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  1. - Top - End - #1
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default How to do an open area

    Okay my players have entered an area after a hag. The area is basically a large many mile expanse of badlands. Now I originally planned to just have a linear set of encounters for this. But looking at it, the fact it has no element of exploration troubles me. But I can't exactly map the entire badlands. So what do I do?

  2. - Top - End - #2
    Troll in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    It depends on how fast you are at improvisation on the fly.
    Do one large scale map and very important elements.
    Then have a random terrain generator(with one seed) for each kind of terrain you use and when the players says "we start researching at place X" and other stuff of this kind you use the terrain generator and you generate the local area(Or if you are not in procedural generation with a computer you just invent on the fly half featureless bumps with two trees or you just describe a place and play without a map of the surroundings)
    Then very important elements(like the local town and stuff of this kind) map them yourselves and do not try having them too much huge.(this will make you loose a lot of time and not necessarily make the game better)(if you see it takes you more than ten minutes to do something maybe you are putting too much work in it and should rather see less big)
    Now tell the players they can get everywhere they wants(as long as they can get to those places).
    Last edited by noob; 2015-11-02 at 04:31 PM.

  3. - Top - End - #3
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Don't know what you mean by random terrain generator. But there is no town or anything. Its just a badlands area. Like a giant dungeon in my mind but in an open area.

  4. - Top - End - #4
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Is there a random terrain generator I can seed with my own tiles?

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Quote Originally Posted by Verbannon View Post
    Okay my players have entered an area after a hag. The area is basically a large many mile expanse of badlands. Now I originally planned to just have a linear set of encounters for this. But looking at it, the fact it has no element of exploration troubles me. But I can't exactly map the entire badlands. So what do I do?
    Abstract it.
    So it sounds like they are searching for a particular creature or lair in this wilderness region. Describe to them the type of terrain they are crossing, in general. If this is a region they can cross in about a day, have them roll their tracking or survival or whatever to see whether they find what they are looking for. If they fail to find the hag on day one, roll to see what alternate encounter they face (or just throw something at them you have decided on). Decide details about the terrain where the encounter takes place at random, or based on what sort of encounter it is. The next day, they can continue searching the region with another roll. You might require two or three successful tracking rolls on different days before they find what they are looking for, if you want it to be more drawn out.

    Alternatively, why can't you map the area? It seems like a good idea if you intend this to be a place where significant adventure takes place. Just make a smaller scale map, with hexes that are just a couple miles across. Then you can track their movement hour-by hour. They can be specific what direction they are going, and you can see what they run into. That way finding the lair will also depend on their search strategy and not just on a die roll.

  6. - Top - End - #6
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    I could make an overmap for it easily enough I suppose. I really meant I couldn't make tactical maps for the whole area. Will an overmap help?

  7. - Top - End - #7
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Quote Originally Posted by Verbannon View Post
    I could make an overmap for it easily enough I suppose. I really meant I couldn't make tactical maps for the whole area. Will an overmap help?
    You'll have a general idea of what your combat maps will look like from the overmap, based on the general type of terrain in that hex. Wing it from there. Just draw one on the spot, based on the terrain in that part of the overmap. They don't have to be fancy. If it's flattish ground, have it be mostly low shrubs and the occasional boulder or rock outcropping. If it's hilly, fewer shrubs, more steep rocks and crevices. Maybe a bridge over a deep canyon or dry creekbed, if there's a well-traveled road. A slope of loose gravel here and there from one height to another. Various combinations, not necessarily all on a given map. As for encounters, prep like six level-appropriate ones beforehand and just drop the monsters (from one of them at a time) in logical places on whatever you draw, if where and when they're needed.

    I mean, the combat maps are all going to be drawn with a wet-erase marker in, like 5 minutes each anyway, whether they're premade or not, right? Just call for a 5-10 minute break, shuffle your notes, roll a few dice behind the screen, draw the map, think about where you'll drop one of your already-prepped monster groups, and nobody'll know you didn't have it planned out.
    Last edited by JAL_1138; 2015-11-02 at 06:11 PM.
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  8. - Top - End - #8
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    I do online games actually. Roll20. Though probably not relevant. Though I'm not truly certain that doing it that way is actually different from just having a few railroaded encounters. Since all the terrain will just be the same in every hex anyway.

    Its in a badlands area, so every hex will be badlands. So its just a bunch of badlands. Or is here a way to vary the terrain?

