Playtesting of the first Hexbox setting book is coming to an end. Here’s some insight as to how it’s been written.
Last week we posted about the nature of story and scene within the context of a sandbox hexcrawl role-playing game. This week we’ll talk about how we went about designing event and map key encounters for the first Hexbox setting book.
Location-based encounters are easier, because they provide a bit of context, and boundaries within which to work. We know the “where” as a concrete location providing props and suggesting inhabitants.
Hex A3 contains an ancient abandoned shrine dedicated to long-forgotten and nameless outsider gods. The locals have a superstitious fear of it for reasons they no longer remember. It’s underground, and contains a massive obelisk.
So the first step is to decide what might be going on here. Make a list of possible inhabitants, what they want, and what they’ll do to get that.
We make a list. A lot of animals might choose to lair somewhere like this, chosen from the list of creatures inhabiting the area. The shrine is also of interest to a local cult that worships the Outsider beings, and they provide for the most obvious conflict.
So we choose the inhabitants that make for the most interesting potential encounter. Work out what exactly they’re doing there, what they want, and how they’ll react to the PCs. Give them a purpose that sets them at odds with PC desire, but don’t force the PCs into a fight.
Loathsome rituals, of course. Rituals to summon monsters using the obelisk’s energies. They don’t live here, though, so there’s a good chance that when the PCs arrive the place will be empty, but we leave clues should the PCs decide to investigate. Additionally, if the PCs decide they want to JOIN the cult to share in their power, we allow for that.
We have our antagonists and potential conflict, now we can figure out the consequences of PC action. This is both rewards of immediate action, and longer-term impact. We can also, at this time, tie this encounter to other nearby locations and plotlines.
There’s a village nearby. A steady source of victims for the cult rituals, so we go in to that entry and add a note about mysterious disappearances leading to strained relationships. However, if the PCs eliminate the cult and free the current victims, they gain a lot of prestige.
And that’s it. Clean up the encounter, build links, and repeat until the map is filled.