Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Naming things

You may wonder why I am spending so much time on this map and trying to figure out things like religion, political boundaries and names for what will no doubt be a sandbox style setting.   Ya I don't want to play out a detailed political drama revolving around the price fluctuation of flax, I want to run a fairly simple beat-em up game.   However it comes down to this:  I sit down and say to myself, "Ok they are standing on a road just outside a small town, now what?"  What will they do now?  What do they see? Is the town walled?  Are there merchants traveling the road?  Do they have guards?  Are they friendly?  If they stop one and ask where he is from what will he say?
Well if the roads are poor and there are lots of bandits and goblins in the woods that merchant will likely have guards and be more suspicious.   If the roads are well kept and there is a good military patrolling the roads he may be less suspicious of fellow travellers.  The more general framework you have laid out before hand the easier it will be to answer these questions on the fly.

Imagine the campaign starts on the road outside Milham.  Milham it is called because it began as lumber mill shipping logs down the river towards the city of Freeport.  Since the road was built, Milham has grown into a medium sized town and now trade flows both ways.   Milham is a walled town because all towns are walled in the Westmarch.  Even though war is not common, it is a frontier province and there are enough monsters and bandits to require fortifications (lucky for us or it would get awfully boring).  If there is anything the locals can't handle, the Mayor of Milham can send for help from the garrison at Red Towers castle which is about 100 miles away.
Map with some names on it.
Yes, you could just make up names and things on the fly but by working ahead you can include useful backgrounds or relationships that a casual traveler would know.  For instance, Freeport was a small fishing village re-named 300 years ago by Rikard the Tall to entice traders from across the sea to his new kingdom. Red Towers is the newest castle in the land, built only 20 years ago by the last Margrave of Westmarch over the ruins of an ancient border keep.  It's name comes from being built of  red clay brick and not the usual stone.  Unlike more established regions like Lakeshire and the Soundlands, Westmarch is more of a frontier and it's people are more open to new things.

If I spend some time woolgathering now, that merchant might have a lot more to talk about than you might think.


  1. I'm really digging how "alive" the area covered by this little bit of map is becoming just through a few simple steps. The level of detail is perfect: not too much that you have to remember a lot of statistics and details, but enough so that each place has a "feel" to it and very basic questions can be answered.

    My only problem is that the actual map scale seems to be too large. It would take about two weeks from when word is sent from Milham to Red Tower Castle to when the troops finally arrive to help. Not exactly close by.

    If it were me (which I know it isn't) I would reduce the scale of the map down to 12, 10, or even maybe 5 miles to the hex.

  2. That's actually funny because I'm always thinking the scale is too small. I like a 30 mile hex because you can basically hit 1 hex per day travel time. However that's assuming moderate wagon or walking speeds. A Pony Express type setup would easily double that speed so a rider with mount changes could probably send word to Red Towers in a day and a half and a mounted response could be there less than three days after. Using birds or magic would cut the time down even more. I'd say that 4-6 days would be a reasonable average, the towns would have to make their defenses based on that kind of turnaround - which I think is an interesting bit of colour in itself.

  3. At 30 miles a day it wouldn't be too bad, but I was running on the assumption of 12-15 miles a day. I may be off on that...