So a while back James Raggi posted that he had this Count Dracula vs. Elizabeth Bathory sandbox war idea he was working on. I liked this idea so much I immediately threw it onto my game map, over somewhere vaguely to the East.
Now in order to do a sandbox right, you gotta be able to tell your players about landmarks they can see or at least know about from a distance--the vague outlines. Otherwise they're flying blind and not really making interesting choices (left or right? ummm...). So I went ahead and actually looked at the territory involved, here's what came up with...:
(BTW, I asked James about how he was doing his intravampire sandbox and it looks like his thing will be very different than mine, so I'm not really scooping him here.)
-So over on the right there we have the rough sickle-shape of the Carpathian Mountains, which basically forms the eastern parenthesis of Hungary.
(click to see where the vampires are)
-All this territory on the map was generally part of Hungary during the killing-people-with-swords-era, though now, as the map shows, Castle Cachtice (Bathory's castle) is part of Slovakia and Dracula's stomping grounds of Transylvania and Wallachia are now part of Romania.
-Nevertheless, geography suggests that if you want to be lazy and efficient about it, much of the fighting would take place in what is now modern day Hungary.
-In my little griddy Moleskine notebook, this gives me room to sketch a 2-page-spread map 12 squares across, 25 miles per square and fit the whole area in. Assuming the forests are witchily dense with evil treants and people impaled on pikes, and the Carpathians (likely from the same root word as "sharp" and "escarpment") are hard-going you could say that's one day's ride per square.-Now if we imagine the Carpathians as the curving part of a capital letter 'D' and the Danube river as the vertical part, the fastest route from Castle Dracula to Castle Bathory would be straight through the middle of the "D", HOWEVER...There's about a million streams and rivers formed by rainwater hitting the Carpathians and draining west across the "D" toward the Danube.
-This is an awful lot of running water to cross if you're a vampire. Obviously the thing to do is to get your human thrall armies to terrorize the countryside and cities in the middle of the "D" and if you need to personally lay siege to your foe, you'll probably want to walk along the spine of the Carpathians themselves. I like this very much--it seems quite picturesque to me. The Count or Countess making stately progress around the rim of the land while mayhem reigns in the basin below.
-Exactly when Dracula was at which castle is a matter of debate, but the consensus is the castle most likely to be his for the longest time that we can identify is Castle Poenari, which you can see a floorplan of if you go to 3:52 into this charming video.
-Up north, Elizabeth Bathory's castle was called Cachtice, and it's near where Ckutalik used to live, if you want to know what living in the shadow of the Blood Countess was like. The ruins of Castle Cachtice are easy to google pictures of, thought the best way I found to get an actual floorplan is to zoom down there on google satellite and look at the ruins.
-Other than Budapest or the era-equivalent, the cities are fucking small. I've been to what passes for a "major city" in Hungary to visit Mandy's family and drink Jagermeister and even today it feels about the size of one of those cities built entirely around one hotel and a college. Totally walkable downtown. And this place was equally a big deal in the middle ages, when it was much smaller. So you could definitely "hide" a city like that in a 25-mile hex. And map it with a campus map.
-The Carpathians range from 1000 to 5000 feet high, meaning you could see up to 6 (25 mile) hexes away from the highest peaks and 3 hexes from a clear spot on a clear day from most of the range.
-Although exactly what you'd see at that angle is a lot of fucking trees mostly, though if something was on fire you might notice the smoke.
-Factors which you assume are present and that both research and life experience bear out include: gypsies and fear thereof, wild boars, wolves, deer, bats, lizards, creepy statuary, dizzying sheer drops in the Carpathians, superstitions about witches, corpses subjected to elaborate burial procedures.
-White Wolf Transylvania-themed supplements turned out to be in no way useful in this research. Which is weird considering there's like 5 of them. Not one decent map, obscure local legend, or piece of Bathory or Draculore to speak of, though some of the art is nice.
-Castles during the midde ages in this part of Eastern Europe sucked and were small, so these will be improved via the magic of me making things up.