Hexcrawl Mechanics

Art by Audre Schuttr

Currently Untitled Hexcrawl Project is coming together very nicely (CHUP for short. I pronounce it like a caricature of a frat boy saying cup). I thought about running it in a number of systems, but none were perfect for my needs. CHUP is designed to have minimal to no violence, which obviously rules out a ton of games right from the start. It also needs a shallow player facing learning curve. In the end, I decided to throw this together.

It’s inspired by the game Dicey Dungeons, which to be honest I think is a great mechanical core with a pretty weak structure around it. But that’s a discussion for another time. It’s a d6 dice pool system of a sort, but instead of something like “All 5’s and 6’s are successes”, each individual task requires a different arrangement of dice. For example:

Sneak Past the Guards

Success: Pass by unnoticed.
Failure: Alert the guards.

You need to put in two dice, each which must be less than or equal to 2. There is a consequence for success and for failure. Obviously in this case writing them out is superfluous, but that’s just how a first example is sometimes.

But how is this meaningfully different from a normal dice pool system? What advantage do we get for clearly a lot more work? Also you haven’t even told us how many dice you roll!

First, we can tie the die mechanic directly back to health, exhaustion, and resting mechanics. When you attempt a task, you’ll roll dice. But each character will also get a pool of stored dice, rolled at the start of the day, that they can use as a buffer for bad rolls. When they rest, they replenish this pool.

The math of the game is designed to make you spend those stored dice. You roll 3d6 for each task. For that task above, you only have a 26% chance of success. But you have a 70% chance to get at least one of the dice you need, and you can spend one of your stored dice to get by. Running out of dice in your storage is represented in fiction by the exhaustion of the day. There is no additional penalty, the loss of the safety net alone will push players to rest at regular intervals.

This also doubles as health. When you take a wound, you “lock” one of your storage slots until you’re healed. If you take a wound while all your slots are locked, you die.

The first thing we can do is to give different tasks different dice they need. We’ll separate them into categories, somewhat analogous to stats.

  • Subtle: small dice
  • Strong: big dice
  • Fast: large sums of dice
  • Clever: pairs or triples
  • Magic: runs

This allows us to toss out numerical stats entirely. A thief character is both Subtle and Clever, so they might have the ability “When you rest, store an extra ⚀⚀⚀”. This is a triple of low numbers, allowing you to easily pass both types of task, while being useless on Strength tasks.

The main benefit we get is that almost everything can tie back to this central mechanic. You’d never need to touch a pencil to your character sheet, everything is done through these dice.

Second, different types of tasks requiring different rolls gives a different feel. A good roll for strength is a terrible roll for stealth, and I think this will improve immersion, despite the “boardgameyness” of the mechanic. It also lets you plan ahead for a day. If you’ve got lots of 6s stored in the morning, you’ll feel pretty confident about leveraging your muscle that day.

Improvisation

This system is very good at items, skills, and premade tasks. It does somewhat suffer with improvisation, since it’s more difficult to think of a combination of dice than a raw DC number on the fly. For this, I’ve made The Chart. It’s a little clunky, but I think it’s worth it for the larger mechanic.

TypeNormalHardVery Hard
Subtle1x ⚁ or less1x ⚀ or less2x ⚀ or less
Strong1x ⚄ or more1x ⚅ or more2x ⚅ or more
FastSum of 10Sum of 13Sum of 16
Clever2 x EvensPair3 of a Kind
MagicAll Magic is HardRun of 2Run of 3

I don’t need to get too deep into the math, but the base probabilities of Fast and Clever are a little worse, but you’re more likely to have the additional piece in your storage.

Group Checks

There are many types of challenge that multiple people can participate in. For these, each participant rolls, and they can all contribute to to the needed dice. If it makes sense, just multiply the requirement. For example, if a group of four people is trying to sneak past a guard.

⚀⚀⚀⚀

Sneak Past the Guards

Success: All four of you pass by unnoticed.
Failure: The guards are alerted and see all of you.

If one of you rolls two 1s, they can fill in for another player who rolled worse, covering their mistakes. You can put some riffs on the idea for the success and failure clauses. For that same group fleeing the guards.

13 x 4

Sum

Flee the Scene

Success: All four of you pass by unnoticed.
Failure: For each unfilled sum, one of you is caught by the guards.

If it doesn’t make sense to do a straight multiplication, you can try something else. If a stone would take about five normal people to lift, this can be the task:

⚄⚄⚄⚄⚄

Minimum

Lift the Stone

Success: The stone is lifted and the door is uncovered
Failure: Each participant loses one stored die from exertion, but they may try again.

You can also include partial success. If they’re preforming a complex ritual:

Run of 5

Run of 5

The Flame Ritual

Success: The sacred flame is contained safely in the vessel. You may take it with you
One Run Complete: A participant at random takes a wound. The fire is not contained, but you may try again.
Failure: The flame is extinguished in a burst of power. Everyone in the room takes two wounds.

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