I present a map illustrating the different stages of fantasy cartography. Please feel free to use it in your own game.
BLANK MAP (no labels)
HEX MAP (no labels)
HEX MAP (labeled)
The final hex map with labels shows many locations man made and natural. What awaits heroes in Giant's Teeth Mountains? What dangers challenge them in the Wight Wood? Who dwells with in Castle Red Rune?
Here is a hex map on vivid color for use in your campaign. A little nonstandard but none the less useful. The scale is region so each hex can be any size you wish. I have also included a non-hex version for those of you new school kids.
Campaign Kick Starters
Medieval City States - Three or more power city states fight with there neighbors on land and at sea. Think of many small byzantine states each with a different patron deity and each fearing magic user cabal's dark conspiracies. The patron deities play a grand game as the less immortal magic users fight for their own vision of the world.
Reverse Races - Halflings, Elves, Dwarves, and Gnombs are evil and Orcs, Goblin, Bubbear, and Hobgoblins are good. Humans are either out of the picture or on the good side.
Stone Age - A network of traders connects small villages and towns amid dangerous mega fauna and wilderness. Agriculture is slowly being introduced and larger settlements are forming. All races have human lifespans and subject to the danger and brutality of the age.
I present a blank hex map. Feel free to use it it your own games. It is in a regional scale so it cam be any thing from 1 mile per hex to 25 miles per hex. It uses standard hex map icons: Mountains, Hills, Forest, Grassland and Swamp.
There are many campaign possibilities having a island chain between two larger land masses.
Pirates Kingdoms - Competing pirates preying on merchants ships traveling from the northern land to the southern. Pirate strongholds conducting pirate on pirate warfare.
Exile Dumping Grounds - For centuries the northern kingdom and southern kingdom have dumped their criminals, undesirables and anything dangerous on the island. The exiles now are conducting raids on their former homes. The have a grudge and the power to fulfill their revenge.
Races Living on Different Islands - The goblinoid races of orc, hobgoblin, goblin, bugbear have taken over the northern and southern land masses. The surviving good humanoid races live on isolated islands between the land masses. Halflings have a mercantile island, Dwarves have a strongholds defending their island and trade in stone and steel, Elves have magic glowing forests and sell enchanted items, Gnombs farm and fish and make ornaments, Humans formed a corsair society on their island serving one island or another raiding goblinoid ships .
In the back of the DMG of AD &D 1st edition there is a often overlooked section titled "Appendix P: Creating a party on the spur of the moment." This section provides a base to build a party from. A little dry at first glance but when studied a greater meaning comes to light.
The first paragraph focus on creating a party in a short period of time thereby focusing on valuable game time. The game time is actively playing not just spending time creating a character which in latter editions take eons. Less about number-stacking a character and more about play. After all that is the reason the players and DM are there for.
It mentions scenarios and levels and crafting a character appropriate for them. There are apparently three groups of levels of scenarios Low, Medium, and High. This parsing indicates that players may be of any level as long as all of them are with in a level range. For instance a party of Low level players may be a two 1st level, one 2nd level, and one 3rd level. It suggest inequality or just varying skill level. Equality should be striven for but if a characters stats are very high then putting them at a lower level would be that unfair to make them equal to a less advantaged character.
Also it mentions that players may not have suitable characters to adventure in the DM's campaign . What this speaks of is creating characters specifically for the campaign and doing so together. Crafting characters quickly but with a idea of how they fit in the world and possible ways the characters may be intertwined. It has a side effect of already laying the ground work for teamwork which is a vital part of any campaign.
Replacement heroes are discussed as well and how it is import to create them for the campaign as well. The implication is that the same above process be followed. The new character needs to fit into the empty space the dead or missing character left and not necessarily their shoes.
The appendix also discuses in brief the basic building blocks of a character: Abilities, Race &Class, Alignment, Level, Standard Equipment, Magic Items .This descriptions are pretty basic but there are a few treasures to be gleaned from them.
Cautiously choose alignment allowable to the characters so that it is not so diverse that the game breaks down in creature quarrels. It then breaks them down once again to groups: Neutral, Neutral Good, Lawful Neutral, and Chaotic Neutral. This of course can be done for other alignments as well such as: Lawful Evil, Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral. Alignment as a tool for party cohesion.
Finally it provides a few tables for Armor, Scrolls, Weapons, Miscellaneous Items. The final tools for adventurers to become successful. Nothing to incredible until we get to Miscellaneous Items a.k.a. Magic Items. These are reserved for parties of 5th level or high who travel into more dangerous areas. All are useful adventuring magic items and some even have the potential to randomly disrupt the game. But a good DM should always reward a character with clever use of a magic item. At last a parting word of wisdom that if the above guidelines are followed the DM is assured that the characters will be right for the campaign they adventure in. Relatively anyway.
All in all it teaches DMs and Players good lesson and simplifies the process of crafting a campaign specific party of characters.