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Blog (A5E) Let’s Look At Exploration in Level Up

One of our primary goals with Level Up is to expand and fully flesh out the game’s exploration pillar. There are various ways we’re doing that: we’re giving all characters exploration knacks themed to their character class, we’re making a few tweaks here and there to spells and abilities which interact with that pillar, and we’re writing new journey rules.


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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey

tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
Really like this Idea. Just three pieces of constructive criticism: Extra-dimensional spaces should be able to hold food, I can’t see how it could mess anything up that much. Most party’s aren’t going to have a bag of holding. Perhaps the party needs to go through a large desert and need to be able to carry more food. There should always be a way to overcome something like that. Also the inability to relieve fatigue in a campsite seems troublesome. I’m not sure how fatigue works but I’m not a big fan of continually stacking conditions with no good way of relieving them. It should definitely be the case that it’s harder (like having to take a few extra hours off) to relieve it in campsites, and perhaps a survival check or the Terrain and weather can affect this. Last piece witch isn’t too important, the magical overgrown was labeled as evocation which is generally magical energy while conjuration would be more appropriate as it being matter that is magically there, or transmutation as the original flora is magically grown. Other than that I think that this is a really cool way of better introducing exploration into the game, looking forward to seeing this product whenever it comes out.
Two things...
  • "It’s harder now to ‘magic up’ supplies. You can do it, but it’s harder. Some characters will have abilities which allow them to gather supplies while traveling. All characters have a limit on the number of supplies they can carry, as do horses, mules, carts, and so on (and using those limits the terrain you can cross). And, inconveniently, food spoils in extra-dimensional spaces, so that bag of holding can carry treasure, but it can’t carry supplies."
That sounds like supplies are not just N pounds & is a good thing. If you've tried making things like food water & the like matter in 5e, one of the things you quickly notice is that carrying capacity is so absurdly high in comparison to the weight & cost of a ration/waterskin that never spoils that making them relevant either means that you need to absurdly restrict availability (or coin)if not nerf capacity to the point that other parts of the system or campaign start breaking down. splitting it so you can still lift/carry a silly amount in pounds but your "supplies" are limited to N units of supplies neatly avoids both problems
  • The second thing is that an extradimensional space like a bag of holding is pretty much designed to obliviate the need to track how much weight you are carrying & even some kind of balance with one of the availability of food & water availability of coin or whatever without breaking things as noted again starts collapsing when you add a bag of holding
Having the extradimensional space not immune to these kinds of things like bugs eating your supplies doesn't prevent you from having a smaller & more purpose built extradimensional space that safely carries a smaller number of supplies but does stop a bag of holding from just bypassing the whole point of limiting supplies as a number rather than pounds when a gm is trying to play up the exploration pillar
 

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Lylandra

Adventurer
Looks really interesting! And no, with PF2 you cannot simply swap between 5e and PF if you'd want a "crunchier" game. They are structurally very different beasts and if you look into the PF2 Core rules (which is a whopping 600+ pages book), you'll see why most players wouldn't "just switch games". It has a lot of stuff to memorize, internalize and learn in order to play it at the same level of proficiency as 5e when you're used to traditional D&D editions or even PF1.

Short remark for the supplies challenge: This is a Level 1 challenge. How many parties are going to have a bag of holding at this level? I usually get my first ones around level 4? Unless the DM really doesn't want to bother with any kind of logistics, and I doubt that these DMs would want to use a supplies challenge in the first place ;)
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
Ironically 4e handled it best as the skill challenge system could easily be dragged up and down the scale with bigger numbers.

You mean the mathmatically proven not to work in the way described way that also obscured how difficult the challenge really was from both DM and player?

The one that mechanically did not have inputs for anything except skills - like using up resources, magic, knowledge, powers, etc. It would have be 4e to codify it, but at the very least provide hooks so that different DMs making rulings would do it the same, and that DMs at Encounters and other RAW-required games had a chance to do it.

The concept of a mechanical framework for a Challenge was a good one. Even a great one. Unfortunately, the implementation was substandard by every metric.
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
Then I suspect that this system will include a ‘Camp’ roll, the Navigation and Scouting roll, the Exploration Challenge rolls, a Foraging/Hunting roll, an Alertness/Watch rolls and of course the ‘Supplies’ roll.
Sorta. We have a list of (currently a dozen or so I think?) journey actions each character can choose from which provide bonuses or benefits and stuff.
 

