How to make the forest interesting…

From a thread on DM Academy asking about how to make a forest interesting, moving away from modules.

Wrote a blog post about it, like to read it? Here it goes…

I used to just jot down ideas, knowing that when I covered an 8.5 by 11 piece of paper with names and ideas I usually had a good amount of game time. I’m enjoying tables lately.

Daydream about some cool places, some cool factions, some cool tensions and you can always roll a few if you don’t know what to do. Here’s what I might have in front of me before DMing such a thing:

Places

  1. Serene Glade
  2. Ancient Witch-Tree Coven
  3. Devil Gorge
  4. Ancient Standing Stones
  5. Elf Ruins
  6. Raging River

Factions (roll twice if you want factions fighting – same result might be in-fighting)

  1. Satyrs
  2. Queen’s Elves, returning to lands they left long ago
  3. Witch-Elves, sworn to fell trees, never left
  4. Tieflings (with a keep and small castle town in Devil Gorge)
  5. Gnomes, ply the river
  6. Scattered human nomads, hither and yon

Problems

  1. Something ancient has stirred
  2. One faction’s forces is stalking the other from stealth
  3. One faction’s forces is retreating desperately
  4. Diplomacy among two factions is occurring
  5. One faction is celebrating a holy day
  6. Two factions are trading goods

Encounters do not have to be fights.

And here they are in layout. Sometimes things change from notebook to google doc to layout, which is neat.

Maybe I roll a few times to see what is going on before the game.

The Ancient Witch-Trees, Tieflings twice and a Holy Day.

Maybe a Tiefling assassin squad is waiting to ambush some Witch-elves but some of the Tieflings don’t want to attack them on their holy day, not wanting to upset the Witch-trees.

What are Witch-trees? No idea. I have an idea that their bark looks like bone… Creepy sentient trees…


I rolled the Witch-trees again but got the Satyrs and Gnomes and Factions Trading. Nah, just Satyrs and Gnomes trading on the river – pretty normal. Maybe they are gossiping about seeing some shady looking Tieflings moving toward the Witch-trees.


I’d grab some names for each faction type, maybe daydream about some NPC’s. Name the river. Daydream a bit about the Queen’s Elves and the Witch-Elves and the Tiefling Knight who runs the castle in Devil Gorge.

What do the humans who follow a nomadic path around the forest’s edge think of all this drama?


That is it. That is enough to start. If I need more I can roll and we haven’t even discussed linking the players to this mess.

That is a post for another day.

Make your own! Let me know how it goes at the table.

I’ve got pdf’s with inspirational tables like this over at the DM’s Guild.

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