Making hexes with Magic

I’ve even pondering my and Nick LS Whelan’s thoughts on using Magic the Gathering as an oracle. Nick was saying on twitter that he doesn’t use it anymore because MTG cards skew towards violence. m I’m thinking: What if we didn’t use it to generate adventures, but rather locations.

I considered generating a county, but honestly, it ended up being too complex for what I’m trying to do here. So, I’m going to test generating a hex. To make a hex, I need to know these things:

  • Terrain
  • Landmarks
  • Random encounters
  • Rumours

This will work like a tarot draw, and I’m going to be explaining with an example. I just looked the card description terminology up on the Magic website, so those are the terms I’m using. Remember that any card can be drawn reversed, so take the main theme and do the opposite.

The first card we draw will tell us the terrain and how many landmarks are in it. Land indicates the terrain type (if there are more than one, combine the terrains), and the cost next to it indicates how many landmarks we’ll create. We also want a theme for the hex: Look at art, name, type or flavour.

Lake or river hex. 3 landmarks. Theme: A bird that sees the future.

Draw two cards, placed one on the other, for each landmark. Consider both cards for each landmark. There are five types of land that, so let’s assign them a landmark type: White: Mystery or Magic; Blue: Town or Keep; Red: Site of Industry or Camp; Black: Dungeon or Lair; Green: Terrain Feature. Then look at art, name, type or flavour to figure out specifics about the landmark. While we’re here, we’ll use cost of the two cards to tell us how many random encounters and rumours are related to this landmark.

Elephant women carved from the trunks of living trees create a living cathedral. False prophet Serra, regarded as a demigod by
soldiers fleeing the front. Random Encounters: 2. Rumours: 2.

For each of our generated random encounters, we’ll pull draw cards one on the other, one for the type of encounter and one for the twist on the encounter. Use strength for number of people involved in the encounter (if there’s a lower number, that’s the number of them with a special ability derived from the ability text).

2 waterdwelling elephant cultists both with grenades or wands of fireballs.
2 elephant zombies, always rise again to tell Serra of their hunts.

For each of our rumours, we’ll draw one card. We know what the rumour is about, so we’ll look at reversal to indicate truth or misinformation, and then the card itself tells us the nature of the rumour.

Serra’s informants are everywhere, looking for people to recruit, and for people to disappear.
Many locals send their children to Serra, to be cultivated, for she is a font of wisdom and generosity.

In the final version, I’d have two more landmarks, and around 10 rumours and random encounters. Once they’re created as well, I’m going to pull it all together as a revision, because remember the bird who tells the future is our overall theme for the hex. Consider how all three landmarks relate to the future-seeing bird. Is the bird the villain for the hex? Is it a the quest goal, being sought by all the NPCs? Or could we draw out our whole spread for three landmarks, with our theme in the middle, and interpret everything in light of the theme of the first draw?

Anyway, this I think is great for the kind of modular, iteratively built hexcrawl that I want to be running in Advanced Fantasy Dungeons. It gets me out of my comfort zone. It’s hook galore. I think I could do more with magic cards, to be honest, for NPC characterisation, for treasure creation, I’m kind of excited about this as a very nerdy oracle.

I just wish I had a deck of MTG cards to do it with instead of the MTG Randomiser.

Idle Cartulary

5th July 2022

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