Blue

Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal
I'm enjoying the concept of Havens. With exploration stretching well beyond the default attrition period of "between long rests", you absolutely need some sort of attrition that can grow. Havens harken back to how Adventures in Middle Earth 5e did it, where you couldn't take a long rest during the Journey phase, unless you came across a sanctuary like Elrond's.

That said, in my current 5e game I had a variable where in exploration-type campsites and such we'd be moving to the Gritty Rest variant. As soon as they hit 5th level, the group's wizard took a spell to provide a safe and comfortable sleeping space. So I can see magic, especially higher level ones like Mordenkainen's Magnificent Mansion counting as a Haven. Though using a 7th level slot for that (not a ritual) that makes sense both from an in-world and a design perspective.

Just like various teleport spells get around long distance travel to places you know, spending game time on the mechanics of exploration sounds fun at lower levels, but once the characters are dealing with much larger threats I want them to be able not to have to spend session time on minor issues like supplies, so all of this leveling out over Tier 2 is where I would want to go. When the party is dealing with world-shaking threats in Tiers 3 & 4, supplies shouldn't be something we're spending game time on.
 

F5

Explorer
I'm glad to see the that the encounter challenges here don't stop the party from progressing. It's "you take X penalty if you fail your athletics check to cross the rickety bridge" not "you fail to cross the bridge". The latter method can grind a session to a halt, while the way you did this keeps it moving in an interesting direction. Much more 5e in design.

I'd like to see spells like Goodberry and Tiny Hut not loose too much of their usefulness in service to keeping the exploration pillar interesting. Sleeping under a Tiny Hut should still count as a Haven, for instance. Maybe to mitigate, we could have these kinds of spells use Supplies as a material component?
 


Sabathius42

Bree-Yark
Apologies for not being clear.

IMO if I want to play a "crunchier, more flexible version" of a d20 based fantasy RPG (that uses all the terms I and my players are already familiar with) there is a well made, popular game with tons of source material and amazing fans / community already.

My question is how Level Up is going to hit some of these sweet spots and not (inevitably) be compared to something that has already been done rather capably?

Clearly, my experience only but there is a name for people who like 5E but wish it was crunchier and had more options and more flexibility - they're called Pathfinder players :ROFLMAO:
I think the project is build to be a "more advanced" shell built over the 5e core system so that the two are intercompatible. It isn't designed as a completely separate and unrelated product, which Pathfinder would be an example of.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
You mean the mathmatically proven not to work in the way described way that also obscured how difficult the challenge really was from both DM and player?

The one that mechanically did not have inputs for anything except skills - like using up resources, magic, knowledge, powers, etc. It would have be 4e to codify it, but at the very least provide hooks so that different DMs making rulings would do it the same, and that DMs at Encounters and other RAW-required games had a chance to do it.

The concept of a mechanical framework for a Challenge was a good one. Even a great one. Unfortunately, the implementation was substandard by every metric.

Nah. Low complexity 4e skill challenges worked fine for exploration. The system was built around everything being a skill check so it functioned. The main issues was large parties, high complexity challenge, or lack of creativity of the DM or players.

That last one is the key. Out of "getting lost", animal encounters, and minor natural hazard, people are creative on wilderness encounters. So freeform wilderness encounters without some natural knowledge is quickly boring and predictable.
 

tetrasodium

Hero
Supporter
Just like various teleport spells get around long distance travel to places you know, spending game time on the mechanics of exploration sounds fun at lower levels, but once the characters are dealing with much larger threats I want them to be able not to have to spend session time on minor issues like supplies, so all of this leveling out over Tier 2 is where I would want to go. When the party is dealing with world-shaking threats in Tiers 3 & 4, supplies shouldn't be something we're spending game time on.
Athas, Blade desert, The Menechtarun desert... which is part of Xen'Drik both of which places where The Traveler's Curse* is a big problem for nearly every party of adventurers given the current lack of thri-keen, The Mournland, The Demon Wastes,Ravenloft after The Dark Powers take an interest in you, Many planes, so on & so forth... The lack of large outdoor hazardous areas aimed at higher levels in FR doesn't exclude every other setting from having those things. Combining a treacherous environment with high level play ratchets back the nuclear rocket tag troubles while allowing somewhat lower than silly high CR baddies to be a real threat & concern. If you don't feel that such challenges are suitable for your higher level campaign then it's easy to just not use them or use some other challenges you feel fitting, but when the system itself is designed to trivialize that whole pillar at minimal if any cost to the players it means that someone else will have difficulty running the game they want to run because the system enforces the one true way of goodrightfun byfighting badwrongfun. Also one of the challenges is "Magical Overgrowth", there are a ton of high level spells foes & eldritch machines that can cause this.

