Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Wilderness Travel Mini-Games II

Some more thoughts on spicing up travel through the abstract wilderness.  Keep in mind I intend these in addition to encounters and in addition to terrain-based encounters.  I'm just trying to shift the default from nothing happens to- there is some slow-burning tension.

One thing I've done in the past is add npcs to converse with on a ship.  But that takes some prep and players don't seem to want to interact with anything that isn't explicitly a boon or a hook.

After my last post I was worrying that all terrain might be seen as an element wearing you down: thirst in the desert, cold in the tundra, etc.  So I pushed my brain trying to think of a different approach for a mini-game.  Here's an idea for steep and rocky terrain:
Once a day (or hex, whatever works best for your scale) the treacherous mountain terrain will consume a random piece of equipment.  Ropes and spikes used to cross ravines will need be left behind.  Poles will be lost into deep drifts.  grapnels irretrievably wedged on ascending rock faces.  If the party has a dwarf, ranger or local in it they can absorb one of these losses per journey.  Characters with wisdom or intelligence bonuses can substitute one item for another once per journey-- think of it as cleverly rigging something up: the torches melt through the ice wall they can't scale, a pole is used to clamber up a steep spot.

As long as the party has one of the item type that the roll says is consumed, then things are okay.  If not, movement decreases (halved?) and things start getting harder (food and water consumption double?).

Well, it's similar to the swamp travel in that it's still wearing away at the party which I guess is what all resource management amounts too.  But I was hoping with this, the party could be shown the chart before travelling, see what is consumed more commonly, and try to prepare for the trip accordingly, to give the feel of a big expedition.  It could even make finding the remains of a previous expedition, with spikes and rope, treasure-like.


  1. I like this. For the last few months I've been focusing a lot of my efforts on figuring out how to make travel better for my players. This seems like a superb tool to accomplish that.

  2. Yes, this is neat, it's a truly new take on random encounter tables and supplement the idea that the journey is part of the adventure very well. Having a pile of these and a pile of encounter tables would make any area more interesting and certainly help reinforce resource based play.
    Merging these mini games with encounters somehow would be interesting.

  3. I see where you are going with this now, with trying to make more exotic terrain types different, and therefore more exciting, so instead of a generic "equipment damage" counter like I was assuming in the previous post, you have specific requirements for each sort of terrain type. An artic version of this would then have firewood, double food usage, animal fodder etc.

    While that might be good for prepared trips (To the peaks of Stardock!), how would it work out for more random hexcrawling trips? Would players have to load up on all sorts of gear, or would they just not be able to travel very far in terrain they are not prepared for? Each is realistic, but might cut down on exploration.

  4. I'm too busy at work and my brain is too fried to write up a worthwhile comment, so I'll just take the lazy route and link to a related post from last year about jungle travel:

    And another post that takes a look at how Gygax spiced up jungle travel in Isle of the Ape:

    I like Gary's simple "jungle disease" guidelines.

  5. If players didn't have the gear they should expect problems and either stay out or take their chances in certain terrain. I think it would be cool to have a little book with a selection of nasty little games and encounter tables to whip out when players say they are going to leave the road and take the shortcut through the jungle.

  6. Thanks, all. I'm excited to try this out in my campaign.

    @LS & Matt: Thanks, glad you liked the idea.

    @Lasgunpacker: You could change the items consumed and use this mini-game for all terrains, but I was seeing this not as a revision of the Swamp Travel but an additional mini-game. You can plan an expedition to get through the mountains, but for the swamp you just want the quickest route through.

    I think I have another idea for ocean travel I'll post in a bit. And thinking about desert.

    As for whether they'll explore or not, I think my world right now is too abstract for players to even care about that. But I'm working on it, the next post especially.

    @fireinthejungle: Thanks for those links. Good to see I'm not alone in trying to pack more resource management into wilderness travel. That disease mentioned is pretty brutal, but I agree that disease should be a part of swamp/jungle travel. I'm thinking frostbite/snowblindness might be something similar for snowy wastes.

    I like incorporating food/drink but want to keep it super simple myself, say you need to eat once a day, drink once a day (regardless of exertion) but then make food/water of varying difficulty to find in different terrains.

    @Todd: "I think it would be cool to have a little book with a selection of nasty little games and encounter tables to whip out" Yes, my idea exactly, but I think it's also an opportunity for players to learn too, to become grizzled veterans- "It's no use now, he's in the mountains and we'd need days to prepare to follow" etc.