Friday, March 20, 2020

Quarantine

Hello everyone,
Some of you are in quarantine already (I'm writing from the north of Italy, so I know what it feels like), most of you will be very soon anyway.
What can I do about it? Nothing, except giving everything away in Pay What You Want, to make it easier for you to grab something to pass the time. If you like what you read, or want to show your support, feel free to throw me some money - but if you are stuck in the house with nothing better to do, download everything for free.

https://www.drivethrurpg.com/browse/pub/5383/DaimonGames

Well, there is something else I can do, for all of you who are not in quarantine... I am in the north of Italy but most of my customers are from other countries, so let me tell you something:

Be VERY careful, be STRONG, but be PESSIMIST. If you are not in quarantine yet, make plans about it.

Not just food - and definitely not guns... (if we will ever get to the point when we run out of food or we need guns, I'm the last person to take advice from, and my email won't save you)
Make plans about your space (how can it be made more comfortable for months of quarantine? What is broken and needs to be fixed before the quarantine? Should you move somewhere else, if you have the opportunity?),
about your physical health (get ready to do some exercise indoor, make a daily workout schedule, buy what you need but most of all: get in the mindset that you WILL HAVE to do exercise at home; it's important!),
and mental health (do not panic, reinforce your network of family and friendly connections, get to know your neighbors, find a therapist who can work online, call a truce on any war you might have with people next to you),
buy/prepare now what you will need later (internet connection, decent hardware, medicines, books, materials for your kids, for you, for your hobby, for your partner, etc...).

Make a list of all the things you wanted to do and never had time for... because you're about to have plenty of time!

This virus WILL pass (meaning also: it will pass through your country too, before it's gone!), but there will be sacrifice to be made. Do NOT think: it won't happen TO ME, it won't happen HERE. It might, indeed, not happen to YOU, but it will affect your country, your region, your city - someone you know. I wish all of you the best of luck (I'm not one for prayers), but unless you're lucky enough to live on a tropical island (or somewhere similar), your life will be touched, somehow. Whatever they tell you: this will last for MONTHS, in a form or another.

ONE LAST THING: if your government tells you not to worry, do as you wish... but I think it would be very wise for you to make plans and take action as if the government was wrong and your instinct (your healthy fear) was right.
I bet they have a private hospital ready for them - do you have the same? Do your parents or grandparents have a team of private doctors? Does your family have a secret medicine we don't know about? The virus itself is not terribly lethal; but plenty of people suffer from other diseases or are too weak because of their age, to fight it properly. And hospitals are made for REGULAR situations; this is NOT a regular situation. Many people will die because of pre-existing conditions, age, or lack of proper treatment. The more the virus spreads (through all the people with no symptoms or not careful enough), the more the epidemic (and the quarantine) will last, and more people will die.

So, be careful, stay safe, play games, and see you all at the end of this!
Feel free to share this.
Davide

Friday, December 6, 2019

Encumbrance rules

If buying equipment at char-gen is often a waste of time, keeping track of the weight of each item is often too much even for the fanatic OSR player. Numbers to add and subtract, movement rate to re-evaluate, etc.
The good things is, there are plenty of easier encumbrance systems out there for you to use.


The first link uses a simplified weight unit: the stone.
Most stuff weights one stone (150 coins, several small items, a normal weapon or shield) and a few of them weight a little more (armor, basically).
The link contains also a few notes about the Imperial units vs. the Metric system.

Encumbrance
by DELTA
Encumbrance is one of those fiddly bits in D&D that no one really enjoys (and lots of people just ignore once the game is in progress). [...]
In short, you should just use a coarser unit, one which makes the numbers easier to count mentally, and only have to deal with them when it makes a direct difference on gameplay.
[...]
Encumbrance
Calculating encumbrance can alternatively be done using the old English unit of the "stone" (that is, 14 pounds). For D&D, let's say that 1 "stone" = 150 coins weight. For example, a grown man weighs about 12 stone. 
[...]
Conversions for gear are as follows:
Plate -- 5 stone
Chain -- 3
Leather -- 2
Shield -- 1
Weapon, heavy -- 1
Weapon, light -- 1 per 3 carried
Misc. Equipment -- 1 (total)
[...]
Tiny items are counted only if a character carries a large number of them; such gear as a dagger, potion, scroll, jewelry, etc. can be counted at 1 stone per 6 items, if so desired. Obviously, every 150 coins of treasure adds 1 stone (a backpack or large sack can carry 2 stone worth). 
[...]
Conversions for movement categories follow:
12" Move -- up to 5 stone weight
9" Move -- up to 7
6" Move -- up to 10
3" Move -- up to 20
[...]
http://deltasdnd.blogspot.com/2007/04/encumbrance.html

If you like this system, note that Adam in the comments also proposed a small tuning based on the Strength score:
A Strength 12 man can carry 12 stones of encumbrance and still move 6".
You could make the categories12" = 1/2 Strength in stones9" = 3/4 Strength in stones6" = Strength in stones3" = 2 x Strength in stones (this seems a little high, but 150% of Strength is lower than the top of your current scale).

A further simplified version of encumbrance rules could just track the number of items, without the need to specify their weight. This post by Eric Diaz was directly inspired by the Delta article linked above.

Encumbrance, Movement and the rule of four
[...] Nobody seems to care much for "coin" weights, so a number of alternate systems have emerged. Delta's stone encumbrance is a favorite and an inspiration for this one.
[...]
For encumbrance, a "rule of four" might work quite well to help you remember that a regular character can carry 40 pounds without adverse effects, and up to four times time much, but with one fourth of their speed (if you carry more than STRx3). Combat movement is 40' per round.

I wanted STR to be relevant to encumbrance, so let us say that you can carry a number of 4-pound items equal to you STR. Four pounds is a good weight for a sword, mace, etc, with a scabbard. Two-handed weapons, or shields, counts as two items. Armor is a bit trickier; to keep it easy and quite close to Moldvay, I would make it count as [...] 4/8/12 for leather/chain/plate
[...] 
http://methodsetmadness.blogspot.com/2016/04/encumbrance-movement-and-rule-of-four.html


The article contains a link to a single page pdf with the complete encumbrance rules:
https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8yC9untvl8NYjNDaHVhMk41ZHc
In the PDF the rules refer directly to a number of items, instead of pounds (while it still maintains a reference to the weight of objects).

A character can carry a number of regular items equal to his or her Strength score before being slowed down. Thus, a character with Strength 12 can carry up to 12 items without penalty.
Any number of items over the Strength score will cause speed to drop to 3/4 of the regular speed and a -1 penalty to various activities. If the number of items is equal to Strength x2, speed is halved and the penalty is -2.
[...]
A standard “item” weights up to four pounds; examples are one-handed weapons such as sword or mace (with belt, scabbard, etc.), a winter blanket, climbing gear, a backpack, a grappling hook, 40’ of rope
[...]
Heavy items such as two-handed weapons, shields, 10 foot poles, winter clothing, etc., count as two items (or more, depending on the case).
[...]
Leather, chain and plate armor count as 5, 10 and 15 items respectively.
[...]
Small items may be bundled together and count as one single item (for example, four knifes, 40 arrows, 40 coins – or 1000 coins if you’re being historical, etc.).


The first article used "stones" as the measurement unit for encumbrance, the second a basic 4 pounds item, then further simplifying in the pdf by simply counting the items themselves instead of their weight.
This is of course very similar to the most popular system now, based on "encumbrance points" and connecting that directly to movement rates. Yes, talking about Lamentations of the Flame Princess.


