“Location, location, location.” Where you set your RPG encounter is every bit as important as the monsters that make up your CR budget. Here’s a quick guide to creating awesome locations.
Like a good movie, you want your locations to be interesting, challenging, and above all, memorable. Some good examples are Smaug’s vast Treasure Room under the Lonely Mountain and the sprawling Goblin City in The Hobbit.
First, ask yourself, what kind of location do you want? Is it a dark jungle, vast ice cave or dank swamp? Let your monster choices inspire you.
What thematic features does your location have? Can you swing from vines in your jungle, or are the trees incredibly old towers that reach high into the clouds? Make a list of these features. Then, choose one main feature to focus on and two for added detail.
How do these features help or hinder PCs? If you have a river, how wide and how deep is it? Does it lie across the heroes path or do enemies float down it towards them. Are there sharp rocks and how can you avoid them? What other hazards can you think of, and which will add the most to the encounter?
Whatever features you come up with, play them up and make them extraordinary.
Mapping Your Location
Once you have your theme and features, it’s time to sketch your map. Think about where the PCs and monsters start, and how you want to use your features. If your location has multiple levels, draw a side on sketch to help you conceptualize the area.
Next, take some time to research rules related to your features, such as falling, lava and ice mechanics. If the giant statue in the centre of the map is going to move, how will PCs interact with it and who will be rolling what, and when?
Now draw your map on paper or a dry erase grid map. Pay special attention to distances, if you want the heroes to be able to jump the chasm, make sure they can. Use different colours and symbols to help your players read the map. For extra points, you can use small pieces of black origami paper to create your own Fog of War.
That’s it, why not leave a comment to tell me what you came up with.