D&D continues to draw players in with its unique DnD Maps and signature D&D campaigns— and it looks like 2021 is as good of a time as ever to play this iconic game.
2020 recorded a spike of over 30 percent, with friends, separated by pandemic induced lockdowns, connecting over games of Dungeons and Dragons. But it’s also connected others through a surge in creativity within the D&D community.
D&D maps took center stage, becoming more innovative than ever. And now, in 2021, it’s a Legend of Zelda D&D map that’s garnering attention.
The D&D map was created just in time for the 30th anniversary of The Legend of Zelda. Rendered in stunning 4K details, the map was updated from previous versions to accurately depict landmarks such as Death Mountain.
With the promise of a Dark World map to come, it’s clear this is only the beginning of what promises to be an exciting year for D&D maps.
But maybe you’re new to Dungeons and Dragons, or just don’t know how to find the best maps. In this guide, I’ll tell you about different D&D map types, how to make maps, and where to find them.
What are D&D maps?
A main element of D&D gameplay revolves around its maps.
Every game contains at least one, but typically, a series of linked adventures. Each adventure follows a storyline, with certain objectives. Within each adventure, there are descriptions and storylines as well as settings unique to that adventure.
Single adventures are linked, and enhanced, through other adventures. Linked adventures are called campaigns. These campaigns, sometimes called modules, take place in a world.
These worlds determine your campaign settings and your overall experience, both in terms of gameplay and aesthetics. D&D maps determine the settings, main storylines, and features, just as magic and unique technology.
That’s where D&D maps come in. Maps also help you navigate and explore everything from continents to underground dungeons, inns, and more. A map is your main guide to more intuitive and exciting gameplay.
Do you need a map to play DnD?
Maps are incredibly helpful to play DnD for a few reasons– and you’ll most likely find them quite useful. While you can technically play without a standard or user generated map, gameplay gets trickier without one.
If you’re not using a map, you’ll have to make up guidelines for gameplay on the spot, as well as communicate effectively with other players.
The other challenge is helping players visualize a game and settings that you can’t see, which takes creativity and dedication. You’ll still need to lay out a concept, rules, and have a way to establish some form of consistency.
The other challenge of playing D&D without a map is managing how to properly relay details. You want other players to be able to both visualize and understand what they’re exploring. Too few details will make gameplay confusing, while too many details can prove distracting.
All told, while it is possible to play D&D without a map, I recommend using one.
How do I use a D&D map?
Use a D&D map to make for exciting but also more intuitive gameplay. D&D maps are actually used for a myriad of reasons, no matter how experienced or new you are.
One of the greatest advantages to using D&D maps is easier navigation for both you and other players. Maps can help you venture through dungeons, cities, and even entire continents.
You’ll be able to plan out your moves more effectively, no matter your map type. In the long run, using a map also saves time. This is because, without a map, you’ll have to describe a place, possibly multiple times. With maps, you can simply point to a location.
This leads into the second reason why you should use D&D maps. D&D maps do the job of describing for you, but they also make playing more immersive.
By being able to see different locations, you’ll have a richer gameplay experience. Locations will feel more real, and more interesting. A visual presentation really can add life to any D&D game. The more detailed the map, the more invested players tend to be.
Though this way of using D & D & D&D map tiles into navigation, it deserves its own category. Dungeons are notoriously challenging to explore. D&D maps for rooms or encounters are especially important in dungeons because, without them, navigation can become difficult and really hamper your strategy.
Finally, a good D&D map is instrumental in creating a strategy for tactical gameplay. Without a map, it’s quite challenging to plan your next move. Maps allow players to not only navigate, but also create a nuanced strategy by considering obstacles.
What are the different types of D&D maps?
Maps are broken down into different categories based upon their focus. These include bother over world and dungeon maps, but also for specific aspects of gameplay.
Map Types by Region
Overworld maps cover anything above ground. This can include cities, kingdoms, and full continents. Towns, or even intimate maps for inns can be found. These are then complemented by dungeon maps. Dungeons maps are solely dedicated to navigating in underground dungeons. But within these categories, there are maps for specific regions.
Dungeon Maps include entrances, cliffs, exits, notations, whirlpools, warp zones, slide traps, spike hazards, and tools for understanding scale size. These maps are often kept concealed from players until they start exploring the dungeons, or may even remain hidden until later in the game.
They’re focused on traps and other obstacles, making for exciting and treacherous travel through dungeons. The art style tends to be simplistic and more focused on function vs form.
Kingdom Maps include boundaries, cities, outposts, villages, and Holy Lands. You’ll also often find lakes, roads, rivers, and farms, depending on the map. More detailed than a world map, kingdom maps are excellent for unique gameplay and one of my favorite types of D&D maps.
The best kingdom maps will also take into consideration political backdrops for borders, as well as how terrain impacts different populations. Often, these come with lore, and require intense detail to create that kingdom. Trade policies, demographics, political systems and cultural practices are often added to suh maps.
Of all D&D map types, interior maps are the most micro in their focus. Interior maps cover the inside of buildings and other structures to provide that extra level of detail. While not used by all players, interior maps are most commonly used for temples, houses, inns, shops, and castles.
Interior maps detail furnishings, rooms, altars, bars, staircases, and more. One reason why interior maps are used is to establish points of encounter.
Region Maps showcase a section of a kingdom. They are useful for showcasing smaller villages and outposts, as well as runs and specific points of interest for adventures. They are scaled down from kingdom or world maps.
The most common reason for region maps to be pushed aside is after a player has already explored and conquered that region. That said, region maps are instrumental for specific campaigns. They can also include specific battle events and encounters.
