D&D Next: Exploration Rules

Last week's playtest session only went for two hours--with a good chunk devoted to polishing up characters--so we did not get a chance to use them much, but I found what we have so far to be an interesting change of pace from 4th Edition's skill challenges.

Early on I remember whenever I would try to have the characters find some lost ruin in the woods or something along those lines, that everyone would stack on Nature or Perception, or just not bother rolling at all for fearing of blundering into a hazard, though eventually better examples and structures made things a lot smoother.

The exploration rules in Next provide a system of abstracted, turn-based rules that goes above and beyond rolling for the daily random encounter, for exploring a section of dungeon or wilderness region, or just traveling from place to place.

Turn lengths are broken up into 5-minute, 1 hour, and 1 day increments based on what you are exploring, and how far apart points of interest are: 5-minute turns are great for dungeons where rooms are close together, 1-hour turns are better if rooms or locations are far apart, and 1-day turns are pretty much for exploring wilderness regions.

Once you get your turn duration set, you then ask the characters how fast they are exploring. This helps you determine how far they can move during a turn, as well as their readiness DC, which is used to determine things like surprise and if they get lost: the faster you are moving, the more likely you are going to blunder into monsters, lose your way, overlook details, and so on.

During exploration characters can each undertake 1-3 exploration tasks, such as keeping watch, navigating, mapmaking, and more. The more tasks you try to perform at the same time, the harder it gets, and sometimes speed prevents you from attempting them, at all. For example, you cannot map if you are going at a fast or rushed pace.

To me this is one of the highlights of the latest packet, though I am confused why none of the class features seemed to sync up with this "pillar" (I think exploration was supposed to be one of the three pillars, anyway). Like, wizards being able to sense magic, paladins evil (or good, depending on what you are looking for), and rogues traps.

I could see these being adapted for an urban settings, especially in Eberron. Oh, and since the game already offers quest XP, why not give the players something for discovering new sites? It would be a nice incentive for hexcrawls.

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