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Yora
2019-01-30, 07:30 AM
When there is no script for what will be happening and where the party will be going, and it is up to the players which of the many things they see or hear about they want to pursue, explore, or investigate, you got a sandbox campaign in the wider sense of the term. But the campaign that I am imagining these days would be a different thing from the more typical crawls, be they hex crawls or megadungeon crawls. In crawls, the basic setup is that the PCs start at a base camp and are presented with an open environnment or megadungeon with the expectation that they go out there and reveal the map, so to speak. Encountering all kinds of crazy and oddities along the way, dealing with which is the main meat of the campaign.
I've never done this before and I've not been able to find any good reports or advice from other people who have done it, so I would like to hear what others are thinking of my ideas and what you might be able to suggest to refine it.

I am imagining something more like a campaign of expeditions to distant places. Instead of going out into the unknown to see what you run into, the players pick a destination (or at the start of the campaign are pointed to one) and run into various hopefully interesting obstacles on the way to get there and the way back home, in addition to a moderately sized duneon crawl at the main destination of their journey.

Now the intended fun of the campaign comes from players being given free reign to pick their destination, chose their path and means to get there, and also to change their plans as unexpected new things come up. Which is where I think you get the main differences in how you would have to prepare the sandbox as compared to a hexcrawl. Since the players will often be trying to travel in as straight a line and as fast as possible and might be changing directions on very short notice or at the spur of the moment, the GM needs prepared material that is very flexible and can easily be moved to any place in the world. But you don't want to have fixed content that in quantum oger fashion just appears on whatever paths the players chose to take. A big appeal of sandbox campaigns comes from the knowledge that the GM does not decide for the players which obstacles they should be facing at what times. Even when GMs mean well, there is always the wish to make things so that they feel challennging to the players, but also pose little actual risk if the players go for a straightfoorward fight. Finding yourself in situations where you have the personal power to enforce your will on NPCs or opponents, or you have to really think outside the box if you want to overcome the opposition is also great fun, and also much more rewarding for the players when they know that they made it happen and it wasn't handed to them by the GM.

So I am thinking of something that in some way would be very elaborate random encounters. You not only roll for the type and number of creatures that will be encountered, but you also create a good number of premade floorplans for small caves, ruins, and camp, one of which you will pick based on a random roll. Then you make another roll to check how many groups are located in or nearby that site, rolls to check if each group will react friendly or hostile to the party or are allied or hostile towards each other. Roll to check if there are special leader NPCs present, and roll to see if there is a special unique feature that adds a new twist to the environment or might be the object of the inhabitants' conflict.
Now this is something you can not just do any time you make a random encounter check. But I think it holds real potential for quickly generating the content for the next session. Before the campaign starts, you need your prepared floorplans, your monster books, treasure tables, and special features. Then at the end of each session, when you know through what terrain the party will be traveling and which creatures can be found in that environment, you roll on your tables and should get enough material to inspire you for giving this randomly generated site its individual flavor and flesh out the NPCs with how they will be reacting to the party and if there is any conflict going on that could be amini adventure.
This should be much more interesting than "You are wandering along at a forest path and you are encountering... *roll* 6 goblins who... *roll* have surprise. Well, I guess they attack you."

On some occasion, you could even roll multiple times on the table to make a single larger site. When you roll for a cave and an abandoned shrine, you can then make it a shrine at the back of a cave, or a cave under a shrine. Or get two caves to get a bigger cave. And they might be populated by different groups who are in some kind of conflict with each other.

When you think about it, mini-adventures like this basically make up the majority of The Lord of the Rings, and are also the setup for a large number of Conan stories. Or, you know, the Odyssey.

But in the end, this would only be one part of the whole campaign. In addition to that, the players also get the "conventional" larger main dungeons that are the destination of their journeys, as well as towns they are coming through. But I think such a campaign would also greatly benefit from the PCs forming connections with semi-regular NPCs. It is somewhat implausible that you would randomly walk into old friends and enemies in your travels all over the world, but I think in fantasy adventures you really wouldn't be bothered by that if the GM isn't overdoing it. But I think I would keep records of NPCs that the players had been dealing with, even if they had been random ones encountered in a randomized site. Whenever you need to put an NPC somewhere, think if maybe it would be neat to meet one of them in a new role.

