In this month's installment, we continue the discussion of wilderness maps begun last issue. Then we'll sketch out a wilderness map, depicting the areas the players will explore over the first few months of the campaign.
Last month, we left off by identifying the characteristics of a good, useful local wilderness map. This time, we'll look at four more important elements to consider when constructing a good local area map. Before continuing, however, remember the first three steps described last issue:
Start With the Familiar
Include the Unknown
Plan Ahead for Adventures
4. Integration of the Local Economy
Presumably, the citizens of your make-believe cities and villages must somehow find food, clothing, and shelter. This means they must have direct access to these necessities or access to skills or resources they can trade for the necessities. Obviously, the manner in which you solve this problem can and should have a tremendous impact on your area map.
Because food transportation and preservation technology is relatively unsophisticated in the typical AD&D world, most populations should have direct access to a food source capable of supplying at least half the food needed to sustain the population-and usually quite a bit more than that. Food might be secured by hunting, herding, foraging (harvesting wild nuts, berries and fruit), or agriculture. Hunting obviously implies that plenty of wild game lives in the area. Herding implies that there are ample and convenient grazing lands somewhere on the map. Agriculture implies the presence of farmlands and water sources. Once you've figured out where the food comes from, don't forget to give some thought to how it is distributed. Do the villagers feed upon grain grown by farmers who live in the fertile valley on the village's outskirts? If so, there is probably a trail leading from the village into the valley and one or two checkpoints along that trail to provide protection.
Anything the population needs and can't supply for itself (additional food, building materials, goods) must be secured through trade. Think about what it is that your local population typically offers in exchange for these necessities. Do your villagers work a mine in the area and trade ores for the other goods they need to survive? Do the villagers produce excess food they can trade? Are the villagers skilled craftsmen who can trade their services? If your society relies upon trade for a number of the necessities, the placement of trade routes on your area map is obviously very important.
While answering these questions can give you important insights into how to construct your area map, at this stage you don't want to spend a lot of time devising a complex treatise on the local economy. Don't forget the First Rule of Dungeoncraft! Your goal is to generate some ideas for your local area map and a few scant details you can use to help explain the area to the players. You can work out all the specific whys and wherefores of the economy later, if and when they become relevant.
The Ironoak area map depicts only two civilized populated areas: the Ironoak stronghold itself and a small town located a couple days' travel from the stronghold. The stronghold's economy is somewhat unusual in that the fort and many of its inhabitants (the various soldiers and such) are entirely funded and supported by the nearby kingdom of Umbria. Ironoak plays an important role in Umbria's defense and the kingdom dispatches regular caravans to the stronghold to guarantee that the soldiers have everything they need. Basically, the soldiers are trading a service (their skill at arms) for all their necessities. Ironoak is also home to a number of small shops and businesses that cater to the many merchants and travelers who stop at the stronghold on their way to the frontier. Most of the food consumed in Ironoak consists of imported grain and salted meats, though the local innkeepers supplement their menus with live game from the surrounding forests. All of these things suggest that important, well-defended trade routes lead in and out of the stronghold.
As for the nearby town, the bulk of its inhabitants trade a combination of resources and services. The town, called "Redheath," is known throughout all of Umbria as home to the finest armorers, weaponsmiths and blacksmiths in the kingdom. It's built upon a series of flat, stony plateaus in the midst of the great forest. At the base of these plateaus lies the entrance to a rich iron mine. Hundreds of travelers, adventurers and merchants from all over Umbria visit Redheath each year with new challenges for its highly skilled laborers. Those inhabitants of the town who are not involved in the smithing or mining operate businesses that cater to these visitors.
One peculiar feature of the Ironoak map is the complete absence of farmland. Those of you who have followed this column over the past year might remember that the Aris campaign is set on a dense forest world. Lands well suited to cultivation are scarce, forcing most of the inhabitants of the world to rely upon imported foodstuffs. This makes the supply lines between settlements particularly important. Wars on Aris are usually won by blocking the enemy's supply routes and cutting off their access to food.
