You could do it with a list of locations connected by routes – roads, rivers, or whatever. The problem is: there are few tools available for random terrain generation without hexes. They are all hex-focused. And most of those make no attempt at sensible geography: no gradual transitions from low swamps to arid highlands.
I’ve been thrashing around for a couple days, designing and re-designing a system for this, but it keeps getting too comlex. It should probably be reserved for a PDF, but in the meantime, I’ll split what I have into a couple posts and try to keep it simple.
It all starts with a re-design of some tables I’ve done before.
(Edit: Some minor corrections, based on later posts. For example, see the notes on the condensed random wilderness rules.)
|3||Warm||600 feet||Lt. Woods|
The first column is Latitude/10 and is also used for die rolls for the last two columns, which can be read together or used to cross-reference changes. Wetness tends to increase as you move downhill. Above the treeline, vegetation will be in the Very Arid to Thin range, never thicker.
|d10||Terrain Type||Landmark Type|
|5||Lower Ground||Lone Hut|
- Higher/Lower Ground shifts elevation up or down on the Climate and Terrain Table
- Wetter shifts biome one row down and adds a spring, stream, or pond
- Thicker Vegetation also shifts biome one row down, but water source is ground water/rain
- Mountain adds a small mountain, 2d6 x 100 feet. Terrain at base remains the same.
Landmarks are mostly self-explanatory, but:
- roll a d6 for the number of boulders or pits,
- roll 1d6-2 each for statues and pillars in rubble (zero or less means that item is not present,)
- roll 1d6-2 for the occupants of a hut, or inhabitants for a settlement (zero or less means abandoned.)
|1d6 Roll||Settlement||Pop. Modifier|
|0 or less||Outpost||double|
- Subtract 1 from the roll for Sparse populations, 2 for Wilderness.
- Add 1 to the roll for Dense populations, 2 for Very Dense.
For the starting location only, if the settlement population indicates an abandoned settlement, there is an additional settlement one size smaller with d6/2 x the population modifier for inhabitants. The first, abandoned settlement will likely have some kind of curse or monster keeping it from being re-occupied.
- Roll 1d6 and read result off Territory Table. Use entire line, don’t roll individual columns. This is your Homebase.
- You can roll 1d6 on the Settlement Table for the size of your Homebase, or just pick what you want.
- You can also roll 1d10 for each column on the Locale Table, if desired, to further describe Homebase.
- Roll 1d10 on the Territory Table for distant terrain in each of the four major compass directions. Only use the last two columns, but read them together. This is the land features that are very far away (“The sea is to the east, and there’s a mountain range that way.”) You don’t need to set distances unless needed.
- Any time players ask what is nearby in a given compass direction, roll 1d10 for each column on the Locale Table to find out what’s there, then roll 2d6 for the number of days travel to reach it.
- Population density starts as Normal. When you roll 2d6 for the distance to a settlement, population density decreases to Sparse or Wilderness on a 2, increases to Dense or Very Dense on a 12.
(See, for example, the walkthrough and elaboration in this post.)
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