#lore24: The Hex Marches, Take 2

Back in the saddle. I tried the #dungeon23 challenge last year and failed miserably (two posts in #dungeon23, three in #pantheon23… last was on January 2, 2023). Let’s see if I can do better this year.

Some time ago I explored the idea of a West Marches-style open table campaign. Because it’s how I think, I started by laying out ‘points of interest’ (without necessarily knowing what they actually were) and the connections between them. That is, I wanted to create a graph (collection of nodes and edges). I created a template to make this easy to draw, then realized I was only a small step from a hex map… and thus was born the Hex Marches.

This post — this series of posts – -was prompted by the #lore24 challenge, but as usual, I’m doing something a little different than expected. ‘Lore’, to me, usually suggests a certain degree of accuracy and truth.

Being a West Marches kind of setting, I feel that presenting things as fact might be going a little too far. Instead, I’ll be presenting what is known. I expect that most things will be accurate enough to be worth checking out, but I don’t promise that you’ll find what you expect.

West Marches and Sandbox Links and Resources

Here are some links regarding West Marches campaigns, what they are, and how people apply the concepts. This is totally a rabbit hole, and I admit I have not read all of these in detail — I expect to be rereading some of these, and adding to the list as I go.

  • First — literally, it’s the one that started this all — is Ben Robbins’ original post, Grand Experiments: West Marches. There are links to other West Marches topics at the end of this post.
  • /r/DMAcademy has a great Lessons Learned post based on a shared West Marches world, which itself has many links to other resources.
  • Greg Gillespie explains What is a West Marches Campaign, in depth.
  • Matt Colville has a video explaining West Marches campaigns. He does a good job of explaining much of the why of various West Marches characteristics.
  • Dom Liotti and Sam Sorensen published Izirion’s Enchiridion of the West Marches, an excellent “how to” for West Marches campaigns (especially for 5e), and possibly one of my favorite RPG books ever.
  • Well, after Matt Finch’s astonishing Tome of Adventure Design, at least. Tome of Adventure Design is hands-down my favorite RPG book (and now, PC/tablet app), and particularly well-suited for sandbox gaming.
  • I can’t talk about sandbox resources without mentioning Kevin Crawford and Sine Nomine. I feel Kevin has done more to explain and support sandbox play than anyone else, An Echo, Resounding is one of Kevin’s older works and later books expand on the topics and techniques, but when it comes to devising a sandbox setting, this is the one I’d start with.

… more to be added

One comment

  1. Reverance Pavane

    This was how we used to play back in the day. It was kind of natural if you were into tabletop wargaming at a wargames club, since this was pretty much the definition of a “campaign” – individual players (generals) taking moves in a common setting (map). If you read OD&D from a wargamers perspective a lot of the rules make more sense (such as the requirement for strict timekeeping [although in truth there did end up being situations where minor retconning was required sue to the fact that sessions were of a certain length – especially where sessions were for individuals rather than parties.

    It’s still the way I run my campaign games (although I do form a party basis where players who attend the session go on explicit expeditions to do something), which gets interesting when two teams try to attempt the same something at the same time. Because I run a long time-base campaign (and it is assumed that players have duties they must attend to in their downtime), players only get to “adventure” once a season. One of the big advantages for this (in addition to ease of scheduling [players get to choose who they join up with for that season]) is that it results in a campaign where players can see the consequences of actions to a much greater degree. And because my campaign is heavily driven by random event and encounter tables even I don’t know what is going to happen. And of course, a lot of these events are triggered by the actions of different groups of players adventuring in the world. Like Cherenkov radiation. Little traces of cosmic particles passing through the campaign leaving stuff in their wake for everyone to find. It really does help to be fluid in your campaign setting. Too many people try to predefine too much. Seriously, it’s all going to change when players bounce off it (or splat against it). And when the players bounce off each other.

    [This was not just D&D, but included my Glorantha, Bushido, and Pendragon games as well.]

    I do wish I was better at running one-on-one games. These were the standard campaigns back then. With from a dozen to 30-40 players operating in a single campaign at once. It helped running them at a wargames club or university though, where players were generally available for sessions. Especially the more power political games where the players were competing amongst themselves. And you don’t need a lot of room to run one of these. A single city or even a dungeon is enough. And having the background area reasonably “blank” gives more leeway as the action expands outside this limited arena.

    Interesting that it is now known as a West Marches campaign. As a piece of jargon this actually means something rather different for me (again from wargaming jargon). More akin to the setting that Ben’s West Marches campaign apparently used than as a campaign style. Oh well.

    [PS: My normal browser hates your website for some reason. ]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Back to Top