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Fantastic Maps: The Watchfire Keep $2.95
Publisher: Rite Publishing
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/02/2012 08:12:32

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The Watchfire Keep is a small keep on a beacon hill that originally appeared in the 18th issue of Kobold Quarterly. This huge map runs 25 inches by 33 inches when printed out, gives the GM roughly a half-acre fortification to play with. One winding path leads up to the hilltop enclosure which consists of two small thatched huts surrounded by seven towers connected by elevated walkways.

The Keep is presented in a couple formats. The main file is a 35 page PDF of the Keep in color and black & white, ready to print and assemble. This PDF is provided in US Letter size and A4 size. There are also “hi-res” .JPG files in color and black & white, with and without gridlines. To top things off the map is also provided for use with MapTools. There are four files that are set up for vision blocking for use with both a D&D 4E campaign and a “generic” RPG MapTools campaign.

There are a couple of interesting features to this map not commonly found in other similar map sets. Most maps are just full-color, because if you want to print the file on a black & white printer it is easy enough to do so. What Rite Publishing did that adds a lot of value to this map was that they offered the black & white version, which was optimized for printing. Simply taking the color file and printing it to black & white gives you a much darker and “muddied” print. Another distinction between the Watchfire Keep and many other maps is that the PDF printing contains some overlapping terrain between pages.

I thought this overlapping feature would be great for coming up with a finished map, but in practice it was much more difficult to piece together than I had expected. Instead of simply lining up the edges of each printed page I had to finesse the placement. In the end the map came out simply “OK”. With the addition of “hi-res” .JPG files, there is the option of having the entire map printed on a large-format printer. Printing the Black & White large map at a local printer is generally cheaper than printing off the PDF full color. The only problem with this route is that the “hi-res” maps are not hi-resolution. What Rite Publishing did was just take a full 8.5” x 11” .JPG and resize it to 100 DPI instead of 300 DPI. One of the files, the Black & White map without a grid, wasn’t even resized, so it was given as a letter-sized 300 DPI file. Changing the files to actual hi-resolution maps for large format printing would have added a little over 26 MB to the zipped file size.

When reviewing the files I also noticed that the US Letter-sized PDF was inserted into the zipped file twice.

Overall the Watchfire Keep is a good looking map that would work out well for use with MapTools or other virtual tabletop program. As far as using it with an actual tabletop RPG, between the low resolution files and having to fiddle with map tile placement, I would not recommend this map set unless you really needed this specific location. With a few easily accommodated tweaks from the publisher this game aid could become a great tool for the tabletop GM.

[3 of 5 Stars!]