Pelle
2019-01-30, 08:18 AM
I think it's a nice format for a campaign, and have tried to use it. My issues in practice is that once the players have set their goals to get to a destination, they don't want to stop for optional adventures on the way.

On elaborate random encounters, that's a bit pointless. Just put down those things in advance, and see what they happen to stumble upon. Or if you are just prepping one session in advance, there's no need to roll, you can just decide what is in the areas they are bound to pass through. Sure, if you need ideas, rolling can be a way to get inspiration. But if you base everything on random rolls, then the players decisions of where to go don't matter, since they have nothing to base informed choices on.

On recurring NPCs, that rarely makes sense when the party is traveling in one direction. Unless the NPCs are also travelling to the same destination, of course.

bc56
2019-02-06, 04:05 PM
Angry GM wrote a great article (https://theangrygm.com/breaking-the-jell-o-mold/) on sandbox adventures. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to check it out.

Mechalich
2019-02-06, 08:13 PM
My issues in practice is that once the players have set their goals to get to a destination, they don't want to stop for optional adventures on the way.

Yeah, this is a big problem, and it's coupled to the corollary issue that PCs presented with 'insurmountable' obstacles have a tendency to relentlessly slam their heads against the wall rather than try to go around.

It's worth noting that in many of the myths and legends where these sorts of stories unfold tend to involve relentless railroading of the characters. The Odyssey is of course blatant about this, but so is Journey to the West, the Voyages of Sinbad, and many more. Such railroading seems to go over better in nautical adventures, because while the players can ostensibly control which way they walk, they cannot command the wind.

If you want the players to be interested in undertaking sidequests and so forth along the way you also need to limit the urgency of the ultimate goal. It's a well-established fact of the hobby now that many players find the idea of randomly wandering about while you are ostensibly engaged in an urgent struggle to save the world (Skyrim is a noteworthy big offender here) to be kind of ridiculous. So the ultimate goal of the journey probably needs to be something fairly low-stakes like 'get back home.' Or you could make the PCs representatives of some distant hegemon and give them a mandate to investigate problems in the vast domain of their overlord while en route - the actual travels of Marco Polo were structured in this fashion.

Saintheart
2019-02-06, 08:40 PM
Angry GM wrote a great article (https://theangrygm.com/breaking-the-jell-o-mold/) on sandbox adventures. If you haven't seen it, I encourage you to check it out.

Further to this, and again from the Angry GM, his two (https://theangrygm.com/redesigning-random-encounters-1/)-part (https://theangrygm.com/redesigning-random-encounters-2/) article on redesigning how random encounters work, because it deals with the problem of repetitive random encounters AND the problem of making those random encounters interesting enough for the players to interact with. And it's advice written specifically for GMs. I thoroughly recommend these ones, especially for hexcrawl exploration like Kingmaker, which I'll get to below.

Dealing with this element of designing the adventure--


Now the intended fun of the campaign comes from players being given free reign to pick their destination, chose their path and means to get there, and also to change their plans as unexpected new things come up. Which is where I think you get the main differences in how you would have to prepare the sandbox as compared to a hexcrawl. Since the players will often be trying to travel in as straight a line and as fast as possible and might be changing directions on very short notice or at the spur of the moment, the GM needs prepared material that is very flexible and can easily be moved to any place in the world.

--I again strongly recommend the Angry GM's article on overland travel (https://theangrygm.com/getting-there-is-half-the-fun/), because it deals with these issues - albeit you might consider dialing back the number of potential random encounters. The real nugget at the centre of that article to take away from it, even if you don't take all, many, or any of his suggestions around navigation, foraging, and so on, is that the best way to handle travel is to give the players a choice. Take this path to your destination, and though it's slower, it'll have less dangers; take the other path to your destination and it'll be faster, but you'll encounter more hazards. Sometimes you use time-sensitive journeys for this purpose and sometimes you don't. Whichever way you choose, though, you're giving the key thing to the players, which is the notion that their decisions count: that they know going fast or slow alters the risks they have to undertake, and gives them the right to decide.


If you want the players to be interested in undertaking sidequests and so forth along the way you also need to limit the urgency of the ultimate goal. It's a well-established fact of the hobby now that many players find the idea of randomly wandering about while you are ostensibly engaged in an urgent struggle to save the world (Skyrim is a noteworthy big offender here) to be kind of ridiculous. So the ultimate goal of the journey probably needs to be something fairly low-stakes like 'get back home.' Or you could make the PCs representatives of some distant hegemon and give them a mandate to investigate problems in the vast domain of their overlord while en route - the actual travels of Marco Polo were structured in this fashion.

Pathfinder's Kingmaker AP -- at least the very first part, 'Stolen Lands' -- sets this up pretty nicely in my view, and the first part at least is well worth a look to see how they structure this sort of adventure. It's a hexcrawl exploration adventure, and it sets the party on the road to becoming literal kings of their domain by granting them a charter to explore the hexes, as well as wipe out bandits and other threats in the region that they run into. If they stick around in a hex and explore it properly, they'll get to add it to their kingdom - under Pathfinder's kingdom building rules you have to explore a hex before it can be claimed as part of your demesne. And they are also granted XP for exploring a hex, aside from anything else they discover or fight while they're in the hex.

There is a notional "end boss" to run to in the sense that if the party kills that boss, they'll be granted rights to establish their kingdom, but comparative levels in this instance pretty much guarantee they'll stay out of his way until they're strong enough - the module is aimed at players starting from level 1, with the end boss around level 4 or so and with a decent crop of allies. Because play at low levels is as swingy as it is at high levels, I believe this makes the players more cautious - or at least conscious of the fact they have to putz around in the wilderness for a while before their boots are big enough to wade through blood.

So, yeah. While the hexcrawling exploration can and probably will get a bit old over time (and Kingmaker's rules allow you to hire explorers to add hexes to your domains, which is a fantastic optional rule), Stolen Lands strikes me as pretty nicely balanced for a sandbox exploration adventure - it's well worth a look as a template in my view.

Thrudd
2019-02-06, 09:46 PM
I'm not clear about the distinction you're making between a normal sandbox type hex-crawl and what you want to do. Your description - "the players pick a destination (or at the start of the campaign are pointed to one) and run into various hopefully interesting obstacles on the way to get there and the way back home, in addition to a moderately sized dungeon crawl at the main destination of their journey." - pretty much describes every old D&D module and was how most campaigns work. Why do you think people just wandered around aimlessly to see what's there? They were told of a dungeon, or a tower or a lost city or some caves, and then went out to find it - and sometimes found other stuff on the way there.

ACKS has a supplement called "Lairs & Encounters" that is exactly what you're talking about, for helping you to come up with the "mini adventures".
among other things it has -"More than 165 ready-to-play monstrous lairsó one for every major monster in the Adventurer Conqueror King System. The lair listings are designed to be used both as dynamic points of interest that can be discovered while wandering through the wilderness and as obstacles to a would-be rulerís attempt to secure land for a domain."

The type of game you're thinking of is exactly old-school D&D style. Your only bone of contention seems to be that you want to emphasize being more descriptive with the random encounters and tying some narrative around them (like coming up with a reason for the 10 goblins to be wandering around). That's not a thing anybody was prevented from doing, it's a thing a good DM would do, it's just the game rules didn't really tell you how to do it -although many modules did give you that sort of thing - like telling you that the goblins in this area are enemies of the orcs, and they sometimes hire bugbears to help them, and they were sent out here as scouts to find out what the orcs are up to.

Basically, what you describe sounds like what I'd expect from, and how I'd run, any D&D or ACKS campaign. It takes preparation and organization, willingness to improvise and think on your feet, and rolling on many many tables (that's the most fun part, for me!).

jayem
2019-02-07, 02:52 AM
It's worth noting that in many of the myths and legends where these sorts of stories unfold tend to involve relentless railroading of the characters. The Odyssey is of course blatant about this, but so is Journey to the West, the Voyages of Sinbad, and many more. Such railroading seems to go over better in nautical adventures, because while the players can ostensibly control which way they walk, they cannot command the wind.

One of the mixed things with this situation is that it does allow Railroads, Sandbox and Randomness (with RR&SB having issues).
The situations are very rarely planned and they don't have the foreknowledge for the interesting parts (The Argonauts may be an exception?) which makes a sandbox a bit pointless.
On the other hand they can (try to) go in any direction which means they will hit the rails more often.
And if things are officially built 1001 nights style then has consequences

I'd be tempted to play to all these strengths. Have a rough shape for the 'Med' that has interesting differences between the areas and some mid term objectives that play among each other (giving a chance for sandboxes and allowing for rumour), and giving some informed choices. Using storms and schrodingers islands and the like to railroad the player into a few encounters. And play to the episodic nature and plan things island by island.

