... now with 35% more arrogance!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Brief Last-Minute Hexcrawl Notes

So, while looking at the Last-Minute Hexcrawl to see how I could simplify it and eventually write it up in a stand-alone, step by step document, I came up with a few things.

First, I'm going to split and sort the steps into three groups: terrain, territory (i.e. kingdom and village placement,) and the actual hexcrawl. The way it's set up now, the terrain and territory steps are intermingled and the actual hexcrawl process (filling in more details via rumors or travel) is at the end. That's probably the way you want to do it in practice, when using all three together.

But, of course, you aren't always going to want to use all three together. Sometimes, you're using pre-defined terrain, like the Outdoor Survival map or a real-world map, and you just want to place some fantasy kingdoms on it. Sometimes, you know the area is going to be unsettled, so you won't place any settlements at all. Sometimes, you're going to use both terrain and territory on one scale, but only one on another, for example by modifying real-world terrain at the barony scale, or by only using territories on the barony scale to create lonely outposts of humanity. Besides, it's easier to explain each part in isolation. For example, terrain generation becomes just three steps, which you repeat at every map scale you use.

The other reason to split and sort the steps is more practical. I haven't forgotten my plans to do the ezine. But problems have delayed it: technical problems, which I should have fixed soon, and also "content paralysis". I still haven't quite decided what to put in the ezine. But I also need to do a document for these sandbox prep tools. I *could* just make that document one of the ezines, couldn't I? But that would be rather boring, an ezine that was only about one thing... so instead, I could describe each of the three sections in a separate ezine along with other content that supports the theme.
  1. A wilderness-themed issue, containing the terrain generation process, sample wilderness maps, and some other wilderness material, like maybe a cleaned-up version of the hunting and foraging rules, some wild beasts, and the beast-master and hunter classes.
  2. A civilization-themed issue, containing the territory placement process, the improv territory and settlement tables with instructions, sample kingdoms and settlements, and other material that fits the theme.
  3. An exploration-themed issue, containing the hexcrawl rumors and travel procedures and other related material.
  4. ... And maybe an urban-themed issue, depending on whether I feel like splitting it from the civ material.
Obviously, the first two themes are better thought-out and the last two are sketchier, which is why I've put them in that order. I've got plenty of material for the first zine; it mostly just needs re-writing. I have a substantial amount of material for the second issue, but might have to write some monsters and classes that specifically fit that theme. I might have enough material written already for #3, but I have to rummage around to see what would really fit. #4 is vaguer, especially since I could theoretically put the city map material and the bard and necromancer in issue #2. Other tentative issue themes are an underworld-themed issue and a "cosmic" issue based around my "non-planar" material and rewritten extraplanar entities.

Another thing I'm considering are the replacements for some steps in the hexcrawl process. I've settled on a replacement for the terrain-blob procedure, which maybe I'll rename "spot terrain" to make it sound more dignified. The problem with the old procedure was that there wasn't enough guidance for placement of terrain blobs, and the shape interpretation was a little vague. So, instead, let's just go with a simple dice group that looks like this: d12, d8, d4, d10.
  • The d12 is the clock direction from the center hex.
  • The d8 is the distance, in hexes, from the center hex.
  • The d4 is the radius, in hexes, of the spot.
  • The d10 is the terrain type.
That's a nice, simple procedure. If you have two colors of each of those dice, you can roll all of them together to place two spots of terrain. The spots are now circular, although overlaps and low-level exploration can make the spots less uniform. You can also adapt this to other needs, like rival territories: d12 and d8+d4 are the direction and distance, d10 is territory size.

I'm not completely married to my replacement for intruding terrain lines, but here goes: roll 5d6 and read them from left to right. Double each die result to get a clock direction: the first d6 tells us which direction the terrain is coming from (and thus which type of terrain is intruding into the grand hex.) The line of terrain extends three heses from that direction towards the center, then the second die tells us which direction the line turns or bends, and so on, in three-hex increments. If the direction doubles back, the line ends there and the rest of the dice are read as a second or possibly a third line. If the direction almost double back (turn is sharper than 90 degrees,) the line doesn't turn at all; instead, there's a spur extending back in that direction for three hexes.

You could, of course, use 5d12 to avoid needing to double the dice results and to allow finer detail, but I picked d6s because (a) people are more likely to have lots of those, and (b) I'm trying to make it do you can roll the spot terrain and intruding terrain simultaneously. However, I need to test this a couple times to see how well it works.

OK, I guess this post wasn't so brief after all.


  1. Cannot wait for these zines. Once these are out I will be unable to resist finally PLAYING OD&D and not just reading and thinking about it!

    1. Thanks! Although that's a huge burden for me to bear...