Hex Map Redesign

I spent most of Mother’s Day 2020 celebrating my wife, the mother of my daughter, who is just plain awesome. My best friend in the world and the best thing that ever happened to me!

But while I was waiting for her to get ready to go out and celebrate the re-opening of one of favorite shops in Vegas, I had time to play around with a new way of doing my hex maps. I thought I’d provide a sneak preview to what I’d currently call a rought draft.

I’ve been using Hexographer for about a decade now to produce my hex maps, and I really like it. The maps it creates look great, but they do present a few small problems for me. First, I just recently switched to using a new computer, and last night had to do some digging to find my license key. If I hadn’t found it, I might have been in a sticky situation, so bringing the map creation completely “in house” would be safer for me, and give me more control over my product.

The second problem is that the hex maps I have been creating do not reproduce well in the PDF format. I’ve done just about everything I can think of to improve them, but I just cannot get them to look right. That’s why I provide the hex maps as downloads on the site … but if the site ever went away, the maps would go with it, and that wouldn’t be good at all. In addition, having the maps more at hand for GM’s would be a big bonus. I really want to include the maps in the books.

The final problem has to do with the format of numbered hexes. When you are looking at a map, you can see right away where cities, towns and villages are located, but you cannot see where all of the other enounters are located. As a GM, you have to reference every hex the party travels through to see if there is something in it, which is a pain in the rear and makes it really easy to miss something.

Thus, the new design:

My idea is to include with each hex crawl an overview map without hexes to give the GM a general overview of the region being described. This map is then subdivided into smaller sub-maps. The sub-maps look like the one above. Descriptions of the settlements and numbered encounter areas would be located after the sub-map in the hex crawl.

Each sub-map is labeled A, B, C, D, etc., to allow encounters on one sub-map to be referenced in the encounters for another sub-map, something like [A3] or [F4], rather than the current [0122].

I won’t use this new style on the next hex crawl – that map is already created in Hexographer. They will probably premiere in the next crawl, and in the compilation books I’m hoping to start publishing in 2021 under the title The Nodian Cosmography. These will collect the old hex crawls, starting with the Wyvern Coast and Nabu – and the city-states of Ophir and Ibis – published in the first issues of NOD. The new books will update the hex crawls to the 2nd edition Blood & Treasure rules, fix errors, and include some new material where appropriate.

Og and the Trollheims

The southwest corner of Og

No, not an ogre garage band. Og is the northeastern potion of the Land of Nod, where the fake vikings and such live. The Trollheims are a range of mountains, just south of the larger White Mountains, that divide Og from the Motherlands.

I’m in the middle of writing a hex crawl set in a small corner of Og which includes the northern chunk of the Trollheims and a sliver of the Golden Steppe. This particular portion contains the city-state of Azsor, where King Mogg rules. The first campaign I ran in Nod was set in and around Og, stretching from the far eastern city-state of Azdak (where a mysterious murder was committed), and covering the halfling land of Yore (where a town was burned down), Azsor (where a human ranger raised by dwarves Frank and Estelle joined the party), the White Mountains (where a cloud giant was assaulted and insulted), Isithul (where something happened that I don’t entirely remember) and back to Azdak, where the murder was solved through no work of the party (don’t run murder mystery campaigns with people who don’t care about murder mysteries) and the next campaign was set up for Mu-Pan.

Anyhow – here’s some setting information I’ve written for Og, with more to come!

The northern lands of Thule are also known as Og, after the great river which drains them into the sea. The Og looms large in the lives of the people, and most treat it as a god.
South of the river is the Golden Steppe. North of the river are forests, marshes and chill grasslands. The lands are ringed by mountains. The Trollheims and White Moun-tains border it on the west, and the shadowy, ill-famed Black Mountains on the north.

Within those mountains, forests and marshes live humans, dwarves, elves, halflings and humanoids. This hex crawl only covers the extreme southwest corner of Thule, which include the northern portion of the Trollheim Mountains and the extreme western fringe of the Golden Steppe. Within these confines is the great city of Azsor, a city-state of humans and dwarves ruled by the legendary King Mogg.