When I've first read the rules, I had to glance at the character sheet to understand better how it worked, but it's in fact quite simple:
- Every 5 items, it's 1 encumbrance point
- Multiple items get written together (i.e. "arrows") and count as a single item
- Armor and/or oversized items count directly as encumbrance point(s)
- Worn or very small items are not counted


For additional details about the encumbrance of each single item, look at their forum:
http://www.lotfp.com/RPG/discussion/topic/57/help-with-encumbrance-please/


The only part which I don't like too much about the LotFP approach, is that you have a layer of abstraction (encumbrance points) and:
- you track your armor separately,
- you count your oversized items (but have no space in the character sheet for them, unless you use the non-encumbering equipment space),
- you write items in the list and count them by multiples of 5
... then after you've done all this, count your encumbrance points and figure out your movement rate

When I worked on the Black Dogs 'zine, I wanted an even easier system: something that worked by slots and told you right away what your level of encumbrance, and penalties, are.
It's done like this:
- Regular items are written one per slot (as in LotFP)
- Small items are written together in a slot, a few of them
- Armor is not tracked separately, but counts as multiple slots (as a rule of thumb, each point of AC counts as 1 slot)
- Very large or heavy or long or encumbering items count for 2 or more slots...

You have a number of slots equal to CON score + STR modifier (so both stats count... but it works easily with an average of the two, or just using STR, and so on).
So if you have 14 slots, you simply erase (fill with black) all the slots above number 14 on your character sheet.

If you need to carry more than that, you must use the "encumbrance boxes" which have fewer slots. By default, each box is 1 slot + CON or STR modifier (whichever is higher, or whatever you prefer). Again, you simply erase (fill with black) the slots you cannot use.
Note that the slots come with progressive penalties.



Design notes:
- Tracking the weight of each single item, adjusting movement speed and penalties, and so on, is simple but time consuming and therefore encumbrace rules are often overlooked, or turn into a burden for many players
- A simple solution is to use a measurement system with a large base unit, such as the "stone"; a sack of coins is a stone, a weapon is a stone, a large weapon 2 stones, multiple small items are a stone, etc.
- The stone, or a fixed weight, could be used as the base for the encumbrance system. Often these alternative rules use a generic weight which is equivalent approximately to the weight of a one-handed weapon, a piece of gear, a sack of coins (heavy items count double or triple, small items are bundled together)
- This allows to move from a weight-tracking system, to simply counting items
- Which is what LotFP does: every 5 items is 1 encumbrance point, armor and oversized items count for 1 or more enc. points, very small items do not count... and you get a movement rate based on your encumbrance level (number of points)
- In the Black Dogs 'zine, I mixed those ideas in what I felt was a very functional character sheet: items go in slots, armor takes multiple slots (i.e. one per AC point), large items take multiple slots... and when you're out of regular slots, you write in the encumbrance slots which give your character progressive penalties

Friday, November 22, 2019

Starting Equipment

When making a new character, one of the most time consuming parts of the process, is selecting and buying equipment.
There are several ways to speed up the process, and here we present a few of them.

Random starting packages are great because not only they save time (a huge amount of it if you have even just one or two players which are prone to decision-paralysis...) but also because by giving your players some random items, they encourage them to think outside the box and find creative solutions.


The first link contains an exmple of a starting package of standard dungeon gear. This is a very basic approach - a fixed price for a reasonable selection of dungeoneering equipment.
Of course, you may want to improve this by creating a few packages of your own, tailored to different needs and with different prices.

Standard Starting Equipment Package
by Al
Ming's Tavern has long been a popluar watering hole for adventuring types [...] Recognizing this, Ming has started a sort of side-industry, selling "Ming's Essential Dungeoneer's Kits" (or "MEDKits" for short), usually admonishing loudly bragging adventurers as they head out the door, "what're you gonna eat down there, your axe?"
[...]
Ming's kits cost a mere 15gp and weigh only 15lbs. They usually include:
Backpack
Bedroll
Flint & Steel
Grappling Hook
Hammer
Trail Rations (4 days worth)
Waterskin
Hemp Rope (50')
2 15lb-capacity sacks
Iron Spikes (5)
Torches (10)
Oil (1 pint)
Ming's Fat Lip Lager (1 pint)
Wooden Holy Symbol of Ylalla
[...]


Where a "package" has the advantage of simplicity, some organized lists can still make a difference in terms of saving your players a significant amount of time at chargen, while still allowing them to make meaningful choices.
Note that in this post, characters also get some common basic equipment besides what's in the lists, and some gear based on their class.

Starting Equipment
[...]I'm aiming for fast (10min) character generation. Thus I have replaced starting monies and pouring over equipment lists with "pick an item from each column" detailed below. Which I'm hoping will be faster than "shopping". If not, table is setup for rolling randomly. I stocked it with old-school dungeoneering equipment to help develop the tone and style I hope to achieve in this campaign.
[...]
- Everyone has a belt, shoes, cloths, and cloak of common/poor variety.[...]
- Elves get an ash longbow, quiver and 40 arrows.[...]
- Religious types start with an appropriate holy symbol of the non-fancy type.[...]
- Pure fighters get an additional weapon of their choice from any of those listed below.[...]

Pick one item from each column:
NUM weapons1 weapons2 armor misc1 misc2
1 2 flasks oil lantern       potion heal   holy water flagon of wine/ale/whiskey
2 4 javelins   shield        2d6x10cp      pot helm   holy symbol
3 caltrops     The Deck draw better cloths chalk      charcoal "pen" & 4 sheets of papyrus
4 1h dagger    1h dagger     padded        2 lg sacks 4 person tent
5 1h sword     sling         leather       10 ft pole hammer & 10 spikes
[...]


Different characters - different classes - of course have the need of different gear. We've seen in the previous post that some basic equipment could be given to each class, but you could also make different lists for different classes.
In the post below, Brendan goes back to the concept of "packages" instead of single items in multiple lists, and provides the entire starting gear with a single 3d6 roll.
The nice thing is that with a single roll you get the entire selection of your character's starting equipment (the fastest method) with focus on your class (nice!) and with differences among the various characters (always good to keep the 3d6 randomness).
Also, if you read the entire article (which you will, because you definitely want to print out that table for future reference), you will notice that there was careful planning in writing the lists; they are not just a random selection of stuff... they keep in mind balance and prices and so on.
Also, Brendan provides a few sample re-equipping packages with their cost.

OD&D Equipment
[...] In OD&D, one is instructed to roll 3d6 * 10 for starting GP and buy all equipment manually. Here is a one-roll method which uses a 3d6 table. This table has 64 different starting packages, one for each class at each potential starting wealth level. I built it strictly using the prices and equipment in Men & Magic, so should be useful in any vanilla OD&D game. Buying equipment has traditionally been the most time consuming part of creating a D&D character, but hopefully this can speed the process up.
[...]

TABLE FOR STARTING EQUIPMENT

3D6 CLERIC FIGHTER MAGIC-USER THIEF
3 cudgel, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, wooden cross, 4 GP spear, dagger, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope, 3 GP dagger, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, 4 GP cudgel, sling, pouch with 20 sling bullets, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope, 4 GP
4 cudgel, shield, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope, wooden cross, 4 GP cudgel, leather armor, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, 1 GP 2 daggers, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 2 flasks oil, 50′ rope, 7 GP cudgel, leather armor, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, 1 GP
5 mace, leather armor, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, wooden cross, 5 GP leather armor, morning star, dagger, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope, 3 GP dagger, backpack, waterskin, lantern, 4 flasks oil, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, 7 GP cudgel, dagger, sling, pouch with 20 sling bullets, leather armor, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope, 6 GP
6 quarter-staff, leather armor, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope, 12 iron spikes, wooden cross, 3 stakes & mallet, steel mirror, 10 GP leather armor, battle axe, hand axe, dagger, sling, pouch with 20 sling bullets, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, 7 GP dagger, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 50′ rope, vial of holy water, 9 GP sword, dagger, leather armor, 6 torches, backpack, waterskin, 1 week iron rations, 10′ pole, 9 GP
[...]

