Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 10: Game Mastering / Running Modes of Play / Exploration

Exploration Activities

Source Core Rulebook pg. 496 2.0
In exploration mode, each player who wants to do something beyond just traveling chooses an exploration activity for their character. The most common activities are Avoid Notice, Detect Magic, Hustle, and Search, though there are many options available. While players usually hew close to these default activities, there’s no need for them to memorize the exploration activities and use them exactly. Instead, allow each player to describe what their character is doing. Then, as the GM, you can determine which activity applies. This also means you determine how an activity works if the character’s actions differ from those on the list.

The following sections discuss exploration activities that require adjudication from you beyond the guidelines for players detailed on pages 479–480 of Chapter 9.

Detect Magic

Source Core Rulebook pg. 496 2.0
This activity doesn’t enable characters to automatically find every single magical aura or object during travel. Hazards that require a minimum proficiency can’t be found with detect magic, nor can illusions of equal or higher level than the spell.

When characters find something magical using this activity, let them know and give them the option to stop and explore further or continue on. Stopping brings you into a more roleplay-heavy scene in which players can search through an area, assess different items, or otherwise try to figure out the source of the magic and what it does. Continuing on might cause the group to miss out on beneficial magic items or trigger a magic trap.

Follow the Expert

Source Core Rulebook pg. 496 2.0
A skilled character can help out less skilled allies who choose to Follow the Expert. This is a good way to help a character with a low Stealth modifier sneak around, get a character with poor Athletics up a steep cliff, and so on. Usually, a character who is Following the Expert can’t perform other exploration activities or follow more than one person at a time.


Source Core Rulebook pg. 496 2.0
As with Searching or Detecting Magic, the initial result of Investigating is usually enough to give the investigator a clue that leads into a more thorough examination, but it rarely gives all possible information. For instance, a character might note that the walls of a dungeon are covered with Abyssal writing, but they would need to stop to read the text or determine that it’s written in blood.


Source Core Rulebook pg. 497 2.0
With a successful Perception check while Searching, a character notices the presence or absence of something unusual in the area, but it doesn’t provide a comprehensive catalog of everything there. Instead, it gives a jumping-off point for closer inspection or an encounter. For instance, if an area has both a DC 30 secret door and a DC 25 trap, and a Searching character got a 28 on their Perception check, you would tell the player that their character noticed a trap in the area, and you’d give a rough idea of the trap’s location and nature. The party needs to examine the area more to learn specifics about the trap, and someone would need to Search again to get another chance to find the secret door.

If an area contains many objects or something that will take a while to search (such as a cabinet full of papers), Searching would reveal the cabinet, but the PCs would have to examine it more thoroughly to check the papers. This usually requires the party to stop for a complete search.

You roll a secret Perception check for a Searching character to detect any secrets they pass that’s in a place that stands out (such as near a door or a turn in a corridor), but not one that’s in a more inconspicuous place (like a random point in a long hallway) unless they are searching particularly slowly and meticulously.