Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Pointcrawl, pathcrawl, dungeon crawl

As I'm writing this, I have a small hexmap in front of me. It's a 30x30 hexmap, with a 12-mile scale. So, grab one yourself. Generate a random one if you must.

Done? Good.

Now, I believe you are familiar with the terms pointcrawl, pathcrawl and dungeon crawl. If not, click on the links I've provided. I'll wait.

Back? Fantastic.

Now generate a random dungeon. Any size will do, but use only 1 level (for now we won't need more than that).

But why do all this?

Let me explain. When you talk about a point/pathcrawl concept, you are saying the connections between important sites on your map are important--those connections are the corridors of your dungeon, and those sites are your rooms.--We'll merge this concept now.

So place your dungeon map over your wilderness hexmap. If you are using an image editor, you may use a multiply effect on the dungeon layer and lower the opacity a little. Now that's done you have a large dungeon over your wilderness.

Each room is now a site, an important landmark, a settlement, a lair, a ruin... Each corridor is now a path, a way to link those sites: roads, trails, landmark chains, river banks...

Then you will ask me: why this particular path goes north 20 miles and then returns south, just to link this two towns 5 miles apart? It's because:
-there's a ravine
-it's a route used by pilgrims and now it's considered good luck to follow it
-the contractor who built the route was earning his money based on the amount of paved miles
-all the above

Those little things give color to your world. Suddenly, a twisting path becomes part of the setting and all you needed was a dungeon map overlay. ;-)

PS: This also works if you use a Traveller Subsector Map Generator as an overlay.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The beauty of small maps

I like maps. No, I love them.

I love creating maps of imaginary lands, tracing the line of trees, thinking about the state of affairs of the people who live there...

Maps don't need to be pretty, though: they need to be understandable (is that a word?). So, if you show me a nice map in full color or some hexagonal tiles on a map, I'll be pleased anyway. Just give me some map scale to understand what's hapenning and I'm game.

During the last year or so, I began to focus on some areas of my maps. Yes, it's nice to know there's a whole new world off to the edge of a map, but look at what you have in your hands! Look at it. Picture how many wonderful adventures you could have there.

Of course you love Hyboria and that massive land to explore. Of course you think Toril or Oerth is fantastic (YMMV). But do you need all of those?

How much adventure can you find in a single city (Ptolus, I'm looking at you)? Or in a small area like Skyrim? Or in a trifecta of cities like San Andreas, San Fierro and Las Venturas? Or in Dracula's Castle?

Small maps have everything their bigger cousins have, but in detail. And this detail may give you lots and lots of choices in your game. You don't have to showcase your whole world, thinking about The City of the Week (like the Monster of the Week on saturday morning cartoons), as you can make that small world more alive to your players.

Yes, I still create large maps (ask my daughter), but nowadays I'm zooming in. There's beauty there you don't see easily in large maps.

Beauty that enhances any narrative.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Random notes on a random map

I was trying to find something in a pile of text files on my computer and then I've found this:

Mentioned Hexes:
0100 - The Circle of Stones atop the Montain
0102 - The Holy Temple of the Woods
0107 - The Ruins atop the Hill Mine
0204 - The Town plagued by the Undead
0208 - The Hamlet with vanishing women
0210 - The City
0309 - The Raubritter Ruined Stronghold
0403 - The Ruins of the Mountain Temple
0501 - The Rift of the Gargoyles by the Stone Altar on the Mountain
0504 - The Hamlet on the Woods
0601 - The Buried Pyramid
0602 - The Cursed Hamlet on the Woods
0607 - The Town
0702 - The Burial Chambers of the Dark Mummy Lord on the Ruined Monastery

0005 - The Ruined Keep
0305 - The Home Base Hamlet
0407 - The Watchtower
0410 - The Hamlet plagued by the Raubritter
0608 - The Ruins on the Plains
0705 - The Lair of the You Shall Not Pass creatures

-Priestess go from City (0210) to Hamlet (0504)
-Cleansing cerimony goes wrong and Priestess accepts her dark side - she's initiated (0403)
-Priestess becomes High Witch on Lesser Sabbat (0501)
-High Witch awakes Demonic Hamlet (0602)
-High Sabbat (0100)