One could roll d4 on this table to select the contents of a beginning cleric scroll.
1 - Light (C 1, MU 1)
2 - Detect Magic (C 1, MU 1)
3 - Protection from Evil (C 1, MU 1)
4 - Detect Evil (C 1, MU 2)
[...]

BUNDLES FOR RE-EQUIPPING

Budget explorer (22 GP): backpack, waterskin, 6 torches, 1 week iron rations
Deluxe explorer (39 GP): backpack, waterskin, lantern, 4 flasks oil, 1 week iron rations
Budget vampire slayer (10 GP): 3 stakes & mallet, steel mirror, wooden cross
Deluxe vampire slayer (73): 3 stakes & mallet, silver mirror, silver cross, vial of holy water, garlic
Werewolf slayer (35): 5 silver tipped arrows, wolvesbane
Heavy infantry (83): plate armor, shield, helmet, sword, dagger
Budget infantry (19): leather armor, spear, dagger
Archer (78): leather armor, longbow, quiver of 20 arrows, sword, dagger
Skulk (24): leather armor, dagger, 50′ rope, belladona
Spelunker (6): 50′ rope, 10′ pole, 12 iron spikes, 3 stakes & mallet
[...]
http://www.necropraxis.com/2012/07/20/odd-equipment/


This last post presents yet another approach, again with a mix of lists and random rolls.
There is a d8 roll for armor (modified by class, and which can give you extra rolls for weapons or shields), then a roll for a shield, then for weapon(s) (melee and ranged), then additional gear, mounts, a fixed list of other gear by class, and finally additional money.
It's another approach, which still keeps some balance between lucky rolls and reasonable lists, and gives each class a boost where it matters.

Random Starting Equipment Charts
by Chris Kutalik
Buying gear for a starting character in old school D&D is often the most time-consuming step. For some players this is a favorite ritual. Should I go for that silver dagger this time or a mining pick and a bag of caltrops? Do I really need that lantern?
[...]

Armor (Roll d8)
Cleric, +1 to roll
Fighter +2
Thief, Druid: leather automatically
Magic User, Illusionist, Monk: no roll

1,2,3 Leather armor **
4
Studded leather *
5, 6 Scale mail
7,8,9 Chain mail
10 Splint or banded mail
11 Plate mail

* 1 extra roll on weapon or shield chart
** 2 extra rolls on weapon or shield chart
[...]

Shield (Roll 1d6 only if extra roll indicated)
[...]

Melee Weapon (Roll 1d6)
Clerics, Magic Users, Illusionists hand weapon only

1,2 Hand weapon (dagger, hand axe, short sword, mace, morningstar, staff, spear)
3,4
Medium weapon (long sword, battle axe, rapier, scimitar)
5 Polearm (polearm, pike)
6 Two-handed weapon (two-handed axe, two-handed sword, bastard sword)
7 Quality weapon of choice (+1 damage)
[...]

Missile Weapon (Roll 1d6)
[...]

Adventure Packs (Pick one)
All packs come with backpack, two small sacks, bedroll, water skin, tinderbox, and one week of iron rations
Pack A (10 oil flasks, lantern, shovel, two caltrops, whistle)
Pack B (10 torches, 10 pieces of chalk/charcoal, blank scroll, mirror, crowbar)
Pack C (five torches, five oil flasks, 60 ft. rope, grappling hook, wooden pole)

Class-based equipment
Fighter, Ranger, Paladin: extra weapon roll, 10 gp starting
Cleric, Druid: holy symbol, 10 gp
Thief: Thieves tools, 5 gp
Magic-User, Illusionist, spellbook, 5 gp
Monk, 2 gp



All these posts leave the concept of Encumbrance and equipment weight aside. Probably because they assume you will look up the weight of each single item on your rules, or use whatever system for encumbrance you desire.
Personally, I would never use anything that is not slots-based. It's the year 2019, almost 2020. There is no reason to use anything different than a slots-based system for encumbrance.


Design notes:
- Browsing the equipment list and deciding what to buy and what to carry in the dungeon, is one of the most time consuming activities at chargen, and may take up time also before any expedition
- Building "packages" with different selections of gear and different prices will save precious time at chargen and also when restocking supplies between adventures
- You can also build a few lists, to maintain some freedom of choice for the players, while still speeding up the process
- For example there could be one or more default items (everyone gets these)
- One or more pieces of gear depending on the class (get all or select a fixed number of them)
- And a certain number of lists; they could either have a price or you could select one item from each list, etc...
- Lists are good also for random selection
- The more detailed and useful articles present default starting lists of equipment divided by class, and with a random 3d6 roll in order to determine what you get
- You can also have lists by topics (armor, melee weapons, ranged weapons, mounts, etc.) and selections of basic default gear by class

Friday, November 8, 2019

Travel and hex-crawling, part three - path-crawl and point-crawl

Read part one here:
https://daimon-games.blogspot.com/2019/10/travel-and-hex-crawling-part-one.html

Read part two here:
https://daimon-games.blogspot.com/2019/10/travel-and-hex-crawling-part-two.html


We start again with Signs in the Wilderness, with a single post that should have been, in retrospective, the first of all this series about hex crawling and wilderness. It presents a very simple framework to compare dungeon crawling and wilderness adventures; if you can run a dungeon, you can run a wilderness adventure.
Note that it's called wilderness adventure rather than hex crawling, and for a reason. This post seems to present a simpler, easier structure than a completely free hex-crawl. But I believe it's a good starting point for exploring the wilderness around your cities and dungeons with your players, if you don't feel like you can run a complete hex crawl campaign.

Wilderness dungeons
by Signs in the Wilderness
Dungeon crawls don't have to be underground: zoom out a bit and the wilderness itself makes for great old-school crawl adventures. [...] 
Dungeons usually work like this:
1. Go into a twisty network of rooms and passages, all alike.
2. Avoid/solve traps and other obstacles to movement.
3. Fight monsters.
4. Get loot.

It's a simple structure [...]  But the simple format offers several clear types of fun:
1. Mapping and exploring an unknown place.
2. Thinking of clever ways to solve an obstacle.
3. Struggling against a killable adversary when death is on the line.
4. Being rewarded for your efforts.

Dungeon crawls also constrain the adventure, providing both structure and challenge:
- The network of rooms and passages limits the paths you can take.
- A traditional dungeon crawler provides a gradient of difficulty, with the easier monsters at the start and the scariest ones at the end.
- Being underground in a dangerous makes limited resources a challenge of its own.

Wilderness
A good wilderness looks a lot like a good dungeon, but not at the ten-foot scale.  You have to zoom out a bit, both in time and space.
Recapping from earlier, a good dungeon crawl provides constraints:
- limited paths
- gradient of difficulty
- limited resources

The last of these is easy: traveling through the wilderness uses up limited resources, whether it's rations you're eating or bandages you're using up.

