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UA Into the Wild: New Unearthed Arcana Covers Wilderness Exploration

mrpopstar

Sparkly Dude
As is usual for me, I've only read the first page of comments, so someone else may have already made the point I'm about to.

What if the characters have DIRECTIONS? That is not mentioned in the article, and should have an effect on the DC. And where's the forth part of the rules, camping?
If the characters have directions, I'd give them advantage when rolling against the Navigation DC. For example, if they had directions to a destination that lacks a path but is in a dense forest, I'd give them advantage and set the Navigation DC at 15.
 

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Monayuris

Adventurer
This is interesting.

It kind of addresses / supports the conclusion I came to regarding a situation I had my last session. Which is related to focus in a role-playing session when dealing with wilderness travel.

In my game, the group was trying to clear out an orc lair to prevent them from raiding nearby settlements. They had a vague idea of where the lair was (30 miles to the North East) but that's about it. I didn't want to hand waive the travel with narrative: "you travel 5 days and are at the dungeon", but the players didn't really want to spend all session going hex to hex until they find the lair.

I want to have a mechanical answer for: "We want to stop the orc raids by clearing the orc lair to the North"... where the exact location of the orc lair is not known.

It depends primarily on the focus of the session and I think both methods are useful. If the players' primary focus on the session is "find the orcs and clear out the lair", then you'd want to abstract the travel (the Navigation check in these rules represents an abstraction of finding orc tracks or finding disruptions in foliage suggesting passage of an orc raiding party, etc). If the primary focus is instead "We want to explore the wilds and look for the orc lair" then you'd want to use the hex crawl method (exploration is the desired focus, let them travel in detail and find what they find).

You could even switch between the two... the UA Into the Wilds abstract rules can get the party to find the Valley of the Ancients, but then a thorough hex crawl can be done when actually exploring it.


I think this UA article can stand to be expanded on, but its a good start. What I would like to see (some already mentioned):

1. Weather - more detail on how weather can effect things.. you can apply disadvantage to the Navigation DC, but I'd like to see something more mechanical (Maybe an abstract weather rating - clear, inclement, severe; combined with heat, cold, rain, snow that can affect movement and rest).

2. Chance to stumble across something along the way... not a wandering monster, but a random feature or thing (ruined structures, natural shelters, magical pools, stone formations that have divination or teleportation magic, etc... there should be a chart of things of this nature for each region). Sometimes, this is just wilderness dressing, other times it may actually be a dungeon or lair or something that may actually sidetrack a group.

3. Wandering monster chance should be decoupled from random feature chance. There should be a chance of coming across a magical pool (rolled for in 2.) that, from which, harpies are drinking.

5. I really want D&D 5E to bring back "% chance in Lair" with lair rules for various monsters (i.e. a randomizer / procedure for number and disposition of orcs in a typical lair).
 
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Monayuris

Adventurer
The big flaw in "navigation DC" is - so let's assume the characters roll bad on this one. They don't reach their destination. Nothing happens. Passivity. Passivitiy is never good. Much better if a bad roll means "you reach your destination, BUT - " and those BUT's can be really big (you reach the secret cavern, but your antagonist was faster, and now you are there in front of his WHOLE ARMY - how do you plan to get into the cave without him noticing? Something like that... though that was just quickly made up...).

My play-style is such that I like random encounters and random events. I find that if I try to derive everything from my own internal concept of the story, I tend to fall into the same tropes and situations I'm used to and comfortable with. Sometimes the dice present situations I would never think of on my own.

In this case, failing the Navigation DC doesn't result in "Nothing Happens", instead, what happens is they get lost.

This adds an interesting challenge to the situation, in that they may have to deal with the consequences of the results of getting lost (the lost result may put them in the haunted forest or they start running out of food, or they lose time they need to complete some task).

Assuming the Navigation DC is a value that is attainable, the party will eventually reach their destination, the DC just abstracts how difficult it is to do so.

I actually would probably assign some locations DC's that are nearly impossible to reach, but provide many methods or clues that would reduce them. The players can attempt research, quest to consult oracles, gain audience with an ancient Elven lord, hire a guide who knows the area, etc... Role-playing hooks that add to the story... tangible and actionable things the players can do to improve their chances of succeeding.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
As is usual for me, I've only read the first page of comments, so someone else may have already made the point I'm about to.

What if the characters have DIRECTIONS? That is not mentioned in the article, and should have an effect on the DC. And where's the forth part of the rules, camping?

It's not mentioned in the explanation on the first three pages, but it can be extrapolated from the text under the Navigation header in the Moon Hills example region:

If the characters are seeking a specific location, use the DCs on the table. Characters who become lost must make a check to navigate to a destination, even if they have a map or know the path from having made a prior visit.

