tisdag 5 augusti 2014

H is for Hexcrawl

I was pondering how to implement a good hexcrawl in my campaign. I had a dream about this and this is actually me impementing that dream to reality.

The Thing in my dream was to disturb every genious/grognard/old oaf out there I know or pretend to know. So I thought I run to a couple of people with three questions each and the answers to these, I would publish on the blog, so some other noob can come along later and stumble on some good answers in a big collection.

Or it could just be some fun reading, if it is your cup of tea that is.

The questions are;
  1. How would you define a hexcrawl in your own words if you would keep it short?
  2. What module or article is the one that is influencing you the most regarding a good hex crawl? Do you follow these rules or guidlines?
  3. What is the major rules or thing to think about when designing a good hexcrawl in your opinion?

First of all we have +Greg Gorgonmilk from Gorgonmilk
  1. "A numbered hex map with a corresponding key explaining the contents of each (or each important) hex.
  2. The classic Judges Guild stuff is my model for this sort of thing. (Judges guild booty list)
  3. Less is more. As in less detail is always better than too much. Leave enough undone so the DM has room to improvise."

Our second runner is +Joseph Bloch from Greyhawk Grognard

"I'd define a hexcrawl as an adventure setting that gives the PCs unlimited choices of action; where to go, what to do, how to interact with the NPCs, etc., in such a way that no choices they make can derail the DM's plans for the game. Compare to a plot-driven game, where failure to follow the plot can derail the game completely if the DM is unable or unwilling to improvise.

The single-best reference on how to put together a good sandbox is the West Marches campaign over at Ars Ludi. http://arsludi.lamemage.com/index.php/78/grand-experiments-west-marches/ It should be required reading for anyone interested in doing a hexcrawl.

Good hexcrawls require that the PCs be able to make informed choices. Just shoving them out the door without any sort of rhyme or reason robs them of their agency, since all the choices they make are blind choices. Make their choices at least semi-informed, and have plot threads dangling that the PCs can tug on if they wish.

The PCs should have some (vague) idea of what's out there to be found, and many encounters should be constructed so that they point the PCs to at least one more, should they decide to pursue the lead. "

Third voice is +Rob Conley , a guru of hex-crawling and behind Bat in the attic

"Here is my dollar's worth of answer.
1) How would you define a hexcrawl in your own words if you would keep it short?

Hexcrawl is a format for presenting a setting where a numbered hex grid is overlaid on a map and locales are referred by their hex number. It can pack a lot of easily referenced ocal level detail in a minimum number of works.

A sandbox campaign is traditionally associated with the hexcrawl format. It is a campaign where the referee defines a setting, and defines his NPCs goals, plans and motivations. The PCs are give given an initial set of circumstances and the expectation they do whatever they want to do in accordance to their goals and the limits of their characters.

2) What module or article is the one that is influencing you the most regarding a good hex crawl? Do you follow these rules or guidlines?

Wilderlands of High Fantasy, City State of the Invincible Overlord, and the associated Judges Guild's Wilderness series (Spies of Lightelf, etc).

The downside it is a pretty big place. After surveying what was released in the past, I decided I had to write my own introductory setting, Blackmarsh. You can download it for free from RPGNow. The physical book is only $4.99


3) What is the major rules or thing to think about when designing a good hexcrawl in your opinion?

Hexcrawls and Sandbox can be run using any set of RPGs rules. What you want to look for is good support for the random generation of content, and support for in-game world building for example Traveller's Trading and Starship economics, or AD&D's stronghold building rules.

I strongly advice assembling a nice set of random tables. Generally I find I have about a dozen to two dozen specific ideas. For the rest of it I just randomly roll and explain the results consistently with the rest of the setting.

As for rules.

If you want detail and playability Columbia Game's Harnmaster is probably the best. But it is an investment. If you want a solid D&D like rule system then you can't go wrong with Adventurer Conqueror King by Autarch Games.

Note with Harnmaster you also have the option of ignoring the core rules and going with the world building stuff like Harnmanor. They are all mostly self-contained subsystems.

