If you’re going to put together a hexcrawl you need mechanics for crawling hexes. This is the current draft of those mechanics for the Thar hexcrawl. These might see some revision between now and the .pdf (the spotter role is relatively new, which is why none of the Thar encounters posted so far have detection DCs, we’ll have to add those in for the finished .pdf), but we’re reasonably sure this is about what we want the end result to look like.
Whenever players want to leave the hex they’re in, run down the following checklist. We very strongly recommend printing the checklist out and keeping it handy. Tape it over the least used component of your current GM screen. Order counts and you will save yourself a lot of time if, when traveling from one hex to the next, you go down the list in order and make sure you have completed one step before moving on to the next.
- Choose bearing and pace
- Assign roles
- Guide rolls to navigate
- Record speed loss
- Roll Constitution saves
- Enter new hex
- Mark off supplies and/or hunter rolls Survival
- Guide rolls for Stealth (if sneaking)
- Roll for random encounter
- Spotter rolls for Perception (if exploring)
First, the group chooses which direction they’re heading. Depending on the orientation of the hexes, their option will either be north, northeast, southeast, southwest, south, and northwest, or northeast, east, southeast, southwest, west, and northwest. Make sure your players’ version of the hex map has the hexes aligned properly (you’ll also want to make sure it’s easy to mark and erase on, so that players can write down discoveries and then get rid of anything that changes or turns out to be for a different hex than they thought because they got lost).
At the same time, the group also choose whether to hustle, explore, or sneak. By default, the party is exploring. They move a number of miles equal to the movement speed of their slowest party member, rounded up to the nearest hex, and the spotter makes a Perception check in step 10 to attempt to discover the hex’s landmark, and the guide can roll Stealth at disadvantage in step 8. When hustling, the party’s speed is multiplied by 1.25x (multiply your slowest party member’s speed by 1.25 in a calculator app, round that up to the nearest hex – when traveling on foot, this will almost always be two hexes), but the spotter rolls Perception at disadvantage and the guide cannot roll Stealth at all. When sneaking, the party’s speed is multiplied by 0.75x and the spotter has disadvantage on their Perception check, but the guide can roll Stealth without disadvantage.
A party’s speed is the number of hexes they can move in a day before they must stop and rest. Whatever pace the party is moving at gives them a total speed, rounded up to the nearest hex, for the day. For example, a party whose slowest member moves 30 feet per round will move 30 miles for a speed of one hex. If sneaking, they will move 22.5 miles, which rounds up to one hex. If hustling, they move 37.5 miles, which rounds up to two hexes. Thus, their speed is one, unless they’re hustling, in which case it is two. If a party member is mounted, they move at the mount’s speed instead of their own.
Having chosen their bearing and speed, players must now assign the roles of guide, hunter, and spotter. Spotter needs high Perception and hunter needs high Survival, although if you have supplies packed the hunter will not need to roll. The guide can use Survival, Investigation, or History, although History will be rolled at disadvantage since knowing maps and knowing terrain aren’t quite the same. The guide will also need to roll Stealth if the party is trying to sneak. One party member cannot have two roles, however guide is the only role that absolutely must be filled. Other roles auto-fail if no one has filled them. Multiple characters can all have the same roll, in which case one can assist another to grant advantage on the roll or they can each roll separately and take the highest result.
The third step is the guide rolling their navigation skill. As mentioned earlier, this can be Survival, Investigation, or History, although History is rolled at disadvantage. The difficult of the check depends on the terrain. In coastal, desert, or grassland terrain, it is a DC 10 check. In arctic, forest, mountain, or blue water ocean terrain, it is a DC 15 check. In swamp or Underdark terrain, it is a DC 20 check. If the Guide fails, the GM rolls a d20 in secret. On a result of 1-8, they veer to the left of their bearing. For example, on a map with true columns and a party attempting to head north, a result of 1-8 would see them veering left to northwest. If they’d been trying to go south, a left veer would take them southeast instead. On a result of 13-20, the party veers right. On a 9-12, by sheer dumb luck the party stays on bearing and goes the direction they intended to. The third step succeeds automatically if the party is following some kind of obvious path, like a road, or a river, or if they’re just heading directly towards a clearly visible landmark on the horizon like a mountain or tower.
