2020-05-20 Hex Describe to roll up random encounters

Today, @acodispo sent me a link to a blog post he wrote: Random Encounters with Hex Describe. He uses the basic features of Hex Describe without a map – just random tables! – to generate encounters for his game. I like the idea.

Actually, I’ve wondered about a similar thing: should the regular Hex Describe mini settings come with a bunch of random encounter tables? Or just 20 random encounters for each biome which you simply cross off as you use them? I think I’d like that...



I use the thorp symbol in my maps to identify a hex that is a random encounter table. Any travel to an adjacent hex triggers a check; traveling into the marked hex triggers two checks. These hexes are typically central to a region (in the center of a swamp, the heart of a forest, the interior of a desert).

I try to write the random encounters around the adjacent hexes. Some examples of items that resonated with players;

  • A battered war party of orcs, some of whom had hands or feet of stone, after losing a battle with a medusa. The party got intel then went and fought the medusa.
  • A giant ant wearing a religious amulet around its neck, which they traced back to a shrine.
  • Kobolds on the move. (Were heading towards a dragon; this one wasn’t followed for months but eventually they sought out those kobolds.)

I find that this technique really increase verisimilitude.

J. Alan Henning 2020-06-02 17:30 UTC

Ah, very cool! You add them by hand, right? Generating the tables using Hex Describe would require a lot of work...

– Alex Schroeder 2020-06-02 21:30 UTC

Yes, I added them by hand. Easy for a human after the surrounding hexes have been generated!

Interestingly, I came across this post because I was heading to Hex Describe to generate a witch’s hut and a town for a Dungeon World session. Very helpful, as always!

J. Alan Henning 2020-06-03 13:16 UTC

Alex, how about having a special notation for tables that should not get interpreted, but output as a conventional random dice table?


You encounter some [bugbears] ⇒ gets interpreted in the usual way with whatever is in the bugbears table.


You encounter some {bugbears} ⇒ uses the bugbears table to print out an actual formatted dice rolling table ...

I imagine this would turn hex describe into a very nifty adventure writing tool - apart from being one of the most amazing rpg online tools anyhow 😉

Wanderer Bill 2020-07-23 13:38 UTC

I think this wouldn’t work too well: Let’s say you want to print a table of magic items. You can’t print all the combinations. There are far too many of them. Thus, in your rules, you should use something like this:

Roll a d10 for the magic item:<ol><li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]<li>[magic item]</ol>


Roll a d10 for the magic item:

  1. A dwarven dagger +2 with dwarven runes commemorating the slaying of the red dragon Hot Death the Eternal.
  2. A prayer of protection of the moon (8h, prevents were-creatures from approaching).
  3. An orcish zweihänder +1/+3 vs. city dwellers, in the Long Monkey Stab tradition.
  4. A potion of shrinking (deep amber, 1h, shrinks you and everything you are carrying by a factor of 12 including the effect of any spells you cast and any damage you deal).
  5. A scroll of crashing gates (destroy one door up to 20m wide).
  6. A prayer of summoning (the naga Terrible Queen of Death, from Eiterhorg, Set’s hall in Svartalfheim: HD 9 AC 7 1d8+poison F18 MV 6; fireball (7d6) 3×/day; charm person at will; only harmed by magic or magic weapons).
  7. A potion of bellowing (light yellow, 1h, allows you to bellow so loud that your voice can be heard for many miles).
  8. A scroll of fire ball (6d6, save vs. spells for half).
  9. The necklace of dharma allows you to borrow actions from your future self: act twice this round to do what needs to be done but skip the next round.
  10. A goblin assassin’s black iron crossbow +1, decorated with the seven heads of Set.

Don’t you agree? And that means, the new rule would either have to be more complicated... or you just write them out like that. And if you plan to write up a few of these – and contribute them back! 😀 – then I will write something like a “repeat” rule which would allow you to do something like the following:

Roll a d10 for the magic item:<ol>[repeat 10 <li>[magic item]]</ol>

But only if you actually contribute some of them!

(Must find more contributors...)

– Alex Schroeder 2020-07-23 14:42 UTC

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