Content of the article: "Travel (and how you can run it)"
I see a lot of posts here of people asking how to run travel and an almost equal number of people saying just to skip it. I think that's a missed opportunity! It's about the journey, not the destination and all that jazz. I've been playing ttrpgs for several years and recently decided to start DMing. As I am a newer DM I suppose you should take this post with a grain of salt.
Now, the game I run fortunately has a whole section dedicated to travel, and I think it can easily be ported to 5e or other games so I'll give the brief rundown. Travel will basically be a series of skill checks with the potential for random encounters. I try to give as much opportunity for the group to RP as I can while doing this.
So the first part of planning the journey can be divided into 2 parts. 1: Distance. How far is the destination and what supplies will the party need. This will determine how many skill checks to make. 2. Danger. How difficult is the terrain and are there hostiles on the way. This will determine the DC of the skill checks.
Next is the party and their roles. First they should think about what supplies they'll need. Food, water, equipment etc. Then they should assign their roles. 1: The navigator. This player will guide the party along the journey. If they're a good navigator they'll keep the party on track and manage their supplies so they get to the location on time, possibly reducing the number of checks. If they're bad they might lead them off course and cost them time and they may run out of supplies, increasing the number of checks they'll have to make. 2: The survivalist. This player will be in charge of finding shelter, setting up camps, and preparing meals. A good survivalist will find safe places to sleep and keep the party well fed, making the skill checks easier. A bad survivalist may fail to setup a proper camp and serve cold food, leading to harder skill checks. 3. The scout. This player will be responsible for steering the party away from potential danger. A good scout will avoid roaming monsters and war parties, decreasing the chance of an encounter. A bad scout may lead the group into enemy territory, increasing the chance of encounters.
Encounters! Now most games expect encounters to be combat, and in my games, more often than not they are. I try to keep my encounters interesting by playing with the environment a lot. For example my party is currently traveling down a river. This could lead to fighting all kinds of wildlife, bandits, traveling war parties. The encounter could take place on a boat, the river bank, a bridge. Maybe a player falls into the river and gets swept away. Try to keep the encounters interesting or at least different. And a good kind of different is not combat encounters. I like to throw in a lot of RP based encounters. A blind fortune teller, a lost adventurer, maybe an npc from a players backstory.
Lastly, at the end of the journey I have the party roll to see how they've held up. Are they tired? Hungry? Suffering from any wear and tear? Chances are thr answer is yes, which means they'll want to find a healer and/or an inn to rest and recover which is a great way to introduce your new location! The party will get a lay of the land and become familiar with some of the locals.
I hope this helps some of you guys. As I said I'm a newer DM so I look forward to any feedback or suggestions. And I hope you guys can share some travel stories from your games. Safe travels!
- Are these rules for travel and the consequences/rewards of PC actions decent?
- Is stealth a bad player strategy in 5E?
- Skill Checks are More than just Dice Rolls
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