Wilderness Exploration

Table of contents


  • A day is divided into three watches, called morning, afternoon, and night.
  • Each character can choose one Wilderness Action per watch.
  • If the characters split up, each group is treated as an independent entity.


  • Potential destinations on a map are called points.
  • One or more watches may be required to journey between two points on a map, depending on the path, terrain, weather, and party status.
  • The party has a rough idea of the challenges involved to get to their destination, but rarely any specifics.

Travel Duration

Travel time in Cairn is counted in watches, divided into three eight-hour segments per day. However, as most parties elect to spend the third watch of the day resting, one can use “days” as a shorthand for travel time.

To determine the distance between two points, combine all penalties from the path, terrain, and weather difficulty tables, taking into account any changes to those elements along the route. For travel via waterways, refer to the surrounding terrain difficulty. For especially vast terrain, assign a penalty of up to +2 watches to the journey.

The weather, terrain, darkness, injured party members, and other obstacles can impact travel or even make it impossible! In some cases, the party may need to add Fatigue or expend resources in order to sustain their pace. Mounts, guides, and maps can increase the party’s travel speed or even negate certain penalties.

Path Difficulty

Path Penalty Odds of Getting Lost
Roads None None
Trails +1 Watch 2-in-6
Wilderness +2 Watches 3-in-6
Path Distance Penalty
Short +1 Watch
Medium +2 Watches
Long +3 Watches

Terrain Difficulty

Difficulty Terrain Penalty Factors
Easy Plains, plateaus, valleys none Safe areas for rest, fellow travelers, good visibility
Tough Forests, deserts, hills +1 Watch Wild animals, flooding, broken equipment, falling rocks, unsafe shelters, hunter’s traps
Perilous Mountains, jungle, swamp +2 Watches Quicksand, sucking mud, choking vines, unclean water, poisonous plants and animals, poor navigation


Each day, the Warden should roll on the weather table for the appropriate season. If the “Extreme” weather result is rolled twice in a row, the weather turns to “Catastrophic”. A squall becomes a hurricane, a storm floods the valley, etc.

Weather Type

d6 Spring Summer Fall Winter
1 Nice Nice Fair Fair
2 Fair Nice Fair Unpleasant
3 Fair Fair Unpleasant Inclement
4 Unpleasant Unpleasant Inclement Inclement
5 Inclement Inclement Inclement Extreme
6 Extreme Extreme Extreme Extreme

Weather Difficulty

Weather Effect Examples
Nice Favorable conditions for travel. Clear skies, sunny
Fair Favorable conditions for travel. Overcast, breezy
Unpleasant Add a Fatigue or add one watch to the journey. Gusting winds, rain showers, sweltering heat, chill air
Inclement Add a Fatigue or add +1 watch. Increase terrain Difficulty by a step. Thunderstorms & lightning, rain, muddy ground
Extreme Add a Fatigue and add +1 watch. Increase terrain Difficulty by a step. Blizzards, freezing winds, flooding, mud slides
Catastrophic Most parties cannot travel under these conditions. Tornados, tidal waves, hurricane, volcanic eruption

Wilderness Exploration Cycle

  1. The Warden describes the current point or region on the map and how the path, weather, terrain, or party status might affect travel speed. The party plots or adjusts a given course towards their destination.
  2. Each party member chooses a single Wilderness Action. The Warden narrates the results for each and then rolls on the Wilderness Events table. The party responds to the results.
  3. The players and the Warden record any loss of resources and new conditions (i.e. torch use, deprivation, etc), and the cycle repeats.

Wilderness Events

1 Encounter Roll on an encounter table for that terrain type or location. Don’t forget to roll for NPC reactions if applicable.
2 Sign The party discovers a clue, spoor, or indication of a nearby encounter, locality, hidden feature, or information about a nearby area.
3 Environment A shift in weather or terrain.
4 Loss The party is faced with a choice that costs them a resource (rations, tools, etc), time, or effort.
5 Exhaustion The party encounters a barrier, forcing effort, care or delays. This might mean spending extra time (and an additional Wilderness Action) or adding Fatigue to the PC’s inventory to represent their difficulties.
6 Discovery The party finds food, treasure, or other useful resources. The Warden can instead choose to reveal the primary feature of the area.

Wilderness Actions


  • Travel begins. Obvious locations, features, and terrain of nearby areas are revealed according to their distance. This action is typically taken by the entire party as one.
  • The party rolls 1d6 to see if they get lost along the way. This risk can increase or decrease, depending on path Difficulty, maps, party skills, and guides.
  • If lost, the party may need to spend a Wilderness Action to recover their way. Otherwise, the party reaches the next point along their route. Remember to compare the results of getting lost to the relevant path Difficulty.


  • One or more party members search a large area, searching for hidden features, scouting ahead, or treading carefully.
  • A Location (shelter, village, cave, etc.) or Feature (geyser, underground river, beached ship, etc.) is discovered.
  • The Travel action is still required to leave the current area, even if it has been completely explored.


  • Characters can hunt, fish, or forage for food, with the first PC to take this action collecting 1d4 Rations (3 uses each).
  • The chance of a greater bounty increases with each additional participant (e.g. 1d4 becomes 1d6, up to a maximum of 1d12). Relevant experience or equipment may also increase the bounty.
  • The party may encounter homes and small villages, spending gold and a full watch to resupply.

Make Camp

  • The party stops to set up camp in the wilds. Each party member (and their mounts) consume a Ration.
  • A lookout rotation is set so that the party can sleep unmolested. At least 3 rotations are necessary to ensure that all party members can rest. A smaller party may need to risk sleeping unguarded, or switch off sleeping over multiple days (see Sleep).
  • Party members that were able to rest remove all of Fatigue from their inventory.

Wilderness Elements


  • The party can choose to travel during the night and rest during the day, but night travel is far slower and more treacherous!
  • Traveling at night is always more dangerous! The Warden should roll twice on the Wilderness Events table.
  • Some terrain and weather may be easier to traverse at night (desert, for example). The Warden should balance these challenges along with any other.


  • The last watch of the day is typically reserved for the Make Camp action.
  • Characters typically need to sleep each day. Anything beyond a minor interruption can negate or cancel the benefits of sleep.
  • If the party skips the Make Camp action, they each add a Fatigue to their inventory, and are deprived. Additionally, traveling when sleep-deprived raises the terrain Difficulty by a step (i.e. Easy becomes Tough).


  • Torches and other radial sources of light illuminate 40ft ahead of the party, but beyond that only provides a dim outline of objects.
  • Characters without a light source may suffer from panic until their situation is remedied.
  • Environmental conditions (sudden gusts of wind, dust, water, etc.) can easily blow out a torch.

Light Sources

  • A torch can be lit 3 times before degrading.
  • A lantern can be relit indefinitely, but requires a separate oil can (6 uses).