Basic World Building uses the tools from 1981’s Basic Dungeons & Dragons and Expert D&D and re-imagined in Old-School Essentials to build a starting campaign setting. Even though it is based on Basic D&D, it could be used with other D&D rules or fantasy RPGs.
Wilderness design serves many purposes. One, as player characters advance out of Basic Dungeons & Dragons and into Expert D&D, exploring the wilds is an essential part of the experience. Two, a bigger world that extends beyond what the PCs can see creates verisimilitude. The world comes alive. Finally, having a world beyond the starting town and dungeon opens up more options for the PCs. Maybe the PCs don’t want to explore the Palace of the Silver Princess and are ready to move on. The GM could have the PCs join a caravan heading east and start the adventure The Lost City once the PCs reach the east.
1. Choose the Setting
I covered this in my first column on world building. For my first campaign of 1981s D&D, I want to run modules written by the rules authors. These include Palace of the Silver Princess, Castle Amber, The Isle of Dread, Master of the Desert Nomads, and Temple of Death. I don’t want to use the default setting of Mystara but instead make my own. I’ll need a kingdom with dragons and a princess, a tropical ocean of islands, and a desert location. To start, I need a fairly typical fantasy kingdom likely located near the ocean. My basic geography will be drawn from an excellent map by Dyson Logos. My starting location will be Verge Valley located in the Boundary Peaks. The Silver Palace is located in the large town of Terminus.
2. Map the Region
Dyson Logos graciously made a campaign map available for free. On this map half an inch is 24 miles. The eastern side of the setting is grasslands and deserts. The west receives more rainfall and has more forests and swamps.
3. Locate Human Realms
Haven, home to the palace of the Silver Princess, is in the forest on the southwest corner above the large island. A route to Castle Amber is also found in the forest. The large island to the southwest is the Isle of Dread. While this island may not be big enough per the map simply consider that it flows off the edge of the known world and replace the island with the Isle of Dread when needed. The Asanda River, the settlement of Pramayama, and the Sind Desert are located on the southeast corner. Rain and wind blow west to east, so the mountains create the desert. Spreading out from there to the west and north of the mountains is Hule home to the Temple of Death.
The islands to the northeast are not being used for this campaign but will be detailed in future articles. They are great locations to set Dolmenwood and The Midderlands for future campaigns. There is a connection between these settings and the lands of the Silver Princess in that both cover fairy tale settings in a temperate/wooded area.
Because of this connection, there are faerie rings and stone circles that might allow a group to teleport from Haven to Dolmenwood or The Midderlands. If the PCs don’t seem especially interested in the Isle of Dread, having them magically moved to another location could kick off new adventures and keep a campaign rolling.
4. Locate Non-Human Realms
Dwarves live in the southern mountains next to Haven. Elves live in the woods there as well. Halflings can be found in the town of Terminus and the surrounding fields. Centaurs can be found in the southern woods.
5. Place the Base Town
Terminus sits in the plains between the southern forest and the mountains to the east. Halflings live in the surrounding farmland. Paths head south toward Castle Amber and the Isle of Dread and north toward Hule.
6. Place Dungeons
The Palace of the Silver Princess is found in Terminus. The city itself also has several locations that serve like dungeons for beginning player characters. Included as treasure in one of these locations should be a treasure map pointing to a location on the Isle of Dread to the southwest.
The deserts in the east could also hold The Lost City. An entire beginning campaign could be set in that dungeon.
7. Create Regional Encounter Tables
Random encounter around Terminus in the forest can be rolled on the wilderness encounter table for forests (page 206 in Old-School Essentials). As the PCs wander south out of Terminus, special encounter tables that reflect the influence of Castle Amber will be used. There is a random encounter table for the Indoor Forest of Castle Amber. That table is used as the base for wandering monsters as the PCs approach the castle.
Southern Wood Random Encounters
|2||Tiger beetle stalking a robber fly||2d4 and 2d6|
|12||Robber fly stalking a killer bee||2d6 and 5d6|
|13-14||Giant rattler snake||1d4|
This wilderness setting provides many options both in the Palace of the Silver Princess or moving on to another location like The Lost City if the PCs are not interested in saving the princess. Low level play is linked to dungeon exploration juxtaposed with urban adventure. Wild lands and deadlier dungeons are placed farther out for later adventures.
Next month, a new series of articles kick off with either a settlement or dungeon creation for the wild northeastern isles. Stronghold building will also be covered for this location. Old-School Essentials Advanced Fantasy: Genre Rules offers a new class called the knight that can gain a stronghold as early as 3rd level. Adding this class to Basic Dungeons & Dragons opens up new options for not only adventuring but also for character options for players.
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