In the vast and magical worlds of role playing games, needing to travel between locations will come up at some point, and without trains, planes, and automobiles, it could take a while. It can be difficult as a DM to navigate between tedious boredom of narrating every moment of the journey and minimizing the resources and time it can take a party to get to new places without teleportation. Read on to see some ideas to make travel fun.
Travel can be as simple as “You all leave town X and arrive at town Y three days later.” This one sentence can capture weeks worth of travel. This is definitely a common way to treat travel, and you should absolutely allow some travel instances be this fast. Travel is not always intended to take any longer than a sentence.
On the other hand, an entire campaign can be the details of a trip from location X to location Y: Who did they meet along the way? Did the horses get sick? Were they ambushed? Who is trying to stop them from getting there? In epic tales like Lord of the Ring, the travel is the story of them going there and back again. We know our heroes will get there, but we want to know how.
Most of the time, you’re going to be aiming for somewhere in between. You don’t want to just ignore the world that you’re exploring, but you also don’t want to delve into the depths of every single location. There are a lot of travel rules out there, and most of them contain tables and tables of things that can happen, chances of those things happening, and.. oh my life, are we there yet? How do you make it simple? With MOWSEE.
This travel homebrew rule can also be brought down to two rolls: Survival & Exhaustion. Have the character leading the travel roll survival for the effectiveness of the travel, and allow players to interject with reasons to possibly gain advantage or disadvantage. Based upon that roll, have all players make a constitution saving throw, where they can interject for reasons why it would be easy or difficult for the character.
Travel Method & Objective?
How are you getting there? Why are you going? Is this a trip to explore the world, are you just trying to get to a destination, or is there something else going on?
Result: Will affect the time in game spent on travel. More details and decisions for exploration, or quick summary of the trip when you just need to get there. You can also have fun with purchasing your own horses, wagon, boat, car, etc. Each of these can be upgraded and personalized. You could also just hire a ride.
How was the trip? Roll on a weather chart or simply decide what it is like.
Result: Theme and atmosphere of the trip. This can affect the difficulty of the trips survival and exhaustion rolls. This should also affect the amount of traffic of people that the players might encounter.
Who is directing? Navigating? Roll survival. Advantage if someone is helping by navigating or scouting. Players can do all sorts of things to affect the difficulty of this roll: use maps, navigation tools, books on the lore of the area, rumors, medicine to keep them awake, etc.
Result: Early to late arrival, and this affects difficulty of the exhaustion roll.
What difficulty should you use? Decide on the spot! I roughly use 20 as the benchmark for difficult/hard, then adjust from there as players make decisions. For example: Start at 20. Bad weather? Add 5. Good weather? Minus 5. You don’t even have to pick a number; you can just judge the roll itself and decide if it’s high enough. You’re the DM – this is entirely up to you. Let the players add to the role play here to affect the challenge of the roll. This is where the flavour should be. Have fun!
How exhausting was the trip? Have players roll a save vs con to see if they get exhausted from the trip. Similar to the survival roll, this one affects everyone, so there should be some player input on what might affect their roll: not every player should have the same challenge. Use your judgment! Have fun with coming up with reasons or role-playing why the trip might have been incredibly exhausting or invigorating and relaxing.
Result: Invite down-time and role playing, but ignore if there is pressing plot or chase. Is the game currently in exploration or progress mode? Yes, you might realistically get more exhausted while rushing, but it’s more important to move the game along and have fun than it is to be realistic. Exhaustion can be fun to role-play. If you don’t think it would be, then don’t do it.
What difficulty should you use? Just keep in mind the theme of the trip, the weather, and how well they are directing and navigating. This can be as low as 5 or as high as 40. Listen to the players and play this out, keeping in mind that you do not need to do this at all.
See anything along the way? Make casual note of landmarks on the way to the destination.
Result: Invite improvisation, but ignore if in a rush. Players can also decide to train on skills during this time, or simply role play with others. This is where you can decorate the landscape of the journey within your world. Make comments about what they pass, and feel free to take on the role of the tour guide, giving small blips of details.
This is a perfect time to foreshadow things to come or to invite a new campaign! It’s entirely up to you. This is the difference between a beautiful statue on the side of the road or the beginning of a war as a regiment of soldiers meet you on the road.
Optional: Ambush Watch
Who is watching for ambushes? Have the party watcher roll perception. Keep this number and compare to the stealth roll of attackers, if they even exist. Do not include ambushes for no reason or to just stall the travel. Only include if it adds to the story. In fact, this might be the only thing that matters in this trip. That’s fine!
- How are they getting there? Who is leading and is anyone helping navigate?
- Roll Survival for directions. Invite creative play to change the rolls, give advantage, and change the difficulty of the roll.
- Roll Constitution saving throw vs exhaustion. Invite creative play to this too.
- Make note of things along the way. Invite improvisation, but also be brief if there is more interesting things that they are travelling to.
- Important: Skip over any details as you see fit.
The above can be done in less than a minute while maintaining narrative. It can also invite role-play that could create an entire campaign. It’s ultimately up to you.