Fie on Hexes, Fie!

This month, the blog carnival is all about travel and I think “Are We There Yet?” sums up the question we all have after a long time in the cart. In this post however, I want to talk a little bit about my love/hate relationship with hexes.

One of the most timeless of science fiction RPGs, Traveller seems like it’s always been around — almost with cult status. I have to admit to only playing once or twice while I was in Phoenix. And those sessions were spent trying to figure out the group dynamics more than the game, so I honestly never got far enough to form an opinion!

But, as I’ve worked on Aliens & Asteroids, I have come to admire the depth of the Traveller system — and one of the things that I think cuts both ways is their hex-based star maps. Does it work? Hell yes. Is it seemingly incomprehensible to the outside world? A little bit.


Don’t get me wrong – I’m not bashing Traveller. I’m just saying that for your average role-player simply trying to get to Alpha Centauri to check the plans for the hyperspatial express route, it’s a bit like being dropped in the middle of a country where you don’t speak the language, have no money, and no clue how to get to where you’re going.

The Vogons, announcing the destruction of Earth… ‘There’s no point acting all surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display in your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for fifty of your Earth years, so you’ve had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and it’s far too late to start making a fuss about it now…’

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy — Douglas Adams

For an example, check out the Traveller Imperial Encyclopedia entry on the Sol subsector. About the only word I grokked was “Terra”! But it is very pretty!

I have picked up a number of Traveller books (all PDFs), you can seriously figure out a TON of information on a system — starport, travel zone, size, atmosphere, population, and much, much more. It truly seems to have an infinite number of variations that you can play with. And that, as someone who loves random tables, both thrills and scares me.

Then if you want to codify your sectors and systems, I found this cool video from “Shonner” on YouTube on how to use the free version of Hexographer to create an 8×10 sector. I tried it out and it worked really well.

Aliens & Asteroids

But I’m not going to lie, I think the Traveller method goes too far for what I was looking for: a simple hex map that starts to codify a bit of the universe in terms of distance from home.

Last post, I brought up the idea of using short “jumps” of a light year or so to provide a faster way than the good old in-system flight. (See Space, It’s Big…) And I started trying to figure out a 1-hex-per-light-year map… Ugh.

My problem with hex maps is two-fold…

  • It’s too prescriptive, for one. By actually delineating all those hexes as physical space, you’re essentially drawing lines in concrete. I prefer sand — it’s easier to wipe away the lines and start over!
  • And second, damn these maps get hairy quickly. A&A is set in our universe, replete with existing star systems, planets, and vast distances between. Mapping a handful of systems (from 4-45 LY distant) leaves a LOT of blank space and a map that’s unwieldy at best and unusable at worst.

So… no hex maps for me in this incarnation. I really tried. It got ugly fast. Cut. Paste, Undo. Undo. Undo…

We’ll stick to this vague and largely “hand waving” kinda map for now. 🙂

Now… when we get to a world of Sword & Sorcery — I look forward to exploring hexes again. Until then, I recommend if you need that level of detail you crack open a Traveller book and start rolling those dice!!


Thanks for reading! If you are curious about other blog carnivals from the past (or future), I encourage you to check out the archive at of Dice and Dragons . There you’ll find all sorts of inspiration, big and small!

Here’s the blog post that kicked this carnival off — Are we there yet? If you want to join in the fun, I encourage you to write about your own tips and tricks for travel and provide a link in the comments on that post. I’ll gather them all up at the end and share everyone’s wisdom with the world!

Thanks folks! Hope you are staying safe, healthy, and getting some gaming in!

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