The Red Tide series by Sine Nomine is also good.http://www.rpgnow.com/browse.php?manufacturers_id=3482

While this is tooting my own horn, I think my Scourge of the Demon Wolf is a good example of what an adventure looks like in a sandbox campaign. Plus in the appendices you get a full write up of various locales to use as a springboard for further adventures.


+Eric Hoffman and I are actually play testing a hex crawl we wrote, so I’m going to speak about what we thought was important as we wrote it.

1. How would you define a hex crawl in your own words if you would keep it short?

"Hex crawl: Exploration of a large area, overlaid by a hex grid, where travel is governed by set rules, and where the majority of encounters are random and unexpected."

2. What module or article is the one that is influencing you the most regarding a good hex crawl? Do you follow these rules or guidelines?

"Actually, I find more influence is being pulled from literature, especially Treasure Island and many of R.E. Howard’s stories. There’s a mood, a feeling, that I’m looking for in this hex crawl, and rules themselves aren’t going to supply that.

The hex crawl writer’s choice of creatures, NPCs, locations… even treasure… all need to fit together. These elements help the players tell the characters’ stories, because without a plot thread, the GM has little to no narrative. Your choices of what goes into the hex crawl, not how you run it, will affect the theme and personality of your adventure.

Also, I find that descriptive text before ‘set piece’ encounters is immensely helpful to both players and GM’s. Set the scene, and let the players take it from there. Set piece encounters are locations like tombs and NPC's that exist on the island, but their location can vary. It all depends on the dice rolls as they characters explore."

3. What is the major rules or thing to think about when designing a good hex crawl in your opinion?
"Obviously, freedom of choice is big part of a hex crawl, but I still think the players need to get invested. We chose a simple overlying goal: The discovery and subsequent plundering of the fabled treasure vaults of Zadabad. If that’s not enough, we’ve included personal adventure hooks in the player’s guide that players might choose for their characters, among them being;

1)The island, once being a grand center of worship, contains religious artifacts that must be preserved (or destroyed!)
2) A friend or relative was sold into slavery and is currently somewhere on the island.
3)You are fleeing the law, an assassin, or unforgiving debtors.

Once again, this puts the story into the hands of the players, and the GM can have fun molding the hex crawl to his and his players' desires.

We also included enough room for the GM to put his own stamp on the adventures. We expect the GM to insert the hex crawl (an island in this case) into his current campaign. It should be easy for him to do so.

The island is big enough to require multiple days to travel across, but small enough that it could remain an isolated, mysterious, and largely unknown island in the GM’s campaign world. While we have various factions on and surrounding the island, we’ve included only enough detail to get the ball rolling. Additionally, there is a combination of set pieces and plenty of interesting locations that are unnamed, waiting for a creative judge to drop-in something of his own.

I’d like to close by saying that GMing a hex crawl can be both intimidating and rewarding. Because everything is largely random, the GM won’t know what’s coming. There’s more thinking on your feet required. You may have read the entire adventure and know all the monster stat blocks by heart, but the order of appearance, the sequence of events, will change how various factions, NPCs and monsters react. Killing the Great White Elephant of Tribella ‘before’ meeting Nashta the Holy Man is a much different encounter than meeting the holy man first.

However, these same surprises are also rewarding! Your players will take things in directions you never expected. It’s a very different experience than a scripted adventure, where the goal is set and the sequence of events is important. You’ll live in the moment, and your creativity will be tested repeatedly. What was once a choice that would have derailed an adventure, will be the start of yet another exciting side-trek!"

+Simon Forster, a very good mapper and the man behind ...And the sky full of dust.

"I have had a think: and you know what, I realise that I've never really ran a hexcrawl. I have an overland map with areas labelled, and when the PCs wander into those ares they come across whatever place I've stuck there, but not really a hexcrawl the way others mention it. I did, however, once write up something that I was going to run once, which is sort of like it: http://www.theskyfullofdust.co.uk/in-the-name-of-the-king-4-iv-hex-exploration-tables/"

Other usefull stuff

I got some great links from +Terje Nordin 

To be continoued or edited?