History of Og
In days best left forgotten, much of Og was covered by a great sheet of ice that spread from the Sea of Stars to what is now the country of Mab. At the edge of the ice sheet, a simple human people scraped out a stone-age existence. The land was rough and wild. Nod was much drier then, and the great desert of the south all but en-compassed what is now steppe-land. The greatest re-source of Og was its herds of mammoth.

As that age of ice passed, a shallow sea was formed, attracting strange denizens of the deep to build cities be-neath the waves. Great forests sprang up in the wake of the retreating glaciers. The trees grew unnaturally tall, attracting the attention of the ancient elves.

At this point in time the elves already ruled the human civilizations of the Motherlands. They now resolved to settle the great forests of Og. All that stood in their way was the shallow sea and its inhabitants. These creatures were older than the elves, but technologically backwards. The elves were at the height of their powers and arrogance, and a cabal of elven wizards decided the easiest way to eliminate the fish folk was to drain their shallow sea. Through unknown means (well, I know them … if you read the hex crawl, you might discover the secret as well), they accomplished this task, leaving in the sea’s place a great river that flowed from the White Mountains to the Sea of Stars.

The elves and their human subjects now surged into Og. They besieged the citadels of the firbolg giants and drove them into hiding. The goblin folk were driven into the mountains, and the primitive humans they found were enslaved and carried away. These slaves toiled endlessly on the elven walls and towers of their now mythic city of Isithul. Isithul’s location is now a mystery. Its walls were built of green stone, it is said, and within its halls walked the greatest wizards the elves ever produced. They had come for a grand project – a way to travel between worlds.

When the grand project was finally completed, it rivaled the ancient Crown Stone in power and achievement. Although it appeared as nothing more than a giant vessel covered in beaten gold, at its heart lie an engine powered by mysterious crystals that could bend space and time. It was the height of elven achievement, but it displeased the Kabir, the ancient gods of the elves. Asur, chief amongst the gods, instructed Nudd to destroy this vessel before it could do any harm. Although his quest was long, and fraught with peril, Nudd eventually succeeded in destroying the elven starship, scattering its mysterious crystal shards in the process.

When the Great Rebellion of Dwarves and Men occurred, and the Crown Stone was destroyed, the great network of standing stones went with it and the elves lost their ability to maintain the magical civilization they had created. The ethereal winds swept over the landscape, spawning monstrous beasts and aberrations and destroying the elven aristocracy’s monopoly on power.

Some five hundred years ago, humans led by a spellcaster called Louhi battered down the gates of Isithul and formally ended the reign of the elves in Og.

Four hundred years ago, the red-skinned Qum’al of the steppe sacked the encampment of Ulu-Than, Imperator of Harady. Drunk on plunder, they then turned their attentions to the verdant lands to the north of the River Og. In short order they conquered the small stone forts of the Isithul (the name now given to the people of Louhi). The Isithul were soon overrun from the White Mountains to the Sea of Stars. By three hundred years ago, the Qum’al had established hill forts from Azsor to Luhan, and cause-way villages on the lakes of Mab. Only in the Valley of Yore did they meet strong resistance from the better organized and more technologically advanced Feafolc (halflings). Yore would be sorely pressed in those days, but it never fell.

Throughout the lands of the Qum’al, every hill fort be-came a tribal state, and raids and war were common. The clan elder system of the steppe Qum’al was gradually re-placed by the strong leadership of war chiefs. Gradually, the greatest of these war chieftains carved kingdoms out of this chaos. Such ancient Qum’al kingdoms as Luhan, Mab, Irith, Zhuul, and Krakon were forged, only to fall and then rise again as life degenerated into a circle of blood feuds and ill-conceived wars of conquest.

