Thursday, February 23, 2023

Another Method for Meaningful Terrain Generation

 Regions in the hexcrawl are distinguished by whether they are quick, safe, or free.

  • "Quick" regions are easily traversed in at least one way, or offer little chance of getting lost

  • "Safe" regions might have low-level random encounters, nonviolent encounters, etc.

  • "Free" regions are flush with resources, or otherwise defray the "cost" of travel.

This terrain generation is "meaningful" in the sense that it focuses on the mechanical distinctions that would drive a party to go through one region rather than another. B/X terrain types already do a pretty good job of this, but from the perspective of "realism" and genre emulation.

d8 Regions come in several shapes

  1. Thin regions "go" in a direction. They might follow a road or river. 2d4 hexes

  2. Long thin region. 3d6 hexes.

  3. Inclusion regions are embedded or abutting other regions. 1d4 hexes

  4. Miniscule inclusion region. 1 hex.

  5. Liminal regions form a border between other regions, and might be thin regions as well. 1d6+2 hexes

  6. Dense liminal region. 2d6+2 hexes.

  7. Thick regions are vast, and broken up by other regions. Irregular, about 2d4 x 2d4 hexes.

  8. Really thick region. Irregularly shaped, about 4d4 x 1d8 hexes.

d6 regions have differing advantages and disadvantages (and examples)

  1. Quick, not safe or free

    1. River ford

    2. Desert trade route

    3. Barren land

    4. Poisoned land

    5. Volcanic area

  2. Safe, not quick or free

    1. Hedges

    2. Moors

    3. Settled land

    4. backwoods

  3. Free, not quick or safe

    1. Mountains

    2. Jungles

    3. Bogs

    4. ruins

  4. Quick and safe, not free

    1. River

    2. Road

    3. Badlands

    4. lakes

  5. Quick and free, not safe

    1. Mountain passes

    2. Savannahs

    3. Poisoned routes

    4. Coastlines

    5. Cave systems

  6. Safe and free, not quick

    1. Rolling hills

    2. Woods

    3. City

    4. canyons

Potential hex features to make a point of distinction

  • Speed of travel

  • Chance of getting lost

  • Encounter table

  • Forage and hunting chances

  • Rest potential

  • Extra encounter chance

  • Mode of travel

  • Tracks and chance of finding spoor

  • Surveying speed

  • Type of mount apt to traverse

Example Region- Oylaosaga

Major factions

  • Oylao, a swamp dragon worshiped as a divine personage like a barbarian emperor. Leads a heterogenous country on constant brinks. Doesn't hold a grudge except against the March that imprisoned him a decade ago and tried to drain his domain for the metals which infest the muck and mire.

  • The Sister and Rizeuh, a power couple composed of Oylao's seemingly nameless sister and the cruel wizard Rizeuh. It's said the Sister is half-asleep and Rizeuh is double-awake. He is bent on controlling the monsters of other worlds and underworlds, and ever his reach exceeds his grasp.

  • The March, which was once a confederacy of city-states and now suffers the tyranny of a hateful princess. Once imprisoned the dragon Oylao to shape his young into humanoid shapes, these "dragonborn" now a starving underclass among starving underclasses.

  • Enoidel People, a semi-nomadic society held together by numerous social mores and a religious population control that sets them in constant non-violent competition with each other. Often serve as auxiliaries and seconds in the dagger thrusts of other factions.

  • Other Lands. I didn't fill in every hex I could, and apparently there are traders, pirates, and other figures about.


  • All-The-Sky-A-Rolling-Plain (2 hexes per day) +2 to hunting. Local humanoids attack on sight. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Abandoned Road of Tlen (2 hexes per day) 1-in-6 chance of radiation burn for 1d4 damage. Hunting and foraging yields abandoned equipment. Uses encounter table 3, but with a -1 reaction penalty.

  • Blue mountains. (1 hex per 2 days) Enclave of Enoidel people, who charge 10% of carried goods for travel through here but will take good care of you. Uses encounter table 4.

  • Bog of Oylao (1 hex per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) +1 to hunting and foraging. Uses encounter table 2, but -1 to reaction if Sister-aligned

  • Bog of the Sister (1 hex per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) +1 to hunting and foraging. Uses encounter table 2, with +1 to reaction if Rizeuh-aligned.

  • Bowl Mount (1 hex per 2 days) 25% per day of encountering creature from encounter table 3. Uses encounter table 4, but with a -2 reaction penalty unless clearly Enoidel-aligned.

  • Child River (2 hexes per day) 50% per day of encountering partisans from Shadow Mountain (as dervish). Uses Encounter Table 1

  • Coast of Free Traders (2 hexes per day) 1-in-6 chance of encountering pirates. Slavery is legal : ( Uses encounter table 5.

  • Crab coast (1 hex per day) 25% chance of encountering giant crab. Salt-treated vegetation can serve as rope. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Far Coast (2 hexes per day) Uses encounter table 6.

  • Fort Towns (1 hex per 2 days) +2 to attempts to find hirelings and -1 hireling loyalty. Uses encounter table 3, but with a +1 reaction bonus unless clearly Oylao-aligned.

  • Joyful (2 hexes per day) Fumes make rest here impossible, and thwart natural healing for 1d4 days.

  • Lake of Masks (2 hexes per day) Requires a boat. Uses encounter table 5, but half chance of all encounters.

  • Land of the Enoidel People (1 hex per 2 days, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost). +2 to attempts to find hirelings and +1 hireling loyalty. Uses encounter table 4.

  • Last Road (1 hex per day) Ruined waystations offer safe camp sites. Uses encounter table 2.