Even smaller in scope than region maps, town maps are used to depict detailed storylines. Popular amongst players who especially love role playing in D&D, town maps are small in scope. Town maps are used to introduce NPCs and new stories and may include town squares, inns, shops, temples, and more.
World Maps are the largest in scale and are meant to provide a general overview of your entire explorable regions. Because of this world maps are delineated by different aspects of geography, boundaries, and are not detailed. See world maps as a general guide for Dungeons & Dragons gameplay, and are expensive in scope but not details.
Map Types by Gameplay Style
These map types are classified by the focus on gameplay style, from adventures to traveling to combat. This determines how you’ll focus and draw your maps for different regions.
Also known as travel maps, D&D exploration maps help you do just that– explore. Details are focused on depicting a large region, and specific locations you can explore. These maps are needed to travel efficiently and orient yourself for a campaign, and can be quite comprehensive.
D&D adventure maps are where gameplay really comes together. These maps are helpful for establishing guidelines, major storylines, and guidelines. While exploration maps act as an overview, adventure maps are the most detailed. They include a focus that is not seen in other D&D map types.
This means that these maps are the most useful for detailed, catered gameplay, yet they are also arguably the least versatile. Since they tend to be so specific, they aren’t replayed in the way general travel maps are.
Combat maps are also highly detailed. They provide detailed information about encounter locations, types and other related information.
These are great options if battles fit your main gameplay styles, but they are also the least commonly generated. That makes combat maps for Dungeons and Dragons a bit more challenging to find than other types of maps.
How do I create a DnD grid map?
If you’re sold on using a D&D map, you may be interested in creating one for yourself. I should start by saying that creating your own maps can be fun and rewarding, but also challenging. I recommend creating a classic grid map.
Grid maps are preferable for traveling, combat, and adventure map styles. It’s far easier to determine guidelines for player travel and comat while you’re working with a classic grid.
First, you’ll need to select one of several grid types.
Dotted grids form a square pattern and are helpful for organizing and showcasing specific textures and details. Dotted grids are especially useful, then, for maps that require that attention to detail, such as interiors and towns.
Free form maps don’t include a grid at all. The advantages of this is room more for creativity and innovation– and they may take less time to make. That said, free form maps make showcasing locations, movement and specific encounters quite difficult.
I don’t recommend relying solely on free form maps. If you do make a gridless map, it would be best suited for a large scale world map type.
Hex grids are the original and oldest grid type for D&D maps. Formed in hexagonal formations, these maps are used for especially complex world maps. While not useful for showcasing detailed textures, hex grids can accommodate world maps that are not to scale.
They are also used for depicting variable terrain, strange angles, and other challenges. Another benefit for hex grid maps is that they allow you to move without relying on cardinal directions. Hex grids are most commonly used for exploration and travel-based gameplay.
Square grids obviously are in square formations and are one of the easiest grid types to work with to create D&D maps. Used to encounters and for maps to scale, square grids are versatile.
They also happen to be your best option for dungeon maps. However, they are a bit less detailed than dot grids and don’t allow for as free of movement as hex grids.
I recommend you begin with the smallest map type first, such as a town map (and create any interior maps), then a region map, kingdom map, and finally a world map. While not all map types are essential, the more you create, the more guidance you’ll have for your D&D gameplay.
Where do I get DnD maps?
Don’t want to create your own D&D maps? The good news is that you don’t have to. With a thriving creative community, you can find free maps online in many places. Common go to’s include Reddit, DungeonFog, 2MinuteTableTop, and even Pinterest.
You can also purchase maps on RPG Now.
Though there are countless D&D maps out there, most of my favorite options come from 2MinuteTableTop. Costing $1 or completely free for smaller maps, this collection of maps includes regional maps, battle maps, and more.
You can even sort by encounter type and by map assets. However, larger maps do cost money. Search the collection of maps here.
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Is there a D&D map?
Answer: There is no one official D&D map. The reason behind this is that D&D encourages players to set their own unique campaigns, and the gameplay focus is more or less up to you. D&D is an expansive game that’s not limited to a world or campaign. You can not only explore many different types of maps, but also different aspects of gameplay.
Furthermore, D&D players are encouraged to tweak storylines, constructions, and underlying storylines. In part, D&D not having on set map is a large part of its appeal as an expansive and long lived roleplaying game.
Question: How big should D&D battle maps be?
Answer: D&D battle maps can range in size. Much of how large a battle map is depends on what version you’re playing. For instance, Towns & Taverns battlemaps are typically 24” by 48”.
Question: What are the Forgotten Realms?
Answer: The Forgotten Realms is one of the oldest campaign settings for D&D, but also among the most popular. Often called The Realms, this features a fantastical setting with supernatural creatures and gods and has rich lore behind it.
It’s been refined, revised, and revisited since D&D was first published. The most recent appearance for Forgotten Realms was in the 2014 publication of Edition 5.
Question: Which D&D books come with maps?
Answer: An alternative to finding or purchasing D&D maps online is through D&D books. Not all D&D books come with maps, but some do have ones you can tear out. Tomb of Annihilation and Strahd from the fifth edition are examples. There are also some books with side quest maps.
Question: What planet is Faerun on?
Answer: Faerun is on the planet Toril, located in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent has been featured in the Wizards Setting of the 5th edition, as well as in previous editions. The planet itself is divided into the Northern Hemisphere, Middle Lands, Southern Lands, and the Underdark.
Maps are central to detailed and immersive D&D gameplay. Whether you choose to create your own maps, find or purchase them, there’s enough creativity in the community to suit almost any player.
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