What do people do when players are journeying or exploring a completely new area that you haven’t prepped for or…

What do people do when players are journeying or exploring a completely new area that you haven’t prepped for or…

What do people do when players are journeying or exploring a completely new area that you haven’t prepped for or don’t really know much about yet?

Do you just randomly pick monsters for them to encounter or interesting terrain? Do you always ask them questions about what they know of the area and put things in from that? Do you just randomly roll on a table?

17 thoughts on “What do people do when players are journeying or exploring a completely new area that you haven’t prepped for or…”

  1. I usually ask the players to give me some ideas of what creatures are known to be here or why haven’t they been there before. Why have they decided to come here at all? Is there treasure? A great beast?

    I also really like random tables, so I have 3 d6 tables that I just quickly roll three dice for. The results give me a quick idea to go with and usually combining that with the current story can give me an awesome jump off point. The tables usually consist of one for the type or size of creature, one for the motive, and one for the difficulty. And I just roll with whatever I get.

  2. I go with what has been established before and what would be fun for me. 

    If it is super unknown and no player cared to research anything then I am feeling free to make up whatever I want. 

    Draw Maps – leave blanks

  3. What if its something like the sea or wilderness between places. Always there and always kind of blank because your just exploring it now

  4. There was recently a supplement called “Perilous Wilds” that was just kickstarted too. It’s pretty good for exactly that scenario =)

    It expands on the Undertake a Perilous Journey move and helps you answer those questions with your group!

  5. The players don’t just head into a blank zone.  Something has led the fiction there, presumably.  When you find the fiction in the new place, think back on the conversation that led them to the place, and build from that.  

    If they went intentionally:  what expectations did they have? What do the seek?  What about that place led them to believe it was the right place to go?

    If they find themselves there through something else’s power, ask the same questions, but now you answer them on behalf of that power and its motivations.

    You don’t need to know everything (or much at all!) about the place.  Pick three or four interesting things.  They’re there: What does it smell like? Who or what else lives there?  What used to live there?  What signs are there of something interesting?  How do the npcs, animal companions, etc feel?

    Think about it this way – when you walk into a room, you don’t know how many books there are, whether there is dust on top of the cabinet, or all of the names of the people in there with you.  Rather, you walk into the room, and have a few initial impressions.  Give the players those impressions.  Then, you start deciding where to focus your attention – ask the players “What do you do?” to find out where they focus their attention.  Build the room slowly from the elements that intrigue the players and the fiction that comes out of any moves they trigger.

    The trick isn’t in “knowing” what they will find before they find it, but in asserting a few things ad-hoc, and then rolling those details into the emerging story in an interesting and internally-consistent way.

    When i GM Dungeon World, i really like to paint myself into corners by throwing out disparate details, and then seeing how creatively i can correlate them, IF AND WHEN they players start paying attention to them.

    The other cool thing that comes out of emergent play – you get to throw crazy, unsolved problems at the players.  You don’t need to know the answer as a GM.  Just sit back, be a fan of the characters, and watch them confront a problem, or lose fingers trying.  Much fun!

  6. Tim Franzke Doesn’t there need to be something perilous for it to be a perilous journey. Just wondering how GMs deal with creating that perilous thing.

  7. James – fill the world with danger.  walking into the unknown ought to be perilous in some way, even if nobody knows quite how.

    But yeah, if you know, or it’s more interesting, that there are no perils, then you could just note how many rations they spend and hand waive the travel.

  8. Andrew Fish Perilous Journey is basically just a way to initiate fiction from point A to point B to see if something happens along the way. It is usually used if you are travelling a significant distance from point A to point B, like through the mountains or from one city to another.

  9. Damian Jankowski if fiction along the travel is warranted, Perilous Journey is fantastic.

    But if you are undertaking a dull, routine journey, the move isn’t triggered.

    If it is at all ambiguous, i essentially ask myself “is it interesting to make this perilous?” Almost always, the answer is “YES!”  

    Especially at the start of a session, i’ll often find inspiration in the Perilous Journey rolls to either create a diversion or find something new in the world.  

    The last session i ran, the druid learned that intelligent beasts were organizing a raid against the “two legs”, all because the quartermaster left the bacon unwrapped as they walked through a predator-dense forest.  None of that would have happened without a 6- on a quartermaster’s roll….

    It’s also good to push the question to the players: What do your characters want to accomplish during this journey.  What interests you as players? Their answer may stimulate good fiction without triggering the move, which is okay, too.

    But sometimes, such as at the end of a session when it’s more interesting to end the fiction at the destination than mid-journey, i’ll hand-waive the move.  “yeah, you all press forward through the remainder of the trip. Several days of rather uneventful walking and a few bawdy tales around the campfire, you make it to your destination.  Spend three rations, and you get where you’re going.”

  10. By-the-book, UPJ is triggered when you set out for a known destination across dangerous territory. The move assumes there’s a chance you’ll get lost (trailblazer role), that you will run into trouble (scout role), and that you need to carefully manage your provisions (quartermaster role).  

    If the trailblazer and quartermaster hit their rolls (7+), I just handwave things.  Maybe ask some questions of the well-traveled or scholarly characters for color (“Krikor, you’ve been through these parts before, yeah? While the region is known mostly for it’s danger, what’s do you think the most beautiful thing about the landscape is?”).  

    The scout role assumes trouble, and that you either get the drop on it (10+), see each other coming (7-9), or worse (6-).  As for what the trouble is, I do what Andrew Fish is suggesting: extrapolate from the already-established fiction, and ask questions to fill in the blanks.  

    Same thing with a miss on the trailblazer or quartermaster roles.  Now we know there’s trouble, so let’s build on the fiction to see what that trouble might look like.  Or ask questions if there’s nothing obvious, or I think the players might have better ideas.

    Now, if you’re just bumbling about, seeing what’s over the horizon or searching for a pass through the mountains, that’s technically not UPJ (in rules-as-written DW).  You’re in GM-move territory.  The GM should be showing signs of approaching threats, revealing unwelcome truths, giving opportunities, telling them the costs/consequences, etc.  And again, following the fiction and asking the players, etc. etc.

    One of the things I’m most excited about in Jason Lutes’s Perilous Wilds supplement is that it gives you tools for this hex-crawl, bumbling about wilderness exploration.  In addition to breaking down UPJ into three separate moves (which apply equally to “go someplace known” and “see what we find”), he’s got some great tables for generating names, impressions, themes, etc. to help inspire dangers and discoveries. It’s really great. 

  11. Ah that all makes sense to be honest, I have an idea of the fiction for my game. The Empire is trying to catch the last wizard on the boat. And they are on the sea. I was just wondering if there was any other ways to make a kind of sea trip interesting since I couldn’t think of much except for bad weather and a kraken.

    Yeah I like the look of Perilous Wilds and it definitely makes me want to run a more West Marches style of game in Dungeon World.

  12. Hey James, how about they come across an atoll ( a la Waterworld ) or a fleet of raiders/pirates? Or a thick misty fog that screws with their instruments and maybe crashes them into an island that wasn’t supposed to be there, or previously wasn’t? Or how about distant explosions or bright light coming from a nearby continent, or an Aurora Borealis that suddenly surrounds their ship and starts tractor beaming people off the boat into the sky?

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