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All Rules in Adventures

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Wilderness

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 220
Game Masters frequently use wilderness travel simply as a means for the PCs to get from point A to point B, with an occasional random encounter thrown in to liven up the proceedings. But the wilderness has more to offer than just a path through the wasteland and a few wandering monsters. The GM’s responsibility is to bring the wilds to life. Once he has a living, breathing wilderness, the GM can start to set a variety of adventures in the wild and across the world.

What sets a wilderness adventure apart? First, the obvious answer: the terrain is more open and traversable. The party may travel through declivities, valleys, and gorges, but in general, they’ll have a wider, broader range for their trek. They will not be constrained by dungeon walls or cavern tunnels, and can choose their own pathways to their destination, but with these benefits come a wide variety of additional hazards and a potential for adventure.

Climate and Weather

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 220
Any world that supports life should contain a wide range of environments: diversity in the ecosystem helps support a diversity of life, though of course a fantasy world is subject to its own governing rules of physics and ecology. Still, to maintain a believable fantasy setting, a world-builder should make some effort to ensure the world conforms to known reality: most rivers should flow downhill, toward the sea, and boiling, sunbaked deserts should not be situated next to glaciers. Use common sense when transitioning between environments to retain believability in an adventure, unless you purposely want the party to notice the abrupt transition due to some localized arcane or metaphysical phenomenon.

The GM might consider penalizing PCs for wearing inappropriate attire in various climates and terrains: increased DCs on Acrobatics checks or additional movement penalties for heavily armored PCs in bogs, for instance, or even Survival checks with increasing DCs as the party moves into ever-more inhospitable climes. Suggested encounters are listed with many of these sections.

Environment

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 221
In addition to climate and weather, the environment itself can have an impact on adventures. The environment includes both landscapes and ecosystems. Landscape varies widely and is generally a function of both geology and geography—that is, the natural structure and substance of the land, and the physical features within a region. An ecosystem refers to the type of biological life in a region, rather than topology. The following terrain types can appear in virtually any climate, and each has its own unique hazards and considerations to take into account when used as the setting for an adventure. Remember that the possibility of becoming lost (Core Rulebook) exists in any terrain!

Encounters on a Journey

Source GameMastery Guide pg. 223
Depending on how they’re handled, cross-country journeys, voyages by sea, or treks between communities can be time consuming and difficult to run. Properly managed, though, they can be an integral part of an adventure, or even adventures unto themselves. In general, there is little reason to require the party to live through each moment of a long journey, leaving GMs to judge when to focus on day-to-day minutiae and when to fast forward to the next encounter. Adopting elements of the following techniques can help make a long journey more interesting and eventful.

Nothing Happens: Rarely should a day of travel pass where nothing happens. Some GMs and PCs in the midst of an intense story line might seek to rush past unrelated encounters on the road, glossing them over as an author might summarize a trek of days or weeks with a few words. While glossing over whole journeys should probably be avoided—what’s the benefit of spells like teleport after all if travel by foot is no different?—GMs shouldn’t feel like they have to slog through weeks of extra encounters just because the PCs chose to visit another city.

Daily Checks: If a GM chooses to have encounters occur during a journey, but doesn’t want to run every step along the path, he might make a number of checks per day to keep the players on their toes. Occasional Perception checks as the party travels might allow them to notice specifics, from interesting landmarks and other travelers to dangerous beasts and ambushes. Each time they make a check, describe the area in a few quick words, and be ready to discuss the area further if they choose to investigate. Other challenges might call for the use of other skills, such as Climb, Handle Animal, Ride, Survival, or Swim, as appropriate. GMs should be mindful of when they call for checks to be made. Should a journey’s narrative only pause for ambushes and dangers, the PCs will swiftly begin to dread every stop and description of the path ahead.

Ongoing Encounters: While definitely the most labor-intensive route, a GM might create specific encounters for a trip and have secondary spin-off adventures available for the party to pursue or ignore. This requires significantly greater preparation time but has the added benefit of creating new stories for the campaign and cutting down on the GM’s need to craft impromptu content. The party might even choose to come back later to revisit interesting sites or plot lines.