Into the Woods We Go

In 1984, TSR published N2: The Forest Oracle, a module for characters level 2-4.  I hate it. It’s a ham-fisted, credulity-straining railroad laid down on a track of base Tolkien stereotypes. The landscape makes no sense, there are obvious PC choices that are entirely foreclosed on, and the event-driving NPCs seem to play by a completely different set of rules than the players. This isn’t even getting into a ridiculous table of mishaps borne out of falling into a river (“a magic item, or 200gp if the player has none”) or a comically blunt Raiders of the Lost Ark ripoff.

On the other hand, I also kind of love N2. It’s got a ruined castle camped by worg-riding goblins that would be perfect for putting Dyson’s Delve under. It’s got no less than 4 hidden groves/glades. It’s got what are basically the underpinnings for a nice little sandbox: A dungeonous cavern, lairs for creatures from the encounter tables, and a comically blunt Raiders of the Lost Ark ripoff.

So I’m trying to remediate the module by tearing it down and putting it back together again. I’m modifying the map- expanding it to the local (6-mile hex) ACKS regional map template, re-arranging and rationalizing it a bit. I’m also re-thinking all of it against the ACKS recommendations for building a campaign map, since it seems useful to have a swatch of low-level campaign fodder I can pull out of the binder when I need it. So this is like a kick-off post for that work.

Reworking and expanding a classic map

Reworking and expanding a classic map


The ACKS map template I’m using measures 15 x 25 hexes. If it’s a typically-populated realm unto itself, it would clock in as a principality of 100k-120k families.  However, I’m thinking of this as an agrarian/borderlands realm, I’m knocking that population down a rank to a duchy of 52k families. ACKS predicts right around 5200 families in settlements, with 1042 of them in the largest settlement of the realm (you can see it off the river near the bottom of the map above). That’s a Class IV market that brings in 617gp monthly income for the duke.

It doesn’t really sport any other settlements that even show up on a  map at the 6-mile scale: Its most notable settlements after the largest would be 6 villages of 75-170 families that center the counties of the duchy.  Because much of the map is occupied by somewhat hostile territory, I’m collecting two of them into one which brushes up against the Class V threshold for mapping (250 families) at this scale (it’s in the Southwest of the map near an intersection of roads and a freshwater spring in the nearby hills). The rest will probably end up on the roads out of the mountains and forests, which looks grim for the Count and Countess of Marshy Fens up in the Northwest and Lord Scrubland of the North. There’s a reason no one lives there.

3 Responses to “Into the Woods We Go”

  1. February 25, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I think there was a long RPg.net thread calling this the worst module TSR ever published. I’d add rather than subtract points for a Raiders rip-off, though.

  2. 2 Charlatan
    February 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Tavis: There’s certainly a lot of completely ridiculous- and not in a fun, gonzo way- stuff in the module. But I also think it can be polished, or at least forged, into something useful and fun if you beat the plot out of it.

    There’s a lot of schlock, upon which I’m always torn: I want to roll my eyes, but I also think it’s totally metal when the worg-riders appear. Trust me, I’m leaving the “Raiders” rip-off in.

  3. February 25, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    If there is anything wrong about bloodthirsty killers riding EVEN MORE bloodthirsty killers into battle, then I don’t want to be right.

    We were playing a game last night, where my Cleric cast “speak with animals” to talk to snakes. Scott, the GM, did the whole, “Sssssso, massssster, what do you wisssssh to know?” And I had to laugh with joy because (a) it’s a terrible cliche, but (b) I want and expect it in game and would be shocked if the snake instead had like a Russian accent or something, therefore (c) I have bad taste and am okay with it.

    Somewhere there’s cliche, and somewhere there’s legitimate genre tropes, and I don’t know exactly where to draw the line.

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Past Adventures of the Mule

February 2013

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