RPT#688: The Card Grid – The Fastest Way To Map Your Kingdom With Adventure Sites

Brief Word From Johnn

The Missing RPT#599 Now Available

Last issue about creating legends for your games referenced an old edition of the newsletter not available online.

That problem has now been fixed! You can read RPT#599 about 3 Line Cultures here.

I’m sorry if this caused you some frustration. I’m still behind on getting the archives posted online.

Why You Must Game

I’m seeing more articles these days about how RPGs make you smarter, how RPGs make you a better employee, how RPGs make you better at business. I agree.

I also think RPGs make you happier. And that’s why you must game.

Playing games is fun. That’s stress relief. Playing RPGs is social. And for people like me who spend so much time on computers they get perma-screen tans, that’s an important connection to being alive and being well.

And playing RPGs aids your mental health. Being a GM is challenging. You need to flex a lot of gray matter muscles when planning and running games. And whether player or GM, the game puts your imagination to hard work.

I guess one thing RPGs don’t do is help your physical fitness. Maybe someone will some day invent a walking treadmill GM screen. 🙂

Ultimately, if you enjoy GMing or playing RPG, then it makes you happier just from doing something you love to do.

That’s why we must game.

So, let’s get on with today’s tips and be sure to have a game-full week!

 

Cheers,
Johnn
roleplayingtips.com

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The Card Grid – The Fastest Way To Map Your Kingdom With Adventure Sites

What Does Your Kingdom Look Like?

John Large, reddicediaries.com

A kingdom map helps you and your players see how your kingdom fits together. Players will use it to decide where they want to travel and what challenges to tackle next.

However, a map too detailed and complex harms gameplay. It blocks cool campaign ideas that come up after campaign kickoff. It puts players off, so its hooks fail. And prep becomes harder because you end up with too much detail to connect ideas with and GM for.

A good compromise is to create a map with a few major points of interest, but leave a lot of blank space between these points that can be filled in later if necessary.

This article takes you through one method of creating an outline map for your kingdom and discusses how you can fill it with exciting opportunities for adventure and places for your player characters to visit.

What Makes Up A Kingdom?

Kingdoms are made up of two different areas: settlements and adventure sites.

Settlements are villages, towns, and cities. In a typical campaign, these are the places your players go to spend money between adventures, rest up, quaff a few ales, and discover new opportunities for missions.

Adventure sites are the places where these missions take place – the dungeons, spooky forests, and ancient temples of your campaign world.

Laying Out Your Map

To keep map creation simple, this method uses a normal pack of playing cards, including the jokers, laid out in a grid. The number/face on the card will determine what the area contains. At this stage we are not concerned with the exact size of each area, simply its position and contents.

The Grid

Take your cards and lay them out in a grid. The number of cards you should use is based on the overall size of your kingdom and whether it is in growth or decline. You can tailor this to meet the needs of your campaign or, if you wish to determine it randomly, you can use the draw of a single card and the chart below:

Card Description Size of Grid
Ace-5 Growth 25 cards total, laid out in a 5×5 grid.
6-10 Stability 16 cards total, laid out in 4×4 grid.
Jack-Joker Decline 9 cards total, laid out in a 3×3 grid.

These diagrams show you the layouts:

688-grid-379x112

As you become more confident using this method of creating maps, you may want to vary the number of overall cards or the shape of the layout.

An Alternate Way of Determining the Kingdom Shape

One other method of determining the shape of the kingdom is known as the drop dice method. Clear a space on your floor or desk and drop a handful of dice (one die for each card you would normally put down using the grid layout) from a height. Where the dice fall is where that area is located.

You can either use normal dice and draw a card to see what each area contains or use poker dice.

 

What Do The Cards Mean?

Black cards represent settlements. The number on the card determines the size of the individual settlement, depending on whether your kingdom is stable, growing, or in decline.

