Thursday 19 October 2023

Tinkering With Psionics

Just a gentle tap should fix it - oh...
Minor Repair Shop

I started this post (which is not about 1:1 time) intending just to look at psionics from the point of view of the DMG rather than starting at PHB and trying to work out how it all fits together. In the process I re-did the psionic combat table to be more useful, and in the end I decided just to re-write the system, but only slightly.

2. Character Generation

Chance of having Psionics

1% plus 1 for every point of Int, Wis, or Cha over 15. At least one of these three ability scores must be 15 or more.

Psionic Ability

Add INT, WIS, CHA. Multiply by the number of these scores that exceeds 14. Add 1d10 and double the total. The result is the character’s total Psionic Ability.

“Psionic Strength” starts equal to Psionic Ability but is expended in psionic combat and in powering psionic disciplines. This score is not divided into attack and defense and recovers at the rate given on PHB p117, up to a limit of the creature’s Psionic Ability. There is no separation into attack strength and defense strength.

The character above with Int 12, Wis 17, and Cha 18 has a base of 94 plus 1d10. After rolling a 6 for a total of 100, s/he has a psionic ability of 200.


Everyone gets C and F. Others are found below:

Mode Requirement
A Cha 17+
B Int 18+
C Auto
D Wis 15+
E Int, Wis, and Cha 15+
F Auto
G Int 12+
H Wis 16+
I Int 16+
J Cha 18+

So the above character would have modes A,C,D/F,G,H,J.

Psionic Combat

As standard, an attacker can pick any mode to attack with and the defender automatically “picks” the best defense mode available. Area attacks and defenses work as described on PHB p110. Attacking with mode J means the attacker can only defend with mode G.

Psionic combat proceeds segment by segment as usual, although I would suggest that the DM merge this in with whatever else is going on so that a fireball on segment 3 will actually interrupt or even kill psionic combatants before the round is over, for example.

On any given segment a figure may have no more than two modes or disciplines, or combination, running. Disciplines are generally paid for per round but a figure may “scrap” a discipline and replace it on any segment, no refunds given.

Discipline Costs

The costs listed in PHB are doubled. Psionic blast may only be made against a non-psionic if the attacker’s current strength is 200 or more but the cost for it and all other modes remains as printed.


The categories for psionic attacks are doubled in size to 50 points. So: 01 to 50, 51 to 100, 101 to 150, 151 to 200, 201 to 250, and 251+.

For the new categories, here’s a list of the best defenses against each attack in terms of total cost, with best being on the left and worst on the right. Costs are subscripted in the case of attacks. For the defenses against psychic crush the main number is the percentage chance of death and cost is again subscripted.

You can use this table for normal by-the-book psionic combat by reducing the categories back to 25 points each; the costs are the same but it’s much easier to see what’s best against any given attack.

Remember that best available may be limited by remaining points being too low to activate an option when a defender is close to exhaustion, something not noted on the table but important only near the end of a combat.

Up to 50

Attack Mode          
A Psionic Blast20 F 4 H 7 I 9 G 9 J 10
B Mind Thrust4 H 3 G 6 I 8 J 11 F 13
C Ego Whip7 H 3 G 5 I 8 F 9 J 10
D Id Insinuation10 F 2 G 8 I 9 H 11 J 11
E Psychic Crush14 G 0%2 H 0%3 I 0%8 J 0%10 F 2%1

51 to 100

Attack Mode          
A Psionic Blast20 F 7 H 9 J 10 I 10 G 11
B Mind Thrust4 H 4 I 8 G 8 J 12 F 16
C Ego Whip7 H 3 G 6 I 8 J 10 F 13
D Id Insinuation10 F 3 G 10 I 11 H 13 J 13
E Psychic Crush14 I 0%8 J 0%10 H 1%3 G 2%2 F 5%1

101 to 150

Attack Mode          
A Psionic Blast20 F 11 J 11 I 12 H 12 G 14
B Mind Thrust4 H 5 I 10 G 11 J 13 F 19
C Ego Whip7 H 4 G 8 I 9 J 11 F 18
D Id Insinuation10 F 5 G 13 I 15 H 16 J 16
E Psychic Crush14 J 0%10 I 1%8 H 2%3 G 4%2 F 9%1

