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Exploration Challenges

Some exploration challenges are straightforward sequences like crossing a rickety bridge, escaping a patch of quicksand, or bypassing a dangerous trap. Others involve prevailing against massive snowstorms, negotiating supernatural phenomena, or traversing seas of sandy dunes. 


An adventuring party should be expected to trivially overcome exploration challenges from a lower tier of play. While the exploration challenge might be narrated in order to give more flavor to the journey, there is no need to individually run lower-tier exploration challenges.


Exploration challenges have challenge ratings, much like monsters do, which helps the Narrator to determine appropriate encounters for the party and how much experience is rewarded for an exploration challenge successfully overcome.

Each exploration challenge also includes two Difficulty Classes. The first is used when individual ability checks or saving throws are being made, and the second is used for group checks.


Sometimes an entire region is an exploration challenge (like arctic expanses, demanding deserts, or turbulent seas), and other exploration challenges might just be for the immediate vicinity. Each exploration challenge includes a suggested size and the typical time to traverse it at a normal pace, but the Narrator should use a map of the world the game is set in to determine the appropriate area for any exploration challenge. 

Immediate. This exploration challenge affects the immediate area around the party; it’s likely about 100 feet or so across, but is almost certainly under 1 mile. It takes less than 1 hour to traverse at normal pace.

Local. This exploration challenge is up to 3 miles (1 league) across, and takes 1 hour to traverse at normal pace.

Intermediate. This exploration challenge is up to 10 miles across and takes 3 hours to traverse at normal pace.

Greater. This is the distance a party can usually walk in a day at normal pace, and is up to 30 miles across.

Region. This exploration challenge covers the entire region that the party is currently traveling in. Its exact size depends on the size of the region.


Table: Exploration Challenge Sizes



(1 mph)

(2 mph)

(3 mph)

(4 mph)

(8 mph)


Up to 1 mile

Less than 1 hour

Less than 1 hour

Less than 1 hour

Less than 1 hour

Less than 1 hour


Up to 3 miles

6 hours

1 ½ hours

1 hour

1 hour

Less than 1 hour


Up to 10 miles

2 days

5 hours

3 hours

2 hours

1 hour


Up to 30 miles

1 week

2 days

1 day

6 hours

4 hours









Running Exploration Challenges

Exploration challenges are designed to be free-form, allowing the Narrator a great deal of latitude when adjudicating them. The exploration challenges in this book contain guidelines to assist the Narrator in this task, but they are not meant to be binding or constraining. 

Each entry details the various traits of the exploration challenge, what its effects are, and what the outcome of certain ability checks or actions might be. 

Suggested Solutions. Each exploration challenge contains one or more example ways to resolve it. Players are encouraged to come up with inventive solutions, and a clever idea or an appropriate expenditure of a spell or resource can be rewarded with success, or with advantage on one or more checks made. 

Travel Time. Many exploration challenges include effects which are dependent on the amount of time spent overcoming them, such as the periodic eruptions in an acid field or the deadly damage of intense cold. The party’s travel pace (normal travel pace is 3 miles per hour, slow is 2 miles per hour, and fast is 4 miles per hour) and the exploration challenge’s size should be established as normal in order to determine how long the adventurers remain in the area. Some exploration challenges affect the party’s travel pace, or are affected by the pace at which the party moves.

Outcomes. Each exploration challenge also lists some possible outcomes. These outcomes are graded into four categories, from critical failures up to critical successes. It is entirely up to the Narrator which outcome the adventurers qualify for, depending on the actions they take. An inventive solution might immediately qualify them for a critical success, as might a group check in which everybody succeeds, and a critical failure might be triggered by a disastrous decision, but the Narrator ultimately decides what the outcome of an exploration challenge is and what rewards are granted or penalties accrued.

Some results—especially when a group check has been made—may affect the entire party, while others may affect only a single adventurer. The Narrator should determine who is affected based on the actions being taken.

Failing an exploration challenge does not halt the journey, but it does usually mean that the adventurers suffer some kind of penalty. Typical penalties include the loss of time or Supply, or gaining fatigue or strife , while rewards include Boons and Discoveries , as well as experience.

Avoiding. At the Narrator’s discretion, some exploration challenges might be avoided by backtracking and taking a different route; if the party chooses to do this, they will typically lose some travel time and will not earn any experience for the exploration challenge, but they do not have to face it. The time to avoid an exploration challenge is equal to quadruple the time it would normally take to traverse the area. 

Telling a Story. Exploration challenges are designed to be inserted seamlessly into an adventure. The Narrator should never announce that an exploration challenge is in progress, or present the players with a list of options or potential actions. 

Exploration Challenges: Success and Failure

The outcomes of exploration challenges range from the very worst results to the very best.

Critical Failure. A disastrous decision or action, a group check in which everybody fails, or a single check which results in a critical failure. This often results in penalties such as fatigue or strife, time, or loss of Supply . No experience is gained.

Failure. A bad decision or action, a group check in which half or less of the party succeed, or a single check which results in a failure. This often results in penalties such as loss of Supply or time. No experience is gained.

Success. An appropriate solution, a group check in which more than half the party succeed, or a single check which results in a success. The party gains experience equal to half the exploration challenge’s CR.

Critical Success. An optimal solution, a group check in which the whole party succeeds, or a single check which results in a critical success. The party gains experience equal to the exploration challenge’s CR, and often a boon or discovery.

Group Checks

Group checks take place when the entire party is engaged in a single task. In a group check, every player makes an ability check. If more than half of the group succeeds in their check, the group as a whole succeeds. If half or less of the group succeed, the group as a whole fails.

When an exploration challenge mentions a group check, the Narrator should allow adventurers to use different skills or abilities where appropriate. Not all adventurers have to make the same check, as long as each is contributing in some way.

Group Criticals. A critical success is achieved when all members of the party succeed in their checks, while a critical failure takes place if all members of the party fail.