Settlements

Growth Stable Decline Name Description
Ace Ace-3 Ace-6 Empty There is no settlement in this area.
2-3 4-5 7-8 Abandoned Settlement There was once a settlement here but now it lies in ruins. If you wish, you may draw another card to determine the size of the settlement. This area also counts as ruins (see the adventure site chart below).
4-6 6 9-10 Hamlet A small settlement with a population of fewer than 20 and generally without a central place of worship.
7-9 7-9 Jack-Queen Village A settlement with a population of 20-1000 people. Most villages have a temple or central place of worship.
10-Jack 10-Queen King-Joker Town Towns have a population of 1000-8000 people. Most towns are surrounded by walls for defensive purposes.
Queen-King King City Population 8000-12,000 people, settlements of this size can afford to host buildings dedicated to scholarly pursuits.
Joker Joker Capital City Population 12,000-100,000, there will be only one capital city in each kingdom. Should you draw two jokers, treat one of them as a normal city. Not all kingdoms have a large capital city on this scale. Should a joker not be drawn, designate your largest settlement as the capital (this does not affect its population or size).

Although settlements mainly exist as places for the player characters to buy equipment and recover between adventures, they should be more than simple shops and taverns.

Each settlement in your campaign should have at least one feature that is unique or interesting.

Pick an option from the table below for each settlement or draw a card to determine what this is (please note there is no entry for abandoned settlements since these should be treated as ruins using the adventure site table):

Card Hamlet Village Town City Capital
Ace A strange blight or disease has struck the settlement.

-Population

Many locals have recently been affected by a strange illness.
-Population
A twisting network of naturally formed caverns runs under the town and was once used by smugglers.

+Dungeon

The city boasts a large and complex sewer system.

+Dungeon

Ill omens and portents have been observed throughout the city.

+Superstitious

2 Crops have recently failed.

-Population

A person has been accused of witchcraft and causing the crops to fail.

+Superstitious

Recent births have seen strange deformities in animals and humans.

+Superstitious

People have begun to disappear after recent digging to lay foundations for a new building has released a horror from below the streets.

+Monster

The ruler has recently died, and a distant relative is contesting the right of his heir to rule.

+Power Struggle

3 A local well has run dry.

-Population

Creatures have begun to prey on the populace.

-Population

+Monster

A group of bandits is believed to be hiding in the hills surrounding the settlement.

+Criminal

There has been a recent jailbreak in the city.

+Criminal

Various guilds are attempting to seize more power in the capital.

+Power Struggle

4 A beast has been preying on local shepherds’ flocks.

-Population

+Monster

Strange figures have been seen lurking around the local graveyard.

+Cult

The mayor of the town died recently in a hunting accident, and did not choose a successor.

+Power Vacuum

A vigilante has begun operating in the city.

+Criminal

Various guilds are attempting to seize more power in the capital.

+Power Struggle

5 The elder of the settlement has recently died.

+Power Vacuum

A renowned thief operates in the area, stealing from rich land barons and giving the proceeds to the poor and needy.

+Criminal

People say that they have seen cloaked figures worshipping strange idols.

+Cult

Something of great value has been stolen from a museum or building of learning in the city.

+Criminal

A spy from an enemy of the kingdom has been apprehended in the capital.

+Criminal

6 The hamlet has a smith who is famous in the local area for the excellence of his work.

+Expert(metal)

The village recently celebrated a bumper harvest.

+Prosperity

Due to problems in the recent past, the settlement has a strong guard presence.

+Militarised

The city is known for its cosmopolitan attitude towards different races. Many odd races that cannot be seen elsewhere can be encountered on the streets.

+Cosmopolitan

The ruler of the capital has become sick and there are concerns over succession.

+Power Vacuum

7 The settlement has a building of particular note. The local landowner is particularly protective of his servants.

+Militarised

Due to a mild winter, the town has prospered.

+Prosperity

The city is known to have the finest carpenters in the kingdom.

+Expert(wood)

A new university or place of learning is being built in the capital.

+Expert(writing materials)

8 There is a natural source of magic in the area, an enchanted spring or glade, for example.

+Magic

The settlement has a building of particular note. Parts of the town have an ill reputation.

