D&D Tactics: Hikes

I go on a lot of Boy Scout hikes. If I were in an adventuring party in a fantasy world, I'd never make it.

princess-4395983_960_720.jpg

Picture courtesy of Pixabay.

Our hikes average anywhere from a half hour to several hours, depending on the terrain and season. We have one Scoutmaster who could easily qualify as a ranger, but for the rest of us, real life challenges make it clear that out-of-shape wizards are going to be in trouble if they have to walk to their next destination.

Weather Matters​

For obvious reasons, walking in the snow can be tough. We avoid hiking in winter, but we have hiked in Spring and Fall through rocky terrain. The toughest terrain we've encountered if after a recent rain with leaves on the ground. The combination makes it difficult to see a clear path (if there even is one). We've gotten lost in places we've hiked previously just because leaves covered everything. Wet leaves also make the ground slippery. More than one Scout has plunged their foot into an unseen puddle or slipped on a rock.

Adventurers in this sort of terrain will likely have challenges tracking, finding a path, and even just moving through it. This is one of the reasons I started using a walking stick, if only to test how to proceed. Characters familiar with the outdoors (barbarians, druids, ranger) will have an easier time of it than those who are unaccustomed to being outside the confines of their hometown.

Hikes Are Exhausting​

When the weather's nice, I try to walk every day in my neighborhood and when it's not I run on my treadmill. In both cases, the terrain is flat enough that I can turn off my brain. Not so when hiking, which requires constant vigilance as you determine your next step, avoid blundering into branches, and try to spot the path forward.

In unfamiliar terrain, a hike is not merely something you do while you do something else. Characters who want to perform most skills in difficult terrain will find it nearly impossible. Except maybe for singing, so the bards have something to do (the Scouts won't let me though for good reason).

Natural Hazards​

The outdoors can be beautiful but it isn't ordered to make life easier for anyone to pass through it. Woods are filled with dead branches and fallen trees that will have to be circumnavigated. The aforementioned leaves make everything slippery and conceal holes that can trip you up. And there is wildlife that can react poorly to intrusions -- my son was stung by a hornet just walking up rocky steps near a castle.

Characters who are uncoordinated or unaccustomed to traveling outdoors may well take damage just by trying to make their way, or end up exhausted in the process.

Leave No Trace​

In Scouts, we encourage the philosophy of "leave not trace," which means you leave the terrain how it was when you arrived. That means no picking up sticks or feathers or rocks to take with you. It also means essentially covering your tracks.

Cityfolk unaccustomed to the outdoors may be surprised how visible their blundering is to beasts and trackers. When cover your tracks, getting the wizard to stop leaving crumbs behind is as important as leaving fewer footprints.

Avoiding the Long Hike​

The modern solution to these challenges is to just take a car or walk on a paved road. In fantasy campaigns, there are rarely equivalents, but magic provides some solutions.

Find the path eliminates a lot of the guesswork of trying to find the easiest route through rough terrain (a bit like spotting trail markers even when there are none). And freedom of movement is like walking on a flat road. But the most magically economical solution is probably the fly spell. Flying over a forest is a significant advantage, and species with natural flight can get places much faster than their grounded companions.

Your Turn: How has your real life hiking experience influenced traveled in your games?
 

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Michael Tresca

Michael Tresca

Thomas Shey

Legend
I'd really like people to start adding things to travel and exploration to make them desirable to do.

Those of you to hike: do you do so for the beautiful scenery, the fresh air, the thrill of finding new places? Of because you really like all the prep and management and aches and puma attacks?

Is it the former? Then why is the later the only things that seem to get put into the game?

Because the latter are usually the only ones that can be inserted mechanically. To be able to present the former, you have to usually be able to do so effectively narratively, and that's a much harder thing to bake in than mechanical things.
 

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Voadam

Legend
Because the latter are usually the only ones that can be inserted mechanically. To be able to present the former, you have to usually be able to do so effectively narratively, and that's a much harder thing to bake in than mechanical things.
I found Tabletop Adventures' Bits of the Wilderness series of themed terrain descriptions useful for narratively fleshing out wilderness adventuring in D&D.

They worked particularly well in play by post games where a random description could be rolled and copy pasted quickly and seamlessly.
 

Dioltach

Legend
I'd really like people to start adding things to travel and exploration to make them desirable to do.

Those of you to hike: do you do so for the beautiful scenery, the fresh air, the thrill of finding new places? Of because you really like all the prep and management and aches and puma attacks?

