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Minocra Campaign Map

Stocking the Island of Minocra

I’ve spent a lot of time talking about encounter tables. Like, two Earth months. So at the risk of prattling on even more about stuff you will doubtless figure out for yourselves, let’s move on to actually lighting this candle.

What We’re Doing

Yeah, I had to go back and check, too. The goal is to create a mini-campaign with a random map populated via random encounter tables. We’ve got the map, and plenty of encounter table advice, but true to my form, I need to throw in a couple more details.

First off (and I didn’t specify before), this will be a fantasy setting. I’m currently reading The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian [affiliate link], so I'm gonna steer in that direction. [1]

Second, I had decided that the sub-tropical island of Minocra is ripe for colonisation, so straight off, adventures will be carving out territory, protecting soft settlers, responding to threats, and exploring scary places. I have no details yet, but going forward, I absolutely will be connecting back to these dots.

Map Terrain

You’ll recall that I used MapGen2 to create the map. The author of this handy tool is Amit Patel, who created a terrain key for MapGen2 output.

However, I'm going to take a few liberties, as the map provides a good visual—you can easily see that brown areas are more arid, green areas are foresty, and grey/white areas are probably mountains. For better terrain definition, I suggest the Biomes view in the MapGen2 tool. [2]

Here’s a suggested terrain key you can use for all climates:

Terrain Key

Terrain Key

Fixed encounters

Even though I plan to use random encounter tables to describe and populate the setting, it makes sense to create a few fixed locations to act as "hubs" of activity. Settlements, important ruins, and known places of dread need to be rooted, if for no other reason than to assure the PCs that there are some constants in the setting.

Minocra Fixed Encounters

Minocra Fixed Encounters

I'll go random with these fixed points, using the guidelines in part 2 of Hex-based Campaign Design, but only for Major encounters. [3] This means I'm going to roll a percentile die for each Atlas hex and compare the result to the hex's "primary" terrain (on a hex map, this is would be the centre hex, but in this case, I'll define it by whatever terrain type is most abundant). Also, because I'm in a sub-tropical clime, I'll apply +5% to each roll.

Consolidating half-hexes on my Minocra map, that's 30 rolls. There are 22 full Atlas hexes on the map, plus 16 half-hexes. I’ll roll individually for each Atlas hex, but because the half-hexes are predominately ocean terrain, I’ll simply make 8 rolls to cover them all and distribute the results where they look pretty. Here's what I ended up with:

   02           Desert         Ruin (settlement abandoned; disease)
   03           Desert         Ruin (settlement abandoned; disease)
   04           Desert         Ruin (settlement abandoned; migration)
   07           Jungle         Fortress
   10           Savannah       Monster Lair (rare)
   12           Hills          Settlement
   13           Jungle         Fortress
   14           Desert         Monster Lair (very rare)
   17           Hills          Monster (rare)
   18           Hills          Ruin (settlement abandoned; migration)
   19           Savannah       Monster Lair (rare)
   20           Jungle         Religious order (Lawful)
  (x5)          Ocean          Natural (intense weather)
                               Natural (intense weather)
                               Religious Order (Neutral)

I rolled really low on my percentiles, so much so that 17 of my 30 Atlas hexes contain a fixed encounter. [4] The results, straight from the table, are shown above. The next step is to shape these results just a bit and fix their locations.

Final Words

I count this as progress. The random table for fixed encounters did exactly what I wanted, which was to give me idea starters. Looking at these en masse, and coupled with the Conan vibe, I can start to ask important questions. Like, why so many ruins? What was that disease and did it force the migrations? Who's in those jungle fortresses? What’s a Lawful religious ordering doing in the rain forest, and what’s up with that settlement in the ocean?

The setting is starting to take shape.

  1. And don't think I forgot about C'mpalla's Saga, either. Because I didn't.
  2. But it doesn't show elevation, so use the 2D Slopes view for that.
  3. Ah, but what about Minor encounters you ask? You'll see, kids. You'll see.
  4. These are legitimate rolls. I was tempted to fudge one of them, but I didn’t, so what you’re seeing is straight-up results, unblemished with the taint of bias. If dice wore chastity belts, my polyhedrals would still be virgins.
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  1. February 28th, 2012 at 17:10 | #1

    Thanks for reminding me about the map generator. It’s very good, and I’m going to use it to create some maps :)

  2. February 28th, 2012 at 21:21 | #2

    @Simon Forster Sure thing. Next to the Greenfish Relief Map Generator, MapGen2 is one of the best random tools I’ve found. If this little project works out, I may expand my world-building efforts with MapGen2 as a basis.

    BTW, I love the tagline for your blog. ;)

  3. February 29th, 2012 at 00:25 | #3

    Argh! Stop luring me into building more campaign maps! I already have one!

    Totally inspiring article.

  4. Reese
    February 29th, 2012 at 10:08 | #4

    Great to see you getting back to this, Erin. Great stuff as always. Timing is a funny thing – I just last night posted about the new setting map I’ve developed using MapGen2 (after reading about it here). It’s a starting point, and I hope to see it take root and grow.

    Caldera: Birth of a World

  5. February 29th, 2012 at 22:07 | #5

    @Reese : I really like the look of your Caldera world. Good arrangement of the individual islands from MapGen2. I was thinking that rotating them would screw up the shaded look, but your world map looks great. You know, a tutorial wouldn’t hurt…

  6. March 1st, 2012 at 05:56 | #6

    @Reese : Just a side note – I followed your Photoshop tip for placing the hex template over the MapGen2 output, and it worked perfectly. If it helps, I added PNG versions to the Hex Templates download. Thanks again!

  7. March 1st, 2012 at 18:49 | #7

    Your example is perfect to show why random generation can be so great. Sometimes the dice create a near perfect narrative of their own. And if that is not a cool setup for a campaign!

  8. March 1st, 2012 at 21:19 | #8

    @Chaosmeister I have this vision of creating an entire campaign from random tables… Well, that’s pretty much how I end up running my games. I used to write long modules. Now I scribe a few notes and create tables. In the end, PCs end up doing what they want anyway, so instead of ‘railroading,’ I figure my job as GM is to accommodate shifts in direction. To that goal, random tables are the way to go. ;)

  9. March 2nd, 2012 at 16:24 | #9

    @Erin D. Smale
    Exactly! Granted I still use bought adventures right now but I am best when I wing stuff totally off cuff. And random tables help me tremendously. I am currently planning a game besides my main campaign that will be randomly generated in a published setting and after an initial “scripted” adventure to kick off the action and get the players into the setting. What I found here is really invaluable. One day I will truly create a whole game world and campaign from random tables only, not there yet though.

  1. March 6th, 2012 at 12:56 | #1