Pauly
2019-02-07, 07:06 AM
Sail is better than land for this type of adventure. As other have discussed the players just canít go exactly where they want, so the randomness can really be interesting.

Just make sure the characters donít know about tacking against the wind. For example if the wind is from the South, players can head E-NE-N-NW-W but canít head SE-S-SW. this can lead to them getting trapped against an unfriendly shore, unable to get out of harbor by sail, unable to sail directly at their objective.

Nature adds a lot of random events: becalmed; reefs; storms; wind changes; different seasons having different prevailing winds; local geography affecting winds; sea currents to name just a few. I would try and create a seasonal weather system so that the players can plan their journeys based on the expected weather.

Yora
2019-02-07, 09:32 AM
I think it's a nice format for a campaign, and have tried to use it. My issues in practice is that once the players have set their goals to get to a destination, they don't want to stop for optional adventures on the way.
I would expect that as well. Which is why I believe that most encounters along the road or out on sea should me mini-adventures at the most. Just a cave or crumbling tower with five or so rooms and one or two encounters. Something to take a peek at that can lead to a minor boon and then the party can be back on their way after maybe an hour or two.
But to make these more than just filler, I think ideally most such encounters should end with something having changed. New allies or enemies made, new retainers recruited, small magic items or other trophies, restocked supplies, maps with alternative paths found, new means of transportation gained.
To paraprase something else from the Book of Anger, "exploration is boring, discovery is fun". The players should return to their path with the feeling that they gained something from their detour that will help their journey in the long run.
Which is the main reason I am thinking more of random sites and situations instead of random encounters. A fight that gains the party just a few coins feels like padding, not like progress. To make it seem like they accomplished something, you need either NPCs or a meaningful reward.


It's worth noting that in many of the myths and legends where these sorts of stories unfold tend to involve relentless railroading of the characters. The Odyssey is of course blatant about this, but so is Journey to the West, the Voyages of Sinbad, and many more. Such railroading seems to go over better in nautical adventures, because while the players can ostensibly control which way they walk, they cannot command the wind.
To that I say outright no. It would be a railroad if you had "We don't want to go to Crete, let's just head straight home instead" and the GM says "Well, as you sail across the sea, you are blown off course by a storm and your ship gets stranded on crete."
When the players decide they want to sail home and along the way a randomly rolled storm causes trouble, the PC steering the ship fails a navigation roll, and the ship arrives at a random isle, it has nothing to do with railroading.


On elaborate random encounters, that's a bit pointless. Just put down those things in advance, and see what they happen to stumble upon.

I'm not clear about the distinction you're making between a normal sandbox type hex-crawl and what you want to do. Your description - "the players pick a destination (or at the start of the campaign are pointed to one) and run into various hopefully interesting obstacles on the way to get there and the way back home, in addition to a moderately sized dungeon crawl at the main destination of their journey." - pretty much describes every old D&D module and was how most campaigns work. Why do you think people just wandered around aimlessly to see what's there? They were told of a dungeon, or a tower or a lost city or some caves, and then went out to find it - and sometimes found other stuff on the way there.

It really isn't anything new or particularly original. The thing is that the only advice and suggestions I can find for open ended wilderness travel campaigns is directed specifically at hexcrawls. Doing something comparable without a prepared hex map doesn't seem to get discussed to any real extend.
The relevant difference that I see is indeed about the map. Putting down sites on a hex map may work reasonably well for a small valley or island, but making a 2000 x 1000 mile continent scale map in 6 miles hexes and filling them with meaningful content is just not doable.


The type of game you're thinking of is exactly old-school D&D style. Your only bone of contention seems to be that you want to emphasize being more descriptive with the random encounters and tying some narrative around them (like coming up with a reason for the 10 goblins to be wandering around). That's not a thing anybody was prevented from doing, it's a thing a good DM would do, it's just the game rules didn't really tell you how to do it -although many modules did give you that sort of thing - like telling you that the goblins in this area are enemies of the orcs, and they sometimes hire bugbears to help them, and they were sent out here as scouts to find out what the orcs are up to.
Indeed. Games don't tell you how to do it. Hence I am asking if anyone has suggestions how to do it.


