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Dev Log: Operation Hex Crawl

Things that are,

things that were,

and some things that may never be.

The Fiction

So the goal is to make a hex crawl game for 5E, right? In this I’m creating two things: a way to play and an adventure to use these rules in. The initial idea was simply just a card deck where each card was a new hex location, which would be a non-linear, location based adventure where I could count on nothing happening sequentially. The rest of the rules started coming in when I realized I needed to give players mechanics for interacting with these cards and how to hex crawl in general. This blog post deals with the fiction of the adventure. 

First, let’s start with one of the biggest premises of Hex Crawling as I’m running it- the players are there to explore. They don’t know what’s around the bend and finding that out is part of the excitement. The fiction of this game has to support and be centered around this core concept. I also wanted to stick with the idea that civilization is generally safe while the wilds are generally not. If I have people starting in this safe town, it brings up two questions: why do they want to leave and explore, and why haven’t they (or anyone else) done it yet?

Being as this is a fantasy game, I opted for the easy way out: magic. 

Seriously, though. 

I started putting together the city in my mind. It’s working title right now is Godsmark. It has been sealed off from the rest of the world for one thousand and one years by magic as a means to protect it. This means life went on as normal in Godsmark, but who knows what happened outside of it? Yes, I absolutely think this has been influenced by this quarantine. Six months or so isn’t that different than 1001 years, right?

Why was the city closed off? I started with this question to inform my fiction, which in turn will feed into my mechanics. So before the city was closed off, the mad God Grund went… well, mad. He spread chaos throughout the land, warping it and changing its inhabitants. Refugees fled to Godsmark where the great Wizard, Ravenschild, cast the spell to shield it from the outside world. No one in, no one out. 

This gives us a big uncertain situation. What the hell did Grund do out there while everyone was stuck inside? Any information from the before times can’t be trusted anymore, right? While the people of Godsmark were confined to the city, the world changed drastically around them in ways they couldn’t’ expect. As the game takes place right after the magical protection ends, people are going to be excited to see what’s out there, and perhaps a little scared. 

Somewhere along the way, I had an idea relating to the whole aspect of “civilization=safe/ wilds=danger”. Godsmark is going to be this safe place amidst a sea of traps, encounters, nature, dungeons, and other bad things. I won’t lie; I definitely thought a little bit about Sigil in this moment. What if Godsmark used to be the city of a god of travel? They left long ago, leaving the city behind because traveller’s gonna travel, right? Their legacy is the city’s many portals.

The problem is that no one knows how they work. They were sealed off just like everything else was and they seem to be a one way route leading into the city. Most people don’t even know where they are. Some may be obvious, others might be through the oven at the bakery or an innocuous looking archway. Now that the city is open again, so are the portals. The idea behind this was to make safety and portals a resource. Knowledge of these bad boys really is power. 

If the PCs find a portal out in the wilds that leads back to Godsmark, they have a new path they can use. Let’s say it’s like ten hexes away. Going with the idea that resting isn’t easy or safe  in the wilds and that supplies are incredibly necessary, knowing there is a portal that can lead you to safety can be a game changer. You no longer need enough food and water to travel to that far off hex and back again, you just need enough to get to the portal. In a game where encumbrance will be a focal point, that seems pretty important. 

The portals will need keys, of course. Maybe a magic word, perhaps an item worn as you pass through them. These keys will be worked into different hexes, meaning the pieces of these puzzles might be quite spread out. This is just another reason to go exploring. You know there is a portal but you haven’t found the key? By the logic of the game, it’s out there somewhere. 

This is how the fiction of Godsmark came to be. The mechanics and story needed a way to play together. Sure, there is a lot more to flesh out. I love world building, but I’m going to try and resist the urge to get into really small bits of minutia. Well, at least in the core game. I can’t promise I’m not going to blog about it. I will try and make sure whatever fiction I present has some mechanical effects. It is a game after all. 

What ideas did this spawn in you? What do you want Godsmark and it’s surrounding chaos lands to hold? I’m looking forward to exploring this all by writing, hopefully as much as you look forward to playing it. If you have ideas, hit me up. Someday, in a post Corona world, I look forward to leaving my own Godsmark and seeing what our new normals are. What a time to be alive, huh?

Digging in the Sand

Bones. So many bones. How many people have been buried here?

You find a rusty long sword and a small, golden vulture head worth 250 gp.

Red Sand

The sand here on the edge of the sacrificial ground is loose and looks recently churned.

Vulture Priest

The Vulture Priests are the enemy of knowledge and enlightenment. They seek to bring the eternal silence, the end of all things. Decay and obedience is their only god.

Armor Class 6 [13]
Hit Dice 1 (4hp)
Attacks 1 × Beak (1d4 or by weapon)
THAC0 19 [0]
Movement 120’ (40’)
Saving Throws D12 W13 P14 B15 S16 (1)
Morale 8 (11 when at their temple)
Alignment Lawful
XP 10 
Number Appearing 2d4 (1d6 × 10)
Treasure Type D
Immune to the Divine: The spells and powers of clerics and paladins have no effect on them.
Weapons: They frequently use wickedly curved daggers, which they use for sacrificial purposes.
Soul Clouders: There is a 10% chance that any Vulture Priest can use the sleep spell once per day. The targets are still awake, but they are beset by such a deep depression that it has the same effect as sleep. They may only watch what unfurls around them.