Travel is a part of so many campaigns and adventure stories. After all, it’s called the Hero’s Journey for a reason! And making DnD travel interesting is a real challenge. Too often, it either feels so laborious that the party is bored by the time they get there. Or else, it’s so quickly skipped over, that it doesn’t have any impact on the players at all.
5 tips for making DnD travel interesting!
1. Vary the modes of travel
If your players always travel in the same way, it can get pretty boring pretty fast. So, your first step is to give them several options! Maybe they’ll still choose the same familiar mode, but there’s a chance they’ll pick another one. Then, make sure that traveling with a different method changes their travel speed too! You can use the DnD travel speed table as a reference for how far can characters travel on foot in a single day (assuming they walk for 8 hours):
- Slow pace: 18 miles (about 29 km)
- Normal pace: 25 miles (about 38 km)
- Fast pace: 30 miles (about 63 km)
But, of course, other methods of transportation will have different speeds. A ship will be faster, while a carriage might be slower, depending on how heavy it is and how many horses are used to pull it (news flash: horses need to rest too)! So, to sum this section up, give your players clear choices of travel modes that make sense for the location they’re going to, and calculate the travel pace from that!
2. Introduce not-so-random DnD travel encounters (but not Pokemon style!)
Random encounters are a great way to spice up travel—but be careful! They can feel random to the players at first, but make sure to tie them up with the story or the world in some way. Fighting 1d4 wolves just because they were walking in tall grass will feel pointless (and poor wolves, they were just chilling!). So, what should a good “random” encounter include?
- Themes and tone: make sure that the encounter reflects the campaign’s theme and tone. This will make it feel more consistent with the world!
- Link it to the story: sure, you can give them some wolves to fight… and then reveal that they were the pets of an important NPC they’ll meet. Whoops!
- Tactical interest: what will your players get from it? It could be some loot, new information, cool powers…
- A reason to care: why would the players engage with this encounter? Tying them to their backstories, or a cause or NPC they care about. is a sure-fire way to make them engaged.
And remember that encounters don’t have to be only combat: they could meet an NPC, find an ancient ruin, … up to you! As long as the encounter has a goal (other than “being filler”), you’re good to go!
Follow World Anvil Blog on WordPress.com
Want more posts like this? Subscribe to the World Anvil blog!
3. Introduce weather and geographical difficulties… with impact
There’s a basic weather table in the DM’s Guide (page 109), but remember that weather changes biome by biome, and the difficulties of the ice wastes are not those of the scorching desert. However, whether they’re ice storms or sand storms, creating days of easier and harder weather can create variation in days of travel. You can challenge the players’ initiative. Are they wise enough to shelter for the day or press on? Will they finally use that magic item they’ve been hoarding? More importantly, will they arrive in a weakened or less-prepared state?
This is something that Cubicle7’s “Adventures in Middle Earth” does very well—it creates difficulties on the journey which can put the players at an advantage or disadvantage when they arrive. This is important, as their prowess in travel then affects the major story arc too. Players may suffer from fatigue, be weakened, or may not have access to all their spells.
Another way to do this, if weather difficulties aren’t appropriate for your setting, are geographical difficulties. Here’s a quick roll table you can use with some ideas and examples.
If the players can’t think of a way to go on, they’ll need to navigate to another path. You can introduce additional difficulties, such as getting lost! This might put unexpected challenges in their way, add additional time to their journey, or introduce them to a nightmare fuelled realm they were initially trying to avoid!
4. Introduce Micro Points of Interest and Scene Pieces!
Remember the non-combat encounters we talked about before? They are a great way to reinforce your world’s genre, tone, and theme (if you don’t know what that is, read about the meta!). To create a good point of interest, follow the four points we talked about for encounters. Otherwise, even if that scene piece is amazing, your players might not be interested in investigating it! Here’s a roll table of 1d6 ideas you can use to start your brain going:
As you can see, these are all pretty genre-agnostic, but also very much open to your interpretation! For example, the riddler could be magic, but maybe they could be a very skilled rogue too. An important part of this kind of encounter is to create a specific atmosphere, so preparing your descriptions in advance might be a good idea if you’re not a master of improvisation! Think about whether you want the events to be creepy, wondrous, mysterious, mystical or even funny, and tailor the details accordingly.
5. Nuke Teleport spells
Sure, magic is cool and all, but what’s the point of going the extra mile to make travel interesting if your party can just teleport wherever they want? Now, that doesn’t mean you have to outright ban all teleport spells from your game—there’s nothing wrong with short-distance teleportation! To prevent long-distance teleporting, you could add external magical elements that prevent teleportation magic from being enabled. For example, cities in your world could have a complex magitech device that creates an anti-magic bubble around them. Or maybe teleportation magic is illegal! Both options add a new layer to your campaign that will not only make travel more fun, but might also come in handy for future plot points.
