Homebrew Alt-Journey System - Playtest Feedback

Stalker0

Legend
So after three sessions I've been able to smooth out my Alternate Journey System, and gotten to see it in play. So what is it and how is it working? Here are the notes below.

General Campaign Notes
The campaign I am running is HEAVILY exploration and survival focused. The basic idea, the players are family members of an elite adventurer family, a family focused on excellence. Due to a callamity, they were forced to become refugees along with a large portion of their city, and due to a portal mishap, find themselves in the middle of a foreign world. The world is filled with natural beauty, seemingly untamed by civilization. The players must explore the world and survive, while at the same time ensuring to the protection of their commoner fellows, which total 138 people currently. In addition, 8 of the fellows I made "followers" from the LU book, so they are advanced people that give the party some bonuses.

System Notes
My goal was to take the core journey rules and adjust them to accomodate a game that is mostly focused on exploration, and a game where you aren't necessarily moving around all the time, but taking the time to explore the areas you are in. Finally, I added in some key survival concepts to keep the game survival focused.
  • Haven have to be found and/or built in this world. I didn't want to make fatigue TOO penalizing in such a world, so I said if you have 2+ fatigue, you either need a haven or 1 week of rest to remove a fatigue.
  • The world is divided into hexes, 24 miles in diameter (~500 sq. miles or 320,000 acres). Each hex has a specific terrain type from LU, such as a Tier 2 Feywood. The distances are such that generally the group can move to one new hex each day, unless they push themselves.
  • By default, the players are assumed to hunt/gather their daily supplies. If they are doing that with the big group, I don't make a check, as I assume a few failures are off set by the larger group. This just helps keep things moving.
  • If the players decide to do a different journey activity, they consume 1 supply as normal. I kept food and water together in this game, but I do require players to have containers for their supply. Because of this, most party members only have ~2 supply they can hold at any given time (until they find or make more containers). Therefore, supply has become the "currency of activity". Players build up supply and then can use them to do various activities.
  • Scouting: I divided scouting into two different activities: External and Internal Scouting.
    • External Scouting works mostly like the book. The players choose a hex next to their location that is currently unknown. On a successful scout check, I reveal that hex and its terrain type. On a critical success, they get 1 free Internal Scout roll (see below).
    • Internal Scouting is exploring the current hex for various things. What I did is create a list 1-20 for each hex, and randomly filled it with various things. A lot of it came from the discoveries and boons section of the book, and it contains everything from hidden secrets, ancient tombs, magic circles, supply caches, special animal friends, shortcuts to various places, etc etc. When a player successfully gets an internal scout, they roll a d20. If the d20 hits something on the list, the players find that thing. Its possible of course that the number they roll has nothing, and I randomized it so higher isn't always better.
  • Other Journey Activities: I modified a number of the other journey activities to better fit the mold of this world:
    • Crafting: Making tools, buildings, whatever. I give each thing a required number of "craft points". A success on crafting gives them 2 craft points, +2 if they beat the DC by 5+. +2 on a crit success, -2 on a crit failure.
    • Chronical: 10 "craft points" (see crafting above). It now provides a +1 to group foraging checks (see Group Foraging below) permanently for that hex, and can be repeated to get up to +3.
    • Entertain: I added a morale system to the followers and mass commoners, and various things lower their morale over time. Entertain can be used to increase the morale of 1 follower or 1 group.
    • Help: Go with another person and give them advantage on their check.
    • Pray: Provides a floating expertise die that can be used by any person in the hex. Can store a number of these die equal to prof mod.
    • Sentry: Stick with a group or other character and provide protection from harm. Gain +2 passive perception/advantage on initiative/and are always close to danger if it occurs.
  • Danger Checks: Each day each location with people rolls a danger check. If a player is off by themselves, such as doing a scout, that is considered a "dangerous activity" and they make the roll at disadvantage. Each hex has a danger number, and if I roll that number or lower, the players or group have an encounter. This could be a combat or an exploration encounter, such as a storm.
  • Group Foraging: Each week I do a "Group Foraging Check" for all of the commoners. You can find the details here: Level Up (A5E) - Mass People Journey System version 3.0 (Super Simplified). Here is the summary:
    • Once a week, we roll a d20 roll for each 50 commoners in the group. The roll is modified by various things like the terrain, any snares/trapes they have, advanced knowledge of the terrain, whether they are moving around a lot, etc etc.
    • The roll can be boosted by spending a "group supply". A group supply is a very large cache of supply, that is stored in appropriate containers (such as large storage barrels).
    • The roll determines whether that group gains (or recovers from) fatigue. On high rolls, the group can even forage enough to store a group supply (assuming they have some container to store it).

