Procedural Generation of a Hex-Crawl World

The posts below detail how to procedurally generate a hex-crawl world for exploration and populate it with settlements wandering NPCs, hidden mystical elements, landmarks, and signs of monsters. I hope that this may allow the referee to mechanically reinforce the themes and tones of wonder and discovery. Ideally player knowledge and character knowledge become one and the same and the chance encounter with something unknowable would become legitimately fascinating to them. I hope that these mechanics allow you to "Show not Tell" the world. Rather than telling the players that there are monsters in the woods or that there is a wizard academy at the base of a volcano they would learn of those things by simply going out into the world.

Warning: This gets incredibly pretentious and is essentially my RPG manifesto. If you want to skip ahead to the rules just skip what's boxed in.
I don't think there would be any merit to having mechanics which reinforce a tone and incentive players to act in accord with them if the tone was not discussed. This generation of a hex-crawl world holds the following as implicit:

1. Characters Leave the Known and the Safe, Entering Chaos Risking Life and Limb for Riches
I think that Tabletop RPG's and OSR especially so are simply a continuation of the mythic Chaoskampf. There are a few points of civilization (Law) which are surrounded by sprawling wilderness (Chaos). There is a massive duality between Primordial Darkness and the Civilized Light and players take the role of the Law-Bringer striking down the Serpent. What's great about this is this already fits into the OSR alignment chart. Further this fits into the theme of ruination inherent to OSR. Great calamities bring doom and recycle the Lawful Civilizations into dark dungeons. I don't think I can emphasize how strongly the idea of a "points of light" setting fits into this Chaoskampf. The civilized areas are points of light, which the characters then wield to descend into darkness. The illumination is a further exemplification of the "Law-Bringer" who descends into chaos to conquer it. Each source of light brought into the darkness casts ripples which coalesce into the changes that the characters then make in the world. Wealth, and from wealth XP, is a representation of effort by Law as it only has value in a lawful area. Within the dark Chaos of a dungeon silver and gold have no value and only can be made useful when brought out into the light. It is then no surprise that every character is a metaphor for Marduk/Thor/Zeus/St. George/Ra. Hell, the name Dungeons and Dragons even implies the Chaoskampf, you go into darkness and you slay primordial serpents. (If this makes no sense it's because I wrote out these notes supremely dehydrated while in Nepal.)

2. The World is a "Low Fantasy Fetting" 
When I read Lamentations of the Flame Princess, one of the concepts that really stuck with me was the idea that the more encounters you have with the weird, the less weird the next thing is. In my experience as a Referee memorability is all about contrast. If there is a dragon on every mountain then it doesn't matter that it has 12 Hit Dice and breathes flame, it becomes a generic beast and loses it's "magic". I think a concept largely lost by people drawing monsters from mythologies is that encountering these creatures exist outside ecology and logic. Further they are rare, and seeing one itself was a significant thing. The majority of encounters should then have a sense of normalcy and involve figures that wouldn't shatter one's world view (Humans and Animals). I use the term Low Fantasy to refer to the hex-crawls drawing from it conceivably happening in some forgotten part of our world in some forgotten age.

3. Realism Doesn't Matter
To anyone who decries something because it's not "realistic" in a tabletop RPG. If you want to make clunky and  real life simulator go ahead, but RPG's use abstractions for a reason. That reason being: to facilitate play. The reason that rolls get reduced to so few factors is because if you had to consult twelve different table every time you wanted to determine if someone hit with their attack roll. You'd be barely play a game where combat was a big deal of what occurs. What is desired, by many and what I believe what those screaming for "realism" desire, is verisimilitude or plausible continuity within a setting. Are real life population densities higher than what will be produced, yes, but that isn't relevant to playing the game. I've seen a multitude of guides to make towns and cities which start with calculating the number of people living within a settlement working backwards from that number. I cannot figure how this could ever be relevant to a player and instead you should just focus on relevancy to player belief of verisimilitude.

4. Traveling to the Dungeon Should be as Memorable as the Dungeon Itself
This is largely an application of the first principle and is based on the idea that traveling from town to a dungeon is simply a part of the dungeon crawl itself. OSR RPG's are essentially a game of resource management and just like the path chosen once inside of a dungeon determines how the delve goes, the path chosen to get to the dungeon is also important. That being said, unless the wilderness exploration is memorable it will be boring and hamper one's enjoyment of the game. By utilizing wilderness exploration one can immerse the players in the world the same way one can immerse the players by discovering things in a dungeon. If dungeon delving gives information about the world like an archaeological dig, then wilderness exploration gives information about the world as anthropology field work.

5. The Narrative is not Preordained but Instead Emerges from Interactions in the World
I once read that if one is trying to have a meaningful story in their RPG session then there should be no random encounters and instead each encounter should have meaning. After spending some time playing and referring OSR games I've come to realize that I misunderstood the quote. The Author was trying to communicate that each encounter should tie in to the over-arching narrative and any extraneous encounters would detract from that. I do think that the author is wrong about random encounters. Narratives are emergent and are essentially procedurally generated from the players choice in which dungeons to enter and the random encounters that they roll.


Step 1: Marking the first hex on your hex map and rolling for the terrain of the adjacent hexes
Step 2: Determining what the starting town is like

Step 3: The characters leave the starting town and go elsewhere possibly to a dungeon

While traveling the Polite Lands the characters are likely to encounter something. To see what they encounter go here and to describe it go here

The posts above detail the procedures on how to procedurally generate the rest of the hex-map. Use the following posts to fill in the hexes if they contain something of note.

If the characters find a road see Step 1 for where it leads
If the characters find a town see Step 2 for which one it is
In a town there may be someone who wants to speak to them
If the characters find a hidden hex feature go here
If the characters find a natural landmark go here
If the characters find a village go here
If the characters find a fortified keep go here
If the characters find a city go here

While traversing the wilderness it is likely that characters encounter vile monsters.

If they travel across plains look here for what they find
If they travel across forests look here for what they find
If they travel across clouds look here for what they find

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