So, by contrast, we can determine that characters who are not lost don't need to make a check to navigate to their destination if they have a map or know the path from having made a prior visit.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
The big flaw in "navigation DC" is - so let's assume the characters roll bad on this one. They don't reach their destination. Nothing happens.

Hmm. Maybe you read a different UA than I did. I never saw a part where it said they never reach their destination.

It looks to me like they go for a while in the wrong direction, increasing their chance for an encounter and delaying their arrival at their destination which would give the DM the chance to give do something like Advance the antagonists' plans while the PCs are not there to interfere.

None of those things is equal to "nothing happens."
 

MagicSN

First Post
Hmm. Maybe you read a different UA than I did. I never saw a part where it said they never reach their destination.

Well, if they don't make the Navigation DC. Yeah, sure you can do "rince&repeat". But that is boring. And it means despite failing they just can try like before without any decision needed. A failure should always have some consequences (asides from being 2d6 miles off-track), lead to a hard move from the gm or lead to a situation where the gm presents a new situation which requires a hard choice (being 5 miles away from where you were before is not actually a new situation - it is the old situation repeated, slightly off-track).

My play-style is such that I like random encounters and random events. I find that if I try to derive everything from my own internal concept of the story, I tend to fall into the same tropes and situations I'm used to and comfortable with. Sometimes the dice present situations I would never think of on my own.

What's the advantage of random encounter over you just DEFINE what the situation is? Who they encounter. What happens. No need to roll for it.
 

the_redbeard

Explorer
Resources Expended When You're Lost

1. Time:
Did the monsters eat the kidnapped villagers? The wizard experiment on the child? I usually have a % chance each day.
Did the villain reach the temple before you? How many more days of you getting lost will allow the villain to perform their evil ritual?
Did another NPC party reach the macguffin before you?
Did the portal to Sigil close again? Has the Vanishing Tower vanished?

2. Food and Water:
How much did you carry? Will it be enough to get you to your destination and back to safety? Or will you start accumulating exhaution?
If you have to end up foraging, that's one more character whose passive perception won't be counted during the ambush.
As your supplies run low, do your NPCs stick with the party? Do they question the party's leadership? Will morale checks be needed?

3. More Hazards of the Terrain
Not just monster encounters, but terrain specific hazards are included, and more days of travel are more chances of potentially failing to overcome hazards, which could mean the party encounters danger - or their destination - at a weakened state.

4. Random Encounters
5e is perversely geared to experience for combat and so random encounters are almost a reward (so very strange to me, but I know this is what everyone else expects.) But random encounters do take up precious play time, so in that manner they are a tremendous set back to the party's success.

I see DnD as a role playing GAME, which you can win or fail at (partially by whether you just have fun, but also whether you succeed at the task you as player-characters set for yourselves). Story does happen, emergent in the actions of the player-characters and in the consequences of those actions.

So yeah: getting lost in the wilderness and then struggling to your destination is a story alright. Conquistadors (real life historical examples of murderhobos) getting lost looking for El Dorado or the Fountain of Youth and then succumbing to the hazards of the new, strange unknown world is a helluva story. For movies, the classic "Aguirre, the Wrath of God" or the new "Lost City of Z" are examples to draw inspiration from. Can the player-characters succeed where those explorers failed? These rules are a start for DMs to present those challenges in an interesting, more inspiring and fun way.
 
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the_redbeard

Explorer
What's the advantage of random encounter over you just DEFINE what the situation is? Who they encounter. What happens. No need to roll for it.

We're very different DMs. A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post on how random encounters changed the trajectory of my campaign. Just like the players, as a DM I enjoy the suspense of finding out what happens and the challenge of reacting to an unexpected obstacle.

Here: Random Encounters Shaping Campaign Choices: Emergent Story
 
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the_redbeard

Explorer
Things I really liked and thought were helpful:
The terrain chances for an encounter map - featureless encounters are boring, give us stuff to interact with.
Journeys are an important part of adventure stories, but there is very little support on making them interesting. Material like this is very helpful. Too often travel is on a blank gray slate no matter the world location.

Things I Thought Were Missing
Challenge Rating of the Terrain: There should be guidance on setting land areas to challenge different levels of parties. Yes, eventually the party will Air Walk or Teleport everywhere. But there's still a wide range of levels before that happens. Whether you are designing for a specific party or making a sandbox world with differing levels of difficulty (like a dungeon with multiple levels the party can use to calculate their risk), guidance for making terrain to challenge specific levels would be helpful.

