Thursday, December 9, 2021

In Praise of the 6 Mile Middle-earth Hex

For reasons I recently wondered what a hex crawl procedure for Middle-earth should look like. Of course, I was familiar with the classic post on hex size - but I've always favored a smaller hex. Hot Springs Islands does two-mile hexes and I've really enjoyed that scope/scale.

I decided to do some Math.  

Walking into Mordor

Frodo and Sam traveled 1,800 miles over 185 days. However, they spent:

  • 28 days in Lothlorien
  • 64 days in Rivendell
  • 1 day at Bombadil's house

That's almost half the time resting. So they only had 92 days of travel, for an average of 19.5 miles/day.

Some of this journey was by river but the vast majority of the travel was by foot. 

Travel Procedures

Travel procedures are kinda like combat procedures. They should be fun. I have opinions about the level of grit/realism/crunch/finnickyness/choice a travel procedure should have (in the same way I have preferences about the combat system). 

Let's assume a simple hex travel system where there are 4 watches to the day (morning, day, evening, night), with the PCs resting during the night watch. In this system, the fellowship would travel 3 watches out of the 4 most days. 

Crunching the Numbers

To make the math simple and account for the brief stint on the river, round 19.5 down to 18. 18 miles over the course of the day over 3 watches, lets you travel through 3 hexes if the hex is 6 miles across. 

Therefore, the "ideal" size of a hex map of Middle-earth would have 6 mile hexes.

This pace is brisk but not outside of the realm of possibility. A seasoned Appalachian Trail hiker can pull an 18+ miler on a good day (but they - like the Fellowship - do not do this consistently). 


As an aside, I'm working on some traveling rules for the Under Hill, By Water Yuletide Jam. If you want to get in on this goodness, check it out! Would love to have more ideas in the medley. 


  1. If you had me sleeping 6 hours per day (or much less, in fact, since in the night watch you also have to make camp etc.) for half a year, I'd be ready to jump into the lava whole. Or kill Sauron with my teeth, maybe.

    1. [Looks nervously at his own sleep schedule] U...uh...oh.

  2. Eyeballing the map, I think that stint on the river is throwing off their average daily miles by a decent amount. In a straight line, Lorian to the Falls of Rauros is about as long as the distance from Bree to Rivendell. The river bends a lot, but they didn't take the straightest path from Bree to Elrond's house either, so call that a wash I guess. But the journey on foot takes them a little over two weeks, vs crossing nearly the same distance in almost half the time. It's a short interlude in the story but they eat up a lot of miles doing it.

    Adapting to an RPG though, I think I would set the baseline at 12 miles/day (two watches spent traveling) and then assume that the Fellowship is consistently picking a forced march option to pick up a third watch's travel and paying for it in fatigue penalties. Fortunately they've packed light (notably they have very little armor), brought along a decent amount of consumable healing items to reduce fatigue, and get two long rests with allied factions. Even so, by the end Frodo and Sam clearly have most of their inventory slots filled with fatigue and are getting little or no benefit from any of their rests.