Friday, August 05, 2011

Hex Mapping Part 6: Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

Finally, we’re ready to begin populating our island. This is probably my favorite part of world building.

First, an important note about hex-crawling. The bedrock assumption of the hex crawl is that the area the PCs will be exploring is mysterious and unknown to them. There are no maps existing already that show what they should expect to find. The point is for the PCs to fill in the blanks spaces.

Towards this end, the outposts of civilization (or, at least, the civilization the PCs belong to) should be few. On our map, there will be only a handful, and all clustered close together.

So, starting at the top, we put a large city where the northern-most river meets the sea. I want a fairly serious city so that the PCs can expect to buy anything they might need: triremes and mounts, porters or slaves, powerful healing magic, and someone who can remove curses or similar unfortunate magics for a price. You can fudge this a bit by making the city heavily focused; the Pitsh of my Doom & Tea Parties campaign is a theocratic community that grew up around a temple to Uban that itself was focused on exploring the island of Dreng Bdan and plundering its ruins. That means it is much richer in clerical resources than you’d normally expect from a city its size.

For our hex-map island's human city, I’m thinking it’s an outpost of the Sea Lords, a city-state that only recently won its independence from another such state. Possibly a brother or nephew of some other Sea Lord or some such. It’s a port-of-call for pirates and smugglers, but also an important shipyard for same. Up-river, in the jungle hexes, I’ll put one or two villages that are based on logging. They’ll float their lumber down river to the city where it’s transformed into new ships. I’ll also drop in a few villages in the clear hexes where farmers grow food to support the city and the loggers.

This part of the island is pretty well explored, and when I hand the PCs a map of the island, the part north of that V of mountains will be largely filled in. So will the coastline, but nothing else; due to the city-state’s battle for independence, they’ve not really had the chance to explore the interior yet. That’s where the PCs come in.

Some critters are so dangerous, they’re practically forces of nature in their own right. Dragons come to mind. I want three on this island. The youngest, a male red, lives in the extinct volcano just north of the mysterious plateau. The oldest, a female red and possibly the mother or grandmother of the young red, lives in the dead volcano just north of the grey volcanic ash wastes. And I’m thinking there’s a green somewhere in those jungles on the eastern side of the island. I could put a black in those hills surrounded by swamp along the eastern coast, but I’ve got other ideas for that part of the world.

I want to place the dragons now because they'll likely distort the social map. Few people want to live next-door to a dragon. Now that I've got a good idea of where there be dragons, I can start plopping down the more civilized, social monsters. And we'll get to that next week.

Art by Frederick Arthur Bridgman and Albert Bierstadt.

1 comment:

gdbackus said...

More and more it has become important to me to establish where "Here there be Dragons". Same goes for giants, and other forces of nature (as you put it I think). I like to establish where the creatures are that other creatures will flock to or avoid, or at least know about.