By now you should know I have a fixation with the Undertake a Perilous Journey move.

By now you should know I have a fixation with the Undertake a Perilous Journey move.

By now you should know I have a fixation with the Undertake a Perilous Journey move.

The move as written is kinda boring to me.

I don’t track rations.

I usually don’t do random encounters.

I never had actually interesting scenes when the party got lost. It just detracts from the actual adventure and it isn’t particularly exciting to play; it turns into an awkward moment of “well… so… yeah, we just continue in a random direction, hoping we’ll spot a landmark to try to figure out where we are exactly”. It might be fun the first time. Certainly not the second.

I’ve run many hacks (mine or found amongst the community) of the move and I’m still dissatisfied.

I’m trying this now, inspired mostly on Shawn Tomkin ‘s Ironsworn.



When you lead a group through hazardous or unfamiliar lands or explore a perilous site, roll +…

■ … +STR if you carry most of the gear.

■ … +DEX if you move cautiously and stealthily.

■ … +CON if you push on with resilience.

■ … +INT if you analyse the best path based on knowledge.

■ … +WIS if you follow land features and stars.

■ … +CHA if you motivate your group.

On a 10+, you reach a waypoint and gain 2 Progress.

On a 7-9, you reach a waypoint and gain 1 Progress, but use 1 Supply/Adventurer’s Gear.



When your reach a waypoint, tell us about:

■ A bond forged or broken

■ A trait or quirk of your character

■ A vista, landmark or terrain feature.

■ A task you undertook to help the journey

■ A hardship you endured or overcame



When your journey or exploration comes to an end, roll 1d6+Progress.

On a 10+, you reach your destination and take +1 Forward.

On a 7-9, you reach your destination but face an unforeseen hazard or complication.

On a 6-, your objective falls out of reach, you have been misled about the nature of your objective, or there is something you missed. If you push on, reset your Progress to 1.

========== PLAY EXAMPLE ==========

The adventurers gather their stuff and head out. They must reach the Temple of Doom before the sacrifice ritual happens in a fortnight.

GM: That seems like an Undertake a Journey move to me. Who wants to lead?

Ranger: I act as the group’s navigator, so it makes sense I do it. I roll+WIS; an 11!

GM: Great start, gain 2 Progress! Who wants to do the Vignette?

Paladin: I’ll do it. I’ll go with terrain feature. So, at first, we navigate through farmlands. Since peasants recognize me as a zealot of The-All-Father, they offer us food and lodging. Then the land transforms into meadows as we move farther from civilization. The first trek is easy as we can follow paths, even if they are more like animal or hunter tracks after a few days. As we move further, the terrain becomes more rugged and plains give way to rocky hills.

Wizard: I’ll lead the group for the next segment. I watched closely the stars patterns and studied the maps (roll+INT); I’m pretty confident on what bearing to follow… Or not. I rolled a 5!

[Here the GM has an idea, so he does the Vignette himself]

GM: Don’t feel bad, it’s totally not your fault. The weather as been so terrible you barely made any progress. At first it was heavy rain which made everything miserable. Trudging through mud, soggy bread and frail campfire. Then as you reached higher elevations, rain turned to slushy snow. Some days, you had to stay put until weather calmed. All of you guys, suffer a Debility of your choice; some of you might just be demoralized or pissed, while others might be actually physically taxed. What do you do?

Ranger: If you don’t mind, I’ll take the lead back. My character is in a bad grumpy mood. Again, I’m just doing what I’m best at: navigating by following natural features. I roll+WIS, 7.

GM: Alright, so you’re now a 3 Progress, but this delay has taken a toll on your supplies. Lose 1.

Paladin: I’ll do the vignette. I think this group needs a pep talk. I want to portrait my Lead by Example drive, so we have a moment where I notice the morale is very low. Everybody is grumpy and tired. He turns to them and says: “I don’t know about you, but I won’t let these people die just like that. If I must walk day and night and pass out on the porch of the temple, by The-All-Father, so be it.” Then I head out.

[Here, the waypoint isn’t a physical location. It’s just a moment where the camera stops showing travelling montage and shows the characters in a situation.]

