I am a big fan of any technique which can minimize the amount of time I spend prepping a game and maximise the utility during play.
What is a Zone Map?
Put simply these are maps which don't try to show things like distance or scale in favour of the relationships that the different elements have with one another. This is a concept popularized in the game fate and its descendants.
My own exposure came in the form of Starblazer Adventures (Cubicle 7) which is a monstrous tome but my go to Space Opera systemand I have even adapted it for a Fate Judge Dredd Campaign.
The beauty of a Zone Map is that you don't need any kind of cartographic skills in order to produce them. You just need to know what the relationships are between the zones. They also don't pay any particular respect to scale or distance and so they can be used to represent anything from a building to a galaxy.
Show and Tell
Its easier to show rather than to tell so here are a couple of maps from one of my Judge Dredd games to illustrate a few of the different styles I use.
The examples above are sketched onto 5"x 3" Index Cards which is incidentally my favourite method for initiative tracking in RPGs but I will talk about that in another post.
Zone Map Resources
- Show Me Your Fate Style Zone Maps - A great Reddit thread with a lot of inspiration
- Fate Zone Map Pack - If you prefer a flowchart design try these from DriveThruRPG
- Fate Zone Maps Tumbler - A bunch of different maps including a jungle map I might steal...
- Using Abstract Maps in D&D - A look at how you can use the zone map in your D&D game
Show Me Yours
Have You used zone maps in your games? Share your experience in the comments section below.