Well, here's a promised full article that never ran in Pyramid. This one is in part my try to make my own version of the One-Page Wilderness System using only d6s. This is somewhat informed by use, advising folks to not to fill every hex with an encounter, leaving the lesser encounters up to pure random rolls. Honestly, I use the original system myself, with my only tweak being a 12 is a purely random encounter. Yeah, it's a d20 roll, but so what? I also always make the standard four rolls for morning, afternoon, evening, and night encounters, not the two recommended here, which was hewing nearer to Kromm's recommendation to one random encounter a day.
Regardless, I think all encounter rolls need to hem to the idea that not only do you need truly random encounters, but you also should have a roll to trigger any nearby encounter. This goes back to early D&D, with the roll to see if someone comes out of a castle if you pass within a few hexes of it.
Not long after writing this, I understood what Rob Conley meant when he told me that getting lost rolls were more trouble than they're worth, and went to a failed Navigation roll lowering how far you get in a day, and something you roll only once a day. I am leaving the rules for getting lost for those folks who want them, however, as I did use them early in my campaign. I also have better ways of handling % In Lair, which are elsewhere on this site. For encounter distances, see the post about the ibathene.
With GURPS Dungeon Fantasy 16: Wilderness Adventures, Dungeon Fantasy comes out of the dungeon. A hex crawl can make a wilderness like a dungeon, but more open-ended.
A hex crawl is a set of adventure sites in a wilderness that delvers can explore. Unlike a dungeon, these sites are not linked together. Indeed, the dwellers in those sites may have little to do with each other, and could well have their own dungeons.
Hexes in a hex crawl are like rooms in a dungeon. Hexes show where things are, and give limits to movement and sight.
Making a Map
For a hex crawl, you need a map with hexes. Hexes can be of any size, which is typically a number of miles. Most hex maps have hexes that are 4 to 12 miles across. Bigger hexes won't have many encounters from nearby hexes happen, while smaller hexes will have many more. You can get your map however you like, whether you make your own, you download it from the Internet, or you take it from another game. The original Dungeons and Dragons game took its hex map from Outdoor Survival, an Avalon Hill game.
When making a hex map don’t worry about filling every hex with an encounter if you are using smaller (4 to 6 miles) hexes! Only worry about the bigger encounters. Empty hexes can be like empty rooms in a dungeon, which give a break. You need not fill more than a third of the hexes, and can get away with filling a sixth of them. Fill them with settlements, lairs, landmarks, you name it.
Beasts can move between hexes. They're even more likely to do so, since there aren't walls and doors to get in the way. Hexes can even have dungeons in them, which let you run a dungeon crawl inside your hex crawl.
In a hex crawl, “lairs” are all nests, buildings, caves, dungeons, and other places in which dwell monsters and other foes. For each monster lair, note the following:
- How many monsters are in the lair.
- How much treasure is in the lair.
- Whether the lair is hidden.
- Any special defenses the lair has, like traps or guard beasts.
- Whether the monsters leave the lair.
- If the monsters leave the lair, how many of them are in a group, how far (in hexes) do they wander, and when in the day they wander, typically day or night.
A lair itself is a place that might need a map, especially if you think the players might spend a lot of time there. Lairs often have non-fighters, like children or elderly, guard beasts, slaves, prisoners, or whatnot. There might be other lairs nearby, and they might be foes of the monsters in the first lair. The whole lair can be a dungeon, which is a nest of smaller lairs.
Moving from Hex to Hex
The rules for Travel (Wilderness Adventures, p. 20) handle most movement issues. Each hex has a cost to move through it. This cost is equal to the size of the hex in miles, divided by the travel speed for the terrain (Wilderness Adventures, p. 22). Each hex should have only one travel speed. A boon of hexes is that you need not worry about mixed terrain, since each hex has its own modifier for this worked out beforehand.