GM: Great! So, you proceed. I think Paladin should lead this segment!

Paladin: Follow the leader! I guess I’m rolling + CHA. Hmm, so let’s see. 9!

GM: Good, so you do keep going but I think you chose to leave some of your gear behind to move faster. Lose 1 Supply.

Wizard: Yeah, I guess we kinda accepted the fact that we’re probably not coming back anyway, haha!

GM: You’re now at 4 Progress. I think we had enough interesting scenes for this journey. Do you feel like this journey comes to an end?

Ranger: Yeah, I think so! Wizard, care to do us the honor?

Wizard: My pleasure! I roll only a single d6+4, is that so? That’ll be 8.

GM: Excellent so you reach your destination, although you see a troupe of cultists in the distance, maybe 200 yards from the temple entrance. They are moving a dozen of frail looking prisoners into a caged wagon dragged by weird muscled furless bull-like creatures. They seem to be moving some of the prisoners to another location. What do you do?

17 thoughts on “By now you should know I have a fixation with the Undertake a Perilous Journey move.”

  1. I can’t relate to this:

    > I never had actually interesting scenes when the party got lost. It just detracts from the actual adventure and it isn’t particularly exciting to play; it turns into an awkward moment of “well… so… yeah, we just continue in a random direction, hoping we’ll spot a landmark to try to figure out where we are exactly”.

    Like, if they didn’t get lost, Bilbo would have never found the Ring; they would have never been held prisoner by the elves of Mirkwood. Frodo would have never met Tom Bombadil, or the barrow wight. Merry and Pippin would have never met Treebeard or gone to Isengard. Merry would have never become a Rider of the Mark nor fought at Pelennor field, and Pippin would have never saved Faramir from murder as a paladin of Minas Tirith.

    Getting lost didn’t lead them into random grinding through wilderness, but into the meat of their adventures.

    The idea that getting lost detracts from the “actual” adventure presumes that the world itself is boring and static, with nothing interesting in it except designated adventure sites that are clearly marked as destinations on the party’s map.

    And that could be a fun way to play. If you only want adventure at adventure sites that the party intends to visit, just skip Perilous Journeying. Ask if they have any plans or preparations they want to make during the journey (like finding herbs for poultices or something) and tell them what happens when they arrive at the main attraction.

    Undertake a Perilous Journey is for when your setting has a life of its own, and there are definitely dangerous and interesting things out there that might change their whole agenda and worldview.

  2. Your move seems viable to me, though the play example breaks one of the GM rules: “Begin and end with the fiction”. If they gain progress, it seems like that would need to be narrated somehow. And if they lose supplies, I would ask or say what they lose, and how.

    Of course, if your aim is to keep it as abstract as possible, then talking about Progress and Supplies makes sense. My interest is to make everything “real” in the fiction.

  3. Biased (obviously), but I like it a lot. I like the focus on a leader, since it’s less fiddly than assigning roles, though I imagine there is some potential issues with spotlight sharing if one character tends to take the lead. However, the flexibility around the stats should help alleviate that, which is something that Ironsworn doesn’t address, particularly if the GM and players are proactive about sharing leadership.

    I particularly like the suggested themes for the vignettes, which is something I wish I had thought of.

    Seems like 1d6+progress would work out pretty nicely as a journey that feels substantive but not too repetitive, particularly with the +2 progress on a strong hit. I (of course) like the risk/reward of pushing your progress.

    Should “supply” be “ration”?

  4. I’m using Supply in my DW games, but you could easily replace Supply by either Rations or Adventurer’s Kit without a hitch.

    John at Deep Six Delver

    I guess it’s the way I play.

    For starters, my sessions are (unfortunately) short. Usually around 3h. There’s little time for side trekking. I’m not too interested in random scenes if they take more than 2-3 minutes when they don’t advance the plot. Do I play to find out? Maybe not as much as others do but I like to think I do. At the end of the session, I make sure I understand what the group plans to do next so that I can prep something.

    Since I’m using miniatures and terrain, I like to plan my encounters in advance to have interesting features and challenges.

    I guess I could expand the play example a bit to include more narrative., although I’m usually not interested in the minutiae of what supplies they lose and why. I use a Supply rule for that very purpose, to make gear even more unspecific. Supplies represent “your stuff”.

