D&D 5E Hexcrawls/wilderness adventures

Staffan

Legend
I want to do something different: the wilderness is the level-appropriate, attritive part, and the dungeons are the freaky, high variance part.
I've been considering something similar. I'm guessing you would get something like the zones in a CRPG (like World of Warcraft). Start out in the somewhat safe plains near your home town, beyond that is the fey forest that starts getting a little weird, after that there's either a mountainous region or a swamp, and so on. It might feel a little too game-y though.
 

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Reynard

Legend
I've been considering something similar. I'm guessing you would get something like the zones in a CRPG (like World of Warcraft). Start out in the somewhat safe plains near your home town, beyond that is the fey forest that starts getting a little weird, after that there's either a mountainous region or a swamp, and so on. It might feel a little too game-y though.

Not reallyif you presume starting PCs to be natives of the "safe zone." After all, civilization is not likely to take root in a monster infested hellscape. So the starter town should be in the easiest area. Moreover, those ruins full of magic and treasure should be in the hard zones because those temples, wizard towers, etc... must have been tough to destroy in the first place. Leveled zones is gamist, but not in a way that you can't justify the fiction.
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Not reallyif you presume starting PCs to be natives of the "safe zone." After all, civilization is not likely to take root in a monster infested hellscape. So the starter town should be in the easiest area. Moreover, those ruins full of magic and treasure should be in the hard zones because those temples, wizard towers, etc... must have been tough to destroy in the first place. Leveled zones is gamist, but not in a way that you can't justify the fiction.

Excellent point. If an area is teeming with monsters, farming and trading won't be able to occur. And in medieval times, urban population was often as low as 10% of the total population - meaning there are a lot of peasants, fishermen etc out there who need safe-ish place to thrive.
 

Bayonet

First Post
For inspirations/generation for hexcrawls, I *highly* recommend Yoon-Suin. It's a book written with old D&D (B/X I think?) in mind, but it's almost system agnostic. It is *brimming* with flavor, filled with tables to design encounters, ruins, locales...

I've looked at purchasing that, and it does look great.

Chris Kutaliks stuff looks good, too. Check out Fever Dreaming Marlinko and Slumbering Ursine Dunes.
 

Thateous

Explorer
Trying to put together a frontier style hexcrawl. Think pilgrims landing in NA for the first time. Strange new world, Limited resources, and no infrastructure. Should be a fun time. This thread is helping me a lot so thanks for that.
 

Reynard

Legend
Trying to put together a frontier style hexcrawl. Think pilgrims landing in NA for the first time. Strange new world, Limited resources, and no infrastructure. Should be a fun time. This thread is helping me a lot so thanks for that.

"No infrastructure" can be a lot harder to pull off than expected. I might advise having the PCs be part of the second wave, giving them at least a small fort as a base of operations as well as opportunities to deal with "frontier justice" rather than just the wilds. Of course, if the pilgrims are coming to a place already settled by a sophisticated culture, some of those elements are easier to come by.
 

Grakarg

Explorer
Trying to put together a frontier style hexcrawl. Think pilgrims landing in NA for the first time. Strange new world, Limited resources, and no infrastructure. Should be a fun time. This thread is helping me a lot so thanks for that.

Seriously, take a look at the 'Points of Light 2' supplement on DrivethruRPG by Goodman Games. It might be right up your alley for inspiration. A couple of the areas in the book are exactly what you mention, frontier town, far from 'civilization' with strange cultures nearby. The author has a free setting (Blackmarsh by Bat in the Attic Games) you can download and check out to see if you like his writing style. The Points of Light book is in the same style, same hex map style etc, but different setting area and location. It is very much an 'old school' feel. I use it mostly for the ideas, and flesh out specifics myself for my own 'Frontier hexcrawl'.
 

S'mon

Legend
Seriously, take a look at the 'Points of Light 2' supplement on DrivethruRPG by Goodman Games. It might be right up your alley for inspiration. A couple of the areas in the book are exactly what you mention, frontier town, far from 'civilization' with strange cultures nearby. The author has a free setting (Blackmarsh by Bat in the Attic Games) you can download and check out to see if you like his writing style. The Points of Light book is in the same style, same hex map style etc, but different setting area and location. It is very much an 'old school' feel. I use it mostly for the ideas, and flesh out specifics myself for my own 'Frontier hexcrawl'.

Yeah, that's a great recommendation - PoL II has basically North America, South America, & Central/Caribbean hexcrawls, plus a giant volcano realm outer plane thingummy. :)
 

Thateous

Explorer
"No infrastructure" can be a lot harder to pull off than expected. I might advise having the PCs be part of the second wave, giving them at least a small fort as a base of operations as well as opportunities to deal with "frontier justice" rather than just the wilds. Of course, if the pilgrims are coming to a place already settled by a sophisticated culture, some of those elements are easier to come by.
Sorry i wasn't fully forthcoming with all the details just wanted to give an overview. They will be hired by a young trading company, who's setting up operations in the new lands, to guard the companies investment. They will go on the 2nd boat over. I'm using the mayflower and it's voyage to America for stats on capacity and how long the trip takes. They will arrive at level 2, after some fights at sea, to find a quater of the arriving party is dead and the wall is incomplete. Que the quests. I have some story arcs prepared. Complete the wall. Break up the wolf pack in the area. Find a mine to supply the smithy with materials. Come to peaceful terms with local orc tribe. Map out the area. Etc. Going featless and multi-classing either point buy or 4d6 drop lowest in order reroll lowest. For map i was either going to hex out the east coast of America or hvae them land in FR on the sword coast probably where water deep is.

How does that sound?
 

CapnZapp

Legend
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).
As others have said: Choose either "exploration" or "dungeondelving" and stick to your choice. That is, if your adventure is in the dungeon, make it easy to get there. If the dungeon is merely a side-trek, don't focus on getting there (meaning "be okay with never getting there").

At least when you're green. As you become an experienced DM and your players become veteran D&D gamers you can mix it up much more. Then your players will realize that in order to loot the Dungeon of Gold, they first need to clear up the hexes that lead up to it, and perhaps even construct a small fort at the half-way point between the dungeon and "safety".

Yes, "safety". Begin by having a safe haven, such as a walled town somewhere on your map. Don't start out by dumping pilgrims on hostile shores, unless you want "home base building" to be the main focus of your campaign. (As opposed to dungeonlooting or exploration-just-for-the-fun-of-it that normally is the core of D&D).

I would begin simple. Start with Caves of Chaos or something where you simply start each adventuring day right next to the dungeon(s), with no wilderness trek at all.

Then try out a hexcrawl, where there are no big dungeons at all. (The wilderness is the dungeon)

After your players have leveled up from 1st to, say, 5th level twice, you're ready for the more ambitious stuff :)
 

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