Alexandrian Hex Crawling

Justin Alexander has been putting out some posts on hexcrawls. Here are some links:

They assume the 3E skill system, but are still interesting reads. For comparison, see my old wilderness movement costs post (which is really just a slightly simplified version of the B/X wilderness movement system).

In particular, his concept of “watch” seems like higher temporal resolution than I need. What I have been doing is one encounter check per day (with a die roll to determine time of day). This is pretty much as specified by the original Expert rulebook. There are also rules for discovering fixed features through exploring hexes rather than moving through them (like searching a room for secret doors in a dungeon). It is also possible to notice some fixed features without searching form them.

Justin also left this provocative comment on one of the posts:

If you find yourself starting to worry about where the PCs are “in the hex”, you’re doing it wrong.

I need to think about that more. Should the hex be an atomic measure of wilderness space? It has a pleasing absolutism to it. It does remove the idea of zooming hex levels, but perhaps that is unnecessary complexity anyways.

11 thoughts on “Alexandrian Hex Crawling

    1. Brendan

      Christian’s Loviatar hexes do some interesting things with spacial relationships inside hexes. See here:

      This is lots of extra work to put together though, as can be seen by the number of hexes that have been produced for his setting so far.

      I think the best approach might be a compromise: most hexes are atomic, but the occasional special hex might get more detail, or even a “one page dungeon” type of treatment.

  1. John

    I have been avoiding subdividing 6-mile hexes into smaller hexes; technically it’s something ACKS’ maps are in favor of, but too much prep for me.

  2. Billy Billerson

    Wow, nice. I like hearing how other DMs roll.

    I guess I like abstracting resource managment/movement a little more–make it lighter.

    I tend to agree more the most part about not worrying about where you are in the hex. I like having more than one thing in the hex, but not necessarily a map of that stuff–too much work.

  3. Hedgehobbit

    In my wayward youth, I spend lots of time playing board wargames. Advanced Squad Leader has loads of rules about finding things in hexes, creating trailed through terrain, moving around difficult terrain within a hex, and even moving along the hex sides (instead of through the hex itself). I should translate those over to D&D.

    However, if you really want an atomic measure, why not just do a point-crawl instead?

    1. Brendan

      Re: Advanced Squad Leader; yes, you should do that translation so that I can read it.

      Re: why not point-crawl?; well, using a hexagonal matrix enforces a certain level of spacial relationship that I think can sometimes get abstracted away in a point-crawl. Also, it ensures that there are always lots of potential exits in every wilderness space. Really, a hex map is a type of point-crawl with some formalized travel mechanics, and it feels more “objective” in a sense that I find somewhat hard to articulate.

      One could also make abstract point-crawl dungeons (and I have seen several recently), but that feels similarly unsatisfying to me.

  4. Jack

    I’ve been following Justin’s series because hexcrawling is something I’m REALLY interested in right now; having discovered it, I can’t believe they removed it from 3E.

    The comment I wanted to make, though, was that his system doesn’t really remove zooming in to a hex, but it doesn’t require it, either. In fact, in a lot of ways the system is agnostic to the size of the hex the players are walking through, not least of all because Justin intends for the whole structure to be invisible to players anyways.

    1. Brendan

      Yeah, hex crawling is one of the more interesting aspects of the game to me also. I don’t think it was present in 2E either, though I have not looked at that part of those books in a long time.

      Regarding zooming: I’m thinking from a referee guidelines point of view; that is, what is the best (most practical, easiest to use) method for setting up a wilderness for exploration? In the real world, of course you can drill down as needed, but maybe nothing is gained by modelling that level of granularity in game systems.


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