Hackbut – Time and Movement

At long last, another proper blog post. I am picking up the series on my homebrew classic D&D rules. We were getting into the rules of play. Last time, we discussed experience and progress. For this post, we will look at time and movement.


I handle time reasonably straightforwardly. I define a Dungeon Exploration Turn as lasting ten minutes. A Combat Round, I set at ten seconds. The latter is perhaps a bit controversial. I follow Delta’s reasoning, which has served me fine.

What about time in the wilderness? When I wrote the version of Hackbut that we currently use, we played Castle Xyntillan, which does not include wilderness exploration. In our current campaign, Planet Karus, we do hex crawl. There, a turn takes up a full day, which, if needed, can be divided into two sets of three watches. (A full write-up of the wilderness rules we use in Planet Karus can be found here.)

A final unit of time that does get mentioned in Hackbut is downtime. Again, my use of this has shifted with the campaigns. In Castle Xyntillan, a downtime turn is always a week. In Planet Karus, we now use 1:1 timekeeping, so downtime lasts however much real-world time has passed.


Moving on to movement (sorry), the first thing to tackle is scale. The standard scale in the dungeon is 1 inch = 5 feet. Movement rates are expressed in inches. Dungeon maps use 10-foot squares. (In the wilderness, we use hex maps with a standard scale of 6 miles.)

In combat, you can move five times your movement rate in feet per round.

While exploring, careful movement, mapping, and checking for traps are assumed. You can move 100/3 times your movement rate (sic) during a turn.

Normal movement through cleared areas is at five times your exploration rate. Running is at ten times your regular movement rate.

Yes, these exploration rates are generous and prevent the need to count squares. But they are more realistic (again, see Delta’s many posts on the subject), which makes in-game outcomes more predictable. It also has the nice side-effect that in-game and out-of-game time elapsed while in the dungeon are more or less the same (if the referee keeps track of exploration turns, as they should.)

A side note on movement in the wilderness: as in OD&D, double your movement rate in miles per day. But we do something different, inspired by this lecture by Settembrini and taken from Outdoor Survival: we use movement points, which are spent when entering a hex. The movement rate is converted into one point for every three inches of movement you have. Each terrain type has a movement cost. This works very, very well. I highly recommend it. 

A final thing included in the rules is a box on zones and ranges for theater-of-the-mind-style play. This is a hold-over from our days playing The Black Hack. We don’t really ever use abstractions like this anymore, but we do play theater of the mind a lot. If everyone at the table is generous and reasonable, issues related to movement, time, and distance rarely, if ever, become a point of contention. In the grand scheme of things, they seldom matter that much. Only in high-stakes situations does it pay to be precise. Those are the moments when you won’t want to use abstractions anyway.

That’s it for time and movement. Next up, saving throws!