Hand-drawn game maps -or - Why does my hovel look like an igloo?

Way back in the computer game days of yore you usually got in your game box a decent manual and one or more floppy disks. What you didn’t get was in-game niceties we now take for granted like journals that automatically track conversations with NPCs and maps that fill out as you explore the world or sometimes even just a list of saved games.

With my trusty Commodore 64 I spent much of the mid to late 1980s plowing through Infocom’s text adventures (I knew I had made a successful move when the 1541 floppy drive started madly grinding away) and because these games were text, text and more text, if you wanted to map your adventure (and you did) you had to do it yourself.

Or order the Invisiclue book. Which I swear I only did once.

I kept nearly all of my maps in a sketchbook. I ended up doing a few sketches eventually but it’s more an Infocom map book than a sketchbook.

Here is the first map I made of Enchanter. To set the mood:

You stand at a point of decision on a road which makes a wide fork to the northeast and southeast, circling the base of the Lonely Mountain, which looms high overhead to the east. A very long and winding road starts here and stretches out of sight to the west through low, smoky hills.

Note the clumsy attempt at a ‘fancy’ font and the titular hovel which indeed bears a strong resemblance to an igloo.

Did anyone else make maps? Better yet, did anyone make them and keep them? I think half the enjoyment I got from these games was doodling the maps.

I’ll scan a few more and post them if there is interest.

That owns Ned. Yeah man I had graph paper and made maps for the Zorks, bards tale games, Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder games.

I made maps for Infocom games, but my god not as nice as that.

The most extensive mapping I did was for Bard’s Tale. All the maps were on a grid, and I had a piece of graph paper for each level as I went through. Then, I redrew all the maps I had (not all the way through - never finished the game) and put them in a labelled notebook. I had symbols marking different things on the map, and I think I had written down all the messages you saw, so it was footnoted as well.

Oh sweet Jebus Ned. I was expecting a standard grid paper map, you made Tolkien-esque Silmarillion class maps. I’m stunned.

That’s awesome, Mr. Ned. Please do post more.

Also, here’s a link to something cool on the front page.


Gold Box games were my grid paper map specials. Just pencil and some notes though.

I knew something had gone seriously wrong when I had to stick the THIRD piece of normal size graph paper together to continue making one of the early maps in Secret of the Silver Blades…

Curse of the Azure Bonds was fun to map.

I mapped every Infocom game (except Suspended because it came with its own map) but in the same way I can no longer understand how I was able to solve a Rubik’s cube in something like 30 seconds I mapped the entirety of Dungeon Master in my head. I could zip back and forth across every level without a misstep. Weird.

Tom, I had not seen the Wizard Wars story on the main page when last I looked (shamefully I do not check it daily). I’m sure I did some maps on graph paper. As I sort through more stuff for moving I may come across them.

The other map I have of Enchanter picks up from where the last one left off, inside the castle and its environs.

Of note here:

  • a list of save games because there was no such list in the game itself
  • a list of spells so I didn’t have to keep doing > read spell book

I like the turtle!

Also, apologies for the scan quality. I know my scanner isn’t super-deluxe but the scans are coming out worse than I’d expect.

Those are some great maps. It speaks volumes to the power of those early Infocom games that they were able to inspire you to do stuff like that!

Well, it’s also stickied at the top of this forum. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last eight months or so, it’s the most people on this forum are just here for, well, the forum.


I reckon one could start a blog just of pictures from people’s gaming notebooks. I know I made maps - but I bet they are all destroyed now. It would be great nostalgia site!

There’s probably a site like that already out there!

Tom, I check stickied threads in Games the same day they go up but Wizard Wars projected some kind of weird ‘generic name field’ that kept me from clicking the thread until today. Seriously, what kind of name is that? Well, if there are wizards and they war it is entirely accurate and descriptive but it’s perilously close to Guys Fighting.

Looking through the sketchbook more thoroughly, I’ve discovered pages of notes for Ultima IV (why I put them in the sketchbook I can’t say. I guess it became my all-purpose gaming notation thing) and piles of maps that are far more generic because the settings didn’t lend themselves to embellishment or I just got plain lazy.

But here’s a few more I liked.


Again I copy the box art font. The lighthouse looks like a salt shaker.

And a nigh-incomprehensible map from Zork. I had a lot more patience when I was younger.

This map from Infidel is notable in that I actually included the start and finish dates for the game. What a nerd! Also note the ASCII hieroglyphs. That was fun stuff to decipher.

Finally I presciently included 3D shading in my Spellbreaker map, anticipating the medium’s coming embrace of the third dimension! I never finished this game but every once in awhile I try again without any cheats or walkthroughs and am reduced to tears, leaving it unsolved evermore. Note the diabolical and frequent use of one way paths.

Or museum exhibit!

Mr. Ned, I didn’t mean to sound like I was calling you out. My bad. I was just speaking generally. Don’t mind me.

And, holy cats, those are fantastic! That first Cutthroat Island map and that Spellbreaker map are particularly awesome. How old were you?


The amazing thing is that when I see these maps, I remember playing the game - especially Enchanter. That maze in Zork was evil - knowing to drop items in rooms was the only way to truly map it.

The scan quality of the (awesome) maps seems fine, you may just have to mess with the levels/histogram in your preferred image editor to improve the contrast and get rid of the yellowing.


I’d like to claim I was a fantastically talented little kid. We had one in grade 2 – the only guy who could always color inside the lines and he picked his colors with an artist’s eye, not just ‘Well, Joey hasn’t eaten the purple crayon yet so I’ll use that one’. But I digress. I am almost Jeff Green old so the Infidel map in 1985 was a few years out of high school when I was 20.

I never finished the first Zork but I did map out the entire set of twisty passages (all alike). I played the Enchanter trilogy out of sequence, starting with Sorcerer, then Enchanter and finally the evil known as Spellbreaker. If I recall it’s because I could never find a local copy of Enchanter and ended up ordering it directly from Infocom.

Yeah, I’ll futz around with them and re-upload if I can get them looking better. It’s been awhile since I played around with the scanner.

EDIT: I seem to be having some success with getting cleaner images after re-scanning and twiddling all the knobs. I’ll try to upload the newer maps soonish.

Some very beautiful and elaborate maps here!

I created maps for Phantasy Star 1 which I played through as recently as last year but unfortunately I already throwed them away :(

Holy crap, those are amazing! I especially loved the Cutthroats, Infidel, and Spellbreaker maps. I really should dig through my old boxes and see if I have anything worth scanning in to share.

I know that auto-map is almost a must these days but it still feels like we’ve lost something…

That’s fantastic. Mine were all on grid paper and very simple, reflecting the medium.

Almost makes me reconsider the randomization I went with for my roguelike-in-progress - the obviously hand-designed layouts have a lot more personality.

The designer I’m collaborating with is totally into the hand-drawn flair, though. There is still hope where the drive for personality wins over the drive for content.

I would make such a site myself if I wasn’t a bit too busy with some other projects. Would be good to have the sort of site that anyone could submit a scan to - like … I dunno… the cheezeburger network. How does that work? Some kind of photoblogging thingumybobby.

My best map was an epic Might and Magic one drawn with colored pencil. I thought I was so on top of things, and later I found a friend had done pretty much the exact same map on his own.

I actually made a hand-drawn map last year for that horrible end-game maze in the original King’s Bounty.

Those are great Ned!