Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

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Blustar
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Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by Blustar » Tue Aug 01, 2017 1:29 pm

I'm trying to determine how to adjudicate the Journey rules consistently and it's just not making any sense to me. Also, I have a lot of experience DMing D&D for many years. A few questions:

1. Can you play without the journey rules, and just roll for unexpected events when the time is appropriate ( without sacrificing too much)?

2. My biggest issue with the rules is the destination of journeys. Is it where you are ultimately going, like a sanctuary? A set piece encounter along the way? I've tried using the adventures from Wilderland Adventures and they don't seem very consistent. ( and Eaves of Mirkwood)
a. In Don't Leave the Path: The destination seems to be to the Forest Gate, but it looks like the merchant is actually going to Woodmen hall. There are 3 set encounters and you are told to roll for Journey events as well. None of these interruptions seem to end the journey. The Journey ends at the gate, but they haven't reached their destination yet???
b. In Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit: On the Journey to the High Pass, the Journey is broken down into two legs? Why? It tells you not to roll for arrival after the first leg? So, why not just make it one journey? Also, there's no mention of the return journey to the Inn. Is this just hand waved?
c.In Eaves of Mirkwood: They are journeying form Woodmen Town to the Forest gate. This time it's only one journey although it is longer than the previous adventure, also the journey never gets to where they initially stated. Actually, the initial intention was to journey all the way to Dale ( or Laketown)! So how many journeys is this?

lastly, the embarkation and arrival roles also seem pretty arbitrary; it just seems difficult adjudicating it consistently and fairly. I think I'm going to scrap embarkation and arrivals and just use the Journey events as wandering monster (events) rolls and call it a day. I don't see the fellowship phase being affected or the need for sanctuaries. I can rule that in order to long rest, a sanctuary is necessary or some other such thematic reason. Is this a reasonable approach?

thanks

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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by Mykesfree » Tue Aug 01, 2017 1:53 pm

If you look at the Loremaster's Guide pgs. 56-57 it talks about using the Wandering Monsters and Random Encounters instead.

I would keep in the Embarkation and Arrival rolls, only because they can give benefits such as inspiration, Advantage during the journey or remove Shadow points on the Arrival. The Embarkation and Arrival rolls can also give hinderances such as Disadvantage, Levels of Exhaustion and Shadow points.

I really think the way the AiMe rules handle inspiration, Levels of Exhaustion and Shadow points is what gives the game a Middel-earth feel and not a D&D feel. Basically, there is some risk on the Journey and you have not even fought bad guys.

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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by Jon Hodgson » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:30 pm

Long reply is Looooong!
Blustar wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 1:29 pm
I'm trying to determine how to adjudicate the Journey rules consistently and it's just not making any sense to me. Also, I have a lot of experience DMing D&D for many years. A few questions:

1. Can you play without the journey rules, and just roll for unexpected events when the time is appropriate ( without sacrificing too much)?
Yes, you can. The rules were made to be self-contained, so if you don't like them, or just don't feel they fit how you want to play, you can take them out in their entirety.

IMHO you do lose some long term thematic benefits by doing so, but they aren't all that hard to overcome. The way Journeys work means it's a good idea to open Sanctuaries so that you can start and end Journeys at a definite place of rest. And opening Sanctuaries takes Fellowship Phases, which could otherwise be spent on other Undertakings and thus is bound up with character progression. But that's fairly easily overcome by the Loremaster.

2. My biggest issue with the rules is the destination of journeys. Is it where you are ultimately going, like a sanctuary? A set piece encounter along the way? I've tried using the adventures from Wilderland Adventures and they don't seem very consistent. ( and Eaves of Mirkwood)
a. In Don't Leave the Path: The destination seems to be to the Forest Gate, but it looks like the merchant is actually going to Woodmen hall. There are 3 set encounters and you are told to roll for Journey events as well. None of these interruptions seem to end the journey. The Journey ends at the gate, but they haven't reached their destination yet???
b. In Of Leaves and Stewed Hobbit: On the Journey to the High Pass, the Journey is broken down into two legs? Why? It tells you not to roll for arrival after the first leg? So, why not just make it one journey? Also, there's no mention of the return journey to the Inn. Is this just hand waved?
c.In Eaves of Mirkwood: They are journeying fromWoodmen Town to the Forest gate. This time it's only one journey although it is longer than the previous adventure, also the journey never gets to where they initially stated. Actually, the initial intention was to journey all the way to Dale ( or Laketown)! So how many journeys is this?
Do you have the Loremaster's Guide? If not, that should help you immensely with all of these concerns. If you do have it, then I'll try to help explain some of the ideas further. Apologies for the length here. I've added in some bolded headings to break this up into parts. (and I'll edit several times for spelling and clarity)

Planning Journeys is core to the rules-as-written game experience. "How do we get from A to B in good shape" is a key concern, if you want it to be. This is aimed to reflect what happens in The Hobbit and LOTR.

