[RPG] Representing vertical terrain on a battle map


I'm planning on running an encounter as part of my 5E Out of the Abyss campaign. It is essentially going to involve the party scaling down a sinkhole. There's a waterfall (with plunge pool), plus several rocky ledges the characters can jump to, scale down, or swing from via ropes. All this will happen while the party are attacked by Driders.

We play in person and typically draw out our battle maps on a mat with dry-erase pens. We have one player who connects over webcam.

What techniques exist, or would you recommend for drawing this battlemap? I've considered drawing the vertical plane flat on our existing mat, but would appreciate any other easy techniques.

Best Answer

We just ran an adventure almost exactly like what you describe. The party was climbing a stairway that ran back and forth across an underground cliff face (many hundreds of feet tall), while menaced by flying opponents and threats at various levels. Three players were in person, and two on Skype.

Instead of using a dry erase board, our DM built a cardboard stairway that we used to represent whatever section of the stairway we were on. He painted his to look like stone, but it's not necessary. For the flyers, he used lengths of heavy wire, the ends secured to weights and the free ends hooked to the miniatures. The wire is bendable enough to move the flyers to the approximate position.

He had (broken) elevator platforms he could hook on at various points. The concept could be adapted for your plunge pool and wide ledges.

It was a fairly simple model, but it made the combat very memorable. Here's a photo of the model in action:

Model of staircase