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Chapter 1: Gamemastery Basics / Running Exploration

Getting Lost

Source Gamemastery Guide pg. 21
When PCs are exploring the wilderness or twisting dungeon corridors, they might get lost. This is most likely if they fail to Sense their Direction using Survival but can also happen based on the story, such as if they drop out of a portal in some strange land or come up from an underground passageway into a forest. Playing through the process of wandering in the wilderness and trying to find their way can be fun for a party, provided it’s a fairly short interval. If a party is lost at the start of a session, they should usually have found their way and reached a significant destination by the end.

The Sense Direction activity uses Survival to find north. You can combine this with Recalling Knowledge about the area—typically using Nature or Society—for the PCs to get their initial bearings. The DCs for these checks are normally trained or expert if the group is still fairly close to settlements or established nations but might be higher in deep wilderness. As the PCs try to find their way, think of ways to include notable landmarks they can seek out or stumble upon. Some of these might be useful, such as a great tree off in the distance they can climb to get a better vantage point or a mountain slope where multiple plumes of smoke billow up, indicating a settlement. Others might be mysterious or dangerous, such as haunted glades or animal hunting grounds. When the PCs first look around or scout, pick two or three landmarks to point out. Let the group decide on their course from there.

If the trek takes multiple days, you can move through each day pretty quickly. You might need to have the group Subsist if they run out of food, and you might want to include some encounters if they’re in a dangerous area. For these encounters, choose creatures that live in that type of environment. Remember that not all creatures attack on sight. Friendly or cautious creatures might approach, resulting in more interactive scenes that might even help the PCs.

If the PCs get unlucky or are just awful at Survival, you might end up stuck with no way for them to reorient themselves. In these cases, have someone come to them! They might get captured by local humanoids or monsters or stumble upon a dangerous location. They’ve figured out where they are, even if it’s not where they wanted to be!