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Game Master Information

Dungeon Encounters

Besides “placed” monsters, dungeons usually contain wandering monsters. The Game Master may create special wandering monster tables for specific dungeons, or the general wandering monster tables (below) may be used.

In an average dungeon, a wandering monster encounter will occur on a roll of 1 on 1d6; the Game Master should check once every 3 turns. The circumstances of a specific dungeon may call for higher odds or more frequent (or possibly less frequent) wandering monster checks.

Die Roll Level 1 Level 2 Level 3
1 Bee, Giant Beetle, Giant Bombardier Ant, Giant
2 Goblin Fly, Giant Ape, Carnivorous
3 Green Slime* Ghoul Beetle, Giant Tiger
4 Kobold Gnoll Bugbear
5 NPC Party: Adventurer Gray Ooze Doppleganger
6 NPC Party: Bandit Hobgoblin Gargoyle*
7 Orc Lizard Man Gelatinous Cube
8 Skeleton NPC Party: Adventurer Lycanthrope, Wererat*
9 Snake, Cobra Snake, Pit Viper Ogre
10 Spider, Giant Crab Spider, Giant Black Widow Shadow*
11 Stirge Troglodyte Tentacle Worm
12 Wolf Zombie Wight*
Die Roll Level 4-5 Level 6-7 Level 8+
1 Bear, Cave Basilisk Black Pudding
2 Caecilia, Giant Black Pudding Chimera
3 Cockatrice Caecilia, Giant Giant, Hill
4 Doppleganger Displacer Giant, Stone
5 Gray Ooze Hydra Hydra
6 Hellhound Lycanthrope, Weretiger* Lycanthrope, Wereboar*
7 Lycanthrope, Werewolf* Mummy* Purple Worm
8 Minotaur Owlbear Salamander, Flame*
9 Ochre Jelly* Rust Monster* Salamander, Frost*
10 Owlbear Scorpion, Giant Vampire*
11 Rust Monster* Spectre*
12 Wraith* Troll

Wilderness Encounters

The Game Master should check for random encounters in the wilderness about every four hours of game time; this translates nicely to three night checks and three daytime checks. If your players choose to stand three night watches, you simply check for each watch; in the daytime, check morning, afternoon, and evening.

To check for a wilderness encounter, roll 1d6; on a roll of 1, an encounter occurs. If a wilderness encounter is indicated, roll 2d8 on the appropriate table below. The Game Master should think carefully about how the encounter happens; check for surprise in advance, and if the monster is not surprised, it may be considered to have had time to set up an ambush (at the GM’s option).

Die Roll Desert or Barren Grassland Inhabited Territories
2 Dragon, Blue Dragon, Green Dragon, Gold
3 Hellhound Troll Ghoul
4 Giant, Fire Fly, Giant Bugbear
5 Purple Worm Scorpion, Giant Goblin
6 Fly, Giant NPC Party: Bandit Centaur
7 Scorpion, Giant Lion NPC Party: Bandit
8 Camel Boar, Wild NPC Party: Merchant
9 Spider, Giant Tarantula NPC Party: Merchant NPC Party: Pilgrim
10 NPC Party: Merchant Wolf NPC Party: Noble
11 Hawk Bee, Giant Dog
12 NPC Party: Bandit Gnoll Gargoyle*
13 Ogre Goblin Gnoll
14 Griffon Blink Dog Ogre
15 Gnoll Wolf, Dire Minotaur
16 Dragon, Red Giant, Hill Vampire*
Die Roll Jungle Mountains or Hills Ocean
2 Dragon, Green Dragon, White Dragon, Sea
3 NPC Party: Bandit Roc(1d6:1-3 Large,

4-5 Huge,

6 Giant)

4 Goblin Displacer Whale, Sperm
5 Hobgoblin Lycanthrope, Werewolf* Crocodile, Giant
6 Centipede, Giant Mountain Lion Crab, Giant
7 Snake, Giant Python Wolf Whale, Killer
8 Elephant Spider, Giant Crab Octopus, Giant
9 Antelope Hawk Shark, Mako
10 Jaguar Orc NPC Party: Merchant
11 Stirge Bat, Giant NPC Party: Buccaneer (Pirate)
12 Beetle, Giant Tiger Hawk, Giant Shark, Bull
13 Caecilia, Giant Giant, Hill Roc (1d8: 1-5 Huge, 6-8 Giant)
14 Shadow* Chimera Shark, Great White
15 NPC Party: Merchant Wolf, Dire Mermaid
16 Lycanthrope, Weretiger* Dragon, Red Sea Serpent
Die Roll River or Riverside Swamp Woods or Forest
2 Dragon, Black Dragon, Black Dragon, Green
3 Fish, Giant Piranha Shadow* Alicorn (see Unicorn)
4 Stirge Troll Treant
5 Fish, Giant Bass Lizard, Giant Draco Orc
6 NPC Party: Merchant Centipede, Giant Boar, Wild
7 Lizardman Leech, Giant Bear, Black
8 Crocodile Lizardman Hawk, Giant
9 Frog, Giant Crocodile Antelope
10 Fish, Giant Catfish Stirge Wolf
11 NPC Party: Buccaneer Orc Ogre
12 Troll Toad, Giant (see Frog, Giant) Bear, Grizzly
13 Jaguar Troglodyte Wolf, Dire
14 Nixie Blood Rose Giant, Hill
15 Water Termite, Giant Hangman Tree Owlbear
16 Dragon, Green Basilisk Unicorn

City, Town or Village Encounters

It’s important for the Game Master to remember that, unlike dungeon or wilderness environments, cities, towns and villages are busy places. During the day, most towns will have people on the streets more or less all the time; the absence of people on the streets is often an indication of something interesting. By night, much of the town will be dark and quiet, and encounters will be mostly Thieves or other unsavory types; but near popular eating (or drinking) establishments, people of all sorts are still likely to be encountered. The GM must make sure that his or her descriptions of the town environment make this clear; of course, this will also make it harder for the players to identify “real” encounters.

The GM is encouraged to create his or her own encounter tables for use in each city, town or village created (or assign encounters by other means if desired); however, a set of “generic” encounter tables are provided below for those times when such preparation has not been completed. Roll 2d6 on the table below to determine what sort of encounter occurs; a description of each type of encounter appears below the table.

Die Roll Day Encounter Night Encounter
2 Doppleganger Doppleganger
3 Noble Shadow*
4 Thief Press Gang
5 Bully Beggar
6 City Watch Thief
7 Merchant Bully
8 Beggar Merchant
9 Priest Giant Rat
10 Mercenary City Watch
11 Wizard Wizard
12 Lycanthrope, Wererat* Lycanthrope, Wererat*

Beggar encounters will often begin with a single beggar approaching the party, but there will generally be 2d4 beggars in the area, and if any party member gives anything to the first beggar, the others will descend on the party like flies. Each beggar is 90% likely to be a normal man, and 10% likely to be a 1st level Thief, possibly scouting for the Thieves Guild or a local gang.

Bully encounters will be with 2d4 young toughs; each is 70% likely to be a normal man, 30% likely to be a 1st level Fighter. Bullies generally appear unarmed, depending on their brawling ability in a fight (but keeping a dagger or shortsword hidden, to be used in case the fight is going against them). Bullies can be a bit unpredictable, such that the GM may want to use a reaction roll to determine the leader’s mood.

City Watch encounters will be with 2d6 watchmen, all 1st level Fighters save for the squad leader, who will be from 2nd through 4th level. They will confront “suspicious-looking” characters, but generally will need a good reason before they attempt to arrest or otherwise interfere with player characters.

Doppleganger encounters will, of course, appear to be some other type of encounter; the GM should roll again to determine what the doppleganger is masquerading as. 1d6 dopplegangers will be encountered; any extra group members will be humans who do not know they are traveling in the company of shapeshifting monsters. If the party is “interesting” to the dopplegangers, one or more of the monsters will attempt to follow them and replace a party member (as described in the monster description). In many cases, player character parties will not discover the true nature of the encounter until much later.