Dark Mummy Lord
-Dead return to life due to broken seal (0204)
-Seal recovered on Forest Temple (0102) & Scroll of Undead Restoration stolen - only a copy is recovered
-"Test" of the Scroll on ruins (0403) during a cerimony
-Dark Mummy Lord awakes (0702) and is brought to the Pyramid (0601)
-Dark Mummy Lord's power arises (0601)

The Deros ("drow dwarves")
-Miners go from Town (0204) to Hamlet (0208)
-A special sacerdotal crafted crown with jewels is missing on Town (0607)
-Women disappear from Hamlet (0208)
-Gem merchant robbed on the road from Hamlet (0208) to City (0210), Raubritter at 0309 suspected -- gems turn people suggestive (minor Charm Person spell) when worn
-Deros x Underground_Creature War due to collapsed mine passage linking the two territories (0107)

I'm pretty sure everything above links to the map at the top of this post. Maybe I should give this another thought...

Friday, October 23, 2015

Horror games purchase

This was on my email this morning:

A glistening, squamous opportunity squats before you in the Bundle of Nerves +3, wherein you may snatch up the Lovecraftian horror of Silent Legions at a drastic discount. For only $9.95, you can get this undulating mass of modern OSR horror gaming and GM tools, with Sine Nomine-style implements for building your own primordial gods, nameless cults, ineffable horrors, and sandbox investigative adventures for fleshing out the non-Euclidian domains you might create. While Silent Legions is a complete game that's fully compatible with my Stars Without Number, the tools in this book are system-neutral and work handsomely with your nightmarish game of choice.
Not only that, but this trifling price gets you a PDF of the sterling Savage Worlds Deluxe plus its 166-page Horror Companion. And for those who care to part with a little more, you can have the dark promise of Accursed, Rippers 1e and its Companion, and the luxuriantly-illustrated dark-Celtic oppression of the Shadows of Esteren Prologue + Universe.

And I promptly clicked on this link to buy it. What's not to love here? Even if I do have one or two books, the bundle is well worth its price.

(No, I'm not affiliated with them. I'm just saying it's a good bargain.)

Monday, October 19, 2015

And just another hexmap

Island maps are always good places to adventure. Here's another (click to embigger).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

The journey is more important

I was thinking about some hexcrawling things. Blame yesterday's post for that.

The problem is my mindset. I was thinking about the distance, the amount of 6-mile hexes, the encounters... But nothing really matters in game, unless you want to realy track rations, water and so... Maybe I'm losing that old school touch.

Then I remember another post I've made, back in october. That map was inspired by Ode to Black Dougal's Into the Veldwood post. Go read it. I'll wait.

Ok. You're back.

My idea with my map was to track movement on the little "journey hexes" on the right. Every day I'd roll 2d6. The lowest one would indicate if an encounter (rolling 1) took place that day. The highest one would indicate how many "journey hexes" the party would walk.

How those "journey hexes" worked? Take the starting terrain hex and place a marker there. Then, just move the marker the amount of hexes rolled on the highest d6 (so the party would move, on average, 4.5 hexes a day). When the party crossed the "border hex" (the one with a little black border on that track) they reached the next hex on the (left) map, but the destiny is only reached when the marker stops on the destination hex.

So, moving from Plains to Plains needs 8 movement points (so the party will probably reach it on 2 days). From Forest to Hills it would take 11 movement points (5 is needed to reach the border, 6 more to reach the destination). If a party is journeying from Plains to Forest to Mountain to another Mountain (0303, 0302, 0402, 0501)they would need:
- 9 to reach the center of the Forest (4 would reach the border);
- 13 to move from Forest to Mountain (5 would be needed to see the terrain changing)
- 16 to move from Mountain to Mountain (8 is the mid-point of those hexes).
So it's a 38 "movement points" journey. On average, a party would need a little longer than 8 days to cross that distance, but the journey could be made in less than 7 days or even take as long as 38 days (unlikely -- 1/6^38 --, but possible).

