Sunday, February 26, 2023

Campaign Pitch: Every Corner

 The story I have been told is that early adventure game campaigns featured adventuring parties of varying levels tromping across a small region pursuing their own interests, sending assassins after each other, and remaking local politics in their own pointy-hatted image. That sounds fun, but the realities of gaming for many modern people, myself included, often prevent a campaign that starts with a handful of rat-catchers and veterans to get there. A campaign format I would be interested in that could scratch that itch is what I have taken to calling the Every Corner campaign.

box art by John Blanche

First, the DM or the table designates about four to six major characters, the most interesting and powerful characters in a region-- names, classes, and one utmost desire. Your Aragorns, Gandalfs, and Saurons. In B/X terms, they're level 10-13. Then, they designate about double that number of intermediate characters: Theodins, Elronds, and Eowyns of level 5-9-- names and one utmost desire. By now, you should have a specific character as head of every important place and group in the land. Finally, come up with double that number of minor characters of level 2-4-- name and unique position in the world. Be sure to connect some of them as family, some as friends and lovers, etc.

These form the starting stable of PCs. Every interesting character in this region is playable from the onset, and the DM prepares a region that has challenges appropriate for all levels of play as well as procedures for domain management. It will probably come to pass that if a high-level character has some adventure they need to undertake, they will gather other characters around them. This can play like a normal adventuring party. Other times, a single player may schedule some time to pursue a PC's singular interest, and this can function like a limited Western Marches campaign.

Introducing level 1 characters should always be allowed, and if the DM has introduced NPCs of notable level, they should consider allowing them into the stable of potential PCs if their goals are clear enough for them to be interesting to play.

Example Set-Up

To try out how onerous or interesting this pitch would be, here's my outline for an Every Corner campaign set in Oylaosaga, which I generated in a recent blogpost.


  1. Oylao, dragon 13. Seeks to disassemble the March to his southeast.
  2. Emveu the Hateful Princess, gothic villain 10. Seeks to capture a dragon to again secure her rule.
  3. The Sister, dragon 11. Seeks to fully wake.
  4. Rizeuh, magic-user 12. Seeks to conquer monsters to secure the Sister's rule.
  5. Tecu the Miserable, cleric 10. Seeks a successor to guide the Enoidel People.


  1. Aurece, vampire 9. Seeks the love of Emveu. Mayor of a great March city.
  2. Udato, wemic 8. Seeks to exceed his mother in war. A nomad of the southern plains.
  3. Ilini, cleric 6. Seeks to redeem her pirate brother Ooska.
  4. I-u, magic-user 5. Seeks promises of protection for the Lake of Masks.
  5. Qage, lycanthrope 6. Seeks to control land west of the Shadow Mountains.
  6. Ousgo, fighter 8. High priest of the Raised Gardens. Seeks comfort above all.
  7. Uugen, fighter 6. Seeks the power to save his Enoidel people. Potentially a prophecied hero.
  8. Oezya, fighter 7. Seeks to cleanse the Old Capitol of monsters. State-made son of Oylao.
  9. Aande, thief 7. Seeks to bring her mother, Apava, back home safely to the Blue Mountains.
  10. Eisleer, thief 9. Seeks to control a prominent Marches mayor on behalf of the wizard Rizeuh, his father.
  11. Otere, magic-user 5. Seeks to make Odages Jungle independent.


