Wednesday, October 16, 2019

The Gygax 75 Challenge: Week 2

TLDR: I go through the process of drawing a hex map.

My pal JJ are still plugging away at the Gygax 75 world building exercise. You can read his blog at Beyond the Gates of Cygnus.

Week two went fast. JJ sent me a message about his progress towards the end of the week and I realized I had committed nothing to paper yet. However, I had been thinking about it for some time and, having set the world concept first, it all came out in an orderly flood (which is a total oxymoron, I realize, but it also has resonance in that I'm inspired by the geographical area and era of "the great deluge").

I wrestled with the recommended scale of 1 mile per hex. I knew I wanted to base my map on the fertile crescent cultures and specifically the cities between the Tigris & Euphrates in the bronze age – with the serial numbers filed completely off. So I printed off a map of the area that had a scale marker and identified a 100km/62m square of land to work with.

When in doubt, steal.

I then began sketching in my new and improved workzine (workbook + zine), which you can get at my Patreon). [Edit, this has since moved to] As I filled in terrain I got bored with so much of one type and I became a little more inventive. Simultaneously, the history of the place was growing in my head somewhat, which was a cool experience. Here is my first take on the map.

Sketching in my Gygax 75 Workzine

My use of scale is still an issue in this map (pictured above), but I turned it into a strength. I decided that the map was drawn by people of the time who would, naturally, place greater importance on the cities than on the surrounding wild. So the city hexes are scaled around 0.5 miles per hex. But the wilderness hexes are closer to 6 miles per. I wanted the dungeon (see the little cave openings and "Nazca lines" east of Ruk) to be a hard day's ride away.

What follows are the notes I added to explain places on the map.

Timuria, Land Between the Rivers

The fertile river valleys of Timuria are the initial focus of play. Features appearing on the map are:


  • Ruk. A walled city of 70k inhabitants and likely home for new characters. The city is ruled by Sinaruk, a being descended from both divine and mortal parents. She is 9' tall and terrifyingly beautiful. The Krat river runs through the city and surrounding farmlands in gated canals. Livestock are herded in the grasslands beyond. Borderlands are patrolled by the centaurs – by treaty. Land owners serve as soldiers when called.
  • Garan. "The Old City" is also a dying city. Increased flooding and the encroaching desert has caused many to migrate north to Ruk. Those that are left are highly religious, by inclination or out of fear (or both). Nominally, the city is independent and ruled by a complicated hierarchy of priests, but it pays tribute to Ruk and is protected by her. 
  • Zagash. The hated enemy of Ruk, the Zagash do little herding and less farming, preferring to raid for worked goods, food, and slaves when they can. They prey especially hard on the Centaurs that live in the steppes east of the Godswall.

Notable Terrain

  • The Godswall. A labyrinthine tangle of low, stony mountains. Sources of water are few outside of the rainy season and the peaks are home to feral harpies (and worse).
  • Uskad: The Bloodwash. A largely uninhabitable area due to seasonal flooding that covers the land in red clay and silt. Several old cities (and their relics) lie buried beneath the muck.

Places of Mystery

  • The Tombs. Nestled deep within the dry hills and crags of the southern Godswalls is a large number of tombs. Most have been raided in times past, but occasionally a new one, or a new space within an old one is found and looted. A day’s ride west of the tombs is, Adakk, a sort of semi-permanent camp town where goods looted from the tombs are stored and sold. Even the carved stones of the tombs have value as building materials for Ruk and Garan. 
  • The High Stones. These rocky spires in the Noor: the Desert of Stars, are the eyries of strange, vampiric shapeshifters. (None name them for fear of drawing their attention.) The tops of the spires have been tunneled out into elaborate palaces.  
  • Myr. The only way into this valley is by following one of the many small tributaries of the Uskad. Travellers do not go there. Or, if they do, they do not return. Many say it is the home of strange “mud men.” 
Next Steps

Well. First of all it's on to week 3 of the challenge, in which I'll be detailing several levels of dungeon. (Or perhaps three different tombs, each further into the Godswall.) But as time permits I am going to convert the hand drawn map into a full color job that is part Hexographer and part digital drawing/painting. 

[Update. I did the map – and I did it in vibrant Jack Gaughan colors!]



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