View Full Version : Help: How to handle wilderness exploration

2014-01-23, 02:10 PM
I'm working on a game that will revolve around exploring new wilderness and finding strange locations. Inspired by West March.

I have many of the points of interest ready for placement, but am unsure how to handle the actual exploration part without making it seem like a hex-hopping board game or constant wandering monster rolls.

The area is a vast uncharted wilderness of varying terrains. The players arrive via portal to this strange land to explore.

I can offer more info as necessary.

Thanks for your time.

2014-01-23, 02:22 PM
Get ACKS. It's built on B/X D&D, and the West Marches was just your bog-standard old-school D&D hexcrawl. (Seriously, the only reason it seeme "revolutionary" is because later generations of D&D players were misled by developments in the hobby based on imitating novels and books...) Plenty of rules in ACKS for hexcrawing wilderness exploration.

The main elements are getting lost, having to manage supplies (with rules for hunger & starvation, thirst if it's a desert setting), and encounters with monsters (and avoiding them).

It's not about the process of walking around the wilderness, anyway - that's just what you do for 5-15 minutes before you find the next point of interest.

2014-01-23, 02:26 PM
Actually, a board game with random encounters might be the way to go. The way I see it, exploration's gonna follow one of two models - either the players are just gonna be bounding off into the wilderness, held back only by their move speed, or it's going to be an issue of risk and resource management, where they have to make sure they have supplies, shelter, the ability to find their way back to safeish camp, etc.

If it's gonna be the first one, you just need a ton of interesting things, and enough challenge at every site to keep it from getting boring.

If it's the second - which I think would be more fun - then there needs to be risk.

What sort of magical resources do the party have? If they have the capacity to generate their own food, water, cure diseases and render themselves immune to the elements, then wandering monsters may be the only threat you can pose.

If not, though, you can have a lot of fun with weather, limited supplies, flooding rivers, rockslides, and anything else you can come up with.

As for the monsters - I'm usually against random monster encounters, but there's something to be said for them in this occasion. If the exploration is meant to be a game mechanic, it needs to follow rules that the players can understand and work with - if you only throw fights at them when you feel like it, then there's no such thing as them playing it safe or loose in terms of venturing deeper into the field.

Really, talk to Rhynn about this - he's the one that convinced me such mechanics could be worthwhile, and seems to have a *lot* of experience.

Jay R
2014-01-23, 03:47 PM
A good, more-or-less complete way to handle this was detailed in original D&D. (That's a sentence I haven't typed that often.)

You will need the third pamphlet of the original game (Underground and Wilderness Adventures) and Avalon Hill's Outdoor Survival.

2014-01-23, 04:31 PM
Thanks for the advice so far. I'll look into a few of those books. The main reason for this type of game is I have too many players to easily handle. I am setting up a player driven game where the party can easily change between sessions.

Some info on the game:
*D&D 3.5
* players may have more than one character, but never play more than one in the same adventure
* Max ECL of new characters is the highest level of characters in your stable (min 1)
* If the game takes 3 weeks in game time, the character is "busy" for 3 weeks of real time and cannot be played
* Meetings are scheduled by player GM consensus on a case by case basis.
* Base is on another side of a portal where only lv 1 characters and non-magic items may enter, but anything or anyone may go back (to allow new characters and retiring).
* Players set a start time and an end time for the game and wherever the time is up, finish that encounter and the group makes it back safely off-screen.
* All non-core spells must be researched or found.
* Plane shifting is greatly diminished

From these points, I think players will only worry about shelter/food in desolate regions so I guess I'll need to keep an interesting random encounter chart. The chart would have some monsters, some random events, some interesting notes with no real crunch, etc.

I've been using the welsh piper's method for random map generation with changes as needed, so maybe I will just need to keep it a hex hopping game.

Thanks for the input, I'll check back later when I have more time.

2014-01-23, 04:32 PM
I have many of the points of interest ready for placement, but am unsure how to handle the actual exploration part without making it seem like a hex-hopping board game or constant wandering monster rolls.

I've heard that it's better to pre-roll encounters for each hex/area and use that to help develop the region.

2014-01-23, 06:13 PM
It really depends on whether you want to play up the exploration aspect, or if you just want to boil it down to "you walk east for two days and arrive at an interesting location." Generally speaking, the latter approach is better-received. As has been noted, however, older editions usually assumed that exploration in the form of hex-crawling was going to be part of the game.

One thing I've been wanting to try is a wilderness exploration game using a real-world map. I've considered getting a map of an area, slapping a hex grid over it, and plotting out encounters for each area. If you pick an area you know well, you can make the environment and encounters reflect what's actually there.

Mark Hall
2014-01-23, 06:33 PM
Sounds like they're doing a "Basecamp and explore" kind of exploration (what with the multiple characters and a portal through which they came; it allows them to set up a place where they can conveniently switch characters according to use; you might take a look at Ars Magica for "downtime advancement" rules, or use something like Dark Sun's Character Tree).

In that case, they have two main goals... one is to create an adequate basecamp, which requires resources, and the other is to explore the area around their basecamp, and slowly explore. In that case, I'd create your map and let them choose their own adventure. Rather than randomly generate things (except, perhaps, encounters with wild beasts), know what's going on and have them explore as they like. The natives in hex D5? How far do they go. Are there lots of Giant Rothe near the waterhole? Where do they wander? What preys on them.