by Mike Shea on 3 March 2014
Pre-published fantasy battle maps are an indispensable aid for the Lazy Dungeon Master. While Wizards of the Coast slowed down on publishing encounter maps, Paizo continues to publish excellent high-quality laminated battle maps that can serve you for years to come.
Paizo Flip Mats are a great staple for any fantasy RPG whether it's any variant of Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or 13th Age. These maps are relatively cheap, light weight, easy to set up, and look great. They're a wonderful tool to keep on hand when you have no idea where the PCs might go. Good flip mats can also inspire us, helping plant the seed for exciting encounters in any given adventure.
With a lot of different maps available, it can be hard to know which flip mats you might want. Today we're going to look at the best Paizo flip mats currently in print to add to your collection.
Basic Terrain Multi-Pack. This first one is going to seem like a copout right out of the gate, but it really is the first set of mats one should get. The multi-pack comes with four blank maps, each focused on a particular land type including overland, underground, street, and water. The overland and underground, in particular, is the most useful and versatile map you're likely to have and the perfect mat to stick into your walkaway kit. If you can have no other set of mats, this is the set to get.
Thornkeep Dungeon Two-Pack. This is another double-map pack containing four total maps of the dungeon of Thornkeep. Each of these mats displays a good versatile dungeon floor with a lot of interesting rooms and nice details. The variety of layouts means your players won't tire of them too quickly since they aren't likely to see the same layout more than a handful of times over the years. Though well detailed, these maps are generic enough to use for a wide range of different dungeon types. It's a great set of maps to have in your collection.
If you're looking to add a few more dungeon maps to your collection, the Haunted Dungeon and Ancient Dungeon maps are excellent and worthy of your collection. The Arcane Dungeon map isn't nearly as versatile and useful with too much focus on specific strange colored terrain bits.
Deep Forest. Though not quite as good as the out-of-print Swamp map, the Deep Forest mat has some excellent overland environments for your encounters in nature. The river map in particular can fit many potential situations. Encounters in the forest are a staple in just about any fantasy RPG so a map like this is always worth having on hand.
Watch Station. This map pack contains two versatile maps usable for two different situations. One side has a map for a good solid fortification complete with a main building, barracks, and a stable. Many different adversaries or villains might call this keep home. The flip side has a series of underground chambers and a sewer entrance. Entry through a sewer often comes up so having at least one good sewer map will likely prove useful.
Desert. You may not run into the situation often, but if you ever thing you're PCs might wander into a desert, these are the maps to have. While one side has a very remarkable tomb entrance. The other side has a nice generic oasis usable for just about any desert encounter. It's the perfect map for a Dark Sun or Desert of Desolation game.
Pathfinder Lodge. Perfect for a high-end mansion or even potentially haunted mansion, the Pathfinder Lodge is an excellent staple for your typical hobo home invasions undertaken by the PCs. Each side represents one floor of the mansion, making it easy to build your adventures around the mansion's many rooms. Though not quite as versatile as forest or desert maps, you'll be happy to have this one when you need it.
Flip mats like these are an excellent investment for the Lazy Dungeon Master. They give you a lot of freedom to let your game go in a variety of directions while making it easy for you to set them up and build a beautiful encounter area for your game. Give them a look.