Travel can be seen very badly by players and Games Masters (GM) alike. Most people will tell you that a travel adventure is a linear mash-up of things to smack the players around with. I beg to differ and have had great successes in the past running travel adventures. First, I have a source of inspiration that I draw on when I am faced with scenes of travel.
Monkey is a Chinese TV show that was based on a novel called Journey to the West. There is a newer remake but the remake (while good) is not as focussed on travel as the original. The story is of a young monk, Tripitaka, who is charged with delivering/finding scrolls to a destination in the West. It is a matter of celestial importance and hence three fallen Gods join the pilgrimage to restore their status. monkey, Pigsy and Sandy fight Demons and liberate towns across the course of their journey and find themselves in the process. There are 52 episodes of travel brilliance in this series and if you have never watched it I can’t recommend it strongly enough!
Running a Successful Travel Plot
OK, so the above shows that you could build an entire campaign on a singular travel. It is an interesting idea and one that I may try one day. Of course, the likelihood is that you will be facing single travels between destinations. Rather than just waving your hand and the travel passes, you can have some fun with it. I once ran a Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) campaign where the players signed on to a caravan as security. It played out brilliantly.
The caravaneers were well rounded NPC’s and what the players did not realise is that there was a ghost on the trip. I plotted out encounters for the road and each night ghostly occurrences happened. The players solved the mystery of the ghost (the dead daughter of the merchant who owned the caravan) on the trip while fighting off bandits and ogres during the day. To me, it was the most memorable part of a year-long campaign.
The trick is by thinking about how you can change things up. Have them beset by bandits and then later have the rest of the bandit clan chase them. Or perhaps one of the bandit’s that died was the husband of the chief and she/he seeks revenge. Building story around isolated events is the key here. Perhaps they are set on by a highway robber who appears every night. Only later do the players realise it is someone that they are travelling with who is the robber.
Travel is Fun
Some of the best games can come from travel adventures. I have never seen a module that does it well but that does not mean it can’t be done. Be inventive. Make the world come alive. Try to connect action that happens so it does not just feel like encounter after encounter. In travel, this discrepancy is highlighted as all that holds it together is to travel from one point to another. When they are at the Warlock of Glaciertop Mountain’s lair then they assume that it is all planned by the Warlock and so encounter by encounter works. A little bit of work can help here. So give travel a try! Keep rolling…