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Blog (A5E) Level Up: Exploration Challenges, Boons, & Monster Signs

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We looked at exploration in Level Up: Advanced 5th Edition in a previous article about how we’re expanding the exploration pillar of the game. In that article we talked about Supplies, Safe Havens, and we introduced the concept of Exploration Challenges. This article talks about three of the tools that GMs have available to create a rich and vibrant environment:
  • Exploration Challenges
  • Boons & Discoveries
  • Monster Signs
Exploration as a ‘pillar’ of the game includes underground as well as the wilderness. When you’re searching a dungeon, you’re exploring. When you’re trekking across hill and shire, you’re exploring. When you’re navigating a dense fantasy city, you’re exploring. When you’re flying through an elemental plane of air, you’re exploring.

 

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Russ Morrissey

Russ Morrissey




Faolyn

Hero
I'm definitely intrigued by many of the exploration challenges. I can already imagine some interesting possibilities! I wish you had included some more sample boons, but your hints are pretty interesting as they are. I also really like the monster signs. Death knight, medusa, and bulette, right? They're definitely a good way to bring the monsters to life.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
I only skimmed this a bit from what I saw this looks great.

The one thing I hope gets some good focus is long travel journeys, like from Adventures in Middle-Earth/The One Ring or The Forbidden Lands; and have good rules for Exploration focused party roles.
 

Banesfinger

Explorer
My current issues with RAW: most overland journeys will limit encounters to 1 (maybe 2) per day while traveling/exploring. This means players are free to go 'Nova' because conserving resources will not be an issue. Therefor encounter difficulty/balance is skewed.

How will Level-Up avoid this issue?
 

Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
My current issues with RAW: most overland journeys will limit encounters to 1 (maybe 2) per day while traveling/exploring. This means players are free to go 'Nova' because conserving resources will not be an issue. Therefor encounter difficulty/balance is skewed.

How will Level-Up avoid this issue?
We previewed some of the travel rules in the previous exploration article. We’re not ready to share the full thing yet though.
 

Stacie GmrGrl

Adventurer
My current issues with RAW: most overland journeys will limit encounters to 1 (maybe 2) per day while traveling/exploring. This means players are free to go 'Nova' because conserving resources will not be an issue. Therefor encounter difficulty/balance is skewed.

How will Level-Up avoid this issue?
If by RAW you mean the 5e core rules you are correct. 5e doesn't provide much, if any, guidelines/rules/tools for actual exploration and journey rules.

Adventures in Middle-Earth, which is a 5e game, has this in spades. Journey is THE Key aspect of the game. The entire games structure is based on it, including party roles, journey events, survival, and downtime.

Combat is but one of a few potential situations that can happen.
 

Stalker0

Legend
I like the concept of the Exploration challenge. It feels similar to old skill challenges but quicker and simpler. I think the problem with old challenges is that they had so many rolls that it removed the immersion. To me how I would probably phrase this:

"A tornado has just touched down near you all! You'll need to make an athletics check to hold your ground and not get sucked in, although if you have an alternate idea I will consider it. Oh people can also try a nature check to get some alternate ideas."


A few notes on the tornado one.

1) Those DCs seem pretty high for group checks. I would not expect half the party to be good at the suggested skills, so it will be quite quite difficult even for a higher level party.

2) Remind me how you get a critical success normally? Is it if everyone passes the group check?

3) I am concerned about the feel of losing supplies on a success. You may get into a situation where players feel like they are losing supplies "no matter what"....and therefore every encounter is just the DM punishing them with supply losses. Obviously that needs to be playtested but I can see that happening.

4) I do like the nat 1 = some terrible aspect, but I actually think it may be too infrequent. I would rather see it like "you fail the DC by 10 or more" triggers the effect.
 

Faolyn

Hero
My current issues with RAW: most overland journeys will limit encounters to 1 (maybe 2) per day while traveling/exploring. This means players are free to go 'Nova' because conserving resources will not be an issue. Therefor encounter difficulty/balance is skewed.

How will Level-Up avoid this issue?
One thing to keep in mind is that if a journey is supposed to take several days or weeks, then it should probably take several sessions as well, with each session containing multiple encounters of one sort or another. Don't just go start at A --> have encounter --> finish at B.
 


Faolyn

Hero
A few notes on the tornado one.

1) Those DCs seem pretty high for group checks. I would not expect half the party to be good at the suggested skills, so it will be quite quite difficult even for a higher level party.
Well, it is a tornado. I don't actually remember if LU has said they're going to do group checks, but the unofficial consensus in D&D seems to be if half or three-quarters pass, then everyone passes, because the people who passed are helping the ones who aren't.