151 to 200

Attack Mode          
A Psionic Blast20 J 12 I 15 H 16 F 16 G 18
B Mind Thrust4 H 8 I 12 J 15 G 15 F 23
C Ego Whip7 H 6 I 10 G 11 J 13 F 24
D Id Insinuation10 F 8 G 17 J 20 I 20 H 20
E Psychic Crush14 J 2%10 I 3%8 H 5%3 G 7%2 F 14%1

201 to 250

Attack Mode          
A Psionic Blast20 J 14 I 19 H 21 F 22 G 23
B Mind Thrust4 H 12 I 15 J 18 G 20 F 27
C Ego Whip7 H 9 I 12 G 15 J 16 F 31
D Id Insinuation10 F 12 G 22 H 25 J 25 I 26
E Psychic Crush14 J 4%10 I 6%8 H 9%3 G 11%2 F 20%1

251 and up

Attack Mode          
A Psionic Blast20 J 17 I 24 H 27 F 29 G 29
B Mind Thrust4 I 19 H 19 J 22 G 26 F 31
C Ego Whip7 H 13 I 15 G 20 J 20 F 39
D Id Insinuation10 F 17 G 28 J 31 H 31 I 33
E Psychic Crush14 J 7%10 I 10%8 H 14%3 G 16%2 F 27%1

For example, if a fresh intellect devourer (modes C D/F G; 200 points) attacks a mind flayer (A/F G H; 280 points)) with Ego Whip (C), we can quickly see that the best defence option for the flayer is Mental Barrier (H) and the costs are 7 to the attacker and 6 to the defender.

The mind flayer obviously responds with its only attack option - psionic blast (A) to which the devourer’s best option is actually either F or G since they work out at the same cost. This comes to 20 for the attack and 29 defense cost

The totals for the segment are: flayer 20+6=26, and devourer 7+29=36.

At the start of the next segment the mind flayer has 256 points and the intellect devourer has 164.

Note: that I have altered the attack modes for both monsters. In both cases the text contradicts the summary and I have followed the text for various reasons.


Simply use the table in DMG as-is but increase the attacker’s categories to 50 points as above and use the defender’s Psionic Ability (i.e., their original score).

The defender initially uses Psionic Ability to select the column, which is just the normal method. However, any points damage now reduce this Psionic Ability score as well as the target’s hit points, potentially moving the defender left on the table for later attacks. These lost points recover at the same rate as normal hit points but the only standard method for speeding this process is heal, which will restore all but 1-4 points.

A character with a Psionic Ability score of 228 who has exhausted their Psionic Strength points is attacked with ego whip by an entity having a current Psionic Strength of 200. The defender loses 35 hit points and Psionic Ability is reduced to 193. A second attack costs 40, reducing them to 153. A third such attack will allow the attacker to possess them, turning them into a “robot”, assuming that they are still alive.

5. Nothing Surprises Me Anymore

One apparent change from the OD&D system is that psionics are never surprised. They automatically throw up the best defence they can. This change came in after PHB was written and causes some of the text there to be erroneous.

As an optional rule, you could allow surprise but restrict the defender to using Mind Blank (or whatever their cheapest defence mode is).

6. Great Minds Think Alike
Incredible! A Jack Kirby head without a hat!

At the start of psionic combat, and potentially at the start of each round thereafter, a group of psionic beings who are able to physically link together may create a unimind - a psionic creation which engages in combat for the round.

One member is chosen from the group and the unimind has a psionic strength equal to this being plus 20% of each other prion in the group. Its modes are those of that individual plus any one (attack or defense) from each other member. If the points donated by others exceed the psionic strength of the nominated psion then s/he suffers 1hp damage for each point over. This may manifest as nose bleeds, throbing veins, static electricity sparks or anything else the DM feels looks good.

If a character with an ability 150 psionic strength points remaining is boosted by 180 points to create a unimind with a strength of 230; that character will lose 30 hit points.

The individual members can not be psionically attacked, although they may be the targets of disciplines as well as normal attacks and spells.

All psionic combat is carried out by the mind, which may use one attack mode and one defense mode per segment. The individuals may use a discipline but may not their modes independently.

When the mind is dissolved, all strength lost or expended by it is divided equally, with individual odd points distributed to the weakest figures first. Any figure reduced to less than zero psionic strength suffers hit point damage equal to the excess, and retains the negative score until normal point recovery restores them.

