Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Stocking the Hexmap

Over the weekend, I prepared a rough hexmap of the immediate territory surrounding the campaign’s starting city. After placing the terrain, settlements, and dungeons, I now need to flesh out the map with lairs, ruins, and other interesting features. The problem is that I’m uncertain as to how to go about it. Looking through my books, I can’t find any guidelines as to how often these sites should be encountered, let alone a helpful Moldvay-style random stocking table.

In lieu of such tools, I’ve been experimenting with various types of dice to see what the results spread would be if I decide to randomly stock the map. I divided the map, which is 17 x 25 hexes, into five sections comprised of 85 hexes each (five columns of 17 hexes). I then when through the sections rolling a different type of die for each hex found within. On a roll of 1, I made a note that a ruin or something similar is found in that hex; on a result of a 2, a lair would be encountered. What follows are the results for each:

Method I (d6): 25 events (30% of the total hexes)
Method II (d8): 23 events (27% of the total hexes)
Method III (d10): 17 events (20% of the total hexes)
Method IV (d12): 15 events (18% of the total hexes)
Method V (d20): 12 events (14% of the total hexes)

Leaving out castle and citadels for the moment, I’m thinking that Methods III & IV give me the nicest percentage for a pulp sword & sorcery campaign. I don’t want the PCs tripping over something every few hexes, but don’t want to make overland travel uninteresting. Does 18%-20% of the map sound about right to you folks? Anyone know the Wilderlands breakdown off hand?

The random method has also produced a few groupings of results, where two or more lairs/ruins lie next to each other. I’m thinking about turning those results into a single, large ruin or lair rather than numerous smaller ones. Right now, however, I’m still experimenting with the results.

For those of you who have stocked hexmaps of your own, how did you go about it? Did you use a random method, perhaps one suggested in some rulebook that I’ve overlooked, or did you just place sites and encounters as you saw fit? Or maybe some combination of the two? I’d be very interested in exploring other options so please comment away.


Cameron Wood said...

Must be something in the air. I just posted a comment at Sword +1 about how much I panic when it comes to actually filling out a hex map. One more thread to check up on when I get back tonight.

Sleep? Who needs sleep?

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

Now I'm going to have to post my method. :head desk:

Michael, I'm swamped, so let me say this... I'll try to get a more thorough answer to you privately?

I give it a 35% chance of something happening. I munge together results from Kellri's CDD#4 Wilderness Encounter and a couple of tables I've hacked from various places. It's not always monsters, it could be just a feature, or whimsey, or a new village/town. If I don't like the result, I usually throw it away and go with blank or something else. My hexes are 5 mi wide.

Blair said...

I use the dungeon room stocking table from Basic D&D and a random wilderness encounter roll for each hex and further improvise the results.

trollsmyth said...

From an old Dragon magazine, I read that an army supplied by ox-drawn carts averages about 12 miles a day.

So, I tried to have 1-3 points-of-interest (and with at least one of those being a 12+ room dungeon) in bands every 12 miles from the PC's home base.

If I was feeling ambitious and looking for points of interest further out, I'd gauge where I thought a new base-camp within about 40 miles of their home base could be (a village, a dungeon with supplies of fresh water that the PCs could reasonably clear and hold, or perhaps an old hermit or hedge-witch who could be made an ally) and repeated the process.

Badmike said...

What the hell? I have a possible encounter EVERY hex. Those experience points aren't earning themselves, you know.....!

Alex Schroeder said...

My campaign is set in Lenap and I'm with Bad Mike: There's a lair in nearly every five mile hex! (PDF)

I started out with the descriptions in the boxed set and kept adding to it.

Since we're all in Dangerous Jungle, traveling through a hex doesn't automatically mean that we encounter something. I typically roll a 1 in 6 chance per day and a 1 in 6 chance per night, and another 1 in 6 chance without rangers or druids – about 42% of at least one encounter per 24h. If they encounter something, it's either named people I know, or monsters and humanoids from the surrounding lairs.

I also tell my players that walking through the jungle or hills without trails means it takes them a day per hex.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

We might also be dealing with a scale issue. I don't know what scale Badmike and Alex's map is at, so something in each hex sounds right at a >20mi/hex scale.

For my 5mi/hex scale, not so much.

David The Archmage said...

I have no method, as I've never done a hex crawl. However, is there much of a difference between having a 20%-30% chance of having something in a hex versus having a 20%-30% chance of encountering the thing that is absolutely there?

Mel said...

Pat over at Ode to Black Dougal had some interesting posts on this a while back. I'm pasting in links below. I especially like the "veldwood" post, but that's less about stocking and more about running a wilderness journey.




Michael Curtis said...

I'm not sold on the idea of having a lair/ruin in every hex. Even with only the possibility of encountering something in each hex, that method smacks too much of Final Fantasy VII syndrome: "Another fight? I just wanna get to the freakin' town already!!!" At least, that was my response to the game.

There is also the ever-present chance of encountering a wandering monster or three over the course of the day, so not every hex needs a static danger.

I do intend to put something in each hex, just not a ruin or lair or something that can otherwise eat the PCs.

I've settled on using a d12 to determine what hexes have ruins or lairs, combining a few when they're in adjacent hexes. This seems to give me the nicest spread: 96 hexes out of 425 have either a lair or ruin, which is roughly 23% of the map. This doesn't include placed dungeons and other similar adventure locales.