  9. - Top - End - #9
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Quote Originally Posted by Verbannon View Post
    I do online games actually. Roll20. Though probably not relevant. Though I'm not truly certain that doing it that way is actually different from just having a few railroaded encounters. Since all the terrain will just be the same in every hex anyway.

    Its in a badlands area, so every hex will be badlands. So its just a bunch of badlands. Or is here a way to vary the terrain?
    No two maps need be exactly the same. Make the hexes on a slightly smaller scale and decide what parts are flat, what parts are hilly, what parts are rocky but mostly soil, and what parts are rock cliffs and crags. Decide where your water sources will be. You might be going through a steep-sided canyon or across low hills. It might be mostly barren soil with a few shrubs and grasses, or it might be a winding path through several knifelike rock ridges. It might be cracked, rocky, gravely ground with small dozens of small fissures and rocks that count as difficult terrain, or it might be worn smooth by wind and weather, or it might be ordinary but unfertile soil. Badlands have varied terrain; do a Google Image Search for inspiration. Not every place they go will have monsters (and thus there's no need for detailed maps thereof; it can largely be Theatre of the Mind in such cases). Think about where monsters would be found, and it's nearly always going to be near the few water sources if it's any kind of medium or large natural creature, so if they cut through the dry areas of the overmap and rely on Create Food & Drink for sustenance they aren't as likely to meet those, but might meet the sorts of critters that don't need to drink as often. You'll almost certainly need more than 6 encounters total unless they can't cover it in a day or two, unless you want to abstract it out, since they aren't going to meet all of them (recycle the unused ones elsewhere), but it's a good number to start with, because it's not so many you can't prep them and not so few you can't have something to throw at them if/when/where necessary.

    EDIT: Oh, and something else fun, in the Dwarf Fortress sense of the word--canyons tend to have serious, life-threatening flash floods when it rains.
    Last edited by JAL_1138; 2015-11-02 at 06:51 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Safety Sword View Post
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  10. - Top - End - #10
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Maybe I'm not explaining myself well. mm... okay here is my over-overmap. jpg because the png version wasn't uploading.

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    So the second image is the part of the over-over map the party is in. Each square is 5 miles (I use squares because all the map tiles I have are made for squares.)

    So with that in mind, how should I run the party through that badlands area in a way that involves exploration rather than just linear encounters or linear encounters staggered by some nature rolls?

  11. - Top - End - #11
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Also I can't quite figure out how to make an overmap of that badland areas that is more zoomed in.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Is there anything there? If it's a big empty vastness of nothing, abstracting it's probably better. If there's nothing to find and nobody to meet, why bother?

    What kinds of things do you want them to find? A crazy old prospector looking for gold in them thar hills, a bandit hideout, an old mine, a ghost-town, old ruins, a maze through the crags? I mean, what are you looking for them to actually explore that skipping it and making some nature rolls and rolling for random encounters every once in a while wouldn't accomplish?

    What sort of things would you want to find or do as a player?

    Thing is, with an area that big, if you really want it to be exploration based, it might end up the size of a full-blown adventure module and still have large swaths to just gloss over from point A to point B unless you want the game to drag as they cross expanses of nothing.

    How long do you want the game to spend here, in terms of number of game session? 1 session? 4 sessions? 8? What to do here will be largely determined by that.

    If I wanted it to run several sessions, I'd pick a handful of squares at random scattered at various places across the zoomed-in part, and put sub-locations in those squares with one or two interesting things each (flash flood, stream, mazelike path with terrain hazards, small cave, several fights, an old hermit who can say something like "I think the hag is in the east" or something, and the hag herself). Then I'd put the game on a 2-or-3-hour scale (one 5-mile square per 2-or-3 hours--slow pace because of bad terrain and little food/water). 8-10 hours travel before they have to start making checks to proceed without exhaustion or accident. Then see if they stumble onto any of the sub-locations as they traverse the map. Gloss over anything but those. Keep your notes for any that go unused and recycle them elsewhere, tweaked/reskinned a good bit so they don't look recycled of course.
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    Gnomish proverb


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  13. - Top - End - #13
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Thing is, doing it that way makes it practically a small module and could take a month or two IRL depending on how often you meet...or go really quick if they find the hag first, kill her and go home, unless you make them explore their way out and run into a few more of your sublocations.

    So you have to first determine how many sessions you want it to run. Do you have an overarching plot for them to get back to? If so, glossing most of it might be better.
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    JAL_1138: Founding Member of the Paranoid Adventurer's Guild.
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    - If it's something mortals were not meant to know, I've already found six different ways to blow myself and/or someone else up with it.
    Gnomish proverb


    I use blue text for silliness and/or sarcasm. Do not take anything I say in blue text seriously, except for this sentence and the one preceding it.