Three psionic characters with scores 90, 140, and 172 engage create a unimind centred on the strongest individual. Its psionic strength is 172+24+18=214 and its psionic modes are those of the central figure plus up to two more from the others.

After some psionic combat, the mind has expended 77 points and is reduced to 137. The 78 points are divided by 3, giving 25 and a remainder of 2. Final scores for the three figures are 90-25-1=64, 140-25-1=114, and 172-25=147.

Note that, tactically, the unimind may not always be the best option as it can only make one attack per segment whereas, in this example, the group would be able to make 3 individually.

I’m in Two Minds about Demogorgon

The DMG (p79) says

It is possible to engage in only one psionic activity in addition in defense modes at a time, i.e., a psionic, while defending, could either attack or use a psionic discipline. It is never possible to attack and use a psionic discipline or to use two psionic disciplines simultaneously.

Well, you say “never”, but Demogorgon has all modes and a psionic ability of 150 “per head”. I assume that the Big-D can in fact use two psionic disciplines simultaneously, or attack and defend with one head while performing a psionic discipline with the other. I personally would limit him to using each mode once - if both heads use psionic blast then he simply attacks at a power level of 300 instead of two attacks at 150, and at a cost of 20 rather than 40.

8. Other Options/Thoughts

Open Your Mind

What if psionic-related spells and effects allowed an attracted psionic to attack the caster as if they were a defenceless psionic (assuming they’re not actually psionic)? That might make dealing with demons a bit tougher.

Latent Psionic Ability

Any character with an INT, WIS, or CHA score over 14 has a latent psionic ability. If some magic item increases any of these scores, even one well below this limit, the character may roll again for a chance to develop psionics. If the item’s effect is temporary then any such powers are lost again once the score(s) returns to normal.

Remaining Problems

There’s not enough variety in which modes are good. Really, you want B, G, and H unless you can get the big guns of E and J.

It’s difficult to make multiple-psions work in a good, stereotypical way that evokes book, comic, and film archetypes.

Saturday 18 March 2023

What is the Moon Good For?

So, I recently discovered that the world upon which The City State of the Invincible Overlord (CSIO) is situated has two moons, according to the Necromancer edition of the setting. There’s nothing I know of in the original release to say that this is the case, but it’s not unlikely enough for me to reject it.

Partly this is because it never mattered.

Never mattered that there was a second moon in the sky? In decades (on and off) of play? If that’s the case, then does it matter if there’s even a single moon? What, in short, is the moon doing for us?

The reason is that at least one moon has an important game purpose - modulating lycanthropy. This is, of course, vitally important if any PC is afflicted with this curse, but also if the PCs know of an NPC with it.

Simulation Vs Gamism in Lunar Orbits

I looked up the information and found that the “main” moon, Howla, had a period of 27 days and that the small one, Vannis, just 13.

Clearly exactly 27 days and exactly 13 days would be improbable to say the least. Since I was working on a calendar program (more of this in a later post) my first instinct was to add a small fraction of a day to each number. But on reflection I stuck with the unrealistic round numbers.

Adding fractions of a day to the lunar cycle may add realism but any such addition is subject to the hassle/reward ratio — is the hassle of adding some feature to the game world outweighed by the reward of how that feature improves the experience of playing the game. A hassle/reward ratio greater than one means you shouldn’t do it. Remember that the reward part includes both the players and the DM. Just because you personally love complicated calendars or weird languages doesn’t mean your players do too.

So, unless your group of players has more than a couple of astronomers in it, making lunar orbital periods non-integer is a bad idea. Leaving the numbers as exact values means that predicting the lunar phase is easy - easy on you, easy on the players. That makes it easy for you all to think about the implications of the passage of time. And in the case of a werewolf scenario, for example, the focus should be on the adventure and the werewolf, not working out how many hours 0.13 of a day is and trying to calculate backwards to previous reports of attacks over the last year. To hell with that!

Werewolves aside, there are plenty of functions related to the moon. Illumination is a big one - whether trying to travel into the night or trying to get into places unseen. Another one is religious, with many of the deities in D&DG having holy days linked to the phase of the moon. Which leads to quasi-religious things like demonic rituals which must be performed on a night with no or a full moon.

