Sunday, March 16, 2014

Running a Hex Crawl (Part I)

So why would you ever want to run a hex crawl?

 Hex crawls allow a relatively robust system for modeling the larger world, outside of the dusty forts, moldy dungeons, and big cities of role playing games. Hexes give a useful way to reveal terrain as it is explored and provide an easy measurement of distance for the players' reference. It makes your job easier as a Dungeon Master, in that it does not require meticulously drawn maps of many different scales, you do not have to guesstimate distances for player travels, and more easily track the hazards and threats of long distance travel to inject tension and fun into traveling. For players, it is easier to see how far you can travel in a hex map, what the terrain risks might be on the way, and draw you own map for a reference.
Sure you are, Ooze #11.

How could I run a Hex Crawl?

1. Make sure the players understand what a hex crawl entails and its ground rules.

My hexes are generally six mile hexes [~10km]. Human walking speed works out to about 3 miles per hour [~5km/hr] or ~1 hex for every 2 hours walking at a brisk hiking pace. Each hex is one terrain type, such as plains, hills, forest, mountains. In most circumstances, players can only see the terrain of their hex and the adjacent hexes. Moving through hexes can mean random encounters, which I generate with my DMTools program which uses a Gygaxian formula for "empty", "monster", "treasure", "trick", "trap", or "special"  in 1/3 of the hexes for new hexes and 1/6 of already explored hexes. An adventurer's day only has 8 hours of actual adventuring, the rest is spent camping, sleeping, doing maintenance, and meditating. Players choose how quickly, carefully, and meticulously they explore the wilderness. Their choice to sneak or explore more thoroughly will halve their speed, while hustling and riding mounts will double their speed. Exploring more slowly will ensure that they discover anything hidden in that hex, where marching straight through may mean missing those secrets. Having a cart or vehicle can help the characters do some of their non-adventuring activities while traveling, increasing the amount of time they can spend each day traveling. I treat any cave delving, going to town, or other location exploration as taking a minimum of 1 hour. The terrain itself can hinder or slow down players, with the presence of roads improves the terrain by one category. Other concerns take note too, such as needing a ration and water-skin for each party member each day, setting up camp, and not getting lost in featureless terrain.

2. Keep the realism fun.

You do not need to micromanage every meal they take or every step they march to add a cost to travelling. Tension will naturally arise from having a limited amount of playing time, the consequences of the world not pausing for the players, and having to choose what goals to pursue. I find that a general system for overland travel adds some cost to travel to help keep player travel choices meaningful, but balanced. Adding this cost system also offers more opportunity for unique rewards, such as magical mounts that are even faster than horses, an enchanted tent the sets itself up readily, scouting binoculars for increased sight-lines, and much more. This system also allows there to always be some mystery in the hills, they may stumble on some hidden trapdoor to a long buried keep in the woods or find a kindly old witch who makes them stew when they stop by. It allows the players real choices that may end up burning down entire hexes of forests, or see previously safe hexes become dangerous due to their negligence. Above all, remember that even the time they spend traveling is irrelevant if the world stops moving when they are gone.

One of my house rules documents . Overland Travel House Rules

It also has some stuff for social encounters that I have adapted from Courtney C. Campbell's 'On the Non-Player Character' . (great e-book that talks about some great ways to model NPC's in a standard way, similar to how combat has standard tactics and weak-points).

Link to a blank hex map originally from Power Frame. Blank Hex Map

I would link to the original site I got it from, but the website seems to be down. Power Frame Hex Map

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