Session 7: Let the Hexcrawl begin!

My firstborn arrived last week. I now hope to raise a girl who loves games! Time will tell if she will play role-playing games like her dad. Her arrival means a temporary suspension on my bi-weekly game, but my brain – despite being sleep deprived – is still overflowing with ideas for my campaign world. The challenge will be getting the time to write them down. Part of my current inspiration comes from watching a great blind Let’s Play of Dark Souls by the gamer Kay Watch Kay plays Dark Souls while I cook baby bottles and the like. I enjoy her focus on the lore, which I didn’t dive as deeply into when I played it, and it stokes my brain.

The Session:

The session started after the group defeated the undead that attacked them in the

isle of dread DM map
My own first hex crawl experience was on the infamous Isle of Dread with my first ever RPG character, the thief Falvin. Unfortunately, we only had one session on the island…

previous session. We spoke out of character about how each character probably experienced the last encounter, and consequently what they might suspect the wizard to be carrying in his backpack, which the undead sorcerers were clearly interested in (I chose this approach to avoid differing perceptions among the players creating disruptive conflicts in game. Conflicts between characters can be great, but they can be difficult to handle if players aren’t reasonably aligned on what is happening in the game, in my experience).

After some in-game discussions of the events, no big conflict erupted, as the gnome rogue was concealing the item the undead were after, but Jarn suspects that the wizard Welk has demon-summoning spells in his grimoire, or the like. The group was smaller than normal, and they decided not to investigate where the undead came from (to my surprise).

They continued back to the settlement, forded a rapid flowing small river and encountered a glade with a huge butterfly swarm. Jarn, who scouted ahead, felt tired when they landed on him (exhaustion level), but nothing happened. The druid investigated, and found a sleeping doe in the glade, but nothing inside the glade was dead.

After several days they finally reached the settlement, and were greeted as heroes. The new arrivals had settled a bit, with the tavern being open under a large piece of sail cloth. They reported back to the governor, and staked out a site for their home (more on that in a future post). They also got a scroll that could heal the wizard’s burnt lungs and remove his exhaustion level.

After some deliberation, they decided to go back north to find the lost bodyguard, who’s trail they were on. They skirted the massive ruined city nearby, and could see that it had been under siege long ago, and that walls and a tower were breached, but that one breach was sealed by a massive wall of fire.

A few miles from the city, they found a small ruin with a hidden staircase to a cellar (random adventuring site). In the cellar there were three rooms, one was empty, another they had to hack their way into as it was blocked by giant mushrooms, and a giant constrictor was lurking inside, and the third they had to dig free. The third room turned out to be a wizard’s laboratory, and a strange stitched creature was huddling in a corner. It was indeed a flesh golem, but the four characters managed to defeat it without too much trouble, and they discovered 2 magic items and some potions and loot.

 

IMG_1232
A major part of the map, with a small area filled out in advance for the players.

Hexcrawling:

 

When the group returned to the settlement I brought out my largest handout to date: a copy of the map I have done using Hexographer (http://www.hexographer.com/), but with more than 99% blank. The map contains 22500 numbered hexes, and I have no ambition that this campaign should reveal even a significant proportion of them. I hope that by providing the blank map, it will inspire them to go and explore, have fun annotating the map, and that it will provide a sense of accomplishment, when they reach new land marks and fill out hexes.

As my players read this blog, I unfortunately can’t share the original…

One thing is pulling in a different direction though. The huge ruined city I placed close to the settlement has a magnetic effect on the players, and I think it will consume many sessions going forward. A lot of my current thoughts are going into how I will run that ruin, and what is contained within. Currently, I’m working with an approach like the Parlainth box set from my beloved Earthdawn game (A Black Gate post on Earthdawn), where each section of the city has certain characteristics, but aren’t mapped in detail (unlike e.g. the Ruins of Myth Drannor box set from AD&D). I think I will add – if I can find the time – random encounters to each section and a few significant land marks. And improve my winging ability…

 

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