Journey: Exploration

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This is where we discuss exploration.


Getting from one place to another is not nearly as simple and straight-forward as saying "we go from here to there." The world is full of dangers, interesting sites, and unplanned detours - and as such, Journey seeks to make all these possible, within a strong mechanical framework that remains flexible enough to present all that a fantasy world has to offer.

Unlike combat, exploration is significantly more dynamic in terms of what skills are used for. The same skill can be used one minute to gain an advantage over the environment, and the next used in a reactive manner to defend against something the environment is doing to you.

Depth and Exploration

Unfortunately, we need to immediately discuss potential complexity layers with exploration, because each layer behaves significantly differently from the others. Recall that increased depth indicates a greater concern with the subject matter, and has four potential values: lacking, shallow, moderate, and deep.

In this case, exploration lacking depth is fairly simple. We don't care. Fade to black for all exploration sequences - the party leaves point A, and arrives at point B. In essence, lacking depth implies a complete lack of macro exploration skills: only micro exploration skills are in play, and only for immediate resolution in the context of other encounter types (such as picking a lock while in combat).

Exploration of shallow depth is what exploration is in D&D 3rd and 4th: it exists, it is acknowledged mildly, but nothing too serious. Macro exploration skills exist as a means to express whether or not a party gets lost, winds up running out of supplies, or manages to find what they're looking for, but at the end of the day, it is largely a "time passes, you get there."

Exploration of moderate depth is the traditional hexcrawl. Lots of mechanics are abstracted out, it is generally assumed that you will go from hex to hex with minimal difficulty - however, the hexes are important. Hexes should be player visible in this depth, to better engender rapid resolution of exploration tasks. Trad hexcrawl definitions and mechanization techniques should take precedence in this depth.

Exploration of deep depth is a West Marches-style approach to exploration, and is the major focus. The hexes are player hidden, meaning that players do not see the hexes, and instead rely on landmarks. If moderate depth is a hexcrawl, deep depth then becomes a zone-crawl or node-crawl: it has a much higher resolution on exploration tasks and movement, and significantly higher points of contact.

March 14, 2013: Given these definitions, the 13-03-16 Playtest needs to focus on moderate depth for playtest purposes, and thus should be reminiscent of a trad hexcrawl.



An area of space on the overworld map. Hexes are the smallest unit of terrain: in general, the terrain in a hex will match the hex's terrain type. Hexes are a static feature of the world map.
Hexes are universally one wheel across, from point to point. The lack of precision in definition of size of hexes is intentional to allow the LM to determine the scale on which he wants the game to operate.


An area within a hex. Rooms are created dynamically as a party travels through a hex, and are dependent upon zone boundaries and character skills and abilities. A room, in essence, is simply an opportunity for the environment to act upon the party: it is not necessary that a room pose an obstacle, but rooms are the mechanical trigger that allows them to do so.
Room distribution within a hex is based upon: zones, character skills, hex danger rating, weather danger rating. A hex that is in civilized lands in calm weather will have significantly fewer rooms - and thus, fewer opportunities to present an obstacle - than a hex deep in wilderness experiencing extreme weather.
No matter what, a hex always has at least one room. This number cannot be lowered.


Zones are static areas within a hex that define characteristics of the hex beyond the base hex definition. Zones help define placement of static obstacles, and can also modify dynamic encounters, or even add them to a hex's base encounter table. Zones can be destroyed, whereas a hex can only be modified.
A zone always has at least one room when traveled.


The basic resource of exploration. Energy is consumed when performing exploration tasks, and is also depleted over time while a character is awake. Energy is restored through eating, drinking, and resting.
The maximum size of a character's energy token pool is reduced as a factor of time spent traveling. Spending time on the road is not as comfortable as sleeping in a bed at home, and over time, your ability to continue traveling is simply sapped. Younger characters and those that are explorers by nature suffer fewer penalties, while older characters suffer greater penalties.


Exploration encounters are referred to as a whole as obstacles. These can be anything from a potential combat with a wandering monster to having to scale a cliff to get to your destination.
It is important to note that the concept of a combat is an exploration obstacle, while the combat itself is a warrior encounter. Explorers may avoid combat encounters, or even set up an ambush to provide bonii for themselves and their party, but the actual content of the encounter is a warrior encounter. This is unlike most other exploration obstacles, which will tend to be exploration-focused.


