avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 15:47:17
I don't even know why I still work on Hex Describe but it has a certain lure. I can add small bits and pieces. It keeps growing. Today I added monoliths in the mountains that work as moon gates because I loved that part of Ultima IV. https://campaignwiki.org/hex-describe/
avatar image ktrey parker @ 2019-04-11 21:21:01
So glad you're still working on this. I like the color coding you've added for treasure and water features. I have some Tree/Plant generators I'd be happy to donate to the cause if you need more seeds (no pun intended) :)
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-11 21:37:13
Sure! I’ve added rudimentary “fetch the ingredient” quests for alchemists and I’d love to add more.
avatar image ktrey parker @ 2019-04-11 21:48:18
I'll have to refresh my memory on how to properly construct the Hex Describe formats, but I can try to whip something together for these: Plants and Herbs: http://blog.d4caltrops.com/2018/11/more-migration-herb-plant-generator.html Tree Names: http://blog.d4caltrops.com/2019/04/see-forest-for-trees.html Might need to add a climate identifier to the trees instead of just going full random, I'd hate for Palm Trees to show up in the Tundra for example. I've found that getting it in the proper format, pasting it in and generating quite a few helps me spot some syntax things that need to be tweaked. Maybe even some of these Magic Blade abilities if I get around to it: https://blog.d4caltrops.com/2019/04/d100-magic-swords.html
avatar image Ian Borchardt @ 2019-04-12 02:40:37
It's something similar to what I want to do (except I don't work in terms of hexes but rather encounters). Because whilst random encounters do give me a great latitude for improvisation, I often feel that I want a deeper motivation for why and how the encounter is happening. And the file card special encounters are always more interesting. One thing I'd like to do is something similar to the boardgame Tales of the Arabian Nights where players get to choose what sort of encounter they would like with the thing encountered. But whilst it works in the context of the boardgame, I've yet to find an approach that makes it work in a role-playing context.
avatar image Whidou @ 2019-04-12 15:50:08
I had fun contributing to the Hex Describe Bible Shared document last year, but then generic hex descriptions (from Lyonesse and such) were added to every single biome and the generated results lost their charm, so I dropped it.
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 15:51:54
@Ian, if you have good ideas, I'd love to add some. I recently wrote a blog post introducing the ability to explore the tables independently of a map. https://alexschroeder.ch/wiki/2019-04-05_Exploring_random_tables_hidden_in_Hex_Describe So, here's the result of the rule for orcs: https://campaignwiki.org/hex-describe/rule?rule=orcs&load=schroeder&n=5 A list of things that the orcs like to do, or how their patrols are organized, or the things they say – doesn't that look like just the thing we'd need? And we could go further, of course. We could have a "temperate forest encounter" table, with entries of monsters, and their treasures, and the things they do, and the things they're interested in, and so on... We could also code it up on Abulafia, of course, but once it's in Hex Describe it can get reused for other things as well. 😅
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 15:53:51
@Whidou, oh no! I didn't see it. Is it online somewhere? There's also the problem of "having charm" (which I interpret as serving as inspiration) and direct usability at the table (so it includes the boring parts, like my hex descriptions, haha).
avatar image Whidou @ 2019-04-12 15:59:30
The issue was not that the descriptions were bad, just that the same descriptions were added to every environment: desert, forest, swamp… Before this change, the generated maps had clearly distinct flavours between regions, which I liked. I made my contributions directly in this Google Doc, so they should still be lost in here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1RitCJ--w_ao4NOSdj8lo2DHT9CgdUN-nKQz802k_0Jk
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 16:54:13
@Whidou, oh wow, so many tables that would be great to use! Sadly, there is no license information, and no list of authors to credit. Hm... what to do, what to do...
avatar image Whidou @ 2019-04-12 17:54:37
Hum, sorry, I was confused, I though you were the one behind the Hex Describe Bible project, but as it turns out it was Matt Storm: http://iceandruin.blogspot.com/2018/04/how-to-add-entries-to-hex-describe.html Disregard all the comments I made above regarding the way the bible was handled, they are not issues with Hex Describe itself. My apologies.
