Monday, August 12, 2013

Cracking the Wall on Hex Generation

I have no way to express how happy I am about today's topic.

No, it isn't meeting Colm Meaney (which I did yesterday), though I did geek out about that afterwards, for awhile. Turned out we were sitting in front of him at the premiere for One Hit Die, which is appearing online today. The audience laughed, the production was first rate and there was quite a showing ... as the gentle reader can probably guess. And it's always nice to see my name in the credits as "Game Consultant."

Sorry, I have no pictures of me and Colm; I can't imagine anything ruder than demanding a celebrity to be used as a prop ... unless it's acting like a complete tit and trying to steal all the attention you can get while they're in arm's reach. I told him I respected him - which I do, he's a hero - and he was pleasant enough to shake hands with me and Tamara, despite being with his wife and daughter. Was a nice little boost.

What I am really buzzed about ... and a buzz that's going to go on for some time ... is the adaptations I've made to the Hex Generator, which the reader can find on the wiki. The changes are to the Type VI, VII and VIII worksheets. Changes that over the next year are going to rework my world with a sledgehammer.

Of course, none of it means a thing if the reader never did understand what I meant by hex groups or hex generation, which I wrote upon extensively in March and April, and which hit a wall at that time.

Well, I cracked that wall. I am through the looking glass. I am roaming over vistas wide and green, and there's nothing in sight but endless horizon.

If you dare, come along.

What's really needed is another lengthy video demonstration ... but to be honest, I don't know how many people are willing to sit through those without knowing in fact what's going to be discussed. So what I'll try is an overview first. Then, given some time, I'll produce the video that supports it.

The first step came with the development of pure wilderness. The question was, how does one decide what is in the wilderness, how is it populated and how is that population distributed? Are they humanoids or monsters, and how many of either?

The premise that unlocked the key was considering first that any true wilderness had to be lacking in any sort of development. If there were creatures there, they were living of the natural food supply, with virtually no augmentation of that food supply. They might have crude boats, they might be herding some animals on natural meadows, but they weren't chopping down trees to make larger meadows or farms, and they weren't building an infrastructure. Remember, we're talking wilderness, not an alternate humanoid society that is dominant in that particular land. If there was any infrastructure, than the nearby legitimate authority would sniff it out and destroy it.

But bands or a few clans of humanoids regularly fishing a obscure pond, or hunting around a watering hole, or raising small animals on scattered meadows, or living underground on what food supply they could muster, THAT was acceptable ... so to begin placing things in hexes, I proposed placing what counted as a food supply.

A pond produces fish; a coastline too, but in fact less conveniently if you're limited to fishing on the shore; there could be a berry patch, or wild orchards with seasonal fruits, nuts or natural honey; there's good country for hunting; and natural choke points or watering holes provide better hunting still - and if there's a natural spring, all the better. Finally, there are those scattered meadows I keep mentioning.

But I realized I needed one other kind of food supply - one that doesn't exist in the real world and one that is never addressed in most D&D gaming. A food supply underground.

Suppose we imagine a sort of natural cave, with a soil upon which a vine can be tended, a vine that is pulpy and nutrient and which can support a lot of orcs or goblins. Suppose this isn't just any cave, that it requires a certain kind of soil, but that these caves exist far more commonly and in places which the real Earth wouldn't possess. I needed a name for this kind of cave, and settled on "mew." Now, mews are stables grouped around an open yard, a word that developed in the 16th century; an earlier word, from the French meu, meant a cage, commonly for hawks. I conceive that we have a sort of cave that is carefully tended to trap bats, in order to have them produce guano for the meuslin, or starchy vine upon which an underground community can thrive.

Thus, I have a number of different food sources that exist, and depending on the amount of food I have a chance either that a group of seven hexes is populated by humanoids (who have removed all the monsters except vermin), or monsters (who have not effectively cleared out).

What I've done is build a seperate chance for each type of food supply and for the amount of food that supply produces, then insert a calculation to see if humanoids are there. If they are, no monsters beyond those that are greater than 4 intelligence. If no humanoids, then some other monster with higher intelligence might be present.

Now, I haven't gotten to monsters yet. They're tricky. Not all monsters require a food supply. For the moment, that's on a shelf. I know when to insert one, should the party move into an area where monsters are indicated, and in the meanwhile I have a good basis for where they'd encounter humanoids.

More to the point, IF a party wandered off into a wilderness, they wouldn't just find monsters or humanoids circled around a pond or by a nice hunting ground ... they would ALSO find the food supply itself, a place in my world they could exploit themselves, by wiping out the present inhabitants and then beginning to install modifications, while having a food supply that is already measured by the random creation system. There would be a difference, then, in just setting up anywhere, and setting up specifically in and among the very best food supply available ... which wouldn't be evident until hex crawling the area.