Giant Rat encounters will generally involve alleys, the docks, or other “low” places. Rats are generally not dangerous unless provoked, but if surprised they may attack. See the monster description for details of this encounter type.

Lycanthrope, Wererat encounters will appear to be some other type of encounter, either another sort of “normal” encounter or a giant rat encounter (depending on the circumstances). Wererats are cowardly and will not attack a party of equal or larger size.

Mercenary encounters will involve 2d6 members of a mercenary company, going about some business or other. A mercenary leader may offer a position to Fighter-classed player characters if they have any reputation at all.

Merchants are a common feature of towns, and may be encountered performing any sort of business. As with mercenary encounters, merchants may offer jobs to interesting player characters, particularly those with good reputations. See Creating an NPC Party, below, for details on this type of encounter. (A merchant in a town may not have a full entourage as described below; the GM should use his or her discretion in creating the encounter.)

Nobles encountered may also offer positions to player characters, or possibly offer a reward for some dangerous task. Player characters with bad reputations may be confronted, ordered to leave town, or even arrested if the noble is able to call for the city watch. (See Creating an NPC Party, below, for details on this type of encounter.) A noble in a town may not have a full entourage as described below; the GM should use his or her discretion in creating the encounter.

Press Gangs will consist of 2d6 Fighters, all 1st level except for one or two leaders of 2nd through 5th level. They will be armed with blunt weapons or possibly will fight with their bare hands, since their goal is to capture rather than kill player characters; however, it is likely that at least some members of a press gang will have daggers or swords on their persons in case a serious fight breaks out. A press gang will not confront a party of equal or greater size unless the party is obviously weakened, drunk, etc. If the party loses, they will awaken aboard a ship at sea or in a military camp (depending on whether sailors or soldiers captured them), unarmed and at the mercy of their captors.

Priest encounters will usually be similar to a group of pilgrims (see Creating an NPC Party, below, for details), though the group encountered will not be as large as would be encountered in the wilderness. Generally, a single priest of 1st through 4th level will be encountered, accompanied by 1d4 of the faithful.

Shadow encounters in a town will be much like the same encounter underground; see the monster description for details.

Thief encounters will be with a group of 1d6 Thieves, generally disguised as ordinary townsmen or sometimes as beggars. One Thief in the group will be from 2nd to 4th level, with the others being 1st level only. They will seek to steal from the party, of course, unless watched very carefully.

Wizard encounters will involve a Magic-User of 4th through 7th level, accompanied by 1d4-1 apprentices of 1st level. The GM must decide on the temperament and mood of the wizard.

Creating An NPC Party


A party of NPC adventurers will usually consist of 4-8 characters, as follows: 1d3 Fighters, 1d2 Thieves, 1d2 Clerics, and 1d2-1 Magic-Users. Usually the characters will all be of similar levels; after deciding what average level the party should be, you may wish to make a few of the characters lower levels (to reflect the usual “replacements” brought in when some characters die).

The Game Master must choose the race(s) of the NPC adventurers to suit the region they are found in (or come from). Probably 80% or more of adventurers are Human, 10% are Dwarves, 6% are Halfling and the remaining 4% Elvish. If the NPC adventurer party is evil, the GM may choose to replace some party members with humanoid monsters such as orcs, hobgoblins, or gnolls.

The party may be rivals with the player characters, vying for the same treasures, or they may actually be enemies, evil marauders that the player characters must defeat. It is, of course, possible that the NPC adventurers are allied or otherwise friendly with the player characters, but this may make things too easy for the players.

Bandits, Brigands, and Highwaymen

A party of bandits will generally consist of 2d12 1st level Fighters and 1d6 1st level Thieves, led by a Fighter or Thief of 2nd to 5th level (1d4+1) or by one of each class (if there are 11 or more 1st level members total). In the wilderness, bandits will generally have horses or other steeds appropriate to the terrain (stolen, of course) as well as light armor, swords and bows or crossbows. Determine magic items as given below for the leaders only; rank-and-file members will not normally have magic items.

In their lair or hideout, a party of bandits will generally have type A treasure (with magic items omitted since they will have already been generated using the rules below).

Buccaneers and Pirates

The difference between buccaneers and pirates is largely a question of what they wish to be called; whatever you call them, they are waterborne equivalents of bandits, attacking other ships or raiding coastal towns for plunder.

A buccaneer party will consist of 3d8 1st level Fighters, led by a Fighter of 3rd to 6th level (1d4+2) and 1d3 Fighters of 2nd to 5th level. All will be experienced at handling ships, of course. They will be unarmored or armored only in leather, and will be armed with swords and bows or crossbows.

Seagoing pirates may appear in larger numbers, but the number of leader-types will be similar to that given above. Generate magic items for leaders only as described below. A shipload of pirates or buccaneers will have a type A treasure, with magic items omitted (since magic items will already have been rolled for the NPCs); the treasure may not be aboard the ship, however, as pirates often prefer to bury their treasures on islands. In such a case, the Captain or one of his mates will have a treasure map leading to the location of the treasure.


Merchants must often transport their wares through wilderness areas. Roughly half of the time (50%), a land-bound merchant party will be led by a single wealthy merchant; other merchant parties will consist of 1d4+1 less wealthy merchants who have banded together for their own safety. There will be 2d4 wagons (but at least one per merchant) drawn by horses or mules. Each wagon is driven by a teamster who is a normal man, usually unarmored and armed with a dagger or shortsword. The caravan will employ 1d4+2 first-level Fighters and 1d4 second-level Fighters as guards. If encountered at sea, a merchant party will generally consist of a single ship owned or rented by a single merchant. The ship will have a crew of 2d8+8 regular crewmen, who are normal men, unarmored and armed with clubs, daggers or shortswords; the Captain, First Mate, and other officers are taken from this number. Large ships may require larger crews. 1d4+2 first-level Fighters and 1d4 second-level Fighters will be aboard as guards, just as with a caravan.

Besides the valuable but undoubtedly bulky trade goods transported by the merchant caravan or ship, such a party will also have a type A treasure, with magic items omitted; it may be in one chest, or spread out among the wagons.


A noble party will consist of a noble (of course), possibly accompanied by a spouse (also a noble, of course) and/or one or more children. Each adult noble will have at least one attendant (assistant, lady-in-waiting, etc.).

Lower-ranking nobles (such as barons) will have a single wagon or carriage, drawn by fine horses; higher-ranking nobles will have two or more wagons. The noble may be mounted on a warhorse, though he or she may choose to ride in a carriage part of the time. Each carriage or wagon will have a teamster, who in this case will be a 1st level Fighter in chainmail with a longsword. At least two mounted Fighters of 1st through 4th level will be with the noble as guards; again, higher ranking nobles will have more guards. Guards will generally be armed with longswords and possibly lances, armored in platemail, and their warhorses will usually be barded with chainmail. Determining the exact number of guards is left to the GM in this case. The normal chances for magic items apply, of course.

A noble will usually be traveling with a little spending money; a type A treasure should be rolled to represent this. In this case, do not omit the magic items, as nobles will generally be more wealthy than the average party of men.

Nobles are usually (70%) normal men; otherwise, roll 1d10: 1-6 indicates a Fighter, 7-8 indicates a Magic-User, 9 indicates a Cleric, and 10 indicates a Thief. (Clerical “nobles” are bishops, archbishops, and the like.) Roll 2d4-1 for the level of each “classed” noble.


A party of pilgrims is on its way to (or from) a major religious locale or activity. Such a party will be led by a 1d4 Clerics of level 1-4 (roll for each).

The remainder of the party is rather random in nature; most pilgrim groups include 3d6 normal men (or women if the religion allows women to go on pilgrimages), 1d6 Fighters of level 1-4 (roll for each) with chainmail and longsword, and 1d4 Thieves of level 1-4 (each of whom may be a genuine devout person, or possibly just on the lam). There is also a 50% chance of a single Magic-User of level 1-4 being with the party.

