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Friday, February 22, 2013

Last-Minute Hexcrawl: Rumors

The last step in the Last-Minute Hexcrawl process is the actual expansion of the world through play. The three maps developed -- kingdom, barony, and local -- are actually incomplete. They do not show all the settlements, landmarks, or other points of interest in the area. There are two ways to discover that information: asking around, and actual exploration. I'm calling the former "rumors", even though that suggests information that is incomplete, uncertain, or possibly false. I'll deal with travel in a separate post.

Route Rumors: If PCs ask locals "what's down that road?", use this technique: roll 4d6 or more (add one die when asking merchants or known travelers, add one die when asking a sage or highly-intelligent source.) Read the dice from left to right: first die is the distance in leagues to the closest settlement, second die is the distance from that settlement to the next settlement, and so on. The size of the settlement also depends on the die roll:
  • 1 = one or two buildings (keep, waypoint, watch tower, friendly farmhouse;)
  • 2-5 = hamlet;
  • 6 = village, unless it's the 6th die in the series, in which case substitute:
    • village + tower w/ garrison, for barony;
    • town, for principality or kingdom;
    • keep (and potentially new barony,) 10+ leagues from last keep.
You can optionally roll the same number of d12s and read left to right, interpreting as clock directions. If the number indicates the route doubles back, ignore it; the route continues on unchanged. If it indicates the route almost doubles back, the route continues, but another route connects into it; PCs can try to find someone who knows what's down that road.

You can cut down the number of rolls by rolling for two opposite directions simultaneously; just double the dice and count from the middle outwards. If you have enough d6s to make two different color sets of 8 to 12 dice each, you can roll a huge number of d6s all at once to cover the four compass points.

Landmark Rumors: If a PCs ask locals "any interesting local legends?" or something similar, but not as contrived, roll the following dice simultaneously:
d4 and d8
at least 2d6
I've grouped these conceptually. The d4 and d8 are added together to get a result on the reaction roll table; normally, you'd use a 2d6, but this is a good way to roll reaction while simultaneously using d6s in a different way. The reaction is interpreted as how the landmark "feels" about the locals and vice versa; good reactions mean locals aren't afraid to visit and might even revere the landmark, while bad reactions mean the landmark is given wide berth.

The 2d6 are the distance in leagues to the landmark. If the PCs ask specifically about good or bad spots, figure out the difference between the reaction roll result and the reaction roll needed to get a good or bad result and add that difference to the 2d6 roll.

The d12 is the direction to the landmark. This shouldn't be any problem by now.

The d10 is the landmark type, using the table I presented in the previous post. If the players ask for a specific type of landmark ("any caves nearby?") a roll that doesn't match means the only landmark of that type the informant knows is much farther away: multiply the d10 roll by 10 and add this to the 2d6 distance roll.

If the PCs ask about much further distances, roll 3d6 for the informant's "area knowledge radius", adding one or two d6s for merchants and sages as noted above. Or, just use the NPC's Intelligence score, if known, and add an extra third or two-thirds for more worldly folks. The players won't know the NPC's maximum level of reliability. Roll for the information as above, multiplying distances as appropriate -- but if the distance is beyond the informant's radius of reliable knowledge, the information is false.


  1. This is another area where your hexcrawl series neatly replicates the brainstorming I was doing at the end of last year about procedural terrain generation. I don't think I've seen any other source that built a rumor system into the exploration system, so I was working on that idea thinking it was completely original. It's encouraging to see it also emerge naturally here as well. Rumors feature prominently in real-life accounts of wilderness exploration.

    1. I haven't read your version, but it seems completely natural to simply treat asking someone "What's to the north?" as a request to randomly generate a map. Yet, I don't think anyone has done this, other than you and me.