Yknow something one has got to do to actually run an old school exploration based game is actually MAKE the sandbox wilderness zone world to explore! So here is me kinda just sharing some of that process... taking a bit of inspiration from both the Gygax 75 challenge and this series of posts about making a fantasy sandbox, although I am not following either to the T.
The satrapy of Elburz is the westernmost of the border satrapies, sandwiched between a mountain range that shields the thin strip of fertile lowlands from the high desert to the south and an inland sea to the north. As a border satrapy, the satrap of Elburz (an aged former warrior named Gholam Ruyanian) is under the domain of the Kanarang, the high military officer who stands watch in the east, the faceless tyrant of the mountains and forests. On occasion the Kanarang will pass through with his entourage, but he is for all intents and purposes a distant figure, albeit one whose dictates affect the satrapy rather harshly.
Elburz is a heavily forested and fertile land which slopes down from the foothills of the southern mountains and toward the sea. For real world reference on general appearance, think the provinces of Mazandaran and Golestan in Iran. Below are some images of what one would expect to see when traversing the wilds of Elburz satrapy.
Don't go any further in this post if you're one of the people who is interested in playing in King of Kings once I run it (which I mean, if that applies to you you know, its mostly just friends and people on the OSR discord), 'cause everything below the cut is maps and random encounter tables and the like! So shoo!
The above is a wilderness hexmap I made of Elburz satrapy using the free in browser service Hextml (check it out, it took me a bit to get the hang of but yeah... normally I would use hexographer but I'm a bit restricted on what devices I can use currently!) The satrapy itself is everything north of that desert in the south and south of the sea and river to the north. These are six mile hexes, which means that with everything that isn't water or north of the river in the northeast discounted, this map is 18,944 square miles, or roughly the size of Slovakia. The satrapy proper (i.e. ignoring the desert) is only 13,696 square miles, between the size of Moldova and Guinea-Bissau.
I haven't put icons on this map for major locations, mostly because I'm not a big fan of Hextml's icons, but I do think it is important to note that the capital of the satrapy, the city of Tabur, is in hex 5,10.
For a bit of more granularity with stocking and running this map, I decided to blow up a smaller section of it, namely the area around Tabur.
|The specific hexes I zoomed in on outlined in red
The above map is at half the scale of the full map of Elburz satrapy, with each hex being 3 miles across. This map is centered on a singular river valley, where the Dazur river flows down from the southern mountain range and through the grassy valley and evergreen forests. The city of Tabur is in hex 5,5 only a short distance from the great imposing peak of the Holy Mountain, one of the most sacred places to the people of the valley.
So hey how about some random encounter tables? Something that inspired me in making these was this post over at Papers & Pencils, where encounter tables are structured using 2d6 with a 2 always being a dragon and a 12 always being a wizard. I was also enamored by the idea of having different encounter tables for during the day and at night... I want traversing the wilderness at night to feel like a dungeon delve just in more open environs!
I generally tried to use monsters from Basic/Expert, but there are numerous original monsters here and individual characters that will be expanded upon in future posts.
The Dazur Valley (Day)
2: Qermez the Horrible Wind and numerous Pit Vipers
3: Huma Birds
5: Giant Weasels
6: Nobles and Veterans
7: Recurring Character (Roll on subtable)
9: Adventuring Party (Roll on subtable)
11: Pigmen and Manpigs
12: Rogue Sorcerer (Roll on subtable)
The Dazur Valley (Night)
6: Giant Moths (or Giant Bats)*
7: Giant Weasels
9: Adventuring Party (Roll on subtable)
10: Afarit (or Bakhtaks)**
12: The Owl-Shrouded Sorceress***
*Whether a roll of 6 means the arrival of giant moths or giant bats depends on whether or not the group has torches lit. If there are torches lit, giant moths appear; if the group is in darkness, giant bats.
**Whether a roll of 10 means the arrival of an ifrit (jinni) or bakhtak (night hag) depends on whether or not the group is sleeping when the encounter is rolled. If they are awake, afarit appear; if asleep, bakhtak bring sleep paralysis.
***A wide-eyed witch forever clad in a cloud of fluttering owls, who prowls the night and steals dreams and food from peasant villages.
Elburz Satrapy Adventuring Party Subtable
1: The Daughters of the Mountain:
Group led by an amazon named Bayindir Gozubuyuk who had a vision on the Holy Mountain and draws an eye on her forehead each morning. Group includes two fighters: Marzia Tarrukh, who just hired Bayindir to cross the satrapy and ended up sticking around, and Azadeh the Turtle-Smasher, who helped interpret Bayindir's mountaintop vision. Accompanied by a mountain man named Jamshid who was impressed by Bayindir's poetry and mountain meditation.
2: The Moon Watchers
Group led by a magic-user named Babak Lanu who is obsessed with uncovering the secrets of the moon and desperately wants to get up to it. Group also includes a brineman with crablike features named Gurgat the Young who was initiated into sorcery with Babak, along with a young woman Ahati Waqrat whose sister was stolen by moonmen and wants answers. Accompanied by two fighters mostly just in it for the money: Shahbanu the Fire Swallower and Zahro Sapar.
3: The Snatchers
Group led by a thief named Kaveh Najafi the Brutal who was once a secretive woman but gave up on subtlety long ago and now wields a panjagan (contraption that fires five arrows at once). Group includes a young thief named Humayun Barbarz on the run from the law, a half-invisible half-jinni named Nazar, and a longtime friend of Kaveh's Khamoun the Vicious who similarly gave up on subtlety.
4: The Baleful Eye
Group led by a cultist named He Who Watches Blindly who is in service of a chthonic god of mud and blindness. Group includes an initiate into the mystery cult named She Who Tastes of Salt, a eunuch foreigner with a longsword named Shao Ru, and a fervent ally of He Who Watches Blindly named Ghazan the Boastful.
5: The Fire Tamers
Group led by a magic-user named Zabraxas the Serpent-Tongued who has a snake for a tongue due to a spell gone awry and delights in entrapping jinn. Group also includes a half-jinni named Shev Mohebi who has been forced into servitude by Zabraxas putting iron in her cloak and who despises the whole group, and a magic-user Yuggoth the Almost Mighty who is a follower of Zabraxas that seeks to kill him and take Shev for himself. Accompanied by a thief named Zamda Mahsud who gathers sorcerous materials for the wizards but doesn't much care what happens to Shev.
6: The Furious Ferrets
Group led by a fighter named Behnam Derakhshani who is a kind and amicable man with one empty eye socket due to a spat with a dogman in a cave. Group also includes a magic-user named Razieh Shevi who is a longtime friend of Behnam and a brineman named Dorsa Jahangiri with a long eel-like neck. Accompanied by a cultist named Khosrow Qanbani dedicated to a heavenly goddess of love and war and is barely tolerated by Razieh, and a strange foreigner from the west named Lukas Kerkuas who has an uncanny ability to get out of danger and refuses to eat foods with salt in them.
I will share more as I write more! I have a rogue sorcerer subtable written up but this post is getting long enough as it is, I just hope the maps and encounter tables and adventuring parties piqued anyone's interest! Most likely next up is more random encounter tables (for the Holy Mountain, the mountains surrounding it, the mountains to the south (wow a lot of mountains), the evergreen forest, and the woodland to the east) and specific keyed locations.