The Things We Find Along The Way – Filling The Gaps In A Hexcrawl or Pointcrawl

Here I aim to flesh out the step between “you are traveling” and “you found a dungeon” in a hex- or pointcrawl, in a way that hopefully feels natural and like actual exploration. I’ve taken some inspiration from, yes, Skyrim. It aims to add a bit of risk-reward to the process: discovering new locations might require an investment of time and resources, and the final reward might be nothing, a welcome surprise, or a nasty encounter.

Image: Whiterun Hold by Michal Kus

The Things We Find Along The Way

Note: Tables are referenced in [bold brackets].

While traveling, you spot…

1d6Result
1-2A [Point of Interest]
3-4A [Vantage Point]
5-6Approaching [People]

…at a [Distance].

Distance

1d6Result
1Closeby: easy to reach; short travel time
2-5Not too far away: a short walk or small challenge
6Quite far away: a long walk or difficult challenge

Point of Interest

1d6Result
1Plume of smoke, indicating a [Camp] 
2[Cave entrance]
3[Ancient shrine]
4[Crumbling ruin]
5[Vantage Point]
6Roll twice

Vantage Point

1d4Result
1Old watchtower
2Small hill
3Climbable tree
4Big, jutting rock

…from which you spot a [Point of Interest] at a [Distance].

People

Each group of people has a [Disposition].

1d10Result
1Fellow travelers
2Merchants
3Monks
4Pilgrims
5Rangers
6Hunters & trappers
7-9Bandits
10Bandits posing as Roll a d6 on this table

Disposition

1d6Result
1Hostile
2-3Cautious
4Indifferent
5Curious
6Friendly

Beasts

Beasts also possess a [Disposition].

1d6Result
1-2Bears
3-4Wolves
5Giant vultures
6Trolls

Camp

1d6Result
1-2Recently abandoned. 1d6: (1-2) There are still some supplies (3-6) Nothing beside remains
3-4In use by [People].
5-6Recently attacked by [Beasts].

Cave Entrance

The cave is…

1d6Result
1Just one chamber big
2-51d4+1 chambers big
62d4+2 chambers big

and occupied by…

1d6Result
1-2[People]
3-4[Beasts]
5-6Abandoned.

Ancient Shrine

The shrine…

1d6Result
1-3is unremarkable and mundane
4-5aids the journey through supplies left here
6aids the journey through some magical blessing

Crumbling Ruin

This ruin is of a…

1d6Result
1Temple
2-3Outpost
4-5Lodge
6Castle

and is occupied by…

1d6Result
1-2[People]
3[Beasts]
4-6Abandoned.

and contains…

1d6Result
1-3Nothing of note
4-5A cache of hidden supplies and treasure
6A dungeon

Design Notes

There’s a chance of chains of events: lookout > another lookout > 2 locations, for instance.

The [Distance] table is an invitation to have the players invest resources, be it time (a longer detour), tools or equipment. 

“Closeby” should mean there’s no challenge involved; “Not too far away” might involve a skill check (“Climb the crumbling tower with DEX”) or a tool (“Use the grapple hook to climb the tower”); “Quite far away” could involve a skill check and a tool.

I hope this document also encourages interesting choices – sure, you spotted a camp, but it might be occupied by bandits, so approach carefully.

Dark Souls-inspired Weapons for Into the Odd/Cairn

wood dark dirty military

Next up in my series on Cairn-inspired writing, weaponry! I love the quick combat of Cairn, so I don’t want to slow that down too much, nor do I want the character sheet to be filled with a load of special maneuvers.

The main goals for this project, which I’ve given the working title of Dodge, Parry, Block (DBP) are:

  • Keep the simplicity and core philosophies of ItO/Cairn
  • Keep skills, abilities and progression diegetic and natural – they must make sense within the fiction of the game

This post is a continuation of my Dodge, Parry & Block post, and will be built upon further in an upcoming post about Careers & Skills.


Weapon Types

First of all, the basic categories of weaponry:

  • Piercing. Rolling the maximum value on your damage roll makes your attack ignore armor.
  • Bludgeoning. Always ignores 1 armor.
  • Slashing. Deals +1 damage against targets without armor.
  • Bulky. Requires 2 hands to wield.
  • Ranged. Can attack at range.
The philosophy here is that a dagger (small damage die, piercing) allows you to bypass armor by precisely stabbing weak spots, armor can be bashed in with bludgeoning weapons, and most basic armor is designed to stop slashing weapons.

