Introduction and the "Linear Point Crawl"
Lets call this form of the point crawl the "Linear Crawl". Its features are this:
- Locations are the only places where the game "happens"
- The order in which you visit them is constrained absolutely
- A series of adventuring locations that you have planned for players to visit
- An order in which the adventuring locations may be visited
|An example of a Linear Point Crawl style adventure.|
The "Multi-Path Point Crawl"The next order of complexity up is what I would describe as the "Multi-Path Point Crawl". This is where locations are connected in a more complex way, with the opportunity for multiple vectors leading to or from a single location. This means that locations are still the primary focus, but not all locations have to be visited and the order that they are visited in can be influenced by the player, though there may still be constraints (like time, more on that later). To use the train map analogy, this train system has multiple lines who share some common stations, riders can choose from several routes to get to their destination.
To summarize: the multi-path point crawl still places and emphasis on the locations visited, but the order those locations are visited (if at all) are removed or relaxed. In a multi-path crawl you need:
- A set of adventuring locations that players may visit
- A set of travel vectors between those locations
- Information provided to the play on the consequences for those deciding which path to take or local to visit (for example they might get more treasure for traveling through the Wight Wastes to the Mound of Misery as opposed to the easier travel along the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City)
|An example of a Multi-Path Point Crawl adventure structure. If you can find a way to activate the Standing Stones you can skip the Keep of the Meta-Fungi altogether (an avoid the mind altering spores!)|
The Hex Crawl and the "Spatially Relevant Plane Crawl"The level of resolution that I am currently enamored with is what I will call the "Spatially Relevant Plane Crawl", the logical extreme in complexity of a Hex Crawl.
The problem: The highest level of spatial resolution possible is a to-scale map where every point on the map is in a sense a location. This is the resolution that we are trying to simulate with the Spatially Relevant Plane Crawl, we want players to feel as if they can point to any point on a map and say that is where they want to visit. Of course planning a to-scale map would take a prohibitively long time and take up a large amount of space. Because we have limited time, space, and creative juice we should not attempt to create a to-scale representation of the play world. These valuable resources are better spent on things that players will actually interact with. The goal of this approach is to simulate the experience of a to-scale map. So how do we do this?
This is... fine. It uses a few basic topographic/ecological features to indicate the content of a hex (forest, hilly forest, marsh, grass land, hills, mountains, water, etc). There are usually accompanied by a keyed table telling you what you can find in each hex.
- Topography is indicated, preferably with actual topographic lines, but maps with a hillshade effect give a good idea of topography as well
- A reasonable scale. Do you really expect your players to walk from New York to San Francisco? If not, then you probably don't need a map at that scale. I find that getting an idea of what a reasonable scale can be a little hard, think of hikes/runs/bike rides you've been on, how long did it take you to travel that far? Could you keep up that pace over many days? There is no need to plan a map in detail where most of it's content will never be seen (an argument for localism and a discussion of long distances/time).
- Some idea of the dominant ecosystem (as you know I like to build systems around ecosystems), this will help fill wilderness travel content. This can be represented in a choropleth map with color codes for land cover.
- Place settlements and the paths/highways between them
- Place adventuring locations (ruins/keeps/monster lairs/etc)
- Name some major wilderness areas and think about their major features/gimmicks
With a good map with the above elements, I feel like I have what I want to run an adventure. I can build random encounters/locations for the wilderness areas (see an approach to this here) and flesh out dungeons and settlements as usual.
So when my players look at their map and point to some far and whimsically named place beyond the mountains and say they want to visit there next I can nod and say "Great, go ahead and roll the first wilderness encounter as you make your way into the foothills bellow the Unpathable Peaks..."