Thursday, December 3, 2009

In Praise of the 6 Mile Hex

It is good to be back in action. I have been away on personal business, but I should be posting a little more regularly now.

So just today I stopped by Chgowiz's page and noticed that he was talking about wilderness hexes. (and it looks like Bat in the Attic has been playing with hexes a little too here and here)(and Chgowiz got Stirgessuck thinking a bit). When I left I had actually just started to kick around the old hexagon myself on this blog. And so I have some thoughts about hexagons already to go. I hope they are helpful to Chgowiz and everybody else.

As you can tell from the title, I think that the 6 mile hex is the ideal hex for wilderness adventuring hexcrawls. I used to be a big fan of the 5 mile hex as published by Judges Guild. But someone over at the Necromancer Games (was it Rob S. Conley?) pointed out back in like 2005 that it was actually a lot easier to use 6 mile hexes. And then I learned some more things about hexagons. Check it out:

1. Navigation. Estimateing a party's route through a 6 mile hex is a lot easier than any other hex. No other hex size breaks down as cleanly as a 6 mile hex. Trust me, I did the math. The numbers above are accurate to the first decimal. Thats good enough for general overland travel. Take a look at the diagram above. Its six miles from face to face. Vertex to opposite vertex is 7 miles. From the center to any face is 3 miles (half of 6). From the center to any vertex is 3.5 miles. From a navigation standpoint pretty much any route through the hex in general is covered. Enter from the vertex and leave through a face? You can approximate it pretty easily. 5 mile hexes do not lend well to this. If you wing it go with a 6 mile hex, you'll be glad you did.

2. Horizon. Your average human in a flat area without any obstructions in view (think a becalmed sea) can see up to 3 miles. Thats the distance to the horizon best case scenario. So a party travelling straight through a 6 mile hex is not going to see out of it. Unless they climb a tree or find a high place with a view. But the idea is that a 6 mile hex with varied terrain covers the distance that the party can see. A good rule of thumb is that if they take the time to survey the surrounding land then a party should be able to be aware of the terrain of the next hex over. Some pushback might come with the idea that you can see a mountain quite a ways away. But mountains are tricky in that you really can't tell how far away they are until you are a few hexes away. Getting a good vantage point (like the top of a hill or mountain) could be the opportunity for adventure in itself and being aware of the lay of the land can be its own reward. If you want to be able to tell your players how far they can see when they climb up the hill or tree or tower a good rule of thumb is that the distance to the horizon is the square root of thirteen times the height they are viewing from (

3. Sub hexes. The 6 mile hex can break down into half mile sub hexes. That is 12 hexes accross. (Mr. Chgowiz, this next bit is for you) If you put a dungeon or a settlement or some other important element in a hex, it is good to know where in the hex it is. Thus it makes sense to map out the hex in subhexes. Having these is good for distant encounters, chases, and well looking for that dungeon that is supposed to be around here somewhere. But wait, theres more. Each of these hexes can break down into sub hexes that are 1/24 of a mile accross. At this point your hexes can start measureing thing like furlongs, chains and all the other medieval land measurements. Thats really convenient when you want to figure out how many hexes should a farm take up. Also, 1/24th of a mile is a distance you can put on a battlemat. 5280ft/24 = 220 ft. 220 ft/5 = 44 battlemat squares. A Chessex Mondomat covers that area. Furthermore, if you are always using hexes that have 12 subhexes accross you only have to use one type of graph paper to keep track of all the projections. That is, the graph paper that you use for your sub hexes is the same as the graph paper you use for your subhexes of subhexes.

What this all comes down to is: The one-page wilderness template just got a lot cooler.

Merry Christmas Chgowiz!

*Graphic is soley my own this time... free to use and distribute...


Geoffrey said...

That is AWESOME.

FWIW, I double-checked the math, and you are indeed right. :)

Dr-Rotwang said...

Once I get by breath back, and some dry pants, I am totally printing out a copy of this mofo post and sticking it in my GM binder.




stirgessuck said...

Thanks for the diagram -- very helpful. I think I'll need to think and write more about this.

Jayson said...

Thanks for laying all this out!

Jayson said...

Marvelous. Thanks for laying this all out; it will be helpful to me very soon! (Isle of Dread, doncha know)...

1d30 said...

This is awesome. I'm working on a hex crawl right now, but I'm very afraid of how much work it's going to be to map out the next hex depth down from my current map. If the smaller hexes are 6 miles, and 12 of those across is a world hex, I can set my world hex size to 72 miles.

Will need some editing to make things closer together at that point.

But what you've done here is lovely. Thanks!

Nagora said...

A quick calculation shows that a 6-mile hex is also within 0.3% of being 20,000 acres.

I think we have a winner.

Danger said...

I keep coming back just for this post. You've made your stamp on my campaign map.

Confirmation: recorate, what Shaggy did, like, to his pad, man.

NetherWerks said...

Late to the party, but this is a great idea and we're going to adopt it for our maps from now on. This is a sensible, and effective standard. If the D30 gets a whole Order promoting it, then the Six Mile Hex ought to have some sort of icon or whatever as well, don't you think?

John Adams said...

Even later to the party, but just as grateful. Thanks! :)

2097 said...

I don’t get the math.

7² - 6² ≠ 3.5²

Steamtunnel said...

@2097 you need to re-read. You are correct, 7^2-6^2 does not = 3.5^2

And 6.98^2 - 6^2 does not = 3.49^2

That is because these numbers are longer decimals that have been rounded up to the nearest 100th of a mile (or 52.8 ft). What you need to do is start with a 6 mile line and then determine what the lengths of an equalateral triange with a height of 3 is. This will get you the more precise numbers you so eagerly desire.

Brett Slocum said...


These. Good.

DuBeers said...

I find this information very useful. Thank you for posting.

Arne said...

Great article that has been part of my bookmarks for quite some time now. I am posting this comment however with a question : would you mind if I use your article in a adventure supplement (released under Creative Commons) I am working on? With recognition of your authorship of course.

Steve Reeves said...

I would break the 6 mile hex down into six 1 mile hexes. After that, I would break that down into 8 furlong hexes.

On the encounter level, I would use the fathom, which is the length from one finger tip to the other if you hold your hands out (measured as 6 foot).

The basic unit of measure for land in the medieval period was the Furlong. It is 1/8th of a mile. 660 feet. 220 yards.

110 fathom hexes would make up one furlong. You could use any typical battlemat with that system.

Michael Prescott said...

Very cool, steamtunnel. I'm especially interested in the horizon calcluations. I think your recommendations might be a bit short, given the horizon calculations on the wikipedia page.

A 1,000-foot prominence (a large hill, half the size of the smallest mountain, by one definition) is visible from 38 miles away, which is roughly 6.5 6-miles hexes.

A 9,000-foot prominence (which is roughly the distance that Everest towers above its base camp), is visible from 19 hexes away!

Now, all I'm doing to get these numbers is to assume that you can see anything that can see you.

Oh, actually, I see I'm doing that wrong. According to WP, the way to tell the distance to tall objects is to add together the observer's to-the-horizon distance with that of a hypothetical, second observer, atop the thing you're trying to see.

So if you're on a 1,000-foot prominence trying to see a 9,000 foot prominence, you can see that from 6.5+19=25.5 hexes away. (Woah.)

Zombie Neighbours said...

Can you suggest a graph paper that lets you do the 12 mile super hex well?