Friday, 30 March 2012

Howling Emptiness of the 5/6/8-mile Hex

(yes, the titular reference to Rob Conley's mapping bugbear is intentional)

This is just a half-formed thought inspired by noisms and steamtunnel's recent posts on just how big and potentially full of adventure even a single 5/6/8-mile hex is.

Hex map icons, by their nature, only indicate the single most salient feature to be found in that particular 21/31/55 square miles of landscape. Sure, you can drill down to a more granular level with the help of nested hex map templates (such as Welsh Piper's fine 1/5/25-milers), but creating a whole new map for a smaller-scale area is a whole extra chore for the already-busy GM. I don't know about you, but I want to minimize my level of extra work thanks.

Could we perhaps add a simple 'emergent exploring' rule that allows the party to uncover more stuff (up to the limits of the GM's taste/patience) the longer they stay in a hex?
  • Castles, cities and the like should all be in plain sight unless intentionally hidden away (like Gondolin or Derinkuyu). Heck, roads point you directly to most of them.
  • Infamous lairs, ruins and dungeons should, of course, retain their "Here be dragons" hex map icons and easy-to-find status. The yokels can point out exactly in which direction the castle we don't go near lies.
  • More obscure lairs, lost ruins, buried tombs and especially treasure map loot should require a bit of active hunting out by adventuring parties.
I was thinking either some form of skill check per day of exploring a hex (something for that otherwise worthless Halfling to be doing with his time?) ~or~ an standard Xin6 chance per day of uncovering a particular feature. In either case the base chance can be modified up or down for degree of obscurity, concealment, speculative vs. purposeful searching, etc.

Perhaps integrate this into the Wandering Monster encounter rolls that are already part-and-parcel of wilderness exploration in Classic D&D? Just tack the 'discovery' chance onto the existing roll so that it goes from being
d6 1-2: encounter, 3-6: no encounter
to something like
d6: 1-2 encounter, 3-4 fruitless wandering, 5-6 Eureka!
with the Eureka! result representing discovery of a previously known (to the party) but locationally undetermined feature.
"I told you the Tomb of Screaming Death was out here. Pay up."
"Alright, but I want a discount for the sheer length of time you dragged us around this filthy swamp."
Thoughts? Suggestions? Accusations of reinventing the wheel?
Is there already such a rule hidden away in the TARDIS of a game that is OD&D?


  1. I like it. Perhaps there's a one in six -- or twelve or whatever -- chance of finding the special feature -- if there is one -- with the chance increasing per x hours spent in the hex.

    Or, it's a chart, so you have something like:
    1: Nothing
    2: Nothing
    3: Nothing
    4: Nothing
    5: Interesting Feature 1
    6: Interesting Feature 2
    7: Interesting Feature 3
    8: Unique Feature

    ...and so on. You roll 1d6 to spend x hours searching, with a +1 for every extra x hours spent searching, +1 if there's a ranger in the party, +1 if the party has a map, and so on. The party then discovers everything at their score or less. Of course, spending all that time in the hex is dangerous, so each x hours spent hanging about prompts an encounter check.

    1. Very nice. IIRC wilderness 'turns' are about 4 hours each in B/X. Would that work?

    2. I don't see why not.

      If I thought about it more, there's probably a way to combine this with the encounter table so that you're only rolling once per four hours. I'd probably also have the chance of an encounter escalate as time went on, representing various local gribblies coming to find out why these adventurers are hanging about in their hex.

      Perhaps a two-column-one-roll table might work. I'll think more on this.

  2. Dude! The problem you are describing was solved in 1974. Look at your monster list for a little thing called % in Lair. Every time you roll a wandering monster you roll percentiles and consult the % in Lair stat. If it comes up positive then by jingo, the PC's have found ye old lair/camp/castle/dungeon/village/hut/etc. You don't have to roll on a table of random wandering monsters either. If you know (or simply prefer) that there is/are a certain creature(s) with a lair near to the PC's then that is the monster they automatically encounter when an encounter roll is positive.

    1. #sad trombone#

      I knew I had to be missing something simple and obvious.

  3. I like this idea, and am prepared to give up hammond organ night for it ;)

    A generalised X-in-dY check per Z-time-period, mayhap? Default 2/1d6 per day - 1/ for stumbling-about blind luck, 3/ or 4/ for guides, clues, or character types with better search capability - and up to 3 or 4 times per day for potentially feature-rich locales... And, roll two different-coloured d6 at the same time, 1 the feature check and 1 the encounter check.

    Yes, I have DMed more Basic/Expert than Advanced, why do you ask? :)

    1. This is almost annoyingly elegant and logical.

      I wish there was a way you could just "Like/+1" comments in blogger.


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