Playtest Notes
So after three sessions here are my notes so far:

  • 6 game days have occured so far, and I'm pleased to see time actually passing in this game (considering the first session was mainly the prologue, its been about 3 game days per sessions so far). That has always been a struggle of mine in previous campaigns was letting time pass without the party just going and doing "EVERYTHING". But now the sheer scale of the world has made time important, and that has been great to see.
  • One of the characters is a ranger who took all of the supply and journey type knacks, so they are doing 3 journey activities a day as opposed to most players 1. They also are able to collect enough supply per day to feed most of the party. As such, the supply limits haven't really come into play much, although there was a day where the players had to seperate and use their own supplies. But likely supply still won't be a big deal until some event occurs that takes away supply.
  • The survival "feel" is working well so far. The players have been conflicted about exploring aggressively and leaving the main group unprotected (which has gotten attacked by wolves a few times now). They have also had a premonition about a large storm, and have been spending the last few days desperately exploring to find shelter large enough for all of their commoners. A lot of time was spent finding their initial wagon just to get access to its group supplies. The party is debating a lot between moving the large group to better areas versus the danger that could impose. So I think the feel is working well.
  • The internal scout mechanic is my favorite, and I'm very happy with it. My group was at first skeptical (why can't I just explore the entire hex in a few days?) until they realized the sheer scale of ~500 sq miles of land (which is about the size of Nashville in the US). I think the mechanic has done a great job of simplifing exploration and not have to track where you have gone on the map, while leaving the fun surprise of finding cool things. The party has found a number of crazy things in their main hex already, with one player commenting "man I never thought there would be so many interesting things in just this one hex". While creating the lists was a LOT of work, I am very pleased with the result.
  • I think the danger rolls are fine, but its a bit tedious to have my players roll them along with the various other rolls they are doing. I am probably going to create a little excel sheet to just roll them all at once and keep it clean and simple.
  • I haven't gotten to see the group foraging check in action, that will happen in the next session so I'll see how the players react to it.
  • I was not a big fan of the pray mechanic in LU, it just felt vestigial compared to other activities. My new pray has already seen some action, I think the ability to store the die and use it by anyone makes it a fun resource for the party to collect.
 

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Stalker0

Legend
So after a few more sessions, we got through another week in game, and I did a formal feedback session with my players to see how the campaign was going. Ultimately, this is a VERY different campaign then I normally run, with it being survival and exploration focused, and a much more sandbox style. It was time to see if this new style was resonating with my players.

The good is that they are enjoying the exploration a great deal, my new subsystems combined with the great boons and discoveries table has led to a fun experience. All designers talk about "finding the fun", and right now this is it.

The bad is that the players are finding the survival and "camp building" elements very tedious and boring. There are a lot of checks being made every day, and even with my spreadsheets to help me, the game is getting bogged down. Further, there have been a number of arguments about crafting times. Things that I am saying will take a week (and that normally means probably two weeks but I am shortening it because its still a game) people think that it should take a day. Though I have good in real life research (and sometimes numbers from the LU books to fall back on), players are adamant that is too long. Having pushed through to the core of the complaint, I can tell its less about "accurate times" and more that they just want that part of the game to move faster and take less game (and real) time.


So the direction is clear. Fewer rolls (which is probably why LU does journey checks once per region instead of 1/day, even when the narrative makes more sense to do it per day....its just too many rolls), faster crafting times, and more abstraction. Instead of tracking various things, I will combine and abstract them into vaguer concepts. Ultimately the survival side will take more of a backseat to the exploration side, as that is where the core of the fun for them seems to be. I have a few ideas I am polishing up, and then I will share them.
 

WarDriveWorley

Adventurer
The bad is that the players are finding the survival and "camp building" elements very tedious and boring. There are a lot of checks being made every day, and even with my spreadsheets to help me, the game is getting bogged down. Further, there have been a number of arguments about crafting times. Things that I am saying will take a week (and that normally means probably two weeks but I am shortening it because its still a game) people think that it should take a day. Though I have good in real life research (and sometimes numbers from the LU books to fall back on), players are adamant that is too long. Having pushed through to the core of the complaint, I can tell its less about "accurate times" and more that they just want that part of the game to move faster and take less game (and real) time.
May I ask what items your players think take too long to craft? I'm curious if my table has the same view
 

Stalker0

Legend
May I ask what items your players think take too long to craft? I'm curious if my table has the same view
Everything from basic housing (which includes actually chopping and shaping the wood....without nails) to pottery (which according to online can take 1-2 weeks to finish, people thought some small potts could be made in a few days....without a formal kiln so using fire in a hole in the ground.
 

WarDriveWorley

Adventurer
Everything from basic housing (which includes actually chopping and shaping the wood....without nails) to pottery (which according to online can take 1-2 weeks to finish, people thought some small potts could be made in a few days....without a formal kiln so using fire in a hole in the ground.
Thank you kindly
 

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