Role Playing Overland Travel


Jade Regent


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In the past most groups I've gamed with have somewhat glossed over the overland travel portion of an adventure/campaign, pausing typically only if a "random encounter" occured.

Now I suppose that this could be done with Jade Regent, but I really feel that doing so would result in a loss of the 'epic journey' feel of the AP.

I'm fairly green when it comes to GMing (I've done it a couple times in the past, and our regular GM is really excited to play a character in this AP) so any thoughts or ideas on what more experienced GMs have done in the past or are doing for Jade Regent to flesh out the caravan travel portion would be a huge help!

Thanks!

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

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Disclaimer: I've never run a campaign primarily based around the journey. But I have run many campaigns that had journies in them.

Basically, think of vignettes to use.

But first, in order to get the license to go there, have a little back-and-forth with your PCs as you develop heavier and heavier vignettes.

First, mention something innocuous that doesn't directly involve the PCs but sets a mood. Try and rely on senses and sensations other than just the visual. And personification imagery can make things a little more interesting.
The sun sits low and pregnant in the sky. West. The sea is over there somewhere, but you can't hear any waves. The whirring of the cicadas keeps getting louder, as they create a symphony of scratchy noise to celebrate the end of the day, and the end of summer. One of the horses yawns and shakes itself out, seemingly in agreement with the sentiment.

Now that you've established a bit of literary genre, bluntly inform the PCs that the days are long and boring. Ask them pointed questions about what they are doing with all of their time. Don't accept gamey answers like "I'm crafting a Wondrous Item" - that doesn't take 100% of your concentration and time.
Example questions:
- who wakes up first?
- who cooks breakfast?
- how are you dealing with the heat of the day? the cold of the night?
- who in the caravan makes for a good conversation partnet? who is boring?
- name one skill you've learned from another character on this trip. And by skill I mean "now I can make a reed of grass make a farting noise by blowing into it" not "I picked up ranks in Spellcraft"
- does your character drink? does he know any good drinking songs? is he teaching anyone else these songs?
- what do you miss about home? what token gesture are you doing to remind yourself of it?
- what food are you really getting tired of eating day after day?
- what are you typically doing late in the day?
- how does your character behave when tired and hungry?

Hopefully they've given you something to work with. Even so, do this a few more times. Go back and forth. As GM, you describe some sort of tone-setting piece, then as PCs they tell you a little about their characters. Remember: you're not asking them to respond to your vignettes, they are only there to set the tone and to help draw people into immersion. Don't be direct! To use the previous example, don't ask the PCs "do you find the cicadas annoying?" (But if they go there on their own, awesome.)

Once you've established immersion and established a bit of the PC's routine, then it's time to grab the reins. Put the PCs in situations, and feel free to dictate their actions a little bit, so long as it is consistant with answers you've given before.
The wheel fell off the lead wagon again. At first, you responded to it like any mishap: you stopped the caravan and did a full repair. When it happened an hour later, that was a bit annoying, but you put it back on. But it kept happening! After you missed a caravan-wide game of Three Dragon Ante because you were putting the entire axle back together, you started to get upset at the damn wagon. At this point, raise your voice a little bit, and convey anger in your voice. But the f---ing thing just broke off again. The wagon hates you. The f---ing wagon is doing this just to piss you off. Desna d---it! Why won't this f---ing wheel just stay on?! Kick the leg of the table OOG. Then become calmer, and look the PC in the eye. You had an annoying time with the wagon today. How do you feel about it?

Your narration suggests a response to them, but they don't have to take it. They could talk about how time at the monastery showed them infiniate patience or somesuch. That's fine. You were showing them that they were in an annoying situation, not that they themselves were annoyed.

Once you build up PC trust, you can turn the game into a series of "what do you do in this situation?" questions.
"You finally caught Hank cheating at Three Dragon Ante..."

And of course, with all of this stuff, don't do it all at once. Have one or two back-and-forths, then have them fight a monster or explore a dungeon, or whatever it is that actually moves the plotline. Then do a few more back-and-forths, and then move on to do more plot. Interlace. And watch your PCs. If they're bored with it, then just play the LotR overland journey music and be done with it.

Hope that helps!


Erik Freund wrote:


Hope that Helps!

It certainly does!

I was thinking something along these lines, but you've made much clearer that which was only a fuzzy outline of an idea in my mind.

Thank you!

