Maps overpowered, how do you reconcile fiction vs mechanics

This issue came up in our last game. The players have a map of a section of a fort that a group of bandits have fortified. They sneaked in at night and killed the tower sentry, a few others, took a hostage, and retreated to the hills. The next day, they want to use the map to “fast travel” over the walls (which they already navigated so no problem there) and get stationed back on top of a 1 story roof inside the walls. I ruled that since they generally left the place a bloody mess, that the bandits will have increased their sentries.

The problem arose when I asked them to make a scout test when approaching the fort to avoid being seen by the tower sentries. There was grumbling, followed by the roll, which lead to a twist (patrol finds them). That was the end of the session. Now we’re discussing the mechanics of Cartography and using maps. They want to be able to fast travel anywhere on the map without taking time or a test, like the rule book says.

I don’t like this interpretation of Cartography. I think that makes it far too powerful. I’ve ruled that Cartography will not require a test or time for anything regarding traveling. The party knew there were more bandits in the fort and saw smoke from a bonfire where they were burning their dead. So obviously there we’re bandits in the immediate proximity of the fort. If they had been able to fast travel to the specific location they wanted, they would have been right on top of them. Furthermore, they knew of the prison cell and crypts below the fort, so if they successfully mapped those locations, would they just be able to bypass all the bandits and teleport to the crypt?

The fiction trumps mechanics in my games and this needs reconciling. Was cartographer intended to allow people to bypass everything, or just features of the terrain/environment?

Still have to make tests if anything new arises. But as long as the route is clear, you don’t have to make a Pathfinder or Dungeoneer test to find your way there.

I agree with Jared. A map allows you to get from point A to point B without making a test for the path written on your map. If you navigated the traps, you can bypass them. If you leave an area that still has intelligent defenses then they will shore up for your return and change the state of the path you travel. Did your players set foot in the prison cell or crypt? Did they obtain a map showing the location of the cell or crypt? Did they hear about the locations from someone else? Those would all be factors to map the map. If they have the map then yes they could get there, but again, you have the liberty to oppose their path if you want to. The game fiction is a good reason to do so.

That said, don’t squash Cartographer either. Let the players “fast travel” if you don’t have a reason not to.

I think you handled the situation appropriately.

Yeah ok, I see the offending phrase, on page 137 under the Cartographer skill. “So long as you possess it [the map], have light to read it and you’re “on the map,”
you can describe a location on it and travel to said location without taking time or a test.”

By a super strict rules as written reading, you could take this to mean that it lets the PCs skip any test, Scout test included, and is basically teleportation.

Of course, any rational reading will conclude that the intent is for Cartographer to allow you to skip rolls to find the place again, not Zoidburg your way past guards. So either go with that and recognize that the rule isn’t super well worded, or comb through the rules for some other passage that contradicts it. Or just let Cartographer be the teleportation skill.

Hi collusioncola,

As the others have already noted, I think you handled it exactly right.