Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"The Wilderness Architect", Parts 3 and 4

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.

Parts 1 and 2 [link]
Scroll down for parts 3 and 4

Drawn and generated by Victor Raymond

Parts 3 and 4 of "The Wilderness Architect" described detailing the wilderness and civilized regions around the city and stronghold. These two are much denser than parts 1 and 2, and I will spending a little more time describing them and hopefully picking up on some of their interest.

Part 3: When creating a stronghold, the starting point is always the monetary investment, as such this is where Raymond begins part 3: with taxation. Based on an average annual venue of 10 gold coins per inhabitant from the town/stronghold and the surrounding villages, "The Wilderness Architect" instructs the referee to design the sites fortification as described in Underworld and Wilderness Adventures. Figuring out the costs of the walls, castle, etc. with 1 to 3 year's worth of taxation depending on the age and prosperity of the region.

After that, it's time to determine the presence of any other strongholds in each direction, typically between 1-5 and anywhere from 10 to 120 miles away. Raymond also discusses the placement of elven, dwarven, and halfling strongholds, but doesn't go into concerning their exact placement (as it would depend on the referee's particular map).

Part 3 continues with a table of encounters in civilized areas, where dangers are less, but opportunities to rob wealthy merchants and random nobles are never far off. While humans reside in towns and castles, various barbaric humanoids (including bandits, berserkers, and the like) may dwell in caves or even have strongholds, towns, and villages of their own out in the 'true' wilderness areas. While only a dozen or so monster are listed, it should be easy incorporate further monsters with the basis of detailes already laid out.

Then we come to actually placing things of interest and monsters in the wilderness. The gist of this section is to take every 20 by 20 mile area and roll for it like it's a dungeon room. Monsters would indicate some sort of lair, treasure indicating ruins (in which the treasure is stored and guarded), etc.

Finally, part 3 gives some information on a more top down, intelligence design sort of view on wilderness creation. I'm not terribly interested in that now, so I'll allow you to peruse it in your own time (because there's some good stuff in it, too.)

Part 4: The final section of "The Wilderness Architect" is all about making your wilderness come to life. The key here that Raymond expresses is not to let anything be ordinary. You haven't just entered into another plain, old forest, but one where roots are knotted and winds howl menacingly, swooping enough the brambles. Give specific places names, but not too many places. You don't need to name every mountain, but name a few. Don't have too many gorges, one is enough. Very terrain details and keep them unique (if possible).

Another way is to think about whose come before. Was there an ancient civilization once residing in these parts, or it is part of a loose confederacy of brigands? Have there been settlers sent this way? Adventurers? What information have they brought back - surely something must be know of what lies in each direction.

Raymond also suggests the use of weather and metaphor to create certain feelings. Types of weather for different seasons should be written up in generalities, while simple expressions of theme should be detailed as well.

"The Wilderness Architect" ends with the notion that, like in a dungeon, the players won't find everything: that's normal. That and it doesn't help to have everything happening at once, a few ongoing is enough - don't overdo it (certainly one of my personal difficulties).


And so ends my summary and thoughts on "The Wilderness Architect." I highly recommend checking it out, even if briefly. It's a wonderful piece of work that deserves recognition, but is hardly mentioned in discussion.

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