    I’m using a totally-ripped-from-Ironsworn move for that :


    When you search your gear for a specific item, roll +Supply.

    On a 10+, you have it.

    On a 7-9, you have it, but you suffer -1 Supply.

  5. Addramyr Palinor, I hope I didn’t come off like a dismissive naysayer!

    I acknowledge and celebrate that we all have different kinds of action and adventure that interest us, and I didn’t mean to scoff at yours.

    My sessions tend to be between 3 and 4 hours too, usually about 3½. We usually spend at least one fifth of that time warming up, which might include an icebreaker, recap, onboarding a new player or character, asking and answering leading questions (which may involve flashbacks), resolving “love letter” moves, and/or getting on the same page for their goals this session.

    I vividly remember planning set piece combats in 4th edition D&D, and while it can be rewarding, I acknowledge it would be disappointing to have done all that work only to have the party traipse off in a different direction. That’s why I prefer games that don’t require that.

    Check this: My Planets Collide game (currently on hiatus until next month) has over thirty sessions. The party has wittingly or unwittingly avoided almost every single “dungeon” that they came across. But we always have GM moves, and the world is filled with active threats, and the players keep on rolling misses and partial successes. Because of that, all our sessions have been action-packed and led to decisive, often pivotal changes to the campaign landscape.

    But that’s just our game. In our case, I almost always find it more supportive of actual play to prepare for having a conversation over preparing what content the players will “definitely” come across this session.

  6. Also, I don’t think of side treks as random scenes. I sometimes have awkward stuff that doesn’t feel like it advances the conflict (I don’t have a plot to advance).

    When that happens, I always look back, and I can almost always think of 6 or more GM moves I might have made in those moments that would have made the scene more focal and the stakes more clear.

  7. John at Deep Six Delver Don’t you worry friend! Didn’t even crossed my mind that your comment could be any way offensive or dismissive! I’m happy to receive good or constructive comments! If I weren’t, I’d be ill-fated to post and ask peoples’ opinions 😛

  8. The practice of looking back at my most awkward scenes and going over the GM moves to see what I could have done differently has actually been one of the most productive exercises I’ve stumbled across to make me a better GM.

  9. John at Deep Six Delver Yeah, I started doing that but then my players told me to not take this too personal and that I do great and they’re having a blast. I shrugged. You certainly don’t learn by saying everything’s perfect :P. But it’s a lot harder to do that all by yourself without any feedbacks.

    On a side note, I don’t have a problem dismissing a prepared encounter. I just find “random encounters” way more static (and thus boring) than prepared ones. I’m not too good at improvising really engaging combat scenes; I need some time to think ahead about all the moving pieces. I’m hugely inspired by Runehammer way of making encounters. And even if DW is technically not designed for miniature and terrain, it works flawlessly out of the box.

  10. Oh, I never thought of asking the players for feedback on my GM moves. And I wouldn’t recommend it, because I think that would harm their suspension of disbelief. The moves I make are none of their business! 😉 They have enough to worry about when it comes to what happens in the fiction because of my moves.

    For me, it’s easy to just pick an awkward moment in the game and go down the list of GM moves: What would it have looked like if I revealed an unwelcome truth there instead? What might it have looked like if I turned their move back on them? If I put someone in a spot there?

    It creates many possible branches of the fiction, but I’m not worried about that. I find it helps me select more focused and meaningful moves, intuitively, in actual play.

    Not everyone needs this kind of exercise, but it definitely turned me away from thinking “I’m bad at improv” to trusting myself more at using the GM moves as dramatic prompts.

    I don’t know the Runehammer way of making encounters. Is there an article you can point me to, or a brief explanation of that?


  11. Well, I’d say his game Index Card RPG is built around all the different principles he’s layed out over the years, especially the section about GM.

    I don’t think there’s a video that summarizes all of the principes though.

    I’ll poke the guy, see what he suggests and let you know.

    On the get go, watch the “Room Design” videos. There’s also the Key Mechanics that, as the title said, presents each a single principle that he usually applies to each his encounters. Fun to watch!

Comments are closed.