Here's some notes I have about elves, magic, and low fantasy campaigns. The part about elves is lifted almost directly from the Japanese Wizardry TTRPG. The campaign thing came from a discussion on the discord.
Elves are a truly ancient race with a long history. They prefer solitude and do not readily share their sacred knowledge with outsiders. No elf is known to have died from natural causes.
Their race is slender and light-boned, like a bird's. Average height is about 5' 6" for both men and women. Elven skin is greenish-white and their facial expressions stoic, almost humorless, except for an occasional tell-tale reddening of the cheeks.
Elves live in small, isolated bands of 30 to 100 individuals. Some larger communities contract dwarves to build elegant castles deep in the mountains or near waterfalls, though most prefer to live nomadically, wandering the ancient forests.
Because elves are, by nature, only concerned with the pursuit of knowledge, they are often dependent on other races for their material existence, hiring gnomes and hobbits to do household chores. This makes the originally incapacitated elves an even weaker race. They feed on the production of magical medicines and scrolls. You can think of most of the magical things you see today as being made by elves.
Would be a cool setting for a low fantasy campaign with no magic
City is beseiged, plague corpses thrown in and the dead walk again, the city flees to the depths of the tunnels walling up the underground until they find something even worse creeping in from below them. Now they've been huddled in enclaves of the undercity for a generation and the plague corpses are rotted and withered to dust as adventurers go in looking for the riches that the church supposedly hauled with them to the tunnels to escape destruction by the seige.
So are the descendents like reduced to cannibal cretinism or what
there's an idea - to perform magic on something, you have to sincerely believe that it is lesser than you
it's easy to telekinesis rocks around, set plants on fire, whatever, and generally people can do magic at animals but doing it to people requires that you believe that you're just better than them, whether through lichdom, connection to the divine, or godawful racial theocracy or godawful racial theory
|AI generated fantasy art|
This thing I think came from doris2, for generating a campaign setting:
You have traveled centuries into the future to find that there has been a _____ and the area is now controlled by _____ wielding _____
1. TERRIBLE PLAGUE
2. ECOLOGICAL DISASTER
3. WORKING-CLASS REVOLUTION
4. INDUSTRIAL UPHEAVAL
5. GREAT WAR
6. ALIEN INVASION
7. RELIGIOUS AWAKENING
8. INCURSION FROM HELL
1. CARNIVOROUS PLANTS
2. COMPETING CULTS
3. EXTREME PACIFISTS
4. DEMOCRATIC DIEHARDS
6. ANNOYING THEOCRATS
7. OLD BLOOD
1. ADVANCED GEMSTONE TECHNOLOGY
2. ANALOG INFORMATICS
3. DEMONIC PACTS
4. ALIEN ARTIFACTS
5. CRUEL MAGICKS
6. AGRICULTURAL SUPREMACY
7. CRUDE FIREARMS
8. THE DIVINE MANDATE
|AI generated fantasy art|
Here's a snipped discussion about running hexcrawl campaigns
i guess, for the sake of being helpful, a summary of my stocking process
- step 1: ok yes you have to figure out the terrain first (this is art and the hardest step, but I have had good results from the welsh piper method linked above, though I modify it significantly)
-step 2: decide # of known settlements based on map size, probably between 4-8 for the maps I tend to do (10x10 to 12x12 is my favorite size). Connect settlements with roads, add forts and inns in logical locations
- step 3: add some significant monster lairs, small dungeons based on a single big monster threat. probably equal to settlements.
-step 4: define a handful of world factions. things like mercenary groups, religious groups, old nobility, friendly monster towns, stuff like that, and key them to a hex. Mercenary camps, Monastaries deep in the woods, isolated gothic castles, the monster's towns, would be examples of how I'd do that. Again, might as well match the # of settlements, give or take 1.
step 5: add some magical waystones, petty god shrines, places of power, this stuff is FUN and I find it usually is pretty easy to come up with fun effects for messing with magic and making deals with Entities
step 6: Add a bunch of ruins, not necessarily full dungeons, I have a table I use for generating this stuff. Some of the ruins should have loot, treasure caches, magic weapons. Using the word ruins real liberally here- an abandoned farmstead counts, for example.
at this point I usually end up with a really well stocked map, at which point I start thinking about any other specific coolness I want to add that isn't quite so formulaic. The sky's the limit there but following these 6 steps (5 steps, really) tends to result in a pretty decently stocked map as long as you aren't running a gargantuan hexcrawl
As for running them- I try to give fairly strong directed quest hooks, the players are free to ignore them but that gives direction. The first few journeys into the hexmap are usually spent with very specific goals in mind, then they see something off in the distance and have to explore it, then they see another thing off in the distance, it's good fun.
The worst thing you can do is just give the players a map and say "go explore it, have fun!" without any hooks, in my experience.
I use fairly complex random encounter tables to make travel interesting but that's a whole other rant, lol. I will say a key bit is that they encounter other travelers on the road, who can point them to new locations through rumors.
I also am very loose with distance traveled measurements, I mostly count movement in hexes traveled rather than miles traveled. trying to squeeze as much utility out of the hex format as possible.
This is a very good point. I've seen newcomers struggle with this, this is seen as a contradiction - "I want to run a sandbox game, I don't want to railroad my players with quests". But at the initial stage, the first couple of sessions, a basic hook is very much needed to introduce them into the setting
And bypass analysis paralysis
"escort this rich pilgrim to magic mountain, 6 hexes away" gives a waypoint, an incentive, a quick intro to crawling hexes
And the way will take them by features they can mark for future exploration
It also really REALLY depends on the players.
I started my game with just two things - a town and a dungeon an hour away from it. The players then spent the first 3 sessions only going there, and not exploring any of the other elements I placed on their map. Once I put in some news and rumors, they basically latched onto them. I've only had one session where players just went out exploring (it was also probably the most fun and rewarding one in terms of play experience).
Unless you're already playing with people who are deep into old school play and more or less don't need ANY prompts, most other players will basically refuse to just go out and do stuff unless there's some kind of hook there.
I've noticed that there's a non-insignificant lack of creativity, drive and curiosity with a lot of my players. And a truly sandbox experience kind of requires the players to have those things
Instead of the GM just telling them where there's interesting stuff, and them beelining for it while ignoring everything else.