Weapon Tags

These are variations/expansions of the weapon tags and exotic weapon tags found in Into the Odd.

  • Heavy X: Ignore X points of ARMOR, but DAMAGE rolls of X or lower completely miss.
  • Sweep X: DAMAGE rolls of X or higher grant one bonus attack on another target in reach. You can’t chain this effect for multiple bonus attacks.
  • Reach X: When charged with a weapon shorter than yours when fighting back, the attacker must roll X or higher on their DAMAGE roll or else you get to attack them first.
  • Counter X: DAMAGE rolls of X or less against you are bounced back against your attacker.
  • Brutal X: CRITICAL DAMAGE resulting from a DAMAGE roll of X or more from this weapon is an instant kill, and forces a morale SAVE on the enemy.
  • Shock X: Damage rolls of X or higher trigger a STR Save – on a failure, the target loses its next turn.
  • Bleed X: On a damage roll of X or higher, the target takes an additional 1d4 STR damage at the start of their next turn.

Special

  • Sharpened X: Reroll damage rolls of X or lower.
  • Mastercrafted: Roll 2 damage dice, highest result counts.

Learning How To Use A Weapon

If you are not proficient with an individual weapon, the weapon damage die is lowered one tier (d12>d10>d8>d6>d4). To gain proficiency with an individual weapon, roll max damage with the weapon 3 times while in lethal combat.

To use the weapon tag (Brutal, Sweep etc.) of an individual weapon, you need weapon mastery. This is achieved by making 5 killing blows with the weapon while in lethal combat.

If you are not proficient with a weapon type, you do not gain the benefits of Piercing/Bludgeoning/Slashing. To gain proficiency with the weapon type, make 5 killing blows while in lethal combat with any weapon of that type.

You get better at utilizing weapons by using them. Once you're used to slashing weapons, you can pick up another to easily slash with, but you do need to get used to the new balance, weight and "moveset" of the new weapon, hence the lowered damage die.
Using a weapon in more advanced ways (using its tag) requires the most practice and mastery.

Example Weapons

All inspired by Dark Souls. Rarity is an indicator of price and likeliness to be found in loot.

If tied into the aforementioned Dodge, Block, Parry system, I think it would make sense to have all d6 damage die weapons count as fast, d8 weapons count as ‘normal’ and d10 weapons as strong.

Piercing Weapons

  • Bow (d6): Piercing, Bulky, Ranged. Rarity: ⭐
  • Ceremonial Dagger (d6): Piercing, Bleed (5). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Dagger (d6): Piercing. Rarity: ⭐
  • Parrying Dagger (d6): Piercing, Counter (2). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Crossbow (d8): Piercing, Bulky, Ranged. Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Rapier (d8). Piercing, Counter (3). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Spear (d8): Piercing, Reach (3). Rarity: ⭐
  • War Pick (d8): Piercing, Bleed (7). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Boar-Hunting Spear (d10): Piercing, Bulky, Reach (4). Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐
  • Greatbow (d10): Piercing, Bulky, Ranged. Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐

Bludgeoning Weapons

  • Cudgel (d6): Bludgeoning. Rarity: ⭐
  • Sage’s Staff (d6): Bludgeoning, Reach (3). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Simple Staff (d6): Bludgeoning, Reach (2). Rarity: ⭐
  • Flail (d8): Bludgeoning, Shock (5). Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐
  • Mace (d8): Bludgeoning, Shock (7). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Spiked Mace (d8): Bludgeoning, Shock (6). Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐
  • Maul (d10): Bludgeoning, Bulky, Shock (6). Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐
  • Warhammer (d10): Bludgeoning, Bulky, Heavy (3). Rarity: ⭐⭐

Slashing Weapons

  • Shortsword (d6): Slashing. Rarity: ⭐
  • Axe (d8): Slashing, Heavy (2). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Executioner’s Axe (d8): Slashing, Brutal (5). Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐
  • Flamberge (d8): Slashing, Bleed (6). Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐
  • Halberd (d8): Slashing, Bulky, Reach (3), Sweep (7). Rarity: ⭐⭐⭐
  • Longsword (d8): Slashing, Sweep (7). Rarity: ⭐
  • Scimitar (d8): Slashing, Sweep (6). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Greataxe (d10): Slashing, Bulky, Brutal (6). Rarity: ⭐⭐
  • Greatsword (d10): Slashing, Bulky, Sweep (6). Rarity: ⭐⭐
I'm a bit torn as to whether axes should be Brutal or Heavy. 

