The foundation of an adventure is the map. It is a drawing or diagram showing the spatial relationships of different physical features in the game world. The world map is divided up into named regions, which may, in turn, contain a number of areas, steadings, and/or sites like dungeons. Regions, areas, steadings, and sites are referred to collectively as places. Places can have their own maps too. There isn't enough space on the world map to detail them out, so they should be their own separate pieces of paper.
Generally speaking, the World contains regions such as oceans, seas, continents and countries. It doesn't need to be a globe like a planet. Making the world fantastic can include a flat world surrounded by abyssal waters nothing living can venture into and return. It can involve interconnected planes that can be reached by ascending or descending at specific sites. It can be inspired by anything found in fiction or your own imagination.
A region is a large territory with an identifiable boundary. The overall character of a particular region is determined by its dominant ecological and/or or political aspect. For instance, a vast forest or sprawling terrain type constitutes a region. Regions of this type should either include the list offered druids in their move Born of the Soil or at the very least include the ones selected by any druid player in their playbook. Another solution is to exchange the standard list offered to druids for something custom if they are entering a campaign with the world map already semi-developed (like when a druid is created to replace a dead or retired character). Yet another solution is to use the druid's list as nicknames or generalized titles for regions that might have a more distinct name established in the fiction.
Empires, kingdoms, duchies, baronies, city-states and republics are all examples of regions defined by political borders. The size, nature and exact position of the borders of a region aren't essential as long as the regions break the world itself into distinct and manageable units.
Areas are subdivisions of regions that vary in size and shape. They have one or more unique features that make them distinct from their neighbors. They can be pre-established by the GM before being encountered by the adventurers, sketched loosely by the players (often in answer to their own or GM questions) or discovered by everyone at the same time. They generally contain at least a couple of steadings and sites.
A site is a point of interest within a region, area or steading. They might be dungeons, locales relevant to a paladin's quest, or anything that is worth the adventurer's time in pausing to explore. A site should have at least one thing to encounter These can be broken down into:
- dangers: anything which, if left unchecked, may be harmful such as a monster or trap.
- might be minor and incidental
- could part of or become part of a Danger in a larger Front.
- discoveries: anything the party finds that is interesting, but not an immediate threat. It might be:
- beneficial like a healing spring or friendly NPC
- worth exploring for the sake of potential adventure or accumulating lore.
- an obstacle like a broken bridge over a deep chasm that has to be dealt with or navigated around.
The Art of the Map
Some people are artistically gifted and can sketch out amazingly detailed and beautiful maps. Most of us can draw some basic shapes and symbols, add a little color and present something that is "good enough" for a tabletop game. The main thing a map needs to convey is the geographic relationship between different places. Specifically, it needs to show which regions are adjacent to which other regions, and roughly where known areas, steadings, and sites are located within each region. Every place on a map needs its own name. These might describe some aspect of its appearance, location or history. Or they can simply be colorful and poetic. If a name doesn't have an obvious English pronunciation, write the pronunciation down in the Almanac or map itself.
In Dungeon World, the distance between two places and estimation of travel time between them doesn't have to codified into miles and hours. When using the Undertake A Perilous Journey move, the GM simply decides how long days the journey will take based on their judgement of the terrain and distance to be traveled or asks the players how long it will take based on their characters’ experience in the game world. In either case, units of dungeon rations get marked off Players may wish to keep a written record of travel times from place to place, to use as a reference when discussing travel times with the GM.
When characters are exploring without a set destination in mind, new places will be unlocked and a "day" ends when the adventurers decide to Make Camp . The number of days between places on a map can be included in the Almanac for future reference. Conditions like weather, terrain and encounters can easily be worked into the narrative. When the players feel like their characters are getting tired or they are worried about their health or they simply find an ideal place to pause for eating, sleeping and other camp activities? They should.
Mounts & Other Transport
For the sake of simplicity, a mount or similarly equipped party can be assumed to travel one and a half times as fast as a party on foot, or twice as fast if pushing it. Note that a party can only move as fast as its slowest member, which means that wagons and the like will slow everyone down.