ACKS has a supplement called "Lairs & Encounters" that is exactly what you're talking about, for helping you to come up with the "mini adventures".
among other things it has -"More than 165 ready-to-play monstrous lairsó one for every major monster in the Adventurer Conqueror King System. The lair listings are designed to be used both as dynamic points of interest that can be discovered while wandering through the wilderness and as obstacles to a would-be rulerís attempt to secure land for a domain."
That sounds like something very much worth looking into. ACKS even has a similar style to fantasy to what I want to do.

Kiero
2019-02-07, 09:43 AM
Sail is better than land for this type of adventure. As other have discussed the players just canít go exactly where they want, so the randomness can really be interesting.

Just make sure the characters donít know about tacking against the wind. For example if the wind is from the South, players can head E-NE-N-NW-W but canít head SE-S-SW. this can lead to them getting trapped against an unfriendly shore, unable to get out of harbor by sail, unable to sail directly at their objective.

Nature adds a lot of random events: becalmed; reefs; storms; wind changes; different seasons having different prevailing winds; local geography affecting winds; sea currents to name just a few. I would try and create a seasonal weather system so that the players can plan their journeys based on the expected weather.

Although you're assuming sail is the only motive power for a sea vessel; if the players have oared galleys, the wind may be nothing more than an inconvenience if they can break out the sweeps and go where they want to.

Not to say that having oarsmen doesn't bring challenges of its own, since you have to feed and water them, which may force them to hug the coast moving from night-time beach to night-time beach. Or risk a blue-water crossing with all the perils that could bring.

Thinker
2019-02-07, 10:06 AM
I think that this sort of game would benefit from a win condition to motivate the players. You can let them figure out why they're on their odyssey in the first session - privateers, refugees, veterans from a war returning home, explorers, etc. and then determine an appropriate win condition. For the privateers, they're in it for wealth, prestige, and/or their country's success. Give each character a tracker for each of these things. When a character gains 10 prestige, they gain a new title. The character 'wins' and retires if/when it reaches a level of Baron. Do similar for tracking wealth and country success. Then, you can frame each potential plot-hook as potentially giving a boost to wealth, prestige, or country success. Refugees might look for safety and free land. Veterans might just want to find home.

The idea is that the players get to help establish what it is that their characters want and then you dangle that in front of them. If they're successful, they are rewarded and their character comes closer to retirement.

Thrudd
2019-02-07, 11:36 AM
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The relevant difference that I see is indeed about the map. Putting down sites on a hex map may work reasonably well for a small valley or island, but making a 2000 x 1000 mile continent scale map in 6 miles hexes and filling them with meaningful content is just not doable.


Indeed. Games don't tell you how to do it. Hence I am asking if anyone has suggestions how to do it.


That sounds like something very much worth looking into. ACKS even has a similar style to fantasy to what I want to do.

I guess that's the misunderstanding- on the world-scale map, some hexes might have content, like a settlement or a dungeon, but most would just be a terrain type- forest, plains, mountain, etc. You have random wilderness encounter tables keyed to terrain type and climate or region. Even on the smaller scale maps, most hexes don't have content beyond terrain type- there are scattered lairs of prominent creatures, a settlement or two, a dungeon. Nobody prepared content for every single hex on a map- that's crazy. Most encounters are random encounters generated by tables, and not every hex will even have an encounter.

For giving description to the random encounters - that's just your imagination, it's hard to advise on that. You think about it for a second and make something up in the moment. Why are all these orcs wandering around? What's does this xorn want? Games rules don't tell you how because they can't, really. You need to know your setting and make up something that fits. A random table of monster and NPC personalities and motivations that you thought up beforehand might be a tool that can help you out in a pinch. The 1e AD&D DMG had tables for generating NPC personalities and behaviors that could be expanded on.

Tables are your friends, lots and lots of tables.

Saintheart
2019-02-07, 08:25 PM
Nature adds a lot of random events: becalmed; reefs; storms; wind changes; different seasons having different prevailing winds; local geography affecting winds; sea currents to name just a few. I would try and create a seasonal weather system so that the players can plan their journeys based on the expected weather.