The delvers’ final travel speed (Wilderness Adventures, p. 23), multiplied by the daily travel time (Wilderness Adventures, p. 23), gives the total movement in miles they can go for the day. This is the budget the delvers can spend to move through hexes. To move from a hex, the delvers must spend the cost of the hex in miles. If the hex has a bigger cost than the delvers have miles of movement, they stay in the hex. Keep track of the number of miles they spend each day, since they can put many days’ travel together to push through a hex. Sometimes, it is best to make a hex map of a bigger hex if the explorers are moving around inside the hex and you need to keep track of where they are in it.
Example: A band of explorers have Move 2, which means they move a mile each hour. They take out two hours for foraging, so they get 10 miles of movement for the day. The band wants to move through a 5-mile hex of dense forest, which is ×0.20 to travel speed. Thus, the hex has a cost of 25 miles. It will take the delvers two-and-a-half days to go through the hex.
When hex crawling in the wild, with no landmarks or road, make a Navigation roll to go into each hex instead of each day (Wilderness Adventures, p. 22). Success means the group makes it into the hex with no problem, while a critical success shaves off a mile of the effective width of the hex. A failure means the hex costs more to go through: raise the cost to move through the hex by +20%. A critical failure means the group has wandered into one of the two hexes to the sides of the hex into which they wanted to go. Pick one of them randomly, or the one with terrain most like that of the hex they wanted. A Per-based Navigation roll means someone has figured out that the group is in the wrong hex.
Ignore the above whenever the characters can see where they want to go! It’s a little hard to miss the big mountain or the hustle and bustle of a town from six miles away.
Check for encounters whenever delvers go into a hex, and one more time for each day and night. Roll a d6 twice to find out which hour of the day or night; if the second die comes up 4-6, add 6 to the first die to find the hour.
For 4 to 6 mile hexes, roll 3d on the table below. The extra roll for each day and night happens in the hex in which the delvers happen to be at that hour.
Encounters (4-6 mile hexes)
Roll (3d) Result3-8 Nothing happens.
9 Clue to an encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
10 Clue to an encounter keyed to this hex. If the group is not moving or there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
11 Random encounter. The GM should have a table of random encounters that are the lesser encounters in the wild. These foes can have a prefix (GURPS Dungeon Fantasy Monsters 1, pp. 36-38). You can roll randomly for these. Roll 2d. On a 2 or 3, that foe has one of the prefixes in that tome. If one of the delvers has Weirdness Magnet, the foe has a prefix on a 2, 3, or 4 instead. You should make a list of which prefixes monsters can have, and roll to see which prefix the monster does have. For monsters with lots of treasure or a complex lair, it helps to write up a lair before the game.
12 Encounter keyed to a hex two hexes away. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex; roll another 1d, and if it comes up 4-6, count another 6 hexes clockwise. (If you have a d12, you can roll that instead). If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander two hexes away, nothing happens.
13 Encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
14-16 Encounter keyed to this hex. On 16, this happens near the monster's lair if the group was moving; otherwise, it happens outside. If there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
17-18 Roll twice. Both results happen at the same time.
For 8 to 12 mile hexes, roll 2d on this table instead:
Encounters (8-12 mile hexes)
Roll (2d) Result2-4 Nothing happens.
5 Clue to an encounter keyed to this hex. If the group is not moving or there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
6 Clue to an encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
7 Random encounter. See the notes for 11 above.
8 Encounter keyed to a nearby hex. Roll 1d, and count the hexes clockwise starting from the top-right hex. If this hex has no encounter, or the encounter keyed to it does not wander between hexes, nothing happens.
9-11 Encounter keyed to this hex. On an 11, this happens in the monster's lair if the group was moving; otherwise, it happens outside. If there is no encounter in this hex, nothing happens.
12 Roll twice. Both results happen at the same time.
Clues are just that: hints that are about the encounter in question. These can be sights, sounds, smells, droppings, tracks, dead victims; you name it. The only need is that they have something to do with that encounter. If the players want to find out what left that clue, let them make a roll. They might roll against Heraldry (for an old banner), Naturalist (for droppings), or Survival (for an old camp). A critical failure gives wrong information ("Wild horses can leave claw marks too."). If the players want to follow the clue, let them make a Tracking roll to their way to the lair. A critical failure means they go the wrong way and alert one of the other deadly beasts in the wild.
