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Travel & Exploration Tables for OSR games

“People are supposed to fear the unknown, but ignorance is bliss when knowledge is so damn frightening.”
― Laurell K. Hamilton, The Laughing Corpse

How does it work?

  1. When the adventurers enter in a new area/hex in the map, roll the dice in the terrain type and terrain characteristics tables.
  2. After getting a terrain characteristics, roll on the specific tables (Effect, NPC, Creature or Point of interest).
  3. Play!

All of the images used in this post are thanks to Perplexing Ruins. Support his work here!

Example:

The DM rolls a 2 and an 8 so he gets a forest (2) with a monster + point of interest (8) for the party. Afterwards he rolls the dice to find out the monster and the point of interest. He gets an 8 for the monster (Giant Worm) and a 10 for the point of interest (Broken bridge).

So the DM can start working on a forested area where the characters that go through it have to cross a broken bridge. What they do not know is that a giant worm lurks at the bottom of the bridge… Nice and fresh!

TERRAIN TYPE TABLE: 

  1. Mountain
  2. Forest
  3. Desert
  4. Hills
  5. Valley
  6. Swamp
  7. Marsh
  8. River terrain
  9. Glacier
  10. Tundra
  11. Canyons
  12. Plateau

TERRAIN CHARACTERISTICS TABLE: 

  1. None
  2. Area effect
  3. Monster
  4. NPC
  5. Point of interest
  6. Monster + NPC
  7. Monster + Area effect
  8. Monster + Point of interest
  9. NPC + Area effect
  10. NPC + Point of interest
  11. Area effect + Point of interest
  12. Monster + Monster

Depending on the result on the table “Terrain characteristics”, roll on the following tables: 

AREA EFFECT TABLE:

Area effects are individual characteristics of a specific area. For example, related to terrain characteristics, temperature, geology, etc …

  1. Geographic danger (quicksand, earthquake, wildfire…)
  2. Poisonous plants
  3. Thick fog
  4. Storm
  5. Big crater
  6. Excessive heating
  7. All animals are dead
  8. Illusion
  9. Extreme wind
  10. Extreme cold
  11. Random noises
  12. Shooting stars
  13. Fruit trees
  14. Poisoned area
  15. Eclipse
  16. Radioactive area
  17. Quiet and relaxing
  18. Heavenly
  19. Quiet
  20. Rotten smell

NON-PLAYER CHARACTER TABLE:

Roll a d20 to generate a non-player character in the area:

  1. An injured soldier
  2. A lost missionary
  3. A lost boy looking for his family
  4. An explorer
  5. A witch
  6. A shepherd
  7. A shaman
  8. A merchant
  9. A monk
  10. A headhunter
  11. A hermit
  12. A werewolf (human shape)
  13. A knight
  14. A lumberjack
  15. A thief
  16. A madman
  17. A group of cultists
  18. A herbalist
  19. A tribesman
  20. Traveller

POINT OF INTEREST TABLE:

A point of interest is a place within the area that might be worth exploring for the adventurers. Roll a d20:

  1. Abandoned fortress
  2. Cave
  3. Temple
  4. Skeleton of a giant animal
  5. Graveyard
  6. Giant hollow tree
  7. Abandoned mine
  8. Ancient tower
  9. Fruit trees
  10. Broken bridge
  11. Temple
  12. Lake
  13. Abandoned merchant caravans
  14. Natural pit
  15. A small town
  16. A huge river crossing the way
  17. Abandoned castle
  18. Abandoned stock
  19. Farm
  20. Remains of dead adventurers

CREATURE TABLE:

Enemies! Roll a die of 20 to discover the creature in this area:

  1. Hooded men
  2. Tribal warriors
  3. Trolls
  4. Orcs
  5. Hobgoblins
  6. Skeletons
  7. Vampires
  8. Giant worms
  9. Wolves
  10. Blights
  11. Shambling mound
  12. Goblins
  13. Cultists
  14. Dryads
  15. Manticore
  16. Giant Spiders
  17. Ghosts
  18. Giant boar
  19. Insect swarm
  20. Giant

Additionally roll on the next table to enrich the exploration adding a plot:

PLOT TABLE:

Generating a plot in the area can help make it more interesting. It can be a rumor that has reached them, someone they met who has told them about something they have seen or something they have seen directly. Roll a d20:

  1. A herbalists asks for help, he talks about a wolf that hunts men every night.
  2. A death idol once concealed by heavy undergrowth is revealed when a wind storm knocks down a tree.
  3. Some witnesses claim to have seen a winged serpent guarding treasures in its cave.
  4. The adventurers come across the ruins of a destroyed city. The only survivor is a 10 year old girl.
  5. The spirit of an old lady wanders in pain, waiting for someone to give her heart back.
  6. A vampire clan has organized a wicked game in which everyone who enters the area will be hunted until there is only one survivor.
  7. A man covered in moss has been seen in the woods and caves. Some believe he is evil personified.
  8. A little girl gives a flower crown to each adventurer. They are invited to a festival that takes place every 100 years in the middle of the forest.
  9. The party witnesses a fluorescent meteorite hitting the ground. 
  10. A thick and dense fog suddenly appears. Anyone who goes into the fog disappears.
  11. The sounds of a crying child come from the thick underbrush.
  12. A local tribe is frightened because a strange being made of shadow and hatred is destroying its inhabitants.
  13. A flash of lightning destroys an old temple. People believe it’s a punishment from god and ask for help.
  14. A pack of wolves enter the area and won´t leave until they find the adventurers.
  15. The water of the river has turned red. Some people believe there is a big creature bleeding up the river. 
  16. Freshly killed dead bodies covered in slime are lying around.
  17. There is a fountain that is believed to have the water of eternal youth. 
  18. A witness claims to have witnessed a wildfire started by demonic creatures who want to destroy the forest.
  19. A farmer claims he has found a gate to hell.
  20. Bodies in a graveyard are dug up and found scattered around the town. Some witnesses point to a strange man, they call him “the body snatcher”.

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