Campaign of the Month: January 2015
Skies of Glass
Hex Travel is an old tabletop mechanic used to keep track of overland travel. The world map is divided into 6-mile hexes, making players responsible for choosing each 6-mile step of their journey. This allows for journeys to happen at a speed chosen by the players and in the direction they choose, drastically increasing player agency and destroying the concept “speed of plot”. Players may simply choose to “travel along the roads” or “take the straightest route”, but in areas with well-known bogs, large rivers, or known hunting grounds for dangerous monsters, the players face trade offs that must be considered.
For this game, hexes are being measured as 6 miles across and 1 mile tall. Players are given 8 hours of pure travel time per day, done in this fashion to assume for necessary bathroom, rest, and food breaks characters would take. Players can obviously choose to forego such necessities to travel up to 16 hours (or longer with multiple drivers/fliers, if using a vehicle of some kind) but, unless traveling in a vehicle with amenities to mitigate these factors (such as a large sailing ship), such activities can be exhausting and will impose cumulative penalties on rolls (GM discretion based on situation).
The GM converts the number of miles the party may travel in a day into “points.” So, if the party can travel 24 miles in a day, they have 24 “movement points.” The number of miles a party can travel in a day is determined by the slowest long-distance movement per round in the traveling group (typically just their base move speed) multiplied by 0.8.
While this may seem like a strange necessity, this function is to turn the party’s movement budget into an abstraction, rather than a literal unit of distance. This will help players understand the less-than-literal possible uses for movement points. The party can spend movement points on couple different things:
Travel: Travel from one hex into another. Crossing a hex may require more or less than 6 miles, representing difficult terrain slowing travel (or speeding travel in the case of clean, maintained roads). Travel through the air requires characters be 1 mile off the ground to be avoiding terrain-based difficulties. Note that players may still use their flight speed while on a ground hex, they’re simply still subjected to the costs to cross. Terrain and weather conditions may increase the difficulty to cross a hex, typically by 1 or 2 though particularly difficult or destructive weather may increase it further. Travel methods such as flight may be more or less effected by certain terrain or weather conditions. Survival difficulties to avoid becoming lost become similarly more difficult with worsening weather.
|Terrain||Examples||Movement Cost||Becoming Lost|
|Average||Clear, city, grasslands, trail, air||6||Survival DC: 10|
|Moderate||Forest, hills, desert, badlands||8||Survival DC: 15|
|Difficult||Mountains, jungle, swamp||12||Survival DC: 20|
|Supernatural||Fae-touched woods, outlying mists||18||Survival DC: 25|
|Actively Opposing||Faewoods, Clinging Mists||24||Survival DC: 35 or higher|
Travel methods in some terrains my be hindered or outright impossible. Survival checks to avoid becoming lost in some terrains may be increased or decreased by circumstances. For instance, a well-defined trail, even if through dense forest, may require no survival check at all to follow it correctly.
Searching: A six mile hex is huge. A character could spend a week or more in the same hex without discovering everything there is to learn there. Every time they enter a hex, they see only a tiny fraction of what the hex has to offer. By spending one half of the movement points required to enter the hex and a minimum of one hour, they can explore a roughly equivalent fraction of the hex. For example, a character entering a forest hex spends 8 movement points to make a beeline through the hex. If the party would also like to spend 4 more movement points in the hex (for a total of 12) then they can explore a little bit on their way through. They certainly won’t see everything, but they’ll earn themselves a second roll on the encounter table. Maybe they’ll find nothing, maybe they’ll encounter monsters, or maybe they’ll find something worth searching for.
Characters may choose to split up or work together while searching the hex. Each individual search group may choose to either look for something specific (such as herbs or gemstones) or may choose to increase the odds of finding something on the encounter table (such as a creature or a unique location). If looking for something specific, characters must roll an appropriate check for the object (such as Heal for medical herbs) or must roll either a Survival or Perception check if working with the encounter table. Note that these rolls don’t guarantee actually finding something, but rather increase the probability of finding it (GM discretion). Either way, an individual search group may only roll once and everyone in that search group must be looking for the same thing (to represent that looking for different things will often take you in very different directions).
Every time a group passes through a hex, the GM rolls to see what they they find (or what finds them). The baseline for a hex is:
- 1-10: Nothing
- 11-15: Encounter
- 16-17: Interesting Locations
- 18-19: Special
- 20: Quest or Side Quest
However, these numbers are adjusted as appropriate if going through a particularly safe or dangerous area, or if a particularly unique location occupies much of the hex. At GM discretion, an appropriate check by the primary navigator may be called upon to increase or decrease one of the above categories so long as they know something they’re looking for. If a map is available or directions are given, it may allow for players to increase or decrease certain categories, or head directly to a specific location, so long as the map or directions are correctly followed.. Keep in mind that not all Encounter results end up in combat, Encounter may just as easily indicate players find a group of travelers as well as a group of bandits, or even find two such group combating each other.