+Haunted

The settlement has a building of particular note. A diplomat from a foreign kingdom is arriving soon to discuss matters of diplomacy.
9 There has been a recent baby boom in the settlement.

+Population

The town is particularly known for attracting minstrels. Many of them can be heard playing in the taverns.

+Cosmopolitan

Trade caravans from an allied foreign kingdom have resulted in improved trade ties.

+Prosperity

The ruler of the kingdom is a strong patron of the military.

+Militarised

10 The hamlet is the home of a wise woman.

+Expert (healing supplies)

The settlement has a building of particular note. The settlement has a building of particular note. The settlement has a building of particular note.
Jack The hamlet is on an established trade route.

+Prosperity

A minstrel of some repute retired to the village to compose his memoirs. A noted spell-caster has retired to his abode in the town. Now strange lights are seen in the sky, and odd creatures prowl the night.

+Dungeon

+Magic

+Monster

To display its love of learning, the city often hosts art contests where people submit their work in the hope of gaining rich patrons.

+Cosmopolitan

An influx of refugees into the city has increased the population.

+Population

Queen An evil enchantress lives in a nearby forest. The people fear her evil intentions and regularly send her bribes.

+Dungeon

+Magic

+Monster

In the woodland areas around the village, a number of beneficial herbs grow plentifully.

+Expert(herbs and healing supplies)

Due to a period of prosperity the settlement is enjoying an increased population.

+Population

The universities of the city have attracted a great many spell casters.

+Expert(magic)

A rich noble keeps a private dungeon stocked with exotic creatures, occasionally challenging adventurers to dare it for money.

+Dungeon

+Monster

King A dragon dwells near the hamlet and occasionally snatches away townsfolk.

+Dungeon

+Monster

A noble oversees this town and is generous towards his servants.

+Prosperity

The leader of an armed force captured the town and now rules it.

+Militarised

Nobles and important people show their importance by surrounding themselves with armed guards.

+Militarised

The settlement has a building of particular note.
Joker In addition to being a settlement this area is also an adventure site. Draw a card on the adventure site table.

 

Settlement Tags

When creating a settlement site we use the concept of tags, simple descriptors that can be written in your gaming notes to provide you with at-a-glance information concerning that area.

For example: A hamlet has been affected by a strange disease or blight, meaning population numbers will be lower, so we give the settlement the –Population tag.

A list of the settlement tags with guidelines for how they affect your game are given below.

+Criminal

There is a notable criminal or crime-based organisation operating in the area. You should generate these as you would normal NPCs, deciding what their crimes are and how they are regarded by the populace. Players should come across evidence of their activities when in the area. Perhaps they hear a shopkeeper remarking how he was robbed by the Masked Vigilante, or the local museum is closed in a city because it was recently broken into and a priceless ancient sculpture was stolen.

+Cosmopolitan

This settlement is famous for being civilised and having very cosmopolitan attitudes. This means strange and rare races can often be seen on the streets. It also means rare goods and items tend to be more easily found there. When rolling to locate/acquire rare items, the player can roll twice and take the best result to represent this.

+Cult

Please see the adventure site tag for details.

+Dungeon

Please see the adventure site tag for details.

+Expert (material)

Equipment made of the material listed is available for 75% of the listed cost. However, items made of this material will sell for only 25% of their original value.

+Haunted

Please see the adventure site tag for details.

+Militarised

There is a strong and well-armed military presence in the settlement. Anytime a public disturbance occurs, there is a 50% chance of a well-equipped group of soldiers being nearby and intervening.

+Magic

Please see the adventure site tag for details.

+Monster

Please see the adventure site tag for details.

-/+Population

The minus version of this tag means the population of the town has been affected and lowered by some factor. There will be a number of buildings that are derelict and abandoned in the settlement. Those people who do remain will be suspicious of strangers. When your player characters attempt to negotiate or socially interact with NPCs for the first time, roll the dice twice and then choose the lowest of the two results to represent this.

Typically, a settlement affected in such a way also has fewer items available to sell to strangers as it needs most of them for its own people. Provisions and other luxury items will be rarer and will cost double the listed price.

