Sunday, 30 April 2017

Underground hexcrawls

Started yet another megadungeon-style project: but this one is actually more like an underground hexcrawl. It has the provisional title of 'Abyssal Realms', and may or may not be accessible from Silvergate if and when any players venture far enough...

The design philosophy has been inspired by several things.

First, a few weeks ago, I was on holiday and happened to find a games shop that had a sale on various things, especially books. Twenty minutes later I had three new purchases, coming to the grand total of £5.50. One of these, for a whole £3, was a Swords & Wizardry book called Cyclopean Deeps Vol 1, by Matthew J Finch and published by Frog God Games. This details (the first half of!) a high-level underground setting (much deeper than standard dungeons) called... the Cyclopean Deeps, obviously. It has underworld factions and politics, cities and quests (there's a strong probability the PCs will end up as bounty hunters in the dark under the Underdark). It's effectively set up as a hexcrawl, with somewhat limited options for travel (because not every location has a tunnel in every direction. More a node-point exploration I suppose). So that was what made me think I could do something in a similar vein.

Secondly, I happened on a link to Build A Dungeon From Me. I haven't been in a while,  but there's been no new content since April 2015 anyway: but the principle I think is great (I wish I had a good way of setting up a similar feature for this blog), and I randomised some images and wrote notes on what was produced - 20 images that produced two points of interest for each of 10 underground zones.

Extending that principle I then google-searched images for 'Fantasy Monsters' and 'Dungeons' and 'Enemies' and a few other search terms, then randomised the results to produce further images, in order to generate more encounters, NPCs and locations. I tacked these on to the 10 zones I had already established, to produce denser concentrations of encounters. Some surprising things came up - more Giant Tortoises (really, more like Titanic Tortoises) than I'd expected (so I need to write some rules for titanic underground tortoises), the odd armoured bear (who is now an armoured Bugbear) and a few NPCs and monsters are somewhat inspired by John Carter and Dejah Thoris, Rydia and the Iron Golem from Final Fantasy, because that's what my random images were.

Much of the donkey-work of coming up with random NPCs (actually very few are 'random', they're juxtapositions of elements from various sources) came from these sites: Generator 1 Generator 2 (from donjon, a long-term randomiser of choice!) and Generator 3. Between them I managed to find enough descriptions, sets of stats and bits of history/personality to keep me happy.

The third main inspiration was Swords & Stitchery - I often go there to marvel in the weirdness of a Lovecraftian/Howardian/Clarke Ashton Smith take on D&D, and sometimes copy random tables and such-like. I wanted the Abyssal Realms to have something of that feel, so along with the more 'normal' elements (see titanic tortoises, above...) I decided to use a few of the random tables - especially those relating to the collapsed Hyperborian civilisation. Now, parts of the Realms have references to the Atlantean Crown Jewels, sky-ships, Great Old Ones and who-knows what else?

I've been sketching the maps more or less roughly. There's no real detail yet, just different zones and some connections between them. Most of the inhabitants from this first pass have been established now (I've done the first 8 zones now, the other two should be finished soon) and then the real work comes in filling in all the missing details... I've painted with a very broad brush but it's just an outline of the Abyssal Realms at the moment. Putting flesh on the bare bones I think will take quite a while...

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