Street Wise Maps – A Great Little Resource For A Modern Game

SWSeattleThe other night, my Game Master pulled out a new GM’s screen to spread around his laptop. It was a small, laminated, easy to read, touristy street map of Seattle. We’re playing a near future cyberpunk World Of Darkness game set in a futuristic Seattle, and suddenly we actually had a city to explore instead of basic guesses and googling to tell us what the city was like in certain areas. The streetwise maps seem to be made to provide just enough information to get a visitor around the major parts of a city and not be too cumbersome. They point out basic attractions or buildings that are of significant importance, like museums, police stations, hospitals, etc. and they fold up in a nice pocket sized package.  After we looked over it for a few minutes, I immediately thought of 5 games where I would have LOVED to have something like this, but had to make due with more complicated or less adequate mapping options:

  1. The 1920s Akron, Ohio gangster game where I ebayed a 1940s roadways map of the area that at least told us the boundaries of the city in a previous time.
  2. The Fey take over a fictional modern Pennsylvanian city game where I photo-shopped a map of Budapest because it had all of the roads and rivers I wanted in about the shapes I wanted.
  3. The New York, New York Ridiculous Superheroes Jaunt where we kept googling various locations to determine what just got destroyed.
  4. The Cleveland, Ohio zombies game where we printed a basic map from google and kept making up locations that weren’t really there because we couldn’t get the right landmarks at a manageable size in the multiple printouts and ceased caring about reality after a while.
  5. The one-on-one Chicago, Illinois Dresden Files Game that had my player flying all over chicagoland chasing spirits.

 

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I have to say, I’ve only seen one of these maps and been around the website a bit, but at under $10 dollars a piece, they make perfect modern city maps for the level of detail needed in most games. The lamination is a nice factor as well, as dry erase markers can denote special areas or be useful for quick notations of where things are happening in a city. The grid system can be used to denote in-game places as well, listing the players’ homebase at A4 makes it easy enough to find. I’ve picked up 2 or 3 for cities I know I want to set future games in.

If you find yourself in a modern game and want something more than a google map print out, these might be something to consider, but I bet there are some other overlooked options out there as well. What do you do for maps of cities in your games, especially modern ones? Do you have a detail threshold that you need a map to have, or would a fairly generic map like this work well enough? Is your detail threshold different for other genres where less modern concerns like weapon shops and alien relics are of more concern to the game than realistic things like bus stations?

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John Arcadian is a writer, gamer, art director, web designer, crafter, and kilt-wearer.
You can find more of his writings on gaming over at http://gnomestew.com.
For web-design projects, check out http://beezenwebdesign.com.

Comments
  1. Trace     | Reply

    I actually use on of these for my Las Vegas WoD game. I love it. Only problem is, with Vegas, every map is out of date in six months.

    1. John Arcadian - Post Author     | Reply

      And has your WoD Las Vegas survived the players? I know we’ve marked our Seattle map with multiple craters where major damage has been dealt to the city.

      1. Trace     | Reply

        I try to keep the power levels fairly low, just above street level. So, while there are some striking changes, it’s not completely unrecognizable.

    2. Martin Ralya     | Reply

      I used a custom Google Map shared with my group and a copy of Weird Las Vegas to good effect in my nWoD Mage game. The custom map was great for providing context, and I updated it (not as well as I should have, admittedly) with locations they’d encountered in-game; the WLV book was great for getting ideas.

      1. Trace     | Reply

        I love Weird Las Vegas. There are also a lot of really good books about mob history in Vegas. It’s a city where WoD writes it’s self, as the real history is weirder than anything I could write!

  2. Gamerprinter     | Reply

    I see ProFantasy Software, makers of Campaign Cartographer 3 and City Designer 3, has finally released their Modern Symbol Set 3, which includes several designer’s work, but I created 189 objects – everything from cars/wrecked cars, office furniture, helicopters to uzi machine guns, washing machines – you name it, I created it. I did this commission over 2 years ago, and it’s only been recently released. The objects are setup, so you can change the color of many of them within the City Designer software. I’m not a fan of modern games, nor creating modern map objects, but it was a good commission, just the same.

    Though I haven’t initiated progress on it, ProFantasy did ask if I’d provide map objects for Japanese style feudal design set of ukiyo-e styled mountains, castles, etc., plus topdown objects like samurai, structures, etc. I should get back to them, as this would be a project that I find more interesting.

  3. Lee Hanna     | Reply

    Not in cities, but for last summer’s Twilight:2000 game, I was able to use GoogleMaps for a lot of overhead views of the terrain around the party. I learned a lot, that was able to inform me of where the dominant ground was, where notable buildings might be, and (very important) bridges and side roads that they could use.

    I do have an old tourist map of Krakow and Poland, which I had used in earlier games of the same.

    1. John Arcadian - Post Author     | Reply

      Google Maps is good for that kind of thing as well. It never quite worked for me though. I never find the size scale to be quite what I needed (either too zoomed to look ahead quickly or too wide to get enough detail), and my group’s play style is usually looser, so we didn’t worry too much about the details of where everything was exactly. The closest we came to a modern, realistic style game (somewhat like Twilight:2000) was Shadowrun and we took a lot of liberties with the city we played in.

  4. Nex     | Reply

    The idea is quite nice and the website is also nice. I just wish they would sell maps to more cities.

    But, wasn’t this article already posted a few days ago?

    1. John Arcadian - Post Author     | Reply

      The article was scheduled to be up on black friday, but Kurt had a better one that was more topical, so I just held off on mine for the next gap in the schedule.

      1. Kurt "Telas" Schneider     | Reply

        Whoops! I didn’t realize that I bumped you on that article. I do apologize for that.

        I’ve used Google Maps pretty heavily for general stuff, but we’ve been very willing to ditch accuracy for plot and action at the table. Then again, my game is national in scope, as opposed to being focused on one city or region. (International, I should say. The party is currently in Canada, looking for whoever kidnapped their werewolves.) These maps are awesome for a city/regional campaign. Bookmarked!

        1. John Arcadian - Post Author     | Reply

          No problem on my end. This was a short one on something nifty I’d seen in game. More than happy to move it to wherever it’s needed. Besides, your black friday links turned me onto some nifty RPG sales.

  5. spikexan     | Reply

    I have several of these maps from my WoD days AKA the 90s. I never considered using them for this purpose.

    (hangs head in shame)

    Thanks for the excellent idea!

  6. Walt Ciechanowski     | Reply

    I’m a big fan of the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. Not only do they provide maps (including detailed maps of key areas) but they also go into detail on the tourist sites, including some floor plans.

  7. Wayne     | Reply

    If I run a game set in a modern city, I make a point of buying the travel guide for that place. Usually you can find all sorts of little tidbits to use as adventure hooks.

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John Arcadian