I want to get something out on the table here: although 1st edition AD&D is my game of choice by a large margin, I’m far too young to have rolled dice with some of you back in the late ‘70s when D&D was really getting rolling. While I lament my disconnection from the incense, paisley, and sideburn adorned Player Characters of the olden days, nothing makes me happier than the simple sensibilities of old-school gaming.
I cut my teeth on 3rd edition, when characters represented a much higher investment in time regarding player creation and leveling. Also apparent was the less deadly nature of the game at that point: no save vs. death spells, higher hit points, and what seem to me (though not verified via sourcebook) easier monsters/encounters in general. The unforgiving nature of old-school gaming seemed stark to me initially, though I’ve warmed to the idea of an unrepentant game world simulating real life as accurately as possible, while still accounting for human-eating shambling piles of garbage and the walking dead.
Still, I’ll share with you one of the frustrations I experience as a DM with a demanding job, an upcoming wedding, and a resulting once-a-month D&D evening on the books: the problem of player death.
Its all well and good to draw a line in the sand as an old-school DM, where the dice fall as they may and player characters bite the dust liberally and often. This romping style of play is amusing for a time, but with only 12 play sessions a year there becomes a rift between casually killing off characters for the sake of the rules and allowing your players to come back to your table once a month with a genuine attachment to their PCs. Sure, one can argue that danger breeds smarter PCs, but frequently dying PCs (level 1 Magic-users taking a stiff breeze to the face, for example) breeds a climate of detachment and frustration that’s not as palatable as I’d like.
Now don’t get me wrong – I’m dead set against fudging the characters through adventure upon adventure with no real risk of danger. On the contrary, I explore this topic because of my desire for danger to be present in my games, but a need for danger to be more significant and interesting than “your 1st level fighter takes an arrow to the knee, and dies. Here is your new character sheet” after 4 sessions (re: 4 months of real-life) of character development.
So what can be done? I’ve brainstormed six different outcomes that can be employed in case of player death, in the hopes that you reserve the massacre of your party for a situation in which they truly deserve it. Click through to see…
I love rumors. Juicy, vague, threatening or misleading – they all serve the same purpose in a hexcrawl: find the dungeon. Feel free to drop two or three of these puppies into a local inn when you’re preparing your outposts and villages around the hexmap, to connect your characters instantly to an adventure you can run by the seat of your pants.
A few good rumors and some quick & dirty maps are all you need for a good time.
I know its been quite some time since I’ve had an update. Truthfully, I’ve been hemming and hawing about HexCrawl, and debating on what direction I want to take it. After months of deliberation, I’ve decided that I’m simply procrastinating, and I just want to dump as much content out into the gaming stratosphere as possible.
From this point forward my aim is to provide you, dear reader and dungeomaster extraordinaire, the most raw campaign material for your pilfering pleasure that you can find in the blogosphere.
An ambitious undertaking, certainly.
I want to drop you all a line briefly about a topic that I hadn’t given much thought to in the past. At last night’s session, however, one of my new players brought to my attention an application available in the App store for iOS devices.
It’s called DM DJ, and it allows you to dynamically create soundscapes at your table that fit the scene which you are describing. There are seamless sound effects that can be layered over a wide array of beautifully orchestral background music (think cutting, slicing, dying orc screams…) and in my mind there is no better way to punctuate a critical roll than with an auditory accoutrement.
If you have an iPad, iPhone, or iMac, head on over to the app store and pick up this beauty for the ridiculous, near-theft price of $2.99
Markets and Bazaars are important parts of your game world. Players need a place to unload loot & treasure, search for new gear and deals on odd and exciting items, and generally blow all of the gold they’ve been robbing from tombs and pilfering off the corpses of dead enemies.
Often, however, it’s easier to generalize a market district, assuming that whatever they need is there and throwing in a magic item or two for kicks. This is all well and good, and appropriate at times, but there are moments when you want to create an interesting environment for your players to shop through.
When you need a little local flare, roll 3 times on the chart below to generate an experience that they won’t soon forget. As a side note, all of the environments generated below make great chase scenes, mystery&intrigue adventure sites, and fight locations.
Burundol, King of the Black Cleft Minotaurs, has laired his clan amidst the winding caverns beneath the Lonely Woods where he discovered a long-forgotten labyrinth tomb built by a civilization of old. Over decades, Burundol has bred his clan and honed them into brutal, remorseless warriors. Though secretive and isolationist under Burundol’s rule, a new Bull named Ephesar plans to overthrow his king and lead the clan on a bloody crusade into the southlands.
Like this map? Its distinctive style has been heavily borrowed & inspired by Dyson’s Dodecahedron, the most impressive map resource on the internet in my humble opinion. Highly recommended for all of your on-the-fly DMing needs.
Connecting your region is the exciting final part of the process, and after we’re done here we’ll have a completely playable regional hex for a one-off table game, or to expand into a much larger world territory. Read the rest of this entry »
In the previous posts of this series, I’ve supplied you with far too many words for approximately 4 minutes worth of actual work on your part. This is a blog however, and so I will continue with my long-winded diatribe in the name of hexes, science, and religion. Typically only the former. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s a strange phenomenon, the stocking of hexes – I find that like a good piece of art, inspiration can be hard to come by when you’re staring at a blank page. The sequential method of creating a hex map has, in my opinion, the same effect as creating “prompts” for your roleplaying; creating something visual that you can attach further meaning to. Read the rest of this entry »
So your desires are leading you down the path of campaign content creation, and you’ve resolved to do as much as possible with as little effort. Some might call it Lazy GMing.
In this post series (Hex Basics) I plan on hammering out a roadmap for you to follow, whether you’re interested in creating a small adventuring realm or a sprawling world of adventure. The nice thing about hex maps is they’re entirely modular, allowing you to get a large amount of imagined space on paper in a short amount of time, with the ability to go more in-depth after you’ve lain out the basics. Read the rest of this entry »