1. An AtlasRather than trying to explain the realities of geography, weather, etc in order to make a plausible world, I just turned an atlas upside down and said, pick a page that looks cool. Not only did this make the mapmaking step of the process easy, it follows in the footsteps of giants:
The basic campaign area reproduced on a large mapsheet outside this book, was originally drawn from some old Dutch maps. — Dave Arneson, "The First Fantasy Campaign" (1977).
3. The Wilderness Encounter Tables in Swords & WizardryThese are simple, organized by terrain type and produce some pretty bog-standard results that won’t challenge a new Referee too much. I had him roll a d10 for every hex on his map. Every ‘1’ resulted in a creature from the encounter table living there. Frost Giants, Lycanthropes and Berserkers dominated the landscape. Oh, and a Purple Worm right next to some old ruins.
7. Moldvay’s Basic D&D “Stock the Dungeon Table”Found on page B52, this has been my go-to stocking tool for decades. While it doesn’t produce perfect results, it gets you in the ballpark as long as you understand that the results are there to inspire and not be set in stone. As long as you understand why things exist in your dungeon and it makes sense to you, it will make sense to the players.
8. Monstrosities and Swords & WizardryDespite voicing a desire to play 1e AD&D, I decided on Monstrosities and Swords & Wizardry for a resource on monsters to stock a dungeon because of the guidelines S&W gives for the Challenge Level of dungeon encounters. I have been quite satisfied with how well this works in game play. As a consequence, it provides a great starting point on understanding how difficult a particular dungeon area/encounter is going to be. Monstrosities also provides an example encounter for every monster in the book. So, it is also instructive about what those encounter and dungeon areas can look like.
Finally, generating treasure using S&W is dead simple and flexible. Whatever gets rolled indicates total value, not a specific coin count. So, a treasure could very well be in barrels of whisky, rolls of silk, or whatever tickles your fancy.
9. The Question “Why?”Why do think the goblins are there? Why are they on the same level as those spiders? Why are they risking their lives to be there?
Again, if your dungeon makes sense to you, that confidence and knowledge will be communicated to the players and it will make for a better game.
In the end, I had to cut him short when he told me he had an idea for his various dungeons. “Just write it down” became a mantra. It goes to show, however, how useful all of these resources are: they inspired a newbie to create a world where things make sense to him and enough choices for his players that he won’t be having to improvise that much any time time soon.
In other words, he’s confident he can do this.