I think the campaign map is finally finished, at least in regards to towns and the general geography of the place. Ever since looking up some 16th century maps of Sweden I've been assuming there are exactly as many rickety roads and villages as I care to fit into every square inch of the place. It seems humans will live just about anywhere, making little communes within spitting distance of the last one. No respect for neat and tidy maps, damn them. So I've taken to marking down only the villages that are interesting or important enough to remember plus the main connecting roads. These main, red, roads are of the level at which I imagine a wealthy gentleman could ride his coach down without spilling his drink every few seconds.
As for scale, it's about 5 miles per hex but I'm not too concerned with physical distance. Most movement so far has been thought of in terms of "how many hexes can we cover in a day?" Knowing that Kildear is 2 days from Vornheim is more useful than knowing it's 30 miles away.
Using this thing is going to be intimidating for me. So far my only stab at hexcrawls is the little journey from Gaxen Kane (no relation, I just liked the name) to the Slaughtergrid. It was a fun little hunt where the players didn't know the exact spot, just a general direction and rumour it was out there and full of gold. They ended up getting some rough ideas from locals, guessing, and beseeching a fickle god whose answers were 50/50 at best. After some tumbles with the local wildlife and indigenous tribes they ended up at their destination and we all had a jolly old time.
But by the gods, it's terrifying going all free-wheely hexcrawly on these things.
I decided I'd use random encounters to flesh out the map, ensuring the players really feel the world by living it (or dying to it, either's good). For example, until the session to find the Slaughtergrid we didn't know where the Silver Tower or Gold Citadel were, or even if they existed. I'd fashioned a big fat encounter table (using the one Slaughtergrid already provided and adding a bunch of other stuff) and just ran the session with it until the dungeon location got rolled up. I had plenty of material in there to occupy an evening, and if the dungeon turned up in the first roll we could just dive right in an do that sweet dungeon thing.
Things that are now true:
- Burke Birds live here, are arseholes, and should not be underestimated.
- Banth are hunted by the Gold Citadel.
- The Gold Citadel are a thing.
- They burnt down the Silver Tower.
- A serial killer is killing all the anchorites in the area. She's pretty okay though, gives good directions.
Points that arose:
All things that could just as well have not existed if it weren't for the roll of a die. Does that make them less interesting than a curated progression?
The Gold Citadel popped into existence purely out of the juxtaposition of encounters and the particular way the players approached it. The Citadel could well exist in an entirely different form had it gone otherwise. The Duchess is pickled because it made sense at the time. And is true.
It would be cool and impractical to have a bunch of dungeons scattered around that the players know about and can go to. Improvising or memorising any one of those locations at a random point would be tough. Is it worth the actual freedom when an illusion of freedom is just as fun?
Could an entire area be built by a suitably vast encounter table? Could I make a 100 entry monstrosity and run a whole campaign off it? If each result was suitably worthy, i.e. equivalent to a room in a dungeon, I don't see why not.
Can you make 100 encounters in one go that are interesting enough and cogent enough to not feel like you're playing through a list of cool stuff with a dungeon or town at the end?
How cool would it have to be to be forgiven?
All these need answering before the players crawl back out of the lady-robot with their oodles of gold and dead comrades. We'll see how it goes!
As a side note, a distraction from doing more useful things, I made a full blown earth-scale world map. The above map fits inside the tiny red square in the top right. It's not set yet as I'm not entirely clear what I want from the larger world. I made it primarily to help me think about what to do when the current map runs thin and to test out some ways of generating nice coastlines and fitting them together. I think it came out okay.