Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"The Wilderness Architect", Parts 1 and 2

Contained in issues of two and three of Fight On! magazine "The Wilderness Architect" is something I've never really looked at before. That is until yesterday. Written by Victor Raymond and inspired by a series of articles of the same name published in White Dwarf #25-27, these two articles give instructions for randomly generating a robust and compelling wilderness map for use in the original Dungeons and Dragons game.

For those of your at home interested, but done have a copy of Fight On!, check out an earlier version at the OD&D 74 Discussion forum.

Drawn and generated by Victor Raymond

First, an interlude. Wilderness mapping (and mapping in general) is something I've been quite poor at. Overly critical of my work, any hint of a problem in intelligence deign has always been a nag in the back of my head.  While not always a major problem, I have given up many of project for this very reason.

Over the last couple of years, since discovering the plethora of Old School blogs and other resources on the net, I have found a decent solution to this problem: random generation. Yet when it comes to mapping, I have been dissatisfied with any methods I have designed previously. Victor's article manages to correct these mistakes, however, and breathe new life into any wilderness region.


What's most intriguing about "The Wilderness Architect" is that the terrain generation of individual hexes is based on the hex before it. On the d6 table, five of the six results are related to the last, such as (3) "Terrain stays the same as the previous hex", and (4) "Even chance of adjacent terrain types" (Fight On! #2, page 56) This makes mapping more unified, with groupings of forests and grasslands that resemble designed maps, but are much more organic and inspiring.

My one issue with terrain generation is that large bodies of standing water are much to prevalent when creating a large map and tends to create too many inland seas for my liking. One or two is fine, but in my test run of the "The Wilderness Architect" I find myself 'cheat' and rerolling a fair number of water hexes.

After generating terrain, comes the town or stronghold. Using and combining with the Dungeons and Dragons rules from Men &Magic and Underworld and Wilderness Adventures, Victory creates a series of tables and guidelines for creating areas of civilization within the generated wilderness, including number of inhabitants, surrounding villages, as well as the location of the local (mega) dungeon.

High and mid level characters will control only castes and strongholds as per OD&D, but towns and cities as well. Instead of rolling for just one high level character in cities and towns, Raymond suggests generating a greater number of mid-level characters. If the town or city also contains a castle, roll for the castles inhabitants as well. Finally, civilized areas may also contain a mid to high level thief, depending on the size of the area: 10% in a small town, 25% in a large town, and 50% in a city.


Through these tables and excellent advice, the world is given a real sense of character. There are large forests, sweeping grasslands, areas of massive deserts, etc., but with a good amount of rhyme and just enough reason. While I will be modifying these tables slightly for my Elsys campaign setting, they are an excellent basis for any aspiring referee.

Parts two and three form the third issue Fight On! tackle the more intimate details of the civilized lands, relationships within the kingdom, and the areas of vast wilderness beyond.


  1. In my opinion, this pair of articles is one of the best things to have come out of the OSR. It's that good.

    If you are using the dependent hex terrain generator, be sure to go in a spiral out from the seed hex rather than in columns. It generates a much more attractive map, in my experience.

  2. That's what I did. I'll actually just scan pretty soon and you can take a look.