Here I aim to flesh out the step between “you are traveling” and “you found a dungeon” in a hex- or pointcrawl, in a way that hopefully feels natural and like actual exploration. I’ve taken some inspiration from, yes, Skyrim. It aims to add a bit of risk-reward to the process: discovering new locations might require an investment of time and resources, and the final reward might be nothing, a welcome surprise, or a nasty encounter.
Image: Whiterun Hold by Michal Kus
The Things We Find Along The Way
Note: Tables are referenced in [bold brackets].
While traveling, you spot…
…at a [Distance].
|1||Closeby: easy to reach; short travel time|
|2-5||Not too far away: a short walk or small challenge|
|6||Quite far away: a long walk or difficult challenge|
Point of Interest
|1||Plume of smoke, indicating a [Camp]|
|4||Big, jutting rock|
Each group of people has a [Disposition].
|6||Hunters & trappers|
|10||Bandits posing as Roll a d6 on this table|
Beasts also possess a [Disposition].
|1-2||Recently abandoned. 1d6: (1-2) There are still some supplies (3-6) Nothing beside remains|
|3-4||In use by [People].|
|5-6||Recently attacked by [Beasts].|
The cave is…
|1||Just one chamber big|
|2-5||1d4+1 chambers big|
|6||2d4+2 chambers big|
and occupied by…
|1-3||is unremarkable and mundane|
|4-5||aids the journey through supplies left here|
|6||aids the journey through some magical blessing|
This ruin is of a…
and is occupied by…
|1-3||Nothing of note|
|4-5||A cache of hidden supplies and treasure|
There’s a chance of chains of events: lookout > another lookout > 2 locations, for instance.
The [Distance] table is an invitation to have the players invest resources, be it time (a longer detour), tools or equipment.
“Closeby” should mean there’s no challenge involved; “Not too far away” might involve a skill check (“Climb the crumbling tower with DEX”) or a tool (“Use the grapple hook to climb the tower”); “Quite far away” could involve a skill check and a tool.
I hope this document also encourages interesting choices – sure, you spotted a camp, but it might be occupied by bandits, so approach carefully.