The Social Crawl Part 1

The Social Crawl is a hex crawl, but for people. Each 'hex' (we'll call them 'marks' because there's some funny convergence on con-artist terminology), each mark is a person of interest and their entourage. The marks are connected to other marks. Think of the nature of the connections as the landscape. You need different gear when adventuring in the mountains, and you need different approaches when trying to contact an estranged lover vs. a hated enemy.

Social Crawling is great at:

  • City intrigue games, where there are factions ready to fuck with each other
  • Mysteries about rich people having tea and someone like drinks poison
  • Cults, crime bosses, and political jerkfaces
There are two parts here:
  1. Building the Social Crawl
  2. Running the Social Crawl
Both use a different process, and building it is way more in-depth than running it. Building out the map can  take a hot minute, but I've used maps I built in an hour for games that lasted three months, so the cost is worth it.

Building the Social Crawl

  1. Decide how big a network you want. I build them in squares of 3x3, 4x4, or 5x5. The maps work for different situations.
    • 3x3 works well for a small town, a locked room mystery, or the crew on a space faring vessel a million miles from nowhere.
    • 4x4 is default, it works well for cities, conflicting government bodies, or vampires shitting on each other.
    • 5x5 is weird, you have two ways to treat this. You can either have a massive mega city with a half dozen factions, or you can have a smaller area that is much more detailed. I have had a hard time running a 5x5 map because my brain is full of snakes.
  2. Populate the marks with your NPCs. Marks closer to the top are higher status, harder to get in touch with. Those at the bottom have looser security or lower status.

3.  Start with the upper right mark, roll 1d4, 1d6, and 1d8  for each adjacent or diagonal mark. I move counter clockwise. Check the results of the d4 on the list below.
  1. No Connection
  2. Connection (None if diagonal)
  3. Connection
  4. Trap (denote with dotted line)
Diagonal connections are rarer, and I follow a couple rules to make filling out the chart easier. 
  • Don't cross connections, like two diagonals that cross (it just gets messy).
  • Don't re-roll connections you've already tested
  • Everyone has at least one connection. 
The d6 determines the tenor of the connection, while the d8 determines the specific nature of the connection. Write the nature of the connection on the connecting line.

1- Rivalry
2- Beneficent
3- Complicated
Estranged lovers
Lovers in a torrid affair
Love-hate relationship
Courting the same person
Childhood best friends
Witnesses to horror
Old friends grown sour
Stood together through battle
Lovers, both beholden to others
Financial competition
Trusted business partners
Trapped in deep debt together
Opposite sides of politics
Members of fringe sect
Both outcasts from family
Social climbers at odds
Friendly rivals
Excommunicated together
Family, always fractious
Scheming allies
Political outsiders infiltrating
Professionally trump each other
Trusted confidants
Owes life debt / Holds debt

4- Occult
5- Covert
6- Malignant
Bound by holy destiny
Honeytrap / Mark
Toxic lover / trying to escape
Both followed by dark forces
Unknowing co-conspirators
Deep hatred from old grudge
Dabbled in demonism together
Rival crime bosses.
Loathing of each other’s failures
Cursed to kill each other
Spies wary of each other.
Financially dependent/ exploiting
Cultists to forgotten gods
Eager ally / Con artist
Opposite sides in clan feud
Possess one soul between them
Formed cartel together
Heretic  / Religiously intolerant
Haunting  each other’s dreams
Secret lovers
Schemes spiral out of control
Eager disciple / Disappointment
Blackmailer / Target
Usurper / Superior

4. Finally, remember those trapped connections? We need to figure out what kind of trap is there. Roll 1d10 twice on the chart below for each trapped connection to find the trigger for the trap and the reaction of the trigger.

Inquiry- The character directly asks about the connection without disguising their motives.
Ambush- The characters are attacked by forces appropriate for the mark.

Decoy- The mark deploys a decoy to distract the characters.
Etiquette- The character has breached etiquette before following up on the connection.
Clam up- The mark refuses to speak to the characters until amends are made.

Warning- The mark issues a warning to not engage. Ignoring the warning brings violence.
Leave- The character leaves the mark to follow up on the connection.
Cut-out Contact- The contacts do not speak directly, but through a third party who will be targeted for assassination.

Lies- Nothing the target says is trustworthy.
Approach- The character is following up on a connection.
Duel- A third party challenges a character to a duel on the contact’s behalf.

Unholy Attention- Known or unknown to the contact, a demon, undead, or aberration intervenes on their behalf.
Attention- The character has attracted third party attention and attempts to follow up a connection.
Histrionics- The mark panics and draws attention, shouting, crying, and carrying on until the characters calm them down or leave.

Roll Twice...

When you place the traps, decide which contact will get the trigger. It matters for Approach and Leave triggers.

Now take a minute and look at the map. Begin to chart the lines of influence and antipathy. Think of it like a circuit, where a charge can move across some connections and not others.

We can imagine a player talking to Harbunger ibn Uleg about their "Tea" business. If the players have a lot of heat on them from making a scene, they'd let them know that Harrow Mordhend is a good friend and to keep away. If they somehow figure out that Harbunger is in league with Ghurghoura, any visible approach (asking about the connection, not covering their tracks) will make Ghurghoura just lie about everything. "No, I have no idea who Morvul is. Morrouvorchus? Never heard of them."

In Part II

In my next post, I'll talk about how to use this map at the table, how the players navigate the map, and all the different games you can run with the Social Crawl.


  1. This is amazing! There are so many possible uses for this.
    I'm handing over the DMing reins in our D&D 5E game to someone who wants yo do more intrigue and the like, so I have sent her a link to this!

  2. Nice to extend this to have the top row interact with the bottom row and the left column interact with the right-most column

    1. That'd be nuts and my monkey brain wouldn't be able to handle it. Better to have people in the corners be less accessible than the social butterflies in the middle, methinks.

  3. Awesome system. Looking forward to reading part 2 ASAP.


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