Review copy courtesy of Black Scroll Games.
- The great looking style of map Black Scroll Games does. When looking at their previous work I felt that lighting was one of their big strengths and this map shows it off again. The stone floors are also very detailed looking as are the other little touches and details.
- 15 pages and 17 pieces worth of map (not counting the one statue counter)
- Made for the 1 inch is 5 feet standard scale
- Isometric visual aid provided (as Black Scroll Games often does)
- VTT jpgs provided
- Both broken into pages and single poster versions are provided for easy printing.
- Layers are present to allow the option of grid lines and no grid lines.
- Shortened area descriptions from the adventure are present.
Could Go Either Way
- Again, this map is also done in the same 3D style that other Black Scroll Games maps and tiles are done. If you like it as I do, then it's a plus, but if you don't it'll obviously be a drawback.
- A majority of the map uses the shapes of the stones in to denote squares for movement. This looks great and work well but it doesn't fully carry through the entire map. Though this is the exception and not the rule (and only present on the second level), this may be a con if you don't like grid lines on maps.
- Unlike the modular inn set I covered and many of their other sets, this one is obviously meant for a particular adventure. This makes it perfect if you want all the bells and whistles for running that adventure, but does hamper the reusability compared to a tile set. That said, you could quite easily use the maps to suit your own purposes.
- There are some places where the grid lines seem to extend a tiny bit too far on the second level of the map. It's not obvious but I wish it wasn't an issue at all.
This week has been a good week for Black Scroll Games. Though they had a total of 3 releases this week, I'll be looking at the map for the Goodman Games adventure The Portal Under the Stars first. I've given my opinion on their maps before and it should come to no surprise that I like their work. However, every map is something new to look at and has areas of strength and weakness. So with no further delay, let's take a look at this new map. With this kind of thing, seeing proof of work really helps to get a good understand of the product. If you are at all curious, I'd recommend taking a look at their free map as well. You'll need to enter your email to receive it though. Otherwise, their page has quite a few images of the map.
This map is really 2 maps connected via staircase. It's made up of 8 rooms, an entrance area and multiple connecting hallways. The end result is a map made up of 17 tiles, not including the one counter used for a statue. Seeing it assembled really helps bring the scale into perspective. It's not a small map. In particular, the starting area to the dungeon, the ending room and the gazing pool are standouts. The rooms I find myself liking the best are the ones with extra details such as lighting or special items. The final room in particular really looks great. Human shapes can be among the hardest to get right in that kind of situation and I think it nailed it.
Of course, the purpose of this map is to bring to life the Goodman Games adventure. In that regard, it does a very good job. The original adventure provided a drawn map but I really like the way it is brought to life here. Since the adventure is being sold, the addition of descriptions for each room are appreciated. That way the map has a life outside the adventure as well.
Typically Black Scroll Games maps come as a complete map set. Here it's no different. There are VTT files ready to go. There are poster and broken up versions of the map. There is an isometric view (I always liked this addition). There is a tactical map. There are also filters in the PDF to enable and disable grid lines. This last area is where I find an issue. There are a few cases where I think the grid line extends a bit too far, particularly on the gazing pool. It's not that noticeable but I really wish it wasn't the case. There many areas that don't use the lines at all because the stonework design makes them redundant as well. It's just a little thing that doesn't need to be there. Some areas really benefit from the grid lines so turning them off isn't a perfect solution either.
You can still get some mileage out of the map without the adventure. The second level could easily be reused as the resting place for an evil undead. And given how often that situation comes up in games I'm a part of or generally in the near vicinity of, I reckon that it makes it quite useful. The entrance is also easily reusable as is the gazing room. Really, almost all of the rooms can find a new home. The way the map is broken up means that there will often be pieces from other sections include in a tile. However, using the magic of scissors, this problem is easily ratified and allows for some clever reuse for your own games. Being that it has a few different paths and some very nice rooms, you can make use of what's here. It seems clear to me, however, that it wasn't the intention and more of a happy accident. The focus is still on bringing the original adventure to life.
I have a soft spot for the art style of Black Scroll Games tiles and the same style is applied here as their earlier work. The perspective gives a nice depth to the tiles and remind me of 3D printed tiles. There is also special attention paid to lighting, which enhances the effect. Together they give a good impression of depth. However, there is an astounding amount of extras that further show off the art. The isometric view is a nice addition and looks really good. It hits me right in the old CRPG nostalgia. The tactical map is also very nice to see. Really, I feel every map should have one of these. It makes planning things for the Dungeon Master so much easier. I could try describing it further but I really do think seeing some of the images(http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/219022/The-Portal-Under-The-Stars--Battlemap?manufacturers_id=7523) or their previous map(http://www.blackscrollsgames.com/#openModal) is the best way to understand.
Of course, to make full use of the map you'll need the adventure or the core rulebook which also includes the adventure. That's assuming you don't have the adventure from a Free RPG Day gone by. I'd recommend the full RPG book since it's a better value between the 2 and it also has a kind of important part: the rule system.
Black Scroll Games has quite a few other tile sets and maps at this point. Choosing this one over the will probably mean you want to run the deluxe version of the The Portal Under the Stars adventure. However, you may be tempted to buy a different one of their sets. In a way, you can reuse parts of the map for your own adventure. In another, it isn't as versatile as their Modular-Inn set which allows you to buy many different sets using their tiles. They are also the same price.
What I felt was Missing
They've included basically everything I could ask from them for this kind of product. The wide number of options is really impressive. VTT? Battlemap? Poster form? Cut up for 8.5”x11” paper? With grid lines and without? All are here. This is what I want to see in a map. That said, there is still one thing I would have liked to have added. One of the maps is full of statues but there is no marker or token for them like their is for a different statue in the encounter.
The digital map is available here for $7.95 USD. It costs $19.99 USD to get both the digital and printed map from the same link.
I'm beginning to feel that this is my standard response to Black Scroll Games maps and tiles, but they really are nice. Overall, I would say the set isn't as versatile as same other sets such as the Modular-Inn set I reviewed earlier but that's also not the point. This time the point is to create a beautiful map specifically for the adventure The Portal Under the Stars. In that goal I would say it succeeds, though with the blemish of grid lines that are slightly off in a few places. If you are after a nice map to run the adventure, this is for you. If you won't be getting this map I think it's because there are other maps that you want instead, and not because this isn't a good map. It also has to be noted that you will need to get the adventure separately.