The positive version of this tag means that the population has recently increased and provides the reverse effect.

+Power Struggle

Some agency is attempting to seize power in the settlement. You should create principal NPC to be the driving force behind for each side of the conflict. Conflicts such as this often break out into violence, with supporters of one side attempting to take down those on the opposite side.

Anytime the PCs are in an area where there is a power struggle, there is a 50% chance a violent conflict will break out between the two sides.

+Power Vacuum

A settlement with a power vacuum has recently lost its leader or a prominent figure, and there is no clear line of succession. Various groups may attempt to take advantage of this by winning over the hearts and minds of the people or intimidating them into following.

+Prosperity

The settlement has prospered and has more stores of food and other items than it can sell. Items can be purchased at 75% of the listed cost.

+Superstitious

The inhabitants of this settlement have adopted a superstitious fear or dread of a certain thing, normally as a result of losses sustained by its population. When the object of dread is present, if there are only a small number of people about, they will mostly flee to get others. When there is a sufficient group of them gathered, the mob will attempt to run the offenders out of town or, if they outnumber them two to one, they might take more drastic measures.

You can decide what the inhabitants dread, or draw a card and consult the table below:

Card Dread Suggestions
Ace-3 Certain actions Crossing a threshold without making a gesture of respect to the gods, crossing a river at midnight, spilling salt or other precious resources.
4-6 A particular race or races Orcs, elves, dwarves.
7-10 A colour or object The colour black, an unsharpened tool, spoiled food.
Jack-Joker An animal Cats, ravens, lizards, rodents.

 

Adventure Sites

Red Cards on your initial draw mean there is an adventure site in the area. This can be determined by referencing the table below:

Card Name Description Tag
Ace-2 Ruins The crumbling, abandoned remnants of a structure. +Dungeon
3-4 Caverns A naturally formed cavern system. +Dungeon
5 Temple A structure built to house the worshippers of a particular deity. +Cult
+Dungeon
6 Mountains/Hills Either rolling hills or jagged snow-topped mountain peaks.
7 Forest A dark, mysterious forest housing animals and worse creatures. +Monster
8 Castle A well-built fortification. +Dungeon
9 Wizards Tower A lonely tower once built as a monument to magical study. +Dungeon
+Magic
10 Toll Bridge A bridge over a waterway patrolled by guards who extract a tax for crossing it.
Jack Graveyard An ancient site used the house the bodies of the dead. +Haunted
Queen Swamp A boggy mire of fens and treacherous terrain.
King Monster Lair A single monster or group of monsters has carved out a territory in this area. +Dungeon
+Monster
Joker Double Trouble This area is especially dangerous. Draw two cards and apply both results to the area.

 

Adventure Site Tags

Adventure site tags work in the same way as settlement tags. A list of the tags used in this article and guidelines for using them to enhance your game are listed below.

+Cult

A cult is a group of people devoted to an outcast or illegal religion in the kingdom. This forces them to worship in secret, using abandoned temples and ruins as their base of operations in case they attract the attention of the authorities.

One of the most important things to decide with a cult is why its religion is illegal in your kingdom. You can either determine this yourself or draw a card and consult the table below:

Card Result
Ace-5 Religion originated in a foreign kingdom or is a remnant from the past that has fallen out of favour. The religion is not inherently harmful but has been outlawed for political reasons.
6-10 The practices the worshippers of the religion routinely engage in are ones frowned on by the majority of the kingdom, forcing worship to be performed in secret.
Jack-Joker This religion venerates a monster or an outsider of some kind that threatens the world, promising to spare those who worship it and aid its ascension.

+Dungeon

An artificial or natural structure exists on this adventure site. Dungeons generally consist of chambers connected together. Most dungeons act as havens for monsters or specific creatures. When designing your dungeon, you should take care to not make it too large and to theme the creatures encountered in it.

For example: An ancient temple might have a large central chamber for worship, a few smaller chambers for the priests, and perhaps a private room. If the temple is in use, the main NPCs encountered there will be worshippers of the deity the building is dedicated to, whereas if it is abandoned, there may be stranger beasts lurking within or perhaps an evil cult has taken over the temple.

