Friday, November 21, 2014

Hex vs. Point

Two posts in one day?  You'd think I was a blogger or something. 

Some blogs I read* have been debating the merits of the point crawl, where instead of a hex map to laboriously trudge across, there are flowcharts superimposed on a map (not necessarily to scale) between points of interest.

Now, I already made a map for my GamMarvel World game (one of the first things I did), and I used a hex overlay filter on it (but still have the hexless version as well), so if I need some carefully measured overland travel, I've got it available.

But I'm thinking of doing a new map on my drawing pad, and using it as a point crawl.  While I want exploration to be important in my game, skipping over the boring parts might not be a bad idea, either. 

My recent Isle of Dread session spent a bit too much time counting hexes moved per day.  When I was a kid, we had all afternoon (or sometimes all night) to play, so it was never a problem.  Now, though, with limited time to game, I'm thinking a Point Crawl would be better.  Skip all the walking to Mordor and all that.  Plus, it's more like comics, which focus on action more than logistics.

Then again, part of me thinks logistics are an important part of play in a post-apoc game, where supplies are limited.

Well, we'll see.


  1. Yes, by all means. Why not simply get rid of the world entirely? Why not list the events that occur to the players as sentences on a page?

    1. Sorry Alexis, you'll have to do better than a slippery slope fallacy.

      Care to actually enumerate a few reasons why the hex map level of abstraction is better in all ways to the node map level of abstraction?

    2. I don't think it's actually a slippery slope fallacy, it's about the density of interesting stuff. In a point based map the density of interesting places to visit is every point, these are places that the DM has deemed worth visiting. The world is full of blank spaces that it is conceptually impossible to go to.

      Now if you only use a hex map is useful to you only because it allows you to count distance then a point map is better for you. It tells the players where those places you have bothered to flesh out are- you don't have to slog through a load of empty hexes.

      Alexis' philosophy argues that every hex on the map is significant- that is if the players choose to do so they can stop their journeys at any random hex and expect to come up with something interesting to do, whether the DM has planned it our before hand or not. The density of interest is therefore every hex on the map. Players are then free to make choices based on the factors that affect hexes rather than visit named locations. If the players' decide their time is best spent 'near a minor road between two cities, in mountianous terrain not too far from the coast' there's probably a place they can go for that, if there isn't then it definately doesn't exist, or some of the criteria can be found but not others, forcing players to compromise. In a point map, unless the DM has thought of this eventuality before hand , the existance of such a place, and therefore the success of the whatever plan the PCs has depends entirely on the DMs whims at the time, a fact that is likely to stop players from coming up with such plans in the first place.

      In short Alexis has led me to believe that players will work with the tools they have, and if they have access to more and more impartial information they will be able to make more interesting and unexpected stuff happen.

      Of course, if you aren't going to create more anyway, then point maps are better than hex maps, one might as well clearly state that their is a lot of empty uniteresting space, it's better than suggesting through hexes that the world is full of possiblities only to reveal that a majority of those possibilities are just empty.

    3. Alexis appears (from his own post on the subject on his own blog) to be uninformed of what the point-crawl is.

      How do most of us travel? We take roads, rivers, trains or planes, which follow certain routes. Certainly nothing stops us from just setting out cross country on foot. Yet most people don't. We follow certain established routes 99% of the time.

      Now, in a Point-Crawl, as I'm understanding Chris Kutalik's original post on the Hill Cantons blog, doesn't prevent players from choosing to do just that. I even stated in my post here, I've already got the hex map prepared. The players can, and sometimes should, set off cross country, and even if they're following routes (using the node-based map) that doesn't mean they can't stop along the way and find something interesting.

      So IMO Alexis is setting up a false dichotomy. Hexes are more granular than nodes, but check out this post by Noisms on just how much stuff might be in a hex using real world examples:

      Alexis whines about the loss of player choice, but ensuring that there's something interesting for the players to encounter in EVERY choice they make isn't any better than a railroad. Some choices they make may lead them to boring locations with nothing worth doing.