Any other ideas/suggestions from anyone else would be welcome as well.


Erik's post pretty much sums it up, I'm not running Jade Regent but Serpent Skull which has a lot of overland travel, also the prevoius conan campaign I ran had the players overland for most of it too.

Overland travel during the day I split up and do morning, noon, midday and then eve camp. Roll for random in the morning for each part of the day so you can prep in advance, as before use vivid descriptions of the scenary and landmarks. I find its easier to let the players dictate the pace, if they are bored move it along, if they want to do something let them and play it out.

for the evening I normally do the following:

let the palyers explain how they set up camp, survival roll if needed, maybe they go hunting for food, you could through in a random encounter for the hunt if you want. This can turn in to a fun diversion sometimes esp if a fumbles happen.

Ask the palyers if they are doing anything during the evening, let them role-play if they want, party banter is all part of the fun. Some of my players esp rangers like to pick up wood, stones etc so they can make thier own arrows,others like to look for herbs etc along the way for poisons or potions.

Survival is a powerful skill for overland travel.
One of the best books I have for wilderness things is an old Conan d20 book called Hyboria's Fierstest, it gives some good use of the survival skill such as hunting, foraging, sheletrs, differnet types of herbs and poisons etc.

Set up a watch pattern for the night and ask the watchers what they are doing and play it out, dont forget those random encounters (I normally roll at camp set up and if there is one I roll to see which watch it happens on, that way you can set it up in your'e head before hand).

Don't be surprised if the first 1 or 2 sessions stall if the palyers are not used to it, they soon will be and some of the best moments in adventures come from when players and the GM improvise.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

The other thing to note is that this AP is supposed to have plenty of roleplaying oppertunities with the NPCs.
And overland travel is a great place to place these oppertunities.
While the AP glosses over travel for the most part, it still remains the best place to get the NPCs and players to forge links via roleplaying.
Another set of posts has ideas for caravan and NPC related happenings, take them and expand upon them.


Craig Mercer wrote:

The other thing to note is that this AP is supposed to have plenty of roleplaying oppertunities with the NPCs.

And overland travel is a great place to place these oppertunities.
While the AP glosses over travel for the most part, it still remains the best place to get the NPCs and players to forge links via roleplaying.
Another set of posts has ideas for caravan and NPC related happenings, take them and expand upon them.

As I'm prepping thats one of the things I'm finding with this AP. It glosses over (due to lack of page space I imagine) a large portion of what will make this adventure interesting.

How good any campaign is tends to weigh heavily on how much prep work the Gm does, but I think Jade Regent will be a little bit less forgiving. It has the potential to be really great or really lackluster if played out straight from the book.

I really like all the ideas being presented! Right now I'm toying with having a few "staged" encounters in addition to the random ones. Things like some sort of lycanthrope run in around Wolf's Ear, con men around Riddleport that sort of thing.

I'm breaking up the journey from Sandpoint to Kalsgard at this point into 'legs,' and trying to have [at least] one staged Role-play encounter, combat encounter, and problem-solving encounter (this likely having something to do with the 'job' one or each of the PCs are perforiming in the caravan and the need to creatively come up with a solution to a problem associated with that job) per leg. I'll likely include more staged/story-line type encounters in a few of the longer legs.


This tread is very helpful. I was kind of lost on what to do with the travel phases since it seemed that the AP just glossed over them. The advice here has given me some good ideas. :D


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Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Just tossing out something I did yesterday, which was when the party stopped outside Galduria and Ember Lake. I read a description of the town that said Ember Lake had phosphorescent salamander-like things swimming in it, that gave the lake a glow and steam would rise off it. I thought about what I might be able to do with this, and I thought sometimes fortune tellers try to divine clues from patterns, and here we have glowing fish... and a member of the party is a flame oracle.

So, when the party asked about what the glowing things were in the lake, I had Ameiko explain, and then Koya call over the oracle. She had the oracle make a perception check (to identify the pattern), and (just because the oracle had ranks in it) a Perform (Dance) check to turn those patterns into something Koya's old eyes could see a little better.

Based on the PC's two rolls, the party could have received anything from a -1 to all d20 rolls for one day to a +1 to all d20 rolls -- in the middle was just a -1/+1 to saving throws or no bonus at all.