Ambiguous Druids, Batman!

The “official” relationship between druids and moons is a bit unclear. They are stated as worshipping the sun and moon - the combination of which creates the lunar phases, of course - and the sickles they use represent the moon. However, there is no reference to moons in the definitions of their material components. I would suggest that there should be some requirement in connection to lesser mistletoe.

Sailor Moon

A lesser usage for the moon is the fact that it controls the tides. This assumes, as I do, that at least one moon is as large as our own moon and has a similar effective gravitational field down on the surface of the parent planet.

Stable Diffusion displaying a weak grasp
 of lunar phases

Luney Tunes

If one moon is good, useful, and pretty easy to use, then two is probably better, yes?

Well, yes! The two moons given for CSIO are pretty easy to track even with two of them and with two moons you can easily plan for special but rare effects like two full moons or nights with no moons at all. In the case of CSIO these two events happen once every 350 days (each) and so are likely to be once-in-a-year possibilities for all sorts of rituals and shenanigans. Again, the simple nature of integer lunar periods makes it fairly easy to predict these events and the DM can plan NPC actions ahead of time and players can attempt to predict them too.

With an annual event like this, there is potentially a lot at stake for PCs and NPCs alike - if the deadline is missed or a ritual interrupted there is a long time to wait for another chance.

I would suggest that in a world with two moons that druids’ Greater Mistletoe be linked to the night of the double full moon instead of the night of Midsummer.

Priest of the Rising Moon

With two moons you could have a priesthood of clerics who’s spells are modified by the combined value of the moons. For example, as I write this the two moons of CSIO are at 77% and 35%, for a total of 112%. Spells could have their various parameters modified to reflect this (probably in bands - hassle/reward again), so that when the two moons are full their spells are twice as effective but when both are new they are powerless.

While this might be too much variation for a single-classed PC, it could be fun for an NPC cult or for multi-classed characters who are not completely dependant on their clerical abilities.

The Dark Side of the Moon

A final thing about multiple moons is that they can eclipse each other and the sun. This is much harder to model than just the phases but with events this rare the DM could just handwave it by introducing an upcoming, or unanticpated, event as desired.

These sorts of events fit nicely with “The Stars are Right” scenarios where the stakes are even higher than they are for annual events. If someone stops the ritual tonight it might be centuries before it can be tried again!

That’s some thoughts on moons for now. Next time, or the time after, I’ll look at how this fits in with Gygax’s notion of why time is so important and how I know what phases the moons are over the City State of the Invincible Overlord.

Yes - I’ll be looking at 1:1 time.

Sunday 5 February 2023

Encounter: Granny Grindle

Hooray - Granny's in Town!
Art: Fritz Mock

Granny Knows All

"Granny" Grindle (AKA Granny Grind-Your-Bones, AKA Granny Tattle) is a greenhag who lives alone in the wild a few miles from the nearest village, in a turf cottage built in front of a cave on a mossy outcrop of rock which is accessed through a stout wooden door. She is evil, sure, but she has a weakness for knowledge which she hoards almost as obsessively as she does the bones of her many victims.

When divination has failed and sages have shrugged their shoulders, those that are desperate, foolish, or greedy enough might consult with Granny Grindle.

Granny has 39 hit points and a collection of what she calls "nicknacks". Most of these are in fact bones she's carved to pass the time, and quite a lot are folkitems - macrame, basketweave, and even knitted goods brought to Granny as offerings by people in the local area. These people she doesn't eat very often; she likes the status she has amongst them and their offerings of local gossip are worth more to her than jewels. She uses the information gathered to subtly stir up trouble in the local villages, stoking grudges and creating misunderstandings with carefully worded ambiguous statements which can never quite be proven to be malicious on her part. It's like a 200-year-old soap opera, and Granny loves her soaps.

"Outsiders", other than ogres and giants whom she enjoys the company of, are a different kettle of fish. A poor reaction roll will see them eaten before negotiations of any kind are opened. Assuming that a party approaches her with the intent to consult her and she doesn't take an instant dislike to them, then a fee may be arranged. Granny is a plot device, so her chance of knowing the answer to a question must be decided based on the DM's campaign and the nature of the question but generally it should be high if it deals with history or magic within about 100 miles. She should have a good chance to identify rare magic items too, again depending on the DM's conception of the campaign world. But assume that Granny has some supernatural sources of information.

