Wilderness Exploration


In Cairn, wilderness exploration and travel is mostly abstract, hand-waving away the minutiae of the journey while still giving the party ample opportunities for interactivity and character agency.

Exploration Example

The party is escorting an NPC between two POIs: a small village situated in the grasslands to a stronghold at the base of an impressive valley. The short journey should only take one day, as travel is limited to Easy terrain and is along a clear Trail all the way.

At the start of the day, the Warden rolls for the local weather, then adjudicates its potential impacts on the journey that day. It is overcast and breezy (no impact). After each of the following Wilderness Actions, the party rolls 1d6 to see if they get lost, and the Warden rolls on the Wilderness Events Table.

Day One / Watch One

  • The party takes the Travel action. They do not get lost.
  • Events Table: Sign. One of the characters looks behind the party and spies something glittering in the distance behind them. It disappears after a few seconds. Could that be a spyglass, reflecting in the sun?

Day One / Watch Two

  • The party takes the Travel action again, continuing along the same trail and plain. They do not get lost.
  • Events Table: Environment. The weather has worsened in the evening, and as a result, the plain is muddy and the trail harder to follow. The Warden adds 1 Watch to the journey, as the party is forced to slow their march considerably, only reaching the the edge of the grasses by nightfall. The party is forced to find shelter in the open plain rather than at their destination in the adjacent valley.

Day One / Watch Three

  • The party takes the Make Camp action. They set up a hastily-made shelter, and each character consumes a Ration. A lookout rotation is set, dividing the night between all four party members.
  • Events Table: Sign. The sky clears up enough for the first person on lookout to see a light in the distance, flickering slowly. A campfire! Someone is definitely following them.

Note: the party could have chosen to continue on through the night, but doing so could increase the chance of getting lost and put the party at greater risk!