View Full Version : West Marches Region Ideas

2010-01-14, 03:06 PM
Hey there playgrounders, I have a bit of a request for you. After reading about West Marches (http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/78/grand-experiments-west-marches/) when it was linked on Penny Arcade, I decided it would be fun to make my own campaign styled on the same concept. It's been a lot of fun, and I've been cranking out some pretty decent ideas so far, but after making four regions with about a dozen locations along with random encounter charts, etc., I'm starting to think that my ideas are becoming more than a little repetitive/uninspired. That being said, I was hoping some of you would be so kind as to throw out some ideas that you would find fun to run into as players in such a campaign.

These are still some of the first areas around the main town, so we're looking at things that level one characters wouldn't be too overwhelmed by. Ideally, however, each region also has some kind of bigger threat that is contained or hidden by something so it isn't posing the threat of TPK by random encounter. As of now, I'm midway through a rolling hills region inhabited by grimlocks that spend the day in caves and is bordered by an alpine forest overrun with kobolds to the North, the beginning of a mountain range to the Northeast, sloping grasslands inhabited by gnolls to the East, and a marsh full of lizardmen to the South/Southeast (town is to the West).

Other than that, I still need to make the first part of a coniferous forest to the South of town hedged in by mountains to the West (I was thinking of orcs as a primary inhabiting race, but I'm not sure) as well as the aforementioned marsh and grasslands. The marsh is surrounded by the coniferous forest on all sides except the North where it moves into the hills and the Northeast where it merges into the grasslands. The grasslands themselves move up into a steppe environment that I had somewhat envisioned as being inhabited by an undecided monstrous race version of Mongols (yeah, yeah, it's cliche... I still like it ><).

Sorry for the wall of text there, but I wanted to give as much information to work with as possible. Long story short, I would very much appreciate any input as to what can be put into the hills, grasslands, marsh, and coniferous forest areas. Even if you have just one random idea for a location, I'm sure it'll help mix things up a bit for my players. Thanks in advance guys :smallsmile:

2010-01-15, 12:02 AM
That was an interesting read and it sounds like a fun idea if your the kind of DM who can make it work.

Personaly this is how i would go about doing it.

*When the base of your session's are going to be about exploration and treasure hunting rather then persuing (or being pushed down) a story line you really need your landscape's to step up and be the driving force of the game.

*When you come to fleshing out an area you need to tell a little story about the area while your writing it so things in it make sence.

For Example you have your grasslands to the East inhabited by gnolls.
Start asking yourself some questions like...

How many Gnolls Inhabit the area and how strong is there group/scociety? - There are alot of Gnolls in the area probably over 250 and there scociety is growing in size slowly.

Why are the Gnolls there? - The region is also populated by alot of wild boar which the gnolls love to eat. So when a nomadic tribe of gnolls passed through the area they found so much of there faviour food that the set up shop in a old ruined fort from a age well past.

What do the Gnolls do there? - Apart from hunting boar they defend there territory from the neigbouring orcs who they also occasionaly raid. They also harvest resorces to build there village and worship there god/gods.

What is/are the Gnolls God/Gods?- The Gnolls pray to the great Boar spirit Insert name here who is both there source of life and death and they belive giant boars roam the grasslands testing the skills of a the best Gnolls.

*From there we have a bit of back ground on the area and you can start building some tables that might seem a little less generic because they fit the feel of the area.

you could add things like.

- Gnoll harvesters - armed mainly with hattchets and daggers with maybe one or two armed gards as an escourt.

- Pack of wild boars -

- Gnoll hunters - lightly armoured maybe mounted with bows and daggers/spears.

- Gnoll raiding party - A larger group of decently armed and armoured gnolls

- Orc raiding party -

- Giant Boar -

After that add in a few other more random creatures that may also be found in the area and you have random encounter table that kind of makes sence.

And as for special locations maybe there is some catacombs bellow the fort that the gnolls havent found.

Anyway thats enough of a wall of text for me. sorry for any bad spelling.

