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GM Advice: Enlivening Overland Travel

“So after 15 days of uneventful travel, you reach the Chasm of Wails.” That’s not exactly an exciting start to an adventure, but often this is exactly how a quest starts.


(Art: William McAusland [Outland Arts])

Enlivening your PCs’ overland travel is easy – it just requires a little bit of forethought and planning. That said, why would you want to bother?

  • Slow Down the PCs: Perhaps you are planning a really big module, but haven’t had time to finish it. Alternatively, the session may be ending soon and you don’t want to start something new as you’ll inevitably have to spend time next session recapping salient points.

  • Provide XP: Sometimes, the PCs are just a few XP short of a level – and could really do with levelling up before the next adventure.

  • Provide Vital Tools: These could be in the form of magic items, writs, legends, rumours, the services of an NPC and so on.

  • Foreshadowing: Adding rumours, news and themes important in later adventures is well worth the investment in time and often builds a more believable, dynamic campaign.

So how can you enliven an overland journey? Here are just a couple of ways to injecting some excitement into an otherwise boring part of the game:

  • Random Encounters: While the PCs are searching for adventure, sometimes the adventure finds them! While standard random encounters can be crushingly boring crafted encounters with either an interesting setup or selection of foes can create much needed excitement.

  • Other Travellers: The PCs can meet travellers who may have items to sell, stories to tell or agendas to push upon the PCs.

  • Sidetreks: Running short adventures – perhaps involving a village in desperate need of adventurers – can prove a nice change of pace to the normal style of adventures. If you’ve featured loads of combat-heavy encounters, an investigative adventure can reinvigorate the players.

  • Settlements: The PCs can rest overnight in a settlement along the way. Here they can relax, meet interesting NPCs, catch up on local rumours and more. Some of the shops may even have things they want to buy!

Do you use other methods or strategies to enliven your overland journeys? Tell me what they are, in the comments below.

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Protip: get bookmarks for your golden pages

So here's a DM trick... Got an adventure you already ran once or are never going to run? Thumb thru it again with a stack of color coded notecards (each color= a terrain type.)

Bookmark every encounter you think could work as a "random encounter" suddenly your random encounters aren't boring....

I call those golden pages, the ones you can reuse

Edited at 2013-08-20 05:32 pm (UTC)

That's a good tip. I have about 2,000 adventures I don't have time to run....

I agree An excellent tip!

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