Wandering monster encounters are a staple of many Dungeons & Dragons campaigns. They also can be very polarizing. Some tables love the unexpected emergent play that occurs from a random encounter that feels more organic and immersive. Other tables don’t like how a campaign storyline runs the risk of being destroyed by an encounter with a powerful monster that wrecks the party for no reason. Uncharted Journeys from Cubicle 7, looks to thread the needle by providing meaningful scenes and encounters for the players to have as they travel through a fantasy world which can be threaded into a 5e D&D campaign. The company sent along this book full of rules,charts and random encounters from designers Emmet Byrne, Alex Cahill, Dominic McDowall, Josh Cocoran and Cody Faulk for my review. Did it make the journey as exciting as the destination? Let’s play to find out.
The first chapter sets up the journey rules. There are four roles within the Journey at least one character must take on as part of the responsibility of traveling through a dangerous world. The Leader is there to keep the travellers going when the night is dark and the road is long. The Outrider scouts ahead for potential dangers and risks. The Quartermaster is responsible for the supplies needed to survive. Finally, the Sentry is there to make sure the party isn’t ambushed by enemies or monsters. There are some obvious class choices for these rolls and the book makes those suggestions clear but the roles can be held by anyone. There are ways different classes play to a role’s needs. The leader could be a bard who plays soothing music at night to help the party sleep or they could be a cleric whose insight into his friends knows the best way to keep them on their feet. Everyone makes a Group Travel check based on these roles and the outcome determines how many encounters they have along the way.
The encounters are divided up by type and environment. Each encounter type also has its own group check to see how it affects the part mechanically. They tend to follow the same structure. If everyone succeeds the party gets a bonus. If some but not all succeed they usually avoid bad consequences, while less than half or no successes means something bad happens. Even the combat encounters have an element like this allowing players to prep for a battle on a success or deal with a surprise round on a failure.
Uncharted Journeys also offers up a solution to Dungeon Masters who don’t like the cadence of short rests and long rests. Journeys are long and arduous and getting a long rest on the road is not as easy as one might think. The players can choose to take a short rest by adding an encounter to the stack and only get a long rest if they luck out and get an encounter that says they can. The journey rules use hit dice as an additional resource to be managed. They can regain spell slots and class abilities.
If all this sounds familiar there’s a reason; these rules first made their appearance in Cubicle 7’s 5e adaptation of The One Ring called Adventures In Middle Earth. This book adapts those rules for a broader application here as well as supplying thousands of encounters across all sorts of environments. I’ve seen journey rules in other games inspired by those games and this book refines those ideas further. I tend to be a DM that cuts to a red line on a map in between dungeons and towns but Uncharted Journeys makes me consider devoting a night or two of table time getting from one place to another. These encounters offer a chance to show, not tell, the story of a campaign world and get all those notes out of the Dungeon Master’s spiral notebook and into play.
Uncharted Journeys offers a detailed way for players to find adventure on the road and Dungeon Masters a chance to show off their world in detailed ways.