A gradient of difficulty appears in the wilderness not because of the wilderness itself, but because of civilization.  Wandering in the woods near the big city you won't find any wolves, not because the wilderness couldn't support them, but because the city just won't allow it. [...]  So the most dangerous beasts tend to survive only out in the distance [...]

Close up, the forest doesn't seem to have limited paths. [...] But zoom out and the forest starts to have structure.  To the north there's a deep river canyon.  To the south there's a ridge and a bluff.  When you consider a mile at a time, there are only a few ways to travel that make any sense.
These criteria do seem to single out certain kinds of wilderness.  Mountains, swamps, and rivers make for good constraints on your movement.  Open plains tend more toward extended chase scenes than dungeon-style adventures.
[...]
Let's see how we could find these in the wilderness:
1. Mapping and exploring?  Plenty of that in an unknown wilderness.  Toss the party a few rumors and the journal from a previous expedition and watch the exploration begin.
2. Obstacles are everywhere: rushing rivers, leech-filled swamps, avalanches, pit traps, high cliffs, etc.  Each one presents a particular danger and can be solved/traversed/avoided in various ways.
3. Plenty of killable adversaries in the wilderness.  Just about anything that can live in a dungeon can live outdoors as well.  In fact, setting your dungeon crawl in the wilderness avoids many of the problematic questions.  We know what the goblins are eating in the woods – just look at the animal bones.
4. Understandable enemies make for understandable rewards.  If the ogres live here, they might ambush caravans there, so it makes sense for them to have loads of silk that they intend to trade with the giants.
[...]


Now, if traveling freely in the wilderness is one of the major difficulties for this sort of hex-crawl adventures, consider the approach below by Daniel.
It's a great system, in my opinion, to handle a campaign which combines traditional adventures and travel... Run the adventure in a single location, handle the local movements with simple rules, then move to the next step of your journey or your (h)exploration...
And use the approach below: instead of a full hex-crawl, use "pathcrawls".

A pathcrawl is basically a simplified version of a map: only the obvious or usable paths are presented, and they limit the players' choices (as we've seen in the previous post).
They should make the navigation on the map easier also for the players, and they make more sense than just wandering around through hexes without a purpose.
A pathcrawl seems to be the best way to handle a journey with a desidered destination (instead of a hex-crawl).

Hexcrawls Are Canceled
by Daniel
Describing a dungeoncrawl is easy [...] Describing a hexcrawl or pointcrawl, I would venture to say for just about everyone, requires more effort. I’ve been trying to learn more topological terminology, to take walks, and to read fictional descriptions of landscapes [...]
An unoriginal thought occurred to me: treat the wilderness like a dungeon.

Rooms
The rooms are your hexes or points/nodes. There’s stuff in them, or not. [...]
See the Features heading below for more info. [...]

Exits
[...] For hexcrawls, the problem is, what does going from one hex to another of identical terrain look like? How are the PCs navigating it? The hex may provide no description or landmarks. [...] 
If you look at actual wilderness, your options are pretty constrained. It’s either featureless, in which case you just keep going on ahead or else veer left or right, or there are desire paths, valleys, streams, ravines, ridges, roads, mountains, landmarks, and so forth. [...]
Henceforth, you will convert all hexcrawls to pathcrawls. [...]

How to Convert Hexmap into Pathmap
Take your standard hexmap. It’s great. The units of distance are overlaid. But it’s merely the base.
Now trace over it two kinds of objects:
- Paths
- Landmarks

The easiest paths you may already have on there: mountain ranges, rivers, roads. But you should add others as well, contextual to terrain type.
Then landmarks. These don’t have to be keyed [...] It has to be something you can see from pretty much anywhere in the hex. [...]
These are the options you present to the players; these are the “doors.” Do we follow this valley, head toward that obelisk, or go “through the walls,” in the true trackless waste, and risk getting lost? [...]

Features
Landmarks are obvious, like the things that can be seen immediately upon entering a dungeon room.
Other features are either:
- encountered naturally along a path
- On a random table of pathless encounters, for when they go off path
- Or on the map explicitly, such that the party would have to veer off path in a particular direction to happen upon it by chance
[...]
https://detectmagic.wordpress.com/2019/05/22/hexcrawls-are-canceled/


Quite close to the example of a path-crawl, is the point-crawl.
The concept is simple: populate the map only with the interesting locations and connect them via safe, obvious routes, and with some alternative paths (sometimes more risky, sometimes slower, sometimes hidden).
The routes are not all the same length and type, but basically they will take the party from point A either to B, C, or D for example, but not "anywhere". To go from one point to a distant one, the party may need to choose if to pass from this other point or that other point, depending on the route they choose.
For example, you may place a city at the center, connect it with 3 paths to 3 different locations around it (i.e. a village, a lake, a crossroad). Those other locations will be connected to other locations in a similar manner (i.e. the village to the woods and to another part of the lake; the lake will have a path to cross it, a path to a little island in the middle; the crossroad will have multiple paths leading to other places as well, and so on).
The players will reasonably move on one of those paths. If to reach the next city they need to take the road that goes through the aforementioned crossroad, they will go from point-city to point-crossroad to point-other-city.
In other words, this is an extension of the concept of path-crawl.

Hexcrawls vs Pointcrawls
by Chris Kutalik
[...] In a hexcrawl, the party is presented with a 360-degree, six-direction choice most every time it exits a hex. Terrain will often foster soft positive and negative natural choices [...] The problem from a design perspective with that approach is this the “paradox of choice”, that lovely study that showed that an over-abundance of variables, tends to surprisingly reduce meaningful choice by causing option paralysis 
[...]
A pointcrawl on the otherhand is all about the deliberate path choice of say a dungeon. You place a node much like a room with its doors and corridors leading out.
The drawbacks are much like that of dungeon design again. Make the decision choices too limited, too linear and/or too chokepointed and you end up straight-jacketing the players and making for a dull-ass map to explore.
[...]
I use a hex map when I want a campaign phase that...
1. mapping each hex on a blank map is a reward in itself.
2. clearing wilderness and creating your own hold is the goal.
3. is quick and dirty.

I use a pointcrawl when I want...
1. choice in travel and exploration to feel more deliberate and meaningful.
2. to highlight the major and minor sites in a wilderness as the major goals of exploration.
3. well-thought-out, dense small sub-regions.


An example of a point-crawl, by Marquis.

Making a Point-Crawl & Changing Names
by Marquis
[...] I've decided it would best be played as a pointcrawl, meaning: dungeons connected by flux space where cool things happen.
In order to jack up the Fantasy a bit, I've decided to do some renaming of things. Some of these are based off of previous ideas, while others are corruptions of actual names, nicknames, or alternative names found across history.
[...]
- Every location should be utterly unique in terms of threats, treasure, lore, aesthetic, and implicit narrative.
- Every location should have no more than 3 ways of exiting it [...]
- Every location should either have a bossfight or climactic point [...]
- Some locations should require other locations to visit [...]
- There needs to be a central hub area the players can go too [...]
- Travel between points should be a mixture of abstract and concrete. Flux Space will make these areas unique. Travel between hubs should cost something somehow as well.
[...]
Pointcrawls are pretty demanding to design, I think. Hexes can be simple and treated as dungeon rooms on a wilderness map, while a full pointcrawl has very stylized, thematic, concentrated dungeons as its points. That being said, I think starting theme first will help us here.
[...]
https://hmmmarquis.blogspot.com/2019/06/commandment-making-point-crawl-changing.html


