Making Travel in a Campaign Vibrant


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I have everything set up for my first Pathfinder campaign.
In the early part of the campaign, my players have a lot of traveling to do within the River Kingdoms (this is not Kingmaker, though).

I have a calendar set up, I've got the phases of the moon to keep track of, I've got weather plans, and I know to try to bring the country alive with description.

But from a challenge standpoint, I want to get some advice from experienced GMs about how to make travel more interesting and a compelling part of the game.

From a plot standpoint, the travel isn't linked to wandering monsters or anything. My players have to go from Riverton to Daggermark to Rookwarden for specific challenge encounters.

I have a pretty good plot and story, I'm using the Ultimate Campaign Contact System, and I want to make the journeys seem important. Please any advice would be great.

If you have any advice about logistics systems for lots of travel by the party, that would also be helpful.

Grand Lodge Contributor

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I generally try to describe each day's travel ("You spent most of the day trudging through a dry, broken, badland. Occasional thorny shrubs punctuate the otherwise bleak vistas, and dust storms rise up without warning to cause occasional annoyance and leave grit and sand beneath your clothes and armour.") and have at least one interesting or memorable feature per day ("Around the middle of the afternoon, you pass by an abandoned shrine, decorated with bones and rags of faded colours").

I check for encounters in advance and make a feature of them, but otherwise the day-to-day travel is as above. If the PCs enter a settlement of any kind I will always prepare a few memorable NPCs for them to interact with, and give shops and temples namesl, and have one or two unusual or interesting features no matter the size of the settlement.

It doesn't take much preparation, just a couple of lines per day of travel, and it will really help your players' immersion in the game world.

Another idea is to gather information on the PCs and how they may react to certain features or environmental concerns. Perhaps if one of the PCs enjoys a particular natural phenomenon, toss something along those lines in their path. I think they would enjoy the immersion.

It appears you're on the right path, but Shaun also provided some great options as well.

Shadow Lodge

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I'd add some choices about the way they travel. Foot, horse, wagon, or boat? What provisions do they take - do they oversupply in case of delay or emergency or travel light? Do they plan on foraging to extend their supplies? Do they travel as far as they can every day, or camp early at opportune sites? Then try to make these choices matter.

You can also add environmental or terrain encounters that require some choice from the party but don't take an extended scene to resolve. Shaun Hocking mentioned dust storms: perhaps they need to decide whether to press through or seek shelter. Or maybe there's an old or damaged bridge in their path and they have to decide whether to risk it, ford the river near the bridge, or go out of their way looking for a better path. Or they come across some resource such as rare herbs that they can harvest. Or they pass near a lookout that they can use - gaining warning of obstacles or encounters ahead - if they take a small detour.

Sovereign Court

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Encounters and I don't mean bandits and other combat encounters but encounters with other travelers or even wandering creatures/npc going on about their business. Maybe they meet a Hill Giant who lost his favorite rock and he is looking for it? chance encounter with a high priest and his acolytes? Or maybe it's a just a merchant going to sell his stuff in the next city?

Grand Lodge Contributor

The Gamemastery Guide has a bunch of random tables for generating features of a journey such as 'Things Found on a Roadside' and 'Scenic Spots'.

All the above is good. Remember also though that it is perfectly fine to just say 'nothing happens' when nothing happens and move on. Pathfinder is a game of high adventure and epic contests. Just like in a novel or a movie, you don't need to focus on all the 'boring' times.

I'm not against having memorable things happen, and even some memorable things that are just window dressing, but a little goes along way. If you try and make every passing traveler a memorable encounter, taking careful time to describe his fashion sense, personal hygiene, the current weather, local flora, and the particular plumage of a nearby songbird, pretty soon you will have a lot of bored players, and all they will remember is how long-winded you were.

There is nothing wrong with cutting to the good stuff. I try to have some unimportant memorable encounters, but only enough so they aren't sure 'the good stuff' is there every time I describe something.

All great tips. I'm glad I worked my way back to the thread later again.

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