Friday 20 July 2018

The Hexcrawl of Hexcrawls: an Epic (for Trojan Points)

Back in March, Trojan Points set me a challenge in the comments to this post: to put all the good encounters from several different Pathfinder adventure paths onto a single, nation-sized hexmap. 'Can you distil 4000 pages to 20 something?', he asked. I replied:
I've just opened up Hexographer and played around with combining all my hexcrawls into a single map, and then adding the necessary geography for my three non-hexcrawl condensations, and it *almost* works. All it's missing is some kind of big central power in the middle of the map, to be the nation which is currently occupying Westcrown, notionally in charge of the Sundered Kingdoms, able to task the PCs with clearing the forests in Kingmaker, and so on. (Neither Magnimar nor Korvosa really fits the bill.) Condensing one more AP should do the trick.
Last month I wrote a condensation of Iron Gods, and after a bit of reflection I concluded that the Technic League made as good a 'central power' as any other. So I plugged the geography from Iron Gods into my map from March, copy-pasted all the text from my condensations and hexcrawls into a single document, rekeyed them to the new, combined map, and modified them to remove all the implicit and explicit time limits, in order to make them friendlier to hexcrawl-style play. I can't claim to have distilled 4000 pages into 20, but I did get 3500 pages and a 70-hour computer game into 47.

It's a very rough and ready job. The Great Machine material has been rescaled from 10-mile hexes to 6-mile hexes, meaning that everything is improbably tiny and close together. The areas that were written as hexcrawls (the south-western, north-eastern, and south-eastern corners of the map) have things going on in almost every hex, whereas the other areas have large blank spaces. The areas that weren't written as hexcrawls usually have enormously greater amounts of stuff going on in each location: the worst offender is the city of Westcrown, which has an entire adventure path's worth of content crammed into a single hex. If I was doing this from the ground up I'd have extensively rewritten all the material to sprawl more, so as to cover the territory more evenly, while also reformatting the whole thing and adding hyperlinks to make it much more user-friendly - but that sounds like a lot of work. Maybe Trojan Points would like to do it.

Anyway. I've done it now. If you've ever wanted to randomly wander between a whole bunch of different adventure paths, then this is your chance. You can download the damn thing here:

Rise of the Curse of the Council of the Shadow of the Cult of the Crimson Runelords of the Sundered Thrones of the God-Thieves of the Great Kingmaker’s Machine-Kingdoms: A Hexcrawl


  1. What a fabulous nightmare. As someone with no experience of any of the source material, how much *FUN* will I have wrangling this mess? In addition, which cross-overs would have the best results?

    1. Honestly, unless you're specifically in the market for a huge sprawly hexcrawl, I think you'd be better off running any one of these individually. You'll get a much more thematically focussed adventure that way, and one that's much more likely to actually come to a satisfying conclusion.

      If you were just going to combine two, I reckon Iron Gods + Great Machine could make for a good science-fantasy hexcrawl. Just don't use anything on the map north of row 11 or east of column 19.

  2. Sorry just seeing this now, haven't been around for a while... I feel bad about not reacting sooner to you taking on my challenge eallier!

    Anyway: great job! That's one hell of a big hexcrawl! And the definitive proof that those PF AP are bloated with about 3453 pages filler...

    1. On a slightly unrelated note I just downloaded "Coureurs d'Orages" a French indie D20-lite (

      The 62 (A5, about half-letter) pages of this book contains the whole system, monsters and... A 12 pages sandbox!

      "Ravenvale" is:
      - 1 page intro/context
      - 5 pages factions and objectives (2 major ones - the local nobility and the witch led rebels -, and 4 minors - the dwarfs exploiting a mining concession, the king's army fighting the rebels, a gipsy travelling circus and the local inqisition)
      - 5 pages hex map and keys (7 hexes: the village - with its own sub-map and key, and a random npc names table -, and the surrounding 6 hexes - 2 of them with interresting encounter tables)
      - 1 page "5-rooms dungeon" housing the main antagonist

      Needless to say I just love the format! Great usability without having to read hundreds of pages to get what's going on...

      The great idea of this format is the factions part preceding the hexes proper: sandbox-wide movers and shakers described in a standardised format: a couple of line describing the factions followed by a couple (1 to 3) of "courses of action" describing what the faction will do and why.

      Any way sorry about hijacking your post, I tought the format might interest you...

    2. That sounds great - and much more useable than the cumbersome tomes which have become standard in RPGs. Much more representative of how RPGs are actually played: here's some rules, here's a place, now get out there and cause some trouble. I can well believe it's 'Un condensé d’années d’expérience'. Is this sort of thing more common in the Francophone gaming scene?

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  4. Not sure it's more or less common...

    It make just as much economic sense for French publishers as for English-speaking ones, to publish extensive series of massive tomes, with matching price tags...

    But there is a dynamic indie scene producing such gems too...