Two hundred years ago, seafaring invaders from Yama hit the Amber Coast of modern Luhan. The Nakdani, fleeing their sinking homeland, drove their war galleys to Luhan and began colonizing. The petty Qum’al kingdoms united in a war against the invaders, led by the mighty lords of Azdak, the Luors. The war raged intermittently for 100 years before ending in a draw, the invaders holding the coast, the Qum’al the hinterlands. Nakdani kingdoms such as Ozid, Morr, Ellik, Vac, and Gyora were founded.

By one hundred years ago, through marriage and trade, the great kingdom of Luhan was formed under a high king, the self-same lords of Azdak. The Qum’al and Nakdani had become one folk, now called the Luhano. High king after high king undertook great public works, such as repairing the ancient trade roads of the elves. Wooden forts were constructed to keep the rampaging Vadda under control, mines were established in the hills and mountains, and an iron industry was firmly established.

When a high king fell out of favor, the magnates of Luhan would withdraw their support and challengers would march with their supporters to the gates of Azdak. The fields to the north of Azdak drank much blood over the centuries, as royal dynasties rose and fell.

To the west, the country of Mab led a quiet, contemplative existence. The people lived in small lake settlements. Peace was made with the elves, though contact between them and humanity remained quite rare. Fortunately, there was enough contact to produce the present White Queen of Mab. She, like her fathers and mothers before her, is a sorceress of great power.

In the foothills of the White Mountains, life remained simple and unorganized until the war chieftain Mogg forged an alliance with a dwarf lord and founded the Golden City of Azsor about 50 years ago.

The present day finds Azsor’s king merry, Azdak’s asleep on his throne, the Isithul dreaming of a new golden age, and the White Queen alone in her tower, reading the stars and beginning to fret over things yet to come.

An early map I made of Og when I was still calling it Thule – note the “Barrier Peaks”

Copper Age Heroes II – The Quickening

Very quick post today to show off my revised map for the Copper Age campaign idea I’ve been working on. I’ve cleaned up the settlements, color coded them by culture, and made up new names where they were needed for settlements and cultures. I’ve also added in some more mythological places. The red dotted indicates the extent of copper use in the prehistoric world circa 3500 BC. The yellow circles show areas where copper was mined.

The next step for me is fleshing out these fantasy prehistoric societies.

Copper Age Heroes

Works continues apace on the next issue of NOD, and I’m doing research for my Age of Heroes campaign idea, which will probably show up in NOD later this year. The late Neolithic and Chalcolithic are really fascinating, and I’m enjoying the research immensely. Research is, of course, only the first step. I like to get an idea of what really was before I start making nonsense up to lay over the top of it and turn it into a fantasy campaign. I’m still not finished, but today I thought I’d share my working map.

I’ve mapped out settlements that would have been active (or nearly active in the case of Troy – I’d really like to include it but I probably will not) around 4000 to 3500 BC, drew out some broad cultural areas to work with (not entirely accurate, but again, this is a fantasy campaign, not a dissertation), included a couple locations of known ancient monsters (Chimera, for example) and sketched out the location of mythical Atlantis in North Africa. After all, every good fantasy campaign needs an ancient, ruined empire to plunder. In some case, I’ve started the process of giving these sites names – primarily in the west, using Basque and the Berber tongues as guides. Lots of work left to do, but it’s getting there and is being refined and nudged constantly.

Obviously, any person who does this for a living could find a million problems with this map, but for my purposes of creating a Chalcolithic fantasy world with lost kingdoms and monsters, I think it will do.

I should note that the base map comes from Natural Earth Data. Very useful – I wish I had known about it when I was working on some of the other Campaign Workbooks I’ve published.

Monster Tome and Maps

It took a little longer than I wanted due to a need to alter the cover when I got my first preview copy, but the Blood & Treasure Monster Tome hard cover is now available for sale at Lulu.com.

What do you get for $21.99?


Who doesn’t need a few more monsters to menace their players? This tome includes 258 monsters, all statted up and ready to go. Most of the monsters also include a sample encounter to help you work them into your games. Although written for the Blood & Treasure system, the monsters are compatible with most old school fantasy games. 172 pages.

