What’s Your Biggest Challenge in Running a Hexcrawl?

I’m wondering what people find are the biggest obstacles, challenges, issues, etc. to running a hexcrawl.

Alternatively, is there something that prevents you from running one? If so, what is it?

I’m collating some of the responses I’ve received, scattered over the interwebs.:

  • Procedures are too slow, require too much work
  • Picking the procedures to use
  • Too much prep
  • Lack of player engagement

Finding the right toolset FOR YOU does seem hard. There are alot of resources floating around but some are too granular/wrong tone/etc.
I think the trouble is finding the random tables that work for you. I would love more resources and perspectives on HOW people design their random tables and how you could use that knowledge to make your own.

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I imagine, like anything, they’re designed to work within a particular GM’s workflow/prep style. This means that what works like gangbusters for some is going to fall flat and fail for others. Do you think getting a breakdown of the whys behind a style of tables would be helpful? I get the sense that many folks don’t know what they don’t know, in terms of what will work for them or not. Once they know, that kind of breakdown probably isn’t even necessary.

Yeah I think so - seeing how the tables work together and what order you would use them in to populate a world etc. or for filling in details on the fly.


If I may be so bold as to cast Revivify on this thread… or Raise Dead if you prefer :skull:

First some group info: I have four players, two men and two women. The former are slightly more experienced roleplayers, but we’re all only just learning Worlds Without Number for this game.

Player engagement is a big problem for me in my current game. There’s a few external reasons for this, namely very short (usually 2.5-3hr) sessions that usually have to be scheduled on worknights.

However, I as GM did break a cardinal rule at the outset of the game as well.

Rather than present a small dossier on my world and allow the player’s to contribute or build themselves into the setting, I told them to keep their backstories minimal and had the players rather “awaken” into the world more or less tabula rasa.

My intention was to try an evoke a Dark Souls style sense of being dropped into a strange world-gone-wrong, and allow them to discover for themselves the mysterious history of the realm as they interact with who and what remain.

Sadly, the sins of the GM seem to be visited upon the Players, because they’ve only just recently begun to realize the scope of the local area, and because they have minimal background/story their characters are somewhat lacking in personality (for the less experienced players) and motivation (for the more experienced).

I have a couple ideas to try to mitigate this, but I’ll pontificate on that in a separate post since this is getting longwinded haha. Any advice in the meantime is much appreciated though!

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I don’t think this is a poor approach, per se, as, classically, this is pretty much how campaigns started: “You are climbing up a road that snakes its way towards the peak of a squat hill. At its summit stands a formidable keep…” Some folks will jump into it with both feet but others… won’t. What I’ve taken to doing is to work with the players before we start to nail down exactly what it is they want to do in the game (player goals)-- drill down and ask questions until we’re all satisfied and agreed on what it is the game is about, at least to start. That way, hopefully, when we start out at the gates of the keep, folks will have in mind what they want to do in that space.

Backstories definitely help define personality but so does play experience. Players can discover their characters through the first forays they make into the world, who they interact with, and how they survive. The starting character though may be fairly bland but that’s something that collectively the table can work on during character generation. For your part, you can encourage folks to be inspired by their species, class, attribute scores, etc. to create a starting personality, vague though it may be.

Motivation hopefully comes from engagement with the player goals we established before play. I’m a bit surprised your veterans are the ones falling down here.

I’m eager to hear more! :grin:

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The main idea I’ve been toying with I’ll dub Key Memories
I ripped this idea straight from a fanmade Dark Souls ttrpg I read years ago lol. Basically the idea allows for the recursive element in the Souls games but limited so as to maintain a sense of danger. Every time a character dies and comes back, they lose one of their key memories and once they’re out, they are permanently dead.
The memories would serve as touchstones for the characters I think- somewhat like the “Trait/Bond/Flaw” system in 5e which I rather enjoyed. There’s opportunity for clever roleplay as well, as losing these core memories could alter the character’s personality.

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Were your players unable to translate this into their character personalities?

There’s kind of two-fold problem:

  1. Only a couple players actually bothered doing much backstory work before we started

  2. My having the PCs just sort of thrust into an unfamiliar world kind of threw off what backstories there were, seeing as the world they find themselves in is largely incongruous with the world they assumed in their backstory.

Pre-game communication about the condition of the setting was lacking on my part, I’ll be the first to admit.

This sort of segue’s into my next idea, similar to the first, which is maybe to have dead PCs temporarily “resurrect” in their “prior” life? And then experience some sort of misfortune to die back into the current campaign?

That may be a bit too psychedelic haha xD

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I think, next time, do the campaign setup and backstory stuff together (session zero!) that way everyone at the table can mesh their characters with each other and the world. You can also use tables to generate super quick and easy backstory bits for players so that it becomes fast and easy to generate the PCs and you can make sure all the available backstory options fit in with your setting.

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