Wednesday 24 July 2019

Post-Apoc Fantasy Hexcrawl Rules

The end of the world dragged my campaign kicking and screaming from a civilised network of roads and cities to a proper hexcrawl across the barren earth.

This is an awful, painful place to travel through. The air burns to breathe, the rain is acid, and the threat of a Gas Front rolling through and vapourising all organic life is ever-present.
It's harsh, it's slow, and it's draining, but looting the ruins of the old world is an extremely profitable line of work...


Travel in the post-apocalypse is dangerous due to the harsh environment and the toxic weather.
Almost everything is dead out there, so the classic travel danger of creature encounters is replaced with more impersonal forces like horrible rain or choking mists.
These rules are meant to refocus my campaign so that travel itself is part of the meat of the game, something players have to think about and plan around, rather than just a time tax between destinations.

Travel in the post-apocalypse is slow. Roads are old and ruined, towns have fallen into decay, and travel is physically exhausting. Gone are the days when you could zip across the regional map in less than a week by road, we're in the Post-Apocalypse now.
I like the idea that my well-used map effectively changes scale without changing size. Quick trips taken by road or by air in the past will now take several days, and it will be a logistical challenge to carry all you need to survive without slowing yourself down.

A game set in a relatively civilised area of towns linked by roads is tacitly a pointcrawl. You travel between destinations by road and rarely trudge through the wilderness.
Not so in the post-apocalypse. Now we're in a proper hexcrawl, and that means exploring!
Nobody really knows what's out there any more, but there are old maps and memories of the old world (even for the players, who have "lived" in this world for years).
The players are now explorers, pioneers, and treasure hunters in a world they once knew. It's pretty cool!

Extent of player exploration to date

Base Units

Distance is measured in Miles.
The world is divided into 1 mile Hexes.

Overland time is divided into Watches.
Each Watch is approximately 4 hours of activity.
6 Watches per 24 hour period.

Basic Procedure

Each Watch follows these steps -
  1. Group Up: If they wish, the party can form into separate groups.
  2. Choose Activity: Each group decides what they're doing this Watch
  3. Lost: If outfield, the DM secretly checks to see if each group is lost.
  4. Encounters: Roll and resolve encounters per group. 1d6 if outfield, 1d12 if encamped.
  5. Weather: Resolve weather effects.
  6. Activity: Resolve the activity itself per group.

Where would we be without laminated gimmick sheets?

Previous laminated gimmick sheet in action. This is Winter, so the day only lasts 2 Watches / 8 hours.


This is the main thing with hexcrawl rules so I'm putting it first!

Maximum Travel Distance
On foot, your speed is limited by your Encumbrance.
I'd probably double these for pre-Apocalypse travel.


This is one of the main limiting mechanics to travel.
Each point of Exhaustion gives you a -1 penalty to all ability score modifiers and counts as an Oversized item (ie. +1 Encumbrance), slowing you down.
If it's been over 4 Watches (16 hours) since your last Rest, you take 1 Exhaustion per Watch.
Weather also commonly builds up Exhaustion, eventually forcing you to stop and rest.

You can intentionally leave a Trail as you travel.
This gets added to the map, making it easier to backtrack and easier to take the same route at a later date.
There might be times when you don't want to leave a Trail (like if someone's tracking you), but most of the time you'll want to leave one.

Travel by Vehicle
See the rules for Vehicles at the bottom of the post.
In short - vehicles are great for carrying stuff and protecting occupants from the weather, but they're liable to crash off-road. Wagon trains encouraged.

Watch Activities

Some examples of things you can do in one Watch.
Encounters are rolled on an encounter grid (see Encounters section below).
Encounter chances are effectively halved when you're encamped.

Outfield Activities
Basically any activity where you're moving around in the open exposed to the elements.
Encounter severity is rolled on 1d6.

Suggestions include:
  • Travel: See Travel section above.
    Basically just move as far as you want up to your group's maximum travel distance.
  • Explore: Search a hex for things of interest.
    No need to roll, you just find anything in the hex by the end of the Watch.
  • Forage: Search for sustenance.
    See Foraging section below.
Encamped Activities
Basically anything you want to do that doesn't involve leaving an immediate area.
It probably goes without saying that anyone at the same campsite is in the same group for encounter purposes.
Encounter severity is rolled on 1d12, with results 7-12 as "nothing happens".

Suggestions include:
  • Set Camp: Set up tents and organise the camp site, ie. draw the map of the camp.
    Important if some sort of post-apocalypse beast comes sniffing around.
    Shielded Camps: Some hexes have protected campsites that are good enough to resist deadly Gas Fronts and other dangers. Resist all weather effects, and when Encounters are rolled you can replace the result with "nothing happens" if you wish.
  • Cook Food: As per the Dungeon Masterchef post.
    We've seen multiple cookoffs so far, which pleases me greatly!
  • Forecast: Check to see where the weather's heading.
    Roll Bushcraft. On success, you can tell what the next weather change will be.
    On failure, you at least know the possibilities.
  • Rest: See Getting Some Rest section below


It might look like everything's dead out there... but if you know where to look you'll find some strange edible flora and fauna that's managed to adapt to the toxic atmosphere and frequent all-devouring Gas Fronts.

Roll a Bushcraft group check (ie. use highest Bushcraft score in the group).
On success, find 1d4 Ingredients +1 per additional forager.
The Ingredient you find is based on terrain. Roll 1d10 on the associated Forage table to see what you find!

You can find my current (incomplete) Forage tables in this sheet. It's all weird stuff adapted to the post-apocalypse, so you'd want to change it to Nettles and Mushrooms and stuff for non-fucked settings.

Set Forage
The first time Forage is found in a hex it becomes easier to find that particular Ingredient there. Set Forage by adding the Ingredient to the hex description.
Any time that hex is successfully foraged in the future, the forager rolls the 1d10 and can choose between that and the Set Forage.
Really good if you know you need a certain foraged ingredient for a particular meal!

Weather Boost
Each type of Forage is more prevalent during certain weather (see Weather below).
During the right weather, boost the Ingredients roll twice - from 1d4 to 1d8.

Example for Hills areas. If you want Popjack, go out during a Haze!
In Winter, find 1 Ingredient per forager in the group only.
I was considering having proper seasonal forage, but it's easier to just add some seasonal flavour to the description. Plus that'd be a lot of backend work to track forage per hex per season!

Getting Some Rest

Sleeping out in the wastes is hard when you're plagued by itches and your mate's coughing up a lung on the bedroll next to you. Luckily you're often so tired that you don't care.
Going more than 4 Watches without a rest gives you one point of Exhaustion per Watch.

Scratch-built shelter won't do in the post-apocalypse. You need a proper Survival Tent!
Costs available here.

Resting for a single Watch heals 1 point of Exhaustion.

Long Rest
Resting for two Watches in a row cures all Exhaustion.
You get Overnight Healing rates as per the house rules.
In short:
- No Food and/or Shelter: If you're on 0HP, no healing. Else heal your Bushcraft score in HP.
- Food and Shelter: Heal up to the next step of Half HP, Full HP, or Full+1d6 HP.

Resting for a whole 24 hours (6 Watches in a row) with food and shelter heals ability scores.
Save vs Doom. On success, heal 1 point of stat damage in all affected ability scores.

Getting Lost

It's fairly easy to lose your way if you're not following a trail, especially with the terrible weather and the way the air stings your eyes. I cannot emphasise enough how much the post-apocalypse sucks.
The base chance of getting lost while outfield is 1 in 6, adjusted by the following modifiers:

Getting LostModifier
Following Road/River-3
To Visible Landmark-2
Following Trail-1
Following Map-1
Clear Weather-1
Night (Bright Moon)+1
Night (Quarter Moon)+3
Night (Dark Moon)+5

If a group gets lost while travelling the DM secretly rolls on this chart to see which way they went. They leave their intended path at a random point in the journey.
If they get lost while exploring or foraging within a hex, they simply end up in a random hex nearby.
A lost group makes a Bushcraft group check (ie. use highest Bushcraft score).
On success, they know their bearing, how far off course they are, and the direction of their intended destination. On failure they've got no idea.
Groups that left a trail behind them could retrace their steps, those who don't might be in trouble.

A Stoneshell Crab, by our own Tom


Overland encounters use an encounter grid as per that post.
Encounter severity roll depends on whether the group is Outfield or Encamped.
1d6 for Outfield.
1d12 for Encamped.

Encounters with actual creatures are rare, so they're on the low and high ends of the bell curve.
The special part is that there are common entries that change based on terrain, weather and hex.

You can check out the encounter grid I'm currently using here.

Base results are these, so I can explain the special non-creature ones.

    Probability fiends will note that there's only a 33% chance of an encounter involving a creature.

    The environmental "encounters" are these:
    • Weather Effect: Doubles down on weather effects, no matter the weather.
    • Terrain Special: Changes based on terrain, so Hills is different to Plains and so on. Sometimes cause something to be added to the map, like a new fissure appearing in a Hills area.
    • Hex Special: Involves the current hex they're in.
    • Weather Special: Changes based on weather, so Haze is different to Acid Rain and so on. Usually additional badness, but sometimes something nice happens like the rain lets up for a bit!
    • Rogue Weather: The weather changes! This is temporary and the weather has turned back by the end of the Watch. If the party splits up and multiple groups get different Rogue Weather I guess the results are strangely localised.
    The effects change with the severity roll. You can see the effects on the encounter grid linked above.