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 17:56:50
No worries. I was just about to ask you about a way to contact Matt Strom since G+ gone and the link to his G+ profile is all that remains in the document. I'll take a look at the blog. Thanks!
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 18:09:06
Wow, Matt Strom has been so enthusiastic about Hex Describe and I didn't even know! Reading older blog posts, now. Thanks again, @Whidou!
avatar image Mamading Ceesay @ 2019-04-12 18:29:35
Just generated my first Hex Describe based hex map. Cool beans!
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 18:32:11
@Mamading Ceesay, cool! What map generator and what set of tables did you use?
avatar image Mamading Ceesay @ 2019-04-12 19:14:09
Erm, wasn't really paying that much attention to the details but it was the Alpine map and your tables @Alex.
avatar image Matt Strom @ 2019-04-12 19:14:57
I’m here! I’m here!
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 19:22:54
Hah! :) See https://alexschroeder.ch/wiki/2019-04-12_Matt_Strom
avatar image Matt Strom @ 2019-04-12 19:27:33
Thanks Alex! As far as attributions go, I tried to ask permission and attribute anything I added personally. Can’t guarantee that throughout. The hex describe bible is totally public domain, though. I’d need to do more work on it to be happy with it, but do anything you like with it!
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 19:29:01
OK, that sounds pretty cool, actually... Let me move that change online...
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 19:58:48
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 20:03:37
Heh, rule exploration also works: https://campaignwiki.org/hex-describe/rules/list?load=strom
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 20:23:17
@ktrey parker, I added your plant names. Good stuff! https://campaignwiki.org/hex-describe/rule?rule=magic%20plant&load=schroeder&n=20
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 20:29:02
@ktrey parker, do you have ideas for making trees relevant to the game? I like the table itself, but now I'm struggling with a place to put it. Fetch the magic tree? Each forest is dominated by a kind of tree? Names for dryads? For elf families? I just don't know what to do with tree names. I guess I could name treants. My names for treants are pretty lame... 😃 https://campaignwiki.org/hex-describe/rule?rule=treant&load=schroeder&n=20
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 20:31:16
@ktrey parker, hah, more questions: would you write your plants and herbs "Torch Radish" or "Torchradish" or "torchradish" in a text for the game? I'm guessing you'd smash them together, German style?
avatar image ktrey parker @ 2019-04-12 21:37:26
@Alex Schroeder I mostly use the Trees table when I'm describing the predominant species in a woodland or referring to a grove/copse of similar trees. Something like "The hillside is covered in a stand of Blackhusk Sumac" or "In the clearing is a lone Iron Heart Birch," so they end up serving double duty as Landmarks, and a bit of flavor to make the world seem more evocative. Biggest thing I like to do is give different terrains a different _feel_ via foliage by changing it up, but I don't do it for every hex :). As a compound generator, they might also be useful for just naming forests themselves, but the intent was more to have a quick way to generate replacements for our real-word "Common Names" of things to make the world feel more grounded botanically :). Treant names is a good one though! I'd probably not use the "Type" columns too much until we determine a way to weigh them by climate/biome though, but naming types of Pines/Oaks/Birches (and other temperate plants) would probably cover a lot of different climates. As far as compounding goes, I tend to do either or (usually whatever _feels_ right or _rolls off the tongue better_, but it's hard to quantify that in a random generator). Given the nature of the data, directly concatenating them might be easiest from a tool standpoint, but a 50/50 chance of either might add more variety. Same with trees probably :) If compounded, I'd be inclined to capitalize, just so it stands out as a Proper Noun. I was exploring the "Rules" yesterday...so neat and totally useful to have at hand!
