Play by Forum: Hexplore It - The Sands of Shurax

I’ll have more time to do initial setup, fill out stats, etc later but for now, presenting our party:
@Matt_W as the Empowered Troll Whip Master

@Ormus as the Metabolic Shifter Trap Specialist

@Thraeg as the Headstrong Drian Psion

and @ArmandoPenblade as the Resonant Fairy Dervish

Please feel free to come up with names and elaborate backstories for your doom…I mean, valiant adventurers.

Edit: Okay, calculated the numbers, and put them in this spreadsheet.

Before you do anything else in the game, you can spend any or all of your ten starting gold on Gear Upgrades for your stats. Abilities start at 4 gold for the first Rank you purchase as Gear, and go up 1 gold each time from there. Skills, 3 gold etc. Vitals, 2 and up. (The ring around each stat is the gear ranks and their costs.)

General thoughts: y’all suck at skills. Especially survival. Holy shit. Three of you kind of really need survival (well, 2 of you if our Metabolic Trap Specialist can get some Metabolic ranks going) or you’re going to be starving in the Wastes constantly. (Speaking of which, you might want to save some gold for buying rations - they’re 2 gold plus a surcharge from whichever Caravan Master is at the nearest Caravansary, or just 2 at a city bazaar. Up to y’all, though - some enemies also drop food and most will drop gold.) Mando, you’re kind of unprepared for this whole frontline fighting gig with a whole 1 point of attack and 3 health. Thraeg, you really want to get at least one more point of Ectoplasmic Growth because you don’t get to actually get any Mutations when you use it until you have 3 points of it. Which, you would normally start with, but…you’re Headstrong. Tough luck! Let me know which gear if any y’all would like to grab. Keep in mind after this you won’t be able to buy gear usually except in City-States, and they’ll only offer specific stats.

For our spectators, a quick breakdown of what all this means:
Hexplore It characters start with a Role sheet, which defines baseline stats, including Abilities (Attack, Defense, and two unique Masteries, all with Role-specific names, which are primarily used in combat but Masteries may have some out of combat utility.), Skills (rolled every turn to navigate in the correct direction, possibly locate miscellaneous resources, and forage for enough food to spare one’s nonperishable food reserves; as well as being used for Missions and other stat tests), and Vitals (health and energy, the former self explanatory, the latter a resource primarily used to activate Masteries and some Racial abilities). There is also a section for recording derived stats - masteries will often have effects based on how many ranks you have in your Abilities, things you pick at certain ranks or similar. And Attack Abilities have a couple other associated icons indicating whether they do just Health damage or can optionally do Energy damage or Outlast damage instead (in this party the Psion and Whip Master can choose to do Energy damage, and the Psion can choose to do Outlast damage). Nobody in this group has it, but certain Roles in Sands of Shurax have a gold icon on their Defend ability that indicates that they are better at Bribing bribable encounters and Caravan Masters. And some Forests of Adrimon roles can optionally attempt to Influence enemies to their side. (If that enemy has an Influence rating.).

The Whip Master is a control specialist who can bind an enemy in their whip to injure them and potentially sustain an ongoing effect that reduces the enemy’s available actions and later gives allies a damage boost against that enemy while the effect continues. They can also electrify the whip to do damage, at higher ranks,reducng the enemy’s number of targets that round and also boosting allied damage.

The Trap Specialist lays damaging traps for the enemy and they do extra damage (at later ranks, permanently improved) when they correctly guess enemy actions, and can also exert control over the enemy’s actions.

The Psion can always do two different actions on a combat round at a potentially significant energy cost, can spontaneously manifest temporary Mutations (a new mechanic in Sands of Shurax) for the duration of combat, and can lay mental traps for the enemy to heavily energy damage and debuff the enemy if they guess the enemy’s action correctly, at later ranks also buffing party skill rolls triggered by those enemy actions.

(You may notice a pretty freaking strong synergy between these three classes.)

The Dervish can reduce damage dealt to them whenever they spend energy in combat, make multiple attacks per round, and self-buff to be more evasive and opportunistically gain extra damage during combat when they evade. (No synergies here, but pretty strong abilities nonetheless.)

Races modify the Role starting stats, and provide an Initial Food Rating, which is both how much Food a character must consume on their turn if they fail their Survival roll (or in Sands, are in the Wastes and want to avoid heat exhaustion) and sort of an indication of how large that character is and thus how much food they can carry, and a Racial ability. Most racial abilities are active once per X abilities with a cost.

The Troll can gain ongoing health regen for a few rounds once per combat.
The Shifter can copy someone else’s Racial once per turn, with the same costs and restrictions.
The Drian has that special Bribing proficiency that some Sands roles have, and can once per turn pay Energy instead of some amount of Gold when buying an item.
The Fairy can pay a fairly substantial amount of energy to give a 2 point bonus to any skill roll. (Skill rolls are lower is better, so -2 is good.)

