In almost every great work of mythic fantasy, it’s the journey -not the destination- that makes the tale worth telling. Yet, in a pen and paper RPG, these moments of trail-blazing are often overshadowed by a condensed, fast-travel method of exploring the world.
So, how can you add some excitement to your character’s travel? We have a few tips!
In the third episode of Tavern Talk, I speak highly of the video game Far Cry 4’s system of capturing radio towers. They act as not only lookout points, but once captured, the player gets a birds eye view of the area surrounding them. You can see caves hiding treasure, settlements, and even some wild animal dens within close proximity.
This mechanic creates a satisfying gameplay loop of exploration, adventure, and information. The players get the satisfaction of climbing mountains, battling native beasts, and gaining the intel to capture even more towers.
Using this mechanic as a game master, you get to tell your players all the areas of interest you have planned, or unplanned, near by.
This may be especially interesting if you start your players with a blank map. Every watchtower they capture could fill out a small section of their map. By the end of the adventure they can look back to their humble beginnings and retrace their steps, or see what areas of the map are left unexplored.
Even if the main antagonist is slain and the kingdom saved, some of the heroes may want to don their armor once more to fill in the few remaining unexplored inches of map space. They’ll be especially eager if they hear rumors of dungeons and ruins full of exotic gear…
Much like the Nazgûl’s tireless pursuit of the ring in The Lord of the Rings movies, The Hunt occurs when a creature (or creatures) of lethal ability is stalking the party as they travel. It could be a monster fixed on their smell as they pass through a large forest, or perhaps your heroes are being stalked by a band of hired assassins. Regardless, these types of characters can force the heroes to seek shelter, or to prepare traps and try to confront their predator with a plan.
Alternatively, having your players track and hunt another party works just as well! Perhaps an increasingly harsh path exhausts the heroes as they continue tracking. When it comes time to pounce, they might find themselves ill-equipped, or even in a moral quandary, as it might turn out they are pursuing a party hunting a dangerous beast.
Using The Hunt mechanic is a great way to keep your players engaged in the game as they travel through otherwise uninteresting terrain. Keep in mind, though, the ‘hunted’ doesn’t have to be a creature. Maybe they are hunting an agent of evil, or a mount, carrying the precious item they are looking for. Does this person know they are being hunted? How would they react to try to throw players off the trail? How can the players then recover from the spoofed path? Let your players drive the hunt. All you need to do is come up with interesting challenges for them to overcome.
These are just a few ways of making traveling in an RPG more interesting. If you have any of your own ways, please leave us a comment! Alternatively, tell us what the craziest thing to happen to your characters while traveling was. We’d love to hear about your adventures, and misadventures alike!