Slightly Modifying My Wilderness Maping Style

Howdy! Please forgive my free-writing: I’ve got some pretty involved prepwork going on, typically I try to blog through it, but my mind is occupied, so I think that I’ll incorporate it this week. I am trying something different, yet not really. My last two games haven’t really been up to the standards that I really want them to be, so at its heart, I am stripping the game back down to its very basics, and designing a more traditional AD&D game. The group decided to go to Switzerland, so we’ll be tying up some loose ends, and then disappearing into the Alps, which is a great place to have a nice normal game.

I did some research online and found three potentially good spots to focus on, and finally narrowed it down to just one. We’ll be in really harsh mountains, so I’ll have a bit more control over movement, my wilderness map is not all that accurate, it is but it isn’t. I looked over the google maps for major things, which I marked on my hex map, and then just started filling stuff in. Typicallly with mountains, I’ll just draw them in, ignoring the hexs, but since the entire map is nothing but mountain terrain, that is kind of pointless, and I did want to take the play style back to an older OD&D style, so with the exception of rivers and roads, I marked hexagons individually. Now, the cool thing about these wilderness maps is that you can get a ton of play out of them.

I know that a lot of DMs share their maps with the players, I am not in this camp. If they want a map, then they have to make it, if I want to be nice, then I’ll aid them, but I don’t want them to see my map as it is full of secrets. This one, even more so, because the characters have never been to this territory, they have no idea what is there. They know to follow a trail, and they’ll arrive at a village, I can mark that, and I’ll mark the peaks that they can see in the distance . . . maybe. I’ve still got to figure out what they’ll see.

For this map I’ve done something new, I’ve added secret places all over the map, if the players enter them they will set them off. Some are good, others are bad. We’ll be using random encounters, but there are some places where the encounter is forced, there is also places were food is easy to get, I’ve hidden treasure spots, and I am also trying a brand new thing. When I was a kid I had this cool board game called Fireball Island, which I loved! They had these caves scattered around the island and when you went into one you rolled the dice and it would warp you around the board, I kind of like the idea, so I’m going to incorporate it into this map just to play test it. It’s a maze down there and I’m not really worried about actually playing in them, I’ve decided that the players will roll to decide which cave they go to, and roll again to see how many days it takes to get there. It could take them 1 day to travel all the way across the map, or it could take two weeks and they find themselves back in the cave that they entered in the first place. I’ve still got to figure out how we’ll calculate movement, I know that for the most part, it will be slow and grueling.

I’ve got my basic map done, though I am still fine tuning it. This will be a very old-school game of find the dungeon, but there are things to find out there besides just it. I still have a lot to do, I’ve got to create my random encounters lists, draw up my dungeon maps, complete stat blocks, and figure out some side quest stories if they want to follow them.

I’ve done this before, and once you are finished with all of the prep, the game is a lot of fun to play and you can have multiple sessions with just the work that you have. I also, hopefully, figured out how to stump a player, he is very good at looking at a blank map and picking out where features are located. I tend to put things were they are aesthetically pleasing to me, or in a spot that is logical, and he gets it every time, this time I did not. It won’t be impossible to find, but I am hoping that I get him to do some work for it this time.  I’m excited! I just love the way that D&D allows us to enter a drawing, how the creativity flows and you get all of these fun ideas while you’re working. I’ve got a good feeling about this one! Sandboxes, once you figure them out, are a lot of fun; not to mention save you a ton of money because who needs modules when you can get so much out of a single sheet wilderness map?


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