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A wilderness campaign is about steadily decreasing the danger of regions by completing quests in them. As the total number of available quests in a region goes down, the region becomes safer to travel through. This not only helps the party get around with less hassle, it also helps anyone trying to maintain law and order out because they send patrols out without getting them eaten by trolls. A wilderness campaign is primarily intended for clearing out a wilderness full of manticores and hydras and so forth and establishing a prosperous kingdom instead, but it can also be used for wars or warring states periods, where instead of making the land safer to travel through because there are fewer monsters in the wilderness, they instead become safer because there are fewer enemy armies stabbing your peasants for wearing the wrong color of hat.
Wilderness campaigns are about constantly pushing back against forces that want to swallow up what the characters hold dear. The wilderness contains quests that spawn other quests, making their home regions more and more dangerous, until eventually they fill up and the danger spills over into neighboring regions, and then the regions that neighbor the neighboring regions, and then the regions neighboring those regions, until eventually the entire map, including the characters’ homes, will be overrun. The party, for reasons base or noble, will push back against this overflow and eventually reach the sources and close them off, one by one. Wilderness campaigns are great not only for holding off the forces of a chaotic (and/or Chaotic) wilderness as well as extraplanar invasions. They also work reasonably well for war stories.
Here’s how it works. The playable area is split up into a number of regions. Each region takes a static amount of time to move through on foot, so, for example, maybe every region takes one week to get through, or every region only takes a day. Whatever it is, it’s the same for everywhere, which means that some regions, like mountains or swamps, might be much smaller but have more difficult terrain, while others might be enormous because of how clear and open they are, like plains. The amount of time it takes to get from one place to another on foot is called the strategic turn. Being mounted cuts movement time in half, allowing the party to move through two regions in one strategic turn (this stacks with the buff for roads that we’ll discuss further down). Each region can hold between zero and four quests, becoming more or less dangerous according to the following chart:
There are three different means of traveling from one region to another, depending on how involved you want travel to be.
Journey DC Travel
In this method, each character making the journey rolls a Constitution saving throw against the journey DC appropriate to whatever region they are traveling into (so, a DC 10 for traveling into a restless region, regardless of how dangerous the region they’re exiting is). If they succeed, they take no damage. If they fail, they lose one hit die, plus one more hit die for every five points they missed the DC by. If they run out of hit dice, roll the remaining hit dice as damage. For example, if a character has 2d6 hit dice and misses a journey DC by ten points, they lose their 2d6 hit dice and then take 1d6 damage.
This method is very quick and means that travel is over in a matter of minutes, which means that it’s possible to make long journeys across multiple regions without dedicating an entire session to it. It works well for campaigns where the party is expected to be running around the map putting out fires all across the realm. Using this method, long distances are only concerning if they’re also dangerous, and players will think nothing of traveling back and forth through many peaceful regions unless they’re on a time limit.
Random Encounter Travel
In random encounter travel, the party has exactly one random encounter whenever they journey into a region. Whatever region they are journeying into, they roll on the appropriate random encounter table (it’s perfectly fine to use the same table for similar areas) and add the random encounter modifier for the region’s level of threat. The random encounter tables are a d6 and normally contain beneficial or at least indifferent encounters. Maybe you find a merchant whose wagon has broken an axle, or you find a friendly Cleric who offers you a buff of some kind. Encounters of 0 and below, only possible when rolling at a penalty, are instead your more typical random encounters. Goblin ambushes, orc raids, beguilers posing as travelers in distress who try to make you into mind slaves, that kind of thing.
The encounters get nastier the further down the chart they go, until at -7 you get fire giants looking to enslave smaller creatures and the like. This example assumes a low- to mid-level campaign. At higher levels fire giants might be your standard encounter 0 mooks and encounter -7 is an ancient red dragon or something similarly epic. It’s perfectly acceptable to have some regions have low level encounter tables and others have high level encounter tables. Even when completely overrun and hostile, the Shire doesn’t serve up anything nastier than trolls, while the Elemental Plane of Fire could be preyed upon by efreeti or fire giants even when only restless. Because the encounter die is a d6, the friendly encounters that are ubiquitous in a peaceful region are entirely absent from a dangerous or hostile region.