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-12 22:39:52
Hm, landmarks is a good thing. Need to think about that again.
avatar image Ian Borchardt @ 2019-04-13 10:48:38
@Alex: There is a supplement for Age of Heroes (Swedish RPG) that translates as Sorrow's Wood, which has a basis that the entire campaign is set in a giant wood through which at least one major river flows (with lots of useful tributories). The forest terrain is pretty much topo rough to make foot travel ideal, so you have lots of small settlements carved out of the forest connected by rivers (plus river pirates etc). Anyway, they use the tree types to descibe the regions of the forest so as the trees change you have a pretty good idea of where you are (which was very nicely done). Adds special regions (such as Light Elf and Dark Elf bits of the forest with their own distinctive trees, and how trees change with elevation, makes for a very fun campaign setting. Then again, for me huge forests, large rivers, and tall mountains are literally fantastic elements for me, given where I live. =9)
avatar image Ian Borchardt @ 2019-04-13 10:54:12
Landmarks and old ruins are important. One of my favourite encounters was "you encounter a place of surpassing natural beauty." One of the characters later went back and placed a small traveller's shrine there to honour the spirits of the place (resulting in an entirely unexpected [to him] +1 blessing whilst in the woods/hills). Landmarkes, especially abandoned statues, were often useful in the JG Wilderlands because people would use them for navigation aids. [Like "travel west for two days and you should encounter a statue of a headless warrior with sword arm raised. Proceed north from there..."] the result was that these trad hexcrawl locations ended up being quite popular route markers (so there was an increased chance of encounters around them).
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-13 13:00:34
@Ian, as for forests in general, one problem I’m having is the presence of swamps in my maps: https://campaignwiki.org/text-mapper/alpine/random I ruled that no change in elevation results in water logged terrain, i.e. swamps and I think historically, that’s what Switzerland had: the valley floors were big wetlands and so the entire area wasn’t woodland per se but “auenwald” (floodplain Forest?). So: do these hexes get a swamp icon or a forest icon on my map? And if a swamp: do they count as part of the same forest when adjacent to a regular forest? Right now, a contiguous section of hexes with terrains forest/forest-hill/trees/fir-forest/firs get a single name. Perhaps I should add “swamp” to that list. Or even add a tree or bush icon to the swamp icon in order to create a “floodplain forest” biome.
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-13 13:01:00
And yes, a ruin generator would be nice.
avatar image Mamading Ceesay @ 2019-04-13 14:38:41
@Alex, floodplain forest sounds like a fine idea to me.
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-13 17:49:08
Learning more about swamps! "A swamp is a wetland that is forested." Right on! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swamp https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freshwater_swamp_forest
avatar image Ian Borchardt @ 2019-04-14 07:07:37
I do like the terrain classifications index from Swordbearer which combines Altitude and Vegetative Level in a two letter/digit index. For example: F = Shallow Water, so F2 = Grass Marsh; F4 = Flood Plain Marsh with Trees; F6 = Swamp; F7 = Dense Swamp; F8 = Impenetrable Swamp. Although water can be difficult to deal with. For example what if the terrain code is regional. Huge swathes of the Amazon basin become flooded forest at certain time (most of the Pre-Columbian Amazonian civilisations (and yes, they existed), where excellent hydraulic engineers, needing to protect both farms and villages from insane amounts of water. Although codes can be confusing where there is limited drainage, such as, as you say alpine valleys. So you could get a valid F2 code to represent high alpine wetlands surrounded by B3 (Mountains above Treeline). Whilst you'd normally have a 2 league visibility in F2 terrain, the surrounding mountains would naturally serve to block that. You'd see that they are there though. Admittedly I tend to use the old Judges Guild terrain classifications because that is what my encounter charts were originally designed for. But at what point does SW (swamp) become JG (Jungle) and become Forest (FR). What about Rain Forest? Marsh? Part of this is climactic regime questions. A generic system should probably keep the Koppen classification regime in mind as well, which serves as a modifier to the individual hex terrain types on the map. How does the default terrain hex vary in each climate regime? I think the best thing to keep in mind overall is what it appears to be mechanically for the party. That is how far can you see in it, and how difficult is it to traverse. For example a lot of the Great Dividing Range in Australia could be considered heavily forested mountainous terrain (for these purposes B8 or B7) but the Swiss Alps would laugh at these molehills being called mountains, despite the traversal of the same encountering many of the same difficulties. For traversal I tend to use the OD&D "lost" mechanism for unexplored hexes. You have to fail a "lost" roll to enter a hex. So mountains are huge exploration barriers. But that said, almost none of my old games featured cross-country exploration without making use of hired local guides. Even in relative wilderness conditions.