A catch-all term for basic exploration checks. Just as any character can dodge, so, too, can any character attempt to be stealthy or generally aware of their surroundings. The Positions are: Stealth, Survival, Awareness, Fortitude, and Navigation.
Positions serve as the Type I skill for explorers in EG2.

Temperature Index (TI)

Temperature index is an abstract measurement of temperature. It is relative to a 0-scale, with 0 being temperate or human-comfortable, and is assumed to be roughly 50 degrees F.
Each point on the TI scale is roughly a change of 10 degrees in the appropriate direction. Thus, a hot day (90 or so degrees) would be TI 4, while a day at below freezing would be somewhere between -5 and -2.
Different species react differently to temperature differences. Weather and hex impacts temperature. So a human is comfortable within -2 to 4, with cultural terrain modifying this (a human raised in the arctic, for instance, may be fine from -4 to 3, while one from the desert may be okay from 0 to 6).

Humidity Index (HI)

Humidity index is an abstract measurement of the humidity. It is on a scale of -5 to 5, with each point representing a roughly 10% range on humidity. Note that real world humidity is measured as a percentage, and thus, so is Journey humidity. It is assumed that standard HI is 0.
Thus, a particularly dry place, such as a desert, would have an HI or -5 to -3, while a very wet place, such as a jungle or the ocean, would have an HI of 3 to 5.
Different species react differently to humidity differences. Weather and humidity interact with each other.

Weather Index (WI)

Weather index is an abstract measurement of the likelihood for the weather to change. It is on a 0-centric scale. The higher the weather index, the more likely the weather is to change.
Thus, if there is a calm, clear day, the WI may be lower, say -3. Each time there is a check for the weather to change, the WI is added to the check. The results of the weather check modify the WI - thus, while the weather may not change for each weather check, the likelihood of the weather to change will.
Explorers will have the ability to "read" the WI of an area.


The watch is the default measure of time for exploration-focused play. A cycle tick is divided into six watches. Remember that a cycle is 30 cycle ticks.

Energy, Endurance, and Time

There are three primary factors in exploration for characters to be concerned about. These are: energy, their ability to keep going; endurance, their ability to carry gear; and time.

Energy expenditure varies wildly based upon the activities being undertaken.

Endurance is the the max of a character's Strength and Constitution attributes, plus any ranks in the Endurance trait. However, just because you can carry that much does not mean you can indefinitely: the higher fraction of your endurance you carry, the more base energy you expend for travel.

Energy and Endurance
Fraction Carried Energy Multiplier
< ¼ x1
¼ < ½ x2
½ < ¾ x3
¾ + x4

Given that starting energy totals will be relatively low, this should signify the importance of containers to carry more equipment in, as carrying objects in containers reduces their effective weight.

Exploration Actions

  • Camp
  • Travel
  • Explore
  • Forage/Hunt
  • Wait/Rest
  • Scout/Survey
  • Explorer Specials




When you have a destination in mind, you are traveling.

This is the fairly standard f(hex U zone) = max(1, rooms) formula for travel. So if you are on a road and simply want to follow it out of the hex, you generate X number of nodes and deal with them. Simple enough.

Travel across - or in - a hex consumes one watch, regardless of the number of nodes encountered. Remember that nodes are a function of ability to traverse terrain and deal with hazards before they become a significant problem, and are also a function of the terrain itself and its ability to do harm to the explorers. Crossing a hex by road and crossing it by forest will consume the same amount of time, but may result in more nodes encountered due to not being on a road.


When you are just looking around in a hex to find something interesting, you are exploring.

Exploration consumes a number of watches dependent upon the terrain. In essence, the means through which nodes are generated for travel is mirrored in some fashion to arrive at the exploration time for a given hex.

Exploration might utilize a more node-based type of exploration - that is, you are in zone X, which is connected to zones W, Y, and Z. You can travel to any of those zones from zone X. Etc etc.

