Monday, March 25, 2013

Wilderness Plotting

There are seven kinds of wilderness depicted in the image below:

Figure 22 - wilderness hex sides

The degree of wilderness is dependent upon the influence of civilized hexes upon that wilderness. If the wilderness is surrounded by civilized hexes, than we must assume the surrounding herders, farmers, landowners and so on must venture into the edges of the wilderness, hunting and such, and that the ‘wilderness’ is a much less wild that if it were completely surrounded by other wilderness hexes (and therefore, less affected by incursion.

So the image specifies the level of each wilderness hex according to how many civilized hexes touch upon it. Having organized the wilderness thusly, we have seven levels. We can give each level a name:

Figure 23 - wilderness types

This takes a fair amount of explanation, and so it is going to be all I talk about for the remainder of this post.

First, it has to be recognized that the previous generation applies only to humans, or "demi-humans."  For simplicity, for this post I shall refer to all character races, elves, dwarfs, etc., at "humans," and all non-character races as "humanoids."  It's not that I couldn't write out "demi-humans & humans" every time I refer to character races, its just that it's unnecessary.

So we've created the human infrastructure ... what about the non-human?  How deep into the wilderness do you need to go before you encounter a goblin village, as described in the monster manual?  Do you have goblin villages, or does every goblin in your world live underground?  If that's the case, how far from your established civilization does 'underground' have to be?  A mile?  Six miles?  Twenty?  Perhaps in your imagination ALL humanoid habitations have to be deep underground and virtually impossible to find.  Perhaps they're just a few miles in country, and they're treated as 'just folks.'

It's easy to imagine a village on the edge of so-called 'goblin lands,' but what is to stop a group of 80 or so goblins forming a tribe, building a small fortified village and peaceably raising goats?  And if there's just a dead-on hatred for goblins that exists in your world, how is it that bandits can form such groupings and get away with it, but goblins can't?  Unless the local constabulary wants to mount up and go clean out the goblins (and the bandits) from the forest, they're going to persevere ... and even if the constabulary CAN do that, do they really have the time to do it every year?  Look at the map above.  That solid green patch above is the size of Rhode Island ... an army could waste a lot of time wandering about it trying to find the goblin village that's there.

I don't propose to argue that every hex surrounding by wilderness hexes automatically has a goblin village.  That's why the features on the table are described in a sweeping manner: "combined humanoid tribes and monster groups."  That's goblins with dire wolves.  It's also a single giant with a pet owlbear.  Granted, that's not two "groups" ... but like I said, sweeping.  Don't get bogged down in details.  What's intended is that the main power and force of the wilderness in that particular hex is under one authority.  Competing humanoids and monsters assumes that the humanoids there haven't quite cleared the wilderness for their own use.  Indifferent would suggest both humanoids and monsters exist in such small numbers that they're not fighting.

That's why I wanted to create a green area where neither humans nor humanoids dominated.  Backcountry is a sort of buffer-territory.  There are dangerous animals and monsters, yes ... but nothing organized.  The intelligent monsters are able to back themselves into territories that experience less incursion.  The really tame areas of wilderness are those that are beset on all sides by humans.

So where it reads "signs," the wilderness is at least travelled over enough that people have hammered boards to trees pointing out which way the paths lead, or where the forester's house is.  "Forester support" would be a place in the forest where you could expect to go if you were seriously injured, or if you wanted to trade the fur from the giant beaver you'd just killed or some such.  "Druidic support" would mean a friendly druid who might be willing to cast a spell or two, offer up a spot of herbal tea, help you out of a jam if your friend's been poisoned.  Such people might be around in the more travelled places, even if there's no other civilization present.

The reverse would then be true of the humanoids.  The outliers of the humanoid culture would be roaming the hinterland, far from their infrastructure (which might be no more than aforementioned village, but that would be something).  Humanoid hunters and patrol parties would be searching the boondocks for game ... and they'd be settled in the wild areas, which wouldn't be so 'wild' for them.  The words are for the human perspective ... but it's really a scale that swings both ways.

I want to get across that the wilderness hexes, even though we've defined them as "not civilized," wouldn't be empty of civilizing effects.  The white hexes I'd rather define as farms, orchards, cropped meadows and so on ... but open grasslands could exist on the range where there were no actual humans.  That wouldn't keep a lone herder from using them, it would just be dangerous enough you couldn't call it civilized.

So where you're sitting down to create your encounter table (and I hate the damn things), you've got to get out of the idea that 'wilderness' is something you step into like through a curtain, with the cleared hexes behind you and perfectly virgin territory in front.  It's a bleed from one to the other ... and though they may touch one another (where a single hex might be surrounded by five, and not six wilderness), that exact relationship is going to be special.  Very special indeed.  Too special to just say, "Well, you've just stepped into a green hex ... let me roll on my heterogeneous encounter table."

Look at those wilderness hexes surrounding the town at the bottom of the map ... now compare them with the forest hexes surrounding the city on the right hand side.  They're very different from a landslide.  When you get right down to the nap of that difference, you start to see how you're going to describe the party moving into one set of woods as compared to the other.  You're going to see how complex the relationships can be ... and how that will help you run your world.