Friday, February 19, 2010

Hex Dressing

One of the ways that the Dismal Wilderness campaign differs from your standard fantasy sandbox is that exploration and the mapping of the uncharted wilderness becomes almost a game in itself. Such was the rationale behind including Frontier Experience Points into the setting: to encourage the party to explore the wilderness, rather than just pass through it.

Of course, by encouraging the PCs to scour each hex, it won’t be long before everyone gets tired of spending a full day searching a hex only to find that doesn’t contain a lair, a dungeon, or some other keyed site. The referee can’t place something in every single hex but surely there must be something of interest in a 5 mile hex, right?

Each hex the party explores has a 1 in 6 chance of containing a minor bit of set dressing (2 in 6 if sharp-eyed elves are present). These sites might be mere color, have some game mechanic attached to it, or serve as a mini-dungeon to explore. If the party’s search turns up a interesting feature, roll on the table below to determine what exactly is encountered. Once located, the referee makes a note of its presence in his key and, if he’s smart, starts brainstorming a way that it fits into the overall game world.

You’ll notice that some of the sites listed on the chart have modifiers to trapping roll or “provides the benefits of shelter.” These are two more sub-systems I’m playing around with, but haven’t fine-tuned enough to my liking yet. Further details will be revealed once I’m satisfied.

Hex Dressing Table

d20 Roll

Hex Contains…


A vein of ore visible in an exposed rock face. Roll to determine the ore type: 1-4, tin; 5-8, copper; 9-15, iron; 16-18, silver; 19-20 gold.


A lightning-stuck tree. The blackened and splintered wood of the tree can be used to craft a wand of lightning bolts with an above-average number of charges or to serve as the basis for a staff of power or wizardry at the referee’s discretion.


A stream or pond teeming with fish. Any attempts to find food while in this hex receive a +1 bonus.


A rocky promontory, tall tree, or other height that provides an unobscured view into all neighboring hexes. If any of those hexes contains a special location, lair, or other unique feature noticeable from afar, it is easily visible from atop this point.


A gorge 1d10x10’ deep and 3d20+10’ across. If there is a river or stream present in this hex, the water flows through the gorge in a series of whitewater rapids. PCs traveling by boat must save vs. wands to successfully navigate the rapids.


A rock face or boulder that looks like the face of a humanoid creature. This is most likely a natural oddity, but it may be the work of an intelligent artisan at the referee’s discretion.


A ruined cabin constructed by a trapper, hunter, hermit, or other solitary individual. Although collapsing and empty of useful items, the structure provides the benefits of shelter if caught in a storm or blizzard.


An abandoned mine or old dwarven quarry. Old mines may or may not be currently occupied by monsters. Old quarries have filled with rainwater, creating artificial lakes of extreme depth (50+1d100 feet), which may now be home to any manner of aquatic beastie.


A natural spring, its waters heavily-laden with aromatic minerals. There is a 10% chance that drinking from the spring a produces special result in the drinker.


Difficult terrain caused by flooding/mudslide/avalanche/deadfalls. Movement through this hex takes twice the normal time unless the party has some means to bypass the obstacles.


A beaver pond and dam. During the fall and winter months, a lodge in the center of the pond is home to 1d4 adult beavers and 2d4 young beavers. All trapping attempts in the hex receive a +10% bonus.


Ley lines that cross to form a concentration of natural mystic power. This location can serve as a druidic circle or other nature-worship site. There is an 80% chance that the location is protected by a magical nature guardian such as sprites, treants, dryads, or a unicorn.


A waterfall that plunges 1d6x10’ into a 2d10’ deep pool. There is a 25% chance that a natural cave system comprised of 1d8 chambers is hidden behind the waterfall.


The remains of a recent forest or brush fire. Due to the scorched landscape, no foraging is possible while in this hex.


An area of exposed rock containing numerous fossils. These relics may be that of prehistoric creatures or more mystical beasts depending on the campaign world. There is a 50% chance these fossils are worth 1d6 gp each to alchemists, magic-users, or curio merchants.


A barbarian burial ground. The area is occupied by cairns, barrows, graves, or sky burial platforms, and may (20% chance) be haunted by undead. There is a 25% chance that each burial site contains Hoard Class VI treasure.


A treacherous bog. Although small in size, this marshy section of land is rife with quicksand (2 in 6 chance of falling into a pool; save vs. petrification each round, with death occurring after three saves are failed). After dark, there is a 50% chance of phosphorescent gases creating an eerie light display above the bog and a 25% chance that this is actually a will-o-wisp on the hunt.


A large hollow tree. Although it provides the benfits of shelter from the elements, there is a 2 in 6 chance that some creature already uses the tree as a lair. If occupied, roll on the applicable table to determine the tree’s occupant.


A natural amphitheatre containing the totemic altar of a humanoid tribe. This slab of stone or outcropping of rock is appropriately bloodstained and adorned with the bones of previous sacrifices. If encountered after dark, there is a 1 in 6 chance that rites are being conducted here by the tribe (increase to a 4 in 6 chance on the nights of the full moon).


Prehistoric ruins left behind by the Ancients. This may be a crumbing statue, a small bridge, an overgrown plaza, or similar piece of “set dressing.” Alternatively, the ruin may be more sizable and contain monsters and treasure. In this case, consult either The Book of Ruins (Judges Guild, 1981) or choose an appropriate mini-dungeon from another gaming book or periodical.


Anonymous said...

Consider it yoinked. Thanks Michael.

Timeshadows said...

Nice! :)

BigFella said...

Since this is a fantasy world, it could be neat if the fossil bed at entry 15 had some % chance of containing the fossils of sentients, like prehistoric serpent men or what have you. A fossilized T Rex is cool, a fossilized T Rex with the bones of a pre-cataclysmic warrior in it's jaws, complete with the long since corroded battle armor and the outline of the laser rifle he used to take the T Rex with him, is AWESOME!

Knightsky said...

Verrrry nice.


(word verifaction: ducknobe. I just like the sound of it. Ducknobe!)

Lord Kilgore said...

Very nice. I'm working on a hex contents system of my own for an upcoming (it's been "upcoming" for months) sandbox and will have to borrow some ideas from this.

Blair said...

Should have been d100 ;)

A seriously useful random table!

Aaron E. Steele said...

Do I detect the faint stirrings of a Wilderness ALphabet?

Daddy Grognard said...

11 A beaver pond and dam. During the fall and winter months, a lodge in the center of the pond is home to 1d4 adult beavers and 2d4 young beavers - and four English children who are destined to become Kings and Queens.