This method means that traveling into or through dangerous areas is perilous, but only in the most dire of circumstances is it at all likely to be immediately lethal. Traveling through one region will likely take only twenty or thirty minutes, but traveling through several can easily take up an entire session, so this method will make characters more reluctant to travel long distances and helps build a feeling that places that are far away are far away, but still makes visiting a neighboring region fairly inconsequential.
Wilderness Journey Travel
In this variant, every journey from one region to another requires a wilderness journey adventure, as described in the Art of Adventures. The journey uses the appropriately sized Journey Die depending on the area’s threat level, with one end of the journey being stapled onto the top of the encounter table and the other being stapled onto the bottom. For example, let’s say a party wants to journey from Phlan to Zhentil Keep along the Iron Route. If the Iron Route region is currently restless, the appropriate die is a d6, so the GM makes an encounter table using the first six encounters of the Iron Route region, then makes Phlan encounter 0 and Zhentil Keep encounter 7. If the Iron Route becomes a border region, Zhentil Keep will be moved to position 9, two more encounters will be added to the encounter table for slots 7 and 8, and the journey now uses a d8 instead of a d6.
The advantage of this method is that it adds a lot of depth to the areas between major destinations. Since those first four encounters remain no matter how deadly the region gets, there will always be a few encounters that mainly serve to provide local flavor. The disadvantage is that places that are completely overrun with monsters or the forces of tyranny will still have those first four peaceful encounters, who continue going about their business more or less like nothing’s happened. If you’re willing to put in a bit of extra work, you can have these encounters change based on current threat level. For example, a farmstead at the side of the road might hail the adventurers and invite them in for dinner at peaceful, be shuttered and suspicious at border, and be a burned out wreck being picked over by a few stray goblins at hostile. This method also means that even short journeys through minimally threatening areas take a lot of time, and can easily be an entire session unto themselves, which can be either good or bad depending again on how much you want a feeling of distance in your campaign. Using this method, even neighboring regions will seem distant, which can help build a sense of isolation, that each region is largely on their own and can only count on help even from friendly neighbors in exceptional circumstances.
Regardless of which method you use, it is strongly recommended you use the gritty realism rest variant in the Dungeon Master’s Guide page 267. Requiring a full seven days of rest for a long rest means that the damage characters take from a random encounter or from failing a DC will actually matter, and without that the journeys become a hassle rather than a threat. With normal healing, random encounters are only threatening if they can kill you in one go, wilderness journeys are exhausting but inconsequential since almost none of the encounters in them are individually lethal, and journey DCs are incredibly pointless as soon as level 3 because it’s nearly impossible for a DC to kill you and the 8-hour long rest you get for free each night of your seven day journey will immediately erase all damage. With seven day long rests, shrugging off the effects of a journey requires time, which is often at a premium in a wilderness campaign. If you use the recommended week long strategic turn, then taking a long rest means spending one strategic turn to heal up, which is nice and neat and makes taking that long rest a difficult decision.
If you want to see a campaign through to completion, you need to keep a handle on how long it’s going to take, and in a wilderness campaign, that’s a function of how many regions there are. A region has 2.5 quests on average, and a quest takes 1.5 sessions to complete on average, so if we round up a little to get a nice whole number, each region is going to take about four sessions. Four regions is a pretty good number for the average campaign, since making it to sixteen sessions is usually pretty doable. Now, this is a rough estimate, and the more fancy quest types you use, the more that estimate will vary (usually in the direction of making things longer), which means two things. One, don’t use a wilderness campaign at all if you have a very strict number of sessions you need to keep to, and two, you probably want to avoid using too many special quests from the next session unless your group is stable enough that you can count on it lasting for a campaign that’s twice as long as you thought it would be.
Some quests spawn other quests. We’ll get into the details of that when we discuss quest types in a bit, but what’s important for now is that most of these quest spawners don’t stop just because their current region is full. When a new quest is about to be added to a region, check to see how many quests its neighbors already have. If there is a neighbor nearby who has two fewer quests than the region the new quest is about to be added to, that new quest instead spills over into the neighboring region. For example, let’s assume that Thar and the Iron Route are neighboring regions. The Iron Route is restless with one quest, and Thar is dangerous with three. A new quest is about to be added to Thar, but because the Iron Route has two fewer quests, the new quest instead spills over into the Iron Route. The Iron Route is now a border region with two quests, which means the next time a quest is added to Thar, it will stay there, giving Thar four quests, which makes it a hostile region.