Pilgrims usually travel light, carrying a single bag each and walking or riding mules or horses. The pilgrim party will most likely be bringing offerings of some sort to their destination; generate a type A treasure for this purpose. If magic items are indicated, they will most likely not be used by any of the NPCs as they have already been dedicated to the god or pantheon.

Magic Items for NPCs

NPCs will generally have magic items in proportion to their class and level; assume a 5% chance per level that any given Fighter, Thief or Cleric NPC will have a magic weapon or magic armor (roll for weapon and armor separately for each NPC). Regardless of level, a roll of 96-00 should be considered a failure. Magic-Users will have a Ring of Protection (roll the bonus as usual for the item) on a roll of 4% per level, and a magic dagger or walking staff on a roll of 3% per level.

In addition, assume a 2% per level chance that any given character will have a potion, and 3% per level that a Cleric or Magic-User will have a scroll of some sort.

Finally, add up the levels of all members of the party, and use this number as a percentage chance that a Miscellaneous Magic item will be found among them. If the roll is made, divide the number by two and roll again; if the second roll is made, two such items are found. If the party has more than 3 members, you might wish to divide the number in half again and roll for a third such item. Assign the Miscellaneous Magic item or items to whichever party members seem most appropriate, or roll randomly if you can’t decide.

Demi-Human Parties

It is assumed above that NPC parties will be Human, or predominantly so; but the Game Master may choose to present parties of Elves, Dwarves, or Halflings from time to time. In general, a party of demi-humans will be homogeneous…. an Elf party would consist of all Elves, for instance. If encountered in the territory of another race, the demi-human party might include a guide hired to lead them to their destination. For example, the Elf party mentioned above might hire a Human guide to help them when traveling through a Human country.

The Game Master may simply use the figures given above when generating such parties. One thing that the GM must decide is whether or not the “normal men” rules apply to demi-humans… are there “normal elves” for instance? This decision is left to the GM. If there are such characters, they will have the same racial abilities as others of their race, but will fight with an Attack Bonus of +0 just as normal men do. If there are no such characters in the campaign world, then simply substitute 1st level Fighters for the normal men listed above.

Dealing with Players

Character Creation Options

The standard character creation rules call for rolling 3d6 for each Ability Score in order. Players may complain that they can’t create the sort of characters they want to play. Here are several options you may choose from if you wish to make things easier for your players. Note that the players must not be allowed to demand these options; it’s purely the decision of the Game Master.

Point Swapping: Allow the player to “move” points from one Ability Score to another, at a rate of -2 to one score for each +1 added to the other. The maximum score is still 18 (or the racial maximum if lower), and the player should not be allowed to lower any score below 9.

Score Swapping: Let the player exchange any two Ability Scores, once per character.

The Full Shuffle: Let the player arrange the six Ability Score values as he or she wishes. This allows the most customization for the player, but on the other hand you may find that all player characters in your campaign begin to look very much alike. It’s not uncommon for players to “dump” the lowest statistic in Charisma, for instance.

Hopeless Characters

Sometimes a player will look at the six scores rolled, and declare the character “hopeless.” The Game Master should always allow the player to scrap a character with less than 9 in the first four scores (since all four classes would be unavailable to that character). However, you as the Game Master might choose to allow the player to reroll a character with scores that are overall below average even if the character isn’t as “hopeless” as this.

Here’s a suggestion: Sum up the Ability Score bonuses or penalties that apply to the character. If the total is negative, consider the character below average, and allow the player to scratch the entire set of scores and reroll. If the total is zero, the character is “average,” and the player probably should go ahead and play the character as rolled. Obviously, if the total is greater than zero, the character should be played as rolled.

As an alternative, a player who rolls a set of ability scores where the total of all the bonuses and penalties is negative may be allowed to "flip" the scores by subtracting all the scores (not just the "bad" ones) from 21. This makes a 3 into an 18, for example, and will result in a total of bonuses and penalties that is positive if the total was previously negative.

Acquisition of Spells

Clerics have an obvious advantage over Magic-Users, in that, in theory, they have access to any spell of any level which they can cast. However, note that Clerics are limited in their spell selection based on their deity, faith or ethos; for instance, a Cleric of the goddess of healing should not be surprised that his or her deity refuses to grant reversed healing spells. If a Cleric prays for a spell that is not allowed, the Game Master may choose to grant the character a different spell, or optionally (if the deity is angered) no spell at all for that “slot.”

Magic-Users begin play knowing two spells, read magic plus one other (unless the GM grants more starting spells). Each time the character gains a level, he or she gains the ability to cast more spells; in addition, every other level the Magic-User gains access to the next higher level spells (until all levels are available). However, gaining the ability to cast these spells does not necessarily mean the Magic-User instantly learns new spells.

Magic-Users may learn spells by being taught by another Magic-User, or by studying another Magic-User’s spellbook. If being taught, a spell can be learned in a single day; researching another Magic-User’s spellbook takes one day per spell level. In either case, the spell learned must be transcribed into the Magic-User’s own spellbook, at a cost of 500 gp per spell level transcribed.

A Magic-User may add a new spell of any level he or she may cast at any point; however, spells of higher levels may not be learned or added to the Magic-User’s spellbook. The Magic-User must find a teacher or acquire a reference work (such as another Magic-User’s spellbook) in order to learn new spells, and the cost of such is in addition to the costs given above. Often a Magic-User will maintain a relationship with his or her original master, who will teach the character new spells either for free or in return for services. Sometimes two Magic-Users will agree to exchange known spells. In many cases the only option available to a Magic-User will be to pay another Magic-User (often an NPC) anywhere from 100 gp to 1000 gp per spell level in return for such training.

Magic-Users may also create entirely new spells (or alter existing spells); see the Magic Research rules, below, for details.

Weapon and Armor Restrictions

Several races and classes have weapon and/or armor restrictions applied to them. What happens when a player declares that his or her character is going to use a prohibited weapon or wear prohibited armor?

Clerics: The prohibition against edged weapons is a matter of faith for Clerics. Therefore, if a Cleric uses a prohibited weapon, he or she immediately loses access to his or her spells as well as the power to Turn the Undead. A higher-level NPC Cleric of the same faith must assign some quest to the miscreant which must be completed in order for the fallen Cleric to atone and regain his or her powers. If unrepentant, the character is changed permanently from a Cleric to a Fighter. Refigure the character’s level, applying the current XP total to the Fighter table to determine this. Hit points and attack bonus remain the same; change the attack bonus only after a new level is gained as a Fighter, and roll Fighter hit dice as normal when levels are gained.

Magic-Users: These characters are simply untrained in any weapon other than those normally allowed to them, and should suffer a -5 attack penalty when using any prohibited weapon. A Magic-User in armor can’t cast spells at all; any such attempt fails, and the spell is lost.

Thieves: Wearing armor heavier, more restrictive and/or noisier than leather armor prevents the use of any Thief ability, including the Sneak Attack ability. Thieves may choose to wear such armor, but this only makes them a poor excuse for a Fighter.

Dwarves and Halflings: These characters are prohibited from using large weapons, mainly due to their small stature and relatively low weight. It’s hard to swing a weapon when the weapon is trying to swing you. If such a character tries to use a prohibited weapon, the Game Master may either apply a -5 attack penalty based on the difficulty of using the weapon, or alternately declare the attempt unsuccessful, at his or her option.

Judging Wishes

Wishes are one of the most potentially unbalancing things in the game. With a carefully worded wish, a player character can make sweeping, dramatic changes in the game world, possibly even rewriting history. Before allowing the player characters in your game access to even one wish, think about how you will deal with it.

Wishes are granted by a variety of beings. Even when a wish comes from a device (a ring or a sword, for instance), some extradimensional being, god or devil or whatever, has placed that wish in the device. A wish will tend to further the goals of the granting being; if the granter is an evil efreeti, for instance, it will attempt to twist the meaning or intent of the wish so that it does not really accomplish what the player character wants. On the other hand, if the granter is one of the good powers, it will grant the wish as intended so long at the player character isn’t being greedy or spiteful.

