Lost in the wilderness

I haven’t run a wilderness exploration session in quite some time, but I’m quite taken with the idea of making it mandatory to have returned to a safe location by the end of the session. I’m going to reward parties who make it back under their own steam with a Haven Turn between sessions, while those that leave themselves half-in half-out will have their adventurers make an attempt to return to safety. This also means there is strong encouragement to create permanent outposts if they wish to explore further, which is a bit more realistic than a single small party heading out on their own. Therefore, I have this list in process.

Roll 1d20 + the number of days travel required to reach safety
-1 if you were already on the way home
-1 if the route is well-travelled
-1 if the route is controlled
+1 per danger the route leads you through
+2 If you are being pursued
+5 if you are lost

  1. or less. Home in time for Supper. Take a Haven Turn anyway, even if you aren’t in a town
  2. Riotous. All party members are in the mood for carousing
  3. Bedraggled. All party members desperately need a bath
  4. Close Escape. Route used to return to safety is now impassible
  5. Bad Memories. All present gain a Stress if they go back to the same location
  6. Hungry Marchers. Lose half rations remaining
  7. Lost Supplies. Lose a random item each
  8. Poisoned. Random member suffers from a minor poison and gains no benefit from food or rest until cured
  9. Tormented. Random member suffers a phobia
  10. Infection. Random member suffers a disease
  11. Marked. Random member suffers a Curse of the Wild
  12. Trespassers. Add a Wrathful Guardian to the Wandering Encounter list until it is appeased
  13. Never Again. A member is desperate to retire, for at least one session. If there isn’t a volunteer, this is at random
  14. Straggler. Random member is left behind and must be rescued
  15. Shattered Ranks. Half of the party is left behind and must be rescued
  16. or more. Taken by the Dark. Add the whole party to the Wandering Encounter list. They have been Changed

If anyone would like to suggest outcomes, it would be greatly appreciated!


I don’t agree 100% with your premise, but I really like the conclusion.

I like the “Taken by the Dark” option, but the three before don’t ring with me. In general, I don’t like taking out random PCs, so I’d make for something that allows the other PCs to free/save them (but maybe you can use those ideas for points 13-16).

Also, I’ve moved the post to the Content Creation section, since you are creating content :smile:


Some other suggestions (not quite sure where they’d best fit in):

  • Cannibalism (a la the Donner Party)

  • Close Encounters of the Fae kind (time loss/Rip Van Winkle Sleep/Dryad Marriage)

  • Locating a Short Cut/New Trail

  • Stumbling on an unexploited Resource (Timber, Mineral, Natural Beauty, etc)

  • Poisoned (easy to mistake the delicious but deadly Elfkiller Mushroom for the nutritious Cowdew)

  • Hard Choices (instead of just losing a random item, party chooses someone to lose all their gear)

  • Befriend a Woodland Faction (Fair Folk, Elfs, Gnomes, Monster Races…includes classic “Lion with a Thorn in their Paw” situations)

I’m sure I can come up with a few more if things like these are in line with your thinking :slight_smile:


@thekernelinyellow thankee kindly! And yes, I’m thinking I might scrap most of the death ones. Perhaps Shattered Ranks has half the party return, and the other half are more literally left behind and have to be rescued?

@ktrey Close Encounters and Hard Choices are definitely going on the list, the others are more like standard wilderness encounters (and are definitely going on that list!) How do you envisage “Cannibalism” working, just that something truly horrid has happened out in the boonies?

I’d love for more like this! These are more meant to be just “bad outcomes” rather than “bad situations” since they are things that the adventurers have dealt with and resolved, one way or another, on the way back to safety.

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You can either do that (thus opening up a new objective for the next session) or assume they get separated and the second group has to roll again as lost. Maybe you can go on the same route for Lone Survivor: one member of the party reaches safety, the others spend another day/exploration turn in the wilderness and have to roll again as lost.

Also, a couple of ideas for the low rolls:
2. Plentiful foraging: each member of the party finds 1 ration
3. Quick travel: consume half the rations required for the journey
4. Wandering merchant: will buy up to 1d10 common items


Ah…I was assuming that lower rolls could potentially be more beneficial here, but if they need to be bad, then that’s fun too :slight_smile:

  • Cannibalism: This is sort of the extreme side of Hungry Marches really. All rations consumed, the characters are forced to turn to other sustenance to survive. A milder version would be eating Mounts/Pets/Familiars and boiling boot leather, etc. (which kind of turns it into “Lost Gear” tbh). A super extreme version would be losing a party member to this…which depending on your table’s thresholds/tone could be pretty graphic and stomach churning (you could make it random…or worse: have the player’s decide) or simply just something “off screen” where a solemn vow is made to NEVER SPEAK OF THIS HORRID THING AGAIN.

  • Lost Time Time is a resource that can be depleted, especially if the characters have deadlines/appointments etc. While on the surface losing an extra few weeks might not seem so bad, if they return to find that the Haven has undergone significant changes without them (burned to the ground, key NPCs gone, new leadership/governance) it can be pretty jarring. Close Encounters kind of keys into this.

The Wilderness is a dangerous place, one misstep could result in some other types of “Injury” that take time to recuperate from or more permanently alter a character. I’m talking anything from a minor sprain/burns from stepping in a Fire Gopher hole, a broken leg from a treacherous scree, to even something as gruesome as amputation to escape the clenched Steel Jaws of an Ogre Bear Trap. Something minor like “Gain a new Scar, describe how you got it” would be on the lighter end of this. Poisoned is intended to kind of fit this role…you ate something you shouldn’t have and the effects linger. The condition could interfere with movement speeds, amount they can carry, spell retention/refreshment, or just about anything else that hampers their ability to continue adventuring. I like handling Sprains/Poisons by having the player just pick a number between 11-20, and whenever this number is rolled on a d20 it flares up. Addressing these conditions (seeking out regeneration, curative plants, etc) could in turn spur on more adventure, which is always nice.

  • Developing a Phobia could be interesting. Wolves, Darkness, Fire, Certain Smells. Severity depends on how often this would be triggered, naturally.

  • Touched by the Wild can be interesting depending on your conception of the Wilderness. I go with more “Mythic Overworld” here, so the further you go/longer you spend away from civilization, the worse it gets. I’m thinking things like “Domesticated Animals shy away from you” or “Can no longer eat Cooked Food.” Kind of like a weird Curse from spending too long in these perilous places. * I could probably populate a quick d20 just on these alone :slight_smile: Uncontrolled Lycanthropy* is another neat one for this, but I think all of these dangers benefit from some telegraphing to the players before they set out. Have them meet someone who spent too long out there, etc.


I really like that this encourages permanent outposts or structure building. I’ll definitely be following how you build onto this. At this moment I think I’d agree with @thekernelinyellow on 17-19 though.

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I’ve added in some extra results, and made a new post here for the curses. I’m not quite sure of the order right now, but I figure that can be sorted once the list is finished