Design notes (from part one):
- There is no unique, single way to run an hex-crawl in the wilderness; find your own way and please let others run it in their own, unique way
- One way to prepare an hex-crawl, is to prepare in advance
- If you prepare in advance, ask your players where they will go in the next session(s), and prepare the hexes, the encounters, even the weather, in advance
- The same procedures that you use to generate content in advance, can be followed (with a bit of patience) on the fly, at the table
- Two important topics on how to define an hex are its terrain type and its weather (although sometimes weather can be seen as an "encounter" rather than a static feature)
- Also note that generating terrain types randomly requires some effort to enforce a decent consistency across hexes (also, weather and terrain type are somehow linked)
- More importantly, an hex could (should?) contain an encounter; you may want to divide them into major encounters (something very meaningful or related to major NPCs, major story-lines in your campaign) and minor encounters (less meaningful, not just fillers but simply all that stuff that makes the campaing world "real")
- Additional rules for a wilderness hex-crawl should contain the travel speed (i.e. one or two hexes per day; modified positively by mounts, roads, pushing ahead harder than usual, modified negatively by harsh conditions, encumberment, or hunting/foraging, or exploring to find notable or interesting locations)
- In fact, to be complete, an hex-crawl system should include rules for eating up resources (first of all food and water, but also ropes, even boots and other clothing, etc.) and for collecting new ones (foraging, but also bartering with local tribes or finding civilized markets), plus rules for specific locations (and how to find them), or other random/minor locations (random dungeons? specific adventures? treasures? monsters?)

Design notes (from part two):
- In addition, consider also to add rules for getting lost (perhaps again depending on various conditions, such as having a local guide, a map, traveling in the night or harsh conditions)
- If you want to go even further on the exploration side, consider also injuries, sickness, exhaustion, perhaps morale, and you should definitely enforce strict encumberment rules to avoid having the party carrying too much
- Remember rules for YOUR setting: often something very specific is more useful than something very generic. If you use gun-powder, consider the chance of it getting wet. If you use magical herbs, consider rules for finding them, but also how fast they get spoiled, etc. Anything that reinforces the sense of your setting, is good
- If the hex-crawling campaign is focused also on exploration or if you want to reinforce the sense of being in the wilderness, add rules for scouting and exploring (finding locations, perhaps drawing maps, etc.) and rules for tracking (and avoid being followed), for using traps and setting up an ambush, and similar
- Also, making camp requires probably some guidelines and/or rules: finding a good spot or setting up a solid camp should improve recovery, or having no camp at all could make the party incur in additional penalties. Rules for making camp become more important the longer you expect the party to be out in the wilderness
- Weather presents hard choices: push forward or seek shelter?
- Mention the weather every day, even when it's harmless
- Don't change the weather just to mess with the party
- Show what bad weather can do to someone else first
- Give signs, narrative clues, of upcoming dangers; do not give rules to players (or not just rules). Don't say "the bridge has a 50% chance of breaking" but give warnings about the noise it makes while it bends under their weight; show signs of monsters, of diseases, of other dangers
- Terrain can be a difficulty, a danger in itself (it's not just descriptive, and not just definying speed and encounters, but can force a party to change path, to trace back, to face dangers, injuries, the chance of getting lost, of loosing mounts, and so on
- You can probably divide your rules into two subsets: one (perhaps using an Hazard System overloaded encounter die) covers the "external factors" (terrain and weather, encounters, monsters and NPCs, traces and omens, using up resources, fatigue, discoveries, etc.), while the other subset should cover the characters' actions (not what they face, but what they proactively do with their time, such as travel, track, navigate, explore, forage or hunt, etc.)
- There is a slight overlap between the two subsets of rules (i.e. you may discover a location with a roll of the Hazard Die, by chance, or actively seek for it with a Scouting/Exploring action). You may decide to remove those overlaps, or leave them there because they have different rules/different chances

Design notes (expanded):
- There are similarities between dungeon crawls and wilderness adventures
- Basically, you could summarize a simple dungeon as a map (with limited paths), a series of obstacles (locks, traps, pits, etc.), encounters (creatures, monsters, NPCs), and treasures (rewards). With a little bit of work, you can use the same principles for a wilderness adventure
- Maybe it would be an adventure and not exactly a free hex-crawl, but you can achive a dungeon-like structure, as follows: the wilderness provides limited paths and some of the obstacles, while the other encounters are monsters and creatures... and nature provides also the majority of the loot
- Nature, wilderness itself provides "limited" paths simply with its features (cliffs, rivers, thick woods may be impossible to cross or simply so hard that adventurers would naturally follow a few, favorable pre-defined paths, tracks, roads... not following them should be the exception, like digging your way into the walls of a dungeon instead of following a corridor)
- Nature itself provides also part of the obstacles (be it the danger of rivers, of insects, diseases, hunger, exaustion, etc.), while the rest will be creatures and monsters
- Monsters get stronger and/or weirder the further away you get from civilization (like going deeper in a multi-level dungeon) and rewards should also be weirder and more precious (not perhaps in terms of loot itself... but in terms of rarity of what the adventurers can find, and therefore of higher value once back to civilization)
- To simplify an hex-crawl, you could convert it to a pathcrawl
- In a pathcrawl, a hex is like a room, and there should be a limited number of paths to go "out" of that hex... these paths should also continue across multiple hexes, as long as nothing interrupts the journey (i.e. many hexes with a road are like a corridor... you don't need to waste time on each hex, but you can travel until the end of the road)
- A pathcrawl seems perfect to handle journeys with a specific destination, so you can focus on "getting there" and a few encounters/decisions along the way, but not have to crawl through each hex
- A pathcrawl is also easier for the players to navigate, and brings them to the interesting locations, instead of "wasting" time in many identical hexes
- Along the same lines as a path-crawl, is the point-crawl. The first focused on routes, the second focused on locations, but the difference is mostly in the name. The concept is the same: design nodes/locations (same as dungeon rooms) and design paths/connections (same as dungeon corridors)
- The key is to have the correct balance between random encounters, encounters while traveling, enough events in the various nodes, a sense of distance and travel (and freedom which will not translate into decision paralysis)

Friday, October 25, 2019

Travel and hex-crawling, part two

Read part one here:
https://daimon-games.blogspot.com/2019/10/travel-and-hex-crawling-part-one.html


In this new post, we start by looking at an article by Signs in the Wilderness. It's a list of elements to consider in a list of rules for hex-crawling and traveling in the wilderness. The previous analysis of hex-crawling articles already mentioned some of these topics:
- travel distance/speed, and various mounts/vehicles
- chances of getting lost
- rules/chances for injuries, sickness, exhaustion, perhaps morale (and modifiers)
- rules for food and water, and foraging
- terrain type and weather
- encumberment
- dealing with generic dangers and with setting-specific dangers
- scouting, exploring, tracking (and avoid being followed), using traps
- making camp, recovering from various conditions

Wilderness rules, a wishlist
by Signs in the Wilderness
I'm looking for a good set of wilderness travel rules.  The setting of Signs in the Wilderness is a wide, poorly-explored country, where settlements are rare and scattered.  Travel itself is the framework for adventure. [...]
So what would a perfect set of wilderness travel rules look like?  They would:
1. cover the most typical situations for this genre of adventure,
2. yet be flexible or general enough to apply to unexpected situations as needed,
3. and not take too much time, brainpower, or paper.
[...]
There's a long list of situations that I'd love to see covered. [...] But if I could have it my way, the rules would be great for:

Travel itself
Start with a day's travel: 
- How far do you get?
- Do you get lost?
[...]
For each of those, a few conditions should matter:
- How are you traveling (on foot, by canoe, etc.)?
- What kind of terrain are you traveling through?
[...]
Dealing with obstacles
I'd like rules for obstacles to be general purpose
- losing your gear and having to search downstream
- being swept away yourself to be buffeted against rocks
[...]
Doing things along the way:
- foraging for food/water
- noticing things along the way: animal activity, smoke from distant campfires 
- tracking, following a trail of footprints and other signs
[...]
Making camp
- rest, recovering health/morale, based on how good the camp conditions are
- who/what notices your encampment, based on how well concealed it is, fire, noise, etc.
[...]