Game balance is the main issue that must be considered. Using a wish to heal the entire party, teleport everyone without error to a distant location, or to avoid or redo a catastrophic battle, is reasonable. A wish that a character be restored to life and health is reasonable, but a wish that not only restores but also improves the character is not.

In general, a wish is granted with at least literal accuracy… the words of the wish must be fulfilled. The exception is wishes that are unreasonable for game balance purposes; they are still at least literally interpreted, but may be only partially granted. In the last example above, for instance, the granting power would likely restore the character to life and health but ignore the “improvements” wished for.

Optional Rules

Death and Dying

The rules state that, at zero hit points, the character is dead. If this is too harsh for you, here are several approaches to changing the situation:

Raise Dead: The first approach doesn’t change the rules a bit. Arrange matters so that characters killed in an adventure can be easily raised (but at a substantial cost). This not only “deals” with the mortality issue, it also soaks up excess treasure, preventing the player characters from becoming too rich to be interested in adventuring. It also tends to reward the cautious (since they get to keep their gold more often).

What if the characters don’t have enough money when they die to afford to be raised? Allow the local religious establishment to raise dead adventurers in return for their indenture… that is, the adventurers, upon being restored to life, owe the church or temple the money it would have cost to be raised, or an equivalent service. Thus, the local religious leaders would have a ready pool of adventurers to undertake dangerous missions for them.

But the adventurer(s) are dead… how can they agree to the indenture? There are two options: the priests can use speak with dead to attain agreement, or the adventurers can sign an agreement with the church before leaving on the potentially dangerous adventure. The latter might even be considered a standard procedure in some places.

Save vs. Death: The first actual rule alteration is to allow characters reduced to zero hit points to save vs. Death Ray to avoid death. If the save is failed, the character is immediately dead, just as in the normal rules. If the save is made, the character remains alive for 2d10 rounds; if the character’s wounds are bound (or he or she receives healing magic) within this time frame, death is averted. The character remains unconscious for the full 2d10 rounds rolled, either dying if left untreated or awakening if his or her wounds are bound.

Binding the wounds of the dying character stabilizes him or her at zero hit points. Non-magical healing will require a full week to restore the first hit point; after this, healing proceeds at the normal rate.

Magical healing will restore the character to whatever total is rolled on the healing die roll (up to the usual maximum of course).

Note that any spellcaster reduced to zero hit points who subsequently survives loses all remaining prepared spells.

This rule might be combined with the suggestions under Raise Dead, above.

Negative Hit Points: Instead of stopping at zero hit points, keep track of the current negative figure. At the end of each round after he or she falls, the character loses an additional hit point. If a total of -10 is reached, the character is dead. Before this point is reached, the character may have his or her wounds bound and/or receive magical healing, which will stabilize the character. The injured character may not move more than a few feet without help, nor fight, nor cast spells, until his or her hit points are again greater than zero. This rule should not be combined with the Save vs. Death option.

Just as with the Save vs. Death rule, spellcasters who survive being reduced to zero or negative hit points lose all currently prepared spells.

As a further option, the GM may choose to use a negative number equal to the character’s Constitution score rather than a straight -10.

“Save or Die” Poison

Poisons, as described in the Encounter and Monster sections, kill characters instantly. Game Masters may find this makes the mortality rate of player characters a bit too high. On the other hand, poisons shouldbe scary. Here’s an optional rule which may make things a bit easier without entirely removing the fear from poison:

Where a “save or die” poison is indicated, the victim must make a save vs. Poison or suffer 1d6 damage per round for 6 rounds, starting the round following the exposure to the poison; this is an average of 21 points of damage, but even a first level character might survive with a combination of luck and healing magic. The GM may create poisons which vary from these figures, of course. If the Negative Hit Points optional rule is being used, it is suggested to increase the poison duration to 10 rounds (an average 35 points).

Awarding Experience Points for Treasure Gained

The Game Master may also assign experience points for treasure gained, at a rate of 1 GP = 1 XP. This is optional; GMs wishing to advance their players to higher levels more quickly may choose to do this, while those preferring a more leisurely pace should omit it. If experience is awarded for treasure, it should be awarded only for treasure acquired and returned to a place of safety. Alternately, the GM may require treasure to be spent on training in order to count it for experience. This is a highly effective way to remove excess treasure from the campaign.

Ability Rolls

There will be times when a player character tries to do something in the game that seems to have no rule covering it. In some of those cases, the only attribute the PC has that seems appropriate may be an Ability Score. Here is a suggested method for making rolls against Ability Scores that still gives better odds to higher level characters:

The player rolls 1d20 and adds his or her Ability Bonus for the score the GM thinks is most appropriate, as well as any situational bonus or penalty the GM assigns. Consult the following table. If the total rolled is equal to or higher than the given Target number, the roll is a success.

Level Target
NM or 1 17
2-3 16
4-5 15
6-7 14
8-9 13
10-11 12
12-13 11
14-15 10
16-17 9
18-19 8
20 7

Preparing Spells from Memory

Sometimes a Magic-User will want to prepare spells, but his or her spellbook may be unavailable; this includes when the book has been destroyed or stolen as well as times when the Magic-User has been captured or trapped.

A Magic-User can always prepare read magic from memory. Other spells require an Intelligence ability roll, as described above, with the spell level as a penalty on the die roll.

Failure exhausts the spell slot being prepared, just as if it had been successfully prepared and then cast; so if a 5th level Magic-User attempts to prepare fireball from memory, and fails, he or she will have no 3rd level spells for the day.

Thief Abilities

Some players of Thieves may wish to have more control over their Thief abilities. If you study the Thief Abilities table, you’ll discover its secret: from levels 2-9, the Thief improves 30 percentiles (total) each level; from levels 10-15, 20 percentiles; and from level 16 on, 10 percentiles. If you wish to allow Thief customization, simply let the player allocate these points as he or she wishes rather than following the table. Allow no more than 10 percentiles to be added to any single Thief ability per level gain. Note also that no Thief ability may be raised above 99 percent.

Magical Research

General Rules for Research

At some point a Magic-User or Cleric may wish to start creating magic items or inventing spells. This is termed magical research. For any research, Magic-User must have a tower or laboratory, while a Cleric requires a properly consecrated temple or church of his or her faith. In addition, there will be a cost for the creation of each item, a minimum time required to create it, and a given chance of success. If the roll fails, generally the time and money are wasted and the procedure must be started again from the beginning; however, consult the detailed rules below for exceptions.

In almost all cases, the Game Master should make this roll in secret. There are many situations where the character (or the player) should not know whether the roll has actually failed, or whether the GM has decided the research is impossible for the character. The GM may decide to tell the player that the research is impossible if the roll succeeds; if the roll is a failure, that is all the player should be told.

In general, Clerics may only create magic items reproducing the effects of Clerical spells; Clerics may also make enchanted weapons and armor, even those sorts which they may not use themselves (since they may be creating weapons or armor for other followers of their faith). Magic-Users may create any sort of magic item except for those reproducing Clerical spells for which no equivalent Magic-User spell exists.

Time spent doing magical research must be eight-hour workdays with interruptions lasting no more than two days. Longer interruptions result in automatic failure of the project.

The GM may, if he or she so desires, grant Experience Points to characters who successfully complete magical research. It is suggested that the rate of such awards be 1 XP per 10 gp spent on the research. This award may be granted for all research, or only for creation of magic items, or not at all if the GM prefers to emphasize adventuring for advancement purposes.

Spell Research

Researching new spells is the most common type of magical research. A Magic-User may research a standard spell, removing the need for a teacher or reference; alternately, a Cleric or Magic-User may research an entirely new spell. Of course, no character may invent or research a spell of a level higher than he or she can cast. If the character is inventing a spell outright, the GM must determine the spell’s level and judge whether or not the spell is possible “as is.” The GM does not have to tell the player whether the spell is possible, and in fact this may be preferable.

