Sunday, July 4, 2021

Hexcrawling the Cold Fens

Charles Saeger asked in the comments on my Friday post about the hexcrawling procedures in the Cold Fens for Felltower. He's done a lot of hexcrawling in GURPS and written on the subject and created useful procedures for it as well.

Hexcrawling the Cold Fens

Daily procedures

Weather Check using DF16's weather table. Weather Sense can reduce the effects of the weather on travel rates and Survival rolls.

Hourly procudures

- Roll Boating for all boats. Critical Success means double speed movement, success means normal movement, failure doubles movement time, critical failure costs one hour and there is no movement and something bad happens, 18 means a boating disaster. Boating rolls are made per-boat.
- Roll Survival for the group using the Part of the Solution . . . rules. Failure means delays and problems.
- Move the boats into the next hex and advantage the time tracker 1 hour (or spend 30 minutes to move to a specific point in the same hex.)
- Roll wandering monsters. If an 18 was rolled on boating, that's when they come.
- Resolve any combat, etc. from wandering monsters.

Effective useful daylight for travel is 6 am - 6 pm, for 12 hexes worth of travel. After nightfall penalties increase for Survival and Boating go up by the lighting penalty. Wandering monster chances increase.

Camping is resolved by a Survival roll per DF16.
If boats are concealed with Camouflage, roll only when it is required in a contest of skills against a searcher.
Wandering monster rolls occur every four hours at night, and dice are rolled to determine which shift they occur in (assuming a typical 4-shift watch.)


I didn't originally see the Cold Fens as a hexcrawl. The PCs had only one main goal, originally - clear out Sakatha's island of evil. They failed in that and lost everyone except Gerry. I had seeded the area with nasty wandering monsters, though, and some fixed encounters - the giant brothers in the abandoned shrine to Old Father Troll, the dragon's lair in the old ruins, and one or two others. I figured the PCs would eventually come back, even from the first, but I didn't really think out how that would work.

I did take the time originally to set out the speeds of travel and the procedures for wandering monsters and so on. That paid off when we came to do this recent hexcrawl.
We did have to make some rulings along the way. Weather Sense changes the effects of weather but not the weather - it's still raining, your bows still get wet and the boat still fills up with water and must be bailed, you just don't get a -1 on Survival rolls and travel isn't affected as your expert knows how to prepare for and navigate the weather. Boating criticals improve speed of travel but don't provide miraculous effects (even on a "3") but an 18 does cause a disaster. Life isn't fair. Stuff like that. One little bit that was especially an issue was "Concealment" - I think the players started to think that reduced the chances of wandering monsters. It did not. It just reduced the chances those monsters would spot you first (or at all). Once they knew that, they did tend to choose Line-of-Sight as a camp feature as they worried more about their own Per than that of the monsters . . . who might not be impressed by visual concealment!

Having rolls per boat does mean it's unlikely one boat doing well really helps. Yes, traveling in groups means you tend to go at the slowest speed, and then a bit slower than that for coordination. Having four shifts at night for camping means a small group has less hours per day to travel or less sleep!

Overall it's been fun, and I hope to use a similar method for overland. I would change up the "how" a bit to match the overland approach we used in the Lost City, but the basic rules in DF16 work very well.


  1. "Boating criticals improve speed of travel but don't provide miraculous effects (even on a "3") but an 18 does cause a disaster."

    I've been thinking along similar lines for my (someday I'll run it when I have a group that roleplays again) hexcrawl, but as I'll also have "Wonderous" terrain, I'll have Critical Successes there do something miraculous.

    And of course in Hell terrain they'll be penalized heavily and may even have regular failures treated as critical failures.

    1. And of course in Hell terrain they'll be penalized heavily and may even have regular failures treated as critical failures.

      Even success is relative in Hell. Bwahahahahahah.

  2. And I posted this over there, but I felt it worth posting here as well, my response to Charles Saegar's Hexcrawl Procedures:

    I split step 11 [Foraging at the end of the day] into 3, Morning, Afternoon, Evening/Overnight. Depending on actions, terrain, etc, that can impact those rolls and even if those rolls can be made.

    My Foraging House Rules:
    If stationary, may make 1 Survival, Hunting, or Fishing roll every 3 hours. If traveling may make 1 Survival roll per 6 hours of travel, or in the evening/overnight.
    Hunting is (Ranged Weapon Skill -4 + Survival)/2.
    MoS = Number of Meals. Failure is failure, Critical Failure indicates "something bad", Crit Success doubles MoS.

    In Step 12, I tie "making/finding shelter" into the Finding/Making Camp roll, with penalties and benes as terrain dictates, and add a fourth choice to their "Making Camp" results: Shelter.

    A Critical Success still only allows 3 picks, but spending Serendipity/Impulse Points adds +1 pick per spend after the roll (this works for normal Making Camp rolls too).

    1. I stick closer to DF16 and let them pick how much they travel versus forage, and just roll all the foraging rolls at the end of travel after setting up camp. They will sometimes take off the whole day and make 10 rolls.

      My players almost always have some kind of shelter with one player (Roman, who plays Angelista right now) knowing me well enough to make that purchase each and every time, so I don't care that it's a separate roll since nobody ever rolls is.

  3. Replies
    1. Only 1 mile . . . of water of varying depth, choked with weeds and muck, passable by poling a flat-bottomed boat or by walking . . . if you like leeches.

      It's a fun little place.

  4. Hourly Survival and Boating rolls? Oh boy, that's a *lot* of rolls.

    I like the possibility of disasters on critical failures. For me, crit fails on movement (Hiking almost always) and Navigation lead to -20% to movement for the day, and disasters are a couple of different rolls (which I have in a spreadsheet, prerolled for a year of game days).

    What's weird looking at this and having others comment on it is that I still follow this almost to the letter, six years later. It was more a codification of what I was doing after some experimentation in play, and it works for me. It's good to see Peter come up with stuff that works for him through play. Same with Evil Eeyore. It means we're all hexcrawling.

    1. It is a lot of rolls, but it makes sense. A daily one might for larger hexes, but makes little to none for 1 mile hexes. So you have to adjust by the location and needs of the specific area, I figured.

      And I agree - I like the Venn Diagram you could draw of our hexcrawling and see how it's all off the same base but ends up with nuances that fit our specific needs.


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