If a region fills up with the maximum of four quests, any new quests added will automatically spill over to nearby regions, starting with whichever region has the fewest quests currently. If all neighboring regions are full, it will spill over to the neighbors’ neighbors, again starting with the least dangerous region. Eventually, the entire campaign realm will be filled up completely.
If a region remains peaceful for long enough, it will begin to prosper. Each region has a prosperity die. This is a d6 by default, but regions that are particularly rich with resources will be a d4, and regions that are particularly barren will be a d8. Each strategic turn, every region that is Peaceful rolls their prosperity die. If they roll the max value, they begin to prosper. An already prospering region rolls max on its prosperity die, it will begin flourishing, and an already flourishing region will begin booming. A region that was booming which becomes restless drops to flourishing, a flourishing or booming region that becomes a border drops to prospering, and a region that becomes dangerous or hostile ceases prospering altogether. Regardless of how prosperous a region is, it still cannot roll to become more prosperous until peaceful. Regions that are both prosperous and restless do not get to roll to become flourishing even though flourishing regions remain as such when they become restless.
The effects of flourishing and booming depend on what kind of region it is, but all prospering regions build roads. Traveling through a region with a road requires only half the time it would normally. This stacks with the buff for mounts discussed further up, so a party with mounts traveling entirely through regions with roads can cross four regions in one strategic turn. Keeping track of fractional movement between adventures is ugly and players don't like doing it, so don't. A party with mounts has two points of movement, regions with roads cost half a point to cross, and if the party enters a region with roads for half a point, then a region without for a full point, and then want to enter another region without roads for two and a half total points of movement, they just can't. They don't get halfway, they just can't until next turn.
A region containing an adamantine or mithral mine can sell adamantine or mithral armor (respectively) when prosperous. The armor costs three times as much as regular armor. When the region is flourishing, adamantine or mithral armor costs only twice as much, and when booming, it costs only half again as much.
Every region has some farmable area, but this region is covered in it, and it is abundant. When prosperous, food, lodging, and mounts cost 10% less, when flourishing, 20% less, and when booming, 30% less. Additionally, the region can support a large population and thus has large levies. Each strategic turn this region is prospering, whether the party is present or not, this region rolls a d6. On a 6, a quest of the party’s choice is cleared. When the region is flourishing, the range is expanded to 5-6, and when it is booming, it may clear quests in neighboring regions as well. Fortified quests cannot be cleared by this region’s levies. At the GM’s discretion, certain other, very dangerous quests (stereotypically, the local dragon) may be immune to being cleared by the levies as well.
Every prospering region has a few watch towers and probably a castle or two to garrison the patrols who keep the roads clear of bandits. These fortifications go far beyond that, a network of defenses whether natural or manmade that sprawl all across the region, blanketing it in strongholds that require long sieges or costly stormings to capture, but which will serve as forward attack bases for incessant raids on supply trains if ignored. If this region is border prosperity or better, then whenever a quest is placed on it, it rolls a d4. On a 4, the quest is cleared automatically. If this region is prospering, the range is expanded to 3-4. If this region is flourishing, extend it to 2-4 as the fully repaired and Trojan-scale fortifications make it nearly immune to invasion and raiding. If this region is booming, its garrisons swell with levies. Whenever a quest spawns on a neighboring region, it can roll a d4 and clear that quest automatically on a 4.
A region with a gold mine is much more likely to prosper. It is automatically a d4 prosperity region even when it’s not prospering, and when it is prospering it gives all neighboring regions a +1 bonus to their prosperity rolls. When flourishing, the gold mine’s neighbors receive a +2 bonus to prosperity rolls, and when booming, the gold mine’s neighbors’ neighbors receive a +1 bonus to prosperity rolls. Treat any prosperity rolls that get above max value as being max value.
A region with abundant healing herbs produces potions of greater healing for sale when prospering. The potions cost 500 gp a piece. Additionally, regular potions of healing cost only 40 gp. When flourishing, greater healing potions cost only 450 gp and potions of healing cost 35 gp, and when booming, greater healing potions cost 400 gp and potions of healing cost only 30 gp.
A region with an iron mine produces smith goods cheaper when prospering. All blacksmith goods, including all heavy armors, medium armors except for hide, most weapons, and many tools, cost 10% less when prospering, 20% less when flourishing, and 30% less when booming.
