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.