Granny will generally work by giving a partial answer to show that she knows whatever it is a party is interested in, then demand that they agree to perform a task for them. If they refuse, she will kill them. If they agree she will use her special power group quest (1/week). This is like the normal quest spell (cleric, 5th level) but it will affect any number of creatures (of Int 3 or above which can understand the language of the demand) within 6" who are willing. The spell will dissolve if any member of the group fulfils the demand or of the demand becomes impossible (e.g., a quest to find and bring a certain person back to the caster will dissolve if that person dies). The members of the group will magically know if the quest is dissolved. The task is a single collective one - each member can not be assigned a different task even if they are related, for example each member may not be quested to retrieve a different part of the Rod of Seven Parts. Finally, the spell fails if the caster tries to change the quest from what was agreed; but otherwise there is no save. Other than this ability she has the normal powers of a greenhag.

Her demands are invariably one of two types:

  1. Bring back some information about something or someone. She is willing to entertain suggestions about what she might like to learn about but she's always on the lookout for information about other hags and witches or anything about local nobility which might be good for blackmail.
  2. The death of someone who crossed Granny and escaped. This includes people who found a way to break their quests, even if the spell was dissolved automatically for some reason. Granny only cares that they didn't come back with the results she demanded.
Once the quest is fulfilled, of course, there is no ongoing obligation on either side. If Granny thinks that a person might perform other useful jobs, or is in fact a bit dangerous, then she will feign friendliness and bid them good day.

Any outsider who seems unlikely to be of interest to Granny again will go in the pot for stew.

If you are using the previous post's map, I'd place her on the Copeland Island (Hex 0400).


Granny has some "real" treasure, mostly collected from the remains of those who ended up in the pot:


346 pp, 471 gp

Blue Sapphire (1000 gp)
Chalcedony (50 gp)
Deep Green Spinel (100 gp)
Freshwater Pearl (10 gp)
Golden Yellow Topaz (500 gp)
Total value = 1660 gp

Magic Items
Cubic Gate - 1: PMP, 2: Happy Hunting Grounds, 3: Seven Heavens, 4: Ether, 5: Nirvana, 6: Elysium (17500 gp)
Potion of Fire Resistance (400 gp)
Total value = 17900 gp

Total value 21761 gp

The cash is scattered about in little clay pots in the cottage; the gems are woven into dream-catchers in the windows along with lots of coloured glass and ceramic. Magic items are hidden in the cave behind various heaps of bones.


Granny generally looks like a little old human woman in dirty but normal clothing. However, she is habitually invisible when not in her cave/cottage, travelling around her domain using pass without trace and spying on locals to increase her knowledge. If she sees a party approaching she will (assuming that she doesn't just attack them) ensure that they encounter her in whatever form seems most likely to aid her negotiations within the restrictions of her change self power. She may appear as a human, halfling, or half-elf. She may even appear in her natural form if she thinks it will help put the party on the back-foot.


All discussions will take place outside the cottage in an area around a cauldron with tree-stumps for seats. She will insist on everyone sitting and she will sit with her back to the open woods, not the cottage. She's been nearly cornered in the past and will not let herself be pushed into a confined space.

If negotiations break down or Granny feels that something is amiss, she will turn invisible and then use pass without trace and her 90% move silently ability to quickly withdraw and evaluate the options. Her preference will be to pick off a party one at a time but her surprise chance will be only 1-4 against a party who have seen her turn invisible and are expecting trouble. 

Her terrible strength is her main weapon and if she is able to surprise a target without a helm from behind each successful attack with her clenched fists during surprise will do 6 damage and result in unconsciousness if she succeeds in a roll on the assassination table. If there is no one within 12", an unconscious victim will have their throat cut (instant 0hp and bleeding out). Note that any attack negates her invisibility, but once she has resumed that she may mimic the dead figure's voice to lure others into her grasp.

Granny is particularly deadly against humans at night.


Granny will be found just on the edge between inhabitation and wilderness; a few miles from the nearest village just inside a forest or scrubland. Maybe on an island that can be reached by rowboat without too much danger. 

If you are using the previous post's map, I'd place her on Copeland Island (Hex 0400).