The fourth step is to record speed loss. The party pays one speed to exit a coastal, desert, or grassland terrain, two speed to exit a forest, arctic, or Underdark terrain, or three hexes to exit a mountain or swamp terrain. The party reduces their speed by the necessary amount and then leaves the hex. If they don’t have enough speed, they can pay whatever they have to start moving and complete the move on the following day (or the day after, if they’re moving at a speed of 1 each day and the hex requires three speed to leave). In this case, they still follow the rest of the steps, however they do not leave the hex they are in until they have enough speed to pay for it.
The fifth step is to make Constitution saves. If the party lacks the speed to complete a move but would really like to leave the hex today and not tomorrow or the day after, this is the step where they can attempt a forced march. When making a forced march, characters make a CON save against DC of 11 to increase their pace multiplier by an additional 0.1 (so sneak becomes x0.85, explore becomes x1.1, and hustle becomes x1.35). If everyone in the party is successful, the party can attempt another CON save at a DC of one point higher to increase pace by another 0.1. The party can continue doing this as many times as it takes until their speed is high enough to reach the next hex, although after a DC 18 check they will need to either stop to rest or else forego a long rest for the day, as at that point they will have been marching for a full sixteen hours. If a character fails their save, they can either take a level of exhaustion to maintain pace or else be left behind. If someone is left behind, other party members may (of course) elect to stay with them, even if they passed their CON saves and could keep going if they liked. A mounted party member’s mount makes the CON check instead of the party member, and if the mount fails, a DC 15 Animal Handling check is required to convince the mount to continue on.
In the sixth step, the party enters a new hex, provided they have enough speed to do so. From now on, all rolls are made using the relevant information of the new hex, not the one they just exited.
In step seven, supplies are marked off. Each character consumes one day’s worth of rations. If there’s not enough to go around, the hunter must roll Survival. On the coast, forest, grassland, and mountain, it is a DC 15 check to successfully forage for food, unless it is winter, in which case it is DC 20 (note that not all coasts, forests, grasslands, and mountains will have winter). In swamp or Underdark terrain, it is always a DC 20 check to forage. In arctic or desert terrain, it is a DC 25. If the party is out of supplies and the hunter fails his check to forage for more, everyone in the party takes a level of fatigue.
In step eight, the guide rolls Stealth if the party is bothering to cover their checks. Record the guide’s Stealth check and compare it to the passive Perception of whatever encounter you roll up in step nine. If the guide’s Stealth check beats the encounter’s, the guide has successfully snuck up on the encounter.
In step nine, roll on the random encounter table for either the Moonsea Coast, the Moors of Thar, or the Galena Mountains, as appropriate for whatever hex the party is currently in. Depending on step eight, the party may see the encounter before it sees them. Refer to encounter text for details.
In step 10, the spotter rolls Perception to find the hex landmark, a special encounter, war camp, or other point of interest within the hex. If the “hook” section of the hex entry doesn’t give a specific DC for discovering it, the DC is 10. If the party guide passed his navigation check in step three and at least one member of the party has discovered the hex’s landmark before, they can find it again without rolling. If the guide failed his step three navigation check, then they’re lost, and can’t find landmarks even if they already know where the landmark is, because they don’t know where they are. This is true even if, by dumb luck, they’ve reached the hex they were looking for anyway. Being lost or not doesn’t affect the party’s ability to find landmarks with Perception checks, and if a lost party’s spotter succeeds on the Perception check to find a landmark they’ve already found before, the party is no longer lost.
You may think all of this is a bit of a hassle, and you’d be right. This is why it is important that hexcrawls be dense with interesting content. A party shouldn’t have to do all this five times before finding a hex which actually contains something. This, in turn, is why this hexcrawl uses jumbo-size thirty mile hexes. With six mile hexes it becomes difficult to justify the vast majority of hexes containing something interesting.
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