Talk to me about your travel moves.

Talk to me about your travel moves.

Talk to me about your travel moves. Say your players are making a two week journey, some over road, some through wilderness. What sort of rolls do you have them make here? Navigate/Scout/Make Camp every day? Two or three times?

I’ve tried a few things to make it sort of sandbox-y and I’m not super happy with it. I have some ideas mulling around, but I’m curious what other people do?

20 thoughts on “Talk to me about your travel moves.”

  1. I second William Nichols​​. Unless you are of the mind that (start corny music) “the journey is the destination”. In which case Victor Julio Hurtado​​ has a great way of handling opportunities for events.

  2. Yes, sorry if I wasn’t clear. I own Perilous Wilds and am softly referencing the moves in the post (Navigate, Scout Ahead, Make Camp).

    What I’m trying to tease out is really how to use them, or any travel moves, in an effective manner. Some examples of what I’d say are ineffective would be:

    Having Dangers and Discoveries actually sidetrack a time constrained quest. To avoid this you’d want to either have them match them impending quest, or eschew them completely (but if you do the latter, do you trigger them on the return journey?)


    Rolling all three every single day. 3 moves each day on a two week journey is a lot of mechanics for no real payoff.


    Rolling once for an entire journey, regardless of length. This seems a little disingenuous to me, but I can’t really describe why.

    I really like the idea of overland travel moves on paper, but I can’t get them to feel right in play.

  3. You’ve defined ineffective. Can you define effective?

    Dangers and discoveries may/will sidetrack a time constrained quest. That’s the nature of time constraints and a sandbox full of random encounters. This is either a bug or a feature depending on what you want (which might be a definition of “effective” here.)

    Rolling every day is too much. Rolling for the whole thing is too little. So…. somewhere in between? How many rolls do you want to make? 

    Perhaps you want something like a bunch of points connected with various paths, each with a certain number of travel rolls required and associated fallout for failure. Do you take the shorter route and risk getting attacked by ___ or take the longer, safer, route and risk running out of time (plus pay the cost in supplies.) 

  4. I guess I can’t really define effective except in Goldilocks terms. “I’ll know it when I see it”. That’s why I was hoping to see what others do 🙂

    I had a thought on my question: a PbtA roll means “something happens”, good or bad. Sandbox-y overland travel feels like it needs a “nothing happens” result. Now, you can create “nothing” by simply not rolling, but then how and when do you determine that?

  5. Ermmmm… I hate to say this… but “I know it when I see it” isn’t Goldilocks ; )

    I guess I would say that PbtA doesn’t play well with “nothing happens.” Frankly I would recommend not pursuing this angle. I would also say that making those judgement calls (when/how often to roll) is a judgement call on your part as a GM when using this system. Maybe there’s some outcome you want to avoid (running out of time) and instead build in other fallout (worse conditions when you arrive). But other than trial and error and working out what feels “right” to you I’m not sure what to offer you. 

  6. I’m working on this at the moment for my Tekumel World adaption. It depends on the distances and the danger level. I’m tending towards a distance that is about 2 days travel and a travel move roll with a 10+ being it takes you two days and a 7-9 being either take an extra day to avoid trouble or roll on an encounter table and on a miss, roll on the encounter table.

    But Tekumel is a big place and I think I need an extension for longer trips.

    This scale probably would not suit a European sized landscape.

  7. The “nothing happens” result using the Perilous Wilds travel moves are the 10+ results on Scout Ahead and Navigate. On Scout Ahead, the Scout actually gets to decide if anything happens or not, and a 10+ on Navigate just means you make good time.

    The travel moves in TPW are my attempt to specifically to emulate hexcrawl sandbox exploration, while keeping the degree of micromanagement somewhat flexible. So rolling roughly once per day is part and parcel; I did struggle with writing a single move that could accommodate a variety of modes of travel, but never ended up with anything I liked.

    One way we’ve handled the problem you describe (a time-sensitive journey through dangerous lands, ideally with minimal distractions) is to make a single Defy Danger roll (with WIS or INT or even CON), with the Danger being whatever regional danger they would rather avoid; that way they’ll have one encounter tops, but you can make it a significant encounter. Then, one Manage Provisions roll for the whole trip.

    If that feels too fast you could handle it  in legs, ideally from landmark to landmark. Each leg would require X days of travel, and you could call for 1 Defy Danger and 1 Manage Provisions roll per leg.

    Also note that you can use the Journey move to cross dangerous lands without having to encounter anything, as long as the route itself is safe. 

