Friday, December 13, 2013

Hex Crawls and Barrel Rides

Welcome back! Today in honor of the second movie release of my favorite story, the Hobbit (Desolation of Smaug) I have an interesting discussion that ties into my current Greyhawk campaign, a hex crawl in Suss Forest. If there is any spoilers I apologize, but come on, it's the Hobbit!

But first, speaking of hex crawls, there is an awesome article over at Wizards by James Wyatt on that subject. He goes into great detail on comparing hex scales to maps both fantasy and real world. It's rather interesting, take a look.

Added to this topic, over at Greyhawk Grognard, there is a wonderful post on finding viable hex crawl adventure locations in the Flanaess just like the sort I'm currently running in the Suss. This post is a must read.

Continuing on, I won't talk about hex crawls or what is happening in my game yet. That is for a later date. No, today I was musing over the obvious similarities of the region I've set this hex crawl in to the story and setting of the Hobbit. Gygax famously tried to deny the strong influence of Tolkien in Greyhawk, but when you compare things they just fall in place. Such as:

Suss Forest and Mirkwood
A dark, evil wood that is dangerous to pass through, inhabited by monsters (like Spiders), difficult to pass but on the fringes it is still worked by civilized races. For instance, you got humans in the Wild Coast (later humanoid ruled), and orcs/goblins in the Pomarj, then you have the obligatory elves in Celene (a very Rivendell-ish area). Mirkwood of course is outrageously bigger, more akin to the Vesve Forest, but I'm going for feel here.

Barrel Ride Anyone?
Here's the fun part, what the Suss has that Vesve doesn't is the Jewel River. Much like in the Hobbit, you can literally run into wood elves in the bordering Welkwood, (or Celene for that matter) escape in barrels and float down the river through the Suss to the Principality of Ulek where humans and dwarves work together in harmony much like the middle-earth lands of Dale and the Lonely Mountain.

Where's the Hobbits?
Not surprisingly, on the other side of the Misty, er Lortmil Mountains you got the County of Ulek home to many a halfling, or not much further away to the north beyond Greyhawk City (human buffer) you can find an adventurous burglar in the town of Elmshire.

King Under the Mountain
Really the only thing this setting is lacking is a cool dragon like Smaug. I mean one sitting on the treasure of an entire dwarven kingdom. Perhaps in the mountainous Pomarj to the east, which is rich in gems and was once home to dwarves? Yes, that could work nicely.

I could probably go on, but you get the idea. The similarities between the Flanaess and Tolkien's world should be obvious to experienced gamers or readers, but don't dismiss it, no this is an advantage in my opinion. When you take these iconic locations and relationships, then couple  them with the visuals of a lavish movie, it only aids in players' immersion in the setting. That should be what all DMs strive for when they run a fantasy game.


Scott said...

I started nodding off during Wyatt's article. No Greyhawk maps?

And if you ever decide to run an online Middle Earth-Greyhawk mash-up campaign -- I want in!

Mystic Scholar said...

Very nice and completely accurate too.

The Suss Forest fits in nicely with Tolkien's Middle Earth.

Lee B said...

I recall the Slave Lords in the Pomarj having something to do with an Earth Dragon, likely Smaug size.

mortellan said...

Good point Lee! I'm sure the Earth Dragon could whup any normal dragon too.