D&D 5E Hexcrawls/wilderness adventures

Libramarian

Adventurer
Ran another session today. It's going to need some tweaking. I'm having difficulty handling movement on the wilderness map when the party's visibility is less than their hourly movement rate. I don't like to move them past what they can see in one go, which desynchronizes movement with the hourly turn. I might say movement rate is limited to visibility, e.g. 2 miles per hour when visibility is 2 miles. That would make it a lot easier.

My initial conception was that the wilderness would have a relatively mundane, realistic feel, and the dungeons would be the gonzo part. I'm going to blur these categories a bit.

For the wilderness hazards I am going to use dungeon-style traps. Instead of a muddy hill, there'll be a potion bottle lying on top of quicksand, or a treasure map jammed into a giant bee honeycomb. Some of the dungeons will be more mundane, like a bandit fortress.

For monster hunting, there will be tracks near spoor but they'll be old and difficult to make out (usually DC 20). Tracking a monster that has fled an encounter unwounded will usually be DC 15. Tracking a wounded monster will be DC 10.

Some of the specials will not necessarily be one-off, but might be noted on the map for the party to return to. Like an ancient dust mephit who lives in a crystal cave and trades information about the monsters in the area for stories of people who met an ironic or untimely demise.

For encounters I'm thinking of rolling for advantage/disadvantage (with regard to the immediate terrain). E.g. who has high and low ground on a hill, who's in a meadow and behind the trees in a forest, etc. Anybody ever done something like that?
 

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feartheminotaur

First Post
We started the hexcrawl this weekend with a simplified rule set (Thanks, btw, for the Open Page reference. Really helped).

The encounters started off too...same-ish. We paused and thought up ways to spice it up. One player noted: "How often do a monster and the party walk into the same clearing at the same time?" So, for random encounters, we added an "Ambush Chance".

It worked out pretty awesome. They were able to see, and then hide from, a group of demon slave hunters as well as get the drop on a poor chimera drinking at a mountain stream.

The rule we came up with:

"Ambush Chance - Encounters have a chance of ambush, for both PCs and creatures, based on the terrain and movement. Hills, dense foliage, how careful players travel; all these can affect who sees who first and can affect the outcome of the encounter.

Once a random encounter has been rolled, have the player with the highest passive perception roll 1d20 (no modifiers). On an 11 or higher, the PCs see the creature first and may act accordingly (set up an ambush, hide until it passes, etc.). On a 10 or lower, the creature sees the PCs first and may act accordingly (See the MM for creature behavior notes). [Variant: On a 1, the creature automatically ambushes the PCs; on a 20 the PCs automatically ambush the creature.]

Players moving at a Fast speed have disadvantage on the roll; while players moving at a Slow speed have advantage. The DM can apply advantage or disadvantage based on the party's behavior - imposing disadvantage for talking loudly or traveling in heavy rain, for example.

This roll is not a roll to determine surprise, it is intended to give the players and DM a chance to shape the encounter. Dexterity (Stealth), if travel pace allows, as well as Wisdom (Perception) can still factor in the DM's determination of surprise. The PCs may see the creature first, but make enough noise to draw its attention, for example. Instead narrate the outcome as the result of pace and terrain. The creature may be in a copse along a field and able to notice the PCs first as they emerge into the open or the PCs may follow a trail to the top of a hill and see the creature drinking from a stream at its base".
 

Libramarian

Adventurer
We started the hexcrawl this weekend with a simplified rule set (Thanks, btw, for the Open Page reference. Really helped).
Oh you mean the One Page wilderness system. You're welcome!

The encounters started off too...same-ish. We paused and thought up ways to spice it up. One player noted: "How often do a monster and the party walk into the same clearing at the same time?" So, for random encounters, we added an "Ambush Chance".

It worked out pretty awesome. They were able to see, and then hide from, a group of demon slave hunters as well as get the drop on a poor chimera drinking at a mountain stream.

The rule we came up with:

"Ambush Chance - Encounters have a chance of ambush, for both PCs and creatures, based on the terrain and movement. Hills, dense foliage, how careful players travel; all these can affect who sees who first and can affect the outcome of the encounter.

