For those who don’t know my personal life, I have a younger sibling who’s going to be introducing their significant other to D&D soon. They’ve asked to play a game where they’re a woodland ranger type, and a gnome. My younger sibling asked me to help them craft a small hex crawl for their paramour, and knowing them I thought it best that it be kind of... fairy-tale-esque. While I do specialize in folklore type worlds, I imagine they are looking for something a little more idyllic than my usual fare. My worlds are a little less like Disney and a little more like The Brothers Grimm. I also know my sibling plays a bit more on the mainstream side, and is only really just now dipping their toes into the OSR.
So this is largely taken from myself spitballing ideas, and once I hit a roll I asked my sibling’s permission to turn it into a really raw blog post. I can’t even figure out how to get my fonts the same size today.
Anyways, here is a hunch of hexes or points or squares and some content for a hex crawl for a gnome ranger in a more standard game. You could easily port any of this into your own world, especially if you were looking to do something a little less Elmore and a little more Froud.
I should also specify I tried to throw some hooks in here to more typical D&D fare, including a likely dungeon and some larger and nastier baddies where combat will likely be unavoidable, as well as a few gribblies.
So I would start with the character’s home hex. Like, a hollowed our tree. Likely under the tree/stump is a home, similar to Gummy Bears/Hobbit homes
I would also describe the trees as huge. Redwoods. These are Primordial woodlands. Bumblewort lives under a stump with his family. He is a Knight Errant of Badgers. His father, King Brindlewood, and his mother, Queen Bramblewyrd, rule gently and strongly. They have an excellent pact with the local druids.
Bumblewort, Prince of All Badgers is a L/G Celestial Dire Badger who Rages 1/Day (Totem Warrior Bear Powers) and Smites 1/Day (2d8) his HD (d12) are double the PCs. At 4HD his powers increase to 2/day, 6 HD 3/day (max). STR 18 Dex 10 Con 20 Int 8 Wis 12 Cha 14. Proficient In Survival, Diolomacy, and Nature. AC 16
I’m thinking that the Badger family is a lot like the gods of Princess Mononoke. Something more than just physically large beasts, something Spirit-worldly as well.
The Druid Circle’s hex contains their Nemeton, centered with a menhir and a sacred Oak, and all their tree-house homes. One Druid should live outside the hex, and your character is on good terms with him.
There should be a hex that’s a gnome village with like, civilization in stuff, but rural and pastoral.
You can use any of these NPCs for rescue ops, fetch quest contacts, or just flavor.
Two to three hexes should have a river passing through them. One should have a mill, whether for grist or for lumber is up to you.
One should be home to a family of giant otters because those are adorable: Misses Fishes
One hex should be a Bog, and in it is a Hag’s Hut. The Hag doesn’t cause trouble for the forest, cause there’s humans with a farm closer to her. She IS causing trouble for them. But the humans just moved in, and haven’t invoked the protection of the druids. They likely don’t even know. It would be the character’s job as ranger to inform them. Magatha has been trouble from the start.
There should be a hex with a cave. That’s where the Nailbiter Goblin Clan lives. They recently had to boot out a bunch of their clan due to 1) Not enough food and 2) they caught ten of them or so cutting deals with Magatha for magic sticks.
Clan Chief Pewpsiedaisy Nailbiter the Second explicitly says only Refluxicus Farts the Shaman can have a magic stick. It isn’t fair otherwise.
Refluxicus has lost his magic stick, as it was stolen by Giant Crows and put into their nest. Weird things might happen if it’s left there. Bad weird things. Or he could get a better magic stick from the the newly formed Handbiter clan.
There may also be a hex with a lake. This is pertinent because Athalariel the Water Nymph lives here. She desperately wants to fall in love, but insists she fall in love with a Knight. The only Knight available is technically Sir Scabzalot, a goblin paladin of (deity of love and poetry)... but he’s a goblin, he doesn’t count. That farm boy might make a handsome knight...
She’ll likely drown him though unless someone can fix that. Maybe a Druid?
