Monday, 31 July 2017

In defence of Ritual

I don't usually post about archaeology, but I am an archaeologist and as such was somewhat taken with a post a couple of days ago over at Realm of Chaos - an Oldhammer blog of some repute - and it got me thinking about that much-maligned term that archaeologists seem to come out with whenever they don't have an explanation for something - 'ritual'

I'm going to defend the 'ritual' interpretation, but with a caveat. I'll start by saying that it sometimes seems that archaeologists use 'ritual' as an excuse for not thinking. It might seem that way - but I think it isn't so. Honestly, archaeologists think loads, and some of the thinking is amazing. What they (or maybe we) don't do some of the time is communicate that thinking very well.

The separation of spheres of activity into 'religious' 'political' 'agricultural' 'meteorological' 'psychological' and so forth is a product of a very modern mind. If you read the plays of Shakespeare even, you see that the wrong king on the throne makes (the) God(s) angry, the weather bad, crops fail, people and animals go mad etc. Shakespeare was only writing 400 years ago, the Egtved Girl that's the subject of the post at Realm of Chaos was buried more than 3,000 years ago, after what seems to have been a short life (she was between 16-18 when she died) that involved several journeys between South-west Germany and Denmark, covering perhaps 3,000km in the last year or so of her life and being buried it seems in the summer of 1370BC.

There is an intrinsic connection between our behaviour and the workings of the universe. I think this was accepted by people in the Bronze Age as much as by people that have actually left us written records - the Egyptians, Jews, Greeks, Romans, Medieval Europeans and up to the Early Modern period, as well as people from further afield that Europeans only really found out about later - and of course, some people still believe that there is a connection between microcosmic and macrocosmic systems or no-one would ever say a) that God told them to run for President or alternatively b) that using the wrong lightbulbs will make the sea level rise. This is the context I think in which archaeologists, but probably not non-specialists, think of 'ritual'. When we say it, we mean something like 'part of life bound up with ideas of the relationship between community and the cosmos' or 'codified actions designed to facilitate the smooth running of the universe'. We mean the actions that people take that are regarded as 'right behaviour'. Archaeologists tend to believe that 'right behaviour' is culturally-specific: what is 'right' in 18th century East Africa would not be appropriate in China in 500BC or Milan in 1450. Though the details of the rituals change, human societies have rules about what is 'right behaviour' in terms of death, birth, coming-of-age, establishing family units and such like. We send each other cards for passing driving tests or getting new jobs. Archaeologists call that 'ritual'. If all you had was a pile of cards saying 'congratulations' and 'sorry you're leaving' archaeologists would still have to try and reconstruct what they meant. Probably they'd come up up with some explanation about rituals involving socially-defined stages of life in the community. And if they did, they'd be right, because that's what those things represent in our society.

When people outside of archaeology hear us taking about 'ritual' however, I think they often assume we mean 'some irrational mumbo-jumbo of which we are guessing at the details'. They then conclude that archaeology itself is a 'ritual' in this second sense, as it seems to be merely irrational mumbo-jumbo of which they can only guess at the details. It isn't, but if we don't communicate what we mean very well, it's hardly surprising that sometimes people think we're just making it up out of nothing.

I had the privilege to see the Egtved Girl's burial when I went to the National Museum of Denmark in Copenhagen earlier this year. It was one of my main reasons to go to the museum (one of the others being to see the Trundholm Sun Chariot - I would have linked to the National Museum of Denmark's web-pages on these but when I do so it crashes my internet connection for some reason) and I'm really glad I did. It is an amazing museum (and city, and country from what I saw which admittedly wasn't much). The displays helped me towards some new insights about prehistoric societies, about anthropology in general I suppose, and I like to feed that stuff back into gaming. Thinking about how society worked, what people's beliefs might have been, in the European Bronze Age or Ancient Egypt or Late Antique Italy (or whatever/wherever) helps in thinking about how a community works in Carcosa or Thyatis or Gondor. In fact, my specific interest in the Egtved Girl came from finding out about her because I was interested from a gaming point of view to find out what people were actually wearing in the Bronze Age - research for some way of adding a bit of verisimilitude to a 'barbarian' settlement led me down a rabbit-hole of fascinating information about the 'Nordic Bronze Age' (by the way, apart from the Egtved Girl, Denmark has some other really well-preserved prehistoric clothing, some of the best examples in Europe, and a goldmine of information for anyone wanting to re-imagine what a low-tech 'barbaric' society might look like).

The research into isotopes trapped in her hair that has been carried out also has thrown up really interesting questions about society in Northern Europe 3,300 years ago. It seems the the Egtved Girl was probably born in South-West Germany, in the Black Forest region, and travelled to Denmark when she was approximately 14-16 years old. Then, after a short period, she went back to Germany. She stayed in Germany for a few months and then journeyed back to Denmark. A short time, maybe about a month, after she arrived back in Denmark, she died, aged around 16-18.