  1. Autoq, cleric 4. Prophet of the faith of All-The-Sky-A-Rolling-Plain, going north to spread his message.
  2. Ioc, fighter 2. A warden and protector along the Abandoned Road of Tlen. State-made son of Oylao.
  3. Aliuh, magic-user 4. Lives in the Bog of the Sister as her honored half-sister.
  4. Ooska, thief 3. Slaver and smuggler connecting the Coast of Free Traders and the Trade Reserve.
  5. Aotzuza, magic-user 3. Passing herself off as a dragon apostle in teh Bog of Oylao.
  6. Eil, fighter 2. Waging a one-man war of revenge against partisans in the Child River.
  7. Ade, thief 4. Hunted for a secret she knows about the Fort Towns. State-made daughter of Oylao.
  8. Eucel, fighter 4. Seeking his fortune after living as a bandit in Sister's Hills. Old flame of the enchanter I-u.
  9. Apavu. cleric 2. Walks the Marches at night as a vigilante.
  10. Otedu, fighter 4. Trade Reserve. Guide and translator between plainsfolk and foreign traders.
  11. Usiji, cleric 3. Only survivor of a dark creeper attack in the Vassalwoods, wandering traumatized and alone.
  12. Uorus, magic-user 2. Vouchsafed Route. Escaped slave who knows the location of buried treasure.
  13. Einejex, magic-user 2. One of several minor apprentices to the great wizard Rizeuh.
  14. Atowisu, elf 3. Exiled plotter from beneath the earth, recently emerged from Ways of the Foreign Sky.
  15. Edi, dervish 2. Lifelong raider recently come into possession of a sword which speaks in his dreams.
  16. Adoin, cleric 3. Courtier advising the Hateful Princess. Daughter of the Sister, posing as a state-made daughter of Oylao.
  17. Uiskaas, bugbear 3. Witch-hunter and March celebrity. Secretly funds the partisan Qage.
  18. Okofa, thief 2. Relic-hunter and diver from the Bog of Oylao. Devout supporter of Otere.
  19. Igeud, magic-user 3. Exiled by her Enoidel people for making her trade as a poisoner.
  20. Oirelop, magic-user 4. Enoidel mystic and crab-rider. Believes himself the prophecied warrior Tecu claims to be.
  21. Yoso, fighter 4. Jolly murderer, lover of ale and dice. Old flame to Ilini, Otere, Einejex, Adoin, and Ooska.

This was fun, and coming up with characters like this with a full table of people could be even more fun. The next campaign I run, I will seriously consider doing something along these lines.

Friday, February 24, 2023

Wild West Wizard Generator

 Generates a moniker, some signature items, and a spell list for a wizard that draws from B/X's base magic-user spells, a few from other sources, and a collection of original spells. I prefer for campaigns to take the spell list in the book as a jumping-off point, from which we can dive into variation and invention.

I use this generator for cowboy names, so I imagine the "moniker" of each wizard is something they take on when they enter magician society.

The generator shows the spellbook of a 14th-level magic user. To get the spellbook for a lower-level magician, you can just ignore spells of a higher level than they could cast.

PS The Realm kickstarter is halfway through its cycle, and already 150% funded! Please check it out if you might be interested in a quick, tried and tested domain play and mass combat system that keeps player characters in the foreground.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Another Method for Meaningful Terrain Generation

 Regions in the hexcrawl are distinguished by whether they are quick, safe, or free.

  • "Quick" regions are easily traversed in at least one way, or offer little chance of getting lost

  • "Safe" regions might have low-level random encounters, nonviolent encounters, etc.

  • "Free" regions are flush with resources, or otherwise defray the "cost" of travel.

This terrain generation is "meaningful" in the sense that it focuses on the mechanical distinctions that would drive a party to go through one region rather than another. B/X terrain types already do a pretty good job of this, but from the perspective of "realism" and genre emulation.

d8 Regions come in several shapes

  1. Thin regions "go" in a direction. They might follow a road or river. 2d4 hexes

  2. Long thin region. 3d6 hexes.

  3. Inclusion regions are embedded or abutting other regions. 1d4 hexes

  4. Miniscule inclusion region. 1 hex.

  5. Liminal regions form a border between other regions, and might be thin regions as well. 1d6+2 hexes

  6. Dense liminal region. 2d6+2 hexes.

  7. Thick regions are vast, and broken up by other regions. Irregular, about 2d4 x 2d4 hexes.

  8. Really thick region. Irregularly shaped, about 4d4 x 1d8 hexes.

d6 regions have differing advantages and disadvantages (and examples)