Example Encounters

Okay, so now that we have some stuff, let's apply it, eh?

The Cliffs of Insanity

A standard Journey party (generalist Lorist) is attempting to get to a dungeon. On their travels, they encounter a series of hexes with a cliff zone barring their passage. The cliff zone seems to carry on into mountain hexes, and they would rather not leave the forest hexes they're in, as mountains are more dangerous. They decide to attempt to climb the cliff.

The cliffs are about eighty feet high, and so have a Composite Target Number (CTN) of 80, with a base TN of 7 - not only is there a lot of cliff, it's rather sheer, and so very difficult to climb. What this means is that a character must hit a TN of 7 on any given Climb check to make progress (and potentially fall), and a character's total result over a series of rolls must be an 80 to completely get over the obstacle.

Given that there is no combat here, the party decides to take their time to do this right.

The warrior, with a high Strength attribute, can climb on his own despite not being too good at it (1d8+1d4 [7]). He will make progress, but very slowly. It will take him 12 checks to climb up, and Climb has a base Energy of 1. He is carrying slightly less than half his Endurance, so his multiplier is x2, meaning each check requires 2 energy. He will spend 24 energy to reach the top of the cliff. However, he only has 14 max energy. For each check after his 7th, he will suffer two Exhaustion tokens (which are essentially Wound tokens for energy).

Exploration Mechanics - Basics

Alright, let's get some functional mechanics banged out, here.

While what occurs in exploration is rather free-form, the turn order is not. Unlike other systems, this is purely a mechanical construct, and not representative of what's going on in the world. Thus, this is a simple taking turns idea - first, the players go; then, the world goes, and so on.

After each group exploration action, the world has a chance to do something to the players, based upon where they are.

In general, during your turn in a macro exploration sense, you will be using macro exploration skills to make checks against the world's Positions. During the world's turn, it will make checks against your Positions. You make checks against Positions using Positions, and thus they are used both "offensively" and "defensively."

I definitely like the idea that each of the six Positions are tied together, so that one is used against the other.

  Survival <=> Endurance
 Awareness <=> Cunning
Navigation <=> Mobility

So in this setup, you would make Survival checks against a hex's Endurance position... make Awareness checks against its Cunning, and Navigation checks against its Mobility. Likewise, you would make Endurance checks against its Survival, Cunning against its Awareness, and Mobility against its Navigation...

...I am leaving this here, so that I know that I have considered it and found it to be no good.

Exploration Actions

In essence, exploration actions come in two flavors - macro and micro. This should be turning into a noticeable theme for those paying attention at home.


There are six primary exploration actions one can take, as well as a few miscellaneous actions. Each of the main six are tied to a different Position. Only one action can be taken during an exploration turn, though explorers with advanced disciplines may have access that allows them to attempt more.

In macro exploration, the party's stats - as a group - are more important than any one individual. To determine the Party Position (PP), use the following rules.

  • Awareness: Highest.
  • Cunning: Lowest.
  • Endurance: Lowest.
  • Navigation: Highest.
  • Mobility: Lowest.
  • Survival: Highest.

To determine what value is used for a given PP, first all members of the group roll the relevant skill. Then, the given roll (highest or lowest) is kept. Then, all those taking an action relevant to that skill make their roll for that skill, and the highest of that set of rolls is used.

Example: Jon, Lisa, and Tom are exploring. On their turn, each rolls their Awareness, and the highest roll is kept, a 4. Jon, as the explorer, decides to use a skill that matches the Awareness Position, and gets a 9. The 9 is used for the Awareness PP.

Default PP determination is done using macro skills. The default exploration actions default to macro skills, but specific micro skills can be used in their stead.

Example: The group's Navigation PP is 6. Jon has the Mapping skill, which is an exploration type II skill (micro). However, the Mapping skill indicates that it can be used for the Navigation-related macro exploration task, and so Jon can use that skill - at which he excels - to replace the group's Navigation PP.

Hmm... there is significantly less give-and-take with exploration than there is in either combat or debates. There's not really any way to directly "attack" the environment... there are, but the way this system is set up... hmm.

...the journey of a thousand miles...
...begins beneath your feet...
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