Thursday, February 11, 2021

What to Include

 It's been a while since I've posted. Partly because I'm working on my next academic paper. Partly because there just hasn't been much gaming related stuff to write about. West Marches continues (with another casualty last session, and nearly a few more -- 5th level is still not invulnerable!). Star Wars is still on the back burner. I'm still futzing around with East Marches when I have some spare time. 

And that's where I get my topic today. For East Marches, I have a hex map with 120 keyed locations. The map is 22 by 34 hexes, so there are a total of 748 hexes. That means only 16% of the map will have something detailed in it. I hadn't planned it that way. When I was creating the map, I just started plopping down icons for caves, settlements, ruins, strongholds, holy sites, and special locations fairly randomly. That ended up being about one keyed location for every six hexes. And that leaves plenty of empty space for DMs who would want to add their own locations to the mix. 

Anyway, I've given a title to all 120 locations, and have some ideas and notes for a quarter of them so far, but the notes are still pretty general. And I'm thinking now is the time to map and stock these locations. Most will probably be of the "one page" or "5-room dungeon" type write-ups, with a few bigger locations here and there.

So, that brings me to the title of this blog post. What to include in each keyed location?

Obviously, some will be fairly traditional dungeons. They'll need a map, encounter area entries, monster stats, treasures, traps, hazards. 

Others are places that could be dungeons, or could be resources, like settlements. They need NPCs, lists of resources that PCs can access there, and of course stats for the residents and treasures, in case the PCs go murder-hobo on them. 

Finally, some are just odd locations. They may or may not need maps. They may or may not contain monsters, traps, or treasures. They're the grab bag of encounter areas. 

A few things I need to remember to include in each keyed area's description are: 

  • environmental features to make the area distinct
  • motivations for monsters and NPCs
  • interesting cartography for dungeons
  • contingency plans for the inhabitants
  • connections to other locations on the map

The last one is, I think, the most important. For a wilderness crawl, there should be plenty of clues leading from one interesting area to another. This is something I've often failed at in my current West Marches game. My players have been really good about pushing the borders, wanting to fill in the white spaces on the map. To up my game, though, I should prepare more links and clues between locations. It will give the area more of a lived in feeling, and will provide hooks for future adventures.

Yes, this post is mainly just me getting this written down so I can refer back to it later. But it's also a benchmark I can use to judge if the adventure is good enough or not, once I get it written.

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