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b4ndito
2016-08-04, 01:04 PM
How do you DM overland travel?

Often my group glosses it over unless something happens. Which is fine, I guess, but I think it weakens immersion. Should I introduce small travel obstacles to overcome? Shoe-horn in some merchants traveling the road? See if they get lost? I can't readily do this every time the party goes somewhere without it getting boring, right?


I've been toying with the idea of creating overland adventures: essentially, a mini-dungeon that follows along a pathway between places, with occasional fixed encounters and locales, as well as travel obstacles that must be overcome. The idea comes from point and click video games like Path of Exile or Diablo II.

I'd love some advice from some experienced players and DMs, because a three days' journey worth of random encounter rolls has become painfully boring.

Requiem_Jeer
2016-08-04, 11:07 PM
It really depends on what the travel is for. If this new psudeo-dungeon interrupts an otherwise important sequence somehow, it's not suitable.

A good way to handle it is to skip over it if it's mid-adventure, but plan for a journey that is an adventure unto itself. Instead of having the party travel to a dungeon to get the McGuffin, give them a difficult journey, punctuated by a brief boss encounter to get the thingy. It's all a matter of spreading out the difficulties of the adventure to not be in concentrated points, but instead all aspects of the adventure have travails.

And make sure your players are aware of this new philosophy of design so they don't complain as much.

Darth Ultron
2016-08-05, 02:26 AM
I'd love some advice from some experienced players and DMs, because a three days' journey worth of random encounter rolls has become painfully boring.

It really depends on how you want to do it.

The first decision is to decide if you will even have overland travel. Do you want to focus the game on a couple places and events with everything else in the background or do you want a wide focus on everything under the sun? A lot of people like the focused game: get right to the good parts and play. They want to get to the Dark Tower of Slagog, and not waste ten hours in Bunglewood forest. The focused game often just skips travel, or even has things nearby.

If you do want overland travel do you want it to be:

1.A pointless distraction. You roll, there is an encounter, maybe a fight, and move on.

2.Icing on the cake. The travel and encounters are there to enhance the main story and plot, but not to take away from it.

3.A part of the whole. The travel and encounters are a part of the world and expand everything in every random direction with no focus.

And most important: The DM and the Players need to agree.

Most players, by default are type ones. They think travel is a distraction. Most DM' are a two.

So get everyone on the same page.

Yora
2016-08-05, 02:36 AM
I use random encounter tables that have been customized to match the environment where the party currently is and then I also use reaction rolls and morale checks to see how the encounter goes.
I also have a half dozen simple maps for lairs that are just floor plans for caves, camps, and small ruins. If a random encounter leads to the players wanting to track the encountered creatures to their lair, I quickly put some additional creatures of that kind around those maps and put one or two boxes of treasure somewhere. I also keep some NPC prisoners or bandit leaders around that can be added to those lairs as the mood strikes me. A goblin lair with a 5th level elven wizard as leader makes it much more interesting.

AD&D and Basic D&D are very helpful with this, as monster entries all come with an average number of creatures that are encountered wandering around and being in the lair. (Which is where those 10d6 orc encounters come from.)

Mark Hall
2016-08-05, 09:14 AM
AD&D and Basic D&D are very helpful with this, as monster entries all come with an average number of creatures that are encountered wandering around and being in the lair. (Which is where those 10d6 orc encounters come from.)

I think the relatively faster combats of TsrD&D made random encounters and such a lot more feasible... a fight took 20 minutes, not 20 hours.

That said, however, I'd tend to handle it like old Fallout or Gold Box games... for the most part, the journey IS just filler. You might toss in a couple random encounters, but some of them could be handled as window dressing ("Your second night, you met some merchants around time to set up your camp who offered to share camps and watch with you. Did you want to do that?"), and others might be informative ("Two days out from town, and all the farms are smoking ruins.")

GungHo
2016-08-08, 09:34 AM
I think in general random encounters (which is what traveling ends up being) need to be considered in light of what they were intended to be: resource drains. If you're not really factoring resource drains into your game, you should take a step back and either adjust other things or be okay with making the game "easier". Personally, if your system doesn't resolve fights quickly, the biggest drain is taking away time that could be spent advancing the story or doing something constructive... unless of course, your players really like random encounters and really want to fight Inbred Jed and the Hollow Bottom Orcs. I don't do the resource drains myself and I accept that I may break the game or make things easier, but I do enough things accidentally-on-purpose to make up for any light handling I provide on the way to the objective.

If you want to institute the drain without going through the combat, you can drain rations, money, hit points/wounds, consumables, or whatever. Make a simple table with net positives and net negatives and roll against that, or use something that's undoubtedly been created for that purpose, or just say "roll survival, oh no, you bumped your fool head". Just understand that people will get irritated if you break their favorite toys by fiat.

Red Fel
2016-08-08, 09:51 AM
The gist is this: "What purpose does it serve?"

As stated, if you want traveling from point A to point B to create a wilderness risk - namely, the perils of exposure to the elements, threat of wild animals, and otherwise depletion of traveling resources - then random encounters serve a valuable function. Alternatively, if you want to establish story elements - such as characters or factions or monsters present in a region - having them encountered in overland travel helps build the setting without using an infodump. And there are other reasons as well, any number of which may be viable.

However, if you're squeezing in encounters "just because," it's a waste of your time to run them and the players' time to fight them out. As DM, one of your challenges is to make your game fun but functional - ideally, everything serves a purpose, even if that purpose is satisfying the PCs' curiosity. ("Yeah, sure I can describe purely aesthetic crack in the wall number thirteen to you in greater detail, if you want. The name should tell you something, though.") Encounters, even semi-random wilderness encounters, should similarly serve a function. Does it establish the wilderness as a place of peril? Reveal important plot or setting elements? Remind the PCs that, when traveling through enemy territory, one ought to be cautious? Set a grittier, more severe tone? Give the PCs something to do in between doing other things? If it does, fantastic; if, on the other hand, you're injecting random encounters for the sake of injecting random encounters, I wouldn't bother.

GungHo
2016-08-08, 02:02 PM
if, on the other hand, you're injecting random encounters for the sake of injecting random encounters, I wouldn't bother.
Also, some random encounters are more random than others. If I'm going through orc land, i should be running into wargs, goblins, orcs, and not the Viet Cong, I don't care what the table says.

Mark Hall
2016-08-08, 06:36 PM
As mentioned, consider the refresh rate.

In 4e, for example, every encounter should serve some distinct purpose, simply because you'll seldom have more than one random encounter per day, and the next day, they'll be back to full again. Unless there's some other bit of resource that you're draining.

In AD&D, refresh rates are slower... unless damage is minimal, the party isn't going to be able to heal to full every night after combat... even having to spend spells in the morning leaves them somewhat disadvantaged.