Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Distant Lands and the Creation Thereof

You know what's really cool, in adventure games? Exploring new, unique, beautiful (and deadly) places. One of my favorite, oft-overlooked parts of a game in an entirely different genre - Magic: the Gathering - is the diversity of locations depicted on its land cards. There's so many more interesting lands to explore than your hobbity rolling hills, dwarven mines with dark secrets, frozen viking tundra, elven forest with sparkly bits... you get the idea. Below are a few of my favorites, evocative locales that make me itch for a road-trip across fantastic worlds - and below that, tables to generate some of your own!

Image result for mtg ravnica lands art
Richard Wright
Related image
James Paick
Image result for mtg tarkir lands art
Titus Lunter
Image result for mtg eldrazi lands art
Jung Park
Tomasz Jedruszek
Image result for mtg kamigawa lands art
Raymond Swanland
Related image
Adam Paquette
Image result for mtg dominaria lands art
Dimitar Marinski
How to use these tables
Roll 2d6 and combine the results for the basic terrain types of the region, then roll 2d8 for the number of hexes the region takes up. If the terrain types came up doubles (plains/plains, etc), roll 4d8 for the number of hexes instead. If you roll Weird, pick something setting-appropriate, or just roll another Feature and exaggerate it to the point where it becomes Terrain. All regions have a Feature, Inhabitants, and something Going On.

Then, roll a d4 to see how many adjacent regions there are, and a d8 to see which cardinal direction each is in (1 is north, 2 is northeast, go around clockwise)

Terrain (d6) (thanks, Spwack!)
1. Plains
2. Mountains
3. Forests
4. Wet
5. Dry
6. Weird

Example Combinations
plains/plains: big plains
plains/mountain: plateau
plains/forest: savannah
plains/wet: marshes
plains/dry: desert
plains/weird: sheets of floating rock hovering above each other connected by artificial, massive chains
mountain/mountain: vast range
mountain/forest: mountains with forest on top
mountain/wet: glacier
mountain/dry: volcanic
mountain/weird: inverted mountain with tip touching ground and slopes widening up into the sky
forest/forest: old-growth, towering millenium-old trees
forest/wet: rainforest
forest/dry: dead, fossilized forest
forest/weird: fungal forests that descend deep into the earth
wet/wet: great lake or inland sea with archipelago
wet/dry: swamp
wet/weird: ever-hurricane, land scraped clean by winds and lightning
dry/dry: vast desert
dry/weird: vacuum moonscape, but on earth - air just stops at the boundary
weird/weird: towering stacks of obsidian, with temples to various forgotten deities carved into the sides and and endless stream of pilgrims searching for meaning

Features (d20)
1. (1. Good, 2. Evil, 3. Lawful, 4. Chaotic)-Aligned
2. Ancient Ruins
3. Big River
4. Canyons
5. Coastline
6. Cursed
7. Elementally-Aligned
8. Extreme Weather
9. Highly Magical
10. Isolated
11. Lake
12. Major Road
13. Megaflora
14. Resource-Rich
15. Spirit-Saturated
16. Treacherous Terrain
17. Vast Caverns
18. Wasteland
19. Roll twice, it's got both
20. Roll three times, it's got all three

Inhabitants (d20)
1. Burgeoning kingdom
2. Explorers/adventurers from neighboring regions
3. Extraplanar incursion
4. Isolated (1-2. academy, 3-4. monastery, 5-6. temple)
5. Major city with outlying farms
6. Megafauna
7. Nomadic tribes
8. Resource extraction from another region
9. Scattered villages
10. Towns with powerful industries
11. Trade caravans and major trade route
12. Warlord and subjugated peoples
13. Roll 2d12, first is subservient to second
14. Roll 2d12, closely allied
15. Roll 2d12, facing regional crisis together
16. Roll 2d12, at open war
17. Roll 2d12, uneasy alliance
18. Roll 2d12, combine into one
19. Roll 3d12, first rules other two
20. Roll 3d12, all at open war

What's Going On? (d20)
1. Ancient secrets long-buried are coming to light
2. Bountiful harvest, supernatural flourishing of life
3. Conversion to new belief system spreading like wildfire
4. Generations-long war is coming to tenuous ceasefire
5. Growth, new settlements built and towns becoming cities
6. Influx of wealth changing class character of region
7. Inhabitants factionalizing, threatens war within
8. Invasion by nearby region
9. Looming threat from next region over
10. Natural disaster
11. New interplanar conjunction
12. New technology changing all facets of life (printing press? gunpowder? scrying orbs?)
13. One leader consolidating power
14. Plague, decimating populace
15. Resource rush
16. Surge of monster activity
17. Terrain type changing rapidly (roll what type)
18. Threatened by intelligent monster (dragon, beholder, lich, etc)
19. Widespread unrest due to scarcity
20. Roll twice, first caused second


  1. How could you forget to include the most fantastical land of them all?

    But seriously, mtg art is a great resource. Here's a big list of land cards sorted by artist name if you want to flip through them.

  2. I recognise that d6 table! :D
    I reckon inhabitants could be stretched out to 20 entries, and then a seperate d8 table to figure out the relationship, it looks really good though

    1. Aha, you're who I grabbed it from! Cited!

    2. Your example combinations are much better than mine though, I'll be grabbing some of those back! I usually make plains+weird = minidungeon present, or having the Feature be visible from anywhere in the hex, but floating chunks of rock? Hell yeah. Dry+weird being a moonscape? Stolen!


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