Archives of Nethys

Pathfinder 1E | Pathfinder 2E | Starfinder

<- Return to All Rules (Group by Source)
<- Return to Campaign Systems

All Rules in Campaign Systems

+ An entry marked with this has additional sections within it.


Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 154
Exploration is the epitome of adventuring. An explorer strikes out into the uncharted wild to pursue fortune and glory, facing off against a world of unknown perils that can strike at any time. Beyond the protection of civilization, death can come at the hands of bandit attacks, encounters with feral beasts, and the uncaring whims of the environment. For those brave enough, exploration offers its own kind of reward: the ability to look back on the long road traveled, to recount the many obstacles that were struggled through, and to mark the discoveries made along the way as yours. The summit of every mountain climbed and the length of every trail forged is a victory for the traveler—a chance to look at the world she is conquering.

The following pages present rules for how you as a GM can include exploring large regions of wilderness in your campaign. You can use these rules to run an exploration-themed campaign or to add an exploration component to a campaign, such as searching for resources, scouting territory for the expansion of a kingdom, or establishing trade routes.

Sandbox Exploration

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 154
These exploration rules can work well in a sandbox-style game. Essentially, a sandbox campaign provides many different locations on the map where the PCs are offered tasks to resolve, and locations where the tasks can be executed. (Each task might or might not take place in the same locations it was offered.) A task can be as simple as clearing evil monsters from a patch of forest or as complicated as helping a fledgling kingdom acquire resources in its back country.

When designing tasks for sandbox gaming, have them be things the party can choose to do, not that they must do. By leaving the choice of which tasks to undertake up to them, you allow the PCs to be wandering heroes— masters of their own fate who travel the land setting things right.

This kind of nonlinear play encourages PCs to move out into the world, search for new tasks, and claim their rewards. You can also use these tasks to introduce new sites in the world by offering the characters jobs delivering goods, escorting travelers, and the like.


Source PRPG Core Rulebook pg. 170
There are three movement scales, as follows:
  • Tactical, for combat, measured in feet (or 5-foot squares) per round.
  • Local, for exploring an area, measured in feet per minute.
  • Overland, for getting from place to place, measured in miles per hour or miles per day.

Modes of Movement: While moving at the different movement scales, creatures generally walk, hustle, or run.

Walk: A walk represents unhurried but purposeful movement (3 miles per hour for an unencumbered adult human).

Hustle: A hustle is a jog (about 6 miles per hour for an unencumbered human). A character moving his speed twice in a single round, or moving that speed in the same round that he or she performs a standard action or another move action, is hustling when he or she moves.

Run (×3): Moving three times speed is a running pace for a character in heavy armor (about 7 miles per hour for a human in full plate).

Run (×4): Moving four times speed is a running pace for a character in light, medium, or no armor (about 12 miles per hour for an unencumbered human, or 9 miles per hour for a human in chainmail). See Table 7–6 for details.

Table 7-6: Movement and Distance

Speed15 feet20 feet30 feet40 feet
One Round (Tactical)*
Walk15 ft.20 ft.30 ft.40 ft.
Hustle30 ft.40 ft.60 ft.80 ft.
Run (x3)45 ft.60 ft.90 ft.120 ft.
Run (x4)60 ft.80 ft.120 ft.160 ft.
One Minute (Local)
Walk150 ft.200 ft.300 ft.400 ft.
Hustle300 ft.400 ft.600 ft.800 ft.
Run (x3)450 ft.600 ft.900 ft.1,200 ft.
Run (x4)600 ft.800 ft.1,200 ft.1,600 ft.
One Hour (Overland)
Walk1-1/2 miles2 miles3 miles4 miles
Hustle3 miles4 miles6 miles8 miles
One Day (Overland)
Walk12 miles16 miles24 miles32 miles
* Tactical Movement is often measured in squares on the battle grid (1 square = 5 feet) rather than feet.

Random Encounters

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 155
Natural disasters can occur anywhere. Untamed regions are often home to a wide variety of monsters. You can instill a bit of additional danger into your exploration sessions by including random encounters, whether they take the form of natural hazards or monsters that dwell in the terrain.

Roll on the following table once per day (or once per hex, if the PCs enter multiple hexes in a single day). For hazards, see the Hazards section. For monster encounters, in most cases the PCs face off against a creature appropriate to the terrain, but a nearby famine, drought, war, or plague may force a monster out of its normal territory and into a strange environment.

01-50No encounter

Planned Encounters

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 156
A specific, planned encounter for a hex does not have to be especially complicated. It can be as simple as a quick meeting with an explorer who can sell the PCs some necessary supplies or the discovery of a monster lair that hints at a greater threat. A good rule when determining the number of planned encounters to prepare is to have at least one for each character in the party. That way, you can tailor encounters to allow each character to take the spotlight without having to populate every single hex on the map one by one.

After creating these encounters, choose a hex on the map and note that an encounter occurs there. When the party draws closer to a hex with a planned encounter, foreshadow it with appropriate details. For example, if you plan to have the party discover a battle between two armies, the nearby hexes should contain signs of an army’s passage—old cooking fires, piles of refuse, and even the graves of soldiers who fell to illness along the way give your players clues about the impending encounter.

A few encounter sites are landmarks immediately obvious or visible with just a little bit of looking or scouting. A PC who enters the hex automatically discovers the landmark. If a PC in an adjacent hex spends an hour studying the landmark’s hex and succeeds at a DC 10 Survival check, he discovers the landmark. When the PCs discover a landmark, note it on the landmark’s hex.

Many encounter sites remain undiscovered unless the PCs decide to explore a hex rather than just travel through it. By exploring the hex, the PCs discover the site automatically. Some sites are hidden, requiring the PCs to make an appropriate skill check as they explore. The skill and its DC depend on the nature of the site.

Hex Terrain Types

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 156
For simplicity’s sake, a hex is categorized by its primary terrain: desert, forest, hill, marsh, mountain, plain, settlement, or water. The terrain doesn’t have to be uniform within that hex—the border between a forest hex and plain hex might be a gradual thinning of the trees or the sudden edge of a heavy forest. A hex might have a river running through it, a large rock outcropping, a barren patch from a fire, and so on. The hexes are abstractions to make travel and encounters easier, not a way to reduce the campaign map to a simple board game.

Each of the following terrain type entries includes a description of the terrain and any rules effects the terrain type might implicate. In addition, each terrain type entry includes example terrain elements that might be found in a particular hex of that terrain type. A terrain element could be some obstacle or hindrance that makes a hex more difficult to pass through, a unique feature within the hex, an encounter with the predators or people who use this hex as their hunting ground, resources that could aid adventurers exploring the hex, or a secret location hidden somewhere in the hex.

Even a “standard” hex (that is, one without a terrain element), should have something to make it memorable. PCs who explore that hex are spending at least a day there, and an exploration campaign grows boring if days pass uneventfully (see Keep Things Interesting).

Random Map Generation

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 158
Not everyone has the time to create a detailