Journey Rules (hex-crawl style)

Hey all,

My group is soon going to be headed to Kush and the Black Kingdoms, and probably some of the western ocean as well. We want to add a bit of a hex crawl and resource management aspect to things, as a change of pace from the current “start in the moment” and “point and click travel” we have been doing.

Borrowing a bit from Pelgrane’s rules for Expeditions in Trail of Cthulhu, my plan is to use a Travel Pool that represents food, supplies, wear and tear on gear, the goodwill and abilities of hired help, and other travel considerations.

This pool can be filled by spending gold in civilized places (at a rate between 2-6 gold per point, depending on location) to resupply, or by foraging, finding fresh water, in game bartering/negotiations with locals, and other similar things in the wild.

We’ll be using a hex map with 6 mile hexes and three travel speeds (cautious, normal, fast) as well as a Resting speed. Depending on the terrain the group can cover a different number of hexes per day at each speed. The speed also effects what sort of keyed encounters they see. Some stuff you need to move cautiously and explore the hex to encounter.

Travel along roads, rivers, or wherever there is an obvious landmark they can use (peak in the distance) simply costs 1 Travel Point per hex moved. In all other cases, it costs 1 Travel Point per hex but the group must also make a Survival check (the Travel Pool can be used like Momentum here) with a difficulty set by the terrain or risk becoming lost (d6 roll to see which hex face they leave from).

I’m still hammering out the travel speeds as well as how many points are refreshed for things like finding fresh water or spending s day foraging.

Any feedback?


I like the idea! Travelling can be made more detailed than “There, you travel from A to B. Let’s start your adventure at B”.

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Wow, i am going to do this for Conan. I am already running a Iron Kingdoms rpg and the party is going out to sea, which is where the hexcrawl comes in. I plan on having my Conan game explore the Lafayet Sea where i will do this now that you mentioned it.

Free League’s new Forbidden Lands RPG has an entire chapter called Journeys that I will work on summarizing in a later post.

I think this changes the tone of Conan a bit since it moves away from the action.

What I’d be more inclined to do is use more of the existing mechanics. First I’d figure out where their goal is. They’re not just wandering aimlessly–they went into this jungle for a reason. They need a goal, even if it’s a meta goal only the players and or GM have set.

I’d pick a number of milestones to get there and then set a travel difficulty for each check. Probably 2 or 3. A mostly narrative number for how much time do I want to spend rolling this out, not the number of days it takes. No more than 5. Probably not less than 3. Low enough to make the momentum spends (see below) a big boon and comparable to turns in a fight.

They’d want to bring survival kits which count as tools, which I’d have reduce the difficulty by 1. They make a roll for each milestone. Individual rolls, not teamwork rolls. They’re likely to have the best PC roll first so their momentum can be spent to support the less wildernessly inclined. That’s fair. Describe each milestone as a montage with each PC describing some leg of the journey when they roll.

“Food, supplies, wear and tear on gear, the goodwill and abilities of hired help, and other travel considerations” would all be covered by the existing rules for survival kits and provisions. Hired help or pack animals or riding animals would qualify as tools to gain bonus momentum (mounts and pack animals) or bonus dice (hired help), or reduce difficulty (a guide). Provisions as resources can be spent for extra dice just like any other check.

Failing the check doesn’t fail to move the distance, it just inflicts fatigue. Probably by how much they miss the difficulty. I think I’d create a “reduce time required” momentum spend to allow them to travel extra milestones but I’d say anyone who failed the check takes extra fatigue equal to the momentum spent. They’re basically being dragged along by their tougher companions. I’d also scale the cost of the momentum spend at 1 for the first extra milestone, 2 for the second, and 3 for the third. Only spendable after everyone finishes all their rolls.

At each milestone there could be an encounter. It would be based on them rolling a complication or me spending doom to create one. Doom spends could also make a check cost more resources. Maybe a PC loses their survival pack tool to some unfortunate cutscene or a pack animal dies. That would be from doom on top of a failed check. Failed checks already have a cost of fatigue gain. Complications and spending provisions for dice would represent the wear and tear on gear.

By the end of the journey everyone is there. It won’t take more than the number of milestones so you won’t burn a lot of play time because they picked the wrong hex direction. While the narrative might be that they characters are exploring without a goal, the players and GM all know they’re going somewhere because they showed up for an adventure. The rolls and fatigue loss represent what condition they PCs arrive at the actual action in.


I’m planning on something similar for a section of our campaign. The party will be tasked with retrieving someone from a rather inhospitable island. The boat they are taking to the island can only support so much weight (encumbrance points) so first they need to make some decisions between their usual personal gear, retainers, and specific equipment like tents and food rations The boat will return for them in 5 days, so they are also working against the clock.

We are playing on Roll20 so I’ve got the map set up such that they can see the hex they are in as well as part of the neighboring hexes, but the rest remains in fog of war. Each hex is 5 km and the island is mostly jungle so allowing them to see that far is unrealistic but it works better visually. As they move the token the represents the party the map is revealed.

I have a separate visual token that I will use track the hours spent on the island. Each hex takes one hour unless they stumble on a random encounter, or the hex is swampy in which case it takes 2 hours.

As per the fatigue rules (pg 79-80) characters can march for a number of hour equal to their brawn or must start taking resistance tests to avoid fatigue.