So, the (rough) procedure is:
- Party (if they have enough data) or GM plots the journey;
- Roll 2d6 at the start of the day;
- Take the lowest die. If it's 1, there's an encounter that day. GM rolls on an appropriate table and determines when the encounter takes place.
- Take the highest die. Move the "journey mark" that amount of hexes, informing the party when (if) they change terrain.

I'm tempted to try this on my next gaming session. So far, it's only food for thought.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

British Isles Hex Map

It was about time... I've bought Hexographer and I was eager to try it. There are lots of similarities to the old AKS Mapper, but there are tons of improvement as well, and I'm glad with my purchase.

So my test run was re-creating the British Isles, 6-mile hex, based on this file.

The result is below (click to embigger it). I hope all my 1d6+2 readers like it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

One-page wilderness system in 12-mile hexes

I've been always fascinated by Roger Sorolla's One Page Wilderness System. It seemed an ellegant way to mix random encounters with pre-planned situations and that was truly an achievement.
However, the system could result in rolling 7 times a day to check for encounters. While I know well those random checks from AD&D 2nd, I understand that was too much.
Why rolling so much? In thesis, you should roll once each 6 hours... but again every time the party entered a new (5-mile) hex.
But I wanted to do something different. For starters, I wanted to embrace the howling emptiness of a 12-mile hex. Why? In part because the party could move those 12 miles in 6 hours. If that change took place, I could reduce the number of rolls to only 4 a day (two during the day, plus two during the night, with a nice d6 telling me exactly when the encounter would happen).
A larger area would need another approach on the numbers of the encounter table. After a few iterations, I think I've found the best compromise:
 1-7  Same hex (1 = lair found if moving)
   8  d6 in yellow hexes
9-10  Clue to white hex (if moving)
  11  Clue to d6 yellow hex (if moving)
  12+ Nothing

     1.433 encounters/day

83.047% 1+ encounters/day
45.178% 2+ encounters/day
13.458% 3+ encounters/day
 1.649%  4 encounters/day
Now I just need to playtest this.

If using 6-mile hexes with 25% saturation, roll 6 times a day (four during the day, two during the night) and use the following table:
1-3  Same hex (2/6 = lair found if moving)
  4  d6 in yellow hexes
5-6  Clue to white hex (if moving)
  7  Clue to d6 yellow hex (if moving)
  8+ Nothing

Monday, October 5, 2015

D&D 5th - game on

After reading a few reviews and a friend of mine insisted in this being the best edition ever (in despite of the page count--I'm used to the OSR mindset of barebones rules) I've decided to buy the three core books of D&D 5th Edition.

Well, I'm surprised.

There are too many good things there. The basic rules are simple, the advantage mechanic works better than I've thought after reading, the character creation is just a bit longer than I've expected (yet it's quickier than AD&D 2nd ed.)... The list goes on and on.

If there's one thing I really need to make my mind is the idea of balanced encounters. Let me explain this.

I prepared an adventure for my wife (Elf Wizard) and my in-laws (Human Fighter and Elf Druid). That meant a less than optimum number of players (5th ed. expects 4 players) and that added another math step. Ok, there are a few websites around that helps here (this one is invaluable), but that's a step I usually eyeballed on my game-prep before. At least now I know exactly what the mechanics expect of an easy encounter and a deadly one. I believe this will be quickier and quickier to me after a few sessions, but so far it's almost a chore. A good one (I keep telling me this is just another way to learn the system), but a chore.

I used an old hexmap (31x21 hexes) as basis for this new campaign. Major cities and villages, a conflict with human and elves, another conflict with old druidic religion and new monotheistic religion, a few goblinoids... And yes, that would be an hex crawl (even if I'm not sure D&D 5th would be a good system for hex crawls).

Every hexcrawl needs a starting point to keep the ball rolling. So the players were travelling back to a city by boat, the ship's captain invites everyone on board to attend a human-elf wedding, a few separatists start a fight, a NPC wizard hurls a fireball that misses, the boat sinks and the players (and most of the people aboard) are recued by fishing boats of a small village. Of course, that was not your regular village, but a reskinned Pommerville (stage of the AD&D adventure Cleric's Challenge, an one-on-one module that I've selected for the first major conflict--and changed the lamia for a wererat considering the expected CR for the group).

