Monday, May 20, 2013

Travel Rules

Up to this point, most of the campaign play has focused on local adventures, within a few hours' travel from town. Occasionally the party has made longer journeys, but in most cases this has been fairly straightforward, following a trail or a map. Now that the party is getting set to venture into the wilderness, it's time to lay down the rules for an old-fashioned hexcrawl.


Travel overland uses a hexmap, where each hex represents 6 miles of travel. This hex system is a little abstract compared to exploring dungeons and other adventure sites, but it's a useful way to streamline days of travel, and it simplifies mapping. From the center of a hex to the edge is just about the horizon line in clear terrain, but the entire game of Skyrim would fit into a single hex on this scale. The party can pass through on their way to a known destination, or explore for other adventure sites as much as they like.

Where dungeon exploration is divided into turns of ten minutes, overland travel is played from day to day. Each day, the party begins with a number of travel points based on its exploration speed. Those points are spent to enter hexes until the party runs out of points, and the day's travel is concluded. Often, there will be points leftover, not quite enough to enter the next hex. In that case, these extra points can be invested into a desired hex, which will reduce the cost needed to enter that hex on the next day of travel.

When the party enters a hex, roll a d6. On a 6, the party finds a major site as marked on the referee's map (e.g. ruins, lair, castle). On a 5, the party finds a landmark or settlement that helps to point the way (+1 on next search). The party may spend the hex's cost again to search further. If the refree's map shows nothing but terrain, a successful search will point the party toward an encounter, with the option to avoid it if desired.

Travel Points
None 120' 12 points
Light 90' 9 points
Medium 60' 6 points
Heavy 30' 3 points

Hex Costs
CostTerrain Types
2 points Imperial road
3 points Clear, trail, lightly forested, grasslands, settled & civilized
4 points Heavily forested, hilly, desert, broken land
6 points Mountain, swamp, jungle

Special Terrain Notes
Much of the Shimrod Forest is a "black forest," where trees grow so thick that sunlight can barely penetrate. In this terrain, horses cannot be ridden and the party must travel afoot leading their mounts.

Usually a hex must be entered to be mapped, but the party can spend an extra point to find a good vantage point (such as a sturdy treetop) from which to map surrounding hexes. From Hilly terrain, the line of sight extends up to 3 hexes away, but is blocked by hilly or mountainous terrain. From mountainous terrain, the line of sight extends up to 7 hexes away on a clear day. These elevated hexes can also be mapped from lower elevation at similar ranges. Mountains can be dimly seen, though not mapped, at 10 hex distance - even up to 20 hexes for some peaks.

Each day of travel, the referee will check for encounters. Normally a single check is sufficient, but in more dangerous territory as many as 4 checks might be rolled. The default is a 2 in 6 chance, reduced to 1 in 6 in clear and inhabited hexes, or increased to 3 in 6 in swamps, jungles, and mountains. Encounters may happen in the starting hex, in any of the hexes traveled, or while camping at night.

Each day of travel, the referee will check for disorientation unless the party is following a river, trail, road, or a reliable guide. The default is a 2 in 6 chance of disorientation, reduced to 1 in 6 for clear, open terrain like grasslands, or increased to 3 in 6 for swamp, jungle, and desert travel. In the event of disorientation, the party's travel will be rotated either sunwise or widdershins by one hex face. The party is assumed to reorient the following morning (barring such conditions as would conceal the sunrise, such as terrible weather or camping within a black forest), but runs the risk of becoming disoriented again as usual.

Hunting & Foraging
It's recommended that the party should pack rations for their intended travel time, plus 50% in case of delays. The party extend their supplies at the cost of some travel time for hunting or foraging.

Foraging requires the party to spend 1/3 of its travel points (4, 3, 2, or 1 on foot) and roll:
1-3 Consume rations as usual
4-5 No rations spent today
6 Add 1d6 rations to supply!

Hunting requires a full day of activity, and requires one extra Encounter check
1-3 Spend no rations
4-5 Add 1d6 rations to supply
6 Add 2d6 rations to supply!

Forced March
The party can push for greater time or speed to cover more distance, but the following day must be spent resting. No foraging is possible during a forced march, and no hunting or exploration is possible during a rest day.  The party gains an additional 50% of travel points (6, 4, 3, 1)

Faster travel rates are possible with good mounts.
240' 24 pts -8 +12
210' 21 pts -7 +10
180' 18 pts -6 +9
150' 15 pts -5 +7

Art by Larry Elmore

To whatever degree the system above has merit, a debt is owed to Mentzer, Proctor, Cook, and the Judges Guild. To whatever degree it is flawed, the blame is largely my own. My sole intent was to recreate the results of these designers through a system that I find simple and fun. If it proves to be a useful plugin for your own campaign, I will be thrilled beyond words.


  1. Hi,

    great rules you have there. How about adding that blogspot PDF-plugin, so one can conveniently download this article as a PDF?

    1. Why that would require me to know what I'm doing!
      Okay, there's one. Hope it works out as intended.

      Also, thanks for the encouragement. I hope you'll find more useful material among the upcoming posts.