Friday, November 8, 2013

Hexcrawl Development Needs (part two)

Last post I was going on about what PCs will find in a hexcrawl , let me continue.

Relics and Ruins- What others have left behind serves to give the players a bit of campaign history without shoving twenty campaign docs  in their faces most folk will never read. Ruins are a place to corral monsters and store treasures but it’s also where solutions to enigmas can be presented, ancient rumors revealed, and lost lore can be discovered. A fresco on a wall showing a dead civilization poisoning black dragons with an extract from a certain root just might be valuable to the PCS as an example of what one may find in a ruin. Ruins can also serve as treasure maps to other ruins with more loot.   Relics are mobile ruins, they may be treasure in their own but they serve as clues, keys, and history lessons on their own as well.  “why do we keep finding all these silver arrowheads of elfin manufacture if there are no elves in these parts?”…hmmm, good question (the answer is out there).

The Ley of the Land- what natural features are there and how to deal with them are pretty big issues. Mountains to climb, and passes through them are pretty obvious. What about the nature of vegetation in certain landscapes (and those plants mentioned last post). Where do you have to worry about quicksand, earthquakes, and landslides?  What’s the difference between a quagmire, swamp, or a bog? Can you ride your horse through a thicket? Will there be much to drink in that eucalyptus forest or pine barren? Where are good spots for farming or just setting up a camp?  In the hexcrawl I’m developing currently the terrain itself is a repeated source of challenges and opportunities. There should be more to terrain than how many movement points it takes to cross hex A as opposed to hex B.

Where the water is should be a pretty important to the PCs in a hexcrawl. Water serves as something to drink of course (no water for 3 days and you are probably dead).  Water serves as a barrier,  fighters in plate have a tricky time swimming rivers. Water serves as a means of transit, in pre-modern times rivers were exploited for travel far more than roads, they also serve as a means to navigate a region.  Water is also a hiding place for monsters and treasure, no telling what is under the surface without diving in.

Magic- magic is out there and should leave it’s mark on your hexcrawls.  Strange phenomenon to explore, unusual magical effects, new material components, gateways to other worlds are just some of the features  of magic that should be presented In a hexcrawl. Magic isn’t just another set of equipment for PCs. Does your hexcrawl have dead-magic zones, regions of elemental intrusion, is there a parallel shadow-magic terrain, what of ley-lines? Magic has a place on those hexes outside spell-books and wands.

Sacred Lands- related to magic (but not always) are those scared places claimed by folks, or set by gods. Their utility will vary based on what faith means to your campaign but it should also vary based on how the locals feel about the sacred and spiritual.  Do extra-planar influences shape the terrain , can the hands of the gods be plainly seen? What have other faiths thought about the divine and what have they left behind?
There’s a lot to be find on a hexcrawl beyond forest, mountains and wandering monsters.
(more to come)


  1. One additional thing about water: During the age of exploration it was hardly uncommon for territorial claims to be based around 'where the water flowing out of this one river comes from.'

    This immediately suggests something for exploration hexcrawls: The goal is finding the sources of some river. This constrains the players' actions because they have to be able to prove that the river here and the one over there are the same river.

    Map errors can also be a source of later adventures. Start with a treaty defining a border based on drawing a line due east to a river, add a reality that the river doesn't go that far north and spice with a relationship far less cordial than that of the US and Canada. Simmer with competing settlement/prospecting/etc until hot. Serves two armies.