So the destination of a Journey is wherever the Company has agreed they want to travel to next, or where the scenario determines they're travelling to. It's usually to do with how far they want to risk travelling in one stretch. Each such stretch is considered a Journey: A Journey is a thing that happens between Long Rests.

Taking Eaves as an example, a Journey from Woodmen Town to Dale is waaaaaaay too long in-character to undertake in one go. It's many, many miles, (300? 400?) involves crossing Mirkwood, and in-character you'd know that you'll need to stop for a rest somewhere safe several times along the way.

Sometimes this can become a little bit arbitrary - in Eaves the company are planning to first travel to the Forest Gate, when there isn't an awful lot there. But it's a smart landmark at which to break the journey before heading into Mirkwood, both in-character and in terms of the game rules.

It also serves the needs of the adventure - as an introductory experience Eaves is intended to take some unnecessary choice out of the player's hands, so they more easily can learn as they go. In a more open scenario, the Company might decide not to go that way at all. They would, however, have some idea of how far they feel they could safely travel before becoming too at risk from Exhaustion on the road.

There's a fuzzy, negotiated space where the players and the LM are working together to decide how long a Journey to make, and where it ends. The LM and their scenario are providing some motivation and opportunities, and the party are deciding exactly how they want to go about things.

So, in an open scenario where the company wants to go from Woodmen Town to the Forest Gate, they might decide first to go to Beorn's House as a single journey, and then rest there. Or they might head straight to the Anduin and then try to sail upriver. Or they might (somewhat foolishly) just follow the edge of Mirkwood all the way there in one Journey. The Journey rules allow the party to do any of those things, while making sure there are thematically appropriate encounters along the way, and that if they try to go too far things will get "interesting" for them.

A key point is, the longer the journey, the longer you'll go without a Long Rest, so the less resistant to occurrences on the road you will be. And the worse shape you'll arrive in. Travelling too far risks building up too many levels of Exhaustion. This can be tough to assess for very new players, who might have to find out the hard way why you shouldn't travel too far in one go. They'll quickly learn to take shorter Journeys, and ensure they're ok. Opening Sanctuaries across Middle-earth really helps with this, so that they can be sure of a welcome and a proper rest.

Generally speaking, it is ok for the Company to say they'll head to place X, and then find somewhere to properly rest and resupply once they get there, and the the LM to allow it, with a little bit of advice and steering so it's all credible and consistent. It's a little bit hand wavey, but we do this in real life.

Likewise, as the LM you'll be offering scenarios that allow the company to travel appropriate distances. You wouldn't start them at Beorn's House, and demand they travel all the way to Esgaroth in one Journey. They'd probably die. And their characters would know this. At lower levels you might start at Beorn's House and head to a village at the edge of Western Mirkwood, for example.

Wilderland Adventures presents a much greater range of possibilities for Journeys - some don't need the Journey rules at all - either they're so short they don't need any Events, or they're meant to just be sped through to keep the pace of the adventure nice and lively. That's up to the LM to determine in their own adventures. Just like when you hit the Fellowship Phase and everyone can chose to travel home without incident. It's an abstraction.

Some of the Journeys in Wilderland Adventures specifically don't have a set destination - they're about heading to a place to begin a search, so they're slightly different than an average Journey. Others are varied just in the name of variation to keep things fresh - but I can see how that could be confusing if you're not grokking it.

Breaking a Journey is discussed in the Loremaster's Guide. This can either happen unexpectedly for a Company due to the plot of the scenario (as it does in Eaves), or the Company may look to prematurely end their Journey and find somewhere to rest if they're too worn out.

In the case of that first instance of unexpected Journey ending due to the scenario, it's up to the LM when this happens, and the Arrival Roll is pretty much thrust upon the Company. Which can go either way - they might be very glad of the break in the Journey if it's going badly, or alternatively, if it's going really well for them, they might not wish to stop at all. We've seen both occurrences.