Traits are personality characteristics of that character that give another small adjustment to base stats, and then have a condition you must fulfill to gain “trait points”. Every time you fill the bar on the trait card with trait points, you gain a Trait rank, which makes the ongoing ability of the Trait stronger. At ranks 3 and 6, you also rank up a stat. Usually, at rank 6 you also give the trait an additional effect.

Empowered you need to spend energy to gradually give yourself the ability to…not spend energy when you use masteries and Racials. Eventually, you prevent Energy Drain from hurting your health by converting it to regular energy damage.
Metabolic requires you to heal energy, but lets you eat less and less food when you fail Survival checks. Eventually you can also treat effects that check your Food Rating as 2 higher or lower, depending on your preference.
Headstrong requires you to end combats at full health, and gives you extra damage while you’re at full health, eventually cancelling an attack against you (specifically, not group based) the first round of combat if you’re at full health.
Resonant requires triggering a once per Game Turn effect, and allows using those effects more frequently, eventually including those from allies.

A couple of these don’t really sync very well with the characters, but such is the way the cookie crumbles.

Ok, did setup. Here is the Game Turn placard:

Here is the current game setup:

You are starting lost in the Wastes directly below the “HOTTile” in the center bottom, which in this case (it’s random) contains a Caravansary and an Oasis. There is also an ancient ruined village to your immediate right (this has no inherent game effect, unlike the Caravansary and Oasis). While you are in the Wastes you move more slowly and have to eat food equal to your Food rating even if you make your survival check. Taking a Caravan from the Caravansary (or finding another one) is the only way to make it back to civilization in the form of the City-States in the quadrants to either side (or on the other side, pictured shortly). However, the Ravager of Shurax will spawn in the next few turns and start moving around the Wastes. He’ll only visit each explored HOTtile once and only the players can add new ones by exploring. Once he’s visited and departed from over half the explored HOTtiles in play, Act II starts, and he’ll start moving faster and leaving the wastes at times. This is bad. (And Act III is even worse.) So you probably want to balance between time in more civilized regions (which are more forgiving and offer opportunities to get food more regularly) and time in the Wastes (which get you more time on your clock and Ravager crystals and such). This is the Ravager, btw:

Here is the other half of the board. Notice the Circumstance cards in play. Many turns will involve encountering a Circumstance on this board - you’ll roll a d6 and 1, 2, 3 or 4 hit the card in that slot. 5 or 6 is the top of the Circumstance deck. If you roll a 6 and so choose, you can draw a Peril card instead. Probably don’t do that yet, they’re very dangerous (but have additional rewards).

Here are zoomed in versions of the cards up currently:

Here are the current missions the four City-States are offering, from Dria, Nemsynet, Phorora and Tarri left to right:

(The one for Phorora is the start of a Living Card story arc.)
If you can find a Mission location (with the arrow-in-target icon of the appropriate terrain type, you can initiate any of the three missions that involve skill checks. Get the appropriate amount of successes on the appropriate skill in one attempt, and you will have succeeded the mission and will get moved one step toward that city on the reputation track (either horizontally or vertically depending) and get the listed reward as a group (a gold hex with a + means you get 2 gold each if you’re in that city’s part of the reputation track after the mission adjustment and none if not, and the + cards are Power Ups which are how you advance). A couple have “opposite reputation” options, which mean you can choose to have done the mission for the opposing city instead, and get that reputation. Generally the only difference otherwise is they have a different reward for getting a critical success.

Finally, here’s the starting Battle Mat, which tracks some miscellaneous things like Reputation, Arena Reputation, group permanent items, how many times you’ve gotten food from Oases, and difficulty (starter, to start with):

Things I need from y’all:

  1. take a look at your finalized character stats in the spreadsheet a couple posts back and see if you’d like to buy any gear upgrades, then let me know what.
  2. name your character.
  3. Pick a starting reputation as a group - you can move one step towards any of the four City-States at the start of the game. It’s optional, but possibly beneficial. Being aligned with a City-State gets you discounts for some of their stuff when you’re there, and more money for using the Employment option, better pay from their missions sometimes, and so on. Getting maxed out rep with a City State (or a faction, in the extreme corners) has other benefits if you have the expansion. But also, the opposing City-States might mess with you.
  4. As a group, let me know which movement mode you’d like to use (the Game Turn placard has the list and the effects) and where you’d like to go. If you move to or through the Caravansary you’ll reveal a Caravan Master and their destination. If you stop there, you can buy Bazaar items cheaper than 3 gold base price, with a Master-based markup. (I’ll provide the Bazaar placard, but importantly, you can buy food at 2 gold for 5 food at a time. You can share gold and food whenever outside of combat.) And optionally travel with the Master to their destination, which will trigger the Caravan Journey mechanics (they can be pretty rough, and cost food, so be careful). The Oasis heals you and can refill your food (see the Game Turn placard). Going up to the edge of a HOTtile will allow you to place a new random HOTtile which might have things like mission locations or bosses and you can keep going if you still have movement. Once I have your intended destination, I’ll pull up any new stuff that’s triggered along the way and then…
  5. I will roll your skill checks for you. If you crit anything I’ll ask which critical benefit you want unless it’s obvious (e.g. healing is pointless right now because you’re at full.) In the unlikely event a character with a positive Food Rating succeeds their Survival check (seriously y’all suck at survival), I’ll ask if you want to eat food anyway if you’re in the Wastes - it’s optional at that point, but if you don’t you’ll gain the Heat Exhaustion Condition and take 2 Energy Drain (which removes energy but rolls over into health if you’re out of energy) every turn until you clear it. If no decisions need to be made at this point, it’s either Circumstances or the Event phase depending on where you end up.

@Matt_W @ArmandoPenblade @Ormus @Thraeg

OK I’ll go:

  1. I’ll buy two survival upgrades for a total of 7 gold.
  2. My character’s name is Cheya. She spent her formative years as a hand on her family’s peacock farm, riding red-haired bulls to herd the birds, tinkering with gadgets in the shed behind the family’s shrine, and practicing spiritual discipline to improve her vitality. The whip was a tool she used in all her tasks: a prod for the peacocks–one crack would shut up their raucous cries for hours, a focus for her tinkering–she was able to install a wire and small generator apparatus to electrify the tip, and a guide to her meditation–the flow of the whip and its resounding crack were expressions of her favorite local storm goddess’s aspect. Her empowered vitality also gave her a wanderlust, and leaving home, through a variety of circumstances, she found herself in the company of an odd group of fellows standing at the edge of a vast desert wasteland dotted by crystal towers.
  1. I vote we roll for starting reputation.
  2. I vote we move normally to the left edge of the tile so that we can place two new tiles as the more tiles we have, the longer we have until Act II. That skeletal dragon would really suuuuuck to get now though.

I’m pretty sure you only have to eat 1 food if you make your survival check.

Oops, you are correct. That’s better than I was thinking. (And I was playing that wrong in my other game of Sands, although I personally had a Food Rating of 1 anyway.)

Edited in name + gear to the character sheet.

My character’s name is Akbar. Because it sounds “deserty”. Definitely no other reason.

I will spend 4g on my Second Mastery going to 5 in All Tied Up and 3g in Survival going to 3. Saving 3g for food later.

I agree to go along the left edge to reveal tiles towards the Caravansary at normal speed.

I have not played this volume so happy to roll randomly for rep / go with the flow.

Do we get to place the HOT tiles from the Nemsynet mission? If so maybe on the right side of our starting tile?

Ah, yes, looking at that you do get to search for and place those. It’s “may”, so it’s up to the group. You are probably not strong enough to fight the level 1 boss, let alone the level 4 and 5 bosses, so you might not want to. Then again, if they’re placed you know where they are and the Ravager has more room to move when it shows up. (Which it only has a 25% chance of doing this turn.)

Also could you display the cards for the Caravansary and Oasis as they are relevant right now?

Maybe we should also consider moving cautiously around the left side? That dragon or a bad top-deck could wreck us. From my experience you can lose this game mighty quick.

Yeah, I’m down with this, and if we place the Nemsynet tiles, we get the extra Ravager timer from that.

There isn’t a specific placard for either of those. The gist of how they work is on the Game Turn placard, there are more details about the Oasis on rulebook page 32 and the Caravan rules start on page 76. You’ll have to actually go to the Caravansary to reveal which Caravan Master is there and where they are going, but I guess you might as well have the Bazaar placard in case the other non-Food items are enough to prompt a visit.

Only items above the first divider are available from Caravans. You do not have to Journey with the caravan to buy from them, but you can make those purchases before that Journey begins or before or after any Caravan Event if you do decide to. Note that the Caravan Master will impose a surcharge so you can’t fully plan any purchases until you have that info.

Edit: There are also 2 eligible items on page 14 of the expansion rulebook:
Shuraxian Spice (2 gold): This burnt orange dust is a new cooking spice that has appeared in the region
since the Ravager has surfaced. Consume this item during the Skill phase with
at least 1 unit of Food. For the rest of the Game Turn, your attacks deal 2 extra
damage. Additionally, if you possess a Mutation, roll a four-sided die. If the
result is a hex, treat one of your Mutations as having an extra copy this turn.
Territory Map (3 gold): Use the Territory Map at any time to draw a HOTtile or HEXtile of your choice,
and place it on the map.
Both single use.