+Haunted

Areas with the haunted tag have a bad reputation. The dead rest uneasy here, and at certain times the spectres of the dead rise to menace the living. You can either choose what sort of being haunts the area, or you can draw a card and consult the chart below for inspiration:

Card Result
Ace-5 A great battle was fought here with many deaths caused. On the anniversary of the battle, the spirits of the two sides rise and continue their fighting. Those who fall during this spectral combat find their own spirits bound to the area, forced to rise and fight each year.
6-10 Someone was put to death here for witchcraft. At the stroke of midnight, the spectre of the witch rises and roams the night, looking to take revenge on her murderers.
Jack-Joker The area is home to a clan of ghouls, semi-undead cannibals who burrow below the soil during the day and then rise during the evening. They mostly feast on the bodies of the dead, but are not above supplementing their diet with the meat of the living.

+Magic

An adventure site with this tag is saturated with magic. There is a good chance any treasure discovered here will be magical in nature. Any guards present are also likely to be magical in nature, perhaps elementals or golems.

+Monster

An area with the monster tag contains a single large monster or group of related monsters that have made the area their domain and have forced out or subjugated all other creatures in the area.

* * *

Following the methods given in this article should enable you to quickly create an outline map of your kingdom and then populate it with settlements and adventure sites for your players to explore.

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Twenty Random Demon Personality Traits

Eric Fabiaschi

  1. This demon constantly says the name ‘Eddie’ before statements. Eddie is not his name nor the name of anyone he knows, but a ghost presence who sometimes hovers close by.
  2. This demon’s mind is surrounded by a nimbus of wonky chaotic light effects when he’s in deep thought.
  3. Strange facial tics and weird grimaces warp this demon’s face when he’s contemplating murder.
  4. Children’s eerie laughter seems to come from over this demon’s shoulder when he’s angry or in pain.
  5. This demon has weird manifestations of shape-shifting pupils in his eyes when he has an idea or evil thought.
  6. This demon considers himself a connoisseur of sin and depravity. He laughs and chatters to himself when especially juicy ideas or thoughts occur to him.
  7. This demon has the laugh stolen from a little child he possessed. The demon uses it to unnerve his foes in combat.
  8. This demon’s voice goes into a higher register when he describes pain and suffering, and a lower one when he speaks of innocence and goodness. The thing seems almost in the throes of depression at these times.
  9. Random voices come from this demon’s throat when he speaks as the energies of chaos rattle the moaning of the damned through his vocal cords.
  10. This demon speaks in rhymes and bad limericks punctuated by swearing in ancient dead tongues.
  11. This demon sweats small gold tears when he contemplates dark thoughts.
  12. The sound of an organ’s funeral dirge sounds when this demon stalks the land. Ghostly pipe organs float nearby.
  13. This demon speaks with a faint lisp and weird lilting voice stolen from an opera singer.
  14. Ghostly victims of this demon linger around it and try to subtly warn those nearby of its dangerous and dire nature.
  15. This demon is surrounded by an aura of chaos and depravity. Things break down around him, and an aura of entropy infects anything he handles.
  16. This demon must lie about everything and tell the truth about only royalty and families. He enjoys the suffering of kings and minor officials the most.
  17. The scent of dead musicians and tobacco hang in the hair near this demon. The thing has a sad aura that masks an aptitude for violence and dangerous action.
  18. A bit of chaos and mutation cling to this demon as a second skin, and anyone engaging him in conversation must make a save vs. wands after 1d6 minutes or be struck dumb for a minute or two.
  19. This demon is the reincarnation of a famous local murderer, and his victims hover close by waiting for the chance to gain revenge. This bastard is murderous and unpredictable, especially around wizards.
  20. This demon has to fumble with human organs that mystically appear between his finger talons. They are, however, not easily identifiable.

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That’s it for today’s issue.

Thanks to Brenda Crowell for editing.

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Johnn Four
roleplayingtips.com

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