"Translating" the adventure to D&D 5th was not an effortless task. Yet, after the twice amount of hours I usually spend on my game-prep, everything was ready. Of course the players never saw that, and the game went as smooth as it could be.

The key to victory in that old module was: recruit your NPCs. That was true in my game too. Without turning undead the adventure was harder than I've thought, but everyone was having a blast--even my sister-in-law that was playing for the first time ever (sadly her Druid was killed mid-session and we took a quick break to create a Barbarian for her).

Long story short, on their way to find the magical rod that could trap the undead entity that was causing the "night of the living dead" on the village (and losing their way and three days), the Fighter saw a large pearl on the bottom of a crystal clear wheel and decided to grab it, only to having his hand "glued" to it and, unable to free himself, he cut his right hand. The fight against the wererat was harder after that, but they managed to survive...

...but in the nick of the time they rushed to the village (and I've ruled that I would only grant XP when they took a long rest, so they were ready to level up at any moment, but didn't managed to do so) to confront the undead "boss". The Barbarian went down (and was not able to make her survival rolls), the Wizard went down (but managed to do most of the damage, and also survived), and the one-handed Fighter delivered the killing blow. Village was saved. Eveyone was happy. Life was good again.

The very next day (real time) my sister-in-law asked me to create another hero (Human Cleric this time) and wanted to play again. That was a sign of D&D 5th working well (DM ability helps, I know, but I following the rules by the book, so there's merit in the rules). But now I was in the true hex crawl mode, and they were fishing for the adventure for themselves.

And it worked really good: an assassin's guild is after the Wizard and the Cleric, the group managed to defeat a demon-loving monk group, invoked the demon (re-skinned White Dragon Wyrmling) by themselves and sent it back to the lower planes, and reached level 3 (except the Cleric that is now level 2). Rumors abound, adventure waits.

And they want to keep playing. :-)

Friday, March 13, 2015

Skyrim and Hexmaps

Somehow Skyrim is something rather new to me. Yes, the game is a few years old, but I've never touched it until a couple of months ago. late to the party? Sure.

After finishing the game (and half finishing a few more times--a huge world like that deserves to be experienced in a few different ways) I remembered an old post talking about how much adventure fits a 6-mile hex. If you don't want to read the whole post (do it, it's interesting), at least consider this excerpt:

The region of Skyrim is roughly the same size as the region covered in Oblivion, which is around 16 square miles in area. Really? 16 square miles is 4 miles on each side. My 6mi hexagon obsessed brain immediately replies: "You realise that's all on one hex."

Now let's see this map (click it to see it in full glory):

How many encounters? It's over 300. Can you fit them in your 6-mile hex. In theory, yes... ;-)

However, I disagree with the statement saying this map covers a 16 square mile area. Why? Because if you consider the time spent in game (using the game clock, which runs 20 times faster than reality, if I'm not mistaken), you'll take a lot of time to wander from one point to another. I won't invite you to track the time to travel on foot from one city to another, but there's a convient way to track the time spent: fast travelling.

When you fast travel, the game adjusts the clock as if you walked from here to there. Now, if you convert this time spent travelling to a rough 3-mile per hour walking speed, what do you have?

*scribble scribble math math scribble*

If my math is not too far form the real result, each parallel line on that map is 7 miles apart. So, the map has a size of 84 miles per 56 miles, or an area of 4,704 squared miles.

But bear with me here. Instead considering a 7x7 square, in order to simplify the math, why not consider each square to be 6-miles wide? And since we are simplifying things, those 96 squares could be 96 hexes... 6-mile hexes.

So you have a 6-mile hex map measuring 12x8. 96 hexes full of adventure.

And what about hex density? On a quick glance, I'd say you have 3 to 7 locations per hex. This is still huge when comparing with my pale 1-in-6 chance of an encounter per hex, but at least it's easier to deal with than trying to fit 300 locations on a single hex.

Are you prepared to stock your hexes with 1d6+2 encounters per hex? I'm not. But maybe I should re-think the way I populate my hexes.