I think if I understand it correctly that we can attempt the Shurri quest in a desert space. Needs two successful Explore rolls though (mine is only 2). Those power-up rewards look tasty though.

I just want to throw in that if @ArmandoPenblade wants to self publish his character’s background novel trilogy on Amazon I will purchase it.

A desert mission space. You haven’t found any of those yet. At least not in the Wastes. (Mission spaces can only be used for one mission in a game, btw. You cover them with a Hex token after you complete the mission.)

I considered not even writing up my minimum-level-of-effort background because it’s sure to be pathetic next to @ArmandoPenblade’s :)

“Greetin’s, chaps, Chimminy Plockett here, Fairy o’ Upper Midwest Lod’nonderry o’ the Great Empire o’. . . oh, oh dear. I seem to ‘ave stepped through the wrong Fairy Circle entirely; this isn’t the Phantasmal Amphitheater at all. Goodness me, though, don’t you all look positively swelterin’ an’ miserable. Can’t say I’m bothered by the heat much, meself, but I understand you bigger types ‘ave a mighty rough time of it. Especially you, my whip-wielding troll-friend. Goodness gracious, I’d hate to miss the first performances o’ the year, but it looks to me like you’re all desperately in need of the very particular kind o’ aid only the legendary Chimminy Plockett hisself can provide! Lucky for you, ‘ere I am, ready an’ more’n willin’ to help!”

Before you flutters a diminutive man, approximately 9 inches tall, wearing an incredibly elaborate, violently purple three-piece suit, with a lurid orange-and-white checked necktie, a slightly lopsided black bowler hat, and the very tiniest set of high-heeled black boots you’ve ever seen. He is curiously leaning back on both arms in mid-air, giving the impression that he’s supporting himself on the two lavender umbrellas held in his tiny, pale hands. His small, black eyes flick back and forth between you as his pointed face splits into an unpleasantly wide grin, revealing rows of tiny, razor-sharp teeth.


  1. I’ll spend a total of 9 gold on 1 Gear Upgrade apiece for Attack, Health, and Explore.
  2. I’ll be playing Chimminy Plockett against all sense and reason
  3. As a fae, Chimminy is more than happy to be known as Rebellious, but frankly, anyone who knows anything about the fae could also tell you they revel in tiny Cruelties, as well.
  4. I’m alright with any speed of movement apart from Reckless, and down to move toward the edge the others have mentioned to reveal more map.

I’m eager to find some Silt Sands and go digging for that Phororan tomb and hang out and Excavate for a bit. And generally just rank up a smidge ahead of trying to fight anything particularly nasty, so I’d personally recommend Cautious movement, though it’ll drain the food reserves of those who need it.]

The Positively Absurd Adventures and Activities of One Chimminy Plockett, vol. 1: Finding the Favor of the Fairy Queen, available now at a bookseller near you.

The first thing you notice about Cheya Crimsonhide (her family’s farm produces prized red-furred riding bulls, in addition to its primary trade in peacock steaks and hat feathers) is her height. Fully 2.5 meters, she towers over any crowd. She’s lithe, but sturdy, with skin the color and apparent texture of wet granite: sharp, flat and pitted, but with a pleasant face that supports a wide, easy grin. Her hair is a course, sun-bleached red mass tied back in a careless ponytail beneath a well-worn, wide-brimmed straw hat. A pair of functional denim coveralls and broken-down leather boots fill out her attire, but it’s her cloak that finally draws the eye; it’s a shimmering, constantly moving kaleidoscope of peacock feathers that dazzles and obscures, hiding her nimble movements so that it appears she almost teleports from place to place. Her bullwhip is wrapped around her waist and the electrified tip drips sparks on the ground as she twirls. Her voice is quick, a musical contralto as she drily intones with a thick Bringtown accent “Gosh, this heat, ye’up. Well maybe y’don’ mind lendin’ me one’a those tiny 'brellas fah some shade there little un.”

“Oi now, might you be proposin’ a trade there, miss? Any good fairy worth ‘is wings is always keen to make a deal, ay. I must say, I’m quite taken with that there cloak o’ yours, an’ particularly the way it shines n shimmers. Though, I would understand if’n you’re not keen to lose ‘old of it, much the same as I’m rather fond o’ me umbrellas, y’see. They’re quite important to the 'ole ensemble, innitay?” Chimminy flourishes an umbrella in front of his person, a faint trickle of fairy dust tracing the elaborate swirling motion of its pointed, gleaming tip. At the end of the maneuver, he stabs the umbrella downward into mid-air and rests his right forearm atop its hooked handle, leaning against it and peering directly at Cheya’s rightmost nostril. With a huff, he flicks his wings to bring himself up to eye-level and winks.

[OOC: lol @malkav11 thought he was going to get to run a game of Sands of Shurax, the poor bastard.]

What have I done? :P