The Isles of Mist – A free hexcrawl adventure

Thild Hex Map 2

Alright, here it is, the promised adventure for my Thild map.  Here’s the Introduction:

Deep within an icy fjord at the very edge of civilization sit the Isles of mist.  The islands are home to a few hearty fishermen and herders, as well as a population of giants in decline.  Yet the myriad ruined cities, strange monuments and burial grounds scattered about the land bear witness to a more illustrious past.  Little is known about the former inhabitants of the isles.  Legend has it they were powerful mage lords that tempted the fates and were cursed to an eternal death without rest.  It is also rumored in dark taverns that the islands are a haven to pirates.

This is a hexcrawl adventure I wrote for my own campaign setting.  However, the information contained within is generic enough to allow it to be used in most fantasy settings, especially given that the adventure takes place on a set of islands.

Also, I kept the mechanics for this system-neutral.  The benefit of doing this is that this adventure can be run with virtually any rules set.  The downside is that slightly more prep is needed from the referee when it comes to things like filling out monster stats and adjudicating the nature and quantity of treasure.  This last bit is important since magic is rare in my setting and the economy is based upon a silver standard.

If you’ve never run a hexcrawl adventure I’ve included a walk-through on the basic structure of this sort of adventure and offered a set of “how-to” mechanics within the doc.  Elsewhere on the site I also have a resources page that links to a lot of helpful information and supplements for hex crawl adventures.  I’ve also tried to improve the Hex Key format to make running this adventure as smooth as possible at the table.

This adventure, and its maps, took quite a bit of time and effort so please, if you do decide to use it, leave a comment and let me know what you think.  I’m open to constructive criticism too if there are bits that you think could have been improved on.

The original player’s handout map can be found here.  The map above is for the referee. The adventure pdf can be downloaded below.

EDIT: I found a few editorial mistakes, including one rather glaring mistake with the rumors tables so I’ve uploaded a corrected version:

Thild Hex Map 2


UPDATE: several entries within this adventure were meant to be further detailed at a latter time.  I haven’t gotten to all of these yet but below are some links to additional content relating to the Isles of Mist adventure.

Players Guide – a little over a year ago I rebooted this campaign with our new gaming group.  At that point I added a player’s guide to the Isles that not only acts as a quick introduction to the area, but contains a bit more info about the Isles than I initially included in the Hexcrawl.

Den of Lycans – this is a short site based adventure that I did for the One-Page Dungeon Contest a few years back.  This functions as an expansion of entry 1204 (Cave Therell) in the Hexcrawl.

The Thedron Barrows – a mid-sized tomb-raiding dungeoncrawl adventure that fills out the entry for 1104 of the Hexcrawl.

It Came From the Sewers – a short site based adventure set in the city of Thild (entry 0907).  This was not mentioned in the Hexcrawl, but I used this adventure to introduce my new gaming group to D&D.

Preview of Hightop Dungeon – this is megadungeon for entries 1002 and 1003 that is still in the early stages of development.  Thus far I’ve completed work on the town of Hightop, which sits right atop the dungeon, as well as the dungeon’s first and second level.

I will continue to update this list as more entries are added.

16 thoughts on “The Isles of Mist – A free hexcrawl adventure

  1. I like it! One thing I’ve never quite understood about how hexcrawls run and that no one has explained in their “how to do a hexcrawl” posts (at least as far as I’ve seen) is to what degree do the players interact with the hex aspect of the hexcrawl. By that I mean, do the player’s go “Well, we just dealt with the ancient tomb in hex 0506, so let’s go east to hex 0507” or “Well, we just dealt with that ancient tomb, so let’s head towards those mountains to the east” and leave the DM to figure out the hexes?

    Also, I’ve noticed a handful to typos in the pdf — would you be interested in a list?

    1. Actually Justin Alexander talks about this in his hexcrawl series. He opts to have the hex apparatus to be invisible to his players as he feels it poses a barrier to immersion. He just asks the players what they want to do and where they want to go (usually this involves them picking a starting direction and striking out into into the unknown). He does all the hex based mechanics behind the screen.

      I’ve seen others who are much more explicit about the hex mechanics. They give their players a hexmap and let them decide where to go. I personally prefer Justin’s method, which is why I made two separate maps for this adventure, the player map not including a hexgrid.

      Oh, and yes, I would definitely like to have the list of typos if possible. I found some myself and uploaded an amended version but I’m sure there are plenty more that missed my edditting. If you like, you can send them to me at Thanks much.

      1. Interesting, I was under the impression that West Marches had no hex map at all, just a map with a lot of landmarks.

      2. Yes, that’s correct as far as I understand. But many who, like myself, have joined the hex-crawl revolution use it as a source of inspiration for the sort of campaign setting we hope to evoke.

