How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo - Part 7 - Encounters, Climate, Rivers, Coastline & Roads, a Solo DnD Tutorial
How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo - Part 7 - Encounters, Climate, Rivers, Coastline & Roads, a Solo DnD Tutorial
Hello blog readers, Tom here, welcome to my blog, 'Solo Dungeon Crawler' and this blog series 'How to Play Dungeons & Dragons Solo.’
In my last article I expanded further on the concept of wilderness adventuring in a solo DnD campaign.
In this article, I am going to expand on solo wilderness adventures even further! I want to cover:
- Wilderness Encounter Tables
- Rivers and Large Lakes
- And a brief example of a Wilderness Adventure
Wilderness Encounter Tables
The next obvious step in creating solo DnD rules, which cover adventuring out in the wilderness, is creating a suitable method of determining the encounters that will take place.
The Dungeons & Dragons Expert ruleset provides a very useful set of wilderness encounter tables which are perfect for my needs, but first they need to be adapted so they reconcile with the random wilderness generation method I proposed in one of my previous articles.
I will adapt these tables and copy them into a notebook, so they can be referenced whenever I want to adventure out in the wilderness in my own solo DnD campaigns.
These tables include rivers, oceans as well as cities and other settlements, which are not currently included in my wilderness generation method; however the method will be expanded to include these features later.
The tables also only cover temperate climates. Other climates, such as tropical and subtropical will require further encounter tables, which will also be covered later.
I have added these encounter tables to the Solo Dungeon Crawler Wilderness Encounters PDF, which you can download for your own reference.
The random wilderness generation method can be expanded to include random climate and weather to add further depth to my solo DnD campaign
A great resource for deciding on a method I can use to generate wilderness that works with various climates, is the World Builder’s Guidebook, which was an AD&D Accessory, written by Richard Baker and published in 1996.
The World Builder's Guidebook, explains:
The AD&D system divides climate into five basic categories: arctic, sub-arctic, temperate, sub-tropical, and tropical. (Baker, 1996)
I'm going to adopt these climate categories into my solo DnD rules system. A satisfactory wilderness generation method does not necessarily need to follow any assumption that the campaign setting is a planet that orbits a sun like the earth does in reality, anything goes really. The World Builder’s Guidebook says:
Remember, you don't have to justify everything with a scientific explanation; for example, if your world has two suns, one above each pole, it could be that the poles are the tropics while the equator is the coldest region of the planet. Or, for another case, imagine that your world is permanently locked with one pole facing its sun. The sunward pole would be super-tropical, the middle latitudes tropical, the equator temperate. (Baker, 1996)
So for my wilderness generation method I will keep it simple. Before starting a hex crawl on a new sheet of hex paper, I will first define what the predominant climate will be for the area. Just a d6 is perfect:
Temperate is a roll of 3 or 4, which increases its chance of occurrence as the main Wandering Monsters Table adapted from the Dungeons & Dragons Expert ruleset assumes this climate.
I will update the Solo Dungeon Crawler Wilderness Generator PDF so it now includes the above table.
I will also expand the Random Wilderness Terrain generation method so it incorporates all the different climates. To do this I will create a separate table for each of the five climate categories. It’s best not to get too hung up on the fine details with this, I just did a little tweaking, using the different terrain types listed in the World Builder’s Guidebook and reconciling them with the terrain types I have handled so far, until I had some tables that made reasonable logical sense. They’re not perfect, but they really don’t have to be, they just need to give a basic portrayal of realism, enough that I can suspend my disbelief when adventuring in my solo DnD campaign. I think I’ve achieved that.
The Arctic Table contains tundras, barrens, ridges, mountains, glaciers and lakes.
The sub-arctic table contains steppes, prairies, moors, forests, barrens, hills, mountains, marshes and lakes.
The temperate table is basically the original table we came up with in a previous video with no changes being made.
The sub-tropical table contains grasslands, brush, forest, badlands, desert, hills, tors, swamp and ponds.
The tropical table contains savanna, bush, jungle, badlands, desert, dunes, mesas, bogs and pools.
So the terrain types are varied but in terms of wandering monsters, I can still treat terrain according to the terrain guide in many cases. For example grasslands, savannah and tundra can still all count as plain and bogs and swamps would still count as marsh. Let a mixture of common sense and your imagination prevail, as well as your map making skills!
If you want to expand even further to add more detail or realism you could further divide climate categories to include both arid and humid sub-categories, for example in an arid (which basically means dry) tropical climate there would be less vegetation and more desert and dry lands, whereas the opposite would contain much more dense forest and jungles and swamps.
Rivers and Large Lakes
At this point I have a pretty well developed random wilderness generation method, however, a significant thing that’s actually missing is a coast line, the seas and oceans, rivers and large lakes.
If I glance back at Appendix B in the AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, which I used for my initial wilderness generation method. Gary Gygax wrote in that appendix:
The Dungeon Master must also feel free to add to the random terrain as he sees fit in order to develop a reasonable configuration. In any event, the DM must draw in rivers, large lakes, seas, oceans, and islands as these features cannot easily be generated by a random method. (Gygax, 1979)
So one problem I have is that “these features cannot easily be generated by a random method.”
So I need a satisfying and simple way to tackle this dilemma.