From the same author, Signs in the Wilderness - who has many useful posts about wilderness - here we have an article about the weather. Read the complete article at the link: all its suggestions are useful and some are original enough to give inspiration also to expect GMs.

It helped me to expand the list of useful tips about weather:
- Weather presents hard choices: push forward or seek shelter?
- Mention the weather every day, even when it's harmless
- Don't change the weather just to mess with the party
- Show what bad weather can do to someone else first

The last tip is especially useful: first of all it helps you to communicate to the players what they might expect in similar weather conditions, and does not require them to be experts of wilderness travel in real life, to face it in your game. Mention conditions or dangers covered by your rules, so that they'll know what to expect.
Also, even if they do not encouter the same weather conditions again, it will be another point reinforcing the sense of wilderness dangers.

Weather for wilderness travelers
by Signs in the Wilderness
Weather makes for hard choices.  Do we push onwards into the icy rain, or do we spend the night in this barn?  Do we risk driving the livestock in the blazing heat, or do we stay here and fight the sharp-tooth raiders?
Because it's so ordinary, and because it's often not dangerous at all, it's easy to overlook.  (I know I've run games where weather never really mattered.)  But if used well, weather can make for a very interesting challenge.
A few tips:
- Mention the weather every day.
- Don't change the weather just to mess with the party.
- Show what bad weather can do to someone else first.

Cold
The obvious danger is cold itself: frostbite and hypothermia do plenty of damage, but a well-equipped adventuring party surely remembered to bring warm clothing.
Hiking in the cold, you'll find your body requires more food than you expected, just to keep itself warm.
[...]
Snow
Beyond the dangers of cold, snow presents its own challenges.  If it's sunny while there's snow on the ground, the dazzling white can burn your eyes, resulting in snow blindness.
Snow makes footprints easy to see, but if it's still snowing, those footprints will be covered up quickly
[...]
Rain
The wetter it is, the more likely everyone is to get drenched, along with all their inventory.  Wet gunpowder is no good to anyone.  Waterproof containers exist for a reason.
To get a good night's sleep, you'll need to dry off.  Shelter from the rain, some warmth, and a change of clothes 
[...]
Fog
Thick fog is ominous for a reason: you can't see what's out there and you can't hear as well, sounds being deadened by the fog.
[...]
Heat
Heatstroke is a common killer.  Your body can only get so hot before it shuts down, and physical exertion pushes you towards that limit.  You'll need to drink plenty of water in the heat
[...]


Another link which expands from the basic "Show what bad weather can do to someone else first", is next (of course, same author).
I like very much the idea of giving clear warnings not in terms of rules (this bridge has a X % chance of collapsing, you have Y % chance of getting sick, Z % chance of encountering a certain monster...) but in terms of events, signs, narrative clues (the bridge bends with a horrible sound, you meet someone who's sick or dying with a certain disease, you notice the bones of a big farm animal recently devoured by the monster).


The danger of this place
by Signs in the Wilderness
[...] As a GM, I like each location to have a single listed danger.  There can be other dangers, like the regiment patrolling around or the spined coyotes the party just woke up, but I like to have one danger that's about the area itself, the danger of that place. [...]
Dangers like these are also helpful to give the players a sense of the world.  The mine where explosive dust is a problem feels very different from the mine where all the timbers are about to collapse.  The players get to learn about a problem that they can interact with, something that reacts to their actions and can be overcome by their ingenuity. 
[...]
Each danger has some kind of clue, a sign of its presence.  I don't like springing dangers on the party without any warning at all. [...]
Dangers could also happen in several steps.  The old bridge across the chasm won't give way all at once (assuming no one does anything stupid). [...]
What about places that don't seem to have an inherent danger?  [...] if you'd like to have a certain place in the game, yet there's no immediate danger, try one of two options:
- Show evidence of a danger that already happened.
- Show signs of a danger that's yet to come.
[...]

https://signsinthewilderness.blogspot.com/2018/09/the-danger-of-this-place.html


Let's stick with the same author, and this time face different terrain types, to see what can limit a party's speed or force them to change path, trace back or face different types of danger.
In fact, in hex-crawls the different terrains usually are presented as "descriptive" (the GM describes mountains, or trees, or rivers, etc.) and perhaps affect the travel speed, but not much more. Perhaps they define the type of the encounter...
But terrain can be a difficulty, a danger in itself.



If you're traveling through wilderness the terrain itself can be the biggest obstacle.
Cracking open my old Dungeon Master's Guide, it suggests a human can travel around 24 miles a day over easy terrain, or as little as 3 miles a day over the most difficult terrain.
So what makes terrain truly difficult?  Good places to travel are level, clear, and have a trail to follow, so let's take all that away.
Grass
[...] Tallgrass of the prairies easily grows 7 feet tall (2 m) which is high enough to leave you basically blind as you're traveling through it.
Pampas grass is notorious for its razor-sharp blades that can cut up anyone wading through it.
[...]
Jungle
Thick woods can be more than just trees, and dense undergrowth hides more than just the path.  When you can't see where you're putting your feet, fallen logs and uneven ground might result in a broken leg.
[...]
Wetlands
Mud and mire can stretch for miles in the right conditions, making passage nearly impossible.  From a distance, marshes and bogs might just look like another type of grassland, but they can have mud deep enough to sink in and disappear without a trace.
[...]
Streams
Moving water is its own kind of problem.  Coming across a stream in the wilderness, far from any trail, you'll have to search for a good crossing point. [...]
Crossing has a few dangers of its own: losing your footing, getting your powder wet, getting swept downstream, not to mention bitey things in the water.
[...]
Rocks
Sharp, jagged, or loose rocks can be terrible to walk across. [...] 
As bad as rocky terrain is for your feet, it can be even worse for most livestock. 
[...]

Up and down

The steeper the ground gets, the more arduous of a journey it'll be (even if there's a trail).
Cliffs and escarpments can stretch hundreds of miles across the landscape, leaving no way around.

Canyons and gorges pose a similar problem, though usually with a rushing watercourse at the bottom.
[...]


The next article, by Michael Bacon, provides a simple procedure for wilderness travel. It assumes you already have a map but weather will be determined (randomly?) by the GM.

The article presents a "Wilderness Encounter Die", which includes results such as omens (traces of what might come up), nothing/safety (or local events), complete safety, encounters.

The concept of "Wilderness Encounter Die" is a hack of the Encounter Die, evolved in the Hazard System - see also this post of mine presenting a collection of useful links: Encounters: overload your encounter dice

The concept is simple: most of the wilderness dangers, encounters, issues and features, might be included in a single roll, if you have a map already at hand. In fact, if your terrain is known, a single Hazard Die roll could include results such as:
- Weather (improving, getting worse, becoming terrible all of a sudden)
- Terrain issues (slow terrain, harsh terrain, dangerous terrain, a natural barrier which can or cannot be crossed)
- Omen/traces which preceed an encounter
- Encounter (NPC or natural creature or monster)
- Using up resources (not just limited to food and water, but also fuel, equipment, morale, etc.)
- Dangers and incidents: injuries, sickness, exhaustion...
- Exploration events: getting lost, finding locations, finding a viewpoint or a landmark...

