ARIS Pro-tip: Don’t drag items to the map

Beginners understandably drag their items onto the map to create locations where players can get them. But this isn’t how pros do it (okay maybe just me).

Instead of item —–> map, make a plaque too. Then plaque —-> map, and edit the plaque to give out the item to the player.


  1. Confusion. Easily one of the top 5 confusions for new authors is what happens when you play test a game with items on the map is that you end up picking up all the items. Then you’re like “Where’d my locations go? I remember putting the items there on the map, and they used to be there. This ARIS stuff makes no sense!” – Very frustrating.
  2. Player interaction is simpler. Instead of a pickup screen and then another screen where the player chooses how much to pick up (and currently a third screen the player needs to exit to get back to the map), a plaque is just “tap to continue” and you’re done. And the author gets to choose how many of an item the player gets.
  3. Flexibility. Often I will later decide I need to give out many things at one place, or set up some give and take (like purchasing an item with money). If you have a plaque, it’s a simple matter of adding a new entry to the exchange table. With items on the map you have to muck about with a bunch of stuff on the map, and worrying about stacking the order. It just doesn’t work well.


Even though this is the way to do it in >95% of cases, there are specific circumstances where this is not the case and you should put items directly on the map. They include:

  • If you need to manage scarcity/quantity of those items for all players in a static way for a multiplayer game. Think a single key that everyone is racing to get first. With an item on the map, there can be exactly one key that’s gone when it’s gone.
  • If you are interested in something with multiple items at the same location or a complicated interaction with getting and losing items, you might consider a character instead of plaques.