To help explain the previous hexless terrain generation post, I’m going to walk through the process of making a hexless setting.
It’s sort of like an Infocom Interactive Adventure game. In fact, Telecanter suggests numbering the locations, like in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. I suggest using three- or four-letter mnemonics for each locale.
An electronic document on a tablet or laptop works great; just add new locations at the end of the list. Start each locale with a hashtag: Camelot would start with #Cam , and Rivendell with #Riv. This makes it easy to search.
In a traditional GM notebook, give each locale its own page: Name and Mnemonic at the top, one-or-two-line summary description below, followed by a list of compass directions and where they lead. This lets you insert more info later.
Page One and Page Two is basic information you need to start with. The rest of the world can be put off until when needed.
This is the general setting information: name of the region and name of any kingdoms in the region, perhaps with one-sentence summaries, like “Chaotic lich-worshippers”.
General geography goes here, too. I suggested rolling a single d6 and referencing an entire line on the Climate and Terrain Table, but two rolls are better: one for Climate and (linked) Biome, one for Elevation.
- I roll a 4 and a 2. Our climate zone is Temperate, prairie or grasslands, and the elevation is Low.
Optionally, roll all three separaetly, or use a d10 for one or more, to create really varied geography.
Next is the “distant geography“, the “edges” of the local world. Climate stays the same, but the terrain can be very different, so roll a d10 for each compass direction.
- I roll a 0 for North; it’s a sea with a coastal jungle
- I roll a 3 for East; it’s 500-foot high wooded hills
- I roll a 3 for South; more wooded hills
- I roll a 5 for West; it’s 2,500-foot highlands with thin vegetation or scrub
Optionally, again, you could roll separately for elevation and biome, for more variety.
The Land is almost a bowl, with hills and light woods along the east and south, a mountain range to the west, and the land generally slanted north to the sea.
Distances to the “edge” can be skipped for now, or roll 2d6 for the number of weeks or months of travel it would take to get there.
I’m calling miy first real location Homebase, mnemonic “Home”, hashtag #Home. Roll 2d10 on the Locale Table to get what’s different about the local terrain and any landmark.
- I roll 0 and 6, so my Homebase is located on rocky ground, and there’s a (second) settlement less than a day’s travel away.
Roll 1d6 on the Settlement Table for the size of any settlement. If there are two settlements at the same locale, one will be one size smaller. If the larger settlement is abandoned, the smaller one is our homebase.
- I roll 5 for settlement size; it’s a village, population x100.
- I roll 1d6-3 for population and get a 1; population is 0, the village is abandoned.
- Second settlement, our real homebase, is automatically a hamlet (one size lower than village,) population x10.
- I roll 1d6/2 for population and get a 2: ten or so people in the hamlet.
- We could roll 1d6 for every 10 people in the hamlet for the number of buildings, or we could roll 1d6 for the number of people living in the first building, and keep rolling until we have a total of 10 or more inhabitants.
The main village could have been abandoned because of a poisoned water source, a plague, or some kind of curse, but the old standby of “a dungeon did it” will probably be your preferred answer, since the players will be looking for dungeons anyways.
The simple way to handle what’s nearby is just to roll for each major compass direction, much as you did to fill in the distant geography. However, you use the Locale Table instead of the Climate and Terrain Table, and you roll 2d10, one die for the terrain feature, one for the landmark. You also roll 2d6 for the number of days of travel it would take to get to that landmark.
- I roll a 7 and a 5 for the first direction and a total of 9 on the 2d6 roll. Nine days north of here is a small mountain and a lone hut.
- For the number of people living in the hut, I roll 1d6-3 and get a 2. It’s empty, although no one knows this.
Who would live alone in a hut near (or on) a mountain? Probably some hermit. We’ll call the localed “The Mountain Hermit’s Hut (mnemonic MHerm)” On Page Two, we record the direction, distance, and details.
North 9 days to The Mountain Hermit’s Hut (MHerm)
Page Three will have the details. Or, in a digital file, we’d scroll down and add #MHerm to add the details there.
- I roll a 1 and 4 for the next direction, and a total of 6 on 2d6. Six days east of here is a cliff or chasm with a face/mural feature.
“Cliff/Chasm” is supposed to represent a short, sharp difference in elevation. I opt to change it to a canyon, which means there’s a chance there’s a river or stream in the bottom.
“Face/Mural” is meant to be a single large feature, such as a natural cliff-face that looks like a human face, or rock paintings. If we go with the latter, we have The Painted Canyon, with one wall of the canyon decorated with a long depiction of a mighty battle. Our notes would read:
East 6 days to The Painted Canyon (PCan)
And we would scroll down or add a Page Four for #PCan.
(Since we added a river through the canyon, we could extend it this direction and place the hamlet on one side of the river, the abandoned village on the other side. Optionally, instead of arbitrarily adding the river, we could roll a d10; if the roll is equal or greater than the scale number for the current biome on the Climate and Terrain Table, there’s a river or other water source. Thus, drier locales are less likely to have rivers or springs.)
Each compass direction is a route to a new locale, which will also have four routes: one leading back to #Home, and three leading to new locales. Repeat the instructions for Compass DIrections for each new locale when needed.
If you need to know the next town in a given direction, but the landmark result isn’t “Settlement”, it’s a waypoint, the first in a chain of landmarks on the way to the town. Just keep rolling for locales in the chain, recording the distance to each in a locale entry, until you get to a settlement
Optionally, roll 2d6 for distance to the nearest town, and if that roll is less than or equal to the distance to the first landmark in that direction, the distance to the town is in weeks instead of days. This lets you answer the question quickly without needing to roll repeatedly. Example: The Painted Canyon is six days east of Homebase. I want to know how far it is to Easton, the nearest town to the east.
- I roll 2d6 for the distance to Easton and get 5. That is less than 6, so Easton is 5 weeks journey east.
If yoou are looking for dungeons, every single landmark on the table has the possibility of a dungeon concealed in it, under it, or behind it. You can use a simple 5+ on 1d6 roll to determine if there is a dungeon. This is in addition to any “wilderness encounter” roll specified in your preferred rules.
Some routes run into barriers. If you are heading East, for example, and reach a mountain, you can’t continue East, you must go around the mountain. If you reach a cliff or canyon, a 5+ on 1d6 means you are at the top and can’t cross without climbing; otherwise, you are at the bottom and can only go forward or back, unless you climb.
Terrain Changes While Exploring
In general, don’t roll again on the Climate and Terrain Table. Instead, use it as a reference; the current Elevation shifts up or down when you roll Higher or Lower Ground for a locale, and the current Biome shifts down when you roll Wetter or Thicker Vegetation, with Wetter also adds a spring, stream or pond. If there is a river or stream in the bottom of a canyon, that also shifts the Biome down one, thickening the vegetation in the bottom of the canyon.
When the Elevation rises to the treeline, shift the Biome up to Thin or higher. When Elevation drops, don’t shift Biome back down. Optionally, there’s a chance the Biome will change any time the Elevation changes, based on the scale number of the Biome on the Climate and Terrain Table; roll a d10 and shift the Biome in the same direction as the Elevation change if the result is equal or higher than the scale.
- When heading to Higher Ground from Low Prairie, I roll a 6 on 1d10, which is higher than 4 (for Prairie;) the elevation is now 500 feet and the vegetation is Thin (scrub.)
- When heading from the scrublands down to the lowlands again, I roll a 5, which is equal to the rating for Thin; the vegetation becomes Prairie again.
I have some further ideas on this for a future post, but the next next topic will probably be about using this specifically for solo games.
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