The cost to research a spell is 1,000 gp per spell level for “standard” spells, or 2,000 gp per spell level for newly invented spells; in either case, one week is required per spell level to complete the research. The chance of success is 25%, plus 5% per level of the character, minus 10% per level of the spell; the maximum chance of success is 95%. If the research roll is successful, the character may add the spell to his or her spellbook (if a Magic-User) or may subsequently pray for the spell (if a Cleric). On a failure, the money and time are spent to no avail. Clerics of the same deity, faith or ethos may teach each other the prayers required to access new spells; this takes one hour per spell level. The procedure to exchange spells with other Magic-Users has already been explained (under Acquisition of Spells, above).

As mentioned above, the GM may decide that a proposed new spell is not “correct” for his or her campaign; too powerful, too low in level, etc. Rather than tell the player this, there are two strategies that may be used.

First, the Game Master may decide to revise the spell. If the roll is a success, the GM then presents the player with a revised writeup of the spell, adjusted however the GM feels necessary for game balance purposes.

The alternative, more appropriate when the GM believes the spell should be higher level than the player character can cast, is to make the roll anyway. If the roll fails, that is all the player needs to know; but if it succeeds, the GM should then show the player the revised version of the spell and explain that the character may try again when he or she attains a high enough level to cast it. In this case, the GM may allow the character to reduce either the time or the cost by half when the research is attempted again at the higher level.

Magic Item Research

Any character who wishes to create magical items must know all (if any) spells to be imbued in the item. Items that produce effects not matching any known spell may require additional research (to devise the unknown spell) if the GM so desires.

Some magic items require one or more special components that cannot usually be bought. Special components can only be used once on such a project. For example, the GM might require the skin of a displacer to create a cloak of displacement, or red dragon saliva to create a wand of fireballs. Note that there are specific rules for components under Other Magic Items, below.

Special component requirements are entirely at the option of the Game Master, and are usually employed to slow the creation of powerful magic items that might tend to unbalance the campaign. It’s also a good way to lead the spellcaster (and his party) into dangerous adventures.

Chance of Success

Unless given differently below, the base chance of success creating a magic item is 15% plus 5% per level of the spellcaster, plus the spellcaster’s full Intelligence (if a Magic-User) or Wisdom (if a Cleric). Thus, a 9th level spellcaster with a 15 Prime Requisite has a base chance of 75%.

Spell Scrolls

A spellcaster may create a scroll containing any spell he or she has access to (for a Magic-User, spells in his or her spellbook; for a Cleric, any spell the character might successfully pray for). The cost is 500 gp per spell level, and the time required is 1 day per spell level.

Reduce the chance of success based on the level of the spell being inscribed, at a rate of -10% per level. If the roll fails, the enchantment of the scroll has failed; however, if the caster tries again to inscribe the same spell, either the cost or the time is reduced by half (at the character’s option).

Other Single-Use Items

Scrolls (other than spell scrolls), potions, and a few other items (such as the rod of cancellation) are single-use items. These items may be created by Magic-Users or Clerics of the 7th level or higher.

The chance of success is as given for scrolls, above, when the item being created reproduces a known spell (or when the GM decides a spell must be created, as described above). For other types of items, the GM should assign a spell level as he or she sees fit, and the cost and time required is doubled (making up for the spell research or knowledge required for spell-reproducing items). The time required is one week plus one day per spell level (or equivalent), and the cost to enchant the item is 50 gp per spell level, per day.

Potions are a special case; the character creating a potion may create a large batch, consisting of several doses, which may be bottled in separate vials or combined in a larger flask. For each additional dose created at the same time, reduce the chance of success by 5% and increase the time required by one day. Note that increasing the time required will directly increase the cost. If the roll to create the item fails, the entire batch is spoiled.

Permanent Magic Items

Creating permanent magic items (rings, weapons, wands, staves, and most miscellaneous magic items) requires a Magic-User or Cleric of the 9th level or higher.

When enchanting an item with multiple abilities, each ability of the item requires a separate roll for success; the first failed roll ends the enchantment process. Such an item will still perform the powers or effects already successfully enchanted into it, but no further enchantment is possible.

Permanent magic items, including weapons (described in detail below), must be created from high-quality items. The cost of such items will generally be ten times the normal cost for such an item.

Enchanting Weapons

The base cost of enchanting a weapon or armor is 1,000 gp per point of bonus. For weapons with two bonuses, divide the larger bonus in half (don’t round) and add the smaller bonus; thus, a sword +1, +3 vs. dragons would cost 2,500 gp to enchant. Enchanting a weapon takes one week plus two days per point of bonus; thus, the sword described would require twelve days to enchant.

Reduce the chance of success by 10% times the bonus; so, a sword +1 would reduce the base chance 10%, while the sword +1, +3 vs. dragons described above would reduce the base chance 25%. Further, the chance of success may be increased 25% by doubling the cost and time required (this decision must be announced before the roll is made).

For weapons having additional powers, combine the rules above with the rules for creating permanent items. All enchantments must be applied in a single enchantment “session.”

Other Magic Items

Magic items can have several features. Each feature added to a magic item increases the cost and the time required, and decreases the chance of success. The features are as follows:

Creates a spell or spell-like effect: This is the basic feature of all non-weapon magic items. The base cost of this enchantment is 500 gp per spell level; time required is five days plus two days per level. If the magic item has multiple spell or spell-like effects, add the cost and time figures together. The chance of success is reduced 5% per spell level.

Has multiple charges: This includes, of course, wands and staffs, but several other magic items would also have charges. Each spell or spell-like effect normally has a separate pool of charges (but see next). The table below shows the various maximum charge levels and the associated cost, time and chance adjustments:

Charge Level Cost per Charge Charges per Day Chance
2-3 +150 gp 1 – 5%
4-7 +125 gp 2 – 10%
8-20 +100 gp 3 – 20%
21-30 +75 gp 4 – 30%

When using the table above, don’t count the first charge for cost or time purposes. Note that each separate pool of charges in the item must be figured separately.

Item can be recharged: Figure the additional cost and time, and the penalty to the chance of success, for rechargeable items as being exactly twice the figures from the table above; so, creating a rechargeable item with 3 charges costs 600 gp more rather than 300 gp more, and takes two days per charge (or four extra days); the chance of success is lowered 10% rather than 5%.

Item recharges itself: Creating a self-recharging item is expensive; apply the following adjustments to the charge cost, time and chance for items that recharge automatically. Note that self-recharging items are never “rechargeable” in that they may not be recharged other than by themselves.

Charging Rate Cost Time Chance
1 per day x 3 x 2 – 10%
All per day x 5 x 3 – 30%
All per week x 4 x 2 – 20%

Charges are generic: This means that all the effects of the item draw power from the same pool of charges; most Magic-User staffs are in this category. Items with generic charges are automatically rechargeable; don’t apply the normal adjustments for this feature. Instead, combine the normal costs for the charge pools of each effect (which must all have the same number of charges), and then divide the charge cost, time and chance adjustments by two. Thus, two effects sharing one pool costs the same as a single effect with a single pool.

Item may be used by any class: By default, magic items may only be used by the class that created them; so a wand of fireballs is normally usable only by Magic-Users, or a staff of healing only by Clerics. This feature allows the item to be used by any class of character, and involves assigning simple command words and gestures to the item. Adding this feature costs 1,000 gp per effect. Note that all the item’s effects do not have to be covered; it is possible to create an item where some effects may be used by any class, but other effects may only be used by the creator’s class.

Item operates continuously or automatically: This feature supersedes both the charges and item use features. The item works whenever properly worn, or activates automatically when required. A ring of fire resistance is a good example; also, the ring of invisibility is in this category. Adding this feature multiplies the final cost and time figures by five and applies a 40% penalty to the chance of success.

Each feature above applied to a magic item will require a valuable, rare and/or magical material to support the enchantment. For example, a wand of fireballs has a spell effect that is powered by charges; these are two relatively ordinary features, so the Magic-User creating the item proposes a rare wood for the shaft and a 1,000 gp value ruby for the tip. The GM may, of course, require something more rare or valuable if the magic item is particularly powerful.

