Shadows with Tales to Tell - The Grim Islands
Hex Map and Overland Travel
Hex Map Basics
Sandbox campaigns are largely player driven, and the majority of the time is spent either doing encounters that the party have stumbled upon, or on finding new places to go adventuring. This being the case, the movement rules need to be utilitarian and uniform, but not crippling. They need to be realistic, without requiring advanced mathematics to understand. The solution is simple; go back to the old ways. Hex Mapping is the original mapping concept from Dungeons and Dragons, but was abandoned when Wizards of the Coast acquired the rights to make a 3rd edition of the famous RPG. Many people have since tweaked and rebuilt it for their own purposes, and I have combined a number of these variants to come up with the following:
- Hexes represent areas that are roughly 6-miles in diameter. Each hex shows the primary type of terrain in the area, though it is not uncommon for a hex to also show major roadways and waterways, and other such important landmarks.
- Movement Points are the replacement for miles per day for this campaign. Your party gets a number of movement points equal to their miles per day, divided by 2. These movement points may be spent to interact with the hex map in multiple ways.
- Prompts are hex-specific encounters the party stumble upon during their travels, such as small villages, bandit camps, and other notable locations or individuals. Some are revealed automatically upon entering a hex, with others being revealed via random encounter rolls.
- Random Encounters are nonspecific encounters the party stumble upon during their travels, such as ambushes and natural hazards. Random encounters are rolled a number of times depending on distance covered during the day, and the type of encounter often depends on terrain.
Movement on a Hex Map
Movement Points can be spent in a number of ways, each of them unique in their own little way, but all with the same general purpose in mind. You may use these points to Explore, Travel (Normally, Carefully, or Recklessly), and Wander. Exploring allows you to move about within a hex for a period of time, in an attempt to discover more about it. Traveling allows your party to move from hex to hex, and can be handled different depending on how the party wishes to travel. Wandering combines traveling and exploring, allowing the party to move slowly from hex to hex, in an attempt to discover more of their surroundings. The rules for these actions are as follows:
Explore: Exploring a hex costs a number of movement points equal to the hex’s base cost, but does not move you into an adjacent hex. Instead, exploring allows you to make a random encounter roll with a higher chance of finding a hidden prompt. This is done after the movement points are spent; you cannot explore if you do not have the movement points required. It is possible to explore a hex for days without discovering everything within it, as you are still able to find regular random encounters even after discovering all prompts.
Travel: Traveling into an adjacent hex costs a number of movement points equal to the base cost of the desired destination. Before movement points are spent, the party gets one skill check to navigate; if the party fails said skill check, they run the risk of becoming lost1. Movement points are spent upon entering a new hex, and thus it is possible for the party to have less movement points than their travel would require. In such a circumstance the party may choose to wait until they have enough points, use a different method of travel, or make a forced march.
Travel, Careful: Traveling carefully into an adjacent hex costs the same number of movement points as traveling normally through a hex of more difficult terrain. Using this method, the party gains a +4 bonus to skill checks to avoid becoming lost1, and is less likely to be ambushed during a random encounter, and has a +2 bonus to initiative if they are able to act in the surprise round of any random encounter.
Travel, Reckless: Traveling recklessly into an adjacent hex costs the same number of movement points as traveling normally through a hex of less difficult terrain. Using this method, the party takes a -4 penalty to skill checks to avoid becoming lost1, a -4 penalty to all perception checks, and is more likely to be ambushed by higher CR random encounters or natural hazards.
Wander: Wandering into an adjacent hex costs a number of movement points equal to one and a half times the base cost of the desired destination. Before movement points are spent, the party gets one skill check to navigate, and one random encounter roll. If the party fails the skill check, they run the risk of becoming lost1. Movement points are spent as usual for traveling, with one major change. If the party would wait (due to not having enough movement points to enter a hex), they may apply half of the movement points from waiting to the next day’s pool. These temporary movement points may only be spent on wandering.
Lost and Found
Becoming lost is one of the greatest inconveniences on adventuring groups, and is potentially dangerous. For starters, a lost group that is not following a well-marked roadway loses track of where they are going, and ends up going into a random adjacent hex (or staying within their own hex). A party that becomes lost has a random encounter rolled for them one additional time that day. Parties that are lost can neither explore nor wander, but may travel in any of the three usual ways. Note that the party is unable to choose which hex they will move into until they make a successful navigation check to break the lost condition.
1 A party cannot become lost if they are following a major highway; It simply wouldn’t make sense for that to happen, even to the most obtuse travelers. Instead, their movement points for that specific attempt at movement are wasted, as forces beyond their control delay their movement.