I've been trying to come up with a formula for "volatility" in a location and location.
By volatility I mean a setup that will change in complex cascading ways in respond to nearly any player action or inaction.
Something that can give the most potential for adventure and campaign material for the minimum of content.
The "complex and cascading" ways don't need to be directed at the players , they just need to create change in the campaign world and be "chaotic" , i.e difficult for the d.m to foresee the future results more than 1-2 steps and with early minor factors capable of causing disproportionate results.
An example with limited Votality:
Secret Grove that if the players stumble on the Blood Druids will be freaked out and try and kill them unless placated etc.
It's a fine encounter or hex filling but the results and potential interactions are not as rich as I want for an adventure.
An example with Volatility :
Lizard people and toad people in a landscape of swamps.
They are evenly matched, distrust each , but have to share a rich fishing spot because neither can risk or afford the loses caused by conflict.
Especially as there's a small border town nearby that would love to clear the swamp and build a trade route through there. However they lack the martial might to do so , but can find investors to hire mercenaries if the numbers of swamp people are depleted first.
The Lizards and Toads will monitor the pcs moving through their respective territories but only resort to conflict if they pcs interrupt their fishing (as they take turns fishing and can't afford to lose their allotted time).
If the players kill enough Lizards or Toads , the other faction will attempt to drive the rest out. If they manage to kill an even amount of both they wouldn't.
Regardless, after the players leave the swamp and (assuming) they go to town , the town will ask them for (and offer to pay for ) information , as detailed as possible.
If the players refuse to give any information the town will kick them out.
They will then send scouts to confirm if the information was legit.
The Lizards and Toads then freak out , assuming an attack is imminent , (even if the town decides not to ) , unite , and start a process of guerilla warfare , with a high chance of wiping out the town.
Potential Future consequences ( even if the players ignore everything)
-A new trade route where the swamp was makes the town grow
-Lizard and Toad refugees show up in other places
-The town being wiped out
-and depending on if there/where the survivors end up and how much influence they have , the kingdom the town is part of might send a retributive force and/or resettlement
-this might trigger escalating miltary tensions with the kingdoms neighbours
So a basic framework for "volatility" could be
Stasis between intelligent agents.
Too Expensive/risky or unable to change status quo
Must be a fulcrum /resource that players could conceivable want , the "conceive" might only exist in the minds of the intelligent agents.
Always least risky for the intelligent agents to assume any new activity involves other party.
and possible a third factor (can be intelligent or unintelligent) that will leak in if status quo changes?)
I've been milling over this post for a while , trying to have more to add , but I don't .
Was going include 2 other under sized posts but I think there's enough here to chew on , so y'all get those posts sooner than 3 weeks . Huzzah