PLUS – If you buy the hard cover and email me with a copy of the receipt, you get a free PDF! To paraphrase Eddie Murphy – What a bargain for you!

IN ADDITION – I did a little redesign work on the NOD page on the blog, with (I think) better links to better copies of the hex crawl maps. Check it out if you’ve a mind to.

COMING UP – A different way to value treasure, Trojan campaigns (the city, not the … you know) and whatever else my fevered little mind can dream up. NOD 24 is in the works as well!

Where Should NOD Go In 2014?

NOD Companion cover by Jon Kaufman

Hey all – I’m finishing up NOD Companion and NOD 22, and I need to start thinking about NOD 23. NOD 22 will be the first issue of NOD without a hex crawl – instead I’m doing a couple adventures, one being Dungeon of the Apes and the other a zombie plague adventure for Mystery Men!. NOD 23, however, will return with a brand spanking-new hex crawl, and I want you folks to decide what I’m writing.

Below, you shall find a world map of the Land of Nod. Previous hex crawls are indicated by the yellow boxes, the numbers corresponding to the issues in which the hex crawl appeared. The red boxes with the letters are the possibilities for the next hex crawl. These boxes correspond to the following locations in Nod …

A – Sea of Divils – A little slice of Hell on Nod – a shallow sea controlled by devils and their followers and flanked by the cities of the strange people of the Pearl Coast.

B – Azsor – When a dwarven messenger stumbled into the camp of a hill chief called Mogg, little did he know he was helping to found the kingdom of Azsor, a kingdom where dwarves and human live together and a kingdom threatened by giants, trolls and the wild men of the steppe.

C – Klarkash Mountains – The Klarkash Mountain are not only home to the kingdoms of the hobgoblins and the human city-state of Guelph, but also to an underworld where the drow are the least of one’s worries.

D – Amazonia – A fetid jungle basin inhabited by the former slaves of the ancient elves, human and otherwise. In its midst is the secret city of Tara-Tilal, the last stronghold of the ancient elves.

E – Ende – The dusty plateau of Ende holds four warring city-states, each ruled by a monster in search of the ultimate power that lies at the center of the plateau.

So, one and all, if you have a preference, vote below. Whatever gets the most votes determines the next stop I’ll be taking in the Land of Nod.

Oh, and if you want to see the map sans boxes, here it is.

Nodian Maps of Old

Back when I first started my NOD campaign (maybe around 2005/2006), I wasn’t making hex maps. I was making all sorts of other maps, though, in my capacity as a GIS manager at a real estate company. I was making those maps using a neat piece of software called MapInfo, and, having no other mapping resource and being a total geek, I decided to draw the maps for my new campaign world in MapInfo.

The advantage was that MapInfo maps are fully geocoded – i.e. they have real lat/long coordinates. For Nod, I began with a map of North America and then drew my continents (based on a projection of Earth many millions of years into the future) on top of it. From there, I slowly sculpted the shorelines, drew in woodlands, hills, mountains, deserts, etc.

Two full campaigns were run in the world, one set in Thule (then referred to as Og) and the other in Mu-Pan, and then I began the process of creating the hex crawl material for the gaming magazine. In the process, quite a few things changed – primarily in terms of the style of the world from Greyhawk-style nation state model to the “tiny-pockets-of-civilization-amidst-monster-infested-wilderness” model.

Anyhow – I was recently checking out those original maps, and thought folks might like to see them. They aren’t precisely the same scale (and I’m too lazy to include the scales), but they should give you an idea of what this big lump of fantasy world grew out of.

(As usual, click to embiggen)

It originally had more cities, towns and villages. The desert in the north is Yondo. The Tsanjan Plateau is based on the idea of Leng.

Originally called Og after the big river in the south (a sort of Nordic Amazon). Home of the first Nod campaign, an epic murder-mystery that taught me that I had players with absolutely no interest in solving murder mysteries. Fun nonetheless. Probably the next area I’ll cover with a hex crawl.

I’m considering cleaning these up (i.e. updating them) and using them in the NOD Companion.