I've long been a supporter of the notion that there was a lot of moving about in prehistoric societies. Not so much the idea, prevalent in English-speaking academic circles up to the 1950s, that 'waves of X-people drove out the less-advanced Y-people with their new technological innovation of the Pointed Stick and introduced Pottery and Cricket', but not 'no-one before the invention of the horse ever went more than 4 miles from the place they were born' either. I'm pretty sure that people knew that 'those islands over there' were where the tin/gold/amber/wine/furs or whatever came from and that 'those people up the river' were really good at making rugs but beyond them 'the other people' sang strange songs but had mad skills with doing archery. I'm from Britain (so I think that this bit is important), and Britain is thought to have been the major source of tin in the Mediterranean Bronze Age. There's an awful lot of Bronze Age bronze, so people in the Mediterranean must have known about Britain even if only as a source of tin (though that doesn't seem likely to me). Likewise (as I mentioned it and we're talking about Denmark) almost all European amber comes from the shores of the Baltic, which is quite a hike from the Mediterranean, and yet amber turns up in a lot of places in southern Europe. Jet, obsidian, particular sorts of axes or other objects turn up a long way from their sources. Beakers, a set of forms of pottery vessels, are part of a cultural complex that stretches from Morocco to Denmark, Hungary to Ireland. 4000 years ago, people were engaging in long-distance travel around the coasts of the Mediterranean and Black seas, out into the Atlantic, up the rivers... it was an interconnected world. And I think that's really interesting.

So anyway I don't know whether I'm saying 'go to Denmark, they've got great museums' or 'read some anthropology/archaeology/history books, they might spark gaming ideas' or probably a bit of both. I'm pretty sure I'm saying 'don't be too hard on archaeologists, they have to get unfamiliar ideas over in 10 seconds on the news or some popular history programme, there's probably more to it than it seems'. And it can be both fun and intellectually rewarding to find out what does lie behind the headlines.

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

Fourth part of mapping Carcosa

OK, so I've generated the map at 6-miles per hex, I've put all the encounter numbers on it, I've changed all the numbers to be much more sensibly-organised, re-numbering the 28 encounters I'd already generated in the process, generated around 80 more locations using the Save v Total Party Kill's Random Carcosa generator and sourced the remaining dozen or so from the Carcosa Preview pdf, the Carcosa Grimoire pdf, the odd source like Bernie the Flumph (Vaults of Man) and Joe the Dungeon Brawler (Carcosa Avdenture, sic) and even  some things out of my own brain that will be posted on here at some point as no-one in my occasional meatspace gaming gives a toss about this blog. Villages (whether generated as settlements according to the patterns I already established, or turning up as a 'Weird' result due to some particular eccentricity of their ruler) have been given a cultural quirk from Papers & Pencils - d100 Small Town Quirks. In itself this has caused the necessity for a little re-thinking to sidestep the implicit feudal/pseudo-medieval background of some of the quirks.

200-hex map with sequential numbering

There are a few other things that need to be sorted out: there is occasional reference in the descriptions to things that don't exist in the same format (eg, in one hex there is the description "An abandoned space alien outpost is now home to a group of 23 Dolm bandits. Amongst their possessions is a map of the first level of a space alien research base in hex 1505" - I don't have a hex 1505, but I do have a hex AO 05 which is pretty much the same thing) or at all (eg the map is 20 hexes wide and 10 deep so there isn't anything higher than AT 10, which equals 2010). I need to integrate the Carcosan Rituals in a systematic way too; divorcing them from the 'official' map means that link between components and Rituals is broken, for example. How does a Sorcerer bind the Foul Putrescence with the essence of the fungi of 1302, if a) 1302 is AM 02 and b) doesn't have a fungus-forest? Tracking all of those lose ends and tying them up is I think going to be the tedious bit.

However, the map is I'd say 90%+ complete. If I got a call saying there were people to game this tomorrow I could start running it as a hex-crawl as it is and make up the missing details on the fly. But tying a few more things down first would be useful. Where is the nearest Orange Man settlement to the hex where the escaped Orange Man slave is hiding? The party might not know but the inhabitants of the next village they visit possibly (probably?) would. Where are the Black Men going with their Mummy Brain, and why? Are there carnivorous fungi in hex AM 02 after all, and if not, where are they? It's not so much work to tie up the lose ends once I have determined what they all are.

And I don't think there's much chance I'll be gaming this tomorrow, so that's all right then...

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Mapping Carcosa part the Third

Right, to recap (again)...

I'm more than half-way through mapping my 200-hex region, and frankly there's not enough desert. My second lot of terrain determinations (again in a 28-hex area, this time I've been a bit more careful not to go over the edges because I'm effectively starting in my own south-east corner) looked like this:

'County'-sized area in south-east corner of 200-hex map

Don't forget this is approximately the size of an English county - the area of an earldom. In a feudal society we'd expect a population of tens of thousands. The Domesday Book lists 529 population centres in Gloucestershire in 1086. This area is a bit smaller, but the same order of magnitude. I'm expecting that I'll get about 6 settlements.

For the rest of this side of the map, I just filled in the hexes on the big map because I can't tile any more of these small 'county' level grids onto the regional map on this side. I can fit one on the west side - but I think I'll change my style for that, to produce a different distribution of terrain types.

My terrain generation table currently looks like this:

1 - sandy desert
2 - rocky desert
3 - salt flats
4 - swamp
5 - mountains
6 - volcanic badlands
7 - barren plains
8 - open water

but probably needs to look more like this:

01-25 - sandy desert
26-50 - rocky desert
51-60 - salt flats
61-70 - mountains
71-80 - volcanic badlands
81-90 - barren plains
91-95 - swamp
96-00 - open water

That's what I'll use for the next lot of determinations, in the north-west of the regional map.