This library contains a vast repository of knowledge. Any knowledge checks made here gain advantage even if the region is not prospering (although if it is dangerous or hostile, the library may have unfriendly guests). When prospering, the library has a large repository of spells. When a character wants a scroll of any spell, they may roll a d20 with a penalty equal to three times the spell’s level (so a 1st level spell would be a d20-3, a 2nd level spell would be d20-6, and so on). If the result is at least 10, the library has a scroll of that spell. When flourishing, the roll is made with advantage, and when booming, the penalty is reduced to two times the spell’s level. If the library has one copy of the spell, the party may roll again immediately to see if they have another. If the library does not have a copy of the spell this turn, the party may return on another strategic turn and roll again to see if they’ve acquired one. Each scroll costs 200 gp times the spell’s level.
This monastery can provide Clerical services whenever the region is border, restless, or peaceful, according to the price chart below. When prospering, the services cost 10% less, when flourishing, 20% less, and when booming, 30% less.
Cure wounds (1st level): 10 gp Identify: 20 gp Lesser restoration: 40 gp Prayer of healing (2nd level): 40 gp Remove curse: 90 gp Speak with dead: 90 gp Divination: 210 gp Greater restoration: 450 gp Raise dead: 1,250 gp
This region has a port. This plugs it into a trade network that consists of every other region with a port that can access this region’s port by water and which is not dangerous or hostile as well as every region that it can access with roads (requiring roads in both the port itself and the destination region, as well as every intervening region). This region automatically has a d4 prosperity die, and when it is prospering, every other region part of the same trade network automatically has a d4 prosperity die. When this region is flourishing, every region in the trade network gains a +1 bonus to their prosperity die. When this region is booming, every region in the network that is prospering (or better) benefits from the prospering effect of every other region in the trade network that is flourishing or booming. For example, a flourishing iron mine region gains a 20% discount on all metal goods. If it were part of a booming port’s trade network, it would grant every other region in that network its prospering effect, a 10% discount on all metal goods.
If a wizard’s tower region is part of the trade network, the wizard in the tower will use the trade network to send his gifts to any other region in the trade network for pickup, however the total number of gifts he produces will not increase.
If a fortification region is part of the trade network, it does not grant any bonus to the rest of the trade network when flourishing. The fortified region’s prospering bonus is to increase the range of its quest clearing die roll to 3-4 on a d4, and other regions do not have that die roll (even farmlands use a different die and therefore do not benefit from having an expanded range on the d4, which they don’t roll).
If your wilderness campaign is landlocked but you want the effects of a port trade network (or if having a port as capital of the trade network doesn’t make sense for fluff reasons), you can have a trade capital that is identical to the port without actually being a port, and thus relies purely on roads to spread its trade network.
Unlike most region features, the reliquary gives no benefits at all when prospering or flourishing, however the first time the party visits the reliquary after the region begins booming, they will receive a single magic item rolled from magic item table H in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
The wizard in this tower will give out gifts to heroes who make his backyard less troublesome. When the region is prosperous, roll on the table for a challenge 0-4 treasure hoard on the first week of each month if the heroes are present, or as soon as they arrive in the region if they are not. The wizard gifts the heroes with whatever magic items are rolled (which, on a roll of 28 or below, is none – wizards are fickle). Ignore the coins, gems, and art objects. When the region is flourishing, the wizard makes his gifts on the first and third week of the month. When the region is booming, the wizard gives out the magic items of a challenge 0-4 treasure hoard on the first week of the month and the magic items of a challenge 5-10 treasure hoard on the third week of the month. If the players do not visit the region for an extended period of time, they receive only the gifts of the last month when they arrive. Adjust weeks and months to suit the length of your strategic turn if it is not weekly.
Quests are the beating heart of a wilderness campaign. Each quest is an adventure of some kind (and see the Art of Adventures for advice on how to make those). One might be a mystery to track down a killer monster lurking the wilderness, another might be a dungeon crawl to root out goblin raiders hiding out in an abandoned dwarven mine, a third might be a wilderness journey through dangerous lands to reach the lair of a young dragon menacing the area. In addition to being written up as regular adventures such as you might find in any campaign structure, each quest also has a type relevant to its use on the campaign map.