Likewise, if one Company member is suffering more exhaustion on the road we've seen some good instances that reflect the source material, where some Companions want to stop, but others want to press on because they've accrued some bonuses. Fun times.

When a Company asks to break a journey, it's very much up to the LM how they want to handle that, according to their game style and the context. You're well within your rights to put the Company through a very difficult time if they've travelled too far, and done badly - you can force them to deviate and end their journey at a new safe destination closer at hand, and re-embark on a new journey once they've rested. Or you may take pity on them and allow a Long Rest without ending the Journey at all.

In terms of having extra, scripted encounters along the way, that's also covered in the LMG. It's entirely to be encouraged. There's nothing to stop you putting in "story" events, or plain ole battles, wherever you like, just like we see in Wilderland Adventures, and Eaves. The Journey rules are intended as a framework to serve the game, and to prevent "empty map" syndrome. There's no reason you can't plan some events you want to happen along the way. I know a couple of LMs who just roll up Journey Events before the game and drop them in as they see fit. Indeed, we use one such example in Journeys and Maps. Which is cool if that's what works for your game!
lastly, the embarkation and arrival roles also seem pretty arbitrary; it just seems difficult adjudicating it consistently and fairly. I think I'm going to scrap embarkation and arrivals and just use the Journey events as wandering monster (events) rolls and call it a day. I don't see the fellowship phase being affected or the need for sanctuaries. I can rule that in order to long rest, a sanctuary is necessary or some other such thematic reason. Is this a reasonable approach?
thanks
That's pretty much up to you! If you're finding the rolls too arbitrary, even when everything else makes sense, then just drop them. Some groups like the extra information they add in, and how they mechanically make sense of the themes of travel. Others don't find it fits they way they want to play in MIddle-earth - that's all good.

Sanctuaries are also important for gathering the company at the start of an adventure (if you use them), and for certain specific undertakings that can only be... undertaken at certain places. But again, it depends on the way you want to play. You could take all those restrictions out - they're largely there to fuel the thematic feel of opening up Middle-earth, promting thematic choices, and expanding your company's horizons, but they could be replaced by some roleplaying, or simply saying that your Company are now welcome at Rivendell (or wherever).

Naturally, we put quite a lot of effort into tying those mechanics together, to bring important themes of the books to the table, but not to such a degree that the game breaks if you tinker with it. It's your game.
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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by Jon Hodgson » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:37 pm

Oh my goodness, did you ever write a really long reply and then think "I hope I actually understood the question"?...
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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by zedturtle » Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:48 pm

Jon Hodgson wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 3:37 pm
Oh my goodness, did you ever write a really long reply and then think "I hope I actually understood the question"?...
Yes, yes I have. Sometimes I've been thinking about writing a really long response and someone else has written a wiser and more authoritative response.
Jacob Rodgers, occasional nitwit.

This space intentionally blank.

Blustar
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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by Blustar » Tue Aug 01, 2017 4:24 pm

Wow Jon, thanks for the loooong reply. :D

I think I'm finally getting the handle of the Journey rules.you stated:
"So the destination of a Journey is wherever the Company has agreed they want to travel to next, or where the scenario determines they're travelling to. It's usually to do with how far they want to risk travelling in one stretch. Each such stretch is considered a Journey: A Journey is a thing that happens between Long Rests."


In the "Stewed Hobbit" scenario, the party could travel all the way to the High pass in one go, but then they would risk being in worst shape when they get there. Of course, the only reason to press your luck would be because of time constraints or thematic reasons. Usually taking shorter journeys would be the most expedient.

It makes sense now, why they have two legs in that scenario, also in Stay on the Path, since there isn't a sanctuary in the middle of Mirkwood, they have to Journey all thew way to the gate, and that's what it makes it a dangerous Journey. (or more dangerous)

Excellent, now if you could explain to Treebeard why the entwives left without blaming flighty women in one sentence, then we'd be golden.

thanks

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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by cdj0902 » Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:17 pm

Jon, if you would be so kind, could we focus a bit on the "Don't Leave The Path" example, specifically in terms of the number of Journey events intended by this module?

