Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hex Crawls and 4e

in my upcoming zine i have been working with reintroducing some old school flavor into 4e. one of the elements you will be seeing are wilderness hex maps and hex crawls. maybe youre wondering what the hell im talking about. well, basically in 4e the tendency is to just hand wave travel. its not a bad thing, i do it all the time, and sometimes you just want to beam the pcs where they are going. but a little old school hex crawling is a great way to add flavor to the pcs travel and give them a greater appreciation for their surroundings. you can even have the pcs map the wilderness as they explore it, which gives you that old judges guild vibe

how does it work?

heck, you might not even be aware pcs have land speeds in 4e. thats how rarely it seems to come up. assuming one person in the party has speed 5, the base speed is about 2 1/2 miles an hour for the party. this is then further modified by terrain. i like to work with whole numbers if possible, so in my example map, which i made with an excellent free generator , i am going to say the hexes are 2 miles across. the pcs can cross one of the woods hexes in an hour. the hills will take them two hours, or twice as long. its not a huge area.

now that ive got a little map and the scale i want, i want to generate some tables. generating these should feel like crack to a dm. its fun, but it also allows you to further define your world. is this section of the world heavily populated? what creatures live there? its a ruined wasteland or will they see dozens of farms? what info might you want to convey to them as they travel? how likely should combat be? you can go on and on, or keep it really simple. i decide the hills are infested with gnolls that are encroaching on the somewhat populous surrounding wood. the inhabitants of the woods are already having problems with bandits hiding out in the woods.

example tables

Hills-roll 1d6 once per hour (twice per hill hex)
1. the pcs run into a spry and wily hermit that lives in a cave; roll again if you get this twice
2. a rockslide happens about a hundred yards ahead of the party
3. vultures circle overhead
4. 1d4 skeletons picked clean
5. 1d4 mountain goats are seen
6. 2d6+6 well armed gnolls

Woods-roll 1d4 once per hour
1. cabin-inhabitant will complain to pcs of bandits in the woods
2. sounds of birds calling
3. small shrine to a god **roll on the shrine table
4. 2d8+4 bandits

Shrine-roll 1d4
1. Melora
2. Sehanine
3. hard to say, very crude and pagan. teeth in small bundle
4. hidden ritualistic stone slab stained with blood. gnolls?

you see where im going with this. heck they might not even encounter half of the stuff but...it's there. i like setting it up where a roll is automatic but there are obviously a lot of ways to set up your tables. for example you could just roll a 1d6 and say an encounter happens on a 1 and just leave it at that (if you want to have lots of random combat encounters without adding too much time to your session, you might like to use my ideas for morale in 4e). you can make huge tables and go crazy with the environmental descriptions. or you can pepper the whole area with adventure sites and let the players just naturally go where they want to go. a sandbox in 4e? impossible?

do you have any ideas about it? leave a post! anyways, you can expect to see more hex love from me in the future


  1. I am currently running a 4E hex crawl. The way I handle hex movement and exploration can be found here (http://bigballofnofun.blogspot.com/2011/07/farstead-part-four-in-play-change.html#more).

    Here (http://bigballofnofun.blogspot.com/2011/06/farstead-part-one-4e-hexcrawl.html) is the first part of a series on my blog that details the set-up of the hex crawl (including maps and encounters) for my Farstead campaign.

    BTW The campaign is still going strong and the players really seem to be enjoying it and 4E.

  2. awesome stuff! i love how you did a player map for them to work off! thanks so much for sharing that, i am following the farstead saga now!