A monster on the verge of eating an adventurer.


Hex Crawls and Computers

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on February 10, 2013

Tagged: dnd hexcrawl webapp

I was thinking the next little web application I was going to build would be something for managing notes for a hex crawl.

One problem with the way they are published now is that you need to flip all over the place because hexes are usually listed in columns. If your players are in Hex 0101 information about Hex 0201 is going to be further away than information about Hex 0116, which seems silly. With a website you could view your hex crawl as a series of 3 x 3 grids, the hex you are on being the centre. Clicking on one of the adjacent hexes would bring up a new 3 x 3 grid with information about the new hexes the players could now move into. This would probably give you a better sense of what’s happening around a hex than the way most books present things. With a web page you could even display a big grid of all the hexes and information about each one. You could scroll around on the page to see what’s up.

The PDF version of Carcosa does a pretty good job of linking to anything and everything it can within its hex descriptions. This is something you can do quite easily with a web page. More so, you could have this cross reference information be generated automatically based on the description the user types in.

As players move around they’re going to effect the world they are wandering around in. You could track these notes and changes, updating your hex crawl as you go. You could track what the players have done, and what your NPCs are doing as well. You could see a history of what’s happened in any hex, which could be handy.

I’m curious if anyone else has thought about this stuff? Is there other stuff about running a hex crawl that could benefit from the power of modern computing?


Review: A tour of Carcosa

by Ramanan Sivaranjan on September 23, 2012

Tagged: carcosa lotfp osr hexcrawl

1507: On a lifeless island of black stone stands the alien city of Carcosa.

A silhouette of this city is featured on the cover of Carcosa. The city is only mentioned once in the book, in this description. It’s certainly an evocative sentence.

Carcosa concludes with a tour of its world via a hex map and descriptions of those hexes. As has been a running theme in my reviews of the book1, the details of each hex are quite terse. Geoffrey McKinney continues to say the bare minimum needed to convey anything at all about the world he has created. There is definitely something old-school in this sort of presentation.

Each hex description includes two possible things the PCs could come across. The first description is written by McKinney, and was the only description presented in the original booklet version of Carcosa. The second set of descriptions were created by fellow gamer and fan of the setting Chris Robert; he had previously published these descriptions as a free PDF, Strange Sights of the Doomed World Carcosa.

McKinney’s descriptions are very matter of fact. There is a village here; there is a disgusting monster there. Occasionally he will hint at something sinister or exciting, but it’s just a hint. Robert’s descriptions are somewhat similar in tone, but are a bit more varied in their execution. I can imagine coming up with my own set of encounters, using Robert’s take on things as a good example of how to proceed.

The hex descriptions of Carcosa can be split into three types of encounters: villages and citadels, spawns of Shub-Niggurath, and the “weird”. That last category is broad, clearly.

402: Here looms the great and extinct black volcanic Mount Voormith’adreth, honeycombed with weird and outré caverns, and beneath which bubbles and heaves Shub-Niggurath.

This is a pretty important place in Carcosa. It’s home of Shub-Niggurath, the creator of almost all the important species on the planet. Spawns of Shub-Niggurath are one of the most common creatures encountered on the planet. This little passage is all that McKinney dedicates to their creator’s home.

1610: Village of 370 Red Men ruled by “the Lover of Peace,” a lawful 5th-level Sorcerer.

This is your typical village description: here are some men and this is their leader. You can often get a sense of what the village will be like based on the leader’s alignment and title.

1609: Citadel of 83 Bone Men led by a chaotic 6th-level Fighter.

Some times descriptions are even more terse. Who knows what this village is like? The village is 6-12 miles from the citadel. Maybe there is a relationship there? Carcosa encourages thinking like this.

1513: Ulfire Mold.

The tersest hex description possible? The alternate encounter for this hex, by Robert’s, is a bit more meaty.

1513: The undying and practically invisible brain of a chaotic Bone Man Sorcerer lies shallowly buried in the reeking fens of this hex. It is eager to find new flesh, though discriminating enough to consider only a fellow Bone Man as an acceptable vessel. Any Bone Man coming with 100′ of the brain must make a saving throw vs. magic. Failure indicates that he is compelled to unearth the brain, tear his own brain from his head, and replace it with the Sorcerer’s brain. If this occurs, the Sorcerer will take the first opportunity to escape to his secret lair in hex 0715, there to resume his experiments into the forbidden.

There are lots of interesting little encounters to be had throughout Carcosa. Even if you weren’t interested in running a game in the settings there is definitely stuff one could steal here.

The book concludes with a short adventure and random tables to aid a DM in running a hex crawl on the planet. The adventure is presented as a keyed dungeon and a mini hex-crawl. Besides wandering monster tables, we also get a table for creating alien technology, one for making spawns of Shub-Niggurath, and one for making random robots.

If it’s not clear by now, I really liked Carcosa. The book is physically fantastic. It’s definitely worth buying for Rich Longmore’s art alone. His illustrations of the setting are incredible. The pictures i’ve used in my reviews are a small sampling of the stuff in the book. The fact the material itself is also quite good was a nice bonus. I didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did. I had no real interest in hex-crawl adventures, Lovecraft, weird sci-fi in my fantasy, or half the things that Carcosa is all about. McKinney has done a great job in sharing the things that he likes about D&D. You should buy this book already.