Here's a quick and dirty way I'd do it:

(1) When setting out on a journey, make two Survival rolls: the first the players do openly, the second the GM does in secret.

The first roll is to see whether you predict the weather for the voyage correctly. Call it a DC 15 or whatever. If you do, it gives you a +2 or +4 bonus on your next Survival check - because while you can know what the weather's going to be, it doesn't determine whether you manage to steer correctly or not. The reason you let the players do this openly is because when someone says it's going to rain tomorrow, you find out the next day (as opposed to getting lost, where you often don't realise you're lost until something else happens that makes you figure it out.)

The second roll is to see whether the navigator gets lost, and this time the GM rolls a Survival check in secret at the end of each day of travel. The DC for this changes in simple steps:

Spring: DC 10
Summer: DC 15
Autumn: DC 20
Winter: DC 25

(2) As for actual weather events -- screaming storms, doldrums, or having to tack against the wind - the stuff that drains player resources to work around or overcome - these can be given their own random event table, with the frequency of events rising or falling depending on the seasons. Me, I'd actually simplify that, too: every X period of time the players are travelling on the water - every day, every 2 days, whatever, you give them a token. If they get to 3 tokens, roll a d6. If they're travelling in spring, if it's a 1, they get a random weather event. Summer, it's if they score 2 or under. In autumn, 3 or under. In winter, 4 or under.

Once the weather event is resolved, you take back your tokens and the process starts over again. The idea being to emphasise to the players that the longer they putz around on the open water, the more chance something bad's going to happen. This in turn affects how players plan their journeys: rather than make that Epic Crossing of Our Sea from Gibraltar to Cyprus in one hit, they might consider leapfrogging to Interesting Locales such as Sicily, Sardinia, Carthage. Which then directs you towards Ye Olde Random Areas And Encounters that you planned for Said Interesting Locale.

(3) And here's a twist: make it so the odds of a random combat encounter -- pirates, tritons, etc -- while out there on the water should actually work in reverse depending on the seasons, i.e. the odds of running into a pirate ship are lower during winter months because nobody's crazy enough to go out Jack Sparrow-ing in the coldest, most dangerous months of the year. Similar goes for sea creatures, mermaids aren't going to be sunning themselves on rocks during winter because there's no damn sun and wind is hell on red hair extensions.

See the beauty of it? It gives the players a tradeoff: plan your voyage during winter and the odds of a cataclysmic weather event rise, but the odds are a lot less that you'll be fighting anybody. Travel when the weather's nice, and you'll probably not get blown off course, but everybody else is thinking the same thing.

Pauly
2019-02-08, 01:37 AM
Although you're assuming sail is the only motive power for a sea vessel; if the players have oared galleys, the wind may be nothing more than an inconvenience if they can break out the sweeps and go where they want to.

Not to say that hav ing oarsmen doesn't bring challenges of its own, since you have to feed and water them, which may force them to hug the coast moving from night-time beach to night-time beach. Or risk a blue-water crossing with all the perils that could bring.

The problem with oarsmen is that players will want to kit them out as a band of soldiers to back them up. Also historically, with the exception of warships and fast messenger ships, rowing was usually only done for entering and exiting harbor. Even Viking longships predominantly sailed, and would only break out the oars when it was unavoidable. Because players donít feel the fatigue and get the blisters on their hands their characters will take to the oars at the drop of a hat.

So personally I wouldnít allow full crewed galleys available to the characters, except maybe sweeps for entering/exiting harbor, because that takes away from the odyssey. Remember that the Argos and Odysseusís ship could be rowed for short times, but most of the time they were at the mercy of the wind.

Kiero
2019-02-08, 04:11 AM
The problem with oarsmen is that players will want to kit them out as a band of soldiers to back them up.

Which historically, was often the case in antiquity. From the ancient Egyptians fighting the Sea Peoples (https://allthatsinteresting.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/sea-peoples.jpg), through the Greco-Persian Wars and up to the Hellenistic era, oarsmen could often become marines, especially in raiding actions against coastal settlements.

Keeping your oarsmen/marines alive and happy is an additional string to it. Dealing with surly crews adds another level to the game, as well as the logistics of feeding and watering them (and paying them!).


