Designing a Wilderness


1. Choose the Setting

Basic geography: Decide on the basic geography and climate of the region to be described: whether it primarily consists of mountains, forest, desert, etc. The size of the region should also be determined.

Milieu: At this stage, the nature of the milieu being detailed should also be considered: the general level of technology, availability of magic, presence of different monsters and intelligent races, and so on.

New campaigns: When starting a new campaign, it is recommended to begin by detailing a small, self-contained area that can be expanded upon over time.

2. Map the Region

Major terrain features: Using graph or hex paper, create a map of the wilderness area, marking on the major terrain features such as mountain ranges, rivers, seas, lakes, islands, forests, swamps, and so on. Real world maps may serve as inspiration as to the natural structure and relationship of terrain features.

Scale: Typically, a large scale map (24 miles per hex) is drawn first, followed by smaller scale maps (6 miles per hex) of certain areas, adding more detail.

3. Locate Human Realms

Mark the areas that are controlled by humans, bearing in mind the needs of human civilisation (rivers, farmland, etc.).

Government: Also note the ruler of each human-controlled area: a petty lord, a mighty king, a league of merchants, etc.

Base town (see step 5): Is typically placed in one of these regions.

4. Locate Non-Human Realms

Mark regions that are controlled by other intelligent species that exist in the setting (e.g. demihumans, monstrous races, and so on), taking their preferred environment and way of life into account.

Nomads: Some intelligent species may keep domains with well-defined boundaries while others may move around—hunting or raiding—within a more vaguely defined area.

Monsters: The territories of significant, non-intelligent monsters may also be marked on the map at this stage.

5. Place the Base Town

Locate a base town for player characters on the map, typically close to a river or road near the centre of the map. This is where play will begin. The guidelines to the right may be used to help flesh out the base town.

6. Place Dungeons

Place one or more dungeons on the map, somewhere in the vicinity of the base town.

Distance: Dungeons are normally located around a day’s journey from the base town—close enough that travel between the town and the dungeon is convenient, but not so close that the town is plagued by monsters from the dungeon.

7. Create Regional Encounter Tables

Standard tables: The standard encounter tables from a monster book may be suited to some areas of the campaign map.

Custom tables: For other areas, the referee may prefer to create new tables, with a selection of monsters customised to the area. Special encounter tables should take account of the intelligent and monstrous species marked on the map.