abandoned campsites, and other finds can add flavor to
your world, foreshadow future encounters or events, or
provide hooks for further adventures.
A wilderness journey might take multiple sessions to
play out. That said, if the wilderness journey includes
long periods with no encounters, use the travel-montage
approach to bridge gaps between encounters.
Mapping a Wilderness
In contrast to a dungeon, an outdoor setting presents
seemingly limitless options. The adventurers can move
in any direction over a trackless desert or an open
grassland, so how do you as the DM deal with all the
possible locations and events that might make up a
wilderness campaign? What if you design an encounter
in a desert oasis, but the characters miss the oasis
because they wander off course? How do you avoid
creating a boring play session of uninterrupted slogging
across a rocky wasteland?
One solution is to think of an outdoor setting in the
same way you think about a dungeon. Even the most
wide-open terrain presents clear pathways. Roads
seldom run straight because they follow the contours
of the land, finding the most level or otherwise easiest
routes across uneven ground. Valleys and ridges
channel travel in certain directions. Mountain ranges
present forbidding barriers traversed only by remote
passes. Even the most trackless desert reveals favored
routes, where explorers and caravan drivers have
discovered areas of wind-blasted rock that are easier to
traverse than shifting sand.
If the party veers off track, you might be able to
relocate one or more of your planned encounters
elsewhere on the map to ensure that the time spent
preparing those encounters doesn't go to waste.
Chapter 1 discusses the basics of creating a
wilderness map at three different scales to help
you design your world and the starting area of your
campaign. Especially when you get down to province
scale (1 hex= 1 mile), think about paths of travel- roads,
passes, ridges and valleys, and so on-that can guide
character movement across your map.
MOVEMENT ON THE MAP
Narrate wilderness travel at a level of detail appropriate
to the map you're using. If you're tracking hour-by-hour
movement on a province-scale map (1 hex= 1 mile),
you can describe each hamlet the adventurers pass.
At this scale, you can assume that the characters find
a noteworthy location when they enter its hex unl~ss
the site is specifically hidden. The characters might not
walk directly up to the front door of a ruined castle when
they enter a hex, but they can find old paths, outlying
ruins, and other signs of its presence in the area.
If you're tracking a journey of several days on a
kingdom-scale map (1 hex= 6 miles), don't bother with
details too small to appear on your map. It's enough
for the players to know that on the third day of their
journey, they cross a river and the land starts rising
before them, and that they reach the mountain pass two
CHAPTER 5 I ADVENTURE ENVIRONMENTS
o wilderness map is complete without a few
settlements, strongholds, ruins, and other sites worthy
of discovery. A dozen such locations scattered over an
a rea roughly 50 miles across is a good start.
Mo STER LAIRS
A wilde rness area approximately 50 miles across can
support roughly a half-dozen monster lairs, but probably
no more than one apex predator such as a dragon.
If you expect the characters to explore a monster's
lair, you'll need to find or create an appropriate map for
th e lair and stock the lair as you would a dungeon.
In places where civilization rules or once ruled,
adventurers might find monuments built to honor great
leaders, gods, and cultures. Use the Monuments table
for inspiration, or randomly roll to determine what
monument the adventurers stumble upon.
l Sealed burial mound or pyramid
2 Plundered burial mound or pyramid
3 Faces carved into a mountainside or cliff
4 Giant statues carved out of a mountainside or cliff
S-6 Intact obelisk etched with a warning, historical
lore, dedication, or religious iconography
7-8 Ruined or toppled obelisk
9-10 Intact statue of a person or deity
11-13 Ruined or toppled statue of a person or deity
14 Great stone wall, intact, with tower fortifications
spaced at one-mile intervals
15 Great stone wall in ruins
16 Great stone arch
18 Intact circle of standing stones
19 Ruined or toppled circle of standing stones
20 Totem pole
Crumbling towers, ancient temples, and razed cities
are perfect sites for adventures. Additionally, noting the
existence of an old, crumbling wall that runs alongside a
road, a sagging stone windmill on a hilltop, or a jumble
of standing stones can add texture to your wilderness.
Settlements exist in places where food, water, farmland,
and building materials are abundant. A civilized
province roughly 50 miles across might have one city, a
few rural towns, and a scattering of villages and trading
posts. An uncivilized area might have a single trading
post that stands at the edge of a wild frontier, but no
In addition to settlements, a province might contain
ruined villages and towns that are either abandoned or
serve as lairs for marauding bandits and monsters.