Is it the former? Then why is the later the only things that seem to get put into the game?
It's like the LotR movies: every time Peter Jackson added an extended section of New-Zealand-as-Middle-Earth footage, everyone went, "Oooh, that's lovely. Now get on with the Dwarven mines and epic battles."
 

I'd really like people to start adding things to travel and exploration to make them desirable to do.

Those of you to hike: do you do so for the beautiful scenery, the fresh air, the thrill of finding new places? Of because you really like all the prep and management and aches and puma attacks?

Is it the former? Then why is the later the only things that seem to get put into the game?
There could be a mechanic to represent this. I'm not sure how it would work.

What if Every PC had an Awe or Wonder score. Travelling to amazing places, making discoveries gives points towards a score that, when full, you can use it to do Heroic Things and power abilities.

Similarly, you could have a Horror score fills up when you experience terrible things and see horrifying places which then triggers curses and such.

For the former, at least, it would promote exploration and discovery.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
It's like the LotR movies: every time Peter Jackson added an extended section of New-Zealand-as-Middle-Earth footage, everyone went, "Oooh, that's lovely. Now get on with the Dwarven mines and epic battles."
But no one said 'what he should have shown was Merry starving to death because he didn't count sausages and attacks from totally unrelated monsters'.

And the issue isn't about giving mechanics for getting fresh air or something, but doing something, anything to make travel fun and interesting instead of just 'adding challenge', which I understand is fun for some people, but shouldn't be the end-all-be-all of the exploration tier.
 

But no one said 'what he should have shown was Merry starving to death because he didn't count sausages and attacks from totally unrelated monsters'.

And the issue isn't about giving mechanics for getting fresh air or something, but doing something, anything to make travel fun and interesting instead of just 'adding challenge', which I understand is fun for some people, but shouldn't be the end-all-be-all of the exploration tier.
There was quite a few times that Sam and Frodo (and gollum) were incredibly hungry and thirsty, especially near the end as they were coming into Mordor. I don't remember the movies, but the books do describe it. They also describe having to really ration the wafers the elves gave them because they were running out of food. I think there's even a scene where Sam gives Frodo the last of their rations and Frodo being stressed because Sam was sacrificing his share to give to Frodo. That is definitely resource management. They also have to navigate the Swamp that was full of undead, which would have been an environmental challenge.

But it's difficult to make exploration interesting if you don't want to do any of the things that were suggested above:
  • add challenges;
  • place interesting locations that reward the players for discovering them;
  • leave it to creative description;
  • add any mechanics

I'm hard pressed to think of something else. Do you have a suggestion?
 
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Voadam

Legend
But no one said 'what he should have shown was Merry starving to death because he didn't count sausages'.

I think there is a scene though where Sam is counting out their stock of elven Lembas food as he and Frodo start to go hungry and starve as they push deeper into Mordor and they are running out of supplies.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
I found Tabletop Adventures' Bits of the Wilderness series of themed terrain descriptions useful for narratively fleshing out wilderness adventuring in D&D.

They worked particularly well in play by post games where a random description could be rolled and copy pasted quickly and seamlessly.

I won't say this is impossible not having read any of the products at hand, but assuming they aren't overpriced at $11 pop, you can see what that sort of thing takes up a considerable amount of space even if it works.
 

Thomas Shey

Legend
There could be a mechanic to represent this. I'm not sure how it would work.

What if Every PC had an Awe or Wonder score. Travelling to amazing places, making discoveries gives points towards a score that, when full, you can use it to do Heroic Things and power abilities.

Similarly, you could have a Horror score fills up when you experience terrible things and see horrifying places which then triggers curses and such.

For the former, at least, it would promote exploration and discovery.

The problem with this is the same one people complain in about fear mechanics in horror games; it sort of emulates the experience on a character level, but doesn't necessarily convey it on a player level.
 

Vaalingrade

Legend
"How to paint a fantastic scene aka Add a Little Purple to your Prose"

"Fun side activities"

"Fantastical Flora and Fauna you can find in the world that does cool flavorful stuff instead of breaking into your tent and/or intestines"

"Morale bonuses for having fun on a picnic or something"

Hell, even "Fishing minigame"
 

Dioltach

Legend
Hell, even "Fishing minigame"
That's got my Evil DM brain working.

"You're running very low on food. You haven't seen any signs of game in these woods. Fortunately there's a stream, and if you look carefully you see fish swimming in it."

Watch the players start worrying whether it's a trap, then very cautiously start to fish, examine their catch, all the while getting more and more paranoid.

Then after they've caught a few salmon, spring a Dire Bear on them that's been drawn to the smell (and is also the reason why the woods are largely empty in the first place).
 