So, this whole region will be transitional between the slightly damper more volcanic area in the centre (first bloc) and east (second bloc), and the area to the west which is likely to be more characterised by desert.
Next group of hexes in north-west, with single 'odd hex' on west side

This new map looks OK; there's much more desert obviously and no open water (the purpley sections are 'barren plains', even though I'm not really sure what the difference is between 'barren plains' and 'rocky desert'). Smashing through the terrain generation with the new formula, and adding it to the areas I've generated with the old formula, produces a map that looks like this (including not just the odd single desert square on the extreme west of the map but an odd mountain added to the three more-or-less in the centre):

200-hex regional map

So, we have a map which is dominated in the west by rocky desert, but in the centre and east a more mixed landscape prevails, where mountains. lakes, swamp and volcanic badlands all crowd together. I'm perfectly happy with that as a landscape.

Now to do the encounter rolls. I've added in the encounters generated for the first map (though on the regional map, I haven't attempted to place the encounters in specific locations in the hexes, just noted which hexes they take place in).

The first bunch of encounters are keyed to the following hexes on the regional map:

1 -          AH 09
2 -          AH 09
3 -          AI  04
4 -          AI  04
5 -          AI  05
6 -          AI  05
7 -          AJ 06
8 -          AJ 06
9 -          AK 05
10 -      AK 05
11 -      AK 08
12 -      AK 08
13 -      AK 09
14 -      AK 09
15 -      AL 04
16 -      AL 07
17 -      AL 07
18 -      AM 04
19 -      AM 04
20 -      AM 05
21 -      AM 06
22 -      AM 06
23 -      AM 07
24 -      AM 07
25 -      AN 09
26 -      AN 09

So what I need to do now is determine the next lot of encounters. OK, 1 is in an inconvenient and weird place, but I didn't really think about that when I started.

For the next lot of determinations of encounter location, I think I'll tweak the table from the other day. It looked like this:

     1    2    3     4             5          6
1 yes yes no   yes/yes no         no
2 yes no  yes  no         yes/yes no
3 no  yes yes  no         no         yes/yes

where the number along the top is a d6 and the number down the side is the number of the hex in the 3-hex group (generally reading from top-bottom and left-right) where the encounter is to be found. Due to electronically determining lots of numbers 4+ (in fact only one of the 13 numbers wasn't a 4, 5 or 6) there was a lot of clustering of encounters. I don't mind some clustered encounters, but I want a more even (ie, non-random) distribution. Settlements don't form at random, there are some random factors but also non-random factors, and other encounters will also follow both random and non-random tendencies. Some of these I think will act as forces repelling other encounters (eg, it's less likely to get monster encounters near a settlement if the people in the settlement are going to hunt to monsters - though of course, the monsters may be close by because they're hunting the people...).

I think I'll try the following tweak to the above table, replacing a d6 roll with a d12, weighted towards the bottom end of the scale, increasing the chances of separate encounters from 1/2 to 3/4 and decreasing the chance of clustered encounters from 1/2 to 1/4.

    1-3   4-6    7-9    10             11           12
1  yes   yes    no      yes/yes    no          no
2 yes   no     yes     no             yes/yes no
3 no    yes    yes     no             no          yes/yes

That has given me an overall distribution of encounters on the map that looks like this:

200-hex region with encounters keyed to hexes
Unfortunately that's really difficult to deal with due to the encounter numbering effectively spiralling out from the lower centre of the map. I hate maps where the numbers are scattered on the map as I find them more time-consuming to use, so I've already decided that I'm going to renumber everything starting with 1 in the north-west corner, but I have another more procedural choice to make here. I can either determine the encounters first and change the numbers afterwards (which is basically doing the fun part now and the tedious hard work later) or I can change everything over first and then do the fun part afterwards.

I know what I'm like, if I d the fun bit now the tedious bit will never get done. So I'd best start with the boring stuff . Maybe I'll reward myself with breaking it up - when I've done the first group of 34, I'll determine the encounter details for them. That might prevent this from getting too tedious.

A lesson in forward planning methinks... don't start numbering your map in a random location.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Mapping Carcosa part deux

The experiment to map out a Carcosa-style environment continues... with a look back at what has happened so far. So in the spirit of all TV shows at the moment:

"Previously, on 'Mapping Carcosa'... (FX: bell-like theme tune)"
Current map showing settlements with individuals and groups that may belong to them
Well, the area of the Ulfire Men is pretty interesting I think. I didn't put things there on purpose - it just happened that I'd put two encounters in one hex and they both turned up as villages of Ulfire Men, and it happened that one of the encounters in the hex next door was also a village of Ulfire Men. The middle and north-eastern village were - co-incidentally - ruled by Chaotic Sorcerers, and again co-incidentally I generated the same 'cultural quirk' for them - the uniform with the red stripe. All just random determinations.

So, there's definitely something going on there. 800 Ulfire Man is a decent population, about 55% of population the region. If they were united (especially by a gaggle of Chaotic Sorcerers) they'd probably overcome most opposition in the area. Perhaps that's why there are so many settlements on water (1/2 of castles and 2/5 of villages) - because the Ulfire Men rule the land in that eastern portion. Another way to look at this is every non-Ulfire settlement bar one is on water (3/4), no Ulfire settlement is, and of land-based settlements, 3/4 are of Ulfire Men. Ulfire Men avoid water; pretty much everyone else favours it. However (perhaps luckily for the others), the Ulfire Men are not united.

Two things may have happened to a posited 'Unified Ulfire Culture' in that area; either a Neutral Fighter has taken Village 17 from a Chaotic Sorcerer, or the Chaotic Sorcerers in 16 and 23 have recently taken over and are building a power-bloc. Either way, it looks like war between different Ulfire factions. Even the idea that the Neutral-led Ulfire Men have a communal toilet might hint at a militarisation of the village under the threat of the Chaotic Uniformed Sorcerers.

