Multi-level dungeon rooms suggest a grand scale that adds a touch of wonder. They reveal options to go higher or descend deeper, and those paths create an exciting sense of possibility. Just add monsters for dynamic battles where combatants leap, fly, and misty step between levels aiming for advantage.
So this map for the climactic encounter of Waterdeep: Dragon Heist promises a thrilling showdown.
At least that’s the goal, but I know from experience that drawing two levels side-by-side on a flat battle map typically leads to players choosing the least confusing tactic of standing still. Even when character’s do move, the extra explanation needed for everyone to understand their positions in the dynamic scene drags the game’s pace and can make everyone wish for a plain 20×20 room.So for Waterdeep: Dragon Heist, I stood a Lucite sheet from the home store on a few blocks from the toy box, cut some holes in the paper maps I would have drawn anyway, and created a 3D battlemap with almost no extra effort. Clarity replaced confusion. Plus the extra real-world dimension added drama and excitement that made the battle feel extraordinary.
The trick’s success led me to repeat it for a battle in Dragon of Icespire Peak. This time, the same setup proved a little unstable, with players jarring the support blocks. Nonetheless, for my one-shot adventure Curse of Vecna, I decided to improve the setup and stage the climactic encounter on two levels.For stability, my new setup uses a pair of transparent display risers to support the upper tier. Setting the risers on their sides in a c shape rather than the usual n shape meant I could place the lower map between the pair. These stands make reaching the lower level a bit harder, but they stay in place.
For portability, I skipped the window-sized sheet from the building store that I used for Dragon Heist. Instead, I used a pair of letter-sized transparent tiles clipped together with binder clips. My tiles came from a Gaming Paper Kickstarter, but you can get similar tiles from other sources.
The top-level maps include holes cut to show openings in the upper-level floor. For another special effect, I stacked a series of maps with growing holes. This let me remove the top map to have the floor collapse in stages as the battle progressed.