Besides what happens around the party (determined by the "Wilderness Encounter Die" however you may want to configure it), remember that players have their own agency. In your rules, make sure to have a list of meaningful actions (see the suggestions below) with the proper rules. These actions perhaps can be done while traveling, or instead of traveling, or with some speed reduction.
Actions will probably have a major focus on what is important for your campaign.

Wilderness/Overland Procedures
[...] Wilderness turns are used when traveling over a distance.
1. The party decides where to travel.
2. The Referee determines weather.
3. The referee determines whether the party becomes lost.
4. The referee rolls the Wilderness Encounter Die.
5. The Referee describes terrain and locations as players move through, allowing players to react and describing the results. If an encounter with a possibly hostile creature or person occurs, follow the encounter procedure
[...]
Wilderness Encounter Die
The following tables show typical results on 1D6. You may wish to use different probabilities for specific locations. [...]
1. Omen 
2. Nothing (or progression of local events, if relevant.)
3-5. Nothing 
6. Encounter*
[...]
Omens
Each encounter has an Omen. Someone in the party sees a mark (like a footprint or a clump of hair), discovers a scent, or hears a sound originating with the relevant creature. If the party decides to investigate, they might find the creature's lair or they might find the creature out and about.
[...]
Wilderness Actions
- Explore
Forage for Food / Forage for Herbs / Hunt
Rest
Scout / Track
Travel / Navigation
[...]


Design notes (from part one):
- There is no unique, single way to run an hex-crawl in the wilderness; find your own way and please let others run it in their own, unique way
- One way to prepare an hex-crawl, is to prepare in advance
- If you prepare in advance, ask your players where they will go in the next session(s), and prepare the hexes, the encounters, even the weather, in advance
- The same procedures that you use to generate content in advance, can be followed (with a bit of patience) on the fly, at the table
- Two important topics on how to define an hex are its terrain type and its weather (although sometimes weather can be seen as an "encounter" rather than a static feature)
- Also note that generating terrain types randomly requires some effort to enforce a decent consistency across hexes (also, weather and terrain type are somehow linked)
- More importantly, an hex could (should?) contain an encounter; you may want to divide them into major encounters (something very meaningful or related to major NPCs, major story-lines in your campaign) and minor encounters (less meaningful, not just fillers but simply all that stuff that makes the campaing world "real")
- Additional rules for a wilderness hex-crawl should contain the travel speed (i.e. one or two hexes per day; modified positively by mounts, roads, pushing ahead harder than usual, modified negatively by harsh conditions, encumberment, or hunting/foraging, or exploring to find notable or interesting locations)
- In fact, to be complete, an hex-crawl system should include rules for eating up resources (first of all food and water, but also ropes, even boots and other clothing, etc.) and for collecting new ones (foraging, but also bartering with local tribes or finding civilized markets), plus rules for specific locations (and how to find them), or other random/minor locations (random dungeons? specific adventures? treasures? monsters?)

Design notes (expanded):
- In addition, consider also to add rules for getting lost (perhaps again depending on various conditions, such as having a local guide, a map, traveling in the night or harsh conditions)
- If you want to go even further on the exploration side, consider also injuries, sickness, exhaustion, perhaps morale, and you should definitely enforce strict encumberment rules to avoid having the party carrying too much
- Remember rules for YOUR setting: often something very specific is more useful than something very generic. If you use gun-powder, consider the chance of it getting wet. If you use magical herbs, consider rules for finding them, but also how fast they get spoiled, etc. Anything that reinforces the sense of your setting, is good
- If the hex-crawling campaign is focused also on exploration or if you want to reinforce the sense of being in the wilderness, add rules for scouting and exploring (finding locations, perhaps drawing maps, etc.) and rules for tracking (and avoid being followed), for using traps and setting up an ambush, and similar
- Also, making camp requires probably some guidelines and/or rules: finding a good spot or setting up a solid camp should improve recovery, or having no camp at all could make the party incur in additional penalties. Rules for making camp become more important the longer you expect the party to be out in the wilderness
- Weather presents hard choices: push forward or seek shelter?
- Mention the weather every day, even when it's harmless
- Don't change the weather just to mess with the party
- Show what bad weather can do to someone else first
- Give signs, narrative clues, of upcoming dangers; do not give rules to players (or not just rules). Don't say "the bridge has a 50% chance of breaking" but give warnings about the noise it makes while it bends under their weight; show signs of monsters, of diseases, of other dangers
- Terrain can be a difficulty, a danger in itself (it's not just descriptive, and not just definying speed and encounters, but can force a party to change path, to trace back, to face dangers, injuries, the chance of getting lost, of loosing mounts, and so on
- You can probably divide your rules into two subsets: one (perhaps using an Hazard System overloaded encounter die) covers the "external factors" (terrain and weather, encounters, monsters and NPCs, traces and omens, using up resources, fatigue, discoveries, etc.), while the other subset should cover the characters' actions (not what they face, but what they proactively do with their time, such as travel, track, navigate, explore, forage or hunt, etc.)
- There is a slight overlap between the two subsets of rules (i.e. you may discover a location with a roll of the Hazard Die, by chance, or actively seek for it with a Scouting/Exploring action). You may decide to remove those overlaps, or leave them there because they have different rules/different chances

Friday, October 11, 2019

Travel and hex-crawling, part one

I've mentioned wilderness already, in The forest: trees, plants, herbs and more.
But when we talk about wilderness in OSR, we talk about hex crawling.
There is so much about hex-crawling, so many materials, different approaches, a lot of reasonable advice and many complaints, that it became a scary subject, for me - one that already could be scary enough if you compare a regional map with a dungeon map.
I'll try to present some of what I collected so far... but please remember that this is a collection of links and not an attempt to define a single, unique way to "do it right".


The first link is by Michael S. and it already acknoledges that this can be a difficult subject. It's approach, though, seems effective enough.
Try to prepare a lot of hexes and encountes, following your favourite/chosen procedure(s), in advance. Prepare the major and minor encounters, the day and night encounters, and plan ahead according to the players' plans.
The key, here: ask your players where they will go in the next session(s), so that you can prepare your materials. It's simple and smart.

HOW I DO WILDERNESS ENCOUNTERS
It's a popular question I see asked a lot on the forums and reddit - "How do you do wilderness travel/encounters?" "How do you do hex crawls?"
It's understandable, with a wide open outdoors map looking a lot more overwhelming to prepare for, compared to a dungeon map.
[...]
Part 1 - putting down a key. I use Welsh Piper's general approach of that each hex can have a "major" encounter/landmark and several "minor" encounters/landmarks.
[...]
Part 2 - pre-game prep. Part of the contract I have with my tabletop players is that I need to know a week in advance of their general plans for the game. That allows me to do some in-depth prep
[...] So once I know their general mission, I look at the map and their expected route. I start with "day 1" of their travel for that game. For my map, the heroes have different travel rates if they're mounted, on foot, on a road or in country.
[...] I repeat this for the entire trip. So now I have a list of what they will hit/not hit on their journey. And I know how many hexes they run through, and I'll figure out how long this all takes.
[...] Now I have a "script" of sorts of what the players will run into and when that will happen.
[...] I plan out for the entire trip or mission that they've laid out. It might take them a few sessions to do this, but it's easier for me to do it as much as once.
[...]
Part 3 - at the table.  OK, so we're playing the game.
[...]
And that's really about it.
[...]
They do have to track resources, of course and I'll remind them of that when they hit points where they stop.
[...]
Questions that I anticipate
What if the players change their mission or go off the script? What if they get lost?
Well, they understand that if they change the plan, I may need to "take a break" in order to figure out what happens [...]
What if they're truly "crawling" around a wilderness to explore?
Then I do the same exact thing, but on a hex by hex, day by day basis. It does slow things down a bit more, because I'm repeating this for each day [...]
What about weather?
Ah, I didn't want to muddy the waters with weather, but yes, weather can be an encounter. I use weather charts that lay out each day's weather 
[...]