I'm using 5 mile hexes for clarification purposes.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

One of the other things I've taken to doing is allowing random events/encounters fill out my map. If the players run into a band of orcs, perhaps there's a camp in there that is there for next time.

Lead Addict said...

I think the one thing that always trips me up is scale.

If a usual encounter hex is 5 miles across, then its area is 21.65 square miles (.866 x 5 squared). This is 13,856 acres. This is a lot of area.

In linear terms, its easy to see walking through the 5 mile hex in a morning or afternoon. depending on terrain. But exploring it. That's someting else entirely.

We(people, adventuring parties) are very small things in this world. And something as simple as a 5mile hex could have almost endless surprises in terms of real scale.

To put it in perspective. There was story about the US Navy selling back Treasure Island and Yerba Island to San Francisco. The both of them together are less than 1 square mile. Look at the aerial photo and you can start to get a sense of how big just 1 square mile is.

Now 21.65 square miles? Well thats about the size of Manhattan Island, NY NY. Manahttan is about 23 sq miles. I am pretty sure it would have been a hell of a trek to explore Manhattan in a day when it was a native island with vegetation, hills, beach, swamps, forest, streams, etc. Let alone find a neelde in a hay stack of a cave or lair entrance.

Scale is the issue with understanding how much we are talking about. At least for me.

So travellinig through a hex and encountering something by chance, a decent random chance. But exploring the hex for someting specific. A lot harder. GEt a ranger, a druid, horse and GPS, its gonna be a while.

Michael S/Chgowiz said...

@ken - Aye, that's an issue I ran into. I have a houserule that I use for that situation. I'll increase the odds as the party spends days in the same area.

Michael Curtis said...

If the players run into a band of orcs, perhaps there's a camp in there that is there for next time.

That's my plan too. I figure there's a "% in Lair" stat for just such a purpose. But I need a rough idea who lives where before I start conjuring up random encounter tables.

One last thing I forgot to mention is that two-thirds of my starting map is desert, so needless to say, I'm trying to maintain a somewhat depopulated map compared to one with a more favorable climate.

Badmike said...

I should have explained better (but I was trying to be funny). An "encounter" isn't necessarily hostile, and can be with an inoffensive creature, traveler, merchant, or static item (like a statue, burned down farmhouse, or rock wall). Druids are always looking for creatures to talk to and befriend (as are rangers), travelers and traveling merchants can be sources of information; static items can give clues to the area or inspire further adventuring. So not every encounter must be hostile. Also remember that adventurers may not run into the encounter if they are just passing through. As Ken said exploring and passing through are two different things entirely.

BTW my hexes are 10 miles so they are rather big.

Dirk said...

If you had, like a Wilderness Alphabet, then you could populate 26% of the hexen with interesting features by rolling d100 :-)

Gary had a random table in the DMG, but it included geographical features (such as rivers and mountains) as well as settlements (castles and cities). It was meant to be applied to each 1 mile hex that the party traveled through. However, it could lead to some pretty silly results (why didn't we see that mountain the last time we passed through? We were only 2 miles away ...)

I would use the same logic for placing ruins that you applied to the position of your living settlements: at some point in the past, it must have been strategically important, with access to resources, etc. in order for the original residents to have built it there. On the other hand, with an encroaching desert then there may be many abandoned settlements that were no longer viable.

I need a rough idea who lives where before I start conjuring up random encounter tables

It seems like it would be easier to generate randomly if you did it the other way around: first decide which monsters inhabit the desert (and other terrain types), then roll random encounters with % in lair to determine where they live.

This also partially addresses the issue of travel vs exploration: if they spend more time in a hex, there is a higher chance of random encounters, therefore they will find more lairs the longer they look.

Anonymous said...

I use 5-mile hexes.

If the PCs search a hex (which takes three times as long as traversing it) they might find something in it. They need to roll 11+ on d20 to search successfully. Elves search automatically when they pass by outdoors and so a party with Elves can search "for free" when passing through.

I roll a d12 and they find a location on a 1 or 2 (which I use for random encounters, 1 or 2 is an encounter, with a 1 being "face-to-face" 1d6x5' away and 2 being "at a distance" 2d6x10' away).

If the area was previously populated (as the area they are in now), it's 4 in 12. If it's a wasteland (desert, tundra) then it's only 1 in 12.

If the hex has a keyed location then that's what they find. If the hex has nothing predetermined in it, I roll on a d20 table for what feature they discover. Then if it's a ruin, I roll for structural quality and special feature (so you could get a Vermin-infested Ruin that's Leaning Perilously).

Often the location found isn't that interesting. But sometimes they decide it's important enough to mark on their map. They don't know if it's worthwhile or not because I also do these rolls when they find keyed locations, just to throw them off.

I have lists of random low-value treasure they can find, anything from candles to taxidermy animals to spices and food and oils and holy relics. And tables of dungeon dressing and random traps and such. I add the specifics on the fly. More than once I've had an entire dungeon branch out under them as they explored and I wrote it on the fly.

Note that they can easily find something minor in a hex, come back later and search, and find something else. That's fine with me. Try it for yourself: go on Google Maps and zoom in on your hometown so that the scale shows 5 miles. I'm pretty sure you could find more than one interesting thing in the ruins of a city that size, even if a hundred years have passed.