NOTE: This style of Dice Drop mapping idea is all over the place on the interwebs. I am not sure of finding the inventor, so if you know please advise and I will link/credit.
This is a system for creating a map and a guide to a Hamlet or Village in your OSR campaign setting. It is designed on the premise that most small habitations are located near the intersection of a road and a river/body of water. Feel free to substitute the River for a lake shore or sea shore, if it fits your current campaign location better.
By E. Ridsdale Tate (1862-1922) – http://www.yorkcastle.com/pages/pictures.html, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11966319
After you have run through the process once, you will have a good idea of how you can tweak further additional villages for your needs. The map position of the various locations are dependent on the positions of the River and the Keep.
The second design assumption is the village started out as a smaller settlement, a small Motte-and-Bailey style Keep with a palisade or wall around it. The Keep is assumed to be constructed on the highest point of land overlooking the intersection of the River and the Main Road. You can, of course, adjust the size and shape of this ‘original’ settlement as you see fit.
The scale I used for the example is one inch : 1,000 feet. Feel free to increase or decrease as appropriate for the size of your village.
Sample Dice Drop Map
I used dot grid paper…
The circles on the map represent where the dice fell. The fractions indicate the score of the die and the type of die, for example Mill 3/10 indicates a d10 with a score of three. Not sure yet what I’ll be doing with the scores, but I tracked them just in case.
Start with a blank sheet of plain paper, using pencil, as it may be necessary to move some locations after the process of assigning is complete:
- Draw a line (straight or slightly curving) from top-to-bottom or side to side, this will be the Road.
- Draw a line that crosses the road, essentially at a right angle, this will be the River.
- To locate the Keep, measuring from the bottom-right corner, choose a spot 1/3 width to the left and 1/3 up the length of the sheet. This is the location of the Keep. Draw a two inch radius circle around the Keep, this is the location of “the old wall” around the original stronghold. There will be a street that pretty much follows the exterior of the wall (or where the wall used to be, if it’s been demolished or re-used). Again, feel free to ‘fudge’ this location and size of circle (or even a rectangle shape) if you need to.
- Drop six dice, d4 through d20, in the middle of the paper. Where each of these dice land will be a Location in the village.
- The die closest to the river is the Mill. Draw a small box there.
- The die closest to the Bridge is the Business District. Draw a rough square shape about 2 inches on a side, around the Business District die, with two sides being the road and the river. Again, make this larger or smaller, as you see fit, and decide if it describes an open space for an open-air market or a neighborhood of commercial establishments.
- The die closest to the Keep is the Temple. If this die is not inside the circle of the old wall, move it there, just inside the wall.
- The next-closest die to the keep is the “axis” of the original stronghold. Draw a line between the Keep and this die, extending until it hits the Wall street. This is the location of the Old Gate, and the current Village Watch Barracks/Armory.
- Then draw a line through the Keep at right angles to this line, from one side of the circle to the other. These are the original “Main Streets” of the old stronghold. They should have Historic names, relating to the founding of the village/stronghold.
- Of the remaining two dice, the one that is farthest from the Keep is the abode of a Hedge Wizard/Wise Woman/Good Witch or Warlock.
- The final die is the location of the Blacksmith.
- Roll 2d6 on the map. If the result is doubles, roll again. Draw a line across the map between these two dice, basically separating the map into two halves. The Half with the higher scoring die is the “Upscale” part of town, this die marks the location of the fancy, upper-class inn. The other, lower-scoring die marks the location of the shabby, lower-class inn. Roll more dice if you have a larger village and want more inns.
- Draw a street from the Mill to the main road
- Draw a street from the blacksmith to the main road and to the river
- Draw streets from the Inns to the main road
- Fill in blocks of housing, creating meandering streets and alleys. These blocks should be denser in the Down-scale side of town, with smaller individual units; larger blocks with lower density in the Up-scale side of town, with larger individual units. The areas inside the circle, around the Keep, should be the densest.
To flesh out the character of the various landmarks and important locations, turn to p. 101 in the AD&D DMG. These tables will give the primary, driving characteristics of the proprietors or leading figures in each location.
- Mill – Roll on the Honesty table
- Temple – Roll on the Piety and Materialism tables
- Barracks/Armory – Roll on the Disposition and Morals tables
- Hedge Wizard – Roll on the Intellect and Collections tables. Roll d4+1 for the Magic-User’s Level.
- Blacksmith – Roll on the Disposition and Energy tables
- Upscale Inn – Roll on the Morals and Thrift tables
- Downscale Inn – Roll on the Nature, Piety, Interests tables
Business District – the types of goods and their quality will vary as to the needs of your campaign and location in your setting. Are the prices higher or lower than average (as per the rulebook)? Modify prices by +/- d3x10%
Roll on the Honesty table separately for each vendor.
When you have completed the Generation Program, lay a sheet of graph- or dot-grid paper over the draft and copy. I usually use a scale of 1”= 1,000 feet.
Please let me know if you have any Comments or Questions below. I’m thinking about using a system like this for other types of maps as well, such as simple Dungeons, Caves, underground Strongholds or Lairs. So stay tuned.