This toolkit will produce a cluster of island along a trade-route, populated with people, monsters, and ancient ruins. I'll post a sample Saltbox generated with this tookit in the near future.
1. The GridStart with a blank 39x39 grid/hexmap. You can make the scale of this grid whatever you want. I prefer a grid rather than hexes since it makes navigating with the 8 basic compass directions a little easier. Hexmaps look nicer, but anyway I don't show the players the game map(though I'll help them map as they explore).
I like 36 mile grid-squares for this. This puts the islands close enough together to allow travel-by-sail between them, without making the overall map too small. When I actually run the game, I'll use a 12 mile grid. This should make the map feel pretty big to the players.
In general I'll say that 120ft movement on a dirt road allows for 24miles travel in an 8 hour day. Sea Travel will be much faster, since the ship can potentially move faster and sail round the clock.
2. IslandsGenerate Islands and draw them on the grid. Number them so you can make a key describing their details.
2a. Number/Size1+1d4 Large Islands (4d6 squares)
1+1d4 medium Islands (2d4 squares)
3+3d6 small (1d2 squares)
1+1d4 tiny (1d4 tiny islands in a square)
2b. Location(per island)If you land on an existing island, skip this one
2c. Special Features(per island)Size<=10: %chance of having a feature=size*10
Size>10: roll for two features, with each having %chance of size*5
Size>20: roll for three features, with each having % chance of size*10/3
1-2 Freshwater Lake or river
3-4 Protected bay
5 Hidden Reefs 1 square away, 1d6 squares total
6 Surrounded by Hidden Reefs
7 Extensive Caves
9 Whirlpool(1d2-1 squares away)
10 Roll twice for two features
2d. Primary Vegitation1 Rocky
4 Tall Grasses
3. Ancient RuinsPlace 1d6 ruins on the islands. Use the modules of your choice or roll on the tables below for some ideas. Mark ruins on the map with a simple X and put the details in the key.
3a Ruin Form(per ruin)1. Fortress
5. Industrial/Scientific complex
3b Who built it?(per ruin)1. Technologically Advanced ancient race
2. Pagan ancient race
4. Humanoid Race(Elves, Dwarves...)
5. Monstrous race(Goblinoids, Deep Ones...)
6. Giant Race(Giants, Cyclopses...)
7. Space Aliens
8. Inhuman things from another dimension
3c Main thing left(per ruin)1 Weapon
6 Ancient Race Survivor
4. Persons of NoteDescribe 3-10 persons of note, generally leaders of Human Settlements
4a. Background(per person)1-5 Native Islander
9 Naval Officer
10 Escaped slave
4b. Give each a Name/Title
4c. RelationsRecord which are allies, which are enemies, which are rivals, which don't know each other exist, etc.
5. Human SettlementsPlace settlements wherever you see fit. Generally the more habitable islands should get priority. Mark them with circles, or dots of varying size and put the details in the key.
5a. Size/Number:1d2 Towns(roll 3 features)
2d3 Villages(roll 2 features)
2d4 Homesteads(roll 1 feature)
1d4 Individuals(50% chance roll 1 feature)
5b. Who lives there(per settlement):1-5 Native Islanders
9 Naval Outpost
10 Escaped slaves
5c. Features(Settlement size determines number of features)1-2 None
3 Fortified(Stockade, Wall, etc.)
4-5 Dark Secret subtable
6-10 Economic Resource subtable
5c-1. Dark Secret(for large settlements, may only be a small cell)1 Cultists
3 Pact with Monsters
5c-2. Economic Resource1 Mine/Quarry(pick type)
5d. RoadsIf multiple settlements co-exist on an island and are in contact, feel free and add dirt roads between them
6. Monster LairsPlace 2d4 monster lairs on the map. Mark them with the letter L and put the details in the key.
2 degenerate humans
3 huge monster
4 smaller monster
5 sea monsters(lair is underwater on an ocean square)
6 space aliens
7. Trade RouteDraw the trade route between Old and New Worlds as a path through the sea across the map. This is where the party is most likely to encounter large ships, etc.
- You can have it stop at a settlement or two along the way
- The route should generally avoid reefs and other hazards
- Draw it up-to several squares thick, since courses tend to vary.
8. Compass, KeyAdd a compass direction to your map(Up=North). You may also want to add a key with the symbols for settlements, lairs, ruins, etc.
9. Random Encounter TablesNow make random tables for various locations on the map. Here are some general ones you may want to use:
Ocean, On Trade Route1 From nearby Monster Lair
2 From nearby settlement
3 Wandering Seamonsters
4-10 Wandering Ships(see subtables)
Ocean, Off Trade Route1-4 From nearby Monster Lair
5-8 From nearby settlement
9 Wandering Seamonsters
10 Wandering Ships(see subtables)
General Island1 Dangerous Animal
2 Wandering Cannibals
3 Wandering Pirates/Bandits
4-10 From a settlement/lair or near the island
Wandering Ship Subtables:
Wandering Ships number1-5 one ship
6-7 two ships, same type
8 two ships, different types
9 three ships, same type
10 three ships, different types
Wandering Ships type1 Merchant
3 Naval Patrol
Wandering Ship size1 Cog