Don't forget that a greenhag can swim as fast as an unencumbered human can walk and can breath water.

Thursday 2 February 2023

Getting started, thinking small

Last time, I uploaded a map of the area we normally think of as constituting what we call "Ancient Greece" - a designation that the people living there may have struggled to understand given that they so rarely thought of themselves as being anything other than rivals until Alexander the Great rolled in and told them all to shut up. After he died, of course, they went back to not thinking of themselves as one nation until the Romans rolled in and told them all to shut up and pay their taxes.


That map is fairly typical of a small campaign map. For comparison, the individual map sheets in Judges Guild's seminal Wilderlands campaign are each about ⅙th the size of the Greek map in area, but there were 18 of them in the full campaign, which comes out at 3 times the area. The famous Darlene Greyhawk maps cover about 10% more than that again. So our "Ancient Greece" campaign is not exceptional but it is a massive geographical area to cover. If you are starting out running a campaign, this sort of thing can be very intimidating. Where to start?

Let's have a look at a smaller map - the one used in the thumbnail above. There's a jpeg of this map scaled so that it will fill an A3 sheet at 300dpi (or A4 at 424dpi).

The hex size on this map is 6 miles face-to-face (the size of the small hexes on the Greek map) and it is a very special map because it is the map I live on. But more than that. It is the map:

  • I was born on (hex 0201)
  • My parents lived on when I was very small (0101)
  • I went to school on (0301)
  • I was legally married on (0301 again)
  • We had our wedding reception on (0304)
  • I had my first programming job on (0101)
  • And, as mentioned, we now live on (in a specific hex with almost no other inhabitation, so I'm keeping that to myself)
I have lived and worked away from this map - I recently returned after 10 years in England - but my parents only left it - ever* - for holidays and my grandparents maybe only even did that once or twice.

Since I've spent a lot of time on this map I can tell you something useful about it: those 6m hexes are huge

Even with modern motorised transport and decades of living here, there are entire hexes on this map I have never passed through and many places in the hexes I have which I have never seen or visited. This is a map you could explore on foot for a lifetime.

This little map of 22 hexes is in fact big enough for a campaign.

At this point, I suggest you try to make a similar map for where you live now. At A3 size, the scale is 1"=2m, or 1:126720. If you use QGIS and save an area to that scale from the Open Street Map dataset (included) as an image you can import the image into Inkscape and add the hexes with the Inkscape Hex Map Extension. Be aware that the extension currently takes "hex size" to be point-to-point, so you need to give it sizes which are 1.155 times what you would expect to.

Even searching a sea hex takes time.
(It took me about an hour and a half to track this
bloody image down and I'm not sure it was worth it).
Art: Don Simpson's Megaton Man

If you do that then you will immediately see what I can see on this map - finding something the size of, say, a tomb in one of those hexes is going to be bloody hard unless the tomb is Mausolus's or the hex is made of flat glass, or you have magic.

Going back to the post "A Lorry-Load of Sand" from last year, I would guess that most of the hexes on this map would have been forest with the exception of the Ards Peninsula (running south from 0401) which would have been, in ye olden time, forested hills; 0101 would be forested hills and marsh (plus sea). Civilisation/patrolled would have been basically restricted to 0104, 0204, 0205, 0301, 0302, and 0305 (Belfast is a very new city, if you're wondering about that large conurbation in hexes 0101/0102 on the modern map).

