Creating the Shaggai Map
The Shaggai map was birthed from my desire to create a map which is destroyed over time. I already dabbled with this idea in the Primeval Map, but of course Shaggai feels and plays VERY differently from Primeval.
Every map needs a particular theme. The two things we knew about Shaggai were that (A) it was inhabited by a species of intelligent insect-things and (B) it was destroyed. A map which dissolves presents some interesting design problems, plus I wanted to pay homage to the insectoid aspects of this world.
When I design maps for Cthulhu Wars, The Gods War, or other games, the first thing I concern myself with is which areas are going to have the highest population. For instance, on the core game Earth map for Cthulhu Wars, it was clear that the North Atlantic was a major crossroads. Hence it is one of the largest areas on the map (might even be THE largest). On the other hand, Australia is a less-visited hinterland, so it (and its subdivision) are comparatively small.
But on the Shaggai map, in which areas are semi-randomly eradicated, I had no way of predicting which areas were most-used. In the many tests of this map, we saw lots of different configurations. I had two choices:
First choice – determine which areas are likeliest to survive till game’s end, and make them somewhat larger. Problem – in some percentage of games, these large areas will be destroyed nonetheless, and only small areas will remain.
Second choice – make all the areas equally large, so no matter what happens, the players will always have decently-sized spots to build gates & fight over.
I went with the second choice. Make the areas all equal (at least roughly so).
Now, this led to another choice. If I am making the areas equal in size, I can do this with geometric shapes; triangles, squares, or hexagons being the most useful. Squares and triangles have the problem that in Cthulhu Wars areas that touch only at corners have undefined adjacency. (In the Library at Celaeno, for instance, I painstakingly jiggled around every single room so none touched at a corner.)
Hexagons, in addition to lacking corner connections, have another advantage. They look like insect hives – honeycombs or the interior of wasp nests, and that made thematic sense for an insect-riddled planet.
And that’s why Shaggai looks the way it does. My theory, by the way, is that the insects themselves built massive walls around each of the hexagon areas as part of their dominion and planning for their homeworld. Of course the monstrous beings that you play in Cthulhu Wars can ignore or smash through these walls trivially.
What about the Worms of Ghroth?
What are the worms of Ghroth? Another of J. Ramsey Campbell’s creations is the living planet Ghroth, a sort of harbinger of the end of the world. When Ghroth approaches by a solar system, something terrible happens to the worlds there. J. Ramsey Campbell did not fully explain exactly what Ghroth does in his short story “The Tugging”. The good news is this means that I get to figure some stuff out.
One commonly agreed effect is that the living planet wakes up sleeping great old ones and other horrors. Well we have that covered because that’s what Cthulhu Wars is all about. I have posited the seeding or implanting of these beings in larval form as part of Ghroth’s nimbus – a sort of dark inversion of the Panspermia hypothesis.
Anyway, my idea is that these creatures, which I’ve termed the Worms of Ghroth, infest planets and their burrowing in and out of hyperspace and real space opens destructive breaks in the space-time continuum and eventually leads to the world breaking up and dissolving.
Now you know!
WHY ISN’T IT MODULAR?
A few backers have wondered why, since it’s hexagons anyway, I didn’t just make the map modular. Well here is my answer – the map is in fact not randomly thrown together. It features two continents, and an ocean belt around the equator. The location of the Worm Who Gnaws in the Night is planned. The starting locations for the factions are planned. The locations of the Yellow Sign/Ancients glyphs are planned.
The effect I wanted on Shaggai was of an organized, planned world sinking into the abyss. A modular map would produce a chaotic disorganized world falling prey to into more chaos, which isn’t my desire in this case.
And also, with randomly placed hexagons, this map can be set up with terrible game imbalances. Even if I had special rules for how to place the hexagons, then instead I end up with the game’s focus being on the lengthy set-up sequence instead of having fun trying to interact with Shaggai’s destruction.
Modular just wasn’t a fit for me for any part of this map.