Static quests are the most basic kind of quest. A static quest does not move around or affect other quests nearby. It boosts the threat level of the region by one, and that is it. The more of your quests are static quests, the more predictable the map will be. On the one hand, this means that the campaign will have less time pressure and fewer surprises, but on the other hand, it means you’re less likely to accidentally set up a spawner chain that drowns the players in orcs before they can get their boots of elvenkind on.
After static quests, these are the most common kind of quest in a wilderness campaign. Every wilderness campaign needs some of them to work. A spawner quest comes with a die size, and at the end of every strategic turn, every spawner quest that hasn’t been cleared rolls its associated die. On a 1, it spawns a new quest. These quests represent villains who are actively trying to conquer the entire campaign area, whether that’s a necromancer lord raising up undead armies or a hobgoblin captain marching on the Kingdom of Generica.
A spawner quest will produce one new quest on a number of turns equal to half its value plus 0.5, or in other words, a d6 spawner will produce a new quest every 3.5 turns, a d8 every 4.5 turns, and so on. This means that even a tiny d4 spawner can be quite sluggish compared to PCs actively trying to clear the region out, especially if they’re willing to forego a long rest between quests, but small spawners can still fill up regions alarmingly quickly if players aren’t paying attention. A d4 spawner produces a new quest every 2.5 turns, which means if it’s on the other side of a large-ish map (say, about a dozen regions for a roughly year-long campaign in real time) from the party’s starting region it’ll manage to pop out one quest before the party reaches the region at all even if they make an immediate beeline for it. It means that clearing out the average region (containing 2.5 quests) will allow the spawner to pop out a new quest. As such, a small spawner is a constant pressure on the party when they’re trying to solve other problems, but is unlikely to constantly regenerate quests the party thought they had solved once they’ve focused their attention on dealing with the problem. Larger spawners, a d6 or even d8, put less pressure but still represent a threat that can’t be ignored forever. Particularly on big maps, d6 or d8 spawners make for good problems that grow slowly, but steadily. They’re best used when paired with either threats that are supposed to be secondary to your faster spawners or else threats that are more dangerous as individual quests. For example, fire and frost giants are a pretty big threat to a low level campaign, so giving a fire giant general a d8 spawner turns him into a threat that produces few quests, but each quest is extremely dangerous. He doesn’t cover much ground, but once he’s taken a position, he will be very hard to dislodge.
Creating spawned quests can be tricky. You have no idea how many quests will ultimately be spawned. You don’t want your players to run through near-identical goblin caves three times while fighting the goblin warlord, but you also don’t want to design a quest about recapturing a town from goblin invaders that never gets used because the players decided to head for that spawner first and it never got rolling before they took it out. Spawners tend to be high priority targets for the party, so it’s always possible that one will be removed before spawning anything.
The easiest solution for this is to create schroedinger’s adventure. Now, we certainly do not approve of using schroedinger’s adventure to stealth railroad players by picking up whatever adventure you wanted them to complete next and dropping it in front of wherever they’ve decided to go. However, a similar concept can be helpful to spawned quest design. If the party makes a beeline for the goblin king spawner and clears it before it can ever spawn the goblin dungeon, you can use that same dungeon layout for the skeleton dungeon that the necromancer spawner popped out while they were dealing with the goblins.
Another approach is to define four quests for each region, each quest representing some strategic location or person of interest, from the first quest being a remote outpost for the forces of evil to raid from to the fourth quest being the conquest of the region’s market town, and in between you can have them occupy mithril mines or drive loggers and hunters from the forests. Now it doesn’t matter which spawner specifically ends up capturing the mines and overrunning the market town. Whichever one happens to fill up the region first is the one whose mooks are lying around when the party gets around to dealing with them, but the layout, plot hook, and friendly NPCs are the same. If the spawners all answer to the same dark lord, you can even have some mini-bosses be the same regardless of what spawner ended up populating the region with quests. The dark lord can send an erinyes to lead a dungeon regardless of whether the dark fey or the ice cult end up being the ones who provide the fodder troops for that dungeon.
You will want some way to prevent players from just making a tour of the realm and popping off spawners before mopping up their spawned quests, and that is why most spawned quests should be bunker quests. A bunker quest fortifies another quest, usually the quest that spawned them, adding more and/or harder monsters or otherwise increasing the difficulty. This encourages players to clear out the spawned quests before taking on the villain masterminding the invasion in the spawner, while still leaving the option open to go for the throat, especially if the spawner is threatening to overrun a region the players don’t want to lose.
