Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Online Party Gets a Shot in the Arm

This morning I woke up to find someone shouting at me to quit D&D if I hated it that much.  Ha.  You write one bit of satire . . .

Okay, while hating D&D, I decided I would squeeze out a little time from my book to produce this - took about 10 hours:

Updated June 9, 2014

Well.  I have a lot to say about this map.  Hold onto your socks.

Starting with what it is.  This is the head of the Sea of Azov in the eastern Ukraine, just up a bit and to the right of all that stuff you've been reading about the Crimea.  Whereas most of my maps have 20-mile hexes (you can find a version of this area in that scale among other political maps of the area right here), here the hexes are six miles across.  The map is only a third completed. The green line up the center indicates which part is done and which part I only have notes for.  The grey areas in the undone section show where there should be more hills.

The rough edges of the map are such because this map has been randomly generated from the information provided by the 20-mile map.  Every hex has been determined by an excel random generator, which can be downloaded here.  The major rivers were determined from the larger map, and the minor 'creeks' were included from what on the previous map would look like 'empty' hexes.  The hills were hand-made, in three versions and then duplicated to get a nice feel for topography.  Some areas of the unfinished map have had the hills included, and if the reader looks close, they'll see that there is an unusual, rougher group of hills that stretch from Kamut in the top centre to Sulin on the middle right.  These are the Donets Hills, the area iof which is today one of the heaviest industrialized areas on earth (usually referred to as the 'Donetsk Basin' or 'Donbas'). The hills produce every kind of mineral one could want, as well as ridiculous amounts of coal and iron.  Russia lost this area when the Ukraine went independent.  Imagine losing the Ruhr Basin, or Silesia, or the American Rust Belt.  It's like that.

Prior to 1676, however, these were just hills.  In my world they are populated by a race of half-dwarves, half-orcs called 'Dworkin.'  Yes, that is an intentional slur for those who get it.

The numbers in the undone section are for reworking later on; the reader can see that in addition to numbers in the complete section, there are hammers, slices of bread (food) and coins, just as Civilization IV.  These were also drawn from me, from screenshots.  Why not steal.  For those not familiar, the loaf of bread shown in the heavily civilized area stands for five food.

Things get pretty busy at the top left, don't they?

The online party has been patiently waiting in the orange hex south of Rosk, two hexes up from the Sea of Azov, center of the map.  They are in this region to establish a mission.  They are very, very interested in this map right now.

The numbers for the hexes indicate the level of civilization/cultivation.  The lower the number, the more civilized it is.  A '7' is a mostly empty hex (as opposed to the completely empty hexes, that have no numbers).  The most developed hex on the map is a '2.'  The numbers, and to some degree the topography, determines how much food, hammers (labour) or coin the hex produces:

Empty hexes have no production.  Most of these are dry steppe, but the green hexes around the delta are marshlands (some cultivated, the dark hexes not).  In vegetation they would resemble short grass plains, where animals could be grazed, but not indefinitely, so that herds would have to be moved from hex to hex.

7:  These are dry steppe with a good water source, streams or groundwater that produces areas of good soil or richer grazing.  These areas produce 1 food.  If there are also hills in the hex, an additional hammer is added.  If on the coast, an additional coin.

6:  The orange indicates steppe mixed with patches of open woods, where the deciduous trees grow singly or in small patches.  The soil is better, some trees produce fruit and there's wood for burning. All six point areas have 2 food and 1 hammer.  If there is a large river, then add a coin (creeks do not add coins).  If there's a coast, add a coin.  If there's a town, add a coin.  Previous bonuses also apply, and that is a rule that goes forward as the number goes down.

5:  Like six, these are open woods and steppe, but there's more water and trees are more abundant. All 5 point areas have 3 food and 2 hammers.  If there's a town, add 1 hammer.

4:  These are areas of mixed open woods and cropland that have been irrigated or where there are abundant wells, where the soil is rich or where intensive herding is possible.  Luxury crops can be grown.  All 4 point areas have 4 food, 2 hammers and 1 coin.  If on the coast, then add 1 food from intensive fishing.

3:  These are areas more intensively cultivated for luxury goods, plantations or fibre crops for textiles. All 3 point areas produce 4 food, 2 hammers and 2 coin.  If on a large river, add 1 food for expanded irrigation.

2:  These areas are pure cropland.  The land is extraordinarily productive.  2 point areas produce 5 food, 2 hammers and 3 coin.

The towns that are shown on the map are not ALL the towns that exist here.  Shown towns are those that unusually affect the results.  Most hexes that are 5 or less have villages or sizable towns of one or two thousand - but that is not actually to be determined until producing the 2-mile hexes that are developed from this map, later on.

So, it is easy to quickly add the total amount of bread, hammers and coins, if a person wanted to assess the power and strength of the kingdom, say, or determine how many soldiers there ought to be, or how fast the region could gear for war.  I'm more interested in the various details that come to light.  That isolated 4 hex, for instance, about the center of the map.  Who dwells there?  Who's family built the land, who uses that base to control the scattered hammers in the hills to the south?  Is that not an adventure?

And what of that vast, empty area to the west.  There are open spaces 35 miles across.  Is there a copper dragon that nests in the hills?  Why does the river have no farms upon it?  The land must be rocky, broken, filled with carnivores or perhaps criminals, who plunder the isolated hamlets for their food and the efforts of their labour.

What of that little town on the shore of the Azov, a little peninsula poking into the sea, with its trade (one coin), 1/9th of all the coin (see this explanation) that is made in the area around Rosk.  Who controls that trade?  What is it?  Can it be grabbed?  Or expanded?

I look at the empty low hills everywhere, or the sections of empty hexes around the higher Donets Hills, and I see dungeons, monsters and opportunities.

I love the random generation that made this.  I love the ideas it puts in my head.  I love that a player can look at this and see immediately where they might go, and what small areas influence the overall picture just by being 'different.'  Look at this description of the lands on the map that I wrote 9 months ago, and tell me the random system didn't generate perfectly for my needs.

Sorry, no, I don't actually want to quit D&D.


JDJarvis said...

How could anyone think you would quit D&D when you have dedicated yourself to so many generations?

Kyle said...

Not to nitpick, but I think you have a small typo in your "2" area explanation. Should it not read "2 point areas" ?

I may have to go back and review your entire world creation procedures at some point in the future. I think it would be a good match for producing the lay of the land for the world that I randomly generated a while ago when I was bored, seen here

Alexis Smolensk said...

Yeah, typos happen. Thank you Kyle.

James C. said...

Very glad to see this, Alexis. I am busy with business travel this week but will enjoy looking thus over.