Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Wilderness Maps: Locations of Interest

When you finish your map and have all the forests, mountains, swamps, deserts and seas where you want them and after you string together all the villages, towns and forts you may think your done, but not quite. That vast space of wilderness needs a personality. It needs a history. This can be done by simply placing a few Locations of Interest in an area to tell the story.

Locations of Interest can be anything. They are the wildcard of the map. We know an upside down V is a mountain and a bump is a hill, but whatever symbol you use to denote a place of interest it can be anything. Since I am using a fantasy campaign as the example many of these places will be lairs of creatures, but these lairs can be more than a hole in the ground, a nest in a tree or a camp. These lairs can among the ruins of some ancient fortification. This centuries old fortification provides a glimpse into what was here before. A depth of place. Even if the GM never explains the ruins it sets a mood and gives the place relevance.

With the recent post at Jeff's Gameblog where a GM sets an experience point value for encounter certain locations, which I think is a fantastically obvious idea I never thought (slaps forehead). Locations of Interest can add a little boost a player's xp. Now when I create a wilderness map and I list sites there will be an xp value with the description.

And for your perusal a simple sample of one of my Locations of Interest:

The Shallow Barrows (500xp)

The Shallow Barrows are located at the foot of the northern most mountain in the Meznor Range. There are fourteen large mounds encircled with large black stones cut from the mountainside. The stones have large runes carved into the sides, but they vanish when it rains or water is poured over the stones. This is not a magical effect, but a natural occurrence. The hill barbarians will not enter the area and the local mage guild forbids its apprentices to explore the barrows.

Not much is known except that has the distinct oblong burrows and runes tell they are Northmen origin, a now extinct culture. Who or what is buried within is not known. Those who claim to have visited the burrows have seen ghostly men raise from the mounds a patrol the area. These are in fact wraiths, 1d4 for each burrow. They will drain their enemies of life. In the central burrow is the wraith lord. The wraith lord will only rise if one of the barrows is disturbed.

The stones around the burrows once worked as a barrier that the wraiths could not pass, but their power has weakened due to the erosion of the runes. When the wraiths approach the stones they will hesitate, but they will continue on. They will not go far from the barrows, but far enough to chase away anyone wanting to plunder their graves.

The Northmen currency was made of iron chits so those have all rusted to dust as well as their weapons and armor. The only remaining treasure under the mounds is magical. Each barrow should yield 0-5 magic items. These should be weapons and armor. The central barrow should yield 3-8 (d6) magical items plus the minor artifact, Anadour's Bracers.

Anadour's Bracers provided the priests of the Northmen the power to lead their tribes. These braces provide +2 to Strength and Constitution attributes, adds +2 to Armor Class, and allow the wearer to do an automatic critical hit once/month.


  1. Pretty nifty. :)

    What is the overall power-level and tone of your setting?

  2. Power level just depends on the situation and location. The Shallow Barrows is not for low level players, but could be a challenge for mid to high level. I try not to have challenge rating level one area you could run into a goblin raiding party and in the cave down the road there might be a horde of Bodaks waithing to death gaze everyone. Got to keep them PCs guessing.

    I like a heroic tone. I like the players being able to impact the campaign story. I'm a huge fan of dark fantasy (think Thieves World not WW stuff), but allow for good times, places where friends hang out. I think much of the stuff being put out lately is mono tone in its darkness that it gets tiresome. So I definately try to add a lightness.

    I have no clue if I answered your question. I hope I didn't confuse you as much as I did myself.