Five installments so far, and we've yet to draw a single map. If you've followed this column, you know that we've already created lots of background details about our campaign world. In this installment and the next, we finally begin taking some of these concepts and turning them into a playable setting. Our first mission is to map the players' base of operations. (See Dragon Magazine issue #257 for details on selecting an appropriate base of operations.) Although many DMs begin mapping their gameworlds on a larger scale and slowly work their way down to more detailed local maps, it's much easier and more efficient to go in the opposite direction. Remember that the First Rule of Dungeoncraft: Create only those details that are immediately useful. It's unlikely that you'll need large-scale maps of your campaign environment for quite some time. The players' local base of operations, on the other hand, is likely to serve as the setting for the bulk of play throughout your first several game sessions. Although the players are unlikely to embark upon adventures within their home base, the details you lavish upon the area establish the tone of the campaign and prepare the players for the challenges they'll face later.
Before we get started, let's briefly recap the role the players' home base will play in the campaign. Once play begins, we're going to subject the heroes to all sorts of trials and tribulations, pushing them to their limits whenever we can since a fast, perilous pace makes for fun gameplay. Occasionally, though, the players need to escape to some safe haven to divvy up treasure and plot strategy. From time to time, they'll need to purchase new equipment, heal their wounds, experiment with new magical items, and perform all sorts of other mundane but useful tasks. Over time, these tasks provide a welcome change of pace from the rigors of the wild and woolly campaign. That's where the home base comes into play. An effective base serves as a safe, civilized haven for the players and houses the infrastructure they need to carry out their various administrative errands.
Effective bases tend to have the following features:
A Local Authority
Remember that the base is supposed to give the players a sense of security. Usually, this means that the base is home to some sort of constabulary or military formation, and this in turn implies that the base is under the command of a local authority. The presence of these forces assures the PCs that their enemies can't easily pursue them and kill them as they sleep. Note that the forces present need not be formidable-a simple detachment of thirty to forty soldiers (0 level) is sufficient. The authority who oversees these forces is typically a minor noble or civil servant. For the purpose of drawing maps, the authority and his troops call for the presence of the appropriate quarters and barracks, which should be on high ground or otherwise defensively placed.
Don't forget that societies have alignments, just like individual characters. (See the Dungeon Master Guide.) To foster the players' sense of security, it's probably best if the society inhabiting the base of operations is Lawfully aligned. One of the key functions of the local authority is to enforce and maintain this order. As you create the local authority, think about whether the local code of conduct includes any unusual laws or provisions. You should also plan on incorporating some sort of stockade or jail into your base map. After all, it's difficult to enforce laws if there is nowhere to house lawbreakers.
In the campaign developing in these pages, the players' base of operations is a forest stronghold known as Ironoak. The local authority is a minor noble named Richard who holds the title Warden of the Black Wood. Ironoak was built along the edge of a vast forest wilderness (the Black Wood) to protect the civilized kingdom of Umbria against incursion. Because this mission is so critical, Richard has complete and unquestioned authority within Ironoak and its environs; his role is essentially that of an old west sheriff in a frontier town. Fortunately, Richard and the society he represents are both Lawful Good. Richard has thirty-five men-at-arms and sixteen archers at his disposal. Because Ironoak is a forest stronghold, I've decided upon an interesting provision in the code of conduct that he upholds. Fearful of devastating forest fires, during the summer dry season Richard has ruled that leaving an open flame unattended in or around Ironoak is a serious offense that deserves brief imprisonment in the stronghold's stockade. This also gives me the idea to plan on incorporating some sort of central fire alarm (such as a bell or gong) into the Ironoak map.
In addition to the soldiers, it's a good idea to have a handful of common townsfolk around. Don't worry about giving them all names and statistics; that won't be necessary. In this case, inventing too many details can actually prove harmful. The main reason to establish the players' base of operations in a populated area is to provide a handy mechanism you can later use to insert useful NPCs into the game. When you get around to creating adventures and dealing with the whims of your players, you'll find it's often necessary to introduce new nonplayer characters into the campaign. Suppose, for instance, that you come up with a concept for an adventure that revolves around an aging ex-soldier who hires the players to accompany him on a mysterious mission to meet an old battlefield enemy. Now you need a nearby aging soldier. Similarly, what if the players decide to seek out an expert on ancient lore to help them translate some elder runes? Now you need a nearby sage. A vaguely defined population in the vicinity of your base of operations allows you to introduce new nonplayer characters as they are needed; they've always lived "on the other side of town" and just haven't yet encountered the players.
When it comes to drawing maps, all these townspeople require houses and hovels in which to live. One important note to keep in mind is that the residents of genuine medieval villages tended to crowd many more people into a single dwelling than we do today, with ten or twelve largish buildings usually providing more than enough shelter for anywhere from fifty to one hundred residents. Of course, nothing requires you to design your fantasy villages according to this principle, though it's certainly something to consider. As you're preparing your base map, also think about what the townsfolk do for a living; perhaps this industry requires other structures and dwellings. A town full of shopkeepers, for instance, means that there are plenty of shops around, as well as the infrastructure necessary to allow for the easy importation of goods (i.e., facilities to quarter merchant caravans, warehouses, etc).
