#RPGaDay2020 Day 6: "Forest"

One of the largely unexplored areas of my world is the gigantic forest to the East of the region that my games run in. When I say unexplored, I really mean unexplored by both my players and myself. It's known to be dangerous, and there are raiding dark folk and strange things that come from the forest, and countries that border it need to keep a standing military to protect the people from it. But beyond a few forays into forest-based adventures, I haven't done much to develop it over the years, and in writing this I figured out why.

In fantasy, there are actually only two types of forests: Those which let you through, and those that don't. It really does seem to be that simple. There are forests with roads or paths, and if you enter at one point, and keep walking, you'll eventually come out somewhere else. It may harbor cities, camps, hideouts, caves, rivers and really powerful sentient life. It may hide lost treasures and lost civilizations. You may think it's straightforward, but find distractions or dangers along the way, and a bad path may get you temporarily lost. Ultimately, though, if you go in and don't die, you'll make it back out again.

The other type is the "impenetrable forest" which may be so overgrown as to prevent entry, or it may be so twisty inside that any attempts to get through result in getting lost or dead, or of course, the forest makes it so that any travel within it is quickly covered, so that you can't even trace your steps back the way you came. The only way out of these forests is to either find what the forest wants you to find, you get rescued, or the forest lets you out. 

Originally, this forest was the second type. It was framed as "Here There Be Monsters" and the players never went there, so I didn't have to write about it. But then:

  • they crashed a dragon into it, and got yelled at by a druid for making a mess
  • they found a very ancient evil trapped in the forest, and left it alone
  • they found an area they could teleport to, reliably, which ultimately led them to the city of the Illithids.
  • hordes of dark folk came through the forest, so they tracked back to where they came from
  • they found the lost city of Tywardin, which was swallowed by the forest years ago.
  • they met an ancient dead god wandering around
  • they found paths created by the fae to their homes, and had made friends
So then the forest became the second type, but at the edges, and if invited, it was more of the first type. People could go in, and come back out. They could look for the faerie roads, and possibly find them. They could take a few common roads that weren't easy travelling, but could be followed.

And as such, a new tool began to emerge in my adventure archive: A forest from which "nobody ever returns" but does actually afford a character a few openings, if they know who to ask. And with a few path lines, a few map symbols, and a bit of prep work, I can create a new "accessible" area of the forest, which the party can venture into, and have tales of how they survived it after. That said, those adventures still have the ring of a Walmart Greeter: "Welcome to the Great Forest. Get your crap, and get out!"

Art Callout
The picture at the top of this post is a menu screenshot from Campaign Carographer, which is the art program I use for my city and world maps, as well as some dungeons. In their new CC3+ version, I've been very happy with how it's helped me make my forests look better over previous versions.

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