If we plug in the details to the sandbox generator and selecting only plains, forest, hills, marsh, and shallow salt sea we get (seed 3645131196):
  • 0101 3 forest lairs, 0 marsh, and 1 salt water shallow lair. I've divided the results from the table to reflect the distribution of terrains. All plain wilderness.
  • 0102 3 forest lairs, wilderness.
  • 0103 I'm classing as patrolled and we get no lairs
  • 0104 is densely populated and we get no lairs again.
  • 0105 is patrolled and we get 2 forest lairs.
  • 0106 is patrolled, 1 forest lair.
  • 0201 (hex 7 on the table) is sparsely populated hills (Craigantlet) with no lairs.
  • 0202 is wild forest with 2 lairs.
  • 0203 is sparsely populated forest with 1 lair.
  • 0204 is densely populated and probably plains (Downpatrick area), so no lair.
  • 0205 is half populated hills and half patrolled (fishing boats and traders for Dundrum) shallow sea, giving us 1 sea lair (I rounded up).
  • 0301 (hex 12) is the area around what will one day be Bangor abbey/monastery and is basically populated hills, with no lairs.
  • 0302 is about half and half sea lough and hills, busy enough to count as densely populated. No lairs.
  • 0303 is unpopulated low-lying forest, no lairs.
  • 0304 is semi-populated and divided between plain and shallow sea. 1 lair on the land.
  • 0305 is semi-populated woodland, 1 lair.
  • 0306 is shallow sea. Semi-populated by boats trading up and down the coast (and some actual patrols to protect them). One lair.
  • 0401 (hex 18) semi-populated sea and hills. One lair in the hills.
  • 0402 unpopulated forested hills and patrolled shallow sea. 2 forest lairs (4 indicated, halved), no sea lairs.
  • 0403 as 0402 with 1 forest lair.
  • 0404 same again but no lairs at all, and finally.
  • 0405 open shallow sea with nothing in it.
That's a total of 20 lairs in total.

What are the lairs? Let's develop one of these hexes and see. Things will depend on your mix of acceptable monsters for your campaign, of course, but for hex 0101 four rolls on the DMG temperate tables for forest and salt water gives:
  1. Tribesmen (20)
  2. Pseudo-dragon (1)
  3. Shambling mound (2: 11 HD and 9 HD)
  4. Giant shark (1: 11 HD) 
The giant shark doesn't actually lair and technically I should have re-rolled (just as I did for the merchants I rolled for #1) but I decided that perhaps this shark just patrols here a lot. 

Why does it patrol here a lot? Well, maybe those (Celtic) tribesmen are doing something. Let's look at them in detail.

The base 20 is augmented by another 20 women and 20 children, so that's 60 in the tribe. There is also (some of this is rolled, some is a set number from the MM text): two 3rd level fighters, a 4th level fighter, and a 5th level chief. Additionally, two 4th level "druids" under the leadership of an 8th level witchdoctor (also druidic).  There's 20 slaves, but no captives.

They have ivory - probably walrus or perhaps whale products like narwal horns - worth 4,000gp. The village itself is just a bunch of huts; there is no wall of any sort

The slaves will be a mix of tribal taboo-breakers and useful captives from other tribes. 

The 5th level fighter leading them has stats that look like this (from More IV):

Str: 18
Int: 6
Wis: 15, Alignment Neutral
Con: 12, hp 37
Dex: 12, AC 7
Cha: 15
Com: 16

Basically, a charismatic lunkhead. Presumably the witchdoctor is the brains. Let's look at him:

Str: 16
Int: 12
Wis: 17, Alignment LN
Con: 8, hp 50
Dex: 10, AC 7
Cha: 7
Com: 12

Yes - everything you'd want in a leader except no one likes him.

So let's say that they have no normal captives because they worship the giant shark and normally captives get sacrificed to him. Having run out they're on the lookout for someone else to sacrifice. The slaves know that they'll be next if no one else is found, so their reaction dice to strangers will be at -20% in terms of rebelling. The full tribal members will be even worse at -30%. However, they will deliberately hide it.

I've always assumed that the indication of "druidic" casters in tribesmen does not necessarily mean that the casters are strictly druids with druid alignment restrictions, so I would definitely go with a Wicker Man or Burn the Witch feel.

The shambling mounds will be in the marshes where the river flows out into the tidal mudflats - the area which has extensively been reclaimed and modified on the modern map. They - or the remains of their victims - are rich in treasure:
  • 1000 cp,
  • Jewelry (4): 7000 gp Seal, 3000 gp Chain, 2000 gp Crown, 2000 gp Buckle,
  • Scroll of Protection - Electricity, 
  • Spell Scroll (Magic User: Transmute Rock to Mud, Mass Charm, Mass Invisibility, Glassteel, Cone of Cold, Rary's Mnemonic Enhancer),
  • Bracers of Archery, 
  • Potion of Speed
The pseudo-dragon might be an ally against the tribesmen due to its N(G) alignment, but even if a party hears a rumour of such a thing existing how would they find a 1½' long creature in a 6 MILE hex which is, as mentioned previously, bloody huge? They would need magic, of course.

