Ahhh, summer. Time to sling the haversack over your shoulder and do some wilderness exploring.
Some groups take to hex crawls with enthusiasm. Tromping across unknown territory, wind ruffling their hair, owlbears, werewolves and hill giants to slay as they cross the boundary of that little six-sided section of map.
However, it’s not for everyone. Some groups find the blind meandering into another map section tedious. They don’t want to explore endless tracks of land. They want story. They want plot. They want to know where the trail leads.
Fair enough. Here are three tips to make wilderness exploration more palatable to those types of players. (Because only hanging out in dungeons isn’t healthy. Ask the drow.)
1. Define the Destination
Exploring for exploring’s sake might be an alien concept for your players. They want to be at the dungeon’s door or in the middle of Waterdeep, Greyhawk or Zobek. A camping trip takes them too far from the action, they think.
If you make their wilderness foray part of getting from here to there, from the home base to the dungeon, they might go for it, but you can’t betray that trust by throwing a series of random encounters at them, or for goodness sakes, getting them lost. (At least not the first time). Get their feet wet. An encounter here, an encounter here, a fork in the trail, and then, lo, we’ve arrived.
2. Set an objective
You know the difference, from a GM’s planning perspective, between wilderness exploring and dungeon delving? That’s right, there isn’t any. Scattered underground are little pockets of treasure and monsters, connected by corridors, waiting to be discovered. Dotting the landscape are pockets of treasure and monsters, connected by trails.
Design your wilderness adventure like a dungeon. You can even map it as such, then overlay it on terrain.
Then, just as you would for a dungeon, establish the objective. Obtain the lost orb. Rescue the kidnapped dragon rider. Stop the bad guys from activating the big end-of-the world whatchamacallit.
A treasure map, reliable pathfinder or a series of landmarks to guide the way helps mitigate the feeling that the players are stumbling around in the wilderness. Markers and maps help convey the feeling of purpose.
3. Monsters you’ve been missing
One way to entice your players to leave the dungeon is the promise of encountering new and wondrous creatures, the sorts of big ones you are unlikely to find in a dungeon.
So, leaf through your handy-dandy manual of beasties, and take note of those forgotten monsters and cook them up an outdoors lair.
It’s a great way to break out of the goblin-fighting rut.