If they don’t take tents they will be pestered by bugs all night and only recover partial fatigue. If they suffer a random encounter at night they will have to choose to rest longer or again only recover partial fatigue.

If they run out of food rations they will have to collect food (D2 Survival test) which takes two hours (less with momentum spends) in order to find rations enough for the the group.

Most of the random encounters (and yes, I will roll for one on each hex, with a good chance of nothing happening) are of the nature that the party will be able to deal with quickly, and I don’t plan on having them engage in combat for many of them, but instead use them to slow the party down and create a sense of urgency with the clock.

Example: The party begins to notice large ants crawling up their legs. Looking about you can see these tiny pests moving in and out of the armor worn by Mikka, as well as about the food supplies carried by Shan Lo. Once clear of the ant nest the party looses an hour as they disrobe and shake out the ants from their clothes and gear. Everyone has multiple ant bites by the end and all make a d2 resistance test against the accumulated ant venom. Those failing will slow down and loose an hour of marching that day.

The hex crawl nature of this isn’t entirely in line with the Conan rules, but by using fatigue and despair, I hope the party will feel a true sense of relief when they get off the island and that it will be a memorable portion of the campaign. Also, its fun to be ‘old school’ for a few sessions.

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If there is need for an exploration mechanics, I would take what Forbidden Lands have in place and adjust the different type of actions according to the skill system in Conan 2d20 without introducing or removing new skills, to make it simple. A hex-crawls should not be the focus in Conan games.

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I have heard that for some gms, osr hex mechanics should be hidden from the players rather than blatantly in their faces, which i feel is the appropriate route (no pun intended) to take in order to keep Conan Howardian.

By this, I mean random tables adding side quests and social interactions with other travelers of Hyborea, minimal mechanical and resource management rolls per day or even week, a larger overall semi-zoomed-in map than the average 6 mile hex, and so on.

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These hexcrawl rules are the death of Conan n REH style roleplaying, IMOHO.


The only recent game where the hex-crawl works is Forbidden Lands. Conan is not for this play style for sure.

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One of my players has repeatedly mentioned that he would like to see the game played on a hex map with minis. I agree that breaking it down this far would be the death of the cinematic aspect of the game but if you are looking for something more mechanical/tactical in nature I suppose it could work. As it stands I have told my player that isn’t going to happen in my game. I barely use minis to begin with.


You can borrow from the Forbidden Lands’ travel mechanic if all are so insisting, but if it is one guy - his problem, not yours. Also think about introducing him or the group to Forbidden Lands for such OSR experience. it is very nicely done, the only game where you enjoy dying during trekking from some random encounter. :slight_smile:


How does the player enjoy his pc dying while travelling? Curiouser n curiouser…

There are people that enjoy systems where their characters can die during creation. I have to admit I’m included in that group.

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There are people that enjoy systems where their characters can die during creation. I have to admit I’m included in that group.

All hail the Traveller LBB editions. :slight_smile: Never try for that fifth term as a Scout …

(Or Eclipse Phase, where a fair proportion of the characters will have died during The Fall. Not that it’s necessarily done more than slow them down - much like in Infinity where you can die during chargen, but it’s not actually terminal.)

As for the topic, I think that the hexcrawl rules might work for the epic journey type of story, although probably with the mechanics more hidden and streamlined than the ‘resource management’ type of gaming.

But if that player is wanting minis and hex-maps for fight scenes, then Conan may not be the kind of game they’re wanting to scratch that itch.

I believe miniatures convey the placement of characters better visually. For large scale combats I think miniature usage is important. When fighting one big bad enemy then not so much.


I would have to agree with others that this hex crawl style does not sound Howardian to me. However, that does sound like a pretty cool system. I’d love to use that for exploring darkest Africa or a lost continent. Still, if it makes the game fun for you, go for it!

I add that most of the 2d20 system revolves around making complex things abstracted. This would seem to go opposite that.


My group has recently shifted pretty wholesale away from grids etc (D&D) to this style of play, specifically because of our Conan experience. We just found that when you ditch all the measuring and counting and remembering the Feats/tricks etc that modify that and eliminate the map-drawing and rigid turn taking and initiative recording and all that Stuff the game just gets way quicker. The FIRST time I ran a this system with my group, who all have 20+ years rpging behind them, people started to say “This is quicker…” and “We wouldn’t have got this much covered in…” etc.
Never looked back.
The grid and figures sounds and looks good, but man, it slows the story right down.

And you never have enough of the right miniatures…


By the comments i deem most people who play conan 2d20 do so theater-of-the–mind style?

i do agree with @Feond about the use of maps and miniatures, and i’m playing on a vtt anyway so why not.

I get it, ixne on the random encounters and travel.

I 100% agree. I love the novelty of having a good battle map now and then but as a rule I prefer the more loose combat style of Conan. I fully respect those who love to use maps and minis but that just isn’t my GM/playstyle and for the most part my players usually appreciate the speed we can get through combat because of this. I think if you have a larger group it might be beneficial, simply from a tracking perspective.

I found a battle map useful when I was running an aftermath of Vultures of Shem. Mostly it was theatre of the mind stuff, with ongoing Stealth/Survival struggles and the odd encounter with gedim. But when it came to the climactic rescue of Satabus from Asshuri mercenaries, it was a massive help to have a battle map for tracking which zones individuals were in, as well as where various mobs and squads were and could get to.

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