* rising from the last war has a bit more
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
One thing that's important about those exploration challenges is that they're player-led. The GM doesn't present a list of options and solutions to the players for them to choose from. Instead, they're just presented with the situation. The suggested solutions are there to help the GM, not the players. Players are encouraged to devise solutions to problems, and the GM adjudicates them, and at no point are the players given a list of possible skill checks. It's all very organic.
 

ART!

Adventurer
This approach to supplies seems like a great opportunity for new magic storage items, magic rations, etc. I just got a new crown put on a tooth in a very cold dentist's office, otherwise I'd probably have an idea or two there. ;)
 

I'm glad to see the that the encounter challenges here don't stop the party from progressing. It's "you take X penalty if you fail your athletics check to cross the rickety bridge" not "you fail to cross the bridge". The latter method can grind a session to a halt, while the way you did this keeps it moving in an interesting direction. Much more 5e in design.

I'd like to see spells like Goodberry and Tiny Hut not loose too much of their usefulness in service to keeping the exploration pillar interesting. Sleeping under a Tiny Hut should still count as a Haven, for instance. Maybe to mitigate, we could have these kinds of spells use Supplies as a material component?
I don't know about that. As soon as you can create your own haven, a big part of the exploration challenge goes away, it seems to me.
 

Minigiant

Legend
Supporter
I don't know about that. As soon as you can create your own haven, a big part of the exploration challenge goes away, it seems to me.
I think the point is that havens won't be close to your destination. Even if your ranger or druid can summon a haven, the party still has to leave it to get to the dungeon or dragon cave. Then they are hit by a demonstorm or walk into a feylord's garden.
 



Eyes of Nine

Everything's Fine
And, inconveniently, food spoils in extra-dimensional spaces, so that bag of holding can carry treasure, but it can’t carry supplies.

Yay!

Critical Failure
Failure
Success
Critical Success

I love the variations of success. I think this could be built out even more, but maybe not in this game...
 

Augreth

Villager
We’ll talk about that later. But I can tell you that they replace exhaustion, and for the latter think Frodo.
I assumed as much. Exhaustion is one of the rules I use too rarely for my taste, mostly because it is only loosely tied to other rules. So I’m looking forward to a new system here, especially if connected to the safe house rules!

And for resolve rules, I’m excited to see these :)
 

rules.mechanic

Craft homebrewer

Aoirorentsu

Explorer
Love the support for the Exploration pillar, and the encouragement for DMs to think in degrees of success. A couple points, if I may.

First, I'm curious what you're assuming adventurers are doing when they're using these rules. If it's traveling between towns (as in most of the examples), that's not really exploration (i.e., mapping new areas or making discoveries); it's logistics. Which, at least for me, is less engaging even if it's punctuated by interesting challenges. Maybe I just need to look forward to hearing more about those journey rules, in due time.

Second, How many supplies would you expect a typical well-prepared adventuring party to have when, say, they're starting off on a journey? I ask because the "Pests" challenge says on a failure you lose 1d4 supplies, and on a Critical Failure you lose half of your remaining supplies. This can create two weird outcomes. In the first, if I have two supplies when the pests descend upon them, then three quarters of possible Failure rolls (2, 3, and 4 on a d4) are worse than a Critical Failure. That seems wonky narratively and mathematically. In the second weird case, it means a Critical Failure is worse the better provisioned you are for the trip. Like, if my party brings 40 supply, they lose 20. If they bring 4 supply, they lose 2. If supply is sort of "exploration hitpoints," that's analogous to an attack that deals more damage the more hitpoints you have. Some spells work sort of like this, but they're usually wrapped in flavor I don't see here.

Maybe these are both intentional? Just curious what the thinking is.
 

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