Hex Templates

Revisiting the RPG cartography standard

Once again donning my OCD hat, I'm compelled to implement a standard for mapping areas of my campaign. The goal is to use a consistent scale for areas of a certain size, as well as a static grid system that helps me drill down to sub-maps and note the locations of prominent campaign features. Given my earlier posts this month, it should be no surprise that I find my solution in the hex map.

Hex Mapping Standards

Back in the Dim Ages, Judges Guild created an excellent hex mapping standard based on the 5-mile wilderness hex. Each hex was divided into 1-mile sub-hexes, and each of those hexes could be divided into 0.2-mile sub-hexes. You could create smaller sub-hexes by dividing the current width by five. This approach made mapping easier because each hex was composed of the same number of sub-hexes; this meant you could use the same hex template for any area you needed to map—all you had to do was change the scale of each hex.

Another great format was created by Columbia Games, who placed a Cartesian grid system over a hex map, which was great for atlas-size maps that illustrated land shape, terrain type, and only the most prominent features. Locations were noted by grid coordinates, and sub maps would show the "atlas" hexes for reference.

So why not combine the two for a composite mapping standard?

Atlas Template

Atlas Template (landscape)
Atlas Template (landscape)

The Atlas template is composed of blocks that measure 5 hexes square, and is used to represent continents, sub-continents, island chains, or any other large-scale area. If you're mapping a truly large area, you can "stitch" multiple Atlas templates together.

For convenience, we've provided both landscape and portrait orientations of the Atlas template, with a block in each for the map title and key.

Regional Template

Regional Template
Regional Template

The Regional template represents a single block on the Atlas template. The large hexes are Atlas-scaled at 25 miles each, while the smaller, regional hexes are 5 miles across.

Most campaign maps would be at this scale, which provides enough space to view a large area, but with enough detail to note features. There's a blank area at the bottom for the map title and key.

Local Template

Regional Template
Local Template

The Local template represents a single hex of the Atlas template, but broken into 5-mile (regional) and 1-mile (local) sub-hexes. This approach lets you detail a 25-mile Atlas hex without doing any conversion math in your head.

This template is good for detailing active areas of the campaign--the PCs' home base and surroundings, a sandbox of adventure sites and points of interest, or even an overview map of a sprawling cave complex. As always, there's a blank area at the bottom for the map title and key.

Sub-hex Template

Sub-hex Template
Sub-hex Template

The Sub-hex template represents a single hex, divided into smaller sub-hexes. This representation is useful at any scale, but especially for detailed areas of a local map (for example, you could divide a 1-mile hex into 0.2 mile sub-hexes). The key at the map's right edge contains blank areas for noting the scale you choose.

Hex Template Scales

For reference, use the table below to determine template measurements:

Template Hex Scale[1] Hex Area[2] # Hexes Map Area[2]
Atlas 25 miles 541 sq. mi. 750 405,950 sq. mi.
Regional 5 miles 21.65 sq. mi. 750 16,238 sq. mi.
Local 1 mile 0.866 sq. mi. 625 541 sq. mi.
Sub-hex 0.2 miles 0.035 sq. mi. 100 3.5 sq. mi.
Sub-hex 0.04 miles 0.0014 sq. mi. 100 0.14 sq. mi.

  1. Hex height, or distance between parallel sides
  2. In square miles, rounded


The archive ZIP file below contains the hex templates outlined above, in a variety of formats: CC3 FCT file, Hexographer HXM file, and PDF. As noted on the templates, you are free to make unlimited copies for personal use.

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