There and Back Again
So a lot of the hexes at the 2 mile per hex scale don’t have a detailed map at the third of a mile per hex scale. What do we do about that?
Except for when people are approaching Badun’s dungeon, you can quite easily play just at this scale. If there is something to encounter in a hex when players move into that hex you can assume they encounter it, or if it is off the beaten track you can roll a d12 and they encounter it on a 12 (exploration encounter).
There are three situations where you might expand the detail back down to 1/3 mile hexes.
- The players are specifically exploring through the location
- The players are having an encounter there and some local details may come in handy
- They may come across a “clue” that will lead them on a side trek in the area
In that case, whip out a blank hex sheet, mark the known higher scale elements in on their locations, quickly add d4 + 2 landmarks about the place, maybe some trails, and note details as they come to mind, and keep playing. Later come back and elaborate a bit, and back fill some more detail. Always allow the larger scale to be the context that dictates what makes sense at the smaller scale.
Because you may back fill later, you can easily get away with not using a hex map blank at all, just a quick scribble on a blank sheet will do. Here is such a sketch for the area around the hag’s house.
In this area you might even sketch down at “dungeon” scale of 5 to 10 feet per square for the area around the hags house, the giant wolf spiders area and whatever else seems neat. As you play you will discover you can do such things quite quickly, producing detail only as needed.
The dirty secret? This works inside mega-dungeons as well! Create an abstract map covering the dungeons extent, with 4 to 6 “areas” marked out, covering about 300′ radius each. Those areas are themed such as “temple region”, “Drow Lairs”, “Water Caves”. Mark major connections between areas. Drop some encounter tables for each area that use a D6 for wandering monsters and start playing. Again create clues that lead into areas and give an idea of what can be found there. Evolve politics between the inhabitants of different areas. As with a wilderness area add 3 to 6 encounters and design the dungeon space about them in a somewhat abstract way. Get more concrete as needed.
What about traps? These can exist both in the dungeon and out. The kobolds in the wild? Their territory is surrounded by pit traps, net traps, constrained goo and oozes that get released when a trip wire is hit and so on. The bugbears set up falling logs that trigger when players step on a particular spot on a path. The hag has little silver bells laid out on spider web threads that chime as people brush by. Dark, shaded groves have violet fungus and shriekers in them. Mark these in at any scale and decide if that is encountered by the players as they move through.
Handling scale changes is a question of how the players are interacting with their surrounding. If they are following a known path – go high scale. If they are stepping off into unknown territory with no path or visible destination, go low scale.
So at this point you have a mechanism for building a 2 mile per hex map with lots of adventure in it, and various of those maps detailed down to a 1/3 of a mile hexes. Hopefully you may have played about 5 sessions in this area without any need for play to go beyond it. After that its probably a good time to go and have a read about Sector Crawls.