      I think it's better to straight up tell the players, hey, we can skip over this part and get to the fun stuff rather than scramble to whip something out of my ass to entertain them because they've chosen to camp at the lonely crossroads and wait for adventure to find them. We're playing an adventure game, not the fantasy equivalent of Sim City.

      This reply may be a bit incoherent, I just woke up and my brain's a bit fuzzy. But basically, no, Alexis is wrong on this one. His way to do it is not the only way worth doing it.

    4. I'd like to start with what I think is the biggest misconception here. 'ensuring that there's something interesting for the players to encouter in EVERY choice.' No one is suggesting that. In fact Alexis has explained why he is perfectly happy to let players sit at a crossroads waiting for adventure to come to them. What I see in Alexis' writing is a trust in players to come up with something interesting to do given the information to do it (if you'd like I can go digging for some links) The player's want to smuggle wine into a city and make a tidy profit? That's interesting, there's a system for running that and it's linked to his hex map. The players want to build a sawmill and slowly take political control of a small village? That's interesting, there's soon to be a system for that and it's linked to his hex map. Players want to start a war? Well you get the point. Given meaningful information players make meaningful choices seems to be the underlying philosophy behind this, is it true? At the moment I don't have enough data for myself but I would very much like it to be.

      Hexes aren't about granularity neccessarily (though Aelexis is building, or has built a system which recognises the granularity Noism's is trying to demonstrate) it's about an openness of options. By putting points on a map you are implicitly saying, these are the only places worth going. This is where the adventure is. And that's all well and good if that's all the adventure there is. But by bounding choices (even if other choices technically exist but are not presented to the players) you are bounding the players' ability to solve problems, achieve goals and perhaps most importantly set their own goals.


    5. I'm not sure what argument you're trying to make about routes, especially in comparison to the point you make about the granularity of hexes. Yes, people mainly use the major routes to get between places, but at the same time, those places that aren't touched by the routes are still stuffed full of interesting things. And yes, the players can choose to go off road, but the line is certain, it contains the proof that the DM has already made their decisions about how long it will take and what sort of trip it will be. Anything not a line or a point is blank space, something the DM has not thought about, places the DM does not deem important, this seems to me that it would rather discourage a player, whatever they think might be worth doing out there evidently has been deemed fun or worth it to the DM or else it would be a point on the map. The fact that it's not on the map is an implicit signal that you shouldn't go there.

      I agree Alexis' way of doing things isn't the only way of playing the game. It's simply that presenting players with a point crawl sends certain signals (basically summed up as, you have freedom of choice, but any choices you make outside those presented to you are bad ones) while the map Alexis is building (I wont call it a hex-crawl because it really isn't) sends out another message, (This is a big world, you may operate as you like in it, if you are smart and tanacious enough you may even change it in some small way).

      Personally I find the goals of Alexis' way of running the world exciting and want to tell other people about them,it seems like a worthwhile thing to do to create worlds where the players are only constrained by the rules of the world not what the DM thinks is worth doing or not, where success or failure gain meaning because they are linked to things the players have decided they want rather than things they have been told they want. That seems like a thing worth spending time on. If you truly want to shuffle your PCs to the places were the fun is that's fine by me. But personally I'd like to go someway towards trying to articulate a different way of running the game. I guess I can't speak for Alexis on why he weighed in, but at the very least I can see why a point-crawl opposes what he tries to achieve.

      Apologies for spamming your board I guess.

    6. Not spamming at all. You've got a lot to say about something you're passionate about, and you're presenting your arguments in a well-reasoned manner.

      All I've gotten from Alexis are logical fallacies and one-true-wayism (his words from his blog: if I'm not doing it his way, I'm fucking over my players).

    7. Since all of Issara's arguments are ones deriving from me on my blog, apparently I'm doing a very good job of getting my message across to people. Issara has no trouble understanding me nor reproducing my arguments, dead on I might add.

      Surely that should give you cause to wonder, Lord Gwydion, am I producing logical fallacies or are you just not listening?

    8. Issara IS doing a good job defending your side. Shame you aren't. For a few seconds, I thought he might be a sock puppet account of yours, until I actually read his sound argumentation.