Interaction between the flora, fauna and geography. Not just the random encounter tables advice in the books, but how to tailor encounters for specific features. What likes to live in the quick sand, and how do they take advantage of it. (The example does do some of this but there isn't any motivation to do so in the rules content.)

Example + and -
Terrain: the example could have used more interactivity. Can the boulders be pushed over onto enemies? Rolled down those steep hills? Will the bandits try to use them, so they PCs would need to make different choices in combat?

Other possibilities: it isn't directly said (that I saw) is that the Moon Hills are pretty dry, since vegetation is sparse and you've got old connections to the Plane of Earth. So the gullies may be typically dry, but is there a 1% chance of a flash flood in a gulley during a long rest? THAT would add excitement to an evening encounter (if not just be a hazard onto itself.)

I really enjoyed the Planar Confluence.

Other than the Planar Confluence, there was little in the example to provide guidance on hazards.

In general, the connection between the narrative descriptions and the mechanics (natural and supernatural) was strong. Nice.
 

Monayuris

Adventurer
What's the advantage of random encounter over you just DEFINE what the situation is? Who they encounter. What happens. No need to roll for it.

The advantage is exactly what I stated in the quote. Randomized encounters often result in situations that I normally wouldn't think of. They get me out of my comfort zone and keep me from falling back on my own personal tendencies and my own personal motivations.

Its kind of like improv actors using external stimulus (audience suggestions) to push their narrative.

Also for me, as a DM, it is a ton of fun to be just as surprised by a situation as the players. It feels like you are right there, experiencing the story with them as opposed to being an omniscient orchestrator.
 
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MagicSN

First Post
We're very different DMs. A couple of months ago I wrote a blog post on how random encounters changed the trajectory of my campaign. Just like the players, as a DM I enjoy the suspense of finding out what happens and the challenge of reacting to an unexpected obstacle.

This I would also say, that we have different mastering style. Probably due to the "bit of narrative style" our table includes into our gaming (all DMs at my group do this - to a varying extent).

The suspense for the players you can create by an unexpected move of the antagonist as well - without consulting a single random table. Yes, I admit random table are a pretty awful thing for me ;-) Don't like them.

But maybe we should leave the discussion at this - to avoid just repeating us ;-)

The advantage is exactly what I stated in the quote. Randomized encounters often result in situations that I normally wouldn't think of. They get me out of my comfort zone and keep me from falling back on my own personal tendencies and my own personal motivations.

Getting the players out of the comfort zone is a good idea. The way to go, I would say. You can do this without a single dice roll.

External stimulus is also a good idea. Here it is very nice to let players tell what they WANT. Either describe an "open" situation where the players can define some elements of the story as fitting for their characters (I use this only as session-starter) or by letting a player do a suggestion (like: "The camp in front of us - that's actually the army, I think!"). And then let him roll. If the roll is good, it is as he says, if he rolls bad - come up with complications. If it was really bad - serious complications ("Yes, it is the army - but the other one, the one that's hunting you..."). Okay, the examples are a bit lame right now.

We actually had one of our GMs experimenting with random encounters some while ago, the comment of all involved players was that it
was not good GMing to include "boring enemies with no focus on the story, and who felt like totally uninteresting - you surely can do better than this". All agreed on that.

Note the opposite of random encounters is NOT pre-planned encounters - which are as bad. It's just that you use the antagonists - and henchmen - available in the story and when the situation for an encounter arrives - use them.
 

BookBarbarian

Expert Long Rester
Well, if they don't make the Navigation DC. Yeah, sure you can do "rince&repeat".

Why would I rinse and repeat? Nothing says to do that in the UA.

But that is boring. And it means despite failing they just can try like before without any decision needed.

Only if you as the DM decide to make it so. Again nothing in this UA says that's what happens.

A failure should always have some consequences (asides from being 2d6 miles off-track),

Agreed, thankfully this can.

lead to a hard move from the gm or lead to a situation where the gm presents a new situation which requires a hard choice (being 5 miles away from where you were before is not actually a new situation - it is the old situation repeated, slightly off-track).

Only if you as the DM choose to make it the old situation.

5 miles away could be in an ancient grove with a Dryad, a dark ruin with a Wight, or simply far enough away that that the party will have to put extra work etting to their destination before the town is attacked, possibly incurring a level of Exhaustion.

Also, why are you cutting off our names when replying to us? This makes it very difficult to follow the conversation.
 
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Ristamar

Explorer
Either describe an "open" situation where the players can define some elements of the story as fitting for their characters (I use this only as session-starter) or by letting a player do a suggestion...

