Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How Hammerfast Got a Hex Map

A few reviewers and forumites have noticed that Hammerfast, a book I wrote that just released this month, has a hex map in it. The hex map details the area around Hammerfast.

I believe that this is the first hex map in an official, non-magazine D&D release in a really long time. I'm not sure if a hex map ever appeared in a 3e book. I'm sure the magazines printed one at some point, but I can't recall a specific issue or adventure.

Some folks might think that the hex map is there as a call out to old school gaming. The truth is actually far more sinister, far more intriguing, and far more shocking.

Actually, it isn't. The story behind the hex map is reasonably boring. This is it:

In writing the book, I realized I had to create a map of the area around Hammerfast. I suck at drawing. I'm really, really bad at it. I also hate freeform outdoor maps with scales measured in inches or whatever random increment the designer picks. They're useless to me. If I need to know the distance between East Farmbutt and Castle Hamfist, I don't want to break out a ruler. I want to count hexes.

When I drew the map I created it on a sheet of hex paper. When I submitted the art order, the art director asked me if I was serious. I said yes. I ranted a little about needing use a ruler to measure the distance between East Farmbutt and Castle Hamfist. I don't think anyone really cared. They just wanted to make sure that was my intention.

So, that's why there's a hex map in Hammerfast. And when the characters decide to tramp around the wilds surrounding the city, you don't need to use a ruler to figure out how long it will take them to go from one end of the map to another.


Snarls-at-Fleas said...

At last someone who understands that pretty maps are cool and stuff, but we need them also practical. We need to be able to... well... count hexes. :)

newbiedm said...

The 3e kalamar books not only included hex maps, but they included the transparent overlays to place on top of the maps like the old Realms boxed sets used to.

I'd like to see more hex mapping in 4e outdoor maps. Your reasons for including it are sound, suggest it, you've got some pull. :)

Rob Conley said...

You taken your first step into a larger world ;) Now you need to get them to number your hexes.

Good story.

Lord Zack said...

I'd pay good money for a hex map of the entire Nentir Vale. Or maybe I'll just do it myself sometime.

Yoo-Hoo Tom said...

Yes!!! Be carefull though Mike you may become the "cause celebre" of Old Hex School Movement. I recently drew a map on some Hex "Gaming Paper" and was roundly ridiculed. If it doesn't interfere with somebody's 5th level Rogues' flanking ability then Hex on my brother!!!

Trey said...

I'm relatively new to the PnP gaming realm, (only been playing for the past 5-10 years, and only DnD) could you explain hex maps themselves? You say all we need to do is count hexes, but, couldn't that apply to counting squares as well?

I'm confused.

Brian said...

The difference is that you can count hexes in any direction and the distance will be the same. I.E. the distance from the center of a hex to the center of an adjacent hex is the same distance to the center of every other adjacent hex. If each hex represents 1 mile from side to side, then moving 15 hexes (even if it's not a straight line) means you have traveled 15 miles.

With squares, this is not the case. Squares are a different length from side-to-side than they are from corner-to-corner. If you ever played 3rd edition, they attempted to account for this with the first square moved diagonally costing 5', the second costing 10', the third costing 5', the fourth costing 10', etc...It was more accurate, but just plain obnoxious to keep track of.

Hexes are nice for overland travel because you can just say "alright, we can get there by moving through X number of hexes, so it's about X miles/kilometers/whatever away."

Trey said...

Ah, makes sense, thanks!

Windjammer said...

"You taken your first step into a larger world ;) Now you need to get them to number your hexes."

Funny that you mention that Rob. If you read Mike's reactions to getting the Outdoor Survival map (, one of his beefs was precisely this:

"The hexes aren't numbered. Either I'll to number them myself (and mark up my precious map!) or make a smaller, reference copy of the map in my notes. This is easily the biggest drawback, IMO. I think I'll sketch a copy in my notebook, but it would've been nice to use hex reference numbers instead."

So let's say, Hammerfast is ULTRA old school - so old school in fact, that it doesn't even name the hexes!

John said...

Actually, Dragon magazine's 4-panel Greyhawk map had numbered hexes IIRC. (As did the original, of course.)

drow said...

but in 4e, diagonal movement doesn't count extra, so squares should be fine. :)

Kirk said...

4e measurement makes the baby Pythagoras cry.

Paul said...

Hey Mike (and others). I'm curious how you feel about using hex maps in 4e combat? I think the system would support it very well with only minimal changes. If anyone's tried this, I'd love to hear about how it went.

Yoo-Hoo Tom said...

Got my copy of Hammerfast this morning. Thank you Mike, it is a big bag of cool. I love the maps, the city and NPC fluff is superb. My favorite part is the Foundation Stone and the drinking games that you added. I also like the whole orc/dwarf ghost dynamic. Well done. I've already posted a review on my blog.

Colmarr said...

Distance measured on hexes isn't as accurate as Brian suggested. In fact, they're only completely accurate if you move perpendicular to one of the 6 sides of the original hex. Otherwise they have the same problem that squares have; they're an approximation.

They're a closer approximation than squares, but they're still an approximation :)

Having said that, I have no aversion to outdoor hex maps (or indoor for that matter) so I'm glad to see the old-schoolers getting some love.

1d30 said...

The first thing you'll notice when you use a hex grid for combat movement is that people don't always move in straight lines anymore. Often they have to do a little sidestep shuffle as they go. It's not a big deal, but it doesn't happen on a square grid.

Second, one person can be surrounded by only 6 people instead of 8. This hampers monsters more often than PCs because the PCs are far more often surrounded.

Third, drawing straight lines as for buildings is a little more difficult, but you should get the hang of it quickly.

Fourth, drawing a radius is so much easier. Although I've gotten used to drawing circles using a square grid, so your benefit may be more or less.

brothershinrin said...

@Lord Zack

Here ia a hex map of the Nentir Vale:

Jeremy Whalen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JW said...

Thanks for bringing Hexes back onto the popular radar Mike. I have been working on a blog project for a few weeks now that is completely hex centric. I plan to grow it into a really useful resource for just the type of audience your post has excited!

DevDigs said...

Lucumon runs to it, only to be swallowed whole

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