I understand from your above response that this is somewhat ambiguous and can be handled a number of different ways. I'm totally on board with that. But what if I'm looking for, say, a "rule as written" judgement with an eye toward trusting the module designer to balance the journey for my 1st level (probably not 2nd level) PCs. It seems to be overly ambiguous. Your guidance is to wing it or do what feels right as LM, using suggestions from the LMG to help guide you. I appreciate that. Would it be less burdensome on the LM running the module to provide a "default" suggestion for how to handle journeys in modules, a suggestion geared towards balance (found during play testing), and then they can adjust to taste/group/play-style from there?

If I may beat this dead horse a bit more, let's dig into the specifics of this journey. In this example, the stats for the journey across Mirkwood to the Forest Gate say that there should be 1d2+1 (medium journey) travel events. The module then describes a few scripted encounters that happen prior to the arrival at the Forest Gate. By "default", do these count as the travel events? Purely reading the module doesn't answer this question for me. If I rolled 1d2+1 and came up with a value of 2, do two of the scripted events stand in for the rolls I'd be making had the module not provided them, and I can choose which 2 (of the 3)? If I roll a 3 do I just use all 3? Or do I drop these 3 scripted events in AND add in some journey table rolls based on my # of events roll? I think some clarity on the default utilization in cases like this would be helpful to those of us that are trying to feel out the game balance for journey management. It would also help prevent folks like me from overthinking things and getting in my own way, which I admit could totally be the case. :)

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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by ThrorII » Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:01 pm

cdj0902 wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 8:17 pm
*SNIP*
I would still roll on the Journey Challenges tables (1d2+1 challenges in this case). You know the adventure calls for a couple of 'set' encounters, but Mirkwood is dangerous. An additional 2-3 issues (which will most likely be non-combat) makes the adventure challenging and fun. The 'set' encounters are the 'real' adventure, the Journey Challenges are thematic and important for Middle-earth.

But, if you didn't include them, its not like your having badwrongfun and the AiMe Police will arrest you.

If you're worried about too much combat, then hand pick the challenges to fit the Mirkwood theme.

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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by BookBarbarian » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:02 am

ThrorII wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:01 pm
If you're worried about too much combat, then hand pick the challenges to fit the Mirkwood theme.
Agreed. There is certainly nothing wrong with picking the challenges you think will be the most fun for your group.

Of course for some the most fun is just to roll for it. Methods will vary form table to table.

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Re: Can you play without the Journey rules? (or can't figure out the rules ...help!!)

Post by cdj0902 » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:05 am

ThrorII wrote:
Tue Aug 01, 2017 10:01 pm
I would still roll on the Journey Challenges tables (1d2+1 challenges in this case). You know the adventure calls for a couple of 'set' encounters, but Mirkwood is dangerous. An additional 2-3 issues (which will most likely be non-combat) makes the adventure challenging and fun. The 'set' encounters are the 'real' adventure, the Journey Challenges are thematic and important for Middle-earth.

But, if you didn't include them, its not like your having badwrongfun and the AiMe Police will arrest you.

If you're worried about too much combat, then hand pick the challenges to fit the Mirkwood theme.
This is indeed how I played it, having rolled that they'd have 2 journey encounters. So far they've dealt with the Baldor/Spider situation (set piece), seen an uplifting sight that brought joy to the party (first journey event), and ran into a small orc band camping near the elf path that had been depleted by spider attacks and had as captive a dwarf in a sack (2nd journey event). :) They saved the dwarf, gaining a new PC (new player joined the table). We ended our last session with them having found the Hermit of Mirkwood's home, with him scratching around outside. They are fairly beat up, and I plan on allowing a long rest and possibly a level up as long as they don't completely fubar the audience with the hermit. I did have Lindar provide them with Lembas bread before they left the Elf King's halls (they did really well with their audience RP and the roll results). I run 2 other games of 5E D&D core and this is the grittiest I've ever felt these rules be. It has increased my enjoyment as a DM/LM and my players seem much more engaged, I think, from the fact that they feel their PCs are in real danger nearly constantly. It seems the threat of a TPK is greater as a result, and a less experienced DM/LM could find that intimidating

However, I'm an experienced DM and am extremely comfortable adjusting things on the fly for the sake of pacing and dramatic tension. I can imagine if I wasn't as experienced these vague rules and plethora of alternate suggestions for how to handle things would feel overwhelming and rather disjointed, which is why I asked the question. It's great to give someone a swiss army knife and tell them "do whatever you want with it, it's your knife". It's another thing to give them some solid examples of ideal uses of the knife, and then let them take it from there.

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