The base cost of a spell effect feature can be reduced by 25% by applying limits to the ability. For example, a ring of charm dryad is an example of limited charm person spell effect, which would qualify for the deduction. This does not affect the chance of success or the time required.

Weapons which are to be enchanted with additional powers other than the normal bonus require combining the standard weapon enchantment rules with the rules given above. Perform the weapon enchantment first; if it is successful, then the character enchanting the weapon must immediately (within two days, as previously explained) begin the spell or spell-like power enchantment process. Failure of the second procedure does not spoil the weapon enchantment.

Cursed Items

Some cursed items, such as cursed scrolls, are created that way specifically by the spellcaster. The difficulty of creating such an item is roughly the same as the difficulty of creating a spell scroll of bestow curse.

Other cursed magic items may be the result of a failed attempt to create a useful item. The GM must decide whether or not a failed research project will actually create a cursed item.

Creating a Dungeon Adventure

1. Think About Why

When creating a dungeon, the first question you must answer is: Why will your player characters risk going into this dangerous dungeon full of monsters and traps?

Here are some possible scenarios:

To Explore the Unknown: This is common in pulp fiction. One or more of the player characters has heard of some ancient site, and wishes to explore purely for knowledge. Possibly some of the other player characters are involved for other reasons.

To Battle An Evil Incursion: Goblins are raiding farms in the area, and the Baron has offered a reward for stopping the raids; the player characters are happy to help.

To Rescue A Kidnapped Victim: Some friend of the player characters has been kidnapped, and they must sneak into or storm the villain’s tower/cave/dungeon to rescue the victim. Or, perhaps, the victim is the son or daughter of the local Baron or a wealthy merchant who offers a reward for the safe return of his or her offspring.

To Fulfill A Quest: The local church, to whom the player characters owe a favor, would like an ancient relic recovered from a lost mountain fortress, and the High Priest asks them to look into it; or some similar task might be assigned, depending on who the player characters owe a favor.

To Get Loot: This is a surprisingly common scenario (well, perhaps not so surprising). The dungeon is rumored to contain a hidden treasure of great value, and the first characters to find it will be rich! Of course, the treasure might not be that huge, and might be guarded by any number of horrific monsters…

To Escape Confinement: The player characters have been captured by an enemy, and find themselves incarcerated without their weapons, armor, or equipment. This scenario must be used with care, as the GM must not be seen to be “railroading” the characters into the adventure.

There are many other possible scenarios, and each has many variations. Knowing the answer to this question will make the next questions easier to answer.

2. What Kind Of Setting Is It?

Is the dungeon beneath a ruined fortress, or an ancient wizard’s tower? Or perhaps it’s a natural cave, which has been expanded by kobolds… or the tomb of an ancient barbarian warlord, guarded by undead monsters… there are many possibilities.

3. Choose Special Monsters

Now you know why the player characters want to go there (or why they will, when they learn of the dungeon), and you know what sort of place it is. Next, decide what special monsters you will place within. For instance, the natural cave expanded by kobolds contains kobolds, obviously, while the warlord’s tomb contains some undead, zombies and skeletons perhaps.

4. Draw The Dungeon Map

Dungeon maps can be drawn on graph paper in pencil, or created on the computer with any of a broad variety of dungeon-drawing programs. (If you like the design of the maps in the official Basic Fantasy RPG adventure modules, be sure to visit www.basicfantasy.org and try out our map designer, MapMatic +2.) When creating a dungeon for personal use, there is certainly no good reason not to use pencil and paper. Below is an example of a hand-drawn dungeon map, with the various symbols noted:

5. Stock The Dungeon

“Stocking” the dungeon refers to assigning contents to each room. There are several possibilities; a room might contain a monster (which might or might not have treasure), a trap (which might guard a treasure, or might not), an “unguarded” treasure, a “special” (something other than a monster, trap, or treasure; often a puzzle of some sort), or be “empty.”

The GM may choose the contents of any room, or may roll on the table below:

d% Contents
01-16 Empty
17-20 Unguarded Treasure
21-60 Monster
61-84 Monster with Treasure
85-88 Special
89-96 Trap
97-00 Trap with Treasure

An unguarded treasure will generally be hidden (such as in a secret room, inside an unusual container, etc.) or protected by a trap (a poison needle in the lock of a chest, or a poison gas canister that explodes if the container is opened, or something similar); such a treasure might even be hidden and trapped! Again, some sort of saving throw should be allowed if a trap is used. It’s not a bad idea to hide a treasure so well that the player characters are unlikely to find it; don’t be concerned if they don’t. If you give away the location of all your unguarded treasures, your players will not appreciate it properly when they manage to find one by cleverness or luck.

A monster might be selected by the GM or rolled on the random encounter tables. It’s traditional that the first level (below ground) contains monsters of 1 hit die or less, the second level contains monsters of around 2 hit dice, and so on, but the GM may choose to arrange his or her dungeon in any way desired.

A monster with treasure might indicate a lair, or it might be a group of monsters carrying loot, possibly camping for some reason before moving on.

A trap is, obviously, some sort of device intended to harm the player characters, including such things as pendulum blades, hidden pits, spear-chucking devices, and so forth. A trap with treasure is such a trap protecting a treasure, which might be in the room beyond the trap or actually within it (such as in a pit). See the Traps section, below, for more information.

A special might be a puzzle of some sort, such as a door that can only be opened by a combination (hidden elsewhere in the dungeon); or perhaps an oracle that answers questions about the dungeon (but possibly it lies). The classic “magic fountain” that randomly changes the ability scores of the drinker is another possibility; if this is done, some sort of limit should be imposed (such as, the device only affects a given creature once, or the device causes harm more often than it gives aid) to prevent abuse. In general, a “special” room is any room containing something that either interests or obstructs the player characters but is not a monster, trap, or unguarded treasure.

Empty rooms contain no monsters, traps, unguarded treasures, or specials. This does not mean that they are truly “empty;” a room might contain a fireplace, upholstered chairs, side tables, torch sconces, and curtains, and still be considered empty. Hide a treasure in a secret drawer in a side table, and it becomes an unguarded treasure room; in other words, to be empty there has to be basically nothing of serious interest to the player characters in the room.

6. Finishing Touches

The GM may wish to create one or more custom wandering monster tables for the dungeon; monster patrols, if any, may need to be described; and possibly some locations may have unusual sounds, smells, graffiti, etc. which need to be noted. Don’t spend too much time on this, though.

Remember, if you only detail the “interesting” things, your players will begin to guess what might be in a room. Some extra description will help make things uncertain for the players. For instance, a room with an unguarded treasure:

Game Master: This room contains a chest, centered against the far wall.

Player 1: We look for monsters, and if we don’t see any, the thief will check the chest for traps.

Kind of boring, right? This might be better:

Game Master: In this room you see a comfortable-looking upholstered chair, a side table and a foot stool. Two burned-out torches are held by sconces on each wall.

Player 1: If we don’t see any monsters, the thief will check the table and the footstool for traps and see if anything is hidden inside them, while the rest of us check for secret doors… one of those sconces might open one.

A little extra detail can add a lot to the adventure.


Some suggestions of typical traps are listed below, to assist the GM. Deadlier traps can be created by combining simple traps, by making their effects harder to avoid, or by making them capable of dealing more damage.

Traps are not necessarily reliable; the GM may choose to make a roll of some sort for each potential victim until the trap is sprung (say, 1-2 on 1d6). Or, a trap door might not open until a given weight is placed on it, so that a lightly loaded thief might cross without difficulty, only to see his heavily armored warrior ally fall victim to it.

Alarm: Everyone within a 30′ radius must save vs Spells or be deafened for 1d8 turns by the loud noise. The GM should check immediately for wandering monsters, which, if indicated, will arrive in 2d10 rounds.

Arrow Trap: A hidden, mounted crossbow attacks at AB +1, doing 1d6+1 points of damage on a successful hit.