I envision Ironoak housing between seventy-five and one hundred townsfolk. Most of these people live in multiple-family treehouses, so I'm assuming that there are between twenty and thirty total dwellings. Most of Ironoak's residents earn their keep in the surrounding forest as trappers and hunters, though several operate market stalls catering to the steady stream of merchants and adventurers who pass through the frontier stronghold. All of this suggests to me that the Ironoak map should feature an unusual number of inns (say, three) for an outpost of its size to cater to the adventurers and merchants.
Because the PCs will eventually need to upgrade their equipment and purchase various supplies, your base of operations should feature all the shops and merchants necessary to meet their needs. This does not mean that you should offer all of the items listed in the Player's Handbook for sale in the immediate area. You want to leave some items, particularly some of the more expensive pieces, unavailable for the time being. Later, when the players can afford these items, the fact that they must seek them elsewhere can serve as a useful springboard for an adventure or two. Suppose, for example, that horses are unavailable in the base of operations. When the players are ready to purchase mounts, they must travel to the nearest larger town or city, giving you a great opportunity to make their voyage a bit dangerous and exciting. For now, simply make a list of those items that are definitely not available in or around the base. You should also think about how many total shops are present and which shops sell which goods. Since it's generally easier to deal with a fewer number of buildings, try thinking in terms of larger general shops that sell many different categories of goods rather than smaller specialty shops that sell only one or two items. Alternatively, you can go with one or two large marketplaces that house many small, specialized vendors.
The following items are normally not available in Ironoak: any sort of expensive clothing, any kind of animals (including horses), any sort of transport, spyglasses, water clocks, arquebuses, composite bows, hand crossbows, lances, khopeshes, scimitars, and any armor better than chainmail. I'm going to presume that most of the other items listed in the Player's Handbook are available somewhere in the stronghold, though I won't rule out the possibility of excluding other items on a case-by-case basis later. Although a small smithy is the only real shop in Ironoak, the stronghold is home to a large market that features several dozen specialized stalls and tables. The regular vendors who operate in this market are sometimes temporarily joined by merchants passing through the stronghold, some of whom occasionally offer the items not normally available for sale.
You should definitely think about incorporating a temple or two into your base of operations. Not only does it give Clerics and Specialty Priests a place to pray, it also gives your adventurers somewhere they can turn to receive the higher order healing spells and cures early in the campaign, before the PC Priests are capable of casting such spells themselves. Of course, the NPC Clerics who run the temple will expect a donation in exchange for their services. (See Chapter 12 of the Dungeon Master Guide.) A good rule of thumb is to place the temple in your base of operations under the aegis of a 7th-level NPC Priest. This gives the players indirect access to all Priest spells up to the 4th level, including: cure light wounds, detect poison, cure blindness, cure disease, remove curse, cure serious wounds, and neutralize poison. Making these services available to the players will give you much greater freedom when it comes time to select monsters and adversaries to place in your adventures.
If you read the column on AD&D game world religions (see Dragon Magazine #258), you should already know something about the nature of religion and temples in your fantasy world. You may want to review those notes now to give you a better idea of how one of your temples might appear on a map. Are all your temples located in forested groves? If so, such a grove must exist in or around your base of operations. Are your temples surrounded by large colonnades? If so, you should plan on allocating more map space.
Ironoak boasts a small temple dedicated to the sect known as the "Children of Aris." The temple occupies yet another treehouse, and it boasts, among other things, a large library of ancient writings and scrolls. This library will make an excellent source of arcane information for the player adventurers, and the master of the temple also acts as a sage with fields of study in history, folklore, and religion. (See Chapter 12 of the Dungeon Master Guide; I'll consider his temple library "Partial" for the purposes of Table 62.) Of course, the temple master expects compensation for his services, just like any other sage.
This is no more than a matter of personal taste, but I like to place something "fantastic" in all the towns and villages I create for my AD&D games. This element immediately signals to the players that they are not in the real world and gives them an idea of what they can expect. Flip through the Monstrous Manual book. Perhaps one or more of its denizens are active in your base or village-maybe the local innkeeper keeps a mischievous leprechaun trapped in a cage behind the bar, or perhaps a centaur serves as a special scout and advisor to the local authority. Similarly, you might think about whether any demi-humans are active in the base and what sort of role they play in the local society. Other good sources of ideas for workable fantastic elements include the various spell and magical item descriptions, children's books, and even modern buildings and cities. As an example of the latter, since Ironoak is suspended in the treetops, I think a large, ornately carved wooden elevator that moves people and items from the ground up to the trees sounds like a lot of fun. The elevator operates via a complex series of winches and pulleys; it's cranked between treetop and ground level by a contingent of Richard's troops who act as watchmen.
That should be enough to get you started. Next month, we'll take a look at a couple of additional characteristics of effective home bases and explore strategies for actually drawing the map!