Exploring New Frontiers – Part I

February 16, 2012 by deadorcs

Drawn by J. J. Sloane of www.vanitygames.comGreetings, Kids!

Many of you know that I sort of have a thing for terrain use at the RPG tabletop. Maps are great, tiles are dandy, but good terrain…man…it’s makes me vibrate with joy. Terrain is all about the OUTDOORS. Dungeons are dandy, but sometimes your players need to stretch their legs and get out into the world a bit.

That’s one of the reasons I’m really excited that DnDNext is interested in bringing back EXPLORATION as a major pillar in the game. While never totally disregarded, exploration as part of the main activity around the DnD table has been lacking as of late. Knowing that some emphasis on this might be forthcoming, I set my mind to think what kind of tools I could use to represent this activity at the table with COOL TERRAIN.

So…there I am…these seeds planted into my brain creases, just stewing about when BAM! I come across this:

I found several of these sets at a T.J. Maxx, I think. They were on the clearance rack. As you can see from the package, it’s a type of board game – sort of. It’s a variant on the ubiquitous game, Monopoly®, but uses hex-shaped tiles and some  additional rules to spice things up. It’s produced by the parent company of Wizards of the Coast, Hasbro.

I stopped. I picked up the box. I put it down. I picked it up again. All of the thoughts about exploration, DnD, and cool terrain bubbled to the surface. That’s when I had an ingenious idea. I WILL USE THIS.

Well, let me take a moment to unpack the boxes (I bought three of them – a steal at $7.00 U.S.) a piece.

Guys…just look at all the cool hex tiles. GAZE UPON THEM. Does it remind you of anything? Maybe a little something that looks like this?

That’s right. That’s a snippet of the World of Greyhawk map. Old and new gamers alike are familiar with this map. It’s almost in that DnD 101 territory. Brings back a lot of memories. Plus, it was a great way to represent terrain over a large distance. Now…imagine that terrain represented in 3D on the tabletop (or vertical map board). I’ll get into the details of how we can do that in Part II of this post (next week). For now, though, let me show you all the cool pieces you get to work with.

You get not ONE but TWO different types of houses! I’d use these to represent towns & villages. Maybe one color to represent different sizes of communities (towns being larger than villages). These pieces will actually attach to some of the terrain pieces shown below.

Cities! Because of the nature of the game, these understandably have a pretty modern appearance. However, with a little IMAGINATION, these structures can represent cities or capitols in your campaign.

The cities are important enough to warrant their own hex bases. I can easily see one of these bases being the foundation of your campaign world, particularly if your campaign begins in a city. Explore outward by adding terrain pieces to this starting point!

These were pretty exciting! Bridge pieces that ACTUALLY MOVE. That’s right. Sometimes, a major terrain feature functions as an obstacle. Maybe it’s a mountain pass or a major river or even a deep canyon. One of these pieces can easily be dropped on the map to represent such a feature. If you scale down, one of these can actually be used to represent an actual bridge on the road. Versatile!

These pieces contain structures. They have an understandably modern appearance, but again, with judicious use of IMAGINATION, these buildings become adventure sites. Maybe they’re mining operations, or humanoid cities, or even dungeon locations! The uses here are pretty much wide open. Add one to the terrain map to indicate a major location. Easy to spot!

These little pieces were a little puzzling. I was not sure what to use them for, until it hit me – place holders! Use these to mark the progress of your players! If they’re traveling through a hex, you can use these to mark their stopping point. They’re not a requirement, but it’s adds some utility without wasting the pieces.

These flat terrain pieces have no place for a town (or city) to go, so they make great filler pieces for terrain. As you’ll see below, that can be important, since the bulk of what you’ll use for terrain pieces are in 2-hex form.

And with that, here’s the star of the show. The main terrain pieces. Each one is a double. Most have places that a house (representing a town or village) can be affixed too. Others have one hex that can mount a house, while the other hex is plain (like those in the picture above this one).

That’s a LOT of pieces to work with! Next week, I’ll show you guys out to convert these weird Monopoly® variant game pieces into actual DnD terrain! Stay tuned!


My name is Randall Walker and This Is My Game.



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