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.

The Servant and the War

The game starts at around 56 minutes in if you want to skip the character burning and belief writing.

The Situation

Our scoundrels were not going to make it to the table tonight, so we went to the Burning Wheel Campaign Ideas and chose one. Sean got stuff ready so we could stream and he got it up in about fifteen minutes; it was a heroic effort.

Sean narrowed it down to 3 and he chose some of my favorites from the list. In the end we chose this one:

shoeless situation

BW campaign idea: You are a shoeless peasant. The armies of the dwarves, elves and humans will soon clash near your home. #burningwheel

Burning

Sean did a great job of walking through the lifepaths and teasing out the setting implications of his choices. Bina was a captive of war turned servant who married into the village, built around a tower at the crossroads. Bina has a husband who is a wheelwright and a lover who is a hunter. She has a 4 year old child. She serves the lord knight who rules this tower at the crossroads, where farmers from all over meet for market.

To the north are the mountains, ruled by dwarven princes. To the south is the ancient forest, ruled by elves. To the east is the capital, ruled by the human ducal council. The elves forbid anyone from going too far west.

I peeked at an old article, Elves at War, on the BW forum written by Luke.

burning battles

Wheel

Beliefs

  • Convince Deek to flee.
  • Keep Bodnar from raising the alarm.

Instincts

  • Keep Bodnar’s flagon full.

We got up and moving pretty fast. In that time we cleared up our expectations. Sean seemed to be expecting a fast and furious one-shot but I’m more into a long, slow burn with BW. I’m glad we cleared that up.

Sean definitely burned up a character who gave me plenty to work with but it was challenging. Bina is not a traditional fantasy novel protagonist and I liked that. As the situation demanded, she is a normal person swept up into an epic and dangerous event.

Deek Nandor – Bina’s husband, a wheelright

Nara – her 4 year old daughter

Sir Bodnar Butond – the knight in whose tower she serves

Vas – her hunter lover, tired of waiting, wants to run away with her

I prodded at Bina for a few hours. We rolled some dice, played out the consequences – did a Duel of Wits and learned how far Bina will go. We got to know the place, this lonely tower at the crossroads where farmers and shepherds brought their goods to market. We got to know the important people in Bina’s life a bit. I left Sean with a terrible choice, putting the life of the lord-knight directly into her hands.

We’ll find out what choice she makes next time.

 

Art

The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Print Collection, The New York Public Library. “The Two Armies” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1530. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/d576ac40-e6d6-0132-8b89-58d385a7bbd0

Edited by me using pixlr.