The Somewhat Random Board

Author: DHBoggs / Labels: , ,

Here’s one of the secrets of 3lBB OD&D – it’s a game of poker, not a game of chess.
In Chess, the board is set a certain way every time, in poker the hand you are dealt is random.
Empire of the Petal Throne pioneered the “chess” route for game worlds, but in 1974, EPT and complex top down worlds were not what was on Gygax and Arnesons mind.  D&D was designed around the idea of deal the out the cards and let the chips fall where they may. 
Dice and randomizers were being used in wargames to determine hits and so forth, but OD&D went an order of magnitude further by encouraging players to let the dice randomly generate the whole world, and the encounters in it. 
Dice rule CoZ.
And so, adventures start with a map.
A blank map
From there the fates take over.
But of course, the fates help those who help their elf. The idea behind these tables isn't to push a button and have the whole campaign world spread out before you, but to create opportunities for decsions about the world within the general guidlines desired, while still leaving a good bit up to chance and mystery and allowing for organic growth as the campaign unfolds.   One tricky bit when translating those OD&D tables into something broadly useable, and this is doubly true of Arnesons FFC tables, is that the assumption throughout is that you will be recreating a fantasy northern Europe.  To be sure, that assumption is not always the case, mention is made of Mars for example, but the default always seems to be oak forest and wheat fields under a cloudy sky.
So in recreating the tables I made a deliberate effort to make sure there was flexibility there.  The first tables talk about choosing a biome, making it clear, from the get go (I hope) that you can generate your map in whatever kind of world you want to, or if you really want to, you can let the dice pick that for you too.
Another thing I felt was needed was an elevation table.  OD&D & FFC tables just call for hills or canyons.
Dave Arneson’s detailed instructions for drawing your own fantasy map are what inform the bulk of  the first two sections, including the tables for population centers. (FFC 80:25-27)
Creature Encounters, section 3, then draws more from the 3LBBs.  The first table, both in D&D’s Underworld and Wilderness Adventure and Champions of Zed is broad and generic and based a category of creature you might find in a given terrain.  Coz then  recognizes that the individual tables rolled on need to be specific to the campaign world and designed by the referee just as the 3LBB’s give examples of creatures in a Martian campaign.
Although Coz strongly encourages the making of custom encounter tables examples are given  with lists of creatures that will be found in the monster manual.  Of these the Humans table is likely the most interesting, and I’ll talk more about that in another post.


Paul said...

I enjoyed your Fight On! article, and I'm looking forward to the next excerpt. Out of curiosity, does CoZ have more details about castle encounters?

DHBoggs said...

A little bit. I'll definetly get into that with the next post.

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