Publisher: AbyssalBrews (@AbyssalBrews)
Theoretically, 5E D&D is comprised of three pillars: one for exploration, one for combat, and one for social interaction. In practice, this is a poor analogy. It’s more like 5E is supported by one load-bearing wall (combat) while the other walls of social interaction and exploration can be knocked out to really open up the space at any time. Many designers have tried to beef up these extraneous pillars to varying levels of success but, regardless of their efforts, combat is still far and away the most important part of 5E.
And that’s okay.
So why not lean into this a bit? If you’re creating rules for interaction/exploration, maybe don’t make everything take as much time and energy as combat typically does. Most tables would be better served having rules that let players experience those pillars and get on with the game quickly. AbyssalBrews’ Campfire does exactly that for the exploration pillar.
Campfire provides rules for making overland travel both easy and interesting. The process is streamlined, simple, yet impactful on the characters and engaging for the players. To any former players of 4th Edition, the rules presented in Campfire will seem very familiar as they are, essentially, updated Skill Challenge rules adjusted to be specifically useful for travel.
I know, I know. Some of you saw 4th Edition mentioned and shuddered, but hear me out! Skills Challenges were one of the highlights of that system. In essence, the DM would propose an issue and tell the party that they had to get a number of successful skill checks to overcome it. If they failed a number of times before reaching that target, they would fail at whatever task they were attempting. The players were presented with a number of obvious skills they could bring to bear against the challenge but they were also free to propose alternative skills so long as they could explain how it’d be useful. Elegant, right?
In Campfire, the DM utilizes factors such as weather, terrain, and length of the journey to determine two important numbers: the Travel DC and the Destination Score. The Travel DC is the number the players must beat in order for their skill check to be successful. The Destination Score represents the number of success or failures the player must get to resolve the trip.
If the players are successful, the journey resolves positively and they get to roll on the Windfalls table to see what sort of boon they get. Conversely, if they rack up enough failures to reach the Destination Score first, they have to roll on the Hardship table. Both tables are full of interesting minor narrative and mechanical results. Like the rest of the rules in Campfire, they are easily implemented and interesting enough to add to the game without being a distraction.
Overall, AbyssalBrews did a wonderful job with this short rules addendum and it’s something I can see just about every table implementing to great effect. Now if they’d just tackle the social bits…
DISCLAIMER: I do not know anyone involved with this book, nor did I receive anything for free in exchange for this review. Oh, and if you want another fine example of exploration rules, look no further than Black Marble Games’ Rhenge.