2010-01-15, 03:59 AM
Haha, well I certainly hope I can make it work; there's going to be ten mildly annoyed people waiting to harass me if I can't :smalltongue:

I definitely agree with the areas telling a story, and that's what I'm trying to focus on the most. The way I see it, the whole point of a campaign styled this way is to allow extended contact with environments such as the one you described. The grasslands hasn't seen much developmental love yet, so your advice is really going to help. The idea of boars as a primary source of life should be pretty easy to roll with. Thanks!

2010-01-15, 10:21 AM
Kellri's Fantasy Random Terrain Generator Tables (http://kellri.blogspot.com/2008/12/fantasy-random-terrain-generation.html) - combine these with wandering monster tables and "that cool thing you saw the other day" for great emergent interaction of elements West Marches-style sandbox justice.

Oh, and feel free to put non-level appropriate encounters in the middle of Plains of Noob areas. If you feel generous you can make sure that they're signposted as dangerous ("Don't go near the Old Bridge. Them Trolls take their toll in human flesh.").

Let the players get in over their heads of their own free will (James Raggi calls this the Green Devil Face trick, in honour of the infamous obviously! a! trap! trap in the Tomb of Horrors). Have a few obviously dangerous places and creatures lying around (sealed barrows, hibernating dragons, sealed evil in a can, etc.), but don't have them do anything other than brood and loom until they're actually poked by the PCs.

You can even put up the fantasy equivalent of "Caution! biohazard/radiation/skull and crossbones/here be dragons/weird s**t present (http://www.flickr.com/photos/arenamontanus/sets/72157594323393196/detail/)" signs, secure in the knowledge that monkey curiousity will win every time. We call this the ZOMGpyramid! rule. :smallwink:

Everything else? Just remember that the monsters have agendas too, and verisimilitude will be imbued into your creations much like the delicious creme filling is imbued into a donut. The "What Are They Up To?" table from the Beyond the Black Gate compendium (http://beyondtheblackgate.blogspot.com/2009/12/gift-for-you.html) is a godsend here.

2010-01-15, 01:51 PM
Unfortunately, I'm not using a hexmap so I can't make much use of the first table (although I did get some ideas just by reading through it), but that compendium is freaking amazing. I'm thinking that once I have a better chance to really look through both of them I'll be able to pull up some fun concepts. Thanks a ton, you've been a big help.

2010-01-15, 03:14 PM
*When the base of your session's are going to be about exploration and treasure hunting rather then persuing (or being pushed down) a story line you really need your landscape's to step up and be the driving force of the game.

*When you come to fleshing out an area you need to tell a little story about the area while your writing it so things in it make sence.

In my abortive attempt to do a West Marches sort of game, this is similar to what I did; I wrote a overarching (and historical) story (including a number of smaller stories within it), and in each region and each dungeon, seeded insignificant little clues* to the past. In doing so, I connected the regions to each other in a limited way despite their static nature, and drew my players into the world--but only to the degree that each player chose to engage on a narrative level. I thought it worked rather well.

But more in line with what Kaun was saying, it is more, not less, important to have a well-fleshed out world in the lack of plot to directly drive the players.

*Very insignificant, actually. Usually they got missed. More often, nobody realized what they meant until long after, when connected with other clues that they didn't have at the time. And that was good--that was how I meant to design it.

2010-01-15, 05:55 PM
yeah jotting down a basic history to the whole sandbox before you get to involved in region filling might not to be to bad an idea if not simply for the reason that it gives you some ideas to play with.

I wouldnt get to detailed with it yet keep it simple to start and try to list in in chronological order ie:

... Old Dwarf empire controlled the land.

...Empire fell to black dragon and his minnions.

...Dragon went into slumber and remaining Minion warchiefs took over land.

...Warchief tribes slowly fizzled away due to infighting with each other desease and a spell of bad winters.

...Land sat mostly empty for a while.

...Nomadic halfling tribe started moving through area sesonaly.

...Humans built an outpost on the edge of the region and started to farm near by areas.

...A few small farming hamlets devoloped.

...A once small goblin tribe from the are grew large due to a wise leader and started raiding the farming hamlets

...Farmers left and retreated back to safer lands.


With something like that you now have a few ideas that can be used to flesh out areas and expanded on as required.