Maps can be helpful tools and are especially crucial for Narrators. There are times where it could enhance the Lead’s experiences and times when it could zap out all the suspense and intrigue. Here are some tricks to help determine when you should use maps during the story and to what extent.
Narrator’s should always have maps – whether they show them to the players or not. Maps help narrators visualize spatial information as well as aid the imagination when players ask questions about their surroundings. The more detailed a map, the easier it is to answer the ever-curious adventurer.
The best times to show maps to the Lead(s) is when the map doesn’t offer any secret information but adds to to the tone or enhances an understanding of what the protagonists can plainly see. For instance, a map of a city would give the player a sense of size and feel that the character would already have ascertained from first seeing the city.
In contrast, it would disservice the players to reveal the map of the antagonist’s lair – complete with traps and secret passages. Doing so would spoil the fun for them as they wouldn’t get to have that “exploring the unknown” feeling.
In lieu of showing the players a map for a secret lair, you could instead reveal pieces of the map, room-by-room (with each room on an index card or by drawing the rooms as they explore them). Or, you could allow the players to draw their own a map based on your description as they explore. Doing so can be trickier as it relies on communication between you and the cartographer, but doing so not only enables them to envision their own perception of the location but increases their sense of immersion.