      Here we have a classic case of the false dichotomy. It is entirely possible that a) you're not using logical fallacies and I'm not listening, as you suggest, b) you are using logical fallacies and I'm not listening, c) you're not using logical fallacies and I'm listening, or d) you're using logical fallacies and I'm listening.

      Of course, this is skirting the real point. Why is your method the only One True Way? I'm not saying it's wrong. I'm not saying it doesn't produce a good game. I'm sure it does. I simply believe it's not the only way to produce a good, even great, game.

    9. If I may again speak for Alexis, this time on a rather shakier ground of understanding. Alexis' way of doing things is the one true way because he looks around and sees no one doing (or at least succeeding nearly as him at) what he's trying to do and he really does believe that what he's trying to do simply makes the game better.

      Personally I don't have enough data, I'm doing my best to run a game based on Alexis' ideas and sometimes it looks like the group is getting to a place where they are making their own decisions and that's pretty damn cool. I also play and occassionally run things in other ways and it passes the time with friends.

      What Alexis is trying to achieve is qualitively different from what I understood roleplaying games to be before I started reading his stuff. I've not met anyone else who's writing stuff like that. I can forgive him for thinking other people are getting it terribly wrong (I don't think Alexis does believe in a one true way, he changes his mind too often for that) and are prioratising the wrong things. I can forgive people for coming up with ideas that make running the game easier and get to the fun quicker. I want to run a game on Alexis' ideals, I want other people I don't know to do the same- it's compelling. At the end of the day I don't think many people will do that, the way people approach games now is at the very least fun. If fun is what you want, then I'm sorry to say that Alexis can be safely ignored.

    10. Issara is right about ignoring me. It is equally safe to argue that I'm wrong. I'm not possessed of any magical certainty that says that I'm right, not by any means. I only have my experience.

      I cannot say at present that I give a hoot about logic. You may call me illogical or any other derisive term you wish, Lord Gwydion, but the fact remains that I wrote only a few words in my first comment and you understood perfectly what I meant. Was it logical? I don't think that really matters. It's a legitimate concern that at least one other reader of your blog also feels. I very much doubt that we are alone.

      I don't really care if I 'win' this particular point with you or not, Lord; your personal agreement is not my agenda. The counter-argument to the proposed practice needed to be made - however logical you feel personally that the counter-argument is.

      There is a failing in always seeing issues in terms of right, wrong, personalities or validity. I have a position I consider opposite to yours. This is all the validity I require. If others listen, then wonderful. If you do not listen, that is how it goes.

      We never truly get everyone on our side, do we? Yet that reality is quite irrelevant.

    11. "By putting points on a map you are implicitly saying, these are the only places worth going. This is where the adventure is. And that's all well and good if that's all the adventure there is."

      Personally, I enjoy hex maps and run my own games from them. That said, when keying a hex map, you are "putting points on a map". If the option to deviate from those points exists in equal measure in both a hex crawl and a point crawl, then it is not true that "you are implicitly saying, these are the only places worth going" in either case.

      If I understand Lord Gwydion, the intent is to prep the most likely courses of action (in his estimation) through the point-crawl while leaving all courses of action open through the hex overlay.

      I fail to see how that narrows any option. Then again, I do care about logic. Until someone demonstrates conclusively that they can gain relevant knowledge through divine inspiration, I will choose rational thinking every time.


  2. Hexes in rpg games are an artifact of board wargaming where many pieces are maneuvered over battlefields. They are meant to quickly regulate movement and range finding so one need not use rulers to measure the battlefield so as to hasten play as each player could be moving many dozens of pieces. The hex was used over the square because squares allowed one to mismeasure when counting only in space if one were to do so diagonally across suare spaces.
    The numbered hex is an artifact geared to doing things quickly in a medium that may not need those things done quickly. It's a shorthand to say hex 1043. (A forest hex) contains the town of Timbly and is rich in good timber. The hex itself offers no other advantage to player choice beyond applying hexnumber that a dm can use to look up notes in notebook.
    Hexes are an artifact of wargaming and a fetish of a segment of RPG land (one I enjoy). Documenting a campaign without choosing to use that particular fetish does not undo the art and craft of presenting an RPG campaign or simplify choice to absurdity.