5. Monster Lairs
It's difficult to imagine an AD&D game world that isn't populated by a wide variety of monsters. Obviously, all of those monsters have to live somewhere. The first thing to understand about placing monster lairs on your area map is that it isn't necessary to determine every single monster that lives on the map before beginning play; in fact, it's a bad idea. Later, as the campaign progresses, you'll have all sorts of ideas for adventures, some of which may depend upon the presence of specific monsters. Unless you leave your map somewhat vague, giving yourself the ability to introduce new monsters in previously unexplored areas when necessary, you'll find it difficult to run these adventures. For now, you should concentrate on placing just a few, major monster lairs in the area. The general presence of most of these monsters is probably known to many of the region's inhabitants, though the specific locations of the lairs and the exact nature of the creatures in question may well be a mystery. In other words, if an owlbear lives in the vicinity, the locals might be aware of a terrible beast that lives in the woods and a rash of disappearances attributed to the beast, but they probably don't know exactly where the beast lives or what sort of beast they're dealing with.
For a map the size we've been discussing, try to identify three to five major monster lairs. Since this area is intended to serve as the starting point for your campaign, most of the monsters you select should have seven or fewer Hit Dice, although it's okay to toss in one or two more powerful monsters, as long as they're fairly isolated from most of the area's inhabitants. You should definitely select these monsters before you start drawing the map. That way, you can make sure that each creature's special terrain needs are reflected in your drawing.
As you select the monsters, take a few moments to think about the role each might play in the campaign and what the local inhabitants know about the creature. Is the monster a predator who sometimes preys upon the local population? A highly intelligent creature that is carrying out some sort of fiendish plot? An ally to a local noble or government? Also, don't forget that not all monsters are evil. You might want to place at least one good monster in your campaign area to assist the players in the their adventures. Once you come up with a few details about each of your major monsters, if one or more of them appear to be particularly important to your campaign environment, don't forget the Second Rule of Dungeoncraft. Each particularly important creature deserves its own secret.
When it comes time to place the lairs on your map, take advantage of the opportunity to plot as much useful information about the creature as possible. If the creature is a predator, for instance, you might draw a dotted circle around its lair indicating the rough boundaries of its hunting ground. If the creature regularly travels or migrates, indicate its route(s) on the map. The real purpose of placing these lairs on the map in the first place is to provide you with inspiration for creating events and situations the players might encounter on their travels. Adding secondary details like these helps to accomplish that mission.
Suppose, for instance, that the adventurers are camped out at night, and that you've just rolled a random encounter. If you glance at your map and notice that the party has crossed into the hunting grounds of the owlbear you placed earlier. You now have all sorts of opportunities to spice up this encounter. Perhaps the players encounter the owlbear itself and realize after hearing its distinctive growl that they must be facing the terrible beast rumored to be hunting unlucky travelers from the nearby forest. Alternately, the players might encounter a merchant who was just chased off the trail by the owlbear, or a young man who managed to escape from the owlbear's lair and begs the players to return with him to save his sister, who is still in the beast's ghastly clutches.
Before deciding where to place your monster lairs, choose the monsters by browsing the Monstrous Manual tome. Depending on the nature of your campaign world, you might find different monsters more appropriate. For the Aris campaign, several choices appear in the "Monster Lairs of Ironoak" sidebar. Taking a look at the list, it looks like the kenku and the dryads are each worthy of a secret as per the Second Rule of Dungeoncraft. Let's say that the kenku who live near Ironoak are the only such creatures on Aris. They were hatched from jeweled eggs that a high-level thief once stole from the nest of a powerful owl spirit that lived on the Astral Plane. The priest who hatched the original kenku noticed that the "gems" stolen by the thief were actually eggs. Due to his respect for the sanctity of life in all its forms, he bought the eggs and hatched them. To make matters more interesting, the owl spirit originally laid the eggs to repay a debt to a powerful extradimensional entity. She meant to hatch the eggs, birthing the kenku as a race of servitors who could serve as the entity's heralds. Since the eggs were stolen before they hatched, though, she was forced to default on her debt. Now, almost two hundred years later, she still languishes in a gilded cage in the entity's palace. The kenku would give a great deal to learn the story of their birth, and once they learn, they will almost certainly mount an expedition to rescue their creator.