  1. Quick, not safe or free

    1. River ford

    2. Desert trade route

    3. Barren land

    4. Poisoned land

    5. Volcanic area

  2. Safe, not quick or free

    1. Hedges

    2. Moors

    3. Settled land

    4. backwoods

  3. Free, not quick or safe

    1. Mountains

    2. Jungles

    3. Bogs

    4. ruins

  4. Quick and safe, not free

    1. River

    2. Road

    3. Badlands

    4. lakes

  5. Quick and free, not safe

    1. Mountain passes

    2. Savannahs

    3. Poisoned routes

    4. Coastlines

    5. Cave systems

  6. Safe and free, not quick

    1. Rolling hills

    2. Woods

    3. City

    4. canyons

Potential hex features to make a point of distinction

  • Speed of travel

  • Chance of getting lost

  • Encounter table

  • Forage and hunting chances

  • Rest potential

  • Extra encounter chance

  • Mode of travel

  • Tracks and chance of finding spoor

  • Surveying speed

  • Type of mount apt to traverse

Example Region- Oylaosaga

Major factions

  • Oylao, a swamp dragon worshiped as a divine personage like a barbarian emperor. Leads a heterogenous country on constant brinks. Doesn't hold a grudge except against the March that imprisoned him a decade ago and tried to drain his domain for the metals which infest the muck and mire.

  • The Sister and Rizeuh, a power couple composed of Oylao's seemingly nameless sister and the cruel wizard Rizeuh. It's said the Sister is half-asleep and Rizeuh is double-awake. He is bent on controlling the monsters of other worlds and underworlds, and ever his reach exceeds his grasp.

  • The March, which was once a confederacy of city-states and now suffers the tyranny of a hateful princess. Once imprisoned the dragon Oylao to shape his young into humanoid shapes, these "dragonborn" now a starving underclass among starving underclasses.

  • Enoidel People, a semi-nomadic society held together by numerous social mores and a religious population control that sets them in constant non-violent competition with each other. Often serve as auxiliaries and seconds in the dagger thrusts of other factions.

  • Other Lands. I didn't fill in every hex I could, and apparently there are traders, pirates, and other figures about.


  • All-The-Sky-A-Rolling-Plain (2 hexes per day) +2 to hunting. Local humanoids attack on sight. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Abandoned Road of Tlen (2 hexes per day) 1-in-6 chance of radiation burn for 1d4 damage. Hunting and foraging yields abandoned equipment. Uses encounter table 3, but with a -1 reaction penalty.

  • Blue mountains. (1 hex per 2 days) Enclave of Enoidel people, who charge 10% of carried goods for travel through here but will take good care of you. Uses encounter table 4.

  • Bog of Oylao (1 hex per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) +1 to hunting and foraging. Uses encounter table 2, but -1 to reaction if Sister-aligned

  • Bog of the Sister (1 hex per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) +1 to hunting and foraging. Uses encounter table 2, with +1 to reaction if Rizeuh-aligned.

  • Bowl Mount (1 hex per 2 days) 25% per day of encountering creature from encounter table 3. Uses encounter table 4, but with a -2 reaction penalty unless clearly Enoidel-aligned.

  • Child River (2 hexes per day) 50% per day of encountering partisans from Shadow Mountain (as dervish). Uses Encounter Table 1

  • Coast of Free Traders (2 hexes per day) 1-in-6 chance of encountering pirates. Slavery is legal : ( Uses encounter table 5.

  • Crab coast (1 hex per day) 25% chance of encountering giant crab. Salt-treated vegetation can serve as rope. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Far Coast (2 hexes per day) Uses encounter table 6.

  • Fort Towns (1 hex per 2 days) +2 to attempts to find hirelings and -1 hireling loyalty. Uses encounter table 3, but with a +1 reaction bonus unless clearly Oylao-aligned.

  • Joyful (2 hexes per day) Fumes make rest here impossible, and thwart natural healing for 1d4 days.

  • Lake of Masks (2 hexes per day) Requires a boat. Uses encounter table 5, but half chance of all encounters.

  • Land of the Enoidel People (1 hex per 2 days, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost). +2 to attempts to find hirelings and +1 hireling loyalty. Uses encounter table 4.

  • Last Road (1 hex per day) Ruined waystations offer safe camp sites. Uses encounter table 2.

  • March of the Cities Against Oylao (2 hexes per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) Hunting is illegal. Must purchase a license to carry weapons or cast spells. Uses encounter table 3.

