Friday, October 10, 2008

Food For Thought

Some thoughts on encounters, organized a bit. These are by no means all-inclusive (how could anything be?). But its a start. I've applied some of these to my basic maps before (examples of which I've posted).

Four types of encounters:

Fabricated encounters include all engineered features which have been built by intelligent hands: bridges, dams, single houses, population centers, plowed fields and so on. Fabricated encounters generally include a cultural component.

Fixed environmental encounters include all natural features which are permanent in nature: rivers, cliff faces, glaciers, chasms, deserts, quicksand, muskeg, lakes and so on.

Unfixed environmental encounters include all those natural conditions which are constantly changing, such as weather, flooding, astronomical events, seismic events and so on.

Biological encounters include meetings with zoological or botanical species, singly or in groups, where divorced from their fabricated surroundings, including the contraction of diseases.

A great many hexes have a pre-determined fabricated component and all hexes have a pre-determined fixed environmental component. Pre-determined fabricated components include villages, towns, cities, croplands and paved roads. Pre-determined environmental components include elevation, drainage, hydrography and vegetation. Both must be treated selectively according to type, to determine the likelihood and nature of biological encounters or unfixed environmental encounters.

Predetermined Hex Types

Human or Demi-human Population: city, town, village, authority centers, scattered, wilderness.
Infrastructure: road, crossroads, bridge, navigable watercourse, pass.
Topographical Variation: plain, hills, highlands, mountains, valley, depression.
Drainage: creeks, streams, rivers, wadis, deltas, braided channel, marshes.
Hydrography: seashore, lakeshore, seasonal lakeshore
Vegetation: grasslands, deciduous forest, tundra, evergreen forest, rainforest, jungle, arid semi-desert, high mountains, barren rock, snowfields, boglands and swamps

Human Population

Cities, towns and villages (CTV) are marked on the map and include statistics for their population. Hexes adjacent to a CTV have a 64% chance of being occupied by d4 authority centers (AC) (commonly thought of as “hamlets” in medieval European terms). This chance is reduced by half for each further hex…for each change in elevation of 400 feet (round down), consider the hex to be one further distant. Reduce the maximum number of AC by 1 for every two distance. For example, a specific hex is 2 hexes from the town of Newar and at an elevation 850 feet higher (a lower elevation would be judged the same); the total distance from Newar would be judged to be four…thus the chance for 1-2 AC would be 8%.

Each AC includes a permanent structure commensurate with that culture (manor house, long house, cliff dwelling, etc.), usually larger and more defensible the greater its isolation. It is presumed that a successful habitation at a greater distance exists due to its profound religious or fiscal success. An AC typically has a population of 60-180 serfs and 20-50 elite, including servants, guards, professional artisans, clergy and master. Children younger than fifteen will equal an additional 17% of the number rolled.

All otherwise unoccupied hexes adjacent to a CTV or an AC are considered to have scattered populations, consisting of hunters, woodsmen, herdsmen, prospectors, cotters, criminal elements, druids and so on.

All other hexes are considered wilderness. Wilderness hexes may be inhabited by non-human/ demi-human ACs or ungrouped monsters.


The presence of a paved road doubles the likelihood that an AC will be present. A crossroads, where two roads meet in a hex where there is no CTV, triples the likelihood than an AC will be present and gives a further modifier of +1 to the number of ACs rolled (if indicated). It is 50% likely that one AC will be a provisional military outpost (MO), whose business it will be to examine carried goods, assess tariffs and credentials, charge tolls and impound contriband materials.

Bridges include only those structures which cross large watercourses. Treat bridges as crossroads when determining the presence and number of ACs. Bridges will include small docking facilities for riverboats, except where topography makes this impractical.

Navigable watercourses are sorted according to the depth of keel they allow. A 2-point stream will allow various rowboats, barges, skiffs or flat-bottomed sailing boats. A 3-point stream will allow ketches and other keeled vessels not large enough for seagoing travel. A 4-point river will allow snaikas or small galleys (single-tiered). Larger rivers will allow the passage of cogs, full galleys, deep-bottomed Veneti and so on, depending on the exact specifics of the river. (for additional information see “drainage”)

Passes are considered only wherever they are traversed by a paved road; they are defined by the presence of two adjacent hexes on either side of the road having a minimum elevation of 1,000 ft. above the road hex. ACs indicated on a pass are always MOs.

Topographical Variation

In each of the following cases, consider that a hex is 20 miles in diameter. The designated topographies are:

Plain: indicated when a hex is surrounded by three or more adjacent hexes with elevations deviating no more than 400 ft. from that hex’s benchmark. Thus, a hex with an elevation of 750 ft., surrounded by six hexes with elevations of 600, 850, 900, 950, 1200 and 1400 ft. would be considered to be on a plain.
Hills: indicated whenever a hex is surrounded by three or more hexes with elevations deviating 400 ft. either above or below that hex’s benchmark.
Highlands: indicated whenever a hex is surrounded by three or more hexes with elevations deviating 800 ft. below that hex’s benchmark.
Mountains: indicated whenever a hex is surrounded by three or more hexes with elevations deviating 1,200 ft. above or below that hex’s benchmark.
Valley: indicated whenever a hex is surrounded by 4 or 5 hexes having elevations greater than 200 ft. above that hex’s benchmark.
Depression: indicated whenever all a hex is surrounded on all sides by hexes with a greater elevation.
Rolling: a hex is said to have a rolling topography where none of the above are indicated.