2) Remind me how you get a critical success normally? Is it if everyone passes the group check?
I think it's either 5 or 10 over the DC. I don't know if they've officially stated which one.

3) I am concerned about the feel of losing supplies on a success. You may get into a situation where players feel like they are losing supplies "no matter what"....and therefore every encounter is just the DM punishing them with supply losses. Obviously that needs to be playtested but I can see that happening.
I can see how that could be a problem. But I guess as long as you give them the ability to get new supplies, it would mitigate some of the issue? Have a tornado one day, and spend the next day gathering up goods from all the trees that have been ripped out of the ground and from the animals that died being flung around.

4) I do like the nat 1 = some terrible aspect, but I actually think it may be too infrequent. I would rather see it like "you fail the DC by 10 or more" triggers the effect.
I dunno. There's a lot of people who think that having a critical failure occur even 5% of the time is too much. I could see doing something like that as a house rule, though.
 

I like the concept of the Exploration challenge. It feels similar to old skill challenges but quicker and simpler. I think the problem with old challenges is that they had so many rolls that it removed the immersion. To me how I would probably phrase this:

"A tornado has just touched down near you all! You'll need to make an athletics check to hold your ground and not get sucked in, although if you have an alternate idea I will consider it. Oh people can also try a nature check to get some alternate ideas."


A few notes on the tornado one.

1) Those DCs seem pretty high for group checks. I would not expect half the party to be good at the suggested skills, so it will be quite quite difficult even for a higher level party.

2) Remind me how you get a critical success normally? Is it if everyone passes the group check?

3) I am concerned about the feel of losing supplies on a success. You may get into a situation where players feel like they are losing supplies "no matter what"....and therefore every encounter is just the DM punishing them with supply losses. Obviously that needs to be playtested but I can see that happening.

4) I do like the nat 1 = some terrible aspect, but I actually think it may be too infrequent. I would rather see it like "you fail the DC by 10 or more" triggers the effect.
A tornado is nothing to fool around with. The person who appears at 19 seconds made their check, the car that vanishes at 19 seconds did not

I really like what I see in these & think they make for some really interesting ways of shaking things up so can't wait :D. One thing I notice though is "For example, the party might find a cave which they can use as a safe haven (a location where a long rest allows the recovery of fatigue and strife)" what is strife?
 

leonardozg

Because I'm the DM
One thing to keep in mind is that if a journey is supposed to take several days or weeks, then it should probably take several sessions as well, with each session containing multiple encounters of one sort or another. Don't just go start at A --> have encounter --> finish at B.

Or you could use the optional DMG rule that changes the short rest to one day and long rest to one week.
 

Corrosive

Adventurer
I don't actually remember if LU has said they're going to do group checks, but the unofficial consensus in D&D seems to be if half or three-quarters pass, then everyone passes, because the people who passed are helping the ones who aren't.
Group checks in D&D are in the core rules. More than half the party needs to succeed.
I think it's either 5 or 10 over the DC. I don't know if they've officially stated which one.
The A5E people said it was if everyone succeeded or everybody failed for critical success and fail on group checks.
 

Mike Myler

www.epic5e.com/ KS ends April 22nd!
Or you could use the optional DMG rule that changes the short rest to one day and long rest to one week.
I've got an O5E game (and setting book :whistle:) where that happens but it drastically changes play. Not just "oh these abilities take longer to get back", but changing the approach a party takes to everything. Looting stuff. Every single combat. Food. It's a fun optional rule but it's a very, very big change to the game's fundamental mechanics and not something to be done lightly (it requires tweaking a bunch of other dials to work right, it's not just the one switch presented).
 

leonardozg

Because I'm the DM
I've got an O5E game (and setting book :whistle:) where that happens but it drastically changes play. Not just "oh these abilities take longer to get back", but changing the approach a party takes to everything. Looting stuff. Every single combat. Food. It's a fun optional rule but it's a very, very big change to the game's fundamental mechanics and not something to be done lightly (it requires tweaking a bunch of other dials to work right, it's not just the one switch presented).
Depends on the kind of game you play. I'm running a tier 4 urban campaign with few encounters per day and it's working fine.
I'll keep using it because I don't want to use 6-8 exploration challenges a day.
 


Morrus

Well, that was fun
Staff member
One thing I notice though is "For example, the party might find a cave which they can use as a safe haven (a location where a long rest allows the recovery of fatigue and strife)" what is strife?
It’s the final name for what we were earlier calling Resolve.

Think Frodo. It’s morale, despair, shadow, stress. Tracks just like Fatigue. But it’s your soul rather than your body.

We split exhaustion into Fatigue and Strife. You can only recover them at a safe haven.
 

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