Salty Goo, of Gooed GLoG fame, recently produced a "Fantasy Land Generator". It describes a region by hex-size, biome, and notable features, as well as drawing from many bestiaries to suggest a couple of monsters one might encounter in the area. I decided to fire it up and quickly sketch out my own little fantasy land:
(I want to be clear that this is not necessarily the intended procedure, but I was intrigued by the possibility that it could be done. The regions were assigned arbitrarily, without much thought on my part. What follows are the descriptions as they were given to me, with no changes except some formatting.)
(Commentary in italics)
1. This five-hex forest is known for its colossal menhirs. Beware, for there are moss patches that were placed by lumberjacks in the area. It is inhabited by sacred Copperback Snakes, and also sacred Magpies.
Already a neat, inspiring hex. The menhirs and sacred animals seem like they'd be at odds with the lumberjacks, but maybe they have some kind of agreement. The only thing I'd struggle with if I generated this on the fly is the moss you must beware. Maybe it's spread to encourage tree growth but can cause some fantasy illness or ritual uncleanness.
2. This nine-hex cold region is known for its ice-covered power stones. Beware, for there are pagan idols that attract goblins in the area. It is inhabited by thunderous Cave Bears, and also winter-loving Blue Dracopedes.
This hex highlights two quirks of my method with Saltygoo's generator. By taking the first ten results, I might make a region that doesn't make sense next to other regions. This arctic waste is right next to cacti-covered hills in region 3. Another quirk is that there's a lot of obscure monsters in this generator, and I don't always want to look them up.
3. This six-hex grassland is known for its fern-covered hills. Beware, for there are cacti that could make you trip in the area. It is inhabited by peaceful Starlings, and also migrating Cassowaries.
Weird. I would consider putting a secret feature here, so it seems benign when first encountered, then gains a new character later.
4. This six-hex swamp is known for its oozing remote tavern. Beware, for there are tangles of roots that are very painful in the area. It is inhabited by Calytaurs who hate all the gods and are obsessed with hygiene, and also clever Aqraseths.
"Oozing remote tavern" is not a winner for the random generator, but at least it has character. Maybe we'll reinterpret it as the home of alcoholic ooze beverages. Google tells me Calytaurs are pigmen, which is pretty delightful. An Aqraseths is a heron-croc dinosaur. This would be a cool place to put important guides, mercenaries, and hirelings, to help the players come up with reasons for their PCs interact with the godless pigmen. Getting past the unfamiliar monster names, this region rocks pretty hard actually.
5. This five-hex mountain range is known for its overflowing gas vents. Beware, for there are rivers that are treatcherous in the area. It is inhabited by diurnal Vultures, and also Airwalkers who offer training to whoever can race them.
(sic). Racing airwalkers is a fun encounter. Maybe the vultures use the gas vents as thermals? We should see them sometimes in nearby hexes, sometimes following a predator. This would be a great region to put a dungeon.
6. This five-hex jungle is known for its murky canopy. Beware, for there are peppers that are scalding hot in the area. It is inhabited by a Sorcerous Cabbal that agressively fights all trespassers, and also a Sorcerous Cabbal that agressively fights all trespassers.
(sic!) Love the rival cabals. The adventure hooks practically write themselves. Flesh them out and differentiate them barely. For economy of factions, we can feature the calytaurs and goblins from elsewhere in the cabals.
7. This six-hex jungle is known for its turquoise ponds. Beware, for there are nervous Parrots that could make you fall asleep in the area. It is inhabited by a sacred Basilisk, and also lumbering Dingoneks.
A lot of the random animals feel appropriate to medieval bestiaries. Parrots that make you fall asleep? Players will want one! They'll want to interact with them. The basilisk reminds me of the copperback snakes from region 1, so it gets to be a copperback basilisk. Dingoneks are apparently armored dinosaurs.
8. This five-hex swamp is known for its fern-covered thickets. Beware, for there are dying animals that could rot your food in the area. It is inhabited by Athachs who herd sheep while being manipulated by fairies, and also haunted Blindfire Vines.
Athachs are three-armed giants. Alright. Swamp sheep? Sure. I don't think this adds to much, but it's perfectly fine. The worst case is the party making small talk with a giant while they barter for food, then run into a carnivorous plant.
9. This hex holds a city known for its surveiled slaughterhouses. Beware of the corrupted officials that restrict movement there. Its streets are roamed by wizard-owned Animated Rugs, and also witchy Tressyms.
Back to kicking ass. Feels like a legalistic government whose scholars are primarily magicians. Maybe they surveil slaughterhouses because they fear blood sacrifice. Tressysms are flying cat familiars. This seems like a reasonable settlement to form a recurring base for PCs, and it has real character. If we're imaging this to be a border outpost it's odd, but we can lean into that. Maybe disgraced or underachieving members of a more frenetic magocracy are sent here? Maybe it's worth fleshing out other notable settlements so it doesn't feel like it sticks out. My at-the-table fix would be to emphasize how there's heaps of villages and towns around the city in the same hex.
10. This five-hex rocky land is known for its gravelly war camp. Beware, for there are hidden pit traps that could slow you down in the area. It is inhabited by Cyclopskins who tend to a primeval temple and are afraid of the sky and birds, and also Goblins who hide in tunnels and are organized like the mob.
Luckily, we mentioned that goblins were attracted to region 2. I guess this is where they come from! The standard interpretation is probably that the cyclopskins and goblins are forces of chaos massing to destroy the city of region 9, but we can imagine other dynamics. Maybe they want to make war on the sacred magpies of region 10, or seek the magical aid of the city's magicians. In any case, they have some pressure to apply to any road out of the city.
I want to run this! I want to drop in Harpyshaft and TotSK and Wild Man's Grave and make this a properly cozy sandbox. Keying with small regions feels very nice, and means I can fill in individual hexes as I desire. A milieu of pigmen and cyclopses and mages and various sacred birds and serpents. It's all random but with a little work could take on a solid identity with a considered theme.