Map Pack: Farmstead ($12.99)
Lonely farms are a great place for ambushed by purple worms, zombies, and killer tomatoes.
This pack provides enough for a sizeable farm, including a 1700 square foot house. It’s simple of design and scantly apportioned—and has a wonderfully luxurious looking bed—but otherwise seems quite believable.
The fields have scarecrows, but in Gamer Bling’s humble opinion, if bullettes and neo-otyughs don’t keep the crows away, a straw man has no prayer.
10 x 18 farmhouse with yard
8 x 10 fenced yard
8 x 10 barn
5 x 8 chicken coop
5 x 8 well
eight 5 x 8 of assorted crops, gardens, and haystacks
Map Pack: Wizard’s Tower ($12.99)
No, this is not the floorplan for the 4e R&D cubicles. This is rather a map of the workplace/residence of an actual fire-slinging spell-blasting mage, if indeed the word “actual” can be applied to such a thing.
Assuming a height of 12 feet per level and a foundation 6 feet tall, the tower measures 54 feet tall (54 feet is a little over half a centipede in the metric system) by 70 feet wide by 40 feet deep, so really, it looks more like a wizard’s keep, but that’s fine.
A set of stairs leads through a warding semicircle into a reception hall with banquet table, kitchen, pantry, and sitting room. The next levels are a summoning level with magic circle and a library full of books (but no scrolls), and level with very nice living quarters (including a room for the apprentice). The top level is a scrying room complete with comfy throne and a nice crenellated archer terrace, but lacking exterior doors to protect the interior from inclement weather or ballistic fireballs.
As one might expect from a short, square, wide building called a tower, there are a few oddities. The ritual book is inside the summoning circle, not outside. The apprentice’s quarters are far too nice. And there are ground-level windows, which is only a real problem if the tower sits in the isolated countryside.
Four levels covering everything but the roof.
Map Pack: Anything Else
Sadly, the ones above are the only ones that Gamer Bling has had the chance to review. If you want Gamer Bling to mock review some others, let Paizo know.