[RPG] Player maps – draw beforehand or during exploration?


I'm currently creating some maps (dungeon, city) for a new 5e adventure I'm going to DM in a few weeks, and I stumbled upon a slight problem with player maps; Am I supposed to give them a map of the area with everything already drawn or am I supposed to draw the map dynamically when they explore the area? I'd guess that I'm supposed to draw it while they explore but seeing as one of my dungeons is currently drawn on an A3 sheet it would be a hassle to draw everything again, even with tiles as guidelines.

Best Answer

It depends on how much the characters can see, how surprising the details they can't see are, and how much you trust your players to not act in-character on out-of-character information. If you want to keep surprises from them, re-drawing the map as the characters move (as you suggested) is the classic way of dealing with this. But there are other options.

You could also lay out your existing map with areas covered by strategically-placed index cards or sticky notes. This is a nice, low-fi solution and usually works well as long as there isn't a breeze.

There is also the option of scanning the map into your computer and print out individual areas. This has the advantage of being able to cope with events that will happen to change the map after the characters have already seen the area, such as rock slides and cave-ins. You could also do this with an online program such as roll20.

Finally, a time-honored tradition is to describe the area and have a player draw the map as they go. This has the advantage of keeping the players involved during exposition, and giving them a bit of agency over their adventure.