  8. My players haven’t made a journey of that distance yet, but things I have done to make the journey feel more “journey-like” while not making additional rolls are to do more in the fiction while they travel and having any discoveries spaced several days apart with fiction in between. So what I mean by this is I will ask the players pointed questions about how they are managing with their companions on the road this long, and maybe have followers dialogue with the player characters on this journey. Also describing the changing landscapes around the characters using the methods described in Perilous Wilds. A long overland journey is a good way to get to know the characters and dynamics of the party in a different way, and the longer the journey, the more questions you may take time to ask. It should be noted that this particular campaign I’m talking about is a play by post.

  9. Damnit Jeremy Strandberg​​​, I accidentally reported your comment on my phone and can’t get it back. Have to reply from memory.

    It sounds like you and I have similar feelings on this. The point crawl idea is actually interesting. It would require pre-determining landmarks in the case of a map-with-blanks, but that’s okay.

    On a side note, I don’t like Manage Provisions – not my style. I’ve been having them roll: Scout Ahead, Navigate, and Make Camp (having them choose one person to roll) a few times per journey, but just sort of shooting in the dark as to frequency.

    One thing I keep meaning to try is this merging of the Planarch Codex “Dungeons are Monsters” idea with PW Discoveries and Dangers. It works like this:

    “Before you guys set out to the Jarl Mountains, what preparations do you make for the dangers in the grasslands? What are those dangers?” Use the player responses to create some dangers with strength 1-3 as per the Codex. I probably wouldn’t ask about Discoveries, but color them in terms of the Dangers (if the players say there are orc raiding bands in the grasslands, perhaps they may discover a newly raided village, or a maybe a camp the orcs left to go raid).

    Doesn’t answer the “how often do we roll?” question though…

  10. Well that’s unfortunate.  Abbreviated version for posterity:

    Original Stonetop travel moves here:

    Probably not going to use these per se.  Thinking more about the UPW moves, but using some sort of point-crawl approach rather than day-to-day rolling.  (Pick you next destination, ask the GM how many days to get there, roll x1 for scout & navigate, maybe x1 for make camp or maybe every night for make camp).

    Alternately:  just write up an instinct and some GM moves for each landscape that the PCs pass through, and use those GM moves to make the journey interesting.

  11. Eric Lochstampfor oh that’s a nice distinction – roll for the journey, when something happens, it interrupts the journey and you deal with that, then start the next journey.

    This is a lot like the point crawl system Jeremy Strandberg is talking about but with impromptu points

  12. Oh, yeah, I remember that thread.  The problem I’ve always had with that approach is that the UPJ move doesn’t tell us whether an interruption happens. The scout role’s result tells us whether we get the drop on it, but not whether it happens at all.  

    Now, I suppose you can say “it’s a perilous journey, of course something happens”. But…if that something interrupts your journey in order to deal with it, and then you make another UPJ move to see about what’s left… then something happens again… and the trip is interrupted and you resolve the rest of the trip with another UPJ roll, and then something happens again and you get interrupted, and…

    It’s like Xeno’s Paradox. You keep getting interrupted and never arrive.  The only way out is for the Scout to get a 10+, have the drop on the danger and then the party skirts around it.  

    Or for the GM to just decide that nothing happens and you get there. And that’s what any reasonable GM is going to (eventually) do.  But I think what you’re asking for, Aaron Griffin , is some way for the rules themselves to tell you “nope, uneventful.”

  13. > But I think what you’re asking for, +Aaron Griffin , is some way for the rules themselves to tell you “nope, uneventful.”

    Basically, yes. It seems to come back to “everything is Defy Danger”, eh?

  14. I may have an proposition which scratches the itch in any set of travel moves: a progress tracker based on dangers – when the progress is up, the journey is over.

    Say, for example, you make a journey from Alicetown to Bobville. You know that between the two is the Stalgar Wasteland – full of orcs, goblins, noxious gas vents, and random magma breakthroughs.

    We can take these and give them a little rank from 1-6 based on the amount we want to see over the journey. Orcs: 4, Goblins: 2, Noxious Gas Vents: 2, Magma Breakthroughs: 1.

    When a travel move indicates some shit goes down, we randomize or choose one or more Dangers and roll a d6 for each – say I choose and roll Orcs: 3 and Magma Breakthrough: 1. They will be encountering 3/4ths of the orcs I wanted them to meet as well as a magma breakthrough. After that is dealt with, we’re left with Orcs: 1, Goblins: 2, and Noxious Gas Vents: 2 as the remaining dangerous before the journey ends.

    This is basically a bastardization of Planarch Codex’s handling of dungeons

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