A jumper quest “jumps” into another quest to take it over instead of dying. This type of quest is most typically also a spawner quest, and usually has the power to jump into any of its spawned quests when defeated. An example of a jumper quest would be an orc horde invading a region because they’re running away from something nastier. They’re a spawner quest and probably have a d4 spawn die, but unlike with a standard orc invasion, killing their war chief won’t scatter them back to their homeland. Instead, whenever the spawner quest is located and killed, it jumps into another orc quest anywhere on the map. The threat isn’t ended until each and every orc quest has been cleared (and in this case, convincing the orcs to turn around and help you fight the thing that chased them out of your homelands might clear the quest as readily as just killing all the orcs).
A variant of the spawner is the lazy spawner. The lazy spawner stops spawning quests after its own region is hostile. This means that quests will spill out into neighboring regions until they’re border, but no further. Lazy spawners are handy because they can be added to any region and they’ll never result in accidentally overwhelming the players. Unlike regular spawners, there’s a hard cap on how much of the map they can cover, so you can place them all over the place, give them all d4s, hook them up to as many supply quests as you want, and they’ll never end up drowning the entire world because they stop spawning after filling up the local area.
A nasty version of the lazy spawner is a lazy spawner who spawns other, non-lazy spawner quests. This allows for a dark lord who can make armies infuriatingly fast because he’s pumping out lieutenants who themselves raise armies to raise Hell. If the spawned quests of both the dark lord and his spawner lieutenants are bunker quests that fortify both the lieutenant that spawned them and the dark lord himself, he can be practically invulnerable unless most of his armies are wiped out. This is a good way to have a single villain who can come to threaten most of the map. Give the players a bunch of static quests near their starting area to keep them busy while the BBEG creates a vast tide of evil. By making the BBEG a lazy spawner, you can guarantee he won’t create so many spawners that the heroes become unable to keep up with the number of quests being spawned even when focusing their attention on them, while at the same time making the BBEG capable of growing an army extremely quickly.
A similar variant is to have the BBEG begin rolling to replace a spawner lieutenant as soon as they’re cleared. Like a regular lazy spawner, the BBEG only replaces lieutenants up to a certain number (perhaps making sure he always has an undead lieutenant, a greenskins lieutenant, a diabolic lieutenant, etc.), but unlike a regular lazy spawner, he’ll start rolling to replace lieutenants whenever and wherever they go down, even if his personal Mordor is still fully stocked with quests.
A sleeper quest does not contribute to region threat. A subset of them (you might call them comatose quests) never wake up, and are basically just a plain old adventure hook leading to a regular old adventure that doesn’t have any impact on the campaign map at all. Most of the time, though, a sleeper quest can be woken up after a certain number of turns or after a certain event occurs or sometimes based on a roll of the die, like a spawner quest that only spawns itself. Once woken, the sleeper quest becomes another quest type. An example of a sleeper quest might be a hibernating dragon who wakes up and begins ravaging the countryside after a certain amount of time, or who might awaken when his brother is killed and come for revenge. Another example might be an ancient evil, wounded and recovering, who eventually wakes up to become a spawner quest.
A supply quest can be particularly nasty. They are attached to a spawner quest (though not necessarily in the same location) and supply it with some kind of resource, literal or abstract, which allows the spawner quest to spawn faster. Each supply quest attached to a spawner quest expands the range that spawner quest spawns by 1. So, a spawner quest with two supply quests attached spawns on a roll of 1-3 on whatever their spawn die is (if it’s a d4, they’ll be spawning quests more often than not).
A supply quest attached to a d4 increases the spawn chance of any given roll from 25% to 50%, but attached to a d6, it increases the spawn rate from 16% (and change) to 33% (and change). That’s a 25 percentage point increase on the d4, but only a 17% (and change) increase on the d6. The same pattern continues with higher die sizes. The bigger the spawn die, the less drastic the supply quest’s effect is. So, while a supply quest attached to a d4 turns it into an urgent threat that produces quests nearly as quickly as PCs can clear them, a d12 requires two supply quests just to be as threatening as a regular d4 spawner. This is what supply quests are best used for, not making an already quick spawner into something so pressing that you’re almost (though admittedly not quite) railroading your players into focusing their full attention on it. A d10 spawner with a pair of supply quests is one that produces quests fairly rapidly and which can be hamstrung without being attacked directly, an approach that may be particularly attractive if, for example, the supply quests are much easier or much closer to the starting region than the main spawner. This can be used to build up a villain over time. He starts out putting pressure on the starting region, and after this initial invasion is thwarted by defeating his supply quests, he broods in his Mordorian fortress, impenetrable but with his armies largely exhausted for now.
