D&D 5E Hexcrawls/wilderness adventures

Libramarian

Adventurer
Anybody running a hexcrawl? How's your game going?

What scale do you use for the map? How do you handle short and long rests? How do you balance and place encounters/adventures? Do you use any houserules or optional rules?

More broadly, I'm trying to decide whether a hexcrawl should be designed as itself a "dungeon", or whether it should be considered an interstitial game element between adventuring sites.

I have run 6 mile interstitial hex crawls in the past, but they didn't work very well. It all felt quite abstract and it seemed to mess with the rhythm of the game (it sucks to die or even spend resources on your way to the dungeon).
 

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AaronOfBarbaria

Adventurer
I am actually running Isle of Dread right now, though the group playing it is also the group I watch a lot of TV shows with and we got behind on those so we have been trying to catch up rather than playing for a while.

The scale for the map is 6 miles per hex, which I find nice because it gives potentially multiple hexes explored in a single day.

Short and long rests are handled by there being a random chance (I think I was doing 1 chance per short rest, and 2 per long rest, for differences in activity cycle between mid-day short rests and over night long rests, but I haven't checked my notes) of wandering monster, using the tables present in the module itself.

Balance and placement of encounters is basically that there is no balance - the wandering monster table is filled with the expected inhabitants of the area, weighted for commonality, and the specifically placed encounters in hexes are things that would be expected of the locale like nests of pterasaurs, bands of lizardmen, and the like (all expected on a jungle island). It is distinctly up to the players to decide whether to defeat the challenge presented by encountering island inhabitants with combat, evasion, negotiation, or some other tactic (all of which, besides not encounter things in the first place, are worth the same XP value to them).

I use no house-rules, but I do use a variety of optional rules that don't actually have any specific impact upon hex-crawl style adventuring, so the only one I'll mention is that the player characters use the non-rolled option for hit points gained at each level, and I use the option of not rolling monster damage (just taking the listed average) other than additional dice added on a critical hit. More predictable survivability = more accurate ability to assess what is or isn't too much for the characters to handle.

As for when to use the hex-crawl style, I find it works best when the goal of the adventure is exploration. If the characters are either looking to see what all is present in an area, or headed to some location they know a very general location of but not the route to take to arrive there or the specific location itself, a hex-crawl model is fitting. But if the characters are just trying to get to a known location, a different model is more suited for the travel portion (such as just describing the travels and having no encounters at all, or the basic 1-per-day + 1-per-night 18+ on a d20 is a random encounter model shown in the DMG).
 

iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Anybody running a hexcrawl? How's your game going?

What scale do you use for the map? How do you handle short and long rests? How do you balance and place encounters/adventures? Do you use any houserules or optional rules?

More broadly, I'm trying to decide whether a hexcrawl should be designed as itself a "dungeon", or whether it should be considered an interstitial game element between adventuring sites.

I have run 6 mile interstitial hex crawls in the past, but they didn't work very well. It all felt quite abstract and it seemed to mess with the rhythm of the game (it sucks to die or even spend resources on your way to the dungeon).

I am currently working on a one-shot scenario that will involve a hexcrawl on the Talenta Plains in Eberron while being chased by dinosaur-riding halfling barbarians. An airship crash in the middle of these plains is the setup. The PCs will have a list of supplies to choose and they can only acquire so many of them before the halflings overrun the crash site. Then it's an overland chase and battle for survival until the PCs cross the border into another nation - Karrnath, Q'barra, Valenar, M'ror Holds, or the Mournland.

I plan on working on random challenges along the way and a few interesting mechanics to help manage the decisions and trade-offs involved.
 


iserith

Magic Wordsmith
[MENTION=97077]iserith[/MENTION] will you be making that adventure available for others to use? Because it sounds ideal for my group. Literally ideal.

I could do, but I'll warn you that it will be a while. I'm working on a project for DMGuild right now with [MENTION=6776133]Bawylie[/MENTION] and [MENTION=6801813]Valmarius[/MENTION] that has priority over my free time until at least April.
 


I have run 6 mile interstitial hex crawls in the past, but they didn't work very well. It all felt quite abstract and it seemed to mess with the rhythm of the game (it sucks to die or even spend resources on your way to the dungeon).

What level was the party? Characters of very low levels are in a bit over their heads in most wilderness adventures. Higher level parties have the resilience and resources to be away from civilization longer.

Also the majority of hex crawls are very much exploration focused. The rhythm of play revolves around discovering things as new territory is explored. If your players are expecting a game with more intrigue & plot development then an exploration focused campaign typically features, then they may be confused. Such a campaign expects players to be more proactive than reactive. If your players are not used to this style, then they may feel that something is off.

Another important distinction to make is between outdoor adventuring and true wilderness. PCs may travel over unsettled areas in many types of campaigns. The party might answer a plea for aid from a nearby kingdom. To get there, they must pass through the Dread Willows, a dangerous forest. This is certainly outdoor adventuring but not wilderness exploration.

A true wilderness exploration campaign takes the PCs into territory unknown to the civilized world. There they may find lost civilizations, ruins, dungeons, and other wonders. The campaign itself is all about the adventuring it takes to discover these things. Unlike "known" dangerous lands, there is no research that can be done to find out about the wilderness, it must be experienced firsthand.

To make such a campaign interesting, the DM needs to prepare a suitable wilderness filled with interesting things to discover. Things that will be quite a big deal if the PCs ever make it back with evidence of them. The wilderness is a place to use all that wacky stuff that doesn't really fit into the explored and known world.
 

feartheminotaur

First Post
Our DM needed a break, so I pitched running a small exploration campaign in hexcrawl format to our group. They really liked the idea. Now, I guess I better start prepping it.

Everyone says use "Isle of Dread". Problem is we've used Isle of Dread already as an adventure (the central plateau hid a wizard's lair - he brought the group there via teleport kidnapping so he could use them in his 'experiments'. He got stabbed to death instead).

Any other good 1/2e adventures that anyone would recommend? I have a few of them in books or PDFs, but none of them are wilderness adventures like Isle.
 


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