Note that some hexes can potentially have more than one designated topography. A hex can be a mountain valley or a mountain highland; or a hill valley; or a plains depression or a mountain depression.


Watercourse sizes are determined by the total area of land which they drain:

Creeks (1 point) are typically from 1-3 yards in width and a maximum depth of 5 feet.
Streams (2 points) range from 4-15 yards in width with depths of 5-9 feet.
Small rivers (3 points) range from 12-30 yards in width with depths of 8-14 feet.
Medium rivers (4-5 points) range from 24-95 yards in width with depths of 10-23 feet.
Large rivers (6-7 points) range from 76-265 yards in width with depths of 15-32 feet.
Great rivers (8+ points) are a minumum of 212 yards in width with minimum depths of 20 feet.

Seasonal watercourses are called wadis, and correspond to the above dimensions when source rainfall occurs.

Wherever a watercourse drops more than 400 feet between hexes, it is unnavigable to all except small boats (less than 20 ft. in length), unless evidence indicates otherwise (remember, I’m using Earth as a reference). Such a course is presumed to include at least one set of rapids; ascending such a course requires “bushwhacking,” the process of pulling the boat along by ropes from the shore. Watercourses which drop more than 600 feet between hexes are assumed to be unnavigable to all watercraft (again, unless there is evidence to the contrary). This holds true regardless of the watercourse’s size.

River deltas are large, flat areas where watercourses break up into multiple channels. Depending on their latitude, they may be choked by ice or vegetation, though the size of the watercourse suggests that it may be navigable. Braided channels are similar in that the watercourse separates into multiple channels within the confines of its valley before reforming.

Marshes are submerged areas which are the result of drainage, and are considered separate from bogs or swamps for the purpose of this system. Marshes most often occur at the mouths of watercourses, but may sometimes occur where the elevation change causes the channel to inundate a wide area.


Seacoasts and lakeshores increase the likelihood that an AC will be present by 50% (a hex adjacent to a CTV and on the shore of a lake has a 96% chance of having 1-4 ACs). They are further defined by the elevation of the seacoast or lakeshore hex:

Hexes less than 12 feet above water level would be heavily subject to tides…for special places, tidal effects could be higher than 12 feet.
Hexes less than 100 feet above water level will have good harbours and water access, and depending upon the specific region in question will have stony, gravel or fine sand beaches.
Hexes that are 100-500 feet above water level will have moderate access to the sea, generally through wide clefts in cliff escarpments or rock pillars. Poor harbours will be the rule, while beaches will be stony.
Hexes of 500+ feet above water level will have very difficult access to the sea, limited to narrow crevasses through high rock cliffs or broken rock terrain (such as parts of the Greek coast). No harbour will be available unless indicated by the presence of a CTV.

Lake elevation is accepted as the lowest elevation lakeshore hex. For lakes occupying only one hex, assume that the lake and the hex are the same elevation.

Seasonal lakes are found in arid regions. They are often alkali in addition to being highly salty in nature. As such areas alternately flood or remain sterile for large periods, divide the likelihood of an AC being present by three. Thus, a hex adjacent to a CTV and containing a seasonal lake would have a 21% chance of including 1-4 ACs (the presence of one AC would indicate that the lake boundaries were stable and, while seasonal, non-alkali and suitable for irrigation).


There are three levels of vegetation: those which are habitable and are largely arable (type 1), those which are habitable and largely non-arable (type 2), and those areas which are inhabitable and entirely lacking in arable land (type 3).

Type 1 lands include grasslands and deciduous forest, such as the Europe Plain, the Russian Steppe, the Ganges Plain, eastern and southern China, the South African Veld, the African Savanna and so on. In many of these areas, the original forest has been cut down to make space for cropland.

Type 2 lands include tundra, evergreen forest (coniferous), rainforest, jungle and arid semi-desert, such as appears in Saharan Africa, Arabia, Turkestan, the Congo, Southern India, the East Indies, the Amazon, Siberia, the Arctic Circle and so on. While some areas of this type, particularly those which have been inhabited for more than 4000 years, have been oversettled, most type 2 lands have not. Because such areas tend to be “metropolitan” and highly urbanized, reduce the chance that surrounding hexes will include ACs by half.

Type 3 lands include high mountains, barren rock, snowfields, desert ergs, boglands and swamps (coastal mangrove growth or mud flats subject to tides). Type 3 lands will not include human or demi-human habitation of any kind.

No comments: