The first adventure in what will probably be a five-adventure series is now up on the DM’s Guild. This is the more scaled back version of the original Thar hexcrawl I’ve mentioned earlier. It plucks out the handful of hex ideas that seem most interesting and converts them into adventures that can be run by themselves or as a series. I’m hoping to upload them one every Sunday and be done with the whole project before Imbolc on February 2nd. There’s four left to go and six Sundays left before Imbolc, not to mention a seventh right after Imbolc, and I’d consider myself on deadline if I finish the actual work before Imbolc but then my schedule demands that the content technically go live slightly after – I’m wrapping up the Thar project mainly for personal reasons, not because I anticipate anyone actually cares that much and wants a firm deadline for release. In any case, the point of this to say that I can lose a couple of Sundays and still be on schedule, and one of those Sundays will probably be next Sunday, because it’s Christmas Eve, yo, I got celebrating to do.
Some hexes in both Thar and Vestitas are occupied by cities. These cities have far too much going on in them to be portrayed as a single encounter, but dungeon crawl mechanics rarely work for them. Even Chaos Landing in Vestitas is a dungeon attached to Brandt’s Landing, not the entirety of the content in Brandt’s Landing. Urbancrawls are how you find out about and subsequently solve whatever troubles a city is facing within its walls. We’re giving the D&D 5e version used for the Thar cities of Thentia, Hulburg, and so on, but the Dark Heresy 2 rules are very similar.
If you’re going to put together a hexcrawl you need mechanics for crawling hexes. This is the current draft of those mechanics for the Thar hexcrawl. These might see some revision between now and the .pdf (the spotter role is relatively new, which is why none of the Thar encounters posted so far have detection DCs, we’ll have to add those in for the finished .pdf), but we’re reasonably sure this is about what we want the end result to look like.
Maybe it was naive of us to think that war camps were the kind of encounter we could pump out daily. Scratch the maybe, that was definitely naive. This Thar encounter involves a pair of wyverns nesting in the ruins of an ancient Thar watchtower, because progress on the Bloody Hands war camp is going pretty slow.
While writing the Manslayers and now the Bloody Hands war camps, we quickly realized that managing 100-200 NPCs is really hard and that GMs were going to need explicit advice on how to keep up with it all if we were going to expect most of them to be able to run encounters like the Manslayers Camp as something entertaining rather than as a hot mess.
The Manslayers came with two new NPCs who didn’t rely on any of the generic stats from either the Monster Manual or our own new statblocks. These NPCs are Chief Mazhug and Rakgu, Chosen of Gruumsh, and they’re some of the toughest orcs in Thar, especially Mazhug. The sheer number of orcs in the camp, even after having several of their hunting parties picked off by a clever party who fully understands they need to fight an asymmetric war, makes fighting the Manslayers alone an intimidating proposition. The presence of powerful NPCs like these makes even fighting them with allies difficult, as even with allies to keep the riff-raff out, these heavy hitters and their bodyguards will fall to the players to deal with in combat.
Plot details are liable to change radically as we hammer out more of Thar, which is a far more interconnected hexcrawl than others. We’ve also put a lot of time into just figuring out how we’re going to do these enemy camp sort of scenarios, which means we haven’t had as much time to add in things like how different NPCs react to attempts at negotiation. What with the Manslayers specifically hating 80% of player races and all, it’s safe to say that when we find the time to add that in for the .pdf version it’s going to mostly be “make a DC a billion Persuasion check or else they stab you to death.”
In addition to orcs, Thar also contains rather a lot of ogres. The number of new statblocks needed isn’t quite as steep because the ogres commonly have orcs or goblinoids as minions, which lends itself some variety on its own, so here are three new statblocks, one of them unique to the Crystal Sphere Tribe of ogres. After this we’ll have all the new stat blocks we’ll need for the hexcrawl, so we’ll be getting back into encounters.
Rounding out our new orcs from previous, these three new monsters are from specific tribes with distinct cultures from the usual orc fare.
There are an awful lot of orcs in Thar. If you are going to crawl through all the hexes in that particular location, you will fight a very large number of orcs. The default four orc stat blocks aren’t really enough to maintain interest throughout this prodigiously large amount of orc fighting, which means that whipping up a couple of new orcs has been necessary. These are those new orcs.