In any case, its treasure consists of gems:

2 x Aquamarine (500 gp), Black Pearl (500 gp), 2 x Bloodstone (50 gp), Blue Quartz (10 gp), Carnelian (50 gp), Deep Blue Spinel (500 gp), Fiery Yellow Corundum (1000 gp), Freshwater Pearl (10 gp), Lapis Lazuli (10 gp), 2 x Red-brown Spinel (100 gp), Tourmaline (100 gp), Turquoise (10 gp), 2 x Zircon (50 gp)  for a total of 3590gp.

So, there it is. A small campaign map into which to place your first dungeon and a hex fleshed out with some tougher opponents for later. Roll up the rest of the encounters, add a few settlements (I'd go with 0204 for the major one) and maybe a patron sending the party on their first expedition.

Get a ring binder or some electronic equivalent (or my Campaign Map Book!) and use a page for each hex, noting down what the PCs do in each which may affect other inhabitants and their views and actions in response.

If you can, once the ball is rolling get someone to role-play the leaders of particularly strong lairs - whether large groups of bandits or individual intelligent monsters. Then you'll get some use out of all those hexes you rolled up and someone else will do some of the work for you!

*Actually, Dad was evacuated during the war off the top of the map, but that was a bit exceptional.

Saturday 28 January 2023

A Hex Map of Ancient Greece

Hex Map Showing Sparta Location
This is Sparta!

I was tinkering and put together this hex map of the area we usually call Ancient Greece (download it; it's a lot better than the preview makes it look). Not everything - Crete is probably the biggest missing part, but also the northern area, including Thessalonika. And of course there's nothing of the Italian/Sicilian colonies to the west which everyone always forgets about.

The big hexes are 36miles and inside them are 6 mile hexes (don't forget: a 6 mile hex is still 20,000 acres).

The map itself is the size of a single index mapsheet in my Campaign Map Book by sheer luck rather than intent. But the 6:1 ratio is ideal for that if you fancy splashing some cash my way.

Here's a little index for the map which I'll try to update from time to time:

Place Type Hex
Argos City 0607
Athens City 0807
Corinth City 0607
Delos Island 1108
Delphi Temple 0506
Elis City 0307
Elusis Temple 0806
Ephesus City/Wonder 1606
Halicarnassus City/Wonder 1609
Lindos City 1811
Marathon City 0806
Megalopolis City 0408
Messene City 0408
Mt Olympus Mountain 0502
Mycenae City 0607
Olympia Temple/Wonder 0308
Plataea Site 0706
Pylos City 0409
Rhodes City/Wonder 1810
Sparta City 0509
Tegea City 0508
Thebes City 0706
Therea Volcano 1210
Troy City 1302

It's sometimes hard to decide when something is a city or a temple complex so take the "Type" column with a pinch of salt. Also, Corinth is very near the place where three hexes join so I might be wrong there.

Finally, the background map is of course a modern map from OpenStreetMap and while at this scale changes in coastlines are mostly invisible, I would point out that there was historically no bridge between the western Peloponnese and the mainland and it certainly would not have been called  the A5.

I say "mostly" invisible because there is some controversy over the location of Ithica - Odysseus' home. The modern island of Kephalonia has two clear regions - an east and western "lobe". It has been suggested that the western of these was the original Ithica and the channel between the islands was filled in by a combination of uplift and huge landslides caused by earthquakes. 

I actually went to the bother of going there and having a look myself and, especially from the air, it is clear that there has been very significant landslipping and there is plenty of evidence - and indeed modern records of - land uplift by really strong earthquakes. There is a major fault complex where three tectonic plates meet just to the west/southwest of the island.

So I'd say it's likely that these were two islands in the past, possibly even the historical past if Scrabo's text about a shallow channel is definitely referring to this location. But that of course does not mean that the western area (now called Paliki) was then called Ithica. However, the modern Ithica bears no resemblance to the low-lying island good for horses which Homer describes. Unless "good for horses" means that it's ideal for watching them fall over cliffs or roll down precipitous slopes into the sea.

Anyway, I mention all this mainly because it illustrates that the area is active enough that a detailed modern map can in fact be an inaccurate guide to the ancient landscape described in stories. We're sort of used to the idea that rivers move about over time. Not so much islands.