Unearthed Arcana: Into the Wild Analysis

For the month of February the Unearthed Arcana article expands on the rules for travel.

Wilderness travel is covered both in the Player’s Handbook(Chapter 8 – Adventuring) and the Dungeon Master’s Guide(Chapter 5 – Adventure Environments). However, in this article there is a different approach that doesn’t focus on hour-by-hour travel. Instead, this approach focuses on the destination and the big picture, making the decisions during the journey matter less.

Resolving Travel

The process is broken down into four phases.

  • Choose destination
  • Choose activities
  • Resolve activities and travel
  • Camp

Choosing a destination is not optional when using these rules because it’s tied to their core element, the navigation check. This is a check that’s rolled once per day to determine the progress of the travel.

The DC of the check is determined by the destination and ranges from 0 to 30. It represents the difficulty of finding a path towards that destination. For example, a DC of 0 means that the place the characters want to go has a clear path leading to it. A DC of 30 means that the destination may even be hidden by magic, requiring that the characters take specific measures or meet a certain requirement in order to reach it.

The navigation check is a Survival check. What bothers me is that there is no mention of any tool proficiency. I understand why they are not part of the main check but there should have been at least a mention of the cartographer’s or the navigator’s tools. Because you know, it’s called a navigation check. What makes it more annoying is that Xanathar’s Guide to Everything tries to make tool proficiency be more interesting but they don’t take that into consideration.

Since these rules can be used as a complement to the existing ones, some parts are the same. Characters can still perform the activities during travel that are mention in the Player’s Handbook. The only difference is that at least one of the characters has to make the navigation check while the others spend their time on the activity they chose.

Another part of travel that’s the same is random encounters. You can still use them and you also have another reason to use them now, which is when characters fail their navigation check and become lost. There is a table with possible results for when characters become lost but it features only two of them.

Describing the Wilds

In this part we get some advice on how to map the wilderness. There are a few points covered and it’s mentioned that it’s good to map the area that a party can cover in a day
or two of travel.

Tactical Terrain

One of the tools mentioned is a random roll table with terrain features. This can be used when an encounter takes place or when a situation requires more detailed features of the area the party is in. There should be at least one or two features always present and then a few others with a smaller chance of appearing.

Finally, we get an example region in the form of the Moon Hills from the Nentir Vale setting of 4th Edition. It’s pretty packed with content because it tries to provide as many examples as possible. I’m pleased that we get an example like this because it can be very useful for less experienced Dungeon Masters. They can see that they can do pretty much anything they want. However, this doesn’t mean they have to provide that much content for each region. I suggest trying to flesh out a small region at first to get the hang of it and then move to larger ones. Also, reusing part of your material is a possibility.

Overall, I really like this Unearthed Arcana installment. It doesn’t contain a lot of rules. It’s more of a set of advice which matches the spirit of 5th Edition that leaves many of the decisions for the Dungeon Master to make. My only “complaint” is that there was no mention on tools.

I want to use this document for a couple of stuff. The travel part in the Out of the Abyss campaign I’m running has become tiring and this could be refreshing. What do you think about this document? Is it interesting? Are you going to use it?

You can read the full article here and download the PDF here.

And until next time, have fun!

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