Cartographer: Roll to Read Interpretation

I love the philosophy behind Cartographer and I want to preserve that. I like that you get the sense of mapping out a complex without the pain of counting out grid lines.

I’ve always found the rule to be slightly ambiguous about how and when to roll, though. Do you roll when you’re making the map, or when you’re reading it? Does it take a check, or can you do it on the grind?

I’ve sought clarification on this (and would welcome more), and here are the answers I got: you keep a list of all locations. When you pass a Cartographer roll, some of those locations are added to the map. You can do this with a check or on the grind. You roll when updating the map.

My group likes to push the rule a lot, and get the most out of the opportunities granted by “fast travel” via the map. Of course, I occasionally invoke the change in circumstances.

Recently I’ve begun to think about making Cartography a “Roll to Fast Travel” – meaning that no roll is required to update the map. It’s assumed they make rudimentary map updates in camp. Whenever they want to go somewhere on the map, that’s when Cartographer is rolled. I suppose they could make a roll in camp to simply improve the map, which I would treat as supplies for a later test, and require a check to perform.

This method makes more sense than it might seem at first. The roll reflects all the various permutations of travel between any two points on the map. Even a well-used map may contain flaws that only come out in certain sections.

Is there anyone already doing it this way? Any rules-lawyers want to poke holes in it?

A bit more on the reasoning behind changing it:

It’s actually quite a bit of paperwork to keep the list of locations and note which are mapped and which are not.

Furthermore, the obvious twist outcome (getting lost) is often delayed until some later time defined by player decisions. I mean, I can say you mapped something wrong, but then I need to remember that in case you don’t return for three sessions. That’s a valid twist according to the rules, but it’s a pain in the ass, no?

If it’s a roll to read the map instead of drawing it, then suddenly a lot of complications disappear. You can now use cartographer on maps you found or were supplied with. The timing of twists from failed rolls is obvious. Players must strategically consider “fast travel” as a grind roll.

It’s a little too easy for me to come up with pros for this method. Any cons?

To me it makes mire sense if they are drawing a map at camp then actually on the adventure, in fact it seems like you definitely wouldn’t have the time on an adventure to make a map so I’ve always ruled it that you can only make maps in camp.

Me personally i like the idea that making the map and reading it is a seperate roll. If you have ever walked with a map you do realize how much skill there is to seeing which path is which, you can easily get lost even if you are on some sort of path especially if you are not totally sure of where your actually going.

I like to roll cartographer to make a map over the locations visited. If the players want to add locations later on, they make a new roll (with the old map as supplies, probably). This is done in camp. A map can only cover one “entity” (like a castle or a forest). I like this as it makes maps valuable artifacts, that can be bought, traded or stolen. Fast travel may sometimes also require another cartography test or a pathfinder test (pathfinders use maps as supplies!). This is somewhat arbitrary.

I wouldn’t make Fast Travel require another Cartography or Pathfinder test, unless something dramatic has changed (raging forest fire, earthquake). That’s the reason you make maps, to avoid those tests.

To clarify, with the suggested method Cartography would only be rolled when you tried to use it (i.e. read your map to fast travel).

We don’t know how good the map is until you try to use it, right?

I am suggesting this as an alternative based on gameplay. I know this is not how the rules were intended to work.