The first of these posts is a case study of Lindisfarne, or Holy Island, a tidal island off the Northumberland coast, near the Scottish border - for no better reason other than that I happened to be there on Saturday (I've spent the last four days driving and hiking around the far North East of England). My aim here is to answer the most simple of the questions posed: what might a 6-mile hex contain?
Lindisfarne is about 2.5 miles East-West and 1.5 miles North-South - easily enough to fit into a 6 mile hex, together with the surrounding coast and smaller islands:
This makes it ideal for our purposes of investigating how many interesting locales there might be for an 'adventurer' (or law lecturer on holiday) to interact with.
Let's take a look at what's on Lindisfarne (while entering the necessary caveat: I was taking photos on my BlackBerry, which is shit, and I'm also a shit photographer, so don't expect anything decent).
This is a view across lush pastures to Lindisfarne castle, a small fortification on the only real promontory on the island. Note the flooded areas in the middle ground. These are extremely difficult to cross and would have to be worked around. Note also how big this area is. It's only a small part of the island, but it's still a large area of ground. To the right is a narrow road and a collection of houses which, today, house the local branch of Her Majesty's Coastguard.
A typical farming cottage with a wide expanse of pastures for sheep grazing around it. One of several on the island. It may just be a farmhouse, but who lives in it? What's his or her story?
The village of Lindisfarne itself. The population is around 150. As well as houses, there is a distillery for brewing mead, a few churches, a graveyard, a quayside, and a ruined priory which we shall re-examine later.
A flooded pasture, which harbours about three dozen geese. Or, if you prefer, a monster of some kind. Or, both.
An old lime kiln to the rear of the castle. This is a warren of tunnels, about 100 yards square, where people used to fire lime stone to make bricks.
The view to the rear of Lindisfarne castle. Again, a wide area of open ground, and plenty of sheep. What you can't see is that this area is boggy underfoot and difficult to walk over, and criss-crossed with rivulets which have to be jumped over.
More flooding - the pool is well over a foot deep. At the brow of the hill is a walled garden area which is strangely pristine and fertile given the bleakness of the surroundings; it could easily be imagined to be magical, or owned by a witch, or similar.
Pebbly beach stretches around much of the Northern and Eastern coasts of the island. It is covered with flotsam and jetsam - broken crockery, sheep bones, crab shells, etc.
Looking up at the castle.
Looking over the sea towards the mainland. All of that area is included within the 6-mile hex: the islet in the middle of the channel, and the coast beyond, dotted with farmsteads and small hamlets.
A cemetery overlooking the sea, complete with creepy mausoleum.
Coming up a steep hillside to a church and cemetery. A spooky and evocative location, even on a sunny winter's day.
A view over the channel to the smaller island to Lindisfarne's south. I have no idea what those two towers are, but studying them was my obsession the day I was on the island. They look pretty much exactly where I would expect a pair of squabbling arch-mages to live. Again, they are within the bounds of a 6 mile hex centred on Lindisfarne.
A better view of the small islet. There is a low building of some description on it, as well as a shrine (you might just be able to make out the crucifix there).
I don't know if this is actually a well, or just a flooded dungeon or basement. There is clearly something down there worth exploring, though, don't you think?
The old priory. An extensive ruin, full of dark arch ways and unexpected corners.
A ruined watch tower overlooking the entrance to the harbour.
Another view of the ruined watch tower. Is it haunted? Is something buried underneath it? Does it harbour a hermit, a group of brigands, an evil spirit?
Boats turned upside-down and converted into huts - apparently a tradition from the Viking days. Probably housing suspicious fishermen, but I bet you can think of a dozen interesting things you could put here as a DM.
Detail of the doorway to an abandoned farm building down by the beach. Peeking through a gap I found a lot of hay and some abandoned farm machinery, but again, I bet you can think of a dozen more interesting things you could put inside as a DM.
These potentially important locales are only a taste of what is on Lindisfarne - let alone the surrounding area of coast which would potentially be covered in a 6-mile hex hex here. Put simply, there is a huge amount of game-able material just in this very tiny piece of land.
As a DM, of course, coming up with a list of 15 interesting locations for each 6-mile hex before the start of a campaign would be overkill, but there is certainly an argument to be made that at the very least each 6-mile hex in a campaign setting, particularly in a settled area, should have a handful of adventure locales within it, with more arising through improvisation during play and through random encounters. One locale per hex, or even blank hexes, simply aren't good enough.
Tomorrow: thinking about actual wilderness travel.