In 1974 D&D, the assumed campaign setting is an expanse of chaotic wilderness with isolated domains controlled by powerful NPCs. High-level PCs might also at some point aspire to roll back part of the wilderness and carve out their own domain (rather detailed rules for doing this, including prices for components of strongholds are given in The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures, pages 20 through 24). The assumption is that a dungeon will be located nearby the town where PCs start, and will occupy those characters for (at least) their first few levels. The overland wilderness is considered too dangerous for small parties of low level adventurers. A method is given for determining the residents of strongholds once the adventurers have graduated from dungeoneering (TU&WA pages 15 and 16). These articles contain a method for generating wilderness settings
I want to place the dragons now because they’ll likely distort the social map. Few people want to live next-door to a dragon.
I think this idea of power centers can profitably be the guiding principle for wilderness setting design.
- Undying lord or knight and undead court
- Faerie enclave (elves, gnomes)
- Dragon lair and hunting grounds
- Vampire lord and flock
- Cursed location (ancient battlefield, ghost town, cemetery)
- Source of super-science (crashed space ship, ancient technological ruins)
- Dangerous ground (radioactive wasteland, wild magic zone)
- Strongholds (inherently lawful, if sometimes despotic)
- Dungeons (Entrances to the underworld, sources of chaos)
- Powerful chaotic monsters
- Features of the environment that influence nearby residents
This begs for a nice collection of tables that could be plugged into a system similar to The Wilderness Architect, but I’m not feeling all that creative right now, so I will leave that as an exercise for the reader (and maybe a future post).