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Exploring the Galaxy / Exploration System

World Exploration

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 37
Exploration-focused adventures and campaigns often take place on a single uninhabited or previously uncontacted world, or in a system of such worlds. Exploring a world whose inhabitants are willing to interact with outsiders and who have some degree of technological advancement can be as easy as getting the proper permissions to land your starship, buying a map, and booking a guided tour. In such places, you’ll often be able to use a large settlement as a base of operations. There, you might hire guides, purchase or rent terrestrial transportation, and stock up on the necessities of exploration before setting out, as you would in any major settlement of the Pact Worlds.
Even without these benefits, you are likely to have enough information from whatever led you to the world in the first place, or from your exploration from orbit, to have a general location from which to begin your exploration. A relatively small terrestrial world still contains uncountable lifetimes’ worth of adventure in its millions of square miles. You’re likely to focus on key areas of interest in your exploration, rather than make a comprehensive mapping of a world’s every rock and tree.
But what happens when you lack a known starting point, or the world doesn’t have large cities or advanced technology—or even any sapient creatures? Well, things may get trickier for both the player characters and the GM. The Sandbox Adventures chapter (starting on page 130) contains advice for creating and facilitating open-ended campaigns and adventures, while this section provides a “hexploration” system that GMs and player characters can use together to explore and map uncharted areas. Hexploration is detailed in the following sections, which assume the PCs have landed their starship in a relatively safe location and are traveling on foot in trackless terrain on an uncharted terrestrial world.
Finally, the various biome sections in this book (pages 48–95) detail not only the kinds of environments, both familiar and alien, that you might encounter, but also potential inhabitants and adventure hooks. Each section also presents player options, such as equipment, feats, and spells, that can be especially useful in exploring such areas. It’s then up to the players to collaborate, using these and other tools along with the explorers’ decisions to weave together a fun and exciting story of the exploration of an alien world.

Hexploration Map

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 38
Hexploration uses a map split into a hexagonal grid. Each hex on the map represents an area 12 miles across and features its own dominant biome, be it desert or forest, marsh, or mountain— see the Hexploration Table on page 39 for a full list of biomes. Terrestrial worlds with dynamic climates often have most, if not all, of these terrain types, while stranger worlds might feature only one or two dominant biomes across their entire surface. Just because each hex has a primary terrain type doesn’t mean that it’s the only terrain in that hex. A hex might feature a road or river snaking through it, smaller bodies of water, a thicket of alien vegetation, a massive city, or countless other variations.
You can quickly draw a map using just a few colors, some basic symbols, and letters or numbers for reference; the Exploration Log on page 158 includes a hex grid for this purpose. When creating a hex map—often when the PCs land their starship or set out from a settlement—it’s helpful to start in the middle of the grid, since they can generally explore in any direction.

Hexploration Activities

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 38
A group of PCs gains a number of hexploration activities per day based on the speed of the slowest member of the group, as shown on the table below. During the course of the day, the PCs can use their hexploration activities to either travel or perform recon.

SpeedActivities per Day
15 feet or less1/2
20–25 feet1
30–35 feet2
40-45 feet3
50 feet or more4


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 38
You move into or toward an adjacent hex. This requires a number of hexploration activities equal to the required activities (see the Hexploration Table on page 39) for both your origin hex and the hex into which you’re moving. For example, a party moving from a mountain into a forest would require 5 hexploration activities. If you don’t know the biome of the destination hex, you learn it after using the number of exploration activities required by your origin hex (2 in the previous example). If you don’t have enough hexploration activities in a day to move into an adjacent hex, you can use as many hexploration activities as you want to move toward that hex, and then add that progress to travel you perform on subsequent days.
Keep in mind that with hexploration, movement from one hex to another includes some degree of exploration of the hex entered rather than point-to-point travel, so the travel rate is often slower than typical overland speed.
Traveling in Vehicles: Remember that a vehicle must be designed for the terrain in which it’s traveling to use its overland movement speed; the GM makes this determination per vehicle and can modify the speed as needed. If the entire party is in appropriate vehicles with an overland speed of at least 20 mph, the group gets 6 activities per day instead of the usual 1–5.
Traveling in a Starship: While it is often possible to fly a starship slowly enough and at a low enough altitude to easily travel over difficult terrain while gathering basic information, there are myriad reasons why this may not be advisable or preferable. Foremost, many of a world’s most interesting features are hidden from view and are fundamentally inaccessible from the air. There may be other concerns, such as an atmospheric field that interferes with technology or a strict local government with large no-fly zones. In addition, Huge or larger starships flying too close to a planet’s surface risk crashing.

Perform Recon

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
You carefully explore and map a single hex, gaining as much information as you can. This requires a number of hexploration activities equal to the hex in which you’re performing recon, and you choose whether to be more careful or more thorough. If you choose to be more careful, the encounter DC (see Random Encounters below) increases by 2; if you choose to be more thorough, it decreases by 2.
Once you have successfully performed recon in a hex, you discover all the hex’s major features that do not require a check (at the GM’s discretion), and you learn the biome of each hex adjacent to that hex. In addition, if you chose to be more thorough, you also find the fastest way through the terrain; reduce the number of activities required to travel in or through that hex by 1 (to a minimum of 1). This reduction can apply only once per hex.

Downtime Activities

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
Characters not traveling or performing recon can spend the day engaged in a downtime activity instead. Several existing downtime activities can be especially relevant during exploration of unfamiliar terrain. More information about each of the following can be found in the Character Operations Manual: build shelter (page 150) gather supplies (page 152), inoculate (page 153), maintain readiness (page 153), and secure area (page 155).


Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
When exploring a world’s unmapped wilderness, the Survival skill (Core Rulebook 148–149) becomes crucial to, well, survival. From enduring severe weather and orienteering to predicting weather and living off the land, the tasks of this skill are particularly suited to the galaxy’s wilds. Precisely what you will face is dependent on the biome you are exploring, and there may be numerous environmental hazards (Core Rulebook 400– 405).

Random Encounters

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
Whenever PCs explore, there’s a chance for a random encounter; this chance is based on the relative population density of an area, with some types of terrain tending to be denser than others. Each time the PCs travel or recon, roll a d20. On a roll equal to or higher than the encounter DC listed in the Hexploration Table (see below), a random encounter occurs. The GM can adjust these numbers based on circumstance.
The GM can use the inhabitants and adventure hooks tables in the corresponding biome section (pages 48–95) to inspire a random encounter. Remember that encounters can be far more than combat with wandering monsters; there are plenty of opportunities for roleplaying and social encounters, especially those that tie into and expand on a world’s adventure hooks or various other attributes.


BiomeRequired ActivitiesEncounter DC
* Assumes a fly (airborne or space) or swim (aquatic) speed; GM might require certain equipment and/or might increase the required activities.

Switching out of Hexploration

Source Galaxy Exploration Manual pg. 39
When the PCs face a random encounter or discover an adventuring site while engaged in hexploration, these encounters typically do not cost the PCs a hexploration activity to tackle, assuming that they occur over several minutes rather than hours. However, if the PCs decide to explore a vast technological ruin, engage in lengthy diplomacy with locals, or get involved in a protracted chase with raiders, the GM might deduct a hexploration activity for the time spent.