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Friday, February 15, 2013

Last-Minute Hexcrawl: Off-Map Scale

The first step, in my hexcrawl procedure, would be to figure out the off-map items of interest, as well as a few very broad details for your kingdom map. For this, you will need:
All of these are rolled at once. The 2d4 roll can be dropped, as will be explained.

The eight-sided dice indicate the compass direction towards one, two, or three large bodies of water. The compass directions start with North and are read clockwise:
  1. North
  2. North-East
  3. East
Etc., ending with 8 = North-West. If all the dice match, there's only one large body of water off-map; if none match, there are three. You will also want to note the opposite direction(s) as the direction towards drier areas; this will matter when you are placing deserts and vegetation. The 3d8 technique can also be used for other off-map features where we need to know the direction.

The ten-sided die indicates the basic climate. The number rolled, times ten, is the approximate latitude equivalent. See this table:

d10 RollClimateElevationAltitude
7+ArcticTreeline10k+ feet
6Sub-ArcticHigh5k-9k feet
3-5TemperateMedium500 to 5k feet
2Sub-Tropical   Low250 feet
0-1TropicalSea-Level   100 feet or less

Note that this table does double duty, since you can also use it to roll Elevation/Altitude, either with a d10 (as we will do in the step) or with a d6. For climate, the d10 tells us whether the area is hot or cold, with the extremes being hot/cold all year round.

The six-sided die is used for the basic elevation for the starting region. We use a d6 instead of a d10 because  we usually don't want to start in high-altitude environments above the treeline. This tells us whether we're creating a high plateau, hill country, or lowlands.

The four-sided dice tell us how varied the terrain and other features will be. Basically, it's the number of feature rolls we're going to make in Step Two. If you don't want to roll for an average of five features of the landscape, you can drop the 2d4 roll and just assume there's only two features on the map.


  1. The distribution of latitudes should really be weighted by the amount of surface area at each latitude, at least on a spherical world. The artic zone has very little surface area compared to the tropical zone; geometrically, the weighting is proportional to the cosine of the angle. I think you could simulate this effect approximately by rolling an extra d10, and taking the lower of the two dice.

    1. You can do that, if you are trying to emulate a spherical world. But I'm not using that d10 roll to actually indicate a latitude; I'm just equating it to a latitude as a mnemonic for what climate each die result indicates, so that I don't actually need the table handy to make the roll.

      A better alternative might be to use a d6 of a different color for the climate, since you probably won't want arctic, anyways. Or use a different colored d4 and add 1 or 2, to keep the climate in a smaller range.