    Since it's after the end of the world there is now a massive focus on environmental dangers, chiefly the weather. Plus complaining about the weather brings us together as Englishmen.
    The stinging Haze leads onto Acid Rain or thick Chokestorms, and deadly Gas Fronts are an ever-present threat. Thank goodness the Gas Fronts are usually preceded by the crackling electrical storms of the Warning so people know when to get to cover. And all that's just in Spring!

    Weather types as of right now can be found here.

    Survival Gear
    It's awful out there. You need protective clothing and a breather mask to last long out in the wastes.
    Survival Gear replaces normal armour and follows the same rules (see house rules).
    Short version - Certain effects can Notch your armour, each Notch reducing its AC by 1. If this ever makes it worthless, it falls apart and is irreparable.
    Filter Masks replace Helmets. They can be destroyed by certain Death and Dismemberment effects.
    Six-Dimensional Weather
    Invented by Daniel Sell at What Would Conan Do, this hex-based Six-Dimensional Weather is the foundation of this weather system. You can see how it works at that link. It's very clever!

    Types of Weather
    There are six types of weather. Each season has a variation on the theme.
    • Haze: Common travelling weather. Fair visibility, but exhausting to walk in.
    • Acid Rain:
      Heavy rain that eats away at your gear. Bad visibility.
    • The Warning:
      Precedes Gas Fronts. Lightning storms that are safe to walk in unless you clash metal on metal.
    • Gas Front:
      Lethal fog of Omnipoison converts all organic life it touches into more Omnipoison. If you're lucky you die instantly.
    • Clear:
      A rare reprieve from the weather!
    • Storm:
      Seasonal variation, always terrible. Usually a worse version of the Haze with bad visibility.
    Weather Change
    Weather moves around the hex map every dawn and dusk.
    When the weather changes, roll the next change in advance so players can Forecast it.

    Weather Effects
    Each type of weather has an associated Effect.
    If you're not wearing survival gear and a breather helm, you also take the Exposure effect. Somehow despite wearing practically nothing, Barbarians always count as wearing survival gear and breather helm.
    If combat occurs, Encounter Conditions apply.
    For example these are the Weather possibilities for Spring. You'll notice pretty much everything sucks. That's the post-apocalypse for you!

    An Encamped activity.
    Roll Bushcraft.
    On success, you know what the weather will be next time it changes.
    On failure, you at least know the potential options.

    Fast Forwarding
    If you ever need to fast forward the weather, like if players are resting up safely in town for a while, just roll a weather change twice per week.
    It's assumed that the random walk did a completely average return-to-origin loop for 6 days, then went somewhere else on the 7th day.
    If I had a computer program that could do it for me I'd use that though!


    Seasons change over the course of the campaign, especially since I'm intentionally pushing the timeline forward by limiting the PCs to one Expedition or Downtime activity per in-game month.

    Each Season has a different spin on the basic weather types (see that section above) and a different feel.
    • Spring sets the standard. Variable levels of crap weather. Relatively rare Gas Fronts but potentially interminable Chokestorms might stop travel for days.
    • Summer has long stretches of clear days, but if it gets bad it tends to stick. Hot weather is exhausting for anyone in heavier gear.
    • Autumn is all wet and miserable. Rain tends to last, alternating between acid rainstorms and an interminable hissing rain that makes it easy to get lost.
    • Winter is brutally cold. Travelling requires you to have Cold Weather Gear - an Oversized item - lest you freeze to death. At least Gas Fronts freeze into the ground in winter.
    Day Length
    The day gets longer and shorter over the course of the year.
    Your chance of getting lost increases at night (see Getting Lost section above).
    Watches from dawn until dusk:
    • Summer: 4 Watches
    • Spring/Autumn: 3 Watches
    • Winter: 2 Watches

    Travel by Vehicle

    Finally, travel by Vehicle!
    This ties in better to the roads in the seasonal Rebuild Phase (to come) but the travel stuff is relevant.
    While vehicles have the potential to be slightly faster than a party on foot, they're mostly about carrying supplies and/or protecting occupants from the weather.

    I'm pretty pleased with the speedometer gimmick!
    Vehicles have 6 Compartments - numbered 1-6 in the image above.
    A compartment can fit one person and all their equipment, or 20 encumbrance slots-worth of items.
    If you got a good treasure haul you might have to walk because your wagon's full of stuff.

    When you Travel with a vehicle, choose how fast you're going.
    Higher speeds increase your chance of crashing, as per the image above.
    You'll notice that this is slow, but that's because the roads are real bad. If you were driving down a maintained and paved road you'd go at double speed, but no roads are that good just yet!

    Crash Chance
    Base 1 in 6 with the following modifiers.

    Crash ChanceModifier
    On road-3
    On trail-1
    Off-road (flat)+2
    Off-road (rough)+4
    Clear Weather-1
    Night (Bright)+1
    Night (Quarter)+3
    Night (Dark)+5

    If you crash, the driver will roll on the Vehicle Crash Table.
    They make a Piloting check.
    On success they roll a 1d6 on that table. On failure they roll 1d12.