Many older RPGs expected the player to create a real-life map on a piece of graph paper to navigate mazes. The Wizardry series is probably the most prominent, but skill is needed for several Gold Box games (e.g. Pool of Radiance), the Dark Heart of Uukrul, and many others from the era.

Without knowing the size of the floor (or where you are on it), you risk physically starting your mapping too close to the edge of the paper and running out of room. This can lead to a lot of trial-error, erasing, and re-mapping. In some cases, the map may not even fit on a piece of graph paper (such as the Dark Heart of Uukrul).

What are some techniques for working around this problem (until you can hopefully figure out the dimensions of the floor/area)?

  • 1
    I'm not familiar with older RPGs like you describe, but a potential solution would be maintaining a digital map similar to the Etrian series of games.
    – two bugs
    May 12, 2015 at 16:14
  • Etrian Odyssey is in the same ilk as the games I'm talking about. Of course, the older games don't have a build-in mapping feature like EO. If you had some digital mapping suggestions, I think that might make an interesting answer. (I'm somewhat anti digital mapping though--part of the experience of older RPGs is getting out the paper and doing it like a real-life explorer) May 12, 2015 at 17:18
  • 1
    Attach more pieces of paper using tape!
    – Pyritie
    May 13, 2015 at 9:05
  • 1
    @Pyritie, I've done that more than once when I knew up-front the map would be big (Uncharted Waters on NES immediately comes to mind) May 13, 2015 at 12:37

1 Answer 1


Knowing the size of the floor doesn't really matter, unless it's so small you can guarantee that starting in the center will still make sure you have enough room. In which case, start in the center!

What really matters is how big it is. Some games, like the Bard's Tale series, had spells like Scry Site which showed you your grid coordinates. Absent something like that which gives you your current position, if you're going with physical paper, you don't have much option other than to notate when you hit the edge of the paper and continue on a new sheet.

I would typically do that by leaving the outer-edge lines of squares on the piece of graph paper empty so that I could put notes about where they joined up with other sheets. So if I'm mapping level 1 of the sewers and have a hallway running right off the side of a piece of paper, I might notate on the last grid square "S1-A" to denote that it is "Sewers level 1 exit a" and then on my new sheet of paper, I'd put an entry point on the left side and name it "S1-A" so I'd know where it joins up.

Later, you can redraw your maps with your newfound knowledge of their overall size, or you can just lay the different pieces of paper next to each other. You can even get fancy with scissors and tape if you want.

That said, short of a game like Bard's Tale that gives you the tools to make mapping a little easier (where all maps were 22x22, and they gave you a spell to figure out your position), I'd go with a digital option like originaluser suggested in the comments if you're intent on discovering and mapping everything out yourself.

Given that most of these old games probably have maps on the Internet at this point, a good compromise might be to pull up the map when you get to a new area, find your starting position, figure out where it is relative to the whole map size, and then start your own map there. Sure, you're cheating a little by looking at the online map, but if you're not starting at the map too hard you probably won't have much given away other than which corner of the dungeon you're starting in, which is the very piece of information you were hoping to obtain.


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