Note: I did not run Southern Reaches last Friday as I was still recovering from being ill Memorial weekend, so there will be no adventure log posted this week.
This posting discusses the difference between travelling through the Wilderness and actually exploring it.
The map I use when the players go exploring (a.k.a. the Table Map) is scaled to 1 hex equals 3 miles, which is about one hours travel to cross and requires the expenditure of a resolve token to enter. This does not mean that the adventurers see everything that is in the hex. Hex that is three miles across contains approximately 8 square miles of terrain, most of which is covered with some sort of vegetation. Add in the fact that terrain is rarely completely flat and you begin to understand why simply marching across a hex leaves much unseen.
Exploring a hex takes about twice as long as simply marching across it in easy terrains (plains and light forests). Terrain with dense vegetation or difficult terrain (heavy forest/jungle or foot hills) will take twice as long while very difficult terrain (mountains and swamps) will take three times as long to fully explore.
So what do you get for the time? Several things. If there is an adventure site in that hex, you’ll find it, which you won’t if you’re simply passing through. This includes lairs for significant monsters, ruins, cave entrances, and so forth. You’ll also have a good lay of the land for a detailed map, which is important if you are thinking about building anything in the area, like your own wizard’s tower, cloister, monastery, or keep.
In my Southern Reaches game, so far the PCs have only travelled through hexes, never explored. The closest they’ve come to exploring is finding a site on the Table Map once they are in the area (which I need to remember to charge them a resolve token or two for doing). I have one hidden area on my master map already and have some ideas for where I’m going to put others, but I need to sit down and do that. This has been one of my primary motivators for creating my larger scale map and then updating the Table Map. Adventure locations should appear at least every other hex on the larger scale map (1 hex = 15 miles). Once I have them on that map, I can place them in a specific hex on the master Table Map and detail them out.
There is also the possibility of hidden adventure areas – locations that you have to have clues to find while exploring a hex. These would be hidden caves, ruins in a particularly treacherous stretch of swamp, or a site with a magically hidden entrance needing a “key” to enter (either a physical item, a phrase spoken aloud, or just being in the right place at the right time). Players should never find these locations without searching for them specifically.
That’s it for now. Next posting will discuss issues with bandits and other humanoids.