Check out this blog post by Wolfgang Baur from Kobold Press talking about this exact topic!
GACUCON! Play DnD while you travel in style, on the ultimate vacation for geeks!
GACUCON is the Games, Animations, and Comic Ultra Convention Cruise! Yes, that’s a thing—sail on an amazing cruise together with fellow RPG players, cosplayers, and all-around fantastic people! They organize a cruise every year And guess what? We’re doing Summer Camp 2022 with them! During the 6-day cruise, from July 3rd to 9th, we’ll host worldbuilding workshops, RPG sessions, quests with scavenger hunts, and more! We’re very excited, and we’d love it if you were there with us (by the way, one of the WorldEmber prizes is a free cruise for 2 people!). Check out GACUCON and start sailing the seven seas!
What are your tips for making DnD travel interesting? Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments!
Follow World Anvil Blog on WordPress.com
Want more posts like this? Subscribe to the World Anvil blog!
The distances mentioned under 1 are frankly, purely imaginary.
As a former infantry man I can tell you that you may make a walking speed of 6km per hour but after a full day you would need at least a days rest, even if you are fit. And that is with modern equipment, shoes, backpack etc.
So when calculation realistically you want to think about 2 things first.
1. What will be the task of the next day?
2. Might there be combat?
A march of 60+km in 10 hours is possible but the next day at least will need to be rest. If you are really fit and used to it, you could even manage 10 hours at 6 km/h for a second day. Provided good equipment, especially on your feet.
Realistically the prolonged (several days) travel distances for a 8h hike on maintained roads and easy paths should be around 4 km/h for a grown male with a load of about 15kg. Provided, again that he is adequately fit and used to such activity. So ~32 km (20 miles) is realistic. You could adjust the speed by +/- 1km/h for fitness or smaller characters etc. and by +/- 2 km/h for a slightly more demanding terrain such as less well kept paths or heavier loads etc.
IF it is only travel as fast as you can then you can calculate at 7-8 km/h but remember even adventurers will suffer exhaustion from that and would have a hard time “dungeoning” the next day.
These are the distances mentioned in the DnD official material – but it’s so interesting to learn that they’re not accurate! Have you tried incorportating yours into a system?
Another Infantryman chiming in. The Dungeon Master’s Guide in Chapter 8, Exploration Section, sets 24 miles in 1 day as a reasonable rate of travel, which is close to the 32km/20 miles limit that was mentioned earlier. Appendix A in the Player’s Handbook gives you a Condition called Exhaustion with levels of exhaustion that you could tie to miles of travel. 1 day at this rate of travel could induce 3-4 levels of exhaustion which the party would then have to rest off. Just based off my own personal experience, after 12-18 miles with a 40+ pound pack load plus armor/fighting load, I need at least a day or two to be back to normal. Using Exhaustion levels vs. Miles traveled would be my recommendation for a system. It is certainly possible that a character could reach 6 levels of exhaustion and die from walking too far with no rest. Its been done in real life.
Thank you for sharing your experience as well :D! Have you played a game with these kinds of rules for realism? How did they make the game more fun for you?
I have not played a game with rules like that but I might try it at some point. I tend to gloss over travel most of the time with “You travel from A->B” which may not be the most fun and interesting way to handle it. The article has provided some inspiration for me to try different things out in future games though. Just thought I’d chime in with an easy solution to the realism issue if it helps somebody else out.
Oh, yeah definitely~. I really appreciated you chiming in :D. I’ve always found the rules for meticulous travel interesting, but I’ve never calculated these sorts of things myself. I think it’s more interesting to do your method “Travel A -> B” when the point of the adventure isn’t the journey and we’re instead focusing on set pieces. 🙂 What do you think?
Yeah absolutely. I was kind of mulling over where I might try using a more meticulous system for travel, or what fun could be had out of it, and a few things I thought of were that you could use it as a motivator for the party to spend some of that sweet dungeon gold finding transportation for the next time they want to travel a long distance. Buying horses and a cart because the last time they traveled halfway across fantasy country those 1d4 random bears that ambushed them from the woods with a plot device were a lot more challenging with 3 levels of exhaustion.
You could use it as part of a chase scene with a BBEG, set them against the clock and a distance, see how much they’re willing to sacrifice to get somewhere in time to save xyz. Arrive exhausted, tough fight ensues that might not have been as tough if they had more time.
Just 1 level of exhaustion makes dealing with “random” environmental/geographical challenges more challenging. It could make it feel like the stakes are higher.
I think to make meticulous travel fun, it shouldn’t be a regular part of the game but something that gets mixed in now and again in order to spice things up. Level 1-10 if you want to go way across the map somewhere the travel could make for a fun adventure in itself, but you learn from it and buy a horse drawn carriage or buy passage on an airship next time.