  14. - Top - End - #14
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Umm... I'm not sure. I just figured they would explore and find, stuff. Maybe a weird feature here and there. Maybe some random encounter type stuff. So its more like a dungeon. You know how in a dungeon where the party is hunting gnolls, they walk around exploring the different rooms, one might be the lard, another an armory, maybe another a room full of swinging scythes. And when the party decides to extended rest they'll choose to backtrack to the armory because they feel they can bar it up easier. But then in the middle of the night maybe the Gnolls decide to head to the lard for a snack, get drunk and pass out there. When the party wakes up and leaves the armory, they don't realize the gnolls they are after are back in the lard they just explored. So they end up exploring the rest of the dungeon without finding their targets.

    Maybe scattering stuff is a good idea.

  15. - Top - End - #15
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    I'm just spitballing ideas, and I'm by no means the world's greatest DM. I'd be lucky to be middlin' on a good day. So take everything I've suggested with a grain of salt, too. (For my own games I yoink a lot of map and encounter material from modules, kitbash bits and pieces of them together, file the metaphorical serial numbers off, and use those resources to wing a lot as well.)


    ...Getting a traditional tight "dungeon" feel is just plain going to be hard on a scale this big, I think.

    Manhattan Island in New York is 22.7 square miles--13.7 long and 2.3 wide at its widest with many narrower parts; even if it was perfectly rectangular it'd only be 33-ish square miles. If it weren't long and narrow, it'd fit into one square of your map; as it is, it'd take up three, with a lot of room in each square around it (the squares it occupied would be empty for half or more of their width, and half of the third square would be empty for a bit over a quarter of its length).

    The zoomed-in part of your map alone, I counted the whole map being 70 miles (14 squares) long by 65.5 miles (13.5 squares) wide--that's 4,585 square miles, nearly half the size of Vermont!

    So your zoomed-in map is a ginormous area, and getting the tight feel of a dungeon out of that is gonna be tough with any semblance of verisimilitude. Unless you want this to be its own sandbox adventure, having more than a few detailed areas is likely going to be tough.

    That said, I am by no means an expert on how to do an overland crawl. I hope someone besides me starts chiming in with advice soon, since like I said earlier, I'm not all that great nor do I have the same level of experience of a lot of the DMs on this board. I don't want to steer you the wrong way on this.

    You might look to the Kingmaker module or another "hex crawl" type module for ideas on what to do with it.

    (P.S.: Random idea--If you want a greater chance your encounters will trigger, you can fudge it to where there's an area of multiple squares that will trigger the encounter location. Preferably with all such trigger squares being of the same basic terrain type, so they aren't wandering through dry grass and yetbend up on a mountain when initiative gets rolled).
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  16. - Top - End - #16
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Hmm... making it large was unavoidable, as its the shadowfell and any single area in the shadowfell is made up of shadows of what is, was, could have been and will be. I don't need the feel to be tight, a loose dungeon feel would work. Doesn't really need the dungeon feel either, just, needs to feel dynamic. I actually want them to run into some bits of nothing. So they get that whole 'this is a wilderness' feel. So I'll try the scattering, thanks.

  17. - Top - End - #17
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    BarbarianGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Look at module X1, Isle of Dread, for a dynamic wilderness adventure.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Dire Moose's Avatar

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Badlands are hard to describe unless you've been there yourself, and having done field work in them I understand exactly what is meant by having them as an open-air dungeon.

    Badlands are basically eroded systems of canyons and pits that exist within mostly flat-lying plains, generally where they meet rivers. These basically can be used the same way as a regular dungeon except that it is possible to climb up and over the walls. As such, I would suggest mapping out the drainage system yourself and populating it the same way as a typical dungeon.

    EDIT: Or make the mapped area a large but limited section of the larger badlands region. You could even look up an actual expanse of badlands in the real world and use that as a template to start with: Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta and Badlands National Park in South Dakota are some of the more well-known ones.
    Last edited by Dire Moose; 2015-11-03 at 01:47 AM.
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  19. - Top - End - #19
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    @Thrudd. Huh?

    @ Moose. That might work as well. Thanks.

  20. - Top - End - #20
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Quote Originally Posted by Verbannon View Post
    @Thrudd. Huh?

