You may be familiar with using a hex map to track overland travel in your adventures, and these hexes are typically 6 miles across (sometimes 12). When adventuring in dungeons, we use squares to represent 5′. The method to explore the mines, catacombs, and natural tunnels beneath Precipice is similar, but uses a different scale, wherein each hex is approximately 1 mile.
Exploration is done procedurally through the use of tables and randomly rolled results. It’s up the DM to decide whether to do this before a game session and to populate the hex map, or to let the players make the rolls during the session.
The rolls will produce the following:
- Random Features – Environmental Feature and a Notable Occurrence
- Random Encounter – Combat or Social
- Random Treasure
The results should provide just enough information to set the stage and then let everyone’s imaginations take it from there. There are 30 hexes per level, and each level has its own unique set of random tables. For example, the tables for The Ranch are thematically different than The Fields of Anguish, and will provide appropriate challenges.
I will share some unique adventure sites in future articles, and I suggest that adventure sites be placed in specific hexes. These adventure sites all come with adventure hooks that entice the players to search for them.
Time and Resources
- It takes about an hour to explore each new hex.
- Torches burn for 1 hour.
- Lanterns burn for 6 hours on a pint of oil.
- Characters can move through previously explored hexes at twice the rate with a successful Wisdom (Survival) check DC 10+1/level of the dungeon. Failure means it takes the standard 1 hour to retrace your steps, rather than reducing the trip to 30 minutes.
At the start of each new level:
- The DM determines the group’s starting location on the map.
- Players should take stock of their light sources and plan their trip accordingly.
At the start of each new hex:
- Roll for Random Features.
- Roll for Random Encounters.
- Roll for Random Treasure.
- Perform Short or Long Rests.
- Exit the Hex: The players choose a scout to lead the way. When players choose to exit a hex, the scout rolls Wisdom (Survival) DC 10+1/dungeon level to find a route in that direction. Failure indicates no exit is found in that direction, but they may try again in new directions. Optional: If a 1 is rolled, there are no more undiscovered exits in that hex. If a 20 is rolled, all remaining sides have an exit.
- Make note of exits on the Hexcrawl Tracker, along with additional notes on features and encounters if desired.
Here’s a fillable PDF of the Hexcrawl Tracker, which has an ‘old paper’ layer you can turn off.
Below is what a completed tracker looks like. I use the triangles to indicate exits. You may wish to mark still operable traps and undefeated monsters with a T or M, then cross it out once you’ve dealt with it. Use the lines below for more detailed information, such as features and occurrences.
In my next article, I’ll share the Random Features table for Level 1: The Ranch.