Voadam

Legend
Hell, even "Fishing minigame"
:unsure:

I got you covered.

Fisk Borg

Fisk Borg is an expansion that adds somber and ominous fishing to MÖRK BORG.
With it, you get 62 pages of supplement, including:
  • Complete fishing rules, adapted from the fishing rpg Rod, Reel, & Fist
  • d20 fishing rods, d12 fishing spots, d3 types of bait, and rules for chumming the water with blood and silver
  • d66 fish that might kill you, d20 that definitely will, and d12 that will go looking for the rest of your family line
  • d10 new Salt-Stained Scrolls for dreadful oceanic magics
  • A new class, the Weary Angler, whose exhaustion is only outmatched by their patience
  • An optional ghost crew for solo adventurers
  • And a full starter adventure, Gifts For Grendel
 


Voadam

Legend
Okay, not joke, I want to know more about Rod, Reel and Fist, especially after those guys from around here went viral cheating at fishing and things getting just this side of violent.
While I own Fisk Borg, I can't speak as directly to Rod, Reel, & Fist.

The description says:

A village stricken by tragedy. A group of plucky young fishers. An ancient region, reclaimed by nature, and the wish-granting fish that waits at the heart of it.
Welcome to Rod, Reel, & Fist.
  • A Tabletop Fishing RPG?! Rod, Reel, & Fist is 280+ pages of tabletop fishing adventure. Players take on the roles of heroic fishers trying to save their village by making a truly legendary catch.
  • Everyone Can Play: Rod, Reel, & Fist is suitable for all ages, and its dice system makes all failures into temporary setbacks. At the same time, it's built to scale up and provide a challenge for seasoned players, and it comes with a host of alternate settings that reflavor the game as a space opera, cyberpunk adventure, or a martial arts odyssey.
  • Simple But Deep: Catch fish and ward off hostile animals using a "rock, paper, scissors, dice" combat system that relies on clever resource management, reading your opponent, weighing risk versus reward, and knowing when to step back and let your teammates help.
  • Build Your World: Easy-to-follow rules help you to design your own setting---either by yourself or collaboratively with your friends.
  • Endless Adventure: The book comes with six scenarios, including an introductory sandbox, a tournament, a fishing journey, a timeloop, and a tower defense minigame where the players protect their town against hundreds of eels. Also included is the roguelike Legacy Mode, which expands the game by adding an evolving adventuring region to which the players must return multiple times in order to fully conquer it.
  • Beach Episode Compatible: Splice Rod, Reel, & Fist into your current campaign for a light-hearted sidequest or a hot-blooded mini tournament arc.
 

pemerton

Legend
Torchbearer makes skill as a Hunter, Butcher and Fisher relevant. In our last session the PCs had to hunt an animal, and then butcher it, to help avoid adverse conditions from their journey.

In good weather, players get a bonus to their rolls to recover from conditions.
 


Thomas Shey

Legend
Torchbearer makes skill as a Hunter, Butcher and Fisher relevant. In our last session the PCs had to hunt an animal, and then butcher it, to help avoid adverse conditions from their journey.

In good weather, players get a bonus to their rolls to recover from conditions.

Though arguably, that's still essentially skills reactive to negative consequences of travel, so it doesn't really address Vaalingrade's issues.
 

The problem with this is the same one people complain in about fear mechanics in horror games; it sort of emulates the experience on a character level, but doesn't necessarily convey it on a player level.
While I agree with this somewhat, I find those kinds of mechanics(Horror) helpful in adding fear. Kind of like how negative energy attacks/level drain in older games really drove home the fact that undead were scary. Just like how getting poisoned or whatever negative consequence (like paralyzed) can drive up the intensity of a fight.

As far as an 'awe' score( or whatever I suggested), I haven't ever seen that in a game with exception of maybe inspiration in 5e or Fate Points in Fate. In FATE you often have to take some kind of complication to earn a Fate Point and, from my experience with the system, people are really willing to go to great lengths to earn these tokens - even if the payback is small. I feel, If the payback was longer term but had a bigger benefit, it might be very rewarding.
 

pemerton

Legend
Though arguably, that's still essentially skills reactive to negative consequences of travel, so it doesn't really address Vaalingrade's issues.
To an extent, although my players were quite enthused by the +2D to recover from Warm and Bright weather.

I think something better for @Vaalingrade's concern could be done in Marvel Heroic RP/Cortex+ Heroic, using Scene Distinctions. I've headed a bit in that direction in my LotR/MERP Cortex+ Heroic game, though didn't make it the full way.
 

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