avatar image Alex Schroeder @ 2019-04-14 07:54:52
Yeah, good points. My focus is on the hex description and the map generation. I decided to keep the map generation as is and just made sure that all the swamp descriptions now read like there are a lot of trees. I somehow thought that swamps looked like marshes. Perhaps due to being confused about the German nomenclature, too. So now all the grassy marshes got replaced by forested swamps and that works for the moment because I don’t remember any marshes here in Switzerland. And I’m afraid to look for if I do find them, I need to answer the question of how they get generated on the map. What conditions create a marsh as opposed to a swamp? Is any swamp hex that borders both a swamp and a water hex a marsh hex? Are lakes surrounded by miles of marshland? Maybe? I have to read up on these OD&D rules. I haven’t used any “getting lost” rules for years. I always suspected that they’re not fun at the table. I guess if the players conclude that the best reaction is to always bring a guide along, then that also works but sort of ,ales the rules about getting lost unnecessary unless you want to prepare for the eventuality of the party going somewhere, losing their guide, and having to make it back to safety on their own. I’m not sure such Oregon Trail style adventures, random encounters and use of resources, the slow starvation and breakdown, trying to find a way but going in circles, I’m not sure I want to run that sort of game. I guess that’s why I never wondered about the challenges of entering new and unknown hexes. I’ll have to think about that.
avatar image Ian Borchardt @ 2019-04-15 04:37:38
Also the effect of civilisation cannot be underestimated. Lower England was almost one giant swamp until massive canal building and drainage projects drained the land. The Arthurian Isle of Avalon is suspected to be basically a mound within such terrain rather than a "proper island" that we would recognise as such. Drainage is always a tricky area to procedurally generate. Or to research, for that matter. I have several colleagues in this field that do this sort of stuff for a living. The difference between swamp and marsh is a combination of climate (cold climes tend to get marshes, warmer climes tend to get swamps) and water motion. Water flow is important. Wetlands with reasonably strong current flow tend to be marshes (often with islands with trees). I suspect this is because flow patterns are apt to change quite easily, which discourages the presence of long growth vegetation. Swamps tend to be more static from my experience. Then it gets more complicated if the vegetation is specialised to colonise an environment. For example mangroves are very good at colonising the coast, turning them into mangrove swamps (which are really nasty to travel through because ... mud, but extremely important to the local biota). I'd probably weight a die by climate to account for all the factors. In the tropics it's 1-4 swamp, 5-6 marsh, going to 1 swamp 2-6 marsh at higher latitudes. {Ah! Sudden realisation! Permafrost would severely limit growth of trees in such areas! Boreal forests tend to be pretty well drained from memory (this is really outside anything I've looked at though). I only really use the OD&D lost mechanism, for intentional exploration games (what can I say, I like Source of the Nile). When they are trying to move into a new location. That said, I have encounters that basically say "you are now lost." But that's only really a concern if the terrain is considered hazardous. Otherwise it's really an inconvenience that slows you down. And yes, you can more easily get lost in an urban or rural environment than the wilderness. Who hasn't travelled along a road to discover it lead no where, or taken a short cut that lead nowhere you expected to go. usually it's just inconvenient, but sometimes you end up in a place you never intended to visit. All that is buried in the actual encounter details. Sometimes it's a non-event (the road was badly maintained and it actually does speed your journey). Other times there are reasons why no one uses that road any more. Usually the risk is another possibility of an encounter. Incidentally I consider Urban to be a distinct terrain with it's own set of survival skills required. Most player characters will actually come from a Rural environment (villages and towns are considered Rural; towns and cities are considered Urban).

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