As a DM, I'm not a fan of handing over narrative control as a form of encounter generation mechanics. If the player's want to exercise control, they can do that through their actions or downtime activities.
 

Monayuris

Adventurer
Things I really liked and thought were helpful:
The terrain chances for an encounter map - featureless encounters are boring, give us stuff to interact with.
Journeys are an important part of adventure stories, but there is very little support on making them interesting. Material like this is very helpful. Too often travel is on a blank gray slate no matter the world location.

Things I Thought Were Missing
Challenge Rating of the Terrain: There should be guidance on setting land areas to challenge different levels of parties. Yes, eventually the party will Air Walk or Teleport everywhere. But there's still a wide range of levels before that happens. Whether you are designing for a specific party or making a sandbox world with differing levels of difficulty (like a dungeon with multiple levels the party can use to calculate their risk), guidance for making terrain to challenge specific levels would be helpful.

Interaction between the flora, fauna and geography. Not just the random encounter tables advice in the books, but how to tailor encounters for specific features. What likes to live in the quick sand, and how do they take advantage of it. (The example does do some of this but there isn't any motivation to do so in the rules content.)

Example + and -
Terrain: the example could have used more interactivity. Can the boulders be pushed over onto enemies? Rolled down those steep hills? Will the bandits try to use them, so they PCs would need to make different choices in combat?

Other possibilities: it isn't directly said (that I saw) is that the Moon Hills are pretty dry, since vegetation is sparse and you've got old connections to the Plane of Earth. So the gullies may be typically dry, but is there a 1% chance of a flash flood in a gulley during a long rest? THAT would add excitement to an evening encounter (if not just be a hazard onto itself.)

I really enjoyed the Planar Confluence.

Other than the Planar Confluence, there was little in the example to provide guidance on hazards.

In general, the connection between the narrative descriptions and the mechanics (natural and supernatural) was strong. Nice.

Yeah, I definitely think this can be expanded upon, but it represents a pretty solid framework.

The Moon Hills description in the UA article seems to be inspired by a Dungeon World supplement called Perilous Wilds; wherein the book suggests creating a Region Almanac that has details and rules bits for a region.

Personally, I've played Dungeon World and its not for me, but the Perilous Wilds supplement does have some very good organizational tools for wilderness play.

I think everything you're suggesting can go into this one page almanac, like the Moon Hills I could see a template:

Bullet point region description and theme
Terrain DCs: It may require ability checks to travel safely through the region (The Death Crags require Strength (Athletics) checks to climb its ravines.)
Forage DCs
Adventure Sites and their Navigation DCs
Random table of hazards (avalanches, razor vine, quicksand: with specific rules for each)
Random table of points of interest (ruins, magic pools)
Random table for wandering monsters. I've been experimenting with this framework: https://retiredadventurer.blogspot.com/2013/05/a-procedure-for-wandering-monsters.html
Tactical Terrain (when a random encounter occurs) I LOVE this. You can very quickly create an tactically interesting encounter that is thematic to the area that is more than just 4 monsters in an open area.

Keep a One Note or binder full of these for regions in your world and you can easily facilitate any wilderness travel of the cuff.

The way I would try to design this is to make sure that the rules added can be handled both abstractly and in detail, as needed.

As an example:

Ancient Stone Bridge: These massive works of ancient construction can be found in the Death Crag. If the party travels over these expanses at a SLOW pace, they automatically succeed their Strength (Athletics) check to travel safely. The stone work is worn and cracked with age, any creature that choose to move at full speed while on the bridge must succeed at a DC 10 Dexterity saving throw to do so, otherwise they may only move at half speed.
 

Geeknamese

Explorer
The suspense for the players you can create by an unexpected move of the antagonist as well - without consulting a single random table. Yes, I admit random table are a pretty awful thing for me ;-) Don't like them.

As a DM, I’m all for combat, encounters, events being relevant and moving the narrative. But if everything that happens in the game is somehow connected to the narrative, it feels a bit contrived and not realistic. There is the narrative and story but when you hit the exploration stage of the game when you are in the open world and your goal is to not railroad your players, there should be randomness in the game. While you’re exploring in the deep jungles or wilds and you get lost, it’s extremely unrealistic to have an encounter or event just happen to be connected to the ongoing narrative or that the antagonist just happens to be tracking you in the middle of nowhere. Random tables for encounters help create that feel of anything can happen and encounters can be super easy or downright deadly and instead of a combat encounter, it may be a “crap, we need to avoid this and stay alive” encounter.
One thing I try to stress in my campaigns is that there is a living, breathing open world that isn’t scaled to your characters or levels and once you step foot into exploration into the open world, all bets are off. Its random encounters of all difficulty levels and I don’t pull any punches if you make the unfortunate decision of not avoiding an encounter that is completely out of you’re league.