The players seemed to enjoy this little bit of fortune telling that resulted in a direct benefit to them. So, my suggestion is just to think of ways to use the environment around you to tell a story. Read the Inner Sea World Guide and Golarapedia articles on the towns and places the caravan will be passing through and, instead of strictly randomly encounters, think about what might fit the locale and be fun for your players.


The best way I ever saw this handled actually came from my online Kingmaker game.

We're playing with Maptool, so the GM got to play around with pictures (and sound, by way of links in the chatbox). We started our party by running through Crypt of the Everflame and then he had to get us up to Brevoy. So he wrote out this approximately 20-minute segue in which he described our epic 18-month journey northwest. In the process, he hinted at character traits/history that had not yet emerged, illustrated tribulations both serious and humorous, and made sure each character got a spotlight scene. It set us up properly for the next part of the game and bound our team together more tightly because we went into Kingmaker with a sense of already having overcome a lot together, and a better understanding of who each character was. I have no real idea how this would translate to tabletop but I feel it could be done- I just haven't given it much thought.

Would it have been better play this out? Arguably, yes. But the GM has, for several reasons, little desire to generate his own from-scratch campaign content (which is a whole other discussion) and this kind of journey would have taken potentially months of real-time with once-a-week sessions. It was excellent filler that prevented the transition from being jarring ("wait, WHY are we in Brevoy again??") and gave a similar feel of scope. Sometimes it's not worth the trade-offs to play out every single long travel scene, and I plan to use this technique when those times occur in my own games.

Inevitably, when I have seen a travel scene played out (from the inside of a wagon, or on horseback, or in some other way in which nothing else is really happening except the travel) there are inevitably some players who really enjoy it, and other players who are just waiting it out until something "exciting" comes along. The GMs in those cases had to balance the two.


Yes, I think the balance is really going to be the challenge. After purusing through "The Hungry Storm" and the amount of travel detailed therein, I think its going to be really important to nail down and do it well.

I was going to writer vignettes for each day going from Sanpoint to Brinewall (as suggested above), but seeing as the trek across the Crown of the World is supposed to take at least 3 months of in game time...I don't think thats going to be feasible at that point any longer.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
PhineasGage wrote:
... After purusing through "The Hungry Storm" ...

Wait... what!? (Still doesn't have his .pdf download link... sigh)


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SnowHeart wrote:
PhineasGage wrote:
... After purusing through "The Hungry Storm" ...
Wait... what!? (Still doesn't have his .pdf download link... sigh)

Yeah, my reaction too. Same thing happened with Night of Frozen Shadows, a week after the first person posted about reading it I was still showing "pending." And then the transaction disappeared from my bank's website about the same time that the bank screwed up a deposit making me worried that the transaction got bounced.

By the way, I like your Ember Lake and Wolf's Ear additions. I've been working on some similar encounters too. A goblin "tollbooth" in the Fogscar Mountains - 1 or 2 units of cargo as a toll will mollify them and prevent combat. And since trade goods are cheaper than repair materials, they'd be advised to do it, even giving up 2 units of trade goods still comes out cheaper than a unit of repair materials.

Spoiler:
I'm also toying with the idea of Sandru and Ameiko stopping the caravan as it's crossing the southern Fogscar. They'll leave the caravan for about an hour and then come back looking like they've been grieving. If one or more of the PCs accompany them, they'll find out that the two are going to a shrine they'd set up for Alder. Since one of the PCs is really starting to have hard feelings towards Sandru, views him as a challenger for Ameiko's affection, this would be a great opportunity for character and NPC development.

I'd also halfway thought about having them encounter the "degenerate family of backwoods cannibals" and let Ameiko and Sandru get their vengeance with the aid of the PCs. But I don't want to sidetrack the adventure too much.


Pathfinder Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Zaranorth wrote:
By the way, I like your Ember Lake and Wolf's Ear additions.

Thanks!

Quote:

I've been working on some similar encounters too. A goblin "tollbooth" in the Fogscar Mountains - 1 or 2 units of cargo as a toll will mollify them and prevent combat. And since trade goods are cheaper than repair materials, they'd be advised to do it, even giving up 2 units of trade goods still comes out cheaper than a unit of repair materials.

** spoiler omitted **

I love these ideas. A couple of my players were asking for more opportunities to resolve encounters without combat, and I've already dropped a hint about that thing in the spoiler but was still trying to figure out how to bring it into the discussion. Sounds like a perfect way to do it!

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