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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Last-Minute Hexcrawl: The Local Map

I said originally that you need three maps if you plan on running a completely randomly created world as an improv hexcrawl: a large-scale kingdom map, which gives players a handle on the local political situation at a glance; a smaller scale barony map, which shows everything within a couple days travel of home base; and a local map, which shows the home base itself and nearby points of interest. You also need an extra map at the same scale as the local map for every adventure site; call this a locale map.

The map scale should be 1 hex = 30 yards. Adventurers traveling outdoors will move 2 hexes per turn normally, 4 if running or unencumbered, or only 1 if heavily laden. You don't actually need to track movement on the map unless there's a battle or chase, though.

Because of the scale, a local map or locale map will almost certainly be surrounded by a single type of terrain. One small hex of a barony is about 293 local scale hexes across. Nevertheless, you can adapt the barony-scale terrain procedure to map small terrain features.

The primary terrain is the terrain of the barony hex the local map is contained in. Decide whether any rivers or roads from the barony map run through the hex; draw them across the local map, applying the twisty lines technique if you want the route to look more interesting. If a river runs close to but not through the area, you can draw a line heading towards the river to define a stream or brook, then apply the twisty lines technique. Next, roll all these dice together:
2d12 of different colors (light and dark)
2d8 of different colors (light and dark)
2d10 of different colors (light and dark)
1d20 (read as a d10)
Each color set (1d12, 1d8, 1d10) represents a line of secondary terrain that crosses the territory. The d12 is the direction, the d8 is the length, and the d10 is the terrain type. You can apply the twisty lines technique afterwards if you want to make the lines interesting.

The 1d20 and 2d4 represent a terrain blob. The d20 is read as a d10; only the last digit is important. The d4s define the size and shape of the blob.

After the terrain is laid down, clear space at the center (or close to it) for your home base. A hamlet needs about two or three hexes, as does a keep; a village requires at least 7 hexes (a central hex plus all adjacent hexes,) while a town is made of 19 hexes (central hex, six adjacent hexes, and 12 hexes surrounding them.) For each hex of a hamlet, village or town, you can roll a d6 with pips to find the placement of buildings. Roll just one die for a keep, but the buildings (towers and gatehouses) are bigger, and one building should be surrounded by a wall or moat.

You will probably want to place two known landmarks on the map as well, so that the players have some ideas about things to investigate. Roll 2d12, 2d8, and 2d10 of different colors. Each d12 represents a direction towards the landmark, relative to home base, and the d8 is the distance from home base. The d10 identifies the kind of landmark:

d10 RollLandmark Type
0Rubble (d6 for # pillars)
1Boulders (1 to 6)
4Face carved into natural feature
5Lone Hut (d6 -3 inhabitants)
6Statues (1 to 6)
8Keep (d6 for arrangement, described above)


  1. Just to make assumptions clear: what population are your settlements?

    (ACKS settlements would be as many as 8, 30, or 200 hexes at this scale if you assume two families per building and average building densities; a large town would have a radius of 8 hexes.)

    To pick on a couple of examples:

    When the walls were built, medieval Coventry was estimated at population 5000 (a "large town" in ACKS), and the walls are 2.2 miles around; that's about 40 hexes across!

    I'd stereotype English cities as low-density (lots of gardens) and Italian hill towns as high-density.

    Looking at maps, I'd guess that the walls of Urbino enclose about 25x10 hexes, but I can't find any information online with quick searching about population.

    Ferarra's probably too big, but San Gimignano was somewhere around 350-400 hexes in size (if my math is right: 27m2 in a 1:100 scale model). Modern population is just over 7000; presumably the medievals would have been denser, making it a city in ACKS and feeling consistent with the numbers above.

    1. I'm assuming some pretty small settlements: less than a hundred for a hamlet, about a thousand for a town, with a portion of the settlement's inhabitants actually living on the outskirts: a hamlet would be a couple buildings that support the local needs, plus farmhouses outside the central area. My sizes for kingdoms are likewise very small (one month's travel from one side to the other, or 650 miles.) I like small home bases surrounded by lots of wilderness as a buffer zone.

      The settlement sizes could be upped, however. Maybe I'll change the hamlet to 3 hexes in diameter, with villages around 15 hexes and towns around 30, with variation of about +/- one-third for small/large varieties.

    2. And since I forgot to be explicit in my original posting: the ACKS numbers are up to 370 for a hamlet, up to 2250 for a large village, up to 6250 for a town - and when I write them out those do seem large, particularly since those numbers explicitly don't include the 80-90% of the population that lives in isolated homesteads or small clusters of farms.

      (And just for completeness, their size for a "kingdom" is 200-450 miles across, and 1,800,000 - 10,000,000 people at an average of 50 people per square mile.)

      Looking at those numbers makes me feel like it's time I went to the Autarch forums and pushed on the economics model behind their size categories.

    3. I don't think you can really fault ACKS for their numbers, since the terms aren't really defined consistently in the real world. I go by some functional definitions I've seen in one place or another: a hamlet is a settlement that provides one specific service necessary for the surrounding rural population; a village is a settlement large enough to support a parish or some kind of religious function; a town is a settlement with a permanent daily market. See this old post for my elaboration of this concept. This is why I made the original hex estimates in this post so small: I was figuring that a hamlet has only about five buildings, so 30 x 90 yards was plenty big.