If I was the ruler of the Black Men, or the Orange Men, or maybe especially the Lawful ruler of the Jale Men, I'd be trying to make sure the Chaotic Sorcerers didn't take that last Ulfire village.

If on the other hand I was part of the Sorcerous cult that has supplied the leaders and ideology of Village 16 and Village 23, I'd be trying to not only conquer the last 'free' Ulfire territory, I'd also be trying to destabilise other local settlements. I might be particularly concerned about the Black Men village to the north - perhaps I'd get Black Men to bring me Mummy Brains to increase my power, or maybe, I'd give them Mummy Brains to take back home in a bid to destroy their village from within...

Moving Forward

I have a big bad hex-map with 200 hexes on it (about the size of 7 Gloucestershires or Athens-es). That, of course, is not divisible by 3. But, given that my 3-hex squares are very slightly bigger than the 10-mile hexes they're supposed to be mimicking, I'm not really bothered. I'll have 2 encounters over 2 squares and not worry about it. My version of Carcosa will probably still be slightly-less-densely-populated with encounters than the official version, on a comparison of encounters per square mile covered.

2/3 of 200 is therefore more like 2/3 of 198, plus 2. I think that is 134 encounters (therefore mimicking 134/2 or 67 10-mile hexes), of which I so far have listed 26. I also have a couple of things I've found that I'm going to slot into the space - I'm going to put Bernie the Flumph's Vaults of Man and Joesky the Dungeon Brawler's Carcosa adventure into the map as locations in specific places (the Vaults of Man implies a mountainous location for a start so that will be prioritised for a mountain area), as well as a few locations I've been working on recently. I haven't found much material from other sources - the Carcosan Grimoire aside, which has a set of procedures for settlement generation - but there are some things I think will work in a Carcosa-style setting: I'm going to be going over Chris R's Carcosa blog very carefully, and some of Michael Prescott's material from I think might work nicely.

One thing I want to do is try and keep a Carcosa-y feel while re-skinning monsters from other sources. So my 'Space Aliens' are technologically-minded yes, short yes, and grey-skinned; but I suspect that they will be a bit weaker than a standard human fighter (about HD1-1, for example); they will have good vision for seeing in darkness but will likely have a penalty for fighting in full daylight (I expect this will be -1 to hit), and they will scare easily.

Some things will, and some things will not, be like standard Carcosa. I really like the idea of using Treants as huge carnivorous plants. Pretty sure there'll be at least a few dotted around 'my' Carcosa. In fact one of them I think will be part of a locale I'm working on. On the other hand, I don't think getting rid of Thieves as a class as a class makes much sense. Sure, Thieves' Guilds (something I don't really use anyway) don't make much sense in a world without significant urbanism, but I'm happy to divorce 'skill-set' from 'cultural construct'. Essentially, not everyone is 'hard'. Some people are faster or more nimble or more sneaky (because if they can't intimidate other people, they have to be more devious to get what they want). I don't think that will change in Carcosa. I think even in a setting that's less 'feudal' and more 'heroic' (and I use that word advisedly) than the norm for elf-games, one characterised by low-intensity conflict between villages and petty warlords, some people will have sneaking, hiding and sleight-of-hand skills. Think of them as spies, assassins or explorers if you like, and justify their existence as being people who loot ancient and alien sites or got their training from sorcerous or militaristic cults who sometimes need a sneaky skill-set, but I think there's scope for such skills in Carcosa. My version, at least.

One thing I don't understand, but am happy to run with while I work out a justification, is the prevalence of castles and citadels (2/7 in the test area). To me this implies small settlements subsidiary to somewhere else. So, for example:

Encounter 7:
Citadel of 82 Yellow Men led by "the Brilliant Illumination," a Neutral 6th-level Fighter.

This implies to me that  somewhere close by there is a settlement (or group of settlements) of Yellow Men that has sent them as an organised force, rather than a settler community - there are no children or elderly there, it's a military establishment. How do 'young Yellow recruits' come and take up duties in the citadel? Of course, they could just be bandits, taken over a ruin or fortified a site for themselves, but it's difficult to see how they could sustain themselves, especially if Carcosan species of humans are not inter-fertile. If it is to be anything other than a brief occupation of Yellow Men, there needs to be some support network in place to prevent such places being obliterated by more-powerful neighbours before help could arrive from nearby Yellow settlements. Or, perhaps it's more like a 'military order', and there's a known network of Yellow settlements across a much wider area that sends recruits to the 'Citadel of the Order of the Brilliant Illumination'. Or perhaps I need to deconstruct the entries and move the descriptor 'Yellow':

Encounter 7:
Citadel of 82 Men led by "the Brilliant Illumination," a Neutral 6th-level Yellow Fighter.

If the Citadel was open to all Men (possibly except Bone Men, see the Carcosan Grimoire) then it could be self-sustaining easily as recruits could come from any of the villages in the region. I'll have to think about whether I deconstruct the generated results though, it looks a bit like cheating (OK, I'm the sort of person who, when presented with a system immediately goes 'yeah? But what if you do it like this?'... but on the other hand, I set up a system and I'm not going to subvert it just because I can't immediately explain the results. Best to try and find a justification before abandoning the system I think).

Perhaps there's information that could be gleaned from distinguishing between 'village, castle, citadel and monastery (I haven't yet generated a monastery)' in the listings. I've been thinking that 'castle' and 'citadel' are synonyms but there's no reason for them to be so. In English usage 'citadel' is used to mean 'castle-in-a-city' and that's not really appropriate, unless every Citadel generated has an unmentioned settlement outside it. It carries connotations of a central or final fortification, probably on a hill unless it's a metaphorical citadel (of faith or something), where you retreat to when all else has failed - the last impregnable fortress.