Once a random encounter has been rolled, have the player with the highest passive perception roll 1d20 (no modifiers). On an 11 or higher, the PCs see the creature first and may act accordingly (set up an ambush, hide until it passes, etc.). On a 10 or lower, the creature sees the PCs first and may act accordingly (See the MM for creature behavior notes). [Variant: On a 1, the creature automatically ambushes the PCs; on a 20 the PCs automatically ambush the creature.]

Players moving at a Fast speed have disadvantage on the roll; while players moving at a Slow speed have advantage. The DM can apply advantage or disadvantage based on the party's behavior - imposing disadvantage for talking loudly or traveling in heavy rain, for example.

This roll is not a roll to determine surprise, it is intended to give the players and DM a chance to shape the encounter. Dexterity (Stealth), if travel pace allows, as well as Wisdom (Perception) can still factor in the DM's determination of surprise. The PCs may see the creature first, but make enough noise to draw its attention, for example. Instead narrate the outcome as the result of pace and terrain. The creature may be in a copse along a field and able to notice the PCs first as they emerge into the open or the PCs may follow a trail to the top of a hill and see the creature drinking from a stream at its base".
That's cool...I've just been using surprise. That might be worth the extra roll. I'll try it out.
 




iserith

Magic Wordsmith
Thanks. I'll read it again later, but on first pass it doesn't seem like it will work for what I'm going for. (But that's because of the specifics of my scenario.)
 

feartheminotaur

First Post
Thanks. We tweaked it some last night. I was just writing up the changes.

We renamed it (to "Encounter Boon"), changed all the "sees" as "is aware of", and created a short random chart for the various boons one side could get. I'm not sure I'd keep the table moving forward (another die roll?!), but these are the ones we've used so far.

Roll 1d6 or choose the Encounter Boon
1. Weather Advantage - Creature can take advantage of weather conditions - strong wind is at back, under shelter in the rain, etc.
2. Natural Barrier - A barrier of some sort between creatures - ravine, river, cliff, etc.
3. Higher Ground - Creatures are on higher ground. They must still make a Dex (Stealth) roll to surprise opponent
4. Hidden From View - Creatures are initially hidden from view. They must still make a Dex (Stealth) roll to surprise opponent
5. Dangerous/Rough Terrain - Dangerous terrain such as jagged rocks or quicksand, or rough terrain like ditches or pits are between creatures
6. Occupied - Creatures find opponent occupied - feeding, drinking, etc. They must still make a Dex (Stealth) roll to surprise opponent

Last night we had: #2 - a crevice between the PCs and a Hill Giant w/ Dire Wolves. The PCs and Giant traded ranged attacks before the wolves jumped across; and #6 - the party was watering the pack animals when some hobgoblins tried to jump them (they rolled below the passive perception of the party).
 

Ancalagon

Dusty Dragon
Ran another session today. It's going to need some tweaking. I'm having difficulty handling movement on the wilderness map when the party's visibility is less than their hourly movement rate. I don't like to move them past what they can see in one go, which desynchronizes movement with the hourly turn. I might say movement rate is limited to visibility, e.g. 2 miles per hour when visibility is 2 miles. That would make it a lot easier.

The players really need to use the levitation trick, or climb a tree/tower to get a general layout of the land and get access to a basic map of the surroundings. That should help avoid that somewhat. They may not know that 4 miles from here there are trolls and pixies, but they know it's a hilly forested area bisected by a river kinda deal.

We started the hexcrawl this weekend with a simplified rule set (Thanks, btw, for the Open Page reference. Really helped).

The encounters started off too...same-ish. We paused and thought up ways to spice it up. One player noted: "How often do a monster and the party walk into the same clearing at the same time?" So, for random encounters, we added an "Ambush Chance".

It worked out pretty awesome. They were able to see, and then hide from, a group of demon slave hunters as well as get the drop on a poor chimera drinking at a mountain stream.

The rule we came up with:

"Ambush Chance - Encounters have a chance of ambush, for both PCs and creatures, based on the terrain and movement. Hills, dense foliage, how careful players travel; all these can affect who sees who first and can affect the outcome of the encounter.

