Journey Campaigns - Challenges and Tips

Thinking of running a Journey Campaign? Here are some ways to make it easier..

Challenge 1 - Increased Power of the Players

As the PCs are in charge of where they want to go, and the journey IS the adventure, the PCs have greater control over pacing and direction than in many other campaigns.

They will find it a lot easier to avoid encounters or locations or to get distracted by nearly everything they come across.

Tips

If distractions are a potential problem, consider some sort of time constraint, such as a race ("we only get the reward if we are the first to get to the Emerald City"), the seasons ("we need to get to the pass before the snows close it") or rivals on the same path.

In the case of your encounters and locations being missed, consider moving them later into the campaign, reskinning them if necessary.

Pacing can also be something to approach differently for certain systems where resource management is of importance. In Dungeons and Dragons (4th and 5th especially) the number of encounters can affect the balance between classes who need to rest to recharge and those who don't. Consider designing scenarios where encounters aren't just once every few days. Many journeys will be long periods of boredom punctuated by a few hours of interest and danger.

Challenge 2 - Recurring Characters

Because the PCs are always on the move in a particular direction, there are no locations or NPCs the PCs will come back to.

Tips

While you can't have locations that recur (with a few exceptions), recurring NPCs are possible, although they will need to be mobile to some degree.

Recurring NPCs can be other travellers, messengers, rivals or others that are also moving on their path.

They could also have other ways of communicating with the PCs, via telepathic messages, dreams or fey portals along the way

Challenge 3 - Importance of Support

The PCs are essentially on their own with what they can carry, and no base to call home. Their support around them becomes more important than normal.

Tips

Consider carefully the travelling companions and support of the PCs, whether these are guards for their mule train, their magical cart equipped with weird gadgets or the sage sending them updates via crystal ball, raven or sending stone.

If the PCs are travelling as part of a larger expedition, then recurring NPCs and support are easier to integrate, as it is essentially a small settlement that moves with them.

Challenge 4 - Change in Plot Structure

The Journey Campaign has a different structure to many campaigns, with more exploration and a different take on villains.

Tips

Consider the different types of exploration challenges the PCs could encounter. Think about the hazards of getting lost, weather and seasons in general. A flood or storm could become an interesting backdrop or encounter.

The PCs may well have a lot more down-time (relating to pacing above), with time for training and healing on a longer journey.

The campaign revolves around a journey, so recurring villains may need to be mobile too, either a rival with the same goal or maybe part of the same travelling group. Or someone bent on stopping them and setting challenges in their way.

Journey Onwards!

So consider what kind of journey campaign you would like to write and ask any questions here or on twitter!