Sent from my iPhone using EN World mobile app
 


Hussar

Legend
Just a thought about Rangers and not getting lost.

It occurs to me that you could play a bit of silly buggers with the definition of "lost". Yes, a Ranger never gets lost, but, that doesn't necessarily mean that the Ranger knows the best path from A to B. IOW, you know where you are, you just aren't sure how to get to where you want to go. So, under the "Becoming Lost" section, you could ignore the second effect of wandering in circles. However, a failed navigation check could be due to unforeseen terrain that pushes you off course.

So, you make your navigation check, fail, and wind up 2d6 miles from your destination, not because you are lost necessarily, but, because you find your path blocked by something - flooding, ravine, swamp, whatever and that detour results in your being off target.

Heck, thinking about it, you could actually wind up with the second result. You try one way, it's blocked, you try another path, it's blocked and, at the end of the day of travel, you are 1d6 miles from your starting point. Yes, you know where you are, but, that doesn't really help you if you don't know how to get to your destination.
 

machineelf

Explorer
In my view, they still didn't get it right with this.

The problem I've had early on with my games is that tracking hour by hour, or even day by day, becomes too monotonous and becomes too much accounting. It just seems like work without much fun in return.

I really like the approach Cubicle 7 did with the One Ring and Adventures in Middle Earth, and I think there's a three-step method to port some of that over to a standard 5th edition game with high magic, but you'd have to 1. make exhaustion levels more meaningful (receiving a con check for them when the navigator fails a navigation check, or when the forager fails a foraging check, etc. This is an abstraction of getting lost for a time, or not doing a good job finding enough food or water, etc.), 2. make a special "long rest in a sanctuary" that is the only way to remove exhaustion levels, and 3. abstract travel over the entire journey (whether it's 3 days, or 5 days, or 10 days) instead of trying to track day by day or hour by hour.
 
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MagicSN

First Post
The advantage is exactly what I stated in the quote. Randomized encounters often result in situations that I normally wouldn't think of. They get me out of my comfort zone and keep me from falling back on my own personal tendencies and my own personal motivations.

I think the same or even better can be achieved without random tables (if needed take a 5 minute break). Then present a cool, detailed, complex new situation. This will be much better than the result of a dice roll. This would be at least my advice.

Arguments for "new situations" are not arguments for random number tables. They are arguments for "new situations" ;-)

But I think it makes not much sense to continue this discussion. The fronts are - too hard. For me Random Tables is just something we did when we were still teens and which have no role in current RPGing anymore. Others seem to think otherwise.

5 miles away could be in an ancient grove with a Dryad, a dark ruin with a Wight, or simply far enough away that that the party will have to put extra work etting to their destination before the town is attacked, possibly incurring a level of Exhaustion.

Then why you don't just let the party arrive at that grove, without the dice-roll about 5 miles randomness? If it is a cool situation, by all means - bring it.

As a DM, I'm not a fan of handing over narrative control as a form of encounter generation mechanics. If the player's want to exercise control, they can do that through their actions or downtime activities.

Yes, not all GMs are friend of it. Here in my area all groups (not only my own) are doing it (to some extent at least). People in both way seem to have strong opinions of it.

Myselves I think about random tables as you think about narrative gaming, appearently ;-) But well, I guess, in RPGing there is not "the one way to do it". And especially what your players want plays a big role.

As a DM, I’m all for combat, encounters, events being relevant and moving the narrative.

You usually have quite some "stories" to choose from. The current antagonist, the characters backstories...

It is of course also a thing of player expectation. If I would include some purely random event, in my group all people would seek the "connection to the story" - even if it didn't exist.

Personally I would say "If it does not bring the story forward - cut it out" (the story can be a complex beast here)
 
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dave2008

Legend
Personally I am not a fan of using random tables in a game (though I do find them interesting to review before games). However, I do have to ask: did you intentionally ignore the statements you quoted or were you blind to it? The passages you quoted twice commented how the DM like random tables because the provide a random/unknown/unexpected quality for him/her the DM. And twice you turned it back to comments about the, here:

...The suspense for the players you can create by an unexpected move of the antagonist as well - without consulting a single random table....

Where the poster was talking about suspense for the DM, and here:

...Getting the players out of the comfort zone is a good idea. The way to go, I would say. You can do this without a single dice roll....

Where the poster was talking about get him/her the DM out of his/her comfort zone.

So what gives? Intentional misdirection, internal player bias, something else?
 

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