As you can see in the article, if the players go off-track, you can take your time to generate new content while at the table. Relax, nobody expects you to come up with something original, special, perfect, for every hex on a moment's notice.
Just follow your procedure(s) and do, on the fly, what you would to as game-prep in advance.


In his post, Michael S links to Welsh Piper's blog. There are a couple of posts related to hex crawling, and this first outlines a procedure on how to assign a terrain type to each hex.
The instructions are a little confusing at first, but reading the examples clarifies stuff. I would definitely prefer to prepare the map in advance, though, and not on the fly. So this sounds good for generating a random map, but only if you prepare in advance.

Hex-based Campaign Design (Part 1)
by Erin D. Smale
In my quest for rapid campaign development, I came across an elegant idea called Six sided gaming: Hex magic on Greywulf’s Microlite d20 site. [...]
Defining the campaign by its adventures—instead of the other way round—is a great time-saver and perfect for the busy GM. With Greywulf’s kind permission, I’ve expanded the concept into a slightly different approach.
[...]
The Hex Map
The underlying goal of Hex-based Campaign Design is to create a playable setting with as little effort as possible, so I recommend starting with a small map. 
[...]
Choose Climate
The first task is to determine climate. This affects the precise terrain you place in the next step.
[...]
Assign Hex Terrain
Terrain placement does not rely on a random function, since it’s too easy to end up with unrealistic results (e.g., swamps next to deserts or mountains next to plains). Besides, who wants to roll dice for each hex anyway? Instead, I assign a primary terrain type to each atlas hex, then fill in the remaining sub-hexes with related terrain types. This lets you place terrain sensibly, but with the benefit of some speed.
[...]
Scaling Up
The atlas hex on your map is 25 miles wide, which matches the hex scale on the Atlas template. When mapping on the atlas level, populate each hex with the primary terrain of each atlas hex on your sub-hex map.
[...]
https://www.welshpiper.com/hex-based-campaign-design-part-1/


In the second post of this series, Erin D. Smale goes into the main interactive feature of an hex: the (possible) encounter(s). The article is worth reading because it contains a list of very nice examples of potential encounters to place in an hex.

Hex-based Campaign Design (Part 2)
by Erin D. Smale
[...] Encounters
For our purposes, an encounter is any feature that has the potential to challenge the PCs or serve as the basis for adventure. There are two types of encounters:
- Major – large or multi-layered encounters, often the focus of the region; for the PCs, interactions with these require careful thought and planning
- Minor – small or fairly straight-forward encounters; these represent diversionary challenges for the PCs or opportunities to detail the campaign for the GM
[...]
Major Encounters
When a major encounter is indicated, roll 1d6 to determine its identity. Place the encounter in any whole sub-hex within the atlas hex and note the hex number to record its location. Recall that there is never more than one major encounter in a single atlas hex.

1. Settlement – a town or city that supports a significant population

2. Fortress – a large, fortified holding owned by a noble or self-styled lord, always with an armed garrison and (usually) a small population of civilians
[...]
Minor Encounters
Roll 1d20 on the following list for each minor encounter indicated. Distribute minor encounters throughout the hex as you see fit. As with major encounters, note the hex number of each to record its location.

1. Settlement – a village or hamlet with a small to moderate population

2. Fort – a small fortified holding owned by a noble, military leader, fighting order, or adventurer
3. Ruin – the remains of a single structure whose original purpose was (d6: 1-2 tomb, 3 holding, 4-5 other structure, 6 dwelling; 60% chance it’s a shipwreck if located in a water hex)
4. Monster – the lair of a common or uncommon creature
[...]
https://www.welshpiper.com/hex-based-campaign-design-part-2/


The next post contains a long list of travel rules for a campaign by Meandering Banter.
It's a very interesting post because it's quite long, but contains a lot (everything?) you need to run an interesting hex-crawl. It covers terrains, weather and encounters - as the previous links - but introduces also concepts like travel speed, foraging, scouting and exploring, and so on.

North-West Marches - Travel Rules
by Meandering Banter
Hex generation
For each newly viewed hex, roll on the following table twice and combine the results. If you roll doubles then the location is a much larger Zone:
1. Plains (no zone)
2. Dry (Desert)
3. Forest (Jungle)
[...] Zones are an unspecified size, but usually span four or more hexes.
[...]
Travel
Parties can travel two hexes per day (once in the morning, once in the afternoon), modified by the options below. Some options also change the results of the Exploration table (all caps)
Forage starts at Wisdom-4 each morning.
If you didn't roll it yesterday, or it feels right, roll once on Weather (see below). [...]
Options:
+1 if you Rush, -4 Forage, changing 6. FEATURE into 6. HAZARD (if this is a new hex) or RESOURCE DRAIN (if this is a familiar hex) and losing Surprise [...]
Modifiers (max of +1 per hex, additional bonus removes exploration die):
+1 if everyone is mounted [...]
[...]
Foraging:
Each traveller rolls at the end of the day. If you roll under, then you found one ration while travelling. If everyone fails, you are out of water for the next day. No food within X hexes of town (X = 0, increases with development), no water in deserts. If you roll under half, find an extra 1d4 rations. If you roll a crit, find an extra 4 rations, or a Strange Herb (link to be added).
[...]
Exploration
Every time you enter a hex, roll 1d6:
1. ENCOUNTER
2. TRACES

3. WEATHER
4. RESOURCE DRAIN
5. HAZARD
6. FEATURE
[...]


Design notes:
- There is no unique, single way to run an hex-crawl in the wilderness; find your own way and please let others run it in their own, unique way
- One way to prepare an hex-crawl, is to prepare in advance
- If you prepare in advance, ask your players where they will go in the next session(s), and prepare the hexes, the encounters, even the weather, in advance
- The same procedures that you use to generate content in advance, can be followed (with a bit of patience) on the fly, at the table
- Two important topics on how to define an hex are its terrain type and its weather (although sometimes weather can be seen as an "encounter" rather than a static feature)
- Also note that generating terrain types randomly requires some effort to enforce a decent consistency across hexes (also, weather and terrain type are somehow linked)
- More importantly, an hex could (should?) contain an encounter; you may want to divide them into major encounters (something very meaningful or related to major NPCs, major story-lines in your campaign) and minor encounters (less meaningful, not just fillers but simply all that stuff that makes the campaing world "real")
- Additional rules for a wilderness hex-crawl should contain the travel speed (i.e. one or two hexes per day; modified positively by mounts, roads, pushing ahead harder than usual, modified negatively by harsh conditions, encumberment, or hunting/foraging, or exploring to find notable or interesting locations)
- In fact, to be complete, an hex-crawl system should include rules for eating up resources and for collecting new ones, plus rules for specific locations (and how to find them), or other random/minor locations (random dungeons? specific adventures? treasures? monsters?)