  • March of the Cities Against Oylao (2 hexes per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) Hunting is illegal. Must purchase a license to carry weapons or cast spells. Uses encounter table 3.

  • Odages Jungle (1 hex per day, 1-in-6 chance of getting lost) +1 to foraging and hunting. Folk here distrust magic. Uses encounter table 1.

  • Old Capitol (1 hex per 2 days) Foraging yields mundane equipment. Uses encounter table 6.

  • Old Lake (2 hexes per day) Requires a boat. Uses encounter table 3, but half chance of all encounters.

  • Plains of Banes (1 hex per day) Save vs breath each day or take 1d8 damage from sundry poisons. Uses encounter table 4.

  • The Raised Gardens (1 hex per 2 days) Refuse entry to all, save those granted citizenship of Oylao or marked as its friends.

  • Secret Route (2 hexes per day, but requires a guide) Uses encounter table 6, but half chance of all encounters.

  • Sister's Hills (1 hex per 2 days) +1 to foraging attempts. Uses encounter table 3, but with a +1 reaction bonus unless clearly Oylao-aligned.

  • Shadow Mountains (1 hex per 2 days) 50% per day of encountering partisans (as dervish). +1 to foraging attempts. Each night, heal 1d3 as though resting for a full day, glutted with dreams. Uses Encounter Table 1

  • Trade Reserve (2 hexes per day) Hunting and foraging is prohibited. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Unpeopled Coasts (2 hexes per day) Lose 1 HP per day spent here, but +2 to foraging attempts. Uses encounter table 5.

  • Vassalwoods (1 hex per 2 days, or 1 per day if you have a guide) +1 to hunting attempts. Uses encounter table 1, but with a +1 reaction bonus.

  • Vouchsafed Route (2 hexes per day) Toll roads extract 4d6 gold per person per day. 1-in-6 chance of encountering pirates. Uses Encounter table 3, but with a +1 reaction bonus.

  • Wastes of Rizeuh (2 hexes per day) 1-in-6 chance of encountering the high-level wizard Rizeuh, whose tolls amount to robbery. Uses encounter table 6.

  • Ways of the Foreign Sky (1 hex per 3 days, or 3 hexes per day if you know the way and are traveling in a straight line) 1-in-6 chance of finding dead travelers. Uses encounter table 6.

Encounter Table 1- Lurid Wilds

  1. Giant Fire Beetles

  2. Partisans (as dervishes)

  3. Strangleweed

  4. Driver Ants

  5. Pteranodon

  6. Giant Subterranean Lizard

Encounter Table 2- Profane Bogs

  1. Frogman Layfolk (as acolytes with bullywug abilities)

  2. Water Fiend

  3. Roll again. On a 3, a jackalwere. Otherwise, a giant pike.

  4. Giant Horned Chameleon

  5. Giant Squid

  6. Roll again. On a 6, the dragon Oylao or his Sister. Otherwise, a fire-breathing brass idol.

Encounter Table 3- Marchfolk

  1. Desperate Commoners (as kobolds)

  2. Mercenary Bullies (as veterans)

  3. Witch-hunting Mob (as bugbear and normal humans)

  4. Cannibal Itinerant (as coffer corpse)

  5. Lone werewolf

  6. Roll again. On a 6, a vampire scorpionoid. Otherwise, a vampire accompanied by the result of the second die roll.

Encounter Table 4- Enoidel lands (safer)

  1. Trappers (as normal humans)

  2. Kobolds

  3. Clear-Caste (as gnomes)

  4. Giant Shrews

  5. Cave Locusts

  6. Nightseer and honor guard (high-level cleric with infravision and some veterans)

Encounter Table 5- Plains and Coast

  1. Merchants

  2. Giant Crab Spiders

  3. Moon Eel (as giant electric eel, but amphibious)

  4. Toller (as ogre)

  5. Ant/Mollusk Swarm (as insect swarm)

  6. Roll again. On a 6, a hydra. Otherwise, a party of wemic hunters (as centaurs, but with a lion's roar and bite)

Encounter Table 6- Foreign Sky (scary)

  1. Dark Creepers

  2. Flail Snail

  3. Gelatinous Cubes

  4. Amphisbaena

  5. Vampires and Retinue

  6. Lurker Above

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  1. Am I correct in assuming (based on the included travel rates and previous hexcrawl posts) that you had 12-mile hexes in mind when establishing region sizes?

    1. I don't think I had a specific scale in mind. Anything from 3 to 24 miles is just fine by me, and I think people should just use whatever feels right without worrying too much about it.

  2. If you're concerned with hexes only as abstract measures of travel time (and quanta of exploration content), I agree that the specific hex size doesn't ultimately matter much. However, since you recommend (however informally) specific dice ranges for the number of hexes in each region, the size of each individual hex will make a radical difference in the overall scale of the resulting map. A 12-mile hex has 4x the area of a 6-miler and 16x the area of a 3-miler. I imagine, then, that you likely had at least a loose scale in mind when establishing the dice ranges for region size. It's that logic I was probing after.

    1. For sure, the difference in scale can be really quite different depending on hex size. The scale in an absolute sense doesn't tend to come up in the games that I run, but it is cool to be able to say "this region is the size of Texas" or what have you.

  3. This may seem banal to ask, but how did you go about putting all the regions together? Did you start in the middle, roll the shape and then type, and then start filling in the paper around it?

    1. No question is too banal. I was pretty unprincipled about it. Like, I'd look at an empty space and roll for a shape, then frown when I saw it was an undesired shape which I would then put somewhere else.