But I'm going to use 'Citadel' to mean 'wooden fort on a hill', I think, a stockaded camp of non-settlers (bandits or 'soldiers' whatever that mean in this context). 'Castle' will imply 'stone construction of 1-6 towers (and connecting walls if number of towers >1)' and could be either an ancient ruin or a relatively-recently built construction. 'Monastery' (if I ever get one), which really means something like 'place of those who are separate', will mean 'walled settlement inhabited for educational or devotional purposes' - they will have some defences but not like castles. Their ideology will depend on the generation of their leader - leaders can Lawful, Neutral or Chaotic, and classed as Fighters or Sorcerers. A monastery commanded by a Lawful Fighter implies something very different to a monastery led by a Chaotic Sorcerer, so that's a place to start with determining the character of the place. I might need to determine the monastery's age and/or construction material too. Say, d8 a table something like this:

1 - less than 10 years, wood
2 - 10-50 years, mixed wood and stone
3 - 50-100 years, stone
4 - 100-200 years, stone
5 - 200-300 years, stone
6 - 300-500 years, stone
7 - 500-1000 years, stone
8 - more than 1000 years, crystal or other exotic material

- where 'wood' and 'stone' can be replaced with any suitable local materials (eg the most easily-obtained relatively-tough building material is the carapaces of giant arthropods, that might be a substitute for wood).

That all seems a reasonable workaround I think. 

Now I'll start applying some of that in another area to work up. I have 6 or 7 more areas the same size as the region I've already detailed, but I will experiment with alternative generations in other areas - in a future post...

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Hex marks the spot (quite a big post)

I don’t do 10-mile hexes. It’s a bastard scale with no justification that I know of. It’s not Judge’s Guild or Greyhawk (based on 5 & 25-mile hexes), it’s not Known World/D&D Wilderness (6 & 24 miles), it’s not Mystara (when that was developed from the Known World, with 8 & 24 miles). It’s not Pathfinder’s 12-mile hex. I’m not sure if there was any classic setting mapped at 10 miles/hex, or if anyone at the moment is working in 10-mile hexes – except for Carcosa.

And there’s the rub. Carcosa is intriguing. Save vs Total Party Kill in particular has made it look awesome. Honestly, play about with Random Carcosa and the Carcosa Character Generator here - – and I dare you not to be hooked if you aren’t already. Easiest fun for my money is taking a random numbered map - especially of an already-known area, such as the hexed-and-numbered map of NW Middle Earth found here - and seeing where the Spawn of Shub-Niggurath and mutated dinosaurs live.

I don't have Carcosa. I'm sure I will at some point in the not-too-distant future. But I will be definitely be putting a gate into the Abyssal Realms (which already has Serpent-men, fallen high-tech societies, Lovecraftian horrors and whatnot) that leads to a planet with two suns that is heavily-inspired by what I know of the Carcosa setting. Maybe mine will be a little more sword-and-planet, Carcosa meets Barsoom, but there you go. There are definitely elements from Carcosa that I want to use. But 10-mile hexes are something I'm not keen on.

The best objective reasons for using a 6-mile hex are explained here: that’s all beside the point really. I use a 6-mile hex because I had the Mentzer Expert Set which uses 6 & 24. Simple as. I’ve used those scales since 1983, I’ve tried really hard to get the rest of my maps to scale properly with them, and I’m buggered if I’m going to change now. Were I playing a different game, I’d certainly be open to different scales of mapping because there’s no reason for cross-compatibility. But for D&D (even if in a wildly different setting) I’m sticking with 6-mile and 24-mile hexes.

10-mile hexes with hexes at 60% size (ie 6-mile hexes)
So if the Orc won’t go to Carcosa, then Carcosa will have to come to the Orc.

Mapping Carcosa at other scales

The area of 1 x 10-mile hex is 86.6m2
The area of 1 x 6-mile hex is 31.18m2
That means that the area of 3 x 6-mile hex is 93.54m2. That’s broadly comparable to Carcosa’s 10-mile hexes (to get a single hex of area 93.54m2, you’d actually have a hex 10.4 miles across).
6-mile hexes with 3-hex area outlined

3 x 6-mile hexes on a 10-mile hex background
Every 3 x 6-mile hexes on a Carcosa map will have the same rate of encounters as 1 x 10-mile hex. 

But how to get groups of three hexes?

There are multiple ways of arranging collections of 3-hexes on a map. Perhaps the easiest is to assume that the shape in the third diagram - a sort of '12-sided triangle' - is repeated in a regular pattern (as in the first illustration below).

3-hex groups regularly arranged; 3-hex groups irregularly arranged; irregularly-shaped 3-hex groups

But that's by no means the only possibility, as the other possible layouts above show. The same shape can be rotated and moved about, or different arrangements of 3-hexes can be used. Maybe a randomising table that generates different arrangements of 3-hex shapes is the way to go here? It could even be an environment generator, producing a map as it groups 6-mile hexes into 3s of varying shapes.

I tried out a very simple idea - number the faces of the hex from 1 to six and throw a d6, then join the hex in the direction indicated.

Randomised hex-connections

However, it does seem pretty easy to get blocked with such a simple generator. Possibly I need a procedure that says I should move into an adjacent hex and try again if I can't get out (eg I keep not rolling a 4) - maybe, after 3 fails I move on or something...

