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.

No comments:

Post a Comment