1) How can I make perilous journeys more perilous without just planning random encounters?

1) How can I make perilous journeys more perilous without just planning random encounters?

1) How can I make perilous journeys more perilous without just planning random encounters? I want their encounters to feel organic to the story. I find that I usually either just montage it, or that I end up presenting them with un-inspired hang-ups.

2) On a similar note: I’m hopefully starting a sci-fi campaign any day now (probably with Stellar Conflict). So perilous journeys will be happening in the comfort of their ship. Any suggestions for how to deal with inter-planetary travel in an interesting way? I feel like bad guys shooting at them will only be fun the first time…

14 thoughts on “1) How can I make perilous journeys more perilous without just planning random encounters?”

  1. Fronts are good for trouble that’s organic to the story.

    Advance an Impending Doom and show them the evidence. Or look at the cast and see who they might run into.

    So instead of 1d3 dire beavers, it’s an assassin hired by the evil wizard they’re chasing, or a bunch of kobolds wearing the symbol of the supposedly-forgotten god whose temple they’re about to plunder.

    It’s a good time for a “it’s worse than you thought” moment. The Orc horde you were scouting has already crossed the border in force. The hydra you’re tracking has a mate… And a brood of babies.

    If you don’t have a Front prepped, just think about where they’re headed and what they want, and use your move to make that more complicated.

  2. Regarding 1)…

    First, search the Tavern for “Perilous Journeys” by Jason Lutes. There are a few drafts of his supplement for overland exploration and adventure, including some expansions on the UPJ move that make the whole travel/exploration thing more interesting.  In particular, the combination of Discoveries and the random tables have the potential to really make your perilous journeys more interesting.

    If you like the drafts you see, go back the kickstarter (currently in progress):


    Second, do some collaborative worldbuilding with the players early on. Ask worldly characters what they’ve heard the biggest threats in the area are. Ask a scholarly character about the history of the area.  Ask the bard what the most mysterious/majestic/misunderstood/etc. thing about the region is.  Ideally, do this well in advance of the perilous journey itself, so that the ideas have time to percolate and you can even show signs of the threats before the go.

    Then, when someone misses or gets a 7-9 on UPJ role, reincorporate that stuff.  Then it’s just a matter of following the moves and letting things snowball. Sometimes a PJ is pretty uneventful. Other times, a chance encounter (and a few misses on top of each other) can alter the course of the campaign.

    My two favorite UPJ anecdotes:

    A) First adventure for the party, all new characters.  They’re exploring the Secret Tombs of Titch, but we don’t know anything more about it than that. I ask the players about the terrain they had to cross to get there (endless woods, a lowland swamp) and the biggest threats (big-ass puff adders, dire bats).  We knew they were racing the artificer’s rival (a cousin from back home), hoping to explore the tomb before she got there with her party.  So we have them roll UPJ.  The ranger nails the trailblazer roll, so they got there in good time. The fighter nails the scout roll, so they avoided or easily dealt with any threats.  But the artificer biffs the quartermaster roll.  They discover that instead of trail rations, he brought baguettes, liver pate, and quail tongue. That detail established the character for the whole campaign.

    B) On the way home, they were out of rations so the ranger went off to hunt. Meanwhile, the fighter & artificer looked for a good spot to camp.  We handled it with the scout & trailblazer roles from UPJ.  Nailed the trailblazer roll, so they found a perfect camping spot–a big-ass boulder sticking out of the mud and marsh, big enough to camp on.  The scout roll was a miss, which resulted in the fighter climbing up to the top of the rock only to find himself face-to-face with a giant puff-adder.  The resulting shenanigans resulted in the fighter being poisoned near to death, the artificer using the hired porter as a human shield, the ranger coming back and yelling at them (“I LEAVE YOU ALONE FOR LIKE TWO HOURS!?!”), an accidental mind-meld between the artificer and ranger, the artificer poisoning himself and then jury rigging up a centrifuge to extract the antivenin from his blood and using that to save the ranger. (Yeah, yeah, not realistic but be a fan, right?)

  3. Russell Williams and Jeremy Strandberg have covered 1 well.

    As for interplanetary travel, here’s a few idea of things that can happen along the way:

    – attacked (already mentioned)

    – breakdowns

    – collision (something hits the ship)

    – running low on fuel (air, food, water, etc.)

    – distress beacon (real or faked)

    – something mysterious on the long range scanner

    – intercept message (warning, call for help, coded transmission, covert transmission, etc.)

    – stowaways (human, alien, creature, strange growth, e-virus, nano-bot, vermin, etc.)

    If you’re interested in DW/AW based interstellar sci-fi rules there’s a number to choose from:

    – Sean Gomes Uncharted Worlds in final development post Kickstarter https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/115271228378056276084

    – Andrew Medeiros’s Star Wars World https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/101545959795911789402

     – my own (work in progress) Beyond


    – for pulp sci-fi game there’s Johnstone Metzger’s Adventures on Dungeon Planet


    – and no doubt there are others that I’ve missed

  4. In regards to Perilous Journeys in space, depending on the genre and setting conceits, they might not even undergo a particularly perilous journey. For example, in the Star Wars movies (ignoring the EU) ships basically just travel without incident. All the incident comes when they arrive. 

  5. Thank you all so much! This is excellent. Going to study it all for a while. Maybe keep some of your suggestions handy during play.

    And I was planning to use Jarrah James ‘s Stellar Conflict but will also check out those other hacks for additional inspiration. Thank you!

  6. I’m taking inspiration from Justin Alexander, and for every Front I have I will have three clues in the world relating to that front.

    So for example for the old Necromancer the three clues could be: People digging up Graves, Strange maulings of townsfolk, dark magic feeling in the air.

    So for the Overland journeys I could throw one of those clues into the journey to see if my players bite.

  7. james day The three clue rule applies to the players specifically – assume they need to hear three clues before they follow up on one.

    Also, remember you’re Playing to Find Out What Happens.  This includes putting aside where you think a clue leads and instead building a great adventure around wherever the players go with it.

  8. Oh yeah totally but I do feel that having a bit more detail in the front like the clues makes me have a much better grounding so I can move it differently if i have to.

  9. If you haven’t already, create a campaign front for your game and a monster setting for the area the players are moving through. 

    This takes the randomness out of perilous journey encounters by giving you things that makes sense to throw at the party.

    You can also create an adventure front to represent the physical challenges of an area

    e.g. The Scorching Desert:

    Instinct: Turn everything to sand

    GM moves:

    – Dry and crack

    – Scour with sand and wind

    – Scorch their minds

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