After doing a fair amount of research, I found an interesting article in Dragon Magazine issue 10, published in October 1977, where Daniel Clifton wrote an article called ‘Designing For Unique Wilderness Encounters’
What intrigues me about this article is that it proposes a random method of plotting the course of a river in a simple set of tables, which work as follows:
First you define the initial run of a river by rolling a d4:
- The course runs north to south
- Northeast to southwest
- East - west
- Northwest to southeast
With a blue pencil I can easily mark this on a hex map plotting it from any location. This can be done on blank hex paper, before starting to plot any other wilderness.
I can now plot the run of a river from this initial point, with another table and a d6:
- 1 or 2 - Course turns clockwise
- 3 or 4 - Course goes straight
- 5 or 6 - Course turns counter clockwise
I Turn the paper so the part of the river I last plotted is always facing north and roll on the table again.
I can simply continue this process until the river reaches the edge of the area, whether this be the edge of the hex paper or a predefined barrier such as a coastline, where the river runs into the sea.
The river is also likely to run into itself to form an enclosed loop, if this occurs then the circular area can be coloured in with a blue pencil to mark the presence of a lake.
I Plot the river's direction to its natural end in both directions from my starting point, taking care to make the river’s change of direction gentle and smooth and not so abrupt that the river looks unnatural.
Before starting to map the course of a river, I will roll a d6 to determine how many rivers will be plotted. If I want more or less rivers in the area, I just roll a different die.
To decide where the river begins, in terms of where to start plotting it, a roll could be made on a d8:
I won't start at the edge of the map however, as the course of the initial run could go in any direction, so I will give myself plenty of room for this.
I will update the Solo Dungeon Crawler Wilderness Generator PDF to include the rules on generating rivers
For coastlines I am going to use a similar method of random generation. First I will define how many coastlines to plot by rolling a d4.
For example, a roll of a 2 will indicate that 2 coastlines must be plotted on the hex map.
Next I will roll to see where the coastline begins using a d8.
- North area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from top of page
- East area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from edge of page
- South area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from bottom of page
- West area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from edge of page
- Northeast area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from top of page
- Southeast area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from bottom of page
- Northwest area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from top of page
- Southwest area of hex map, 1d8 hexes from bottom of page
Plot the coastline using the same tables for plotting the initial run of a river and the direction in which it continues. Plot the coastline until it reaches the edge of a page.
If the coastline is going to collide with itself, a river or a lake then draw in the opposite direction. Let common sense prevail in these kinds of situations.
At the start of a blank hex map it is assumed that the party or single player character begins on a settlement (I will cover settlements later), which has a road leading from it in a random direction, so roll for the terrain type first and then the direction of the road on a d20.
- 1 - North
- 2 - East
- 3 - South
- 4 - West
- 5 - Northeast
- 6 - Southeast
- 7 - Northwest
- 8 - Southwest
- 9 - Forks 45 degrees in each direction (left and right)
- 10 - T junction left and right
- 11 - Cross roads, north, east, south and west
- 12 - Side road left
- 13 - Side road right
- 14 - Side road 45 degrees left
- 15 - Side road 45 degrees right
- 16 - Cross roads northeast, southeast, northwest, southwest
- 17 - 20 - Settlement (which will be covered later)
I will update the Solo Dungeon Crawler Wilderness Generator PDF so it now includes all the mechanics listed above for rivers, lakes, coastlines and roads.
I've mentioned settlements several times in this article and the Solo Dungeon Crawler Wilderness Generator also makes reference to them, in particular it refers the reader to the Solo Dungeon Crawler Settlement Generator. This PDF will be coming in the next article.
Example of a Wilderness Adventure Transcript
I will update the Wilderness Adventure Procedure outlined in the previous article so it incorporates all the steps involved in randomly determining the terrain and its necessary features.
Here is an example transcript to show you roughly how a wilderness adventure takes place. In this case I will use the character sheet of Taeral the 1st Level Elf, which I created earlier in the series.
Taeral begins his adventure on a settlement built on a plain. On the map each hex represents 6 miles.
A road leads northeast from the settlement.
Taeral decides to follow the road northeast, he makes a roll of a d6 to see if he becomes lost. He rolls a 6 so he is fine.
Next, he makes a roll to check for a random encounter, he rolls a 5 so he is fine.
Taeral can move 60 ft per turn at normal speed, so in the wilderness he can move 12 miles per day (60 / 5 = 12).
He moves northeast along the road, and rolls to determine the terrain in the next hex. He rolls a 9, which means he is still travelling through a plain.
Next Taeral determines the direction of the road on a d20, a roll of 14 indicates a side road 45 degrees to the left, with the road continuing northeast, the road also indicates a path leading north also.
Taeral decides to take the path north.
The terrain type to the north is a depression, he must travel through a large valley, which will reduce his speed by half.
In the valley a side road leads to the right (east) and the road continues north. Taeral has already travelled 12 miles, so it's time to camp.
He rolls for a night time encounter and it’s a 1!
He rolls a d8 on the wilderness encounter table and gets a 4 - animal.
He rolls a d12 on the Animals Table
Taeral is attacked in the night by a giant weasel!
I now have a much more robust and detailed wilderness, which is generated completely at random and allows for almost complete surprise for the solo dungeons and dragons player. But the work is not done yet, there are still elements to touch on, things to clarify and clean up and other opportunities to build the system further. I will end this article here however, and continue the journey next session.
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Baker, F, 1996, AD&D World Builder's Guidebook, TSR Hobbies Inc
Gygax, G, 1979, AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide, TSR Hobbies Inc