I got bored yesterday and started making a new hexcrawl. The first thing you have to do when creating a new hex map is figure out how big you want your hexes to be. Initially I was thinking large--say each hex would represent two days of travel for an unencumbered person walking presuming no obstacles whatsoever. But that was a little crazy. I decided to make them six miles on a side and twelve across, or essentially one day's travel for an unencumbered person walking at an easy pace and facing no obstacles.
Next, I created d6 terrain types, each marked by a symbol. Then I thought of d8 things to be in hexes and marked each with a certain color. Then, to determine the path of rivers and roads, I made a chart of d8 directions. I recorded the three columns on a notecard as shown here:
1. Temp. Plain (T in a circle)
2. Temp. Marsh/Swamp (T over three squiggly lines)
3. Temp Forest (T between two trees)
4. Temp. Hills (T under a curving line)
5. Temp. Mountains (T under a cone)
6. Cold Mountains (C under a cone. Presumably a cold mountains hex represents a massif or table-land which is sufficiently high above the surrounding environs to have its own climate).
Directions: 1 - N; 2 - NW; 3 - W; 4 - SW; 5 - S; 6 - SE; 7 - E; 8 - NE;
In This Hex
1. Town/Community (fuchsia)
2. Ruin (green)
3. Superpredator (yellow. I define a superpredator as a creature of CR 7 or above which could well dominate at least one hex area.)
4. Magical Wonder (pink)
5. Warzone (red)
6. Fortress (blue)
I began from the lower left hand corner of my paper and worked rightwards by row, eventually filling out 51 hexes (three rows) in this way. Once this first bunch of rows was completed, I first tried using a "die drop" method employing a d4 to draw in paths/roads, as suggested at excellent blog, The Retired Adventurer. This didn't go too well because the hexes made by my printer turned out to be much too small so after producing some truly ugly and bizarre pathways I settled on rolling a d8 for singular direction for roads and then streams. Essentially once I had a next direction I just drew the river flowing into the next hex over in a way that looked, I dunno, good. Where the rivers doubled back, I filled in the space with a lake.
So here's what the thing looks like -
Obviously, The Thing In The Hex is not literally where I marked it with a dot. However the lakes and rivers will hew to those shapes.
What you might notice right away, beginning from the left, is there are a LOT of mountain hexes interspersed with bunches of marsh hexes. So we have here a very stark landscape with chains of stony vaults, in the rifts of which are reaches of spongy lowland (perhaps brackish lagoons) fed by mighty but rambling rivers.
Looking back at this horizontal strip of land we see a profusion of Magical Wonders. My thought with this is there's a thing in the hex that does something weird, like maybe a statue that polymorphs you for 1d6 days or a flock of birds that can foretell the future---off-the-wall, potentially gamechanging stuff you're not going to find in the Core Rulebook's list of magic items. Apparently this country has a lot of such things.
Notice, interestingly, the triad of connected communities to the south and east (hexes 12, 13 and 14); two occupy hilly country and the eastmost a plain. Immediately eastwards of them you have a similar chain of ruins (hexes 15, 16, 17) semicircling some local oddity against the lake (hex 33). In fact, if you look at where the settlements are they seem to predominate in the eastwards third--hexes 15, 16, 17, 30, 48 and 32 are longitudinally close and hold communities of some form. To the west, however, we see a dense cloud of active fortifications: hexes 25, 8, 6, 41, 39, 38, 20, and 35. Whereas in this western longitude only 18, 2, 5 and 37 contain non-militarized(?) settlements. A community will probably have some defensive measures and many fortifications may well have a smaller attached community, but the colors show where the emphasis is.
Finally we notice that where we see a ruin, they are always part of some contiguous grouping: hexes 3 and 4; 26, 27, 28, 44 and 45; 15, 16 and 17. Of course they may be part of some linked chain of ruins or not. It is interesting how the largest grouping of ruins occupies the center of this latitudinal strip of land.
So we have a region, starkly divided between mountains and lowlands, festooned with unique and probably dangerous magical oddities, with a cluster of sagging ruins at its center, lots of fortified/militarized little communities with some marginal areas of peaceful settlement and dotted with a few hot spots of currently active warfare. And three, count 'em three, giant monsters everybody tries to stay clear of. Honestly it's cray cray how well this worked out.
Time to Brainstorm
So the rote part of our hexmap is done and now it's time to pick my own brain and come up with some stuff. Each of my categories needs a broad list of things I can roll for randomly to see which of those is in the hex.
1d10 Superpredators (must be CR 7+)
1. Really Tough-Ass Manticore
3. Nymph (I'm kind of borrowing Goblin Punch's neat idea of Nymphs as a kind of local menace just through sucking everything in around them with their beauty)
5. Dire Bear
6. Really Tough Old-Ass Owlbear (I should probably share my headcanon on the lifecycle of owlbears sometime)
10. Medusa (I don't remember if I got this idea from Goblin Punch also but in my D&D headcanon Medusas are basically Nymphs That Went Bad)
1d12 Who Rules This Fort?