  2. I followed a link here and I must say this blog is AMAZING! I am following and will be checking in pretty regularly.

  3. Following based on just a glimpse of your hex crawl. interesting stuff, thanks.

    Something I’ve been meaning to consider in a hexcrawl is terrain height and visibility in pc selection of destination and ability to navigate. the equation for visible horizon distance depends upon height of observer/target (over the rest of the land) and the radius of the planet (assuming a spherical one). i wanted to reward the pcs for finding tall trees, climbing mountains and such.

    1. Hi Red, my pleasure. Wow, that sounds like a useful formula to have on hand. I’ve been considering spot distances and the horizon as well, though I hadn’t come up with any handy formulas for calculating these. I’d be curious to see what you come up with.

  4. This is really excellent. I’m just getting into hex-crawls as a GM, and have a brand new group of first time roleplayers that I think will really dig the exploration. It’s much more contained and digestible than some of the big published hex-crawl settings too. I’m going to run this using Dungeon World.

    1. Hey thanks GCPDblue! I hope the Isles of Mist serve you and your party well. One of my aims in this adventure was to present the information in an accessible manner, glad to here you find it to be so. Cheers!

  5. Isle of Mist PDF:

    – Page 9 – Bay of Thild entry should be listed as Hex 0807, not Hex 0607.
    – Page 17 – Ruins of Gravenbor entry should be listed as Hex 1902, not Hex 1804.
    – Page 18 – The Three Magarchs entry should be listed as Hex 2103, not Hex 2102.

    The following hexes could greatly benefit from having special entries:
    – Hexes 0709 and 1803 (the tall big stones in water)
    – Hexes 1509 and 1608 (seems like a huge sandy beach?)
    – Hex 2001 (otherwise, the northern shore of this island has absolutely nothing interesting on it)

    In fact, the shores represent a very natural path to take, and, usually, also are a biome boundary, where there would thus naturally exist a higher frequency of unique encounters(biome boundaries create resources and pathing synergies). So, if an Hex gets so much as a sliver of land it it, it probably could gain from having an entry too, making the overall adventure feel a bit more like “full islands”, with lots of “nearly surrounded by the sea” entries, instead of seemingly mostly exploring “inland”.

    Boat travel also seems a little bit “boring”, because none of the water Hexes get an entry ! I understand that water travel is to be “fast” and with “relatively less encounters overall”, but at least a FEW of the water Hexes could have stuff in them. Dangerous reefs, shipwreck at bottom of ocean, berserker whales breeding ground, giant kraken lair (or its bigger hunting territory), sucking whirlpool, sea elves, you name it. And different boating rules for crossing “shore” hexes (any water with at least a bit of land in the hex, continental shelf hexes (any hex adjacent to a shore hex) and “high seas” hexes (all other hexes).

    The hex map also is a bit hard to read once printed because of the lower contrast that was chosen for the Hex numbers. Still, a very beautiful map, you have much talent.

    Hexcrawls benefit from having stuff a bit everywehere, especially stuff that is connected, and no “empty” hexes. Heck, some hexes with multiple entries in them could even exist too. By connected I mean that the hexcrawl is not a mere jumble of tons of unconnected adventure sites and encounters, but lots of the stuff is linked one way or another, telling a bigger story.

    Also, just my 2 cents here: I find the megadungeon approach to be somewhat incompatible with the Hexcrawl format. Once the party enters into a huge dungeon, then it’s basically game over for the overland hexcrawl exploration part of the campaign (wilderness travel, weather, resources, etc.) At least not much until the PCs finally “clear” the megadungeon itself. So I think it’s better to have 20 potentially vastly different dungeons with 10 rooms each, spread out all over the map, some of them potentially linked together into a bigger quest, than having a single huge 200 rooms dungeon anywhere where the only incentive to leave the dungeon is to momentarily go back in town to heal resupply and level up. If a hexcrawl campaign is defined to last a long time, then it is better to add another hexcrawl map alongside it, than to add such monstrous megadungeons.

    In any case, thanks for listening. In my book, this Hexcrawl is definitely one of the best that can be found for free on the web.

    I’m starting a new campaign soon and I might just use this Hexcrawl as a springboard. With lots of changes of course. Like, making the island much bigger, with 1 hex = 1 full day of land travel (along good terrain and with a proper guide, otherwise much slower), also adding a few weather / environment / supplies rules (nothing too fancy or micromanagerial), and also shrinking all towns to villages status, and the city to town status. i.e. making it feel a little bit more like “small points of lights in a big wilderness”. Moving from village to village would be much easier by boat than by inland travel. In fact the village along the river going to the central tower, would be right at the spot where the river becomes a stream that is too small for normal boats.