Time, Gear & Skill: A Different Approach To Skill Checks

close up of old rusty door

The following was written with Cairn in mind, but would work just as well for Into the Odd, Electric Bastionland and heck, D&D 5e if you’re doing a complete revamp.


Performing actions involves time, gear, and skill.

  • Generally, if you have none or one of the three, a task is impossible.
  • If you have all three, you do not need to roll – it just succeeds.
  • If you only have two, the task might involve a Save, with time or your gear being at stake if you fail.

Environmental factors/opportunities might act as a substitute for gear or skill.

Example: Lockpicking

Lockpicking a door requires no roll if you are skilled at lockpicking, are not in a hurry and have lockpicking tools available.

Lockpicking a door might require a DEX Save if you’re in a hurry yet have the skills and tools, with the risk being not finishing the task in time. It could also involve a WIL Save if you have time and skill, yet no tools, with you trying to improvise your tools.

Lockpicking a door is impossible with only one of the three:

  • You could stare at a lock all day with all the time in the world, but without gear and skill, nothing is going to happen.
  • You could be a skilled lockpicker, but in a hurry and without tools, there’s not much you can do.
  • You might have lockpick tools, but without the time to figure out how to use them, there’s no way you’ll manage it without skill.

Dodge, Block & Parry for Into the Odd/Electric Bastionland/Cairn

silver knight helmet

I’ve been really inspired by a few things recently: Dark Souls, Elden Ring, and super-sleek minimalist RPG Cairn. This is my interpretation of bringing Soulslike tactical decision making to the tabletop!

The Simple Version

The Warden will declare which enemies will attack which character. Before damage is rolled, a character under attack has 4 options:

  • Fight back. Choose one attacker and deal your damage against it – after you’ve taken the incoming damage.
  • Dodge. Any incoming strong or weak attacks become Impaired.
  • Block. Any incoming fast or weak attacks become Impaired. Requires a weapon or shield.
  • Parry. Choose one attacking opponent that you are able to attack in return. 
    • If you roll higher attack damage than they do, their diceroll is invalidated, and you deal your damage straight to their STR.
    • If the opponent rolls higher, the damage is dealt to your STR instead.

Active Roll Version

The Warden will declare which enemies will attack which character. Before damage is rolled, a character under attack has 4 options:

  • Fight back. Choose one attacker and deal your damage against it – after you’ve taken the incoming damage.
  • Dodge. Make a DEX Save, and add your current Armor to the roll. 
    • Roll with Advantage if the incoming attack is strong or weak. Optionally: Roll with Disadvantage if the incoming attack is fast.
    • On a success, you take no damage.
    • On a failure, you take regular damage. Optionally: damage becomes Enhanced.
  • Block. Make a STR Save, and subtract your current Armor from the roll.
    • Roll with Advantage if the incoming attack is fast or weak. Optionally: Roll with Disadvantage if the incoming attack is strong.
    • On a success, you take no damage.
    • On a failure, you take regular damage. Optionally: damage becomes Enhanced.
  • Parry. Choose one attacking opponent that you are able to attack in return. 
    • If you roll higher attack damage than they do, their diceroll is invalidated, and you deal your damage straight to their STR.
    • If the opponent rolls higher, the damage is dealt to your STR instead.

Weak, Strong, Fast & Sweeping

Each enemy attack falls into one of 4 categories. It should be clear to the players which enemy would deal what type of attack.

  • Weak attacks possess no special properties. Think: goblins, skeletons. Choosing to Dodge or Block should both be valid.
  • Fast attacks move too fast to be dodged effectively: think rapiers, daggers, bows. It’s best to Block these.
  • Strong attacks move slow and pack a punch. Think: hammers, a ogre’s punch. It’s best to Dodge these.

Sweeping attacks cannot be Dodged or Blocked. Think: magic, a dragon’s breath. These are best avoided through movement and cover.

Mix & Match

This system is designed to present interesting player choices: What if a minotaur is about to use his club on your (Strong) and a snakeperson archer is taking aim with its bow (Fast)?