The GM needs to put the lair of a random encounter onto the map when he rolls the encounter. To do this, roll 1d-3. Add the Size Modifier of the monster, or the Basic Move if it is lower than the Size Modifier. Subtract one for each of Bestial or Loner, and add one for Flight. If the tally of this roll is positive, fivefold that in miles is where its lair is; roll 1d for direction as in #6 above. (If using 4-6 mile hexes, skip multiplying it by 5, and read the number as hexes.) If the roll is 0, then the monster's lair is in this hex, but the encounter doesn't happen in it. If the roll is negative, the encounter happens near the monster's lair.
For a hex with a keep or a settlement in it, roll on this table before the group reaches the keep or settlement. The result on the table happens before the group reaches the keep or settlement. The keep or settlement is usually the keyed encounter for the hex. If the result is an encounter in the hex, then it will be guards or dwellers from the keep or settlement.
Gamers have long held splitting the party to be dangerous. In a hex crawl, if a party splits up, like in Scouting (Wilderness Adventures, p. 25), each group coming from the split makes its own encounter rolls. Since each group will be smaller than the party as a whole, it is less able to fight whatever shows up.
When starting an encounter, each side makes Perception checks to see who is surprised. Let each player roll for his own character. For NPCs, roll against their highest Perception, and give them a bonus for the number of them there are. Use the “Size” column of the table on p. B550, but read “yards” as “NPCs.” For in-between numbers, use the lower bonus.
If no side is surprised or both sides are surprised, let the encounter start with 6d×2 yards between the two sides. If one side is surprised and the other is not, let the side that still has its wits about it choose what to do about the other. It can get to 3d yards from the other side before the other side becomes aware of it. If it wants to get nearer, it needs to make Stealth rolls, opposed by the higher of Hearing or Vision. Again, let the players make their own rolls. For the NPCs, roll against the highest number. The number of NPCs is a bonus for spotting stalkers, but a penalty for stalking. Use the same bonus as to Perception for surprise when spotting stalkers, but treat it as a negative to Stealth for the stalkers.
Finding Dungeons and Lairs
Most landmarks are easy to find. After all, what good is a town if nobody is there? But some spots, like dungeons or lairs, are hidden. If they were not, someone else would have already looted them! To find a hidden place, make a Tracking roll, and apply the Long-Distance Modifiers (GURPS Magic, p. 14) for the hex or other area size. (For 4- to 8-mile hexes, this will be -4; for bigger hexes up to 30 miles, this will be -5.) This is a thorough search, and the time the search takes is the same time it takes to move into the hex. Having a good map gives a bonus, and anyone with Area Knowledge for the place in question can roll against that instead. Failure means the delvers do not find the place, but may look again. Critical failure not only means they don’t find the place, but also that they alert whoever lives there! Anyone who fails can try again as much as he likes until he finds the place, gives up, or a grue eats him.
On a Clear Day You Can See Three Miles
A human can see about 3 miles in clear land. If one climbs a tree, he can see 9 miles. In hilly land, about 200 feet from sea level, he can see 19 miles. In mountains, about 1,000 feet above sea level, a human can see about 42 miles.
Realistically, size changes this. A smaller creature has its eyes lower to the ground, and can't see as far; a half of a mile less for each Size Modifier below 0 works for PC races. For each Size Modifier above 0, a creature can see another mile. For all but pixies and leprechauns, this isn't a big deal, and pixies can fly to make up for being vertically challenged. Don't worry about size if the looker climbs a tree or is on a hill, since the height of the tree or hill is now what is key.
To tell what something afar is, the delver makes a Vision check, as on p. B358. This is at +10 most of the time, since it is in plain sight. The relative Size Modifier of the target to the looker is a modifier to the check, as is terrain. For all but Mountain or Underwater terrain, dock another -2 for being in hilly lands.
Conley, Robert. How to Make a Fantasy Sandbox. This is a step-by-step guide to making a sandbox fit for a hex crawl.
Sorolla, Roger S.G. One-Page Wilderness System. This is the inspiration for the encounter table; the original has a Creative Commons BY-SA 3.0 license.