    Very original! Thanks a lot!

    1. Hi Patrick, thanks so much for taking the time to offer such detailed feedback, as well as pointing out mistakes in editing. I find myself agreeing on all the points you brought up.

      You are absolutely right about those empty coastal hexes, I really should have keyed those as well. And I had initially thought to key some of the hexes within the seal as well as to come up with rules for nautical travel and related hazards, but became a bit intimidated by the scope of the project. Hence, in the interest of time, and getting this into a playable state I omitted this task. However I completely agree that this is a glaring omission, one which I intend not to make in any future coastal hex-crawls.

      Also, in general your point about the incompatibility of the hex-ctrawls and dungeoncrawl format is well taken. If one desires to build a campaign around such a structure then really one ought to pick one or the other. For my purposes, I intended this to be a mini-setting that would have enough points of interest to occupy PCs till about mid level. Given the small size of the isles I figured I would need to supplement the hexcrawl with a few larger scale dungeons, lest the party run out of things to see and do too early. But having run a campaign in this setting for a few years our party is now approaching mid-level and they have explored less than a third of the hexes on the isles. So I may have overshot the mark a bit (truth be told though they spent the first 5 or so levels in the city of Thild in an unanticipated urban based adventure). In future hexcrawls though I think I’ll take your advice and distribute the dungeon levels a bit more evenly throughout the map.

      I’m glad that despite some of its oversights you still found this adventure to be interesting and useful. Thanks again for your feedback.

      Cheers, Tad

  6. Hello!

    I guess I’m late to the party but I just came across your excelent work…

    I’m actually considering running a campaign on the Isles of Mist and thus gave your file a thorougher read…

    I noticed a few mistakes… No critic implied here, you did a great job and none of those is anything I can’t easily fix myself! But in case you want to know in order to edit your document, here they are…

    * 0607 Bay of Thild sould be 0807 and the terrain icon sould maybe (I’m not sure) be water…

    * 0908: the “short italicized 1 sentence description” doesn’t match the rest of the entry

    * 1207: is a forest hex according to both the entry text and icon, but on the map it looks like a plain hex

    * 1306: the “short italicized 1 sentence description” doesn’t match the rest of the entry

    * 1308: the “short italicized 1 sentence description” doesn’t match the rest of the entry

    * 1404: the “short italicized 1 sentence description” doesn’t match the rest of the entry

    * 1505: the “short italicized 1 sentence description” doesn’t match the rest of the entry

    * 1507: the whole entry seems to be missing

    * 1804 Ruins of Gravenbor sould be 1902

    And a few questions…

    * I’m also wondering a bit about the roads and trails on the island… Your navigation rules mention them, and some hexes refer to them (e.g. 0805 and 0906, so I guess there is a road from Three Trees to Everill’s Beacon; or 1004), but the map doesn’t show any… How dense a road/trail network do you envision?

    * I notice the Players Guide “Classes on the Isles” deosn’t mention clerics… How do you envison religion on the Isles? Some sort of not-Christianity? Not-Viking-gods? Something else?

    But then again all of the above are mere details… I absolutely love what you’ve done!

    Thank you very much!

    1. Terribly sorry for the late reply, I’ve been head down at work on a project for the past week.

      First off, thanks so much for taking the time to point out some of the extant errors in this document. As time allows I’ll have to go back and make the needed corrections and upload a revised draft.

      About the roads and trails, you are correct that the document mentions roads not shown in the map. I decided to add these after the fact. You have a couple of choices here.

      First, you could go with ancient Romanesque roads that are heavily worn and eroded but still usable. In the lore of the isles I mention that the isles were once ruled by a mageocracy that was quite technologically advanced by ancient standards. It is likely that they would have built such roads between major towns and cities. This is what I’m using for the coastal roads.

      Second, you could skip this and use dirt roads that are likely wide enough to fit a single carriage at a time (this is a remote area on the edge of civilization). I don’t recall if I mention it in the document but I use such a road between Thild, Swiftriver and Thwil tower.

      About the absence of Clerics, that’s all down to the fact that I’m using a homebrew D&D “Lite” rules system that omits Clerics altogether. I basically just add their spell-list to that of the Mage (although I do have pact-magic in my game, though that is typically used by demon-worshiping cultists).

      I leave it up to DMs running this adventure to incorporate the pantheons of their own world, or that of whatever published world they happen to be using.

      Although I don’t make mention of it all of the settlements will more than likely have at least one church, and the larger will have more, so feel free to take creative liberties here.

      If you have any other questions or comments please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m currently still running a campaign in the Isles myself and it would be fun to discuss things with someone else thinking about doing the same. I can be reached at: tad (at) iconicmaps (dot) com.


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