Following on from JDJarvis's interesting recent post on exploration, I've been thinking today about what I'm going to call Generative Hexcrawling - or, to put it more bluntly, creating a rudimentary system to make simple exploration or searching useful and interesting. In particular, I'm trying here to make a system that can be used when the PCs engage in exploring a wide area looking for interesting stuff - particularly in an Indiana Jones, "Let's search for weird ancient ruins and their contents deep in the jungle/desert/mountains" type affairs.
So here goes. The basic concept is based around the Exploring Day. The Exploring Day is broken into two segments, morning and afternoon, although you could divide it into more segments as appropriate.
In two segments, a certain area can be explored. I'm going to suggest 1 hex on the basis of a 1 mile hex-map, although this will depend on the geography. (Exploring 1 square mile of jungle versus one square mile of desert is a vastly different proposition.)
Each segment spent exploring an area, the DM rolls 4d6. If the first d6 results in a 1, there is an encounter. If the second d6 results in a 1, a minor site is discovered. If the third d6 results in a 1, an inhabited ruin is discovered. If the fourth d6 results in a 1, the party gets lost and ends up exiting the hex at a randomly determined edge. These can obviously be tweaked or modified as desired.
An 'encounter' result is a typical random encounter (although you could introduce elements like "somebody breaks a leg", "somebody gets bitten by a poisonous spider", etc.). A 'site' result is a small location, possibly with treasure or a Gamma World style MYSTICAL ANCIENT ARTIFACTTM, possibly with a monster. An 'inhabited ruin' is a sizeable complex inhabited by a significant being or population (and probably mapped out using something like the fast and dirty AFF2 dungeon map generator).
You would then need random tables for encounters, sites, MYSTICAL ANCIENT ARTIFACTSTM, and inhabited ruins, with sub-tables for more details such as treasure types and magical features. I won't do this properly at this stage, but for illustration's sake, I'll give some d6 tables, assuming an area of jungle is being explored:
1. Carnivorous apes
2. Giant beetle
3. Giant centipede
4. NPC explorers
4. Abandoned village
3. Degenerate tribe
5. Hook horrors
Once two segments have been spent exploring a hex, it is 'exhausted' and does not reveal any more secrets, although encounters will still occur in it.
Rather than exploring, if the PCs have no rations, they can spend a segment foraging for a day's worth of food (thus a day spent foraging allows two days of further exploration). During this time, encounters can occur, though not discoveries of sites or ruins.
Each hex successfully exhausted gives a 100 XP bonus to each PC.