The last fantasy campaign I ran was as close to a West Marches-style campaign as I could get away with without being back in college. My new campaign, Blood, Gold, and Lizards, will also borrow heavily from the West Marches style, meaning that it will be exploration driven, not plot driven. I have some ideas how the world will change over time in the background, but player actions should have the spotlight over DM planning. (Plus I can only afford to dedicate minimal time to background stuff while I work on Draft 3 of my novel.)
For exploration campaigns, maps are vital. Last time I started with a map that I thought was large enough because, well, it took up six 11x17 pieces of paper covered in 1” hexes. This worked well enough at the start, but when the players started hitting the edges of the map, I was not ready as I had not mapped anything beyond the edges. At least once I had to put up a “This Area Under Construction” sign and ask the players to go a different way.
That is not going to work for me anymore.
So this time I’ve mapped the large scale first and then zoomed in for the detail work. My top level map (which fills 2 11x17 pages, long-side by long-side) uses quarter-inch hexes scaled to 1 hex = 75 miles. I then selected an area to detail and zoomed in to a middle-sized map where 1 hex = 15 miles. I created one of these for the New Zwicke area, covering the end of the island the colony was established on, and one for the Lucan’s Clock area, showing the environs around it and some of the interesting terrains to the south, over the mountains. I then selected the specific start areas and created maps where the scale was 1 hex = 3 miles. This last set has the initial encounter areas and will be enlarged to create the table maps the players will explore on and mark up.
This means each starting area takes a total of four maps to become “playable”, which is fine for me as I love making maps. Maps are what drew me into playing D&D originally. Games Magazine included D&D in their Top 100 Games one year (late-1970s) and included a sample map of an inn with a secret passage from the basement as an escape route. I was immediately hooked and never looked back.
I still need to create the table maps for the players, but I have the actual areas mapped already, so that won’t take much effort, especially as the maps will start out mostly empty. I’m going to experiment with the Long Distance Sighting Rules put forth on Bat in the Attic (follow the link). I like PCs having the ability to take a look-see by climbing a nearby tree (assuming there is one).
That’s it for today. I want to post maps of the starting areas, soon, but need to do some other stuff first – like finish the encounter tables. I have them for the island of Majica (where New Zwicke is), but still need to do them for the mainland (where Lucan’s Clock is). One word for both maps: dinosaurs!