  • Odages Jungle (1 hex per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) +1 to foraging and hunting. Folk here distrust magic. Uses encounter table 1.

  • Old Capitol (1 hex per 2 days) Foraging yields mundane equipment. Uses encounter table 6.

  • Old Lake (2 hexes per day) Requires a boat. Uses encounter table 3, but half chance of all encounters.

  • Plains of Banes (1 hex per day) Save vs breath each day or take 1d8 damage from sundry poisons. Uses encounter table 4.

  • The Raised Gardens (1 hex per 2 days) Refuse entry to all, save those granted citizenship of Oylao or marked as its friends.

  • Secret Route (2 hexes per day, but requires a guide) Uses encounter table 6, but half chance of all encounters.

  • Sister's Hills (1 hex per 2 days) +1 to foraging attempts. Uses encounter table 3, but with a +1 reaction bonus unless clearly Oylao-aligned.

  • Shadow Mountains (1 hex per 2 days) 50% per day of encountering partisans (as dervish). +1 to foraging attempts. Each night, heal 1d3 as though resting for a full day, glutted with dreams. Uses Encounter Table 1

  • Trade Reserve (2 hexes per day) Hunting and foraging is prohibited. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Unpeopled Coasts (2 hexes per day) Lose 1 HP per day spent here, but +2 to foraging attempts. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Vassalwoods (1 hex per 2 days, or 1 per day if you have a guide) +1 to hunting attempts. Uses encounter table 1, but with a +1 reaction bonus.

  • Vouchsafed Route (2 hexes per day) Toll roads extract 4d6 gold per person per day. 1-in-6 chance of encountering pirates. Uses Encounter table 3, but with a +1 reaction bonus.

  • Wastes of Rizeuh (2 hexes per day) 1-in-6 chance of encountering the high-level wizard Rizeuh, whose tolls amount to robbery. Uses encounter table 6.

  • Ways of the Foreign Sky (1 hex per 3 days, or 3 hexes per day if you know the way and are traveling in a straight line) 1-in-6 chance of finding dead travelers. Uses encounter table 6.

Encounter Table 1- Lurid Wilds

  1. Giant Fire Beetles

  2. Partisans (as dervishes)

  3. Strangleweed

  4. Driver Ants

  5. Pteranodon

  6. Giant Subterranean Lizard

Encounter Table 2- Profane Bogs

  1. Frogman Layfolk (as acolytes with bullywug abilities)

  2. Water Fiend

  3. Roll again. On a 3, a jackalwere. Otherwise, a giant pike.

  4. Giant Horned Chameleon

  5. Giant Squid

  6. Roll again. On a 6, the dragon Oylao or his Sister. Otherwise, a fire-breathing brass idol.

Encounter Table 3- Marchfolk

  1. Desperate Commoners (as kobolds)

  2. Mercenary Bullies (as veterans)

  3. Witch-hunting Mob (as bugbear and normal humans)

  4. Cannibal Itinerant (as coffer corpse)

  5. Lone werewolf

  6. Roll again. On a 6, a vampire scorpionoid. Otherwise, a vampire accompanied by the result of the second die roll.

Encounter Table 4- Enoidel lands (safer)

  1. Trappers (as normal humans)

  2. Kobolds

  3. Clear-Caste (as gnomes)

  4. Giant Shrews

  5. Cave Locusts

  6. Nightseer and honor guard (high-level cleric with infravision and some veterans)

Encounter Table 5- Plains and Coast

  1. Merchants

  2. Giant Crab Spiders

  3. Moon Eel (as giant electric eel, but amphibious)

  4. Toller (as ogre)

  5. Ant/Mollusk Swarm (as insect swarm)

  6. Roll again. On a 6, a hydra. Otherwise, a party of wemic hunters (as centaurs, but with a lion's roar and bite)

Encounter Table 6- Foreign Sky (scary)

  1. Dark Creepers

  2. Flail Snail

  3. Gelatinous Cubes

  4. Amphisbaena

  5. Vampires and Retinue

  6. Lurker Above

PS The Realm kickstarter is halfway through its cycle, and already 150% funded! Please check it out if you might be interested in a quick, tried and tested domain play and mass combat system that keeps player characters in the foreground.