Hexcrawling (or outdoor adventuring as it was once known) is a stand-by of fantasy RPG adventuring. There's lots of wandering about, getting lost, and encounters with monsters while counting down the rations. Lot';s of folks will tell you hexcrawling is about exploration and it is mostly true but that exploration should be more than filling in all the hexes on a player's blank sheet of graph paper, there needs to be a reason (or reasons) for all this exploration.
Mapping A Strange Land- no one in the campaign at large knows what's out there, it's the PCs goal to find out. The motivation for this mapping will change what's important to put on the map. Are the PCs looking for a way through for the the Gnomish Snail Caravans, is the emperor paying to have the region mapped prior to conquest?
Let's Get Out of Here- The PCs are stuck in some remote place with a lot of unknown territory between them and home (if they even know where home is) and they need to get back. Exploration is going to be centered around getting the heck out of the region and back home.
Homesteading- The PCs are looking for a new place to call home. You can only fireball so many palaces in your homeland until you have to move out after-all.
Trading- PCs can male themselves some treasure by trading. Exploring the unkown and finding raw goods and folk to sell them to along with stuff worth carting back home and the hazards to be avoided are worthy reasons for takign up a hexcrawl.
Taming The Wilds- The PCs are out to pacify the wilderness or a goodly portion of it. Lot's of ground to cover and lot's of creatures and folk to "pacify" in taming a wilderness. This could be conquest for their own means or serving an overlord.
Prospecting- there's gold in them thar' hills! A prime motivator for tromping off into the wilds prospecting for treasures of the earth , lot's of place to pan for gold or dig exploratory shafts in a hexcrawl setting.
Hunting- huntign for wiley beasts is a reason man has gone off into tthe wilds for thousands of years, why shoudl it be amy dofferent for the PCs. What to hunt, where to fidn it, and why's worth takign are all worth considering.
Survival- Not too far removed from gettign the heck out of the place but it's not focussed on gettign anywhere in particular. The PCs are motivated by simple survival, they need to food, water, and shelter and they need to keep getting it.
What PCs will Need:
Equipment- PCs need themselves a list of weapons and armor but also boots and blankets. what to bring and how to get more should be a concern. Depenidng on the nature of the region a hexcrawl covers there are markets and folk to meet and deal with out in those hexes,.
Rations- Everyone has to eat and drink. Taking enough along for the trip can problematic. Living off the land is an option of course but it can take a lot of time and slow down travel if covering territory is the goal at hand. As with equipment the PCs will need rations at some point on the hexcrawl.
Transport- Getting out into the wilderness and not doing it all on your own two feet can bee a trick. Steeds, pack-beasts, and vehicles all have their own supply issues and problems. Bringign a wagon full of iron-rations might solve the partied food issues but how do you keep the oxes pulling the wagon fed, how do you get the wagon over a chasm? The means of transport can create new challeneges; rafting down a river through the vile swamplands, hopping along on giant-frogs, or taking wing overhead on giant eagles are all going to change how the party interacts with the environment and how the residents will engage with the PCs.
Minions- some folk like to do it all on their own but eventually folks discover it's a good idea to bring someone along to watch the horse outside the tunnels of certain death, to cut the firewood, or cook dinner. Dealing with these hireling, henchmen, or followers and replacing loses are part of the logistics of an enduring hexcrawl (certainly so when heading into the wilderness).
What Can be Found Out There:
GOLD (and other treasure)- yup goods old g.p., gold bars, and gold ore are all out there for the PC's to find along with other metals and gems of course. Where this wealth is, how the PCs can gain access to it, and where it can be spent should all be considered in the building of a hexcrawl.
Beasts- PCs may find the need to feed on anything that crawls, slither, walks, climbs, swims or flys and knowing what lives out there is going to be a necessity. What's good eating? What animals have valued hides, antlers, or ivory? Are any of the beasts tameable? Can the PCs locate a population they can exploit in the future?
Plants- that which grows from the ground can feed the PCs and serve other needs. Good stands of timber offer opportunities to be exploited in future development of a region. Some monsters and animals are drawn to or avoid some plants..good to know where those are. Rememebr there are lot's of uses for plants: building materials, fibers for cloth (and rope, and paper), something to eat in a salad, something to smoke, something to steep as tea, medicines, and magical components are some of the uses for plants. The plants of the wilds are a resource waiting to be plucked.
Folk- the residents of the unknown region serve a host of purposes. The locals are a source of information to assist in gaining all of the above. It's easier to find a riding animal someone else is riding. The folk dwelling out in those hexes can serve as friends, foes and foils. The locals may have access to exotic goods, new magics, and exotic equipment. They can be conquered, bargained with, married to, or hired. The residents should know something about what is out there in the wilderness (at least the nearby stuff) these folk can serve as guides, a source of rumors, or even sages. Speaking of sages:the remote wilderness is a popular retreat for hermits. sages, and oracles. PCs will also find training, new spells, and maybe new classes (and races) for future PCs among the folk of the hexes.
(more to come)