So I think my PCs are getting sick of being on the road.
When I kicked off my homebrew the PCs said they wanted to use the first town they started in as their home town. We then promptly left that town and have since been through every other major metropolis in the area.
Last game the party decided to get back home, once and for all; they just wanted to check this cave on their way out. I turned said cave into a 10-room dungeon hack which they all said they had fun with but, afterwords, they all said that they were disappointed that dungeon took the whole session.
In short I get the feeling they want to get back to their home town.
Now I want to make the journey significant in some way but I don't want to use up the full 6 hour session doing it. How do I get the characters through 4 days IC of travel somewhere between "Time Passes...you're there" and "Epic journey, hour one..."
I unfortunately don't know the answer to this but I would very much like to as I too have trouble with describing interesting journeys
Maybe its time for "Time passes... You're there." If you are the type of DM who spends a great deal of time and energy on your campaign, it can be difficult to surrender a part of it. Its emotional attachment, and can cause you to make choices based on such. I know I've been there. The plus side is that hopefully everyone can get back to having one fun once you make one small consession.
You know, you could turn their desire to get home into an adventure in itself. Sort of an Odyssey thing.
I think that's the problem. The very first adventure the NPC monk took a critical and had a collapsed lung; not something they could heal where they were or in their home town. So they diverged to "the best healers in the region" 2 days travel to the city. Then from there they said "now that the monk's healed and we're here in the city, we should take advantage of an urban economy..." and a trip to the market took up a good deal of time.
Now they're getting bored with bookkeeping and they decide "we really SHOULD get back home" but they headed down an old coastal road, "the long way." They had some interactions in small towns giving them the knowledge that their home town hunters are being stalked by worgs.
Now in that same town I created a whole adventure. That took 1 session. During said adventure I alluded to a cave dungeon nearby. The next time we met the party decided to clear the dungeon; there's another session. It's now been 3 full sessions since the party decided to return home. For their chracters they've been on the road now for a couple weeks and they're looking at near another week of travel through the wilderness.
But on the same token I've been warning them about this wilderness since the game was even in development. The party has to pass through four hexes; swampy salt marshes and overlooking moors that were (and still are) a known home to hags and monstrous humanoids, then across sparsely wooded highlands and rugged foothills where many magical beasts make their lairs. The path passes through the shadow of a mountain range which has haunted the land with horrors for 2 centuries, and then finally back home.
I was looking at Kingmaker. My thought was to MAYBE follow that model and just have one significant thing per hex. 2 of the hexes would have obvious encounters fixed in place, like a ruin or an open barrow mound or something. But the other 2 would just have either a random encounter or one they'd need to seek out from clues along the way. Thoughts/suggestions?
I'd suggest you thrown in some future plot hooks in the regions they pass through. Without making dungeons, or undoubtedly evil enemies they feel obligated to solve right away, you could throw something in that they might want to return to later.
- The ruins of a lost temple. Sounds like a dungeon, but there is no undeads, no evil cultists, or other monsters. Perhaps some sections are covered with rubble, which need a significant work force to remove. It might be interesting for some of the players to return at a later time to restore the temple, in which case, you can add whatever you want.
- A witch's hut. That strange cottage with animal bones, strange plants, and generel eeriness, is definately the home of a (evil or good) witch. However the witch isn't home (and doesn't return for weeks), so there isn't much to do there at the moment. If they conclude that wicth=evil and burn the hut down, then you might have a lot of fun having the non-evil witch come to their town, demanding a house in exchange for the one they burned down (can be done with anything they take or destroy in the hut, so you could place some interesting magic items to tease them).
- An wierd obelisk, strange stone circle, or other landmark emanating magic or some ancient purpose. There might obviously be something here, but having no way to get additional knowledge of it at the site, they better move on for now.
- A village of some kind of exotic (monstrous) race, such as lizardfolk, grippli, troglodytes or whatever might inhabitate the swamps. The creatures are neutral however, relatively peaceful, and in no way posing an immediate threat to the community, the PCs call home. At time however that might change, as the humans expand their town and area of influence, making clashes between the two.
All in all, make potential stories rather than stories themselves. This way, the players can return to their home, and have a choice in what kinds of adventures they want their characters to go on.
Additionally, I think you should let the travel include a significant portion of 'sitting-around-the-campfire' giving the players opportunity for in-game talk on what they are planning to do.