After 15 days of uneventful travel, you reach the Chasm of Wails.” That’s not exactly an exciting start to an adventure, but often this is exactly how a quest starts. That’s a shame as overland travel can be a dynamic and exciting part of the campaign…
Enlivening your PCs’ overland travel is easy – it just requires a little bit of forethought and planning. That said, why would you bother?
- Slow Down the PCs: Perhaps you are planning a really big module, but haven’t had time to finish it. Alternatively, the session may be ending soon and you don’t want to start something new as you’ll inevitably have to spend time next session recapping details of the quest. In this situation, it’s better to begin the new adventure at the start of the next session when everyone is invigorated and paying attention.
- Provide XP: Sometimes, the PCs are just a few XP short of a level – and could really do with levelling up before the next adventure.
- Provide Vital Tools: These could be in the form of magic items, writs, legends, rumours, the services of an NPC and so on. To achieve this, the GM can have the party encounter other travellers, fall prey to bandits, discover the aftermath of a battle and so on.
- Foreshadowing: Adding rumours, news and themes important in later adventures is well worth the investment in time and often builds a more believable, dynamic campaign. It also rewards attentive play – something well worth encouraging.
So how can you enliven an overland journey? Here are just a couple of ways to injecting some excitement into an otherwise boring part of the game:
- Random Encounters: While the PCs are searching for adventure, sometimes the adventure finds them! Standard random encounters can be crushingly boring but crafted encounters with either an interesting setup or selection of foes can create much needed excitement.
- Other Travellers: The PCs can meet travellers who may have items to sell, stories to tell or agendas to push upon the PCs.
- Sidetreks: Running short adventures – perhaps involving a village in desperate need of adventurers – can prove a nice change of pace to the normal style of adventures. If you’ve featured loads of combat-heavy encounters, a short investigative adventure can reinvigorate the players.
- Settlements: The PCs can rest overnight in a settlement along the way. Here they can relax, meet interesting NPCs, catch up on local rumours and more. Some of the shops may even have things they want to buy. Handily, this inevitably leads to roleplaying and can be employed to present the party with fun social challenges.
So there you have it. Devoting some of your prep time to making your PCs’ journeys more exciting is design time well spent.
Help Your Fellow GMs!
Do you use other methods or strategies to enliven your overland journeys? Let us know what they are in the comments below and help your fellow GMs enliven the overland journeys in their own campaigns!