Friday, April 9, 2010

Pyramid Campsite

One of the difficulties I was thinking about back when my players were braving the great outdoors, was how to shift from the abstract of travel to the specific of an encounter location. Or what about campsites? If I were out in my campaign world a defensible campsite would be the first priority come dusk.

Following the All the Dice Mapping technique from yesterday, here is a way to generate encounter locations and campsites easily and on the fly. Grab all your four siders. Toss. Trace.

Read the d4 results as elevations and you have a very simple topographic map. I needed about 10 d4 for a normal size sheet of paper to look interesting (thus I had to borrow some non-precision dice back from my brother-- yeah, I'm sort of anal about precision dice). Et voilà!

That looks pretty cozy. Wanna camp here? Your elf can sit cross-legged on one of those spires and keep watch all night while we hobbits cook up some potatoes and bacon.

One thing you might do is vary the scale of the map-- say every level is 6'' on a beach but each level is 10' in the rocky badlands.

Another thing you might do is have players generate their own campsites-- I like this idea. Have them spend a set amount of time, say 30 minutes, searching the area for suitable sites and they get to throw the dice and everyone can look at it. If it seems reasonably defensible, you trace it and they set up camp. I think it adds a simple way to give players another tactical choice, while anchoring some specific "real-feeling" locations in the abstract wilderness.


  1. Mmmm...bacon. That's a great idea! The mapping, I mean. ;)

  2. I like this a lot. To deal with the same situation, I made a Campsite Generator: - I think I'll use your method to do the mapping once they pick a site!

  3. whoops, lemme try that link again: Campsite Generator - maybe that'll work.

  4. Thanks Dave. That site is cool. If I were to use it, I'd want to do that randomization as the players rolled the d4s so they could decide "Do we want to stay where the skeleton is hanging, or near the little cave?"

    Of course that would mean a little more work for the DM because you'd have to decide on the fly where the random features would be on the d4 map.

  5. This has the capacity to become a really good way to quickly build wilderness encounter locations on the fly. You could use d6 to expand the elevation range possible to include depressed areas as well (perhaps filled with water, marsh, or mud). Expanding on this idea you could roll the dice a second (or third) time to determine the location of obstacles (large rocks and trees) and difficult terrain within the site (as appropriate to the surrounding terrain type).
    You could even let the party determine the precise type of terrain element present, or even give them the opportunity to relocate terrain features to their liking (representing their efforts to locate a defensible camp). The degree to which the party may influence this process could be based on time and effort expended, as well as the results of Survival, Knowledge (local), Knowledge (Geography) or Knowledge (Dungeoneering) check results.