Original D&D used the board of Avalon Hill’s Outdoor Survival for impromptu wilderness hexcrawls, at a scale of 5 miles per hex, treating the buildings as towns and ponds as castles.
It also states that building a stronghold clears out all monsters in a 20 mile radius.
In an idle moment, I took a red pen to a copy of the map and filled in all those 20 mile radius zones of control, like so:
My instinctive reaction is that overlapping zones of control indicate some form of larger state; an alternative would be to assume that overlaps indicate border tensions.
- Most of the towns and castles have overlapping zones of control, forming a large state aligned diagonally across the centre of the map from the northwest.
- There is a smaller state of two isolated castles in the southwest, controlling the western swamp, and one consisting of a town and two castles in the north.
- There are two partial zones of control, one centred on a castle in the northeast, and one on a town in the west. These may be independent, or they may be extensions of states off the edges of the map.
- Monsters are boxed into the northwest and southeast corners of the map, although there is a crescent of unclaimed territory in the northeast, and neither desert is fully controlled.
- The only place adventurers can build a new stronghold without muscling in on someone else’s territory is the northwest corner.
Border Tension Hypothesis
- Most towns and castles have ongoing disputes with at least two others, and sometimes half-a-dozen.
- I would interpret strongholds in each other’s ZOCs as some sort of dispute over who is the rightful ruler, with each town or castle claiming that it should be in charge of the others.
- ZOCs that overlap without including the opposing town or castle are more likely to be about control of useful resources.
Of course, in a feudal society, there is no reason why both hypotheses could not be true simultaneously. Sadly, either geographically or politically, the original hexcrawl setting makes little sense. Not that we cared about such things in the 1970s, and to be honest we had just as much fun then without worrying about verisimilitude.