Does the reader see? It's the Scout motif from Civ IV. You're literally taking your character out in the woods to kill, grab treasure, and then gain real information that could be valuable to the party or valuable to someone else, which in turn could translate into local prestige and notariety and respect. ALL FROM A RANDOM CREATED SYSTEM.

That, then, is what I did with Type VIII. Type VII is even more interesting. I'll write about that tomorrow.


Ozzie Pippenger said...

Hm, interesting system. Does it assume though that all aboveground humanoids, including actual humans, always rely on the same food sources? It's not an unreasonable assumption, but I think it would lead to some interesting situations if different species had different dietary needs, or if the primary food of one was poison to another. Players, for example, could pull up every bush they found of a particular species, because while the leaves give humans a rash, they are the main food source of the local orcs. Cultivating the land to make it less useful to monsters and more useful to humans could be a good goal for a party trying to settle an area of wilderness.

Sorry if you don't like the idea or if I'm completely misunderstanding your system. I admit this hex generation stuff goes over my head sometimes, but I thought I'd chip in my two cents.

Alexis Smolensk said...

I think you're understanding it just fine. I hadn't considered the possibility, but I could insert it in.

At the moment, I presuming that the 'wild' humanoids only occupy land that isn't in any way occupied by civilized races. These wild humanoids aren't organized ... I have orc and other humanoid kingdoms in my world, and in those kingdoms the 'wild' humanoids might very well be humans and elves. So we're really talking about back end groups living on the fringes of an established civilization ... in the cracks, as it were.

If there were food supplies that would work for orcs and not humans (for example), they would fit under the "berry patch" heading - virtually anything could be inserted there. It could never be a large food supply for wild humanoids, because basically you never want there to be too many of them ... and the larger the food supply, the more of them there are. If there were huge amounts, though, why haven't the local lords simply gone in and wiped the nest out?

I think the largest group I've generated was four clans of one group of humanoids ... there are typically 2-4 bands per clan, and 2-4 families per clan, and finally 5-15 creatures per clan (of which about a third would be tough males, a third would be very slightly weaker females - or reversed if you like - and a third largely harmless spawn). So four clans would be about 360 combat effectives ... that is almost as large as I'd want any group to be (though a dungeon presence result could of course be much more than that).

Lukas said...

So you have food now, what about hammers and gold?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Sorry for the delay in my reply, Lukas.

You'll take note that the copper which the peasants were supposed to pay on Koufonisia (the online campaign, for those who aren't following) is derived from the 'coins' of Civ IV, which I described in the NTME posts, particularly this one which was an answer to your question.

The hammers is derived from the total population - we can estimate that 1 family can provide (spare) 1 participant, so ten families altogether can provide the equivalent of 1 hammer (1 family = 1 food, 1/10th family x10 = 1 hammer).

That 'hammer' or labor supply can then be applied to the creation of whatever you want. Even the materials you need can be assumed without extra cost, because IF the wood is there, or whatever the supply, the hammers angle can be assumed to be fabricating every reasonable sort of product (timber logs, stone blocks, etc.) as part of the building. Therefore, no EXTRA costs for stone or wood or whatever else you need.

HOWEVER, more sophisticated structures would require a more sophisticated population ... you can't build a library with peasants. However, I'll point out that more sophisticated hexes exist, so that if you controlled a city producing a library at the cost of only your hammers (no additional material price) would be entirely possible.

Hard to imagine that for D&D, but it really is logical. A city could produce not just the stone architecture and metal bracketing for your structure, but the carpets, the tapestries and sculpture, the books themselves and so on. Best to think of 'hammers' as a kind of coin you can spend ... always remembering that if you're spending them on a library, you're NOT spending them on something like maintenance or creating an army. Right?

Lukas said...

Thank you Alexis.

I think it's important for the players to recognize the full chain of events. (Though you might have explained it before I think.)

I wouldn't be surprised if someone was asking, "What do I get out of it by having lots of people in my town?" And here we have what you can do and what you get.

Now, do you have any plans for bonuses to hammers or gold in hexes?

Alexis Smolensk said...

Coin is a stand-in for hammers, as it can effectively draw on the labor pool of other areas, 'moved' to the desired location for brief periods ... but like Civ IV, replacing hammers with coin has to be an expensive proposition (the cost incurred from seeking it out, supplying food for non-residents, paying off bribes to keep the locals from becoming discontent, costs for crime, costs for errors made by less committed workers, etc.)

Additional hammers and coins can also derive from sources other than simple labor. Remember as hexes become more developed, there's sawmills, mines, forges and so on ... and all these things mean that a local are can produce much more of hammers and coin ... not to mention the other interesting aspects, 'unhappiness' (crime) and 'ill-health' ... both angles I want to discuss in a Wednesday post.