Overland game

You know, for a while I’ve been wondering how to do overland game, game that’s mesoscale.

In a computer game, you just have a big map. But you spend a fair amount of time just trudging from place to place. And in tabletop it just doesn’t work – asking players to move from one hex to the next. Actually, Kingmaker does make it work, but only because there’s an in-game excuse to visit every single hex.

Last night, I found myself saying to my players “Well, the main road through town clearly leads further up the hill and down into the surf”. Even in my dungeon, rather than draw out the rooms (because it was all pretty large scale) I was just saying “the hall has two exits, one sloping down, one on the level”. It was sounding a lot like a text adventure.

Bam! you know, that works. Divide your ruins, or forest, or island into regions. Encounter zones. Graph the connections (you know – the dual of the zones themselves). A road. A forest trail. A difficult pass between rocky hills. A gentle slope down to a river.

Yeah, I suppose it’s obvious, but my head was at “map the whole region”. With software, it’s possible to do that, to generate a detailed map. But it’s pointless, unless you want to play one of those games where you spend all your time holding down the “move forward” key to do overland travel.

Some campaigns actually divide the overland map up into difficult terrain with roads. The serpent’s skull game did that for Smuggler’s Shiv and for whatsisname town at the end of module 2. It works, it’s a shade obvious.

The mud-map with encounter areas will suffice for CENSORED, which the GG party will have to explore. The place needs to be big enough that we can have two parties exploring it without making synchronization a hassle (oh, it’s still before lunchtime at our table).

In fact – I’d say build the encounters first. First design what the players need to do, then fill in more detail about where it has to be done.

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