Also historically, with the exception of warships and fast messenger ships, rowing was usually only done for entering and exiting harbor. Even Viking longships predominantly sailed, and would only break out the oars when it was unavoidable. Because players donít feel the fatigue and get the blisters on their hands their characters will take to the oars at the drop of a hat.

Eh? In antiquity vessels relying solely or primarily on wind were a rarity, not the norm (the Athenian grain ships were sailors, and a notable exception). In the very Odyssey referenced in the title, the primary vessel was something like a pentekonter (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penteconter), which has a sail as the secondary means of power, oars are still the primary. The trieres/trireme (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trireme) was a workhorse of both trade and war, and relied primarily on oars. A Viking longship is nothing like the vessel used in the Mediterranean, or the Oddysey (they're not even built the same way).

They also didn't merely enter harbours and float moored to a dock, they had to be pulled up out of the water and onto a beach.


So personally I wouldnít allow full crewed galleys available to the characters, except maybe sweeps for entering/exiting harbor, because that takes away from the odyssey. Remember that the Argos and Odysseusís ship could be rowed for short times, but most of the time they were at the mercy of the wind.

The Odyssey was all about Mediterranean oared galleys, same again the Argos. The issue with the wind was what it could do to current, and artistic license. Contrary wind is an inconvenience because it means you have to take your sail down/brail them up and rely solely on oars, which is hard work for your oarsmen. It was storms that were problematic in those stories.

Yora
2019-02-14, 11:22 AM
I guess that's the misunderstanding- on the world-scale map, some hexes might have content, like a settlement or a dungeon, but most would just be a terrain type- forest, plains, mountain, etc. You have random wilderness encounter tables keyed to terrain type and climate or region. Even on the smaller scale maps, most hexes don't have content beyond terrain type- there are scattered lairs of prominent creatures, a settlement or two, a dungeon. Nobody prepared content for every single hex on a map- that's crazy. Most encounters are random encounters generated by tables, and not every hex will even have an encounter.

For giving description to the random encounters - that's just your imagination, it's hard to advise on that. You think about it for a second and make something up in the moment. Why are all these orcs wandering around? What's does this xorn want? Games rules don't tell you how because they can't, really. You need to know your setting and make up something that fits. A random table of monster and NPC personalities and motivations that you thought up beforehand might be a tool that can help you out in a pinch. The 1e AD&D DMG had tables for generating NPC personalities and behaviors that could be expanded on.

Tables are your friends, lots and lots of tables.

I've been thinking about this some more over the last week.

I think the main difficulty I have with hex maps is about the scale at which I expect my campaign to take place. The setting that I have is 2,000 miles across and the intention is that each "adventure" can take place in widely different climates and environments on this "world map". While this map is enormous, I think about having maybe 10 to 20 major points of interest that exist as notes about what they are like and who lives there, and only get mapped and populated if the players show any inclination to go there in the forseeable future.
I think a 30 mile hex map could do a good job to determine the lengths of journeys, the amount of random encounter checks along the journeys, and the environment in which those encounters will take place.
But what won't work with such a very low density of sites is to say "Let's head into the wilderness and see what we run into". Randomly running into one of these sites would be extremely unlikely to happen.
I think on such a map, you really can only find anything when you already know its coordinates.

What could perhaps be a fun idea is to take each of these 30 mile hexes that have a major site and create for them a 19 hexes, 6-mile-hex map that includes both the main site and various secondary sites in the surroundings.
That would divide the adventure in three phases: Main journey, final approach, and main destination. Which might be quite beneficial from a narrative perspective. Players will likely be much more interested in encounters that happen close to their destination and are thematically similar to it than they will be in obstacles that happen weeks beforehand.

You could also prepare mini-hexcrawls that don't have fixed coordinates on the world map. Like a strange tropical island or a spooky swamp. The players would not randomly stumble into them, but you put them deliberately into their path and give them simple instructions. "A resupply party has not returned to the ship and the crew does not want to leave without searching for them" or "the planned route leads you to the edge of a big swamp and going around would prolong the journey possibly by weeks". The players would still have the options to argue with the crew that they have to break up the search or to decide to go around the swamp and not interact with the offered mini-hexcrawl meaningfully. But I think in practice most players would be quite willing and eager to look into it, at least for a while. They have the option to quite out from it at any time and move on or track back.

These could also be randomized. Since I would make them pretty small, I could prepare three or four in advance and make a "random area check" for every week of travel.