Well as it turns out, I struck a cord with my post on Saturday about ancient battlefields on your hex map, and it makes sense! I love resources and things that spark my imagination too! I love settings with a deep history even if as a player I never discover those secrets – you want the world to be lived in, you want verisimilitude even when there are people with literal dog heads walking around in heavy plate armor swinging broadswords at giants (more on that in a future post!).
At the same time, one of my all-time favorite pages in any RPG book is page 46 in The Black Hack 2nd Edition hardcover book. I’ve mentioned before that TBH is my OSR/RPG system of choice and even with homebrew changes, that’s still the foundation of what my stuff is all based on.
So what’s so special about page 46? Well, it’s a one-page NPC generator in which the GM can grab a handful of common RPG dice – a d4, d6, d8, d10, and d12 – and rolls them. Each die has a corresponding table, and after you roll those five dice, you have a really solid foundation for a quick NPC. AND IT’S FUN! As the GM, it’s the kind of thing that I love – I get to discover stuff too!
I decided to copy this concept (and I’m sure it existed previously to The Black Hack, but this is my first real exposure to it, so I’ll stick to it) in order to provide a tool to create an ancient battlefield site to fill a hex map. Roll on this table three or four (or more!) times and plop them on an empty hex map. I’m confident this is a decent place to start with populating just about everything else on your map.
I had a kind Reddit user ask how to use this, and so I did an example use of the generator and now want to find out more about these crazy feuding dwarf lords I came up with! Below is what I wrote in response to the Redditor’s question:
There’s two main uses I see for this generator – when you building a hex map of a region or when you need to improvise quickly because your party just traveled into a hex you hadn’t prepared anything for yet!
Take a handful of your basic RPG dice minus a d20. Roll one of each, and then apply your results to the table for each die. For example:
1d4: 4 – The Battle is well-known among academics and historians
1d6: 4 – It was a Battle between rival lords
1d8: 7 – The area contains a holy sit important to the locals
1d10: 2 – The battle was between dwarfs. I could have rolled this one twice if I wanted it between two different peoples, but considering the battle was between rival lords, I like the idea of it being two dwarven lords and kept it as that.
1d12: 12 – A completely sealed iron box with something inside can be found on the battlefield.
So taking all these together, you can see that we have quite an interesting little story just from rolling a handful of dice. Two rival dwarf lords fought a battle here in relatively recent history/memory. Perhaps survivors of the battle settled down here and have been searching for the iron box with something hidden inside – perhaps the box itself contains a holy relic that the dwarf lords were fighting over.
You can riff in a bunch of different directions here, but just with that little bit of information, it really creates a bit of personality for the hex it’s found in.
The next step would be to ask where the two dwarf armies came from – are they local, or did they march for weeks to this site? If they’re local, maybe the dwarf kingdoms are now abandoned dungeons that could be explored or perhaps the dwarf lord descendants still hold the castles. If they’re not local, perhaps there are great roads that were founded by the marching armies as they made their way to this battlefield.
Now you can see we don’t just have information for this hex but perhaps some surrounding ones as well. That’s what makes this stuff so much fun in my experience and why I love being a DM! Before I rolled those five dice, I didn’t have any of this, but now I have a really fun adventure seed and surrounding area my players could explore.