Yesterday I got a compelling piece of post-necromancy, this time on my kickoff pointcrawl post. Zack asks:
“I happen to be interested in the hex crawl sort of gaming, particularly in a sandbox fashion. I also happen to be totally blind, so hex paper and so on isn't super helpful for me. In fact, maps in general are kind of a pain in the neck, because I can't read them easily, and I always feel like I'm missing setting info of one sort or another.
So I'm wondering if anybody has ideas for combining the point crawl approach, or one which avoids maps, with randomized terrain generation? I'd love to run something solo, like Scarlet Heroes from Sine Nomine, for instance, but they all seem to presume hexes. Another way to look at it would be an experience kind of like the Elder Scrolls video games, which I can't play. It could be a lot of work doing something like that solo, but…”
My first impulse was to rustle up some online and published terrain generators, but scanning through my own links I remembered my own frustrations trying to build such systems last decade when I was primarily a solo minis wargamer. The key problem for me being that many of them are too flatly random that is they generate incoherently terrain without much rhyme or reason and are boring as hell. Here is a dull little desert next to a bland forest next to some “open.”
So where to start?
Fortunately I can think of two good starting points: the ever-useful trainwreck that is the first edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide and an old Avalon Hill Game, Source of the Nile. Since my time is limited (the Dunes call) I will concentrate on the first.
Appendix B: Random Wilderness Terrain (page 173) has a nice framework, a relatively easy and elegant system of charts. Promisingly these charts take into account the terrain you are just leaving (and really this will work even better with a pointcrawl or mapless system). So if you are leaving a hilly area you are way more likely to hit more hills or mountains than you are a swamp.
|Click to Enlarge
D&D is chalked full of random monster encounters by terrain (hard to get past the first edition DMG again) so no need to go there but it would be handy and nice to have some places to generate random color. Fortunately there boat loads of handy online generators that can cover that in an interesting way. Take this page on Abulafia alone (especially this one and this one which you can just keep regenerating when you need interesting places).
Before shoving off this is perhaps an ideal question to extend to the collective brain trust: what random terrain generators do you know about that fit this bill (and please read the specific query)?