    @ Moose. That might work as well. Thanks.
    Thrudd was suggesting this old B/X and BECMI D&D module: http://www.dndclassics.com/product/1...ead-Basic?it=1

    Edit: I don't have any personal experience with this one in particular, but the old modules were usually terriffic. Tom Moldvay and David "Zeb" Cook were great writers. It'd likely be a very good one to mine for ideas.
    Last edited by JAL_1138; 2015-11-03 at 06:55 AM.
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  21. - Top - End - #21
    Ogre in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Quote Originally Posted by Verbannon View Post
    Okay my players have entered an area after a hag. The area is basically a large many mile expanse of badlands. Now I originally planned to just have a linear set of encounters for this. But looking at it, the fact it has no element of exploration troubles me. But I can't exactly map the entire badlands. So what do I do?
    Can you answer these questions:

    Why are the PCs there?
    Why was the hag there?
    What are the encounters after the hag and why are they there?

    That could determine what kind of things there are to discover here.

    You don't need to map the entire area. Some areas may be near-impossible to traverse. Google "badlands map" for images and use one of those. Have some things to discover in their exploration, but nothing that will derail their objectives.
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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    ElfPirate

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    My brain and my eyes have a disconnect today....I read the title as "How to open an opera"
    Hmm, seem to have left the last letter out of my name I wonder if I can change that somehow...

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  23. - Top - End - #23
    Troll in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    Quote Originally Posted by Dire Moose View Post
    Badlands are hard to describe unless you've been there yourself, and having done field work in them I understand exactly what is meant by having them as an open-air dungeon.

    Badlands are basically eroded systems of canyons and pits that exist within mostly flat-lying plains, generally where they meet rivers. These basically can be used the same way as a regular dungeon except that it is possible to climb up and over the walls. As such, I would suggest mapping out the drainage system yourself and populating it the same way as a typical dungeon.

    EDIT: Or make the mapped area a large but limited section of the larger badlands region. You could even look up an actual expanse of badlands in the real world and use that as a template to start with: Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta and Badlands National Park in South Dakota are some of the more well-known ones.


    Making a dungeon out of the twists and turns in the rocks isn't a bad idea, but the area is so huge I don't think just doing that would convey the wilderness-adventure part, if OP wants to maintain the scale. For instance, all of the in-game land area of Vvardenfell in Morrowind would fit in less than half of a single square. All of the in-game area of Skyrim would take up just over half of one square. Doing a "dungeon" for the whole thing at an accurate scale would be a herculean task.

    However, glossing over most of the travel, then doing as you suggest and building an exploration map of the square the hag's hideout is located in, and building a (possibly fairly large) dungeon-scale map for the hag's hideout would be pretty reasonable.

    Alternatively, massively reducing the map scale from "1 square = 5 miles" to something much, much smaller and making a large dungeon out of the entirety of the badlands could also be a good choice.
    Last edited by JAL_1138; 2015-11-03 at 09:48 AM. Reason: quote didn't paste the first time
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    Gnomish proverb


    I use blue text for silliness and/or sarcasm. Do not take anything I say in blue text seriously, except for this sentence and the one preceding it.

  24. - Top - End - #24
    Bugbear in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    It sounds like you want to use hex mapping. Each hex is 3 miles per side, 6 miles across. Whenever the party enters a hex, roll for a random encounter. If they want to explore the hex, roll another random encounter. Make sure your random encounter table has the potential to be nothing. Also, make sure to include non-combat and quest hook encounters as well as dungeon encounters. When coming up with your random encounters, think about the political situation in each hex - is the first hex controlled by goblins, but the third hex controlled by orcs? If so, change the odds of goblins in the first hex to be higher and orcs to be lower, but about the same in the second hex. If the orcs and goblins are at war, there will be different types of goblin encounters - they're likely to be more aggressive toward outsiders and more likely to include warbands. For your hag, does she have any agents in the badlands that might interact with the party? If so, those are encounters - either the party trying to stop them from getting news back to the hag to report on them or her sending her minions after them, a la flying monkeys. What about others who might oppose the hag and might be willing to help the party? Or those who need a favor done before they'll aid the party?

    Figure, the party can go 3 hexes per day by road, 4 with a forced march, 2 or 3 over difficult terrain. Roll a survival check (assuming DnD) to avoid getting lost; failure means the party goes a random direction (d6, 1 is the direction they intended to go, 2 is the next direction clockwise, etc.). If they succeed on a subsequent survival check, they realize they are lost and can try to figure out how to get back on track.

  25. - Top - End - #25
    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: How to do an open area

    I think with all these suggestions I should come up with something. Thanks

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