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House Rules Evolved: Camping and Travel

With most of my bigger house rules changes out of the way, here is a post on two of the rules that got their own, smaller updates. I’ll be discussing my travel and camping rules.  

My Travel and Camping tools were both designed to integrate into an easy and effective system for hex crawling. These rules are a ‘worker-management’ or ‘resource-tradeoff’ mini-games focused around keeping everyone involved in the overland travel decisions, keeping things simple, and putting a standardized system in place.

The Existing Rules

The travel tool lets the players decide as a team if they want to pick from a number of actions that slow them down but add some other benefit, like sneaking, taking breaks, or tracking. Each day, they have 8 hours of travel before they need to break for camp. Every hour after that risks exhausting the characters, as does traveling without taking breaks. Horses offer one way to increase this speed and solid vehicle’s make traveling easier, allowing the characters a longer day of travel. The risks for an encounter roll are 1-in-6 each hex and a getting lost check is a 1-in-6 chance per hex. Weather, unexplored hexes, travel actions, and other modifiers add or subtract from these chances. The travel actions are sneak, sight, scout, track, navigate, forage, and rest. A party can travel one hex in a number of hours equal to 1+the number of travel actions.

My camping tool has a core as a worker management mini-game, with each player able to contribute two actions to the team’s camp. These actions can work towards improving group comfort, taking watch, foraging, or self-improvement. As a team, the group has to balance a necessary level of comfort to rest, keep a secure campsite, eat, and resolve any individual needs like repairing weapons, preparing spells, or personal tasks. Each half of the night, there is a 1-in-6 chance of a random encounter roll. Wandering monsters have to make a perception check to notice the camping players. Guards use passive perception to notice any random encounters.

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The Changes

Looking back on the old set of travel actions, they were far too weak to justify the corresponding slow down so I combined a bunch of actions into more relevant categories: hustle, sneak, scout, search. I also lessened the speed penalty and simplified the math for calculating travel speed, removing the messy fraction mathematics from the tool. The saves for exhaustion by traveling faster or longer than normal remained the same, but I swapped the old resting action’s removal of a penalty with hustle’s speed boost. I like to keep player actions as a positive bonus so that they have the incentive to remember the bonus, rather than requiring me to remember to apply a penalty. Some minor graphical changes tightened up the document and gave me more room to bump up the text sizes. This even left space for me to add a small text box for players to note travel equipment and bonuses they acquire.

Camping got a bit more than a facelift with this update. While the core mechanics of balancing a need to build comfort with personal benefits remain unchanged, I did tweak many of the actions for balance. I removed the need for spellcasters to spend time preparing their spells. This was a huge cost that did not fit thematically with the timing of other actions. I also gave a boon to elves because they sleep for fewer hours. The sharpen weapon and booze actions were modified to fit with my Wear/Tear and Insanity subsystems. I resized everything and cut the rule’s text down so I could up the text size for readability. As an afterthought, I rearranged everything to add in a small space for noting any special camping gear or effects.

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The Results

I now see my players strongly considering the travel actions where before they were dismissed out of hand for being a bad trade of time to utility. Everyone at the table has a clear idea of how long it takes to travel and what the risks are. This means that they can plan and weigh their options without having to stop and consult me at every step of the way. As an added bonus, laying out travel in this manner offers me some novel avenues for rewards and money-sinks: faster horses, nicer wagons, better vehicles, specialized exploration gear, map information, and more. Travel is smooth, comprehensible, and fun.

The changes to the camping tool were modest, but my spellcasting players are much happier. So far, comfort has been easy to come by in the calm and fair-weathered hexes they’ve been in but we’ll see how things start to play out should they need a rest in more dangerous places or once they start juggling some Wear/Tear or Insanity. My favorite change was to go from a penalty for not tending mounts to granting a bonus for doing so. This makes it so the players have an incentive to remember, rather than putting it on me to dutifully apply a penalty. My players love getting to set up camp, everyone gets involved, and it neatly ties up a day of travel. It’s fun and games for now, but I hope they bring warm jackets and strong spirits if they keep heading north.

Something I may tweak in the future, if I want to run a grittier campaign, would be to set majorly increase the comfort penalties for the outdoors. Players would have to return to town or get settled into a camp to get good sleep and recover. If that is the style of campaign you want, it’s an easy tweak to make!

Looks like they like my handy little tool over at the GM Advice google group, that’s a good sign! Leave a comment here or share this tool on your social media of choice if you find it useful. I would really appreciate feedback too.

2 thoughts on “House Rules Evolved: Camping and Travel

  1. Do you have a PDF of this available to download?

    Like

    1. Of course! I’ll have to go in an add this to the post, but it’s right here: Camping and Travel Tool PDF.

      Like

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