Chute: These are usually covered with a hidden trap door. The triggering character must save vs. Death Ray (with Dexterity bonus added) or tumble down to lower level of the dungeon. Chutes usually do little or no damage to the victim.

Falling stones or bricks: Rocks fall from the ceiling. The triggering character must save vs. Paralysis or Petrify (with Dexterity bonus added) or take 1d10 points of damage.

Flashing Light: With a loud snap, a bright light goes off in the face of the character that triggered the trap. That character, and anyone else looking directly at it, must save vs. Spells or be blinded for 1d8 turns.

Monster-Attracting Spray: A strong-smelling but harmless liquid is sprayed on the triggering character. The smell attracts predatory creatures, doubling the chances of wandering monsters for 1d6 hours or until washed off.

Oil Slick: Oil is sprayed onto the floor of the room. Anyone trying to walk through the oil must save vs Death Ray (with Dexterity bonus added) or fall prone. Oil is highly flammable and may be ignited by torches or other flame sources held by characters who slip and fall into it.

Pit Trap: Usually hidden with a breakable cover, trap door, or illusion. The victim must save vs Death Ray (with Dexterity bonus added) or fall into the pit, taking damage according to the distance fallen (see "Falling Damage"). A pit trap can be made deadlier by placing spikes, acid, or dangerous creatures at the bottom, or partly filling it with water to represent a drowning hazard.

Poison Dart Trap: A spring-loaded dart launcher attacks at AB +1 for 1d4 points of damage, and the victim must save vs. Poison or die.

Poison Gas: Gas emerges from vents to fill the room. All within the affected area must save vs. Poison or die. Poison gases are sometimes highly flammable and may be ignited by torches or other flame sources, doing perhaps 1d6 points of damage to each character in the area of effect (with a save vs. Dragon Breath allowed to avoid the damage).

Poison Needle Trap: A tiny, spring-loaded needle pops out of a keyhole or other small aperture and injects poison into the finger of the character who triggered the trap (most likely, a Thief trying to pick the lock), who must save vs. Poison or die.

Portcullis: A falling gate blocks the passage. The character who triggered the trap must save vs Death Ray or take 3d6 points of damage.

Rolling Boulder Trap: A spherical or cylindrical rock rolls down a slanting corridor. Anyone in its path must save vs. Death Ray (with Dexterity bonus added) or take 2d6 points of damage. Alternately, if the corridor has no other place for the character to escape to (that is, no room for the character to step out of the path of the rock), it may be necessary to outrun the rock to avoid the damage.

Blade Trap: A blade or spear drops down from the ceiling or pops out of the wall and attacks at AB +1 for 1d8 points of damage. Particularly large blades might attack everyone along a 10′ or 20′ line.

Triggered Spell: When activated, a spell of the GM’s choice is cast, targeting or centered on the character who triggered it. Popular choices include curses, illusions, or a wall of fire.

Designing a Wilderness Adventure

1. Think About Why

This is much the same task as was described above. The player characters may enter a particular area looking for a town to resupply from, a church or temple to provide healing services, or for many other reasons. Once in the area, the Game Master can make the player characters aware of adventuring opportunities in the area, by means of rumors, posted bounties (such as for raiding humanoids), quests offered by local clergy, and so forth.

2. What Kind Of Setting Is It?

Decide whether the area is deep in the wilderness, or in more inhabited territories, what sort of climate will be found there, how many towns, and of what size, are present, and so on.

You may choose to design a new territory based on the goals of the player characters in your campaign. For example, if the player characters decide to seek their fortunes in the richest city in the world, you could decide where this is and begin to describe it by providing rumors of its wealth and splendor told by far-wandering merchants. If these descriptions intrigue the characters and they travel toward the city, you will have time to decide what terrain – and dangers – lie in their path.

On the other hand, your setting should make sense, which will help players make meaningful choices when traveling. For example, areas under human control will be settled, with signs of civilization such as cleared land for agriculture, roads, strongholds, etc. Areas dominated by humanoid monsters, or which are being raided by wandering humanoids, will be battle-scarred and will not have food or other goods available. A valley that was settled many years ago but abandoned after a dragon attacked could contain ruined buildings, their walls likely still bearing the marks of flame and claw, and fields grown high with saplings.

3. Draw An Area Map

Now it’s time to draw the area map. Some Game Masters prefer to draw maps freehand, while others like to use hex or graph paper; of course, programs are available to create maps on a computer as well. It is a good idea to provide a scale for the map, which can be whatever best fits the map and the area you want to depict. A scale of 18 miles per square or hex is a good choice for a large-scale map, as this is the distance that a group of humans can cover in a day in clear terrain (see Wilderness Movement Rates), which makes it easy to determine travel times.

Rivers and coastline, hills and mountains, forests and plains must be clear on the map. All of these areas should have an appropriate climate: for example, the windward side of a mountain range will usually receive a great deal of rain, while the other side will be dry. You may choose to create an area with abnormal weather for its location, such as a sandy desert in the midst of a rain forest, but this should be unusual, a tip to observant players that strange magic is involved.

Go ahead and place any interesting sites such as towns, ruins, and significant monster lairs. Remember, in most cases your party of adventurers will need some base of operations, be it a city, town, village, or border fortress.

4. Detail Interesting Sites And People

Describe at least the base town, and the dungeon you expect the party to visit first. Also detail any set or placed encounters you laid out in the step above. There is lots of room for creativity here: a distant, unfamiliar town may have different laws, traditions, or currency. You should also describe key NPCs and their connections to each other. NPCs have their own goals and plans, which may or may not involve the PCs, and the actions of player characters toward one person will often influence how others treat them. Don’t go overboard trying to detail every single place on the map… leave some room for expansion later, after you have a feel for your players and their characters.

5. Create Encounter Tables

When designing a wilderness area, one touch that will really set it apart is a custom encounter table. Choose those monsters that seem most appropriate to the area, using the standard encounter tables as a guide. If you have placed humanoid lairs or encampments, you may wish to include their patrols on the custom table.

Another alternative is to roll six or eight or ten random encounters using the “generic” encounter table for the relevant terrain type, and use that list as your random encounter table for the area. When doing this, you probably should re-roll duplicates.


Many player characters, upon reaching higher levels, choose to settle down and build a stronghold. Generally this is allowed when a character reaches 9th level or higher. The player character must obtain land on which to build; in some lands, frontier territory may be made available to any freeman (or freewoman) who can tame it; in others, land may be available for someone with enough gold; while in other cases the character will need to petition the local Count, Duke or King for a land grant.

Usually, Fighters build castles, Magic-Users build towers, Clerics build temples and Thieves build guildhouses, but this is not always so. Any character who builds a stronghold suitable to his or her class will attract 1st level followers of the same class as follows:

Class Number of Followers
Fighter 3d6
Magic-User 1d8
Cleric 2d8
Thief 2d6

These followers will assist the character, but will not go on adventures away from the stronghold in most cases (especially dangerous dungeon adventures). They live from the income generated by the stronghold. The primary sources of this income are taxes on peasants for castles, fees for magical services and students’ tuition for towers, tithing from the faithful for temples, and criminal activities for guildhouses. A stronghold must have 200 square feet of living space for each follower, as well as quarters for guests, stables for horses, and so on.

A player who wants to build a stronghold should draw its floor plan. Each story is usually 10′ tall. The construction costs for the stronghold are determined by the square footage of its walls, floors and roofs, the materials used, and the thickness of the walls.

Make sure not to double-count corners on walls that are 5′ thick or thicker – count the length of only one face. When determining wall length for round walls and towers, approximate pi by 3, since the inner face of the wall has a shorter circumference. The table below gives costs in gp for each 10’ square section of wall. The number by the material is its hardness, which is deducted from damage to the wall.

