Rules Index | GM Screen | Player's Guide

Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics / Running Exploration

Exploration Activities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 17
As described starting on page 479 of the Core Rulebook, PCs will undertake exploration activities while they explore. The purpose of these activities within the game is to clarify what a PC focuses on as they explore rather than being able to unrealistically do all things simultaneously. This adds variety within the group’s behavior and can show you where players want the story to go. For example, a player whose PC is Investigating carvings on the walls shows you that the player wants those to be informative.

Exploration activities that happen continually as the group explores are meant to be narrative first and foremost, with the player describing to you what they’re doing, and then you determining which an activity applies, plus any details or alterations for the situation. If a player says, “I’m Avoiding Notice,” add more detail by asking what precautions they’re taking or by telling them which passages they think are least guarded. Likewise, if a player says they’re looking for traps and keeping their shield raised and covering the group’s tracks, ask them which is most important to narrow down the activity. Consider the advantages and disadvantages of an activity given current circumstances. For instance, someone Scouting might encounter thin ice and fall through before their group can reach them, or someone Investigating ancient hieroglyphs might critically fail and lead the party in the wrong direction. This does not apply for exploration activities that are discrete and occur when the group is taking a pause or zooming in on a particular action, such as Treat Wounds. Characters can always drop out of a continual exploration activity to perform a discrete one (even if they are fatigued and can’t sustain an exploration activity as they travel), and they can change activities at any time. The Core Rulebook covers how to adjudicate specific activities—Detect Magic, Follow the Expert, Investigate, and Search.

More on Searching

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 18
The rules for Searching deliberately avoid giving intricate detail on how long a search takes. That’s left in your hands because the circumstances of a search can vary widely. If the group isn’t in any danger and has time for a really thorough search, that’s a good time to allow them to automatically succeed, rather than bothering to roll, or you might have them roll to see how long it takes before they find what they’re looking for, ultimately finding it eventually no matter the result. Conversely, if they stop for a thorough search in the middle of a dungeon, that’s a good time for their efforts to draw unwanted attention!

PCs might get to attempt another check if their initial search is a bust. But when do you allow them to try again? It’s best to tie this to taking a different tactic. Just saying “I search it again” isn’t enough, but if a PC tries a different method or has other tools at their disposal, it could work. Be generous with what you allow, as long as the player puts thought into it! If you know a search isn’t going to turn up anything useful, make that clear early on so the group doesn’t waste too much time on it. If they’re determined to keep going—which they often are—you might have them find something useful but minor in the search.

More on Follow the Expert

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 19
Follow the Expert is a truly versatile activity that lets a PC who’s lacking at a skill or exploration activity have a better chance to succeed. It’s important that this doesn’t become too rote. Let the players decide how one of them is helping out the other. The description can give you more to work with and add fun color to the exploration beyond just the mechanics. Also, if one PC helps another in the same way over and over, that could be a sign of the character being helped growing in a particular way. If the rogue has been helping the fighter Avoid Notice over and over, the fighter is essentially receiving training in Stealth at that point and might want to consider taking or retraining a skill increase to make that true. Connections like these can breathe life into the characters and their relationships, and it can help promote camaraderie and interactions between characters.

Improvising New Activities

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 19
The list of exploration activities isn’t exhaustive. More appear in special subsystems and adventures, and you’ll often need to create your own. When making your own, it’s usually fine to just consider whether the amount of effort the PC has to put in is comparable to the other exploration activities and go from there. If you’re having trouble, try finding a comparable activity. For example, if the PC are Swimming as they explore, consider that travel speeds are based on the equivalent of 1 action per 6 seconds, and that other exploration activities the PCs can keep up without getting tired are generally based on alternating between 2 actions per 12 seconds, averaging to 1 action per 6 seconds. (Defend, for example, is based on using 1 action to Stride then 1 to Raise your Shield, which is why the PC moves at half Speed.) Hustle is a good example of an activity that can’t be done indefinitely, so you can use it as a model for strenuous activities where the PCs are using the equivalent of 2 actions every 6 seconds. When improvising an exploration activity, have in mind some advantages and disadvantages of that activity to inspire you. What else might the PC be neglecting while doing this activity? How does it interplay with activities the rest of the party uses? If the new activity seems like it’s a better option than other activities all or nearly all the time, chances are you might want to adjust it so it’s more balanced. Eventually, you’ll start to find which exploration activities your group enjoys the most.