Hex Numbering

Let’s say, hypothetically speaking, that I was working on a project that involved a large wilderness hex map. And that this map exceeded 99 columns and/or rows, meaning up to three digits for each.

What sort of hex numbering scheme do you prefer?

The typical 1079 is out as there are too many rows and/or columns for two digits each unless separate maps (east and west halves, for instance) each had their own set o four-digit (two plus two) hex ID numbers. So there would be a hex 1079 on the east map and also a hex 1079 on the west map. Which I don’t like, but call that option ‘A.’

A few ideas I’ve been looking at:
Option A — 2 separate 4-digit numbers with duplication (1079, 1079, and 4593)
Option B — 3-digit rows and columns (010079, 010169, and 045183)
Option C — 3-digit rows and columns with a dash (010-079, 010-169, and 045-183)
Option D — 3-digit rows and columns with another separator (010’079, 010’169, and 045’183)

Any other ideas?

I’m not a fan of the “count your own rows and columns” systems like on the old Greyhawk maps and I do want a hex map, not a hexless map with a hex overlay.

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20 Responses to Hex Numbering

  1. ckutalik says:

    I am most definitely not a fan of the count your own either. I was just looking at the D1 map and getting very aggravated as I counted up the little tiny hexes.

    If it was my I would go with Option A, maybe with a letter E or W designator such as 1079E.

    • Kilgore says:

      Hmm. I might have another use for a letter at the end of the hex ID, but, if not, that might not be a bad option. It had not occurred to me. Thanks.

  2. Dustin says:

    Maybe try using letters instead of numbers. The range of symbols from AAAA…ZZZZ would work for up to a 676×676 hex grid.

    • Kilgore says:

      I have been considering letters, but I don’t know that hex AFSE is any better than hex 4875046. And it might be less intuitive, as in “is ABAA east of BAAA or is it the other way around?”

  3. Big McStrongmuscle says:

    If you don’t have more than 256 columns, and are comfortable enough with reading it, you could use hexadecimal notation. Hex lets you fit many more values into the same number of digits, and seems oddly apropos for a hexmap.

    If you aren’t familiar with the system, it’s used often by electronics and computer types because it condenses data and uses neat powers of 2. you represent the numbers 10-15 with the letters A-F, and have each digit count for 16 of the digit to the right.

    So counting looks like this:

    Dec: 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 ...
    Hex: 00 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 0A 0B 0C 0D 0E 0F 10 11 12 13 14 ...

    Although I fully admit, I am mainly suggesting it because the thought of using hex on a hexmap amuses me.

    • Kilgore says:

      Funny. I had been trying to think of a good way to use hex or pseudo-hex (Traveller) but I think most of them were less user-friendly than long strings of regular numbers.

      • Big McStrongmuscle says:

        How large is the map? If its more than 256 in any one dimension, there’s not really a simpler way to make it work, but up to that point, 1B-9F is totally fine. I dunno about how easy it is to read though: i’m acclimated to the madness from college.

  4. Al says:

    Option C sounds like it would work well, going back and forth from map to guide.

  5. Erin says:

    3 digits. Go Cartesian and separate with a comma.

    • Kilgore says:

      3 digits each for row and column? 123,456?

      That’s sort of what it’s looking like at this point. Kind of messy, but I want the IDs in each hex. An advantage of using the comma is that, with 3 digits for the second coordinate, it LOOKS like a normal number. I think this is an advantage.

      Or am I misunderstanding what you’re getting at?

      • Erin says:

        Nope – you got it.

        Personally, I’d stay away from letters because they’re not intuitive in a coordinate system. I advocate a comma only because it becomes easier to separate the X and Y coordinates at a glance.

        • Kilgore says:

          “Numbers” with one letter are fine, I think. But it’s when you start using 2 letters that it gets unintuitive real fast. 10AF39. What the hell is that “AF” in the middle? And is AF higher or lower than BD?

          At least that’s how I see it.

      • Kilgore says:

        Actually, it just occurred to me that I could always use 3 digits in the second coordinate (with leading zeroes as needed) but not in the first coordinate to maintain the look of a real normal number. Which would cut down clutter where it wasn’t necessary.


        I might be putting too much emphasis on the appearance, but I do think that looking like a “real” number is a significant advantage.

        • Erin says:

          My OCD demands the use of leading zeros. 😉

          I also think it looks better/more consistent if the numbers are inside the hexes (i.e., they all take up the same space).

  6. 1d30 says:

    I have this issue. 200 x 200 hexes. I do 1-200 on one side, then across the top it’s AA, AB, AC, AD, AE, etc. AY, AZ, BA, BB, BC, BD, etc. BY, BZ, CA, CB …

    You end up with something like 25 x 25 = 625 for the rows. It’s okay to number the side hexes with three digits because there’s more space over there (long numbers don’t interfere with each other).

    More hexes than 625? Make 625 x 625 one sheet, and do eight sheets arranged around it. 1875 x 1875 better be enough for you. If not, go up one hex depth instead (from 5-mile hexes to 35-mile ones for example) and detail individual big hexes on separate sheets of hex paper. This gives you region hexes for the world that drill down to local hexes for detail.

    Finally, if you have a starting point for the whole world, like a City-State or so, have that be 0,0. Count upward to the north and east, downward to the west and south. Sure you have a minus sign involved, but you don’t have to put the minus sign on the map itself! You can tell clearly whether a given hex is left or right of the center. In the notes for the hex of course you say whether it’s positive or negative. That gives you up to 199 x 199 with two digits, and easy to read. It also lets you give the PCs the coordinates of the hexes they find! If you use some other system, and start them out in hex 56,BB then they can get a pretty clear idea of how far your world extends. It also makes it easy to tack on a few hexes on either side.

    • Kilgore says:

      It sounds like your method has row numbers along the side of the map and column numbers across the top; when you want hex 56,BB you go down the side to row 56 and across the map to column BB.

      That’s exactly what I want to avoid. I want hex IDs printed in each hex.

      The idea to start the numbering in the center is a possibility, though.

      • 1d30 says:

        Yep. Looking back, I really like your subhex numbering. I prefer more subhexes per hex, but this might just change my mind.

        You could always say the subhexes are numbered A-G with A at the north center hex running clockwise.

  7. Jeff O says:

    Thanks for the hex and sub-hex designation posts. Very helpful to us that haven’t mapped in a while 🙂

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