As for the dryads, an incredibly valuable diamond necklace was stolen from a noblewoman passing through Ironoak roughly two months before the campaign begins. When the noblewoman finally departed, she left the captain of her personal bodyguard at the stronghold to continue the effort to locate the thief and return her property. Unknown to everyone, the necklace was stolen by one of Ironoak's officers, a personal assistant to Tarrin (see Dragon Magazine #261). While out wandering the woods around the stronghold, the officer encountered one of the dryads and succumbed to her charm spell. He later stole the necklace and returned to present it to the dryad as a love offering. Now, months later, he continues to visit the dryad and uses whatever influence he has to stall the bodyguard's investigation. Ultimately, the players should stumble across this little mystery and investigate.
6. Hard-to-Reach Areas
A good map should tease the players and present them with hints of obvious challenges. You should strive to place two or three locations on your area map that are particularly hard to reach, preferably beyond the capabilities of the player characters as the campaign begins. Later, you can drop interesting hints about what the players might find in these areas, increasing the temptation to explore them. Over time, reaching the areas is likely to become a miniature puzzle that the players devote a lot of effort to solving, making sure they remain within the confines of this first map for as long as possible. The key is to make sure the players are not disappointed once they manage to get past the obstacles you put in their path. Fortunately, you'll have a long time to think about what might await them. There's no reason to figure out exactly what lies in your hard-to-reach areas just yet. Wait until the players are getting close to finally penetrating them.
There are many strategies you can employ to make an area hard to reach. An obvious possibility is to surround the locale with dangers that are beyond the adventurers' means to overcome. For instance, you might place a sacred canyon said to house the entrance to an ancient ruined city on your area map. The entrance to the canyon is guarded by two iron golems left by the former inhabitants of the ruined city to protect their secrets. Obviously, there's no way a party of 1st-level characters can deal with the golems, so it will take the players several months to penetrate the mystery. During this time, they'll have fun looking for alternate means of entering the canyon, exploring various magical means of sneaking past the golems and so forth, all while tackling other adventures they've stumbled across. Other means you can use to create hard to reach areas include: formidable terrain (unclimbable mountains), mazelike trails and even more "fantastic" barriers (such as mountain passes that open only when the correct password is spoken), or cities that magically appear only once every decade.
A couple of possibilities for hard to reach areas around Ironoak naturally suggest themselves. In an earlier installment, we considered a series of "wandering paths" that surround Ironoak (see Dragon Magazine #264). Many of the trees surrounding the paths are actually treants. As outsiders enter their wood, the treants move, subtly shifting the paths and leaving the outsiders hopelessly lost. Somewhere, in the middle of this wood, lies something incredible. To reach it, the players must learn that the treants exist and figure out how to deal with them. A second hard-to-reach area is suggested by the spider lair mentioned earlier in this column. Imagine a huge grove blanketed in thick, giant spider webs coated with sticky tree resin. Together these webs form a vast maze that's home to hundreds of giant spiders and other insects. Over time, we can spread some rumors about a fantastic treasure said to be lost somewhere in the webs. Although tackling so many giant spiders is well beyond the players means when the campaign begins, eventually they'll become powerful enough to make their way through the webs to uncover their secrets.
7. Clue Pointing to a Secret
Thanks to the Second Rule of Dungeoncraft you should already know lots of secrets about your game world. Secrets are useless, though, without the clues the players need to uncover them. Before you finish thinking about your area map, pull out the "deck of secrets" you should be keeping (see Dragon Magazine #259) and draw a card. Try to create a clue pointing to this secret and place it somewhere on your area map. If you're feeling particularly confident or have a particularly large deck, go ahead and pull two cards and try to cover them both.
The secret I've drawn is Tarrin's Wandering Hand (see Dragon Magazine #261). As you might recall, Tarrin, the captain of Ironoak's guard, cut off his own hand years ago to escape the effects of a hideous curse. Unknown to Tarrin, though, the hand is now a living being and has been slowly "crawling" its way across the countryside for several years, looking for him. An obvious clue I can plant on the map pointing toward this secret is the location where the amputation took place. Somewhere out in the woods, in a relatively civilized area, lies the bloodied rock upon which Tarrin did the deed.
With all this planning out of the way, we're finally ready to draw the map itself. Before you proceed you might want to re-read the general tips for drawing maps presented in Dragon Magazine #262.