Jun 5, 2022

Types of Terrain on Hex Maps

Someone on the OSR Discord server asked me to write this up in a blog post, so I thought I would talk a little bit about terrain for hex maps.

When I am creating hex maps for overland travel, I typically use 6-8 types of terrain so that I can assign them to a randomizer and have the PCs roll whenever I'm not sure what a given terrain type will be if I don't already know. The eight main types of terrain I use are:

1) Blight 
2) Desert
3) Forest
4) Hills
5) Mountains
6) Plains
7) Water
8) Wetland

I sort the terrain into three categories based on ease of traversing it:

Easy: Blight, Desert, Plains, Water (with watercraft)
Difficult: Forest, Hills, Wetland
Impassable: Mountains, Water (without watercraft)

Easy terrain allows PCs to move through it at their normal movement (10km per 4 hrs of travel per the Procedure for Exploring the Wilderness Redux). While following a path in easy terrain, you cannot get lost.

Difficult terrain has PCs move through at 1/2 the normal rate (two travel actions must be taken to cross it). Paths across difficult terrain double your movement: It costs one travel action to move across the hex).

Impassable terrain cannot be traversed unless the PCs find a path across it, and they can only traverse it in the direction the path does. Paths across water can represent significant shallows or fords or small island chains close enough to swim from island to island.

Within these terrain types, I aim for a certain level of variation based on what makes sense for a given area. In a setting based on Scandinavia (all the rage right now), a desert will be an alvar pavement, a forest will be mostly coniferous, and wetlands will be bogs. In a setting based on Nigeria, wetlands will be flood forests, a forest will be an acacia / peacock flower / long grass mosaic, and hills will be a classic West African highland rise. I don't bother to mechanise this fine a set of details.

I find this tends to incentivise looking for paths, especially when PCs want to cross formidable natural barriers like mountains or lakes.

Feb 20, 2022

Some Gnoll Opponents for PF 2e

The island of Ursino (not-Corsica) on Verra has a bunch of gnolls. The gnolls are cursed mercenaries who were brought in as exiles from the Temmeno Empire (the not-Ethiopian Empire) over a generation ago by the Banco di Asmodeo to exert the banks control over the island and beat back swarms of the undead. A few missed payments, broken promises, and angry contractual negotiations later, and they're now organised into roving bands threatening the inhabitants of Ursino and are looking for a way off the island to go back home. 

These gnolls are sort of based off of the buda spirit from Ethiopia, tho' only very loosely, and with any anti-semitic elements totally scrubbed. Buda accusations IRL can be used for anti-semitic purposes, but are used more widely to handle breakdowns in social relations. For more see Hagar Solomon's book The Hyena People: Ethiopian Jews in Christian Ethiopia, Tom Boylston's "From sickness to history: evil spirits, memory and responsibility in an Ethiopian market village", and this book chapter about a recent contemporary buda crisis. The part that particularly interests me about budas is their use to express the anxieties of subsistence farmers about integration into the market economy, which is very on-theme with Verra's focus on the 17th century emergence of global capitalism in a fantasy context.

So these gnolls are bad people who have practiced cannibalism and been cursed by the Hidden God to take hyena features for it, one of a larger class of beast peoples originating in this way. They reproduce by spreading the curse - making other people eat dead bodies so that they in turn become gnolls. Ultimately, their goal is not to wipe out the inhabitants of the island or whatever, but to get a few ships and either the crews to operate them or knowledge of how to sail them themselves, and then to go home (where, truthfully, they will be no more welcome; the Temmeno don't want cursed cannibal mercenaries they've already exiled coming back)

There are three gnolls in Pathfinder 2e as it exists: one level 2, one level 3, and one level 4. I wanted PCs to be able to fight gnolls right from the start of the game, so I created a bunch of -1, 0, and 1 level gnolls, which will be especially helpful once the PCs hit levels 2-4 and I can send big hordes of the low level ones after them. I created these gnolls using the PF Tools Monster Builder, and I think there are a few typos where I forgot to change gear or names on powers, but the numbers should all be right.

So with that long introduction, here are some low level gnoll opponents for you to use.

Anyhow, enjoy!

Jan 18, 2022

Openquest 3 SRD Released for Free

 There is now a system reference document (SRD) available for Openquest 3rd edition. The SRD is free to download from this link, and will eventually be hosted as a HTML document on the d101 Games website here.

I haven't had time to write an in-depth review of Openquest 3rd edition, but the changes are substantive and wide-ranging from the first two editions, and overall they are positive cointributions to the system. Openquest's 3rd edition keeps its place as one of my two favourite implementations of the Basic Roleplaying system (BRP) alongside Mythras. 

Mythras appeals to the lover of crunch in me, but Openquest is an excellent, rules-light version of BRP that keeps many of the details that appeal to fans of BRP while simplifying and economising many of the rules that newcomers find fiddly. I think it's one of the best introductions to BRP that one can get. If you want a system that does not have levels, classes, or inflating HP, that makes combat feel deadly and exciting, and that sharply distinguishes between how different kinds of magic work, you might find the BRP family, and in particular Openquest, a product that appeals to you.

Along with the SRD, there is a free quickstart scenario and rulebook that contains most of the rules (it leaves out some of the magic systems available in the main rulebook).