The farm has a pickle. And by a pickle I mean a lot of pickles. They win the blue ribbon at the county fair every year. They have enough to feed a small army, or maybe some hungry goblins. Especially if you swapped the cucumbers for fish heads.
The gnome village also competes in the county fair every year. And Ingleglitz Edgecutter is tired of losing to the humans. He’s willing to pay for “an accident” to happen to the pickles.
Fritz Glittergleam is a heartbroken gnome who just sighs and shirks work all day. He was in love but rejected. Maybe a date might help him back on his feet.
At the edge of the forest, where it meets the mountains, Garaz Skulltaker, orc Hunt-Master, has had several of his finest hunters go missing from their latest boar hunt. He fears they may have met a terrible fate seeking a glory hunt of the local Owlbear, Night-Scar, rather than Wild Boar.
Far to the East and north of the farm, Captain Brighthelm of the Kingdom’s Leonine Guard has captured several armed Orcs he believes are raiders. He is mistaken. He has four armed watchmen with him, and three captured orcs. The orcs are no raiders, they can’t even hunt. They got caught inside of one of their own traps.
In the mountains to the north, just above the forest overlooking the near-frozen stream where most people fish for salmon and trout, lies the cave Night-Scar the owlbear calls her home. Inside is a clutch of three eggs. She must find a way to feed her young when they hatch, and boar carcasses are hard to find due to increased hunting by the Skulltaker orcs.
Further north in the mountains, lies the sealed entrance to Doomsayer Crypt.
At the bottom of the mountain, opposite the side of the Skulltaker Settlement, lies the secret entrance, now opened by a poor Dwarven spelunker, to Doomsayer Crypt.
Once Men Dug the Earth for gleaming gold here, and a king arose among them. Through sorcery he took his throne, asking dark gods for power and sight beyond that of his mortal men. He was granted such, but only to see Ill-Fates, and began to prophesies the down-fall of the peoples who lived here. Not content to be a pawn of fate, he began to act as its instrument, commanding his warrior cult and spectral minions to bring ruin to the land. But among the folk that lived here noble gnomes, fierce orcs, and wise druids, and cunning elves banded together and brought forth their champions to defeat him. The last black fate the sorcerer-king was allowed to see was his own. But using evil magic, he swore to return a thousand years after his demise. This was why he was interred so deep in the mountains, and why his remaining lackeys carved the secret entrance themselves.
Far to the south, in his tree-home of sculpted pale banshee-wood, rests and meditates the elven hero Keltois Lillarien, the same elven archer who’s ghost-touch arrows pinned the sorcerer king to his throne a thousand years ago. He is old, but vigilant.
Three-hairs Twice-twined is a member of the Druid circle. He’s had a bout of insomnia and has heard that Rhess the Half-Elven has a mushroom poultice that will bring restful sleep. He can’t pay gold, but will happily trade herbs and offer what teaching he can in bird calls for a decent night’s rest.
In a hex to the northwest is an idyllic log cabin, the woods around it felled and filled with carvings, laquered and stained against rain. A woodcutter lives here, brawny and with a hefty axe. He was a warrior once, and now just wants to raise his family. His wife keeps calling for their daughter. It’s not like her to be late.
Frozenfang is a Winter Warg who has taken over the Western Brambles Pack. She longs for revenge against the woodcutter who slew her mate.
Rolled randomly in an adjacent hex is Annadell, a girl of seven who went flower picking alone, away from her father, the woodcutter. She is very lost and tired and hungry. She will be food for wolves if not found.
There is a hex with a waterfall somewhere. Behind the waterfall is a cave, and inside of it is Rumbletrunks, a troll. He’s been asleep for a long, long time, and wishes to stay that way. If awoken rudely, he’ll be cranky. If awoken politely, he’ll be less cranky, but still want a troll-sized breakfast.
Brilly Grumplelumps is a gnome with a treasure map. All she really needs is a good forest guide and maybe some armed muscle to go deep into the mountain’s entrance. There, in the crypt, are the spoils of war and gold and gems from a thousand years before.