Pacing in the Wilderness

Eye of the Wyvern is a wilderness adventure, and I thought that I would talk about the differences in pacing when running a wilderness adventure.

The Plot-Driven Adventure

Firstly, it should be noted that there are several different types of wilderness adventure. Eye of the Wyvern is an event-driven adventure, where the party moves from one encounter to another by the decisions they make. It’s a rather simple linear adventure, as most of the encounters are sequential. In between such encounters, you have routine tasks like setting up camp and keeping watch.

In such adventures, the pacing is often one significant encounter each day, with the party at nearly full strength, allowing them to be slightly tougher than you might find in a dungeon environment. This significant encounter might not just be during the day though, as night time encounters, and planned campsite ambushes might also be possibilities. Alternatively, there might be fewer, weaker encounters, which the PCs can be expected to overcome whilst travelling in the wilderness.

The Road Trip

Similar to the plot-driven adventure, you might have the journey or road trip. Typically, these adventures don’t necessarily focus on the wilderness, instead having the PCs move between sites of interest such as settlements and adventure locations. In such adventures, the party might have random encounters in the wilderness on their journey, but the chances of this vary, and sometimes GMs will skip these encounters entirely, especially if the journey is part of an adventure.

For example, Wrath of the Minotaur had the party move through the wilderness to the Tomb of Alaxus, but there were no encounters along the route. The journey was covered by a cut-scene, and the adventure focused more on exploring the tomb.

The Cut Scene Journey

The GM might also use this approach when moving the party between adventures, such as from their starting town to another settlement that serves as the start for their next adventure. Once again, the journey may be handled by a cut-scene rather than worrying about random encounters.

When PCs do have random encounters in the wilderness, these are often stronger than when in the dungeon, as it is often assumed that the random encounter will be the significant encounter for the day. It should also be noted that quite often, the GM will use a “status quo” approach to wilderness encounters, where the encounters are not necessarily scaled to party level, and that the party will be able to run from any overpowering encounters. This often makes wilderness encounters much more dangerous than dungeon encounters.

The Hex Crawl

A final type of wilderness adventure is the exploration, often referred to as a “hex crawl” adventure. In these adventures, the party is exploring the wilderness much like they would a dungeon. However, where as a dungeon often confines the party to specific routes, wilderness exploration typically allows the party the freedom to explore in any direction, barring any natural features that the party either cannot or will find difficult to overcome.

For example, in an adventure where the party has to explore the wilderness, they will sometimes find the area they get to explore confined by land-based obstacles like cliffs and mountains, or water-based obstacles like rivers and seas. Such obstacles may be crossed with preparation, however, like getting a ship to explore the ocean, but these can often be an adventure in itself.

In terms of encounters when exploring, besides possible random encounters as above, the party will typically comes across sites of interest. These sites could be simple encounters, or may be settlements or dungeons that the party can explore and replenish supplies. These sites will often become the significant encounter of the day, otherwise an empty hex might have a random encounter.

Hex Crawl in The Vale

We haven’t currently had a “hex crawl” adventure in the campaign, especially as the players have tackled adventures throughout The Vale already. As such, the Vale is pretty much explored and mapped, although the could easily be other sites of interest hidden within.

It should be noted that the exploration adventure has fallen out of favour over the past decade or so, as it can be tedious and repetitive to explore any wilderness hex by hex. Plus, such adventures often only take place on the fringes of settled lands, and quite often campaigns focus on more populated areas, especially if they focus on intrigue and politics, rather than exploration. It can take a LOT of work to prepare a wilderness exploration adventure, and even more work to justify it within the context of a campaign. Instead, the plot-driven or road trip adventure types are often used instead, as they are easier and quicker to apply and justify within a campaign.

Wilderness Pacing

Ultimately though, whatever type of wilderness adventure you are having, it’s often the case that the party will have only one significant encounter per day, and this typically translates to only one or two significant encounters per session.

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Da' Vane

I am the designer and writer behind the D-Jumpers.com website.