1. Elflord level 8+1d4. Is (1d3) 1) Fighter-Wizard crossclass type; 2) A cavalier; 3) A Sorcerer with some weird-ass monster ancestry. Rules a small village of hot elves, has a cadre of Extremely Badass Sword-Dancers or Magic-Archers or whatever. Probably under the protection of Giant Eagles. Expect lots of feasting, dancing and snooty remarks.
2. Death Knight, cavalier level 7+1d3. Castle guarded by skellingtons, rules over a dilapidated hamlet of terrorized peasants. Undoubtedly has a tragic backstory.
3. Vampire, cavalier level 7+1d3. As Death Knight but it's way sexier. Probably has a pack of werwolf thugs collecting his taxes.
4. High Priest, Cleric lvl 9+1d4. This dude is undoubtedly only in his fort long enough to gear up for his next crusade and he's probably looking for donations.
5. Courteous Baron. Fighter level 9+1d4. Totally a straight-up dude.
6. Robber Baron. Fighter level 9+1d4. Will shake travelers down for all they've got, generous with handing out stints in the oubliette.
7. Paladin. Level 8+1d6. Undoubtedly just on his way to go take care of something in some other hex. If PCs are susceptible to moral guilt they will probably end up as his new followers.
8. Ranger (or maybe Inquisitor) cadre. This fort is the headquarters of some kind of specialized monster-hunter society and they're looking for MEN OF TALENT to go scout out some other hex for them.
9. Cadre of Thieves. This castle has been bought or leased by the Thieves' Guild and is being used as an innocuous base of operations (because who would think the Thieves would operate IN PLAIN SIGHT???) Leadership is a committee 1d4+2 Rogues of level 4+1d3; at least one will be a fighter crossclass. They are undoubtedly plotting a raid on some castle or town nearby, able to scope their target just fine from their TOTALLY LEGITIMATE fortress that they LEGIT BOUGHT and DON'T LOOK IN THE PANTRY THERE'S NOTHING THERE I DON'T KNOW WHO THAT DEAD GUY IS
10. Archmage. This castle is the domicile of an archmage (Wizard lvl 10+1d6). He does not want to be disturbed and his robot guards will be showing you the way out. Alternatively (1d3) 1. Sorcerer; 2. Summoner; 3. Alchemist.
11. Tax Farmer. The guy who lives in this castle and collects rent from the little hamlet around it is not a military dude. He has like 7+1d3 levels in Aristocrat or Expert and some decent political connections.
12. Brigand Lord. Not that different from a Robber Baron except this guy doesn't have the support of the Count/King/Whatever. Technically he is fair game to get steamrolled by the first people to roll up to his door but he has enough men/local support/is a huge enough hardass to make it a tough undertaking. Probably a fighter or cavalier lvl 8+1d6.
1d8 Magical Wonders Brainstormery Prompts
1. Magical statue
2. Giant crystalline formation
3. Magic well
4. Magical creature(s)
5. Peaceful/blessed cemetary
6. Magical plant(s)
7. Hallowed ancient battlefield
8. Disused/ruined magical device (like an arcanotech steampump or something)
You'll notice none of the ruins are anything inimically hostile like ACCURSED CEMETERY THAT SPAWNS INFINITE GHOULS or something LotFP-y like that. If you've read enough by me, by now you know that's not the vibe I go for.
1d12 Ruin Origins
2. Elven (type based on terrain)
4. Destroyed human fortress
5. Destroyed human temple
6. Raided Wizard's Seclusium
7. Fey Ruins
8. Druidical Ruins
9. Snakemen Ruins
10. Ruined purpose-built arcane complex (like a transplanar airport or something)
11. Ruined Evil Humanoid temple
12. Ruined Horde of Tiamat Spawning-Palace
1d10 Town/Community Races
This place is inhabited by...
2. Elfs (type by terrain) (Plains, Hills = High; Forest = Forest; Marsh = Wild; Mountains = Grey)
3. Dorfs (type by terrain) (Forest, Plains, Marsh = Reroll race; Hills = Hill; Mountains = Mountain
4. Catmans (1d2: 1. Elder Scrolls style; 2. Thundercats style)
7. Gnomes (type by terrain) (Plains, Marsh = Reroll; Mountains, Hills = Rock, Forest = Forest)
8. Hobbits (never bought into the halfling subraces)
10. Monstermen (Marsh or adj. body of water = Locathah; Mountains = Aaracokra; Plains = Centaurs; Forest = Nycter)
-NOTE: Roll a d100 for each community. If you got 50 or under it's just humans.
With this list of items for fleshing out each hex, there remains the final thing of course: DUNGEONS. I will go with a 25% chance each hex may hold a dungeon.
NEXT - We flesh this out, beginning with hex 1 (but definitely not ending with hex 51)