Another way to use supply quests is to make them sleeper quests that wake up and attach themselves to a smaller spawn die if a certain trigger is pulled. Depending on the situation, this can make players reluctant to do something they’d otherwise like to. Maybe a sleeping supply quest will be awakened if any quest is cleared in a certain region, as malcontents within the local Mordor-alike rally around their dark overlord when meddling do-gooders come free their slaves and ruin their war machines in their own backyard. Maybe the dark overlord doesn’t know anyone is opposing him, and killing one of his lieutenants will alert him to the threat, causing him to get serious and start supplying the remaining lieutenants with more troops and treasure.
A warlord quest is a quest that can lead other quests as an intelligent antagonist. A warlord quest is mobile, obeying the same rules for movement speed as players. They’re usually mounted, which means they can travel extremely quickly across road networks, road networks that they may or may not destroy behind them by leaving behind enough quests to make the region dangerous and thus destroy its prosperity. Warlords can gather up any quests in the same region as them and drag them along with them, and they can bring any number of quests in the same region as them, ignoring the usual four quest limit. Quests left behind by a warlord resume normal behavior.
Warlord quests work best as sleeper quests who wake up in the lategame to direct remaining quests to actively fight back against the near-triumphant party. Once the party has claimed a solid 60% or so of the map as border or less threat, the remaining hostile areas – probably the ones inhabited by the most powerful enemies – go on the attack. Trade networks that the players have come to rely on are severed as the warlord leads monsters to empty out of Mordor and seize them. Strong points like fortification regions are ignored, while farmlands and ports that are lifeblood of the players’ military and economy are prioritized.
For a particularly nasty endgame, you can have multiple warlord quests spawn from nowhere with sizable hordes, attacking players who have already cleared most of the map as some kind of external invasion, a Mongol horde or extraplanar conquest. One warlord in particular is the leader and a lazy spawner, and will start rolling to replace any of the other spawner warlords in the horde, who are his lieutenants, if they should be cleared. The trigger for waking up the warlord (and optionally their horde) can be a specific number of strategic turns passing rather than the party having claimed a certain amount of land, and this is particularly effective if players now the doom clock is ticking in advance. Perhaps they’re sent to this land specifically to try and thwart the beachhead of an incoming diabolic invasion, still a few months out, or perhaps they keep hearing about this vast horde of monsters chewing through realms, first very distant ones and slowly drawing closer, over the course of the campaign, until finally they arrive on the map. Either way, it can help turn the final stages of a campaign that might otherwise feel like mop-up into a more thrilling conclusion.
In order to discover nearby quests, the party must roll an Investigation check at DC 10. If they succeed, they learn of whichever quest in the region is most obvious, at GM’s discretion. If they fail, they can’t try again in the same region until the next strategic turn. For every five points by which the party succeeds on the check, they learn of one more quest in the region or, if there are no more quests in the region, of one quest in a neighboring region. No amount of success on Investigation checks will yield results from regions that do not neighbor the region the check was made in. News just doesn’t travel that far. Exceptions may exist in certain cases for threats that are both very powerful, enough to be heard of even from very far away, and very old, such that there’s been enough time for news of them to reach lands weeks of travel away.
Every rule in a role playing game is subject to the fiction, but in this case in particular it’s worth noting that the party will often hear about quests without having rolled Investigation for it, just as a natural result of interacting with the world. If they have a personal audience with the king, that king is very likely to have a good grasp of what menaces plague his land and will happily divulge that information to anyone interested in helping. Defeating one threat might lead directly to the discovery of other, related threats while going through correspondence or interrogating prisoners. All of this is not only fine, but is usually preferable to the fairly mechanical process of just rolling Investigation and being told what’s going on nearby. The ability to find new quests just by rolling for them is a failsafe in case the party ever runs out of leads and needs to figure out what to do next, not prerequisite for having adventures.