Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 9: Playing the Game

Exploration Mode

Source Core Rulebook pg. 479 4.0
While encounters use rounds for combat, exploration is more free form. The GM determines the flow of time, as you could be traveling by horseback across craggy highlands, negotiating with merchants, or delving in a dungeon in search of danger and treasure. Exploration lacks the immediate danger of encounter mode, but it offers its own challenges.

Much of exploration mode involves movement and roleplaying. You might be traveling from one town to another, chatting with a couple of merchants an outpost along the way, or maybe having a terse conversation with the watchful city guards at your destination. Instead of measuring your rate of movement in 5-foot squares every round, you measure it in feet or miles per minute, hour, or day, using your travel speed. Rather than deciding on each action every turn, you’ll engage in an exploration activity, and you’ll typically spend some time every day resting and making your daily preparations.

Travel Speed

Source Core Rulebook pg. 479 4.0
Depending on how the GM tracks movement, you move in feet or miles based on your character’s Speed with the relevant movement type. Typical rates are on the table below.

Table 9-2: Travel Speed

SpeedFeet per MinuteMiles per HourMiles per Day

The rates in Table 9–2 assume traveling over flat and clear terrain at a determined pace, but one that’s not exhausting. Moving through difficult terrain halves the listed movement rate. Greater difficult terrain reduces the distance traveled to one-third the listed amount. If the travel requires a skill check to accomplish, such as mountain climbing or swimming, the GM might call for a check once per hour using the result and the table above to determine your progress.

Exploration Activities

Source Core Rulebook pg. 479 4.0
While you're traveling and exploring, tell the GM what you'd generally like to do along the way. If you do nothing more than make steady progress toward your goal, you move at the full travel speeds given in Table 9–2.

When you want to do something other than simply travel, you describe what you are attempting to do. It isn't necessary to go into extreme detail, such as “Using my dagger, I nudge the door so I can check for devious traps.” Instead, “I'm searching the area for hazards” is sufficient. The GM finds the best exploration activity to match your description and describes the effects of that activity. Some exploration activities limit how fast you can travel and be effective.

These are most common exploration activities, but other exploration activities can be found here.

Avoid Notice

Source Core Rulebook pg. 479 4.0
You attempt a Stealth check to avoid notice while traveling at half speed. If you have the Swift Sneak feat, you can move at full Speed rather than half, but you still can’t use another exploration activity while you do so. If you have the Legendary Sneak feat, you can move at full Speed and use a second exploration activity. If you’re Avoiding Notice at the start of an encounter, you usually roll a Stealth check instead of a Perception check both to determine your initiative and to see if the enemies notice you (based on their Perception DCs, as normal for Sneak, regardless of their initiative check results).


Source Core Rulebook pg. 479 4.0
You move at half your travel speed with your shield raised. If combat breaks out, you gain the benefits of Raising a Shield before your first turn begins.

Raise a Shield

Source Core Rulebook pg. 472 4.0
Requirements You are wielding a shield.
You position your shield to protect yourself. When you have Raised a Shield, you gain its listed circumstance bonus to AC. Your shield remains raised until the start of your next turn.

Detect Magic

Concentrate Exploration 
Source Core Rulebook pg. 479 4.0
You cast detect magic at regular intervals. You move at half your travel speed or slower. You have no chance of accidentally overlooking a magic aura at a travel speed up to 300 feet per minute, but must be traveling no more than 150 feet per minute to detect magic auras before the party moves into them.

Follow the Expert

Auditory Concentrate Exploration Visual 
Source Core Rulebook pg. 479 4.0
Choose an ally attempting a recurring skill check while exploring, such as climbing, or performing a different exploration tactic that requires a skill check (like Avoiding Notice). The ally must be at least an expert in that skill and must be willing to provide assistance. While Following the Expert, you match their tactic or attempt similar skill checks. Thanks to your ally’s assistance, you can add your level as a proficiency bonus to the associated skill check, even if you’re untrained. Additionally, you gain a circumstance bonus to your skill check based on your ally’s proficiency (+2 for expert, +3 for master, and +4 for legendary).


Exploration Move 
Source Core Rulebook pg. 480 4.0
You strain yourself to move at double your travel speed. You can Hustle only for a number of minutes equal to your Constitution modifier × 10 (minimum 10 minutes). If you are in a group that is Hustling, use the lowest Constitution modifier among everyone to determine how fast the group can Hustle together.


Concentrate Exploration 
Source Core Rulebook pg. 480 4.0
You seek out information about your surroundings while traveling at half speed. You use Recall Knowledge as a secret check to discover clues among the various things you can see and engage with as you journey along. You can use any skill that has a Recall Knowledge action while Investigating, but the GM determines whether the skill is relevant to the clues you could find.

Repeat a Spell

Concentrate Exploration 
Source Core Rulebook pg. 480 4.0
You repeatedly cast the same spell while moving at half speed. Typically, this spell is a cantrip that you want to have in effect in the event a combat breaks out, and it must be one you can cast in 2 actions or fewer. In order to prevent fatigue due to repeated casting, you’ll likely use this activity only when something out of the ordinary occurs.

You can instead use this activity to continue Sustaining a Spell or Activation with a sustained duration. Most such spells or item effects can be sustained for 10 minutes, though some specify they can be sustained for a different duration.


Concentrate Exploration 
Source Core Rulebook pg. 480 4.0
You scout ahead and behind the group to watch danger, moving at half speed. At the start of the next encounter, every creature in your party gains a +1 circumstance bonus to their initiative rolls.


Concentrate Exploration 
Source Core Rulebook pg. 480 4.0
You Seek meticulously for hidden doors, concealed hazards, and so on. You can usually make an educated guess as to which locations are best to check and move at half speed, but if you want to be thorough and guarantee you checked everything, you need to travel at a Speed of no more than 300 feet per minute, or 150 feet per minute to ensure you check everything before you walk into it. You can always move more slowly while Searching to cover the area more thoroughly, and the Expeditious Search feat increases these maximum Speeds. If you come across a secret door, item, or hazard while Searching, the GM will attempt a free secret check to Seek to see if you notice the hidden object or hazard. In locations with many objects to search, you have to stop and spend significantly longer to search thoroughly.

Rest and Daily Preparation

Source Core Rulebook pg. 480 4.0
You perform at your best when you take enough time to rest and prepare. Once every 24 hours, you can take a period of rest (typically 8 hours), after which you regain Hit Points equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1) times your level, and you might recover from or improve certain conditions (page 453). Sleeping in armor results in poor rest that leaves you fatigued. If you go more than 16 hours without resting, you become fatigued (you cannot recover from this until you rest at least 6 continuous hours).

After you rest, you make your daily preparations, which takes around 1 hour. You can prepare only if you’ve rested, and only once per day. Preparing includes the following:
  • Spellcasters regain spell slots, and prepared spellcasters choose spells to have available that day.
  • Focus Points, other abilities that refresh during your preparations, and abilities that can be used only a certain number of times per day, including magic item uses, are reset.
  • You don armor and equip weapons and other gear.
  • You invest up to 10 worn magic items to gain their benefits for the day.

Related Rules

Running Exploration (Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 17)