Hammerfast Hex Map -- I Saw What You Did Thar

The_Gneech

Explorer
Overland hex map, black and white illos ... somebody was trying to reclaim the "old school" feel here, I suspect!

I'm a little baffled at the choice of battle maps, tho ... two large, rectangular rooms with minimal features.

Still, looks like a fun (and mostly edition-neutral) little supplement.

-The Gneech :cool:
 

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The_Gneech

Explorer
So this is an orc based supplement? :p

Moreso than you might think, actually. In fact, there is an amazingly strong orc presence, considering it's a dwarven stronghold.

Although, actually, it doesn't seem all that, er, 'dwarfy.' In fact, the Seven-Pillared Hall in Thunderspire Labyrinth seems more dwarfy than this place, which is essentially a pretty standard walled down that just happens to be up on a mountain.

Having read through a bit more of the supplement last night, I've decided to christen it "The Book of Strange Choices," because from a design standpoint that seems to be what it is.

There are some adventure bits at the end, mostly sketchy adventure ideas for you to flesh out; but mostly the supplement is an in-depth study of the town. I like the general approach, and it's nice to see some movement away from "fight-fight-fight" and towards some more interesting interactions, but the actual town in question seems a bit forced.

The backstory is that it was originally essentially a dwarven necropolis, but after so many dwarven lords had been buried there they had to have guards staying there to guard the various tombs' treasures ... but then there was a massive raid by orcs and a huge battle that wiped out both the guards and the raiders, and finally a cease-fire brokered by followers of both Moradin and Gruumsh in which both factions would share the city peaceably, including the restless ghosts of the battle. So you've got dwarves, orcs, and ghosts all co-existing together with political struggles between the two temples and occasional hidden treasure vaults popping up and so on. You can practically hear the design memo language requiring that the setting have "lots of fantastic elements" and "chances for conflict around every corner."

There's a very nice poster map of the whole city, with a grid, except that the squares are a centimeter across and represent 20'. Not sure if it's intended for tactical use or what. Easily re-purposeable if you don't want to have it populated by dwarves, orcs, and ghosts.

There's a hex map of the region, ready for random encounters and all. Again, this is a strange choice ... what happened to 4E's general trend of dispensing with such things and having travel happen at the speed of plot? That old chestnut, the Dungeon of the Fire Opal, gets a nod here.

The battle maps, as I mentioned above, are basically two big square rooms. In point of fact, they're the upper and lower floors of the local tavern, complete with chandelier with rules for swinging on. Neat enough I suppose, but kinda superfluous with the release of "Harrowing Halls" on the exact same day (and the Paizo flip-mat that already covers the same ground). Still, if you want some brawling, you've come to the right place.

The last thing that struck me in my quick overview last night was a beastie in the back, a L14 elite brute if my memory serves correctly, that's described as probably being the most dangerous creature within the confines of Nentir Vale. Again, this struck me as a strange choice ... I haven't looked at all the other dungeons theoretically set in Nentir Vale, but aren't some of them considerably higher than 14th level? (Or do they go all interplanar?)

Overall, I found it a mixed bag. There's neat stuff in it that I'm sure I'll find a use for somewhere along the line, but it's certainly not what I was looking for when I picked up a "dwarf settlement" book and it left me scratching my head a lot.

-The Gneech :cool:
 

Thanlis

Explorer
The last thing that struck me in my quick overview last night was a beastie in the back, a L14 elite brute if my memory serves correctly, that's described as probably being the most dangerous creature within the confines of Nentir Vale. Again, this struck me as a strange choice ... I haven't looked at all the other dungeons theoretically set in Nentir Vale, but aren't some of them considerably higher than 14th level? (Or do they go all interplanar?)

P1 (Trollhaunt) is outside the Vale. H3 is sort of outside the Vale -- you get a little bit northwards before you enter it, and there's some extraplanar action happening. I don't think any of the remainder are in the Vale. At most you could argue that some of them are under the Vale, but that's a different beast.

Level 14 elite sounds about right as the scariest thing out there.
 

meomwt

First Post
There's a hex map of the region, ready for random encounters and all. Again, this is a strange choice ... what happened to 4E's general trend of dispensing with such things and having travel happen at the speed of plot? That old chestnut, the Dungeon of the Fire Opal, gets a nod here.


-The Gneech :cool:

The reason for the region map being on a hex grid is discussed here on mearls' blog.

Sounds like he's Old School at heart B-)
 

Windjammer

Adventurer
Sounds like he's Old School at heart

In a sense, yes. As part of developing 4E Mearls picked up playing OD&D at the WotC offices to see how the game works. OD&D didn't come with a hex map but mentioned that you ought to buy the Avalon Hill game 'Outdoor Survival'. Mearls bought that game in 2008 for presumably similar reasons - wanting to see what OD&D is about, so he can draw on that to develop 4E further. ('Develop' not as in 'mimic' but as in: mine for ideas and putting a new spin on them). You can read his thoughts here. The important thing is - look at the Outdoor Survival gameboard and you'll see where the scaling, annotating, and artwork for the hex maps from 70s Judges Guild to 00s Necromancer Games come from:

pic563578_lg.jpg


In other words, I don't think Mearls is 'old school at heart' if that means that he's always leaned towards that stuff. He's discovering it only recently and finds out that it suits him. (Being similar in that regard, I'm the last one to complain that it's 'too late' or such nonsense!)

The other thing about the Hammerfast map though is that, while containing hexes, it doesn't contain numbered hexes. So it's really a very partial nod to traditional hexcrawling. In fact, this very observation about Outdoor Survival's map was Mearls' own beef when he bought it:

The hexes aren't numbered. Either I'll to number them myself (and mark up my precious map!) or make a smaller, reference copy of the map in my notes. This is easily the biggest drawback, IMO. I think I'll sketch a copy in my notebook, but it would've been nice to use hex reference numbers instead.

Why do hexes need numbering? So you key section write ups to section codes. The essence of a hexmap is that anything could happen in any hex, which is why you'll want to code all the hexes, and not just put city and forest names on it.
 

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