Maybe we could roll a lot for what happens as characters travel, with some rolls providing nothing and others providing color and others providing difficult encounters, with uncertainty over which will be which.Long version:
Sometimes it's fun to play through the journey. Sometimes, when you're getting from interesting location A to interesting location B in the fiction, you don't
want to just, *poof* arrive at B.
Maybe you want some possibility that something might have happened en route that was interesting in its own right, or affects what condition you're in now, or something.
Maybe you don't like showing up at point B with either no idea
what happened en route, or some idea that you just made up
after the fact.
Maybe "covering" the journey helps your sense of immersion or character identification or plausibility, realism, world-modeling, causality, etc...
So, what techniques do we have for that? Well, we have a ton of options, but I think the main categories are:
- Roleplay the journey out minutely, fast-forwarding only when it's totally obvious that nothing interesting will happen just now.
- Let the GM control the pacing. They simply decide "here's where you are when X happens" and introduce stuff they expect to be worth playing through.
- Rolls. Especially wandering monster rolls and random encounter rolls.
The pros and cons and how-to's and best practices for those first two options could generate their own long threads, so right now I'm just thinking about the rolls. I think rolls can contribute a lot here, taking some potentially difficult work and weighty decisions off the GMs plate.
The rolls I'm most familiar with during character travel look something like this:
- Per unit of time or distance travelled, roll to see whether you encounter danger or what danger you encounter.
Compared to the full range of things that might happen when one travels, this strikes me as a bit limited. Ideally, I think I'd like travel rolls to cover more bases. As long as we're relieving the GM's burden to come up with stuff, why not include more than just monsters and dangers? How about free loot and weird people and bad weather and ancient ruins and pretty rainbows also
But before we start adding "weirdos" and "rainbows" to our encounter tables, there's a problem to consider.
- If we're actually going to slow down and get into character and interact with weirdos and rainbows, that may actually mean we're increasing the GM's burden in providing content.
- Or, if we never get into character and interact with stuff, then I don't think the rolls are adding all that much to play.
What I think we need is a tree
of rolls. We need a broad table, and then some sub-tables. If the broad table roll produces something the players don't interact with further, cool, we have a bit of additional color for this part of the journey and nothing more. If the players do
interact, though (either because they choose to or because they must (e.g. combat encounter)), then instead of the GM improvising to fit the rolled prompt, then GM just rolls again on a narrower list for any additional content that's needed.
So, as a player, you're moving along toward point B, and you encounter a spooky well. Wouldn't that be cool if it were neither a mandatory encounter nor immediately obviously irrelevant? Wouldn't it be fun if the uncertainty of travel persists through the point when you decide to poke at the well or not? Wouldn't it be neat to know that, even if this
time you're just going to speed to point B, there was a chance that poking the well might have brought death or riches or a cool story?
That's the kind of table I'd be excited to roll on.
Just pondering how this could work, I could see the second level of roll-on tables being either concrete fictional details like 7 kobolds or broader stuff like types of threat/opportunity. In the broader case, there could be a third roll for 7 kobolds or whatnot.
All thoughts, anecdotes, or brainstorms along these lines are welcome!