Wall material 1′ thick 5′ thick 10′ thick 15′ thick
Maximum height 40′ 60′ 80′ 100′
Wood (H 6) 10 gp n/a n/a n/a
Brick (H 8) 20 gp 50 gp n/a n/a
Soft stone (H 12) 30 gp 70 gp 200 gp n/a
Hard stone (H 16) 40 gp 90 gp 260 gp 350 gp

A 1′ thick wall is made of solid pieces of material held with mortar (or pegs and ropes for wooden walls); such walls may be at most 40′ tall. A 5′ thick wall consists of two 1’ thick walls sandwiching 3’ of earth and rubble; such a wall may be at most 60′ tall. A 10′ thick wall consists of a 4’ thick outer wall and a 2’ thick inner wall sandwiching 4’ of earth and rubble, and may be built up to 80′ tall. A 15′ thick wall consists of a 6’ thick outer wall and a 2’ thick inner wall sandwiching 7’ of earth and rubble; these walls may be built up to 100′ tall. To attain the maximum height, thinner walls can be used on upper stories. For example, an 80 ft. tower must have at least 20’ of 10’ thick walls at the base, but more could be used.

The character will have to pay engineering costs for designing the stronghold, and tall structures are more difficult to design and to build. For each portion of the stronghold (wall, tower, and so on), each 10′ of height adds 10% to the costs in both time and money. The GM should feel free to add a multiplier to reflect the difficulties of building in a remote area, obtaining materials, etc. In particular, if materials need to be transported, they require 1 ton of cargo space per 5 gp of wood or stone construction. (The increased weight of stone compensates for its compactness compared to wood.)

A building over 40’ high must have a solid foundation, and if over 60’ high, it must rest on bedrock.

A stronghold requires one worker-day of construction labor for every gp it costs to build. Adding more workers reduces construction time, but the time cannot be reduced below the square root of the time for one worker to build the stronghold. Assume that there are 140 working days per year (seven months of 20 working days each) in temperate climates.

Floors and thatched roofs cost as much and take as long to build as it would take to build the square footage of their bases of 1’ thick wood walls. Wood-shingled roofs cost twice this amount and take twice as long to build, while slate-shingled roofs cost four times as much and take four times as long. (You don’t need to calculate the greater surface area of a pitched roof, since the increased height increases construction costs enough to cover this.)

These costs include normal features of construction such as stairs, doors and windows. Interior walls are not included; they are usually 1’ thick. Parapets, which provide cover for defenders atop castle walls and towers, are usually 1′ thick and 5′ high (so they are half-cost).

Note that guildhouses are almost always built in cities and thus are usually built with 1’ thick exterior walls, but they cost twice as much to build due to the traps and secret passageways that are designed into them. A Magic-User’s tower costs three times as much to build, due to the need for ancient books, alchemical equipment, and other supplies for conducting research.

For example, Sir Percy, a 9th-level Fighter, desires to build a 60’ tall square keep (50’ walls with a 10’ peaked slate-shingled roof) that is 50’ square. The keep will have four stories and an attic, and the first story, which will contain the great hall, will be 20’ high. Sir Percy wishes his keep to be strongly built, so he tells his architect to build with hard stone and use 10’ thick walls for the first two stories and 5’ thick walls for the rest. The first and second floors will thus be 30’ square or 900 square feet, and the third and fourth floors will be 40’ square or 1,600 square feet. With a total floor area of 5,000 square feet, Sir Percy’s keep will house him and up to 24 other people (or animals such as horses, which during an attack may be stabled in the great hall!) in acceptable comfort. Its floor plans are shown on the next page.

The first floor has 30 (= 5 [for 50’ length] x 2 [for 20’ height] x 4 walls, minus 8 sections double-counted at the corners and 2 sections for the entrance) 10’ square sections of 10’ thick hard stone walls, which cost 7,800 gp, and 9 10’ square sections of floor, which cost 90 gp, for a total cost of 7,890 gp. The second floor is the same as the first, except that the walls are 10’ high and there is no deduction for an entrance, giving a cost of 4,250 gp. The third and fourth floors each require 18 sections of 5’ thick hard stone walls, costing 1,620 gp, and 16 sections of floor, costing 160 gp, for a total of 1,780 gp per floor. The 50’ square roof costs 4 x 25 x 10 = 1,000 gp, and the 40′ square attic floor adds 160 gp. The design calls for a total of 770’ of 1’ thick interior walls and doors, which would cost 30,800 gp if made of hard stone; Sir Percy uses wood, which costs only 7,700 gp. These costs total 24,560 gp, but since the keep is 60’ high, its cost is increased by 60% to 39,296 gp. The keep will require 39,296 worker-days. Sir Percy may employ up to 198 workers to build the keep, in which case it will take 198 working days to build, or a year and three months’ time. Keep in mind what might happen in this time, given that the area is dangerous enough to warrant building a castle.

Dungeons: A stronghold may also have a dungeon excavated under it. A dungeon is an excellent place to store perishable supplies, a good shelter if the castle is overrun, and often incorporates an escape route if all is lost for the castle’s defenders or a secret way out for raids is desired. Magic-Users sometimes encourage monsters to take up residence in their dungeons, as they provide a convenient source of supplies for magical research and help keep away unwanted guests. Use the following figures for skilled workers, such as dwarves or goblins, to create dungeons; double the times for less skilled miners.

Material Time for one worker to excavate a 5’ cube
Earth 5 days (supports are required)
Soft stone 10 days
Hard stone 20 days

Structural strength and breaches: A section of stronghold wall has as many hit points as its base cost in gp (for example, a section of 10’ thick soft stone wall has 200 hit points). Stone and brick walls only take damage from crushing blows, while wood walls are also affected by fire and chopping attacks. If a given section of wall loses all of its hit points, it is breached, allowing attackers to pass through. If a breach occurs on a lower course of wall, there is a 40% chance that the 10’ section above it will be breached by collapse, and a 20% chance that the section below it will be breached. These secondary breaches have the same chances of affecting the next 10’ section above or below them, and so on until the top or bottom course of wall is reached. If a breach occurs on a right or acute corner (90 degrees or less), the chances of breaches double in each direction.

Attacking a Castle: Siege engines are difficult to aim, but as castles don’t dodge around, each successive shot by a given siege engine with a given crew has an increasing chance of hitting. To reflect this, the first attack on a castle’s walls is made against Armor Class 20; each subsequent attack by that weapon, fired by that crew, at that same point in the wall, is made against an Armor Class one lower than the previous shot, to a minimum AC of 11.

Attacks on a castle’s defenders are at -4 on the attack roll if they are standing on the parapets, and at -10 if they are behind arrow slits. Since characters defending the castle do move around, the odds of hitting them with a siege engine do not improve from shot to shot. There is an additional -2 on the attack roll for missile attacks if the defenders are more than 20′ higher than the attackers; this is not specifically due to altitude, but rather because the defenders can use more of the wall for cover. The defenders can take advantage of their height by dropping objects on attackers near the castle’s base; these missiles do 2d10 points of damage, but they have a -2 attack penalty if dropped from a height of 30′ or more.

Siege engines can damage several adjacent characters; roll damage separately for each character in the 10′ square hit by the missile. Of course, the attack roll must be high enough to damage each one; a roll of 19 against characters having Armor Classes of 18 and 20 would hit the former but not the latter.

A castle may also be attacked by mining. This method of attack involves tunneling under the castle wall, then setting fire to the supports of the tunnel to cause the wall to collapse. It is also slow, and if the castle has a moat, the tunnel must avoid it, which requires that it be dug deeper, requiring twice the time. A mine is dug like a dungeon, and once its supports are fired, the wall above is breached; if the mine is only 5’ wide, there is only a 50% chance of causing a breach.

Finally, a screw may be used to attack a stronghold. This device, which costs 200 gp, is used to bore through castle walls. A crew of at least eight is required to operate it. It is only used at the base of a wall, and it is usually operated under a sow, or portable roof, as it is slow. (A sow typically costs about 100 gp.) The device does 1d8 points of damage per turn, but it ignores hardness. A breach caused by a screw is small, so it has only half the usual chance of spreading to the next course of wall, unless widened by miners.