Once a random encounter has been rolled, have the player with the highest passive perception roll 1d20 (no modifiers). On an 11 or higher, the PCs see the creature first and may act accordingly (set up an ambush, hide until it passes, etc.). On a 10 or lower, the creature sees the PCs first and may act accordingly (See the MM for creature behavior notes). [Variant: On a 1, the creature automatically ambushes the PCs; on a 20 the PCs automatically ambush the creature.]

Players moving at a Fast speed have disadvantage on the roll; while players moving at a Slow speed have advantage. The DM can apply advantage or disadvantage based on the party's behavior - imposing disadvantage for talking loudly or traveling in heavy rain, for example.

This roll is not a roll to determine surprise, it is intended to give the players and DM a chance to shape the encounter. Dexterity (Stealth), if travel pace allows, as well as Wisdom (Perception) can still factor in the DM's determination of surprise. The PCs may see the creature first, but make enough noise to draw its attention, for example. Instead narrate the outcome as the result of pace and terrain. The creature may be in a copse along a field and able to notice the PCs first as they emerge into the open or the PCs may follow a trail to the top of a hill and see the creature drinking from a stream at its base".

That's pretty neat really! I may use that in the future :)
 

Libramarian

Adventurer
Ran sessions on Saturday and last night. The campaign really took off on Saturday--very fun session.
The players really need to use the levitation trick, or climb a tree/tower to get a general layout of the land and get access to a basic map of the surroundings. That should help avoid that somewhat. They may not know that 4 miles from here there are trolls and pixies, but they know it's a hilly forested area bisected by a river kinda deal.
Exactly right -- I invented a watchtower near the mine and let the PCs have a good look around for about 10 miles. That along with me not doing fractional turns anymore (the players choose a direction and duration of travel in hours, and I just roll for encounters) got the game humming along.

There is a distinction to be made between exploratory play and navigational play. You can give the players the map and still do exploration, as long as the map is not the territory and there are interesting things to find out about the dungeon rooms or wilderness regions that the players choose to travel to. Navigation is more of an acquired taste. We like it but I can see why some would wish to obviate it. Navigation is a bit tricky to do well because the players need enough information about their surroundings to get started, the process needs to be streamlined, and getting lost needs to "punish" the players with unnecessary danger and less XP return, but not boredom and frustration. Getting lost should still be kinda fun.

I think I managed that in the game last night. After taking a long rest in the goblin lair they cleared out, the players set out to investigate a ruined fortress in the foothills to the southeast, but mistakenly headed northeast instead. Luckily they came across the crystal cave with a dust mephit who enjoys ironic demises. One of the players told the tale of their "cousin" Romeo and Juliet, and the mephit thanked them by warning them that they were about to enter troll-infested marshland and the bandit hills were due south. So they took an unnecessary risk and wasted some time in terms of accomplishing their goals, but still learned something about the area and had a fun scene. They started mapping after that :lol:

I am using [MENTION=6801354]feartheminotaur[/MENTION]'s ambush chance concept, with a slightly different implementation: When an encounter is indicated, the PCs and monsters roll a Perception contest (PCs have advantage at Slow travel pace, and disadvantage at Fast). The winner becomes aware of the other side first. Being aware of the monster doesn't give complete information about what it is -- the PCs see vaguely humanoid shapes off in the distance, or hear something in a forest. The aware side can then choose to avoid the encounter, or close with or without a Stealth check for surprise.

Encounter distance:
Clear terrain (arctic/desert/grassland): 3d6 x 20 feet
Lightly obscured (light forest/swamp): 3d6 x 10 feet
Heavily obscured (heavy forest/jungle): 3d6 x 5 feet

Oh yeah, another fun thing I've been doing is I start each session with a little encounter related to what the PCs have accomplished so far. It starts the session off with a bang and and reminds me to make the world change in response to PC actions. Last session after clearing the goblin lair a talking squirrel showed up and offered a nut out of gratitude. Most of the PCs were mistrustful but one ate it and gained +1 max HP.

Next session the PCs will probably finish the bandit fort, and then head back to Westport for horses and henchmen. I'll have to make some NPCs for them to meet. I'm interested to try out the 5e rules for NPC personalities, social interaction and Loyalty/Renown.
 

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