But, perhaps randomisation isn't the way to go. The example of irregular groups I produced above was just a case of me joining hexes together without really thinking about it. I'm not subconsciously creating the terrain (the flipside is, I don't have to worry about creating the terrain), because I don't know what the terrain is yet, I haven't generated it. What I did however when I created those shapes was allow myself to go off the map. Maybe I shouldn't, it's going to bite me in the butt later. Anyway, as it's the closest thing I have to a 'map', I'll work with it. Taking the shapes I produced and then applying a range of possible terrain types produced the following map:

Irregular 3-hex shapes with randomised terrian
It's not amazing but it's at least semi-random. More lakes/sea than I expected, and no deserts/plains, but the table itself is just a sketch towards a proper random terrain generator, intended to show a process. Perhaps when I do this on a larger scale I can make the table a % roll and weight it - 33% sandy desert, 33% rocky desert, 10% volcanic badlands, 2% open water or whatever.

Anyway, I now have a map that approximately corresponds to 13 x 10-mile hexes (even though I only have the edges of many on them). In the original Carcosa sourcebook, each 10-mile hex has 2 points of interest. That means, each of my 3-hex shapes will have 2 points of interest.What I need to do now is determine which 2/3 (two per 3-hex block) have points of interest.

Assuming each hex has an equal chance of either point of interest (which may not be sensible, perhaps I should build in an exclusion principle) gives the following possibilities, where the number down the side is that of the hex and the roll on a d6 is along the top:

     1    2    3     4             5          6
1 yes yes no   yes/yes no         no
2 yes no  yes  no         yes/yes no
3 no  yes yes  no         no         yes/yes

So, if I've got my maths right here, there are only six possibilities for grouping the points of interest. If we go with an exclusion principle, there seem to be only three possibilities which are the first three columns. Essentially in that case we only need to know which of the 3-hex group doesn't have a point of interest. 6 possibilities is more fun I think, so I will go with the distribution given in the whole table above and add points of interest to the coloured map...

The numbers I (electronically) generated (4, 4, 6, 6, 5, 6, 5, 6, 2, 4, 6, 6, 4) indicate two in hex 1 of the first group, two in hex 1 of the second group, two in hex 3 of the third group, two in hex 3 of the fourth group, two in hex 2 of the fifth group, two in hex 3 of the sixth group, two in hex 2 of the seventh group, two in hex 3 of the eighth group, one each in hex 1 and hex 3 of the ninth group, two in hex 1 of the tenth group, two in hex 3 of the eleventh group, two in hex 3 of the twelfth group and two in hex 1 of the thirteenth group... which is a shitty distribution with way more clustering than I expected. The other way of grouping those without clustering is to read them as 1-2, 1-2, 2-3, 2-3, 1-3, 2-3, 1-3, 2-3, 1-3, 1-2, 2-3, 2-3, 1-2 which might have been better. But I'll stick with this for the moment.

Terrain and points of interest
Of course, all this does is show where things are, not what they are. So how to get a table for what the points of interest asterisks actually represent?

Encounter breakdown

Save vs Total Party Kill has a breakdown of the original 400 10-mile hexes.

There are two encounters per 10-mile hex, so 2 x 400 x 10-mile hexes = 800 encounters.

About 10% of the hex descriptions in Carcosa are simple monster encounters. .. (10% = 80)

There are 103 Spawn of Shub-Niggurath encounters described in Carcosa. .. (= 12.5% pretty much)

Of the 800 hex descriptions in Carcosa a little more than a quarter describe a village, citadel, castle, or monastery…  (If that’s c 217 or about 27.5%, the first 3 categories make up 50% of encounters)

Several mutant dinosaurs are described in Carcosa… (no real idea except it’s a small number, so I’ll go with 40 = 5%)

Most hex descriptions in Carcosa are kind of crazy… (most’ may be an exaggeration, it doesn’t seem to be ‘more than 50%’ on the rough maths here, but it does look like the weirdness makes up ‘the largest group’ – maybe about 360 = 45%?)

I'm going to use a percentage table and need to tidy up the halves. My usual practice is to round up small numbers and round down big ones. So 12.5% Spawn (actually the 12.5% was a slight rounding down) goes up to 13% and the 27.5% Settlement goes down to 27%.

So the table looks like this:

01-10 - Monster Encounter
11-23 - Spawn Encounter
24-50 - Settlement
51-55 - Mutant Dinosaur
56-00 - Weird

Save vs Total Party Kill has separate generators for each of these, so I'm going to use those (they're a big part of why I'm even doing this, did I mention they were awesome?): the table-plus-functionality is this:

01-10 - Monster Encounter
11-23 - Spawn Encounter
24-50 - Settlement
51-55 - Mutant Dinosaur
56-00 - Weird

So now I need to cross-check my 'points of interest' with this table. I have 13 zones and therefore 26 points of interest, so I'm going to number them 1-26. Should have done that instead of giving them asterisks and saved a step, but it's easy to be wise after the event.

Numbered Encounters

Now I need to roll 26 d%s.

1.       20 - Spawn
2.       96 - Weird
3.       64 - Weird
4.       18 - Spawn
5.       78 - Weird
6.       6  -  Monster
7.       48 - Settlement
8.       56 - Weird
9.       82 - Weird
10.   73 - Weird
11.   78 - Weird
12.   41 - Settlement
13.   8  - Monster
14.   64 - Weird
15.   35 - Settlement
16.   27 - Settlement
17.   36 - Settlement
18.   55 - Mutant Dinosaur
19.   8  - Monster
20.   44 - Settlement
21.   56 - Weird
22.   76 - Weird
23.   49 - Settlement
24.   80 - Weird
25.   57 - Weird
26.   51 - Mutant Dinosaur

So, I need to actually generate the encounters using the tables from Save vs Total Party Kill. What I am also going to do, because I found a great random cultural quirks table here Papers & Pencils d100 Small Town Quirks - is I'm going to add one of these cultural quirks to any actual settlements (when I get a Village result rather than a Citadel, Monastery or Castle - these are the four kinds of Settlement in the random generator).

Encounter 1:
Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 17, MV 120, HD 9, Neutral [unintelligent]): a Black crustacean with a scaled hide, 2 eyes, and a toothed mouth. The creature is extremely hot: 1 die damage per round to all within 20' Regenerate 1 HD every 1-3 rounds.
Encounter 2:
A large bird of prey stalks the players. After 1-3 hours it will turn and fly off into the distance. The bird does not attempt to hide its presence.

Encounter 3:
A humanoid robot (AC 16, MV 90', HD 4, Chaotic) guards the remains of a crashed alien spaceship. He is armed with a sword and a laser pistol. His 3 large eyes rotate about his head. He can not be surprised and will react with hostility to all who approach.

Encounter 4:
Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 12, MV 90 [land] / 180 [fly], HD 3, Chaotic): a Orange amoeboid with a smooth hide, no eyes, and a suckered mouth.

Encounter 5:
A hulking Blue Man (AC 15, MV 120', HD 6, Chaotic) with unusual red hair wields a cursed two handed sword. (This character wields the sword one handed, carrying a shield in the other.) Any character possessing the sword is compelled to eradicate all White Men from the world; with each White Man they kill their hair turns a darker shade of red. The sword is -1 to hit, but +3 to hit vs. White Men.

Encounter 6:
11 Mi-Go.

Encounter 7:
Citadel of 82 Yellow Men led by "the Brilliant Illumination," a Neutral 6th-level Fighter.

Encounter 8:
2 Unquiet Worms make their home in the shade of a disabled alien tank. Within the tank, two dead aliens lay mummified in their spacesuits. Sufficiently intelligent creatures can restore the tank to working order after 2-6 turns of experimentation. 
Right, I'm sorry USAians, I know that recently some of you have decided to use 'lay' instead of 'lie' but honestly fuck that. Unless they're having sex, fitting carpet or producing eggs, those dead aliens are lying in their spacesuits. Every instance of 'lay/laying' that should be 'lie/lying' will just be changed from now on.

Encounter 9:
Mummy with lower half of body buried (HD 5, AC 5, eyes shoot 2 lasers, Save vs. Death Ray or take 5 dice of damage). It wears an emerald medallion (2000 GP). Quiescent unless the emerald medallion is disturbed. Two dead Orange Men lie nearby, one with a scorched hole blown in his head, the other with a scorched hole blown in his chest. 1-6 primitively armed Orange Men huddle at a safe distance discussing how to relieve the Mummy of the medallion. They are not interested in treasure other than gems and technology, but will serve if offered such incentives.

Encounter 10:
A Bone Man (AC 3, MV 60', HD 1+1, Lawful) and a Jale Woman (AC 9, MV 120', HD 1+1, Neutral) explore the badlands in search of alien technology for their war tribe.

Encounter 11:
Cuddly fluff balls (2-12, 1 HP each, AC 7). Bright red, hovering, bobbing up and down gently. When observed for a turn there is a 3 in 6 chance of seeing the fluff ball lazily open one or both of its eyes. If petted, a fluff ball will orbit the character. Orbiting fluff balls will give characters a Save vs. Wands to avoid a normal missile (something like an arrow or bullet) that would otherwise hit. A success means that the Cuddly Fluff Ball intercepts the missile and is destroyed.

Encounter 12:
Castle of 64 Orange Men led by "the Chieftain of Stones," a Neutral 8th-level Sorcerer.
Oh, "Chieftain of Stones", that reminds me that Carcosan names are really interesting and I need to say something about that... *

Encounter 13:
3 Primordial Ones.

Encounter 14:
A White Woman (AC 14, MV 120', HD 4, Lawful) is locked in battle with a Deep One. She fights with a large wooden staff and is searching for her mother.

Encounter 15:
Village of 243 Jale Men ruled by "the Lover of Lords," a Lawful 8th-level Sorcerer.
And the 'Small Town Quirk', no. 32, is... Each evening the townsfolk gather in the common house to watch a new tattoo being added to one of their number. Everyone in town is covered in dozens of tattoos, and almost everyone has some skill with a needle and ink.

Encounter 16:
Village of 228 Ulfire Men ruled by "the Heart's Enthroned," a Chaotic 4th-level Sorcerer.
Quirk 35: Everyone in town wears matching uniforms. A drab grey and brown tunic and breeches, skilfully hemmed. Everyone is clean shaven, with their hair in a long ponytail. Each tunic has a bright red band at chest height, which the townsfolk take pains to keep clean.

Encounter 17:
Village of 272 Ulfire Men ruled by a Neutral 7th-level Fighter.
Quirk 54: The town has a communal poop-pit for making Jenkams. I think I get the idea.

Encounter 18:
2 Mutant Mosasaurus (AC 14, MV 30' [150' Swim], HD 13, neutral). Smooth Dolm hide. Can split into smaller versions of itself, like Voltron in reverse.

Encounter 19:
20 Diseased Guardians.

Encounter 20:
Village of 277 Black Men ruled by "the Mind of Benedictions," a Neutral 4th-level Fighter.
Quirk 59: The town has an official storyteller who spends the day walking around and observing the happenings in town. Each work day ends by gathering to hear the storyteller share what he saw that day.

Encounter 21:
A large space alien bomb stands upright in the plains, weathered to the point where it is merely the suggestion of a bomb: 1-6, inert; 7-9, still live, disturb it and it will explode (Save vs. Death if within 30' - save equals 2D10 damage, failure is death); 10, actually a space capsule - contains ancient body in space alien battle armor.

Encounter 22:
4 Black Men camp along a dirt road. They are under the control of a mummy brain, which they are transporting to 1702.
I don't have a 'Hex 1702' as such, so I need to determine a location for this quest. 

Encounter 23:
Village of 305 Ulfire Men ruled by a Chaotic 3rd-level Sorcerer.
Quirk 35: Everyone in town wears matching uniforms. A drab grey and brown tunic and breeches, skilfully hemmed. Everyone is clean shaven, with their hair in a long ponytail. Each tunic has a bright red band at chest height, which the townsfolk take pains to keep clean.
This is the second village I've generated a result of 35 for, and both villages are Ulfire Men ruled by Chaotic Sorcerers. If they hadn't both been Ulfire villages ruled by Chaotic Sorcerers, I'd have rolled again. As it is, it looks like there is a Coven of Chaotic Ulfire Sorcerers who are taking over in this area and putting everyone in uniform... 

Encounter 24:
What appears to be a simple rock is in fact The Starseed, a source of unlimited power. At any given time there are at least 1-6 high level sorcerers actively searching for the artefact.

Encounter 25:
Spawn of Shub-Niggurath (AC 18, MV 120, HD 3, Chaotic): a blue arachnoid with two red eyes and a toothed mouth. It currently entangled in a grappling hook and 100' of rope. An orange laser pistol can be found in its belly.

Encounter 26:
6 Mutant Camarasaurus (AC 15, MV 60', HD 16, neutral). Feathered Purple hide.

So that's more or less that... it's taken about as long to do as it has to type, so it wouldn't take any longer doing it 'for real' (this now is 'for real', this will be a small corner of Carcosa-Barsoom ... Carcoom or whatever). I use descending AC, so I'll change those; I don't actually have stats for all the monsters listed but I'm sure I can fudge that; I need to determine where the Black Men from Encounter 22 are taking the Mummy Brain: but that's about it. I have some hints at a cross-settlement faction (the Chaotic Ulfire Sorcerers who make everyone wear red-striped uniforms, like in a 1970s space-opera... it seems they don't get names until 4th level too) that could create a bit of backstory. I haven't checked on the map to see how far away the settlements are from each other but the entire map I've worked on is only about 40 by 30 miles... the size of an English county, say, Gloucestershire (1,225 square miles and 6 major settlements according to wiki’s ‘List of Counties of the United Kingdom’ - as opposed to my approx 1,200 square miles, 5 villages and 2 castle/citadels). Gloucestershire I seem to remember is also about the size of the territory of the Athenian polis around 350BC, which is all rather pleasing, and not planned at all, just a result of using that size grid and going over the edges a bit.

*Last thing for now is the name "Chieftain of Stones", the leader of the Castle at Encounter 12. Names that sound like titles may of course be titles. The leader of this Castle may be the Chieftain of the Stones that the Castle's defences are made from, or special stones that the castle is famous for (perhaps it has a gem-mine? Maybe it houses sorcerous glowing stones?). But then again, why is "Chieftain of Stones" not just a name, like Barry Philips or Susan Jones? Our names tend not to mean very much. We chose them for their sound or because we want to name our children after a relative or someone we admire. But it wasn't always like that. Once, 'Duncan' meant 'Dark Warrior', 'Ryan' meant 'King(ly)', 'Joanne' meant 'She who is Beloved of God', 'Fiona' meant 'Fair' or whatever.

What would the Anglo-Saxons (for example) make of the name "A(E)thelstan"? It looks like a (meaningless) name to us, but it actually means "Prince(ly) Stone". Perhaps it even means "Chieftain of Stones". So perhaps the leader of Castle 12 is actually called "Athelstan", or else the local equivalent - let's say, "Zorg" means chief and "olg" means stone, and "-y" marks the genitive, so "Chieftain of Stones" is rendered "Zorgyolg". But then do the inhabitants still think of Zorgyolg as signifying "Chieftain of Stones", or does it just signify itself, the name Zorgyolg?

I think I'm going to adopt a naming convention for my Carcosa that names are what they say. The leaders of settlements have names like "Chieftain of Stones" (like Athelstan). Other people have simple personal names like "Fighter" (like Otto or Marcus), "Strong" (like Frodi, that Tolkien derived Frodo from), "Bright" (like Claire) or "Rock" (Alan or Peter). If rulership is passed down in families, it may be the custom that the ruling family has complicated names, so their children are called "Morning Radiance" and "Coming Storm" even when they don't rule, while others are called "Fate" or "Leaf"; or it may be that a new ruler stops being called "Cloud" and takes the name "Remembrance of Glory" when elevated to rulership. Is it then a personal choice, or is there a traditional name for the leader of the settlement that is adopted? That I think will all depend on the set-up of individual villages.

Anyway this has been a mammoth undertaking and I should probably stop. I certainly have some stuff to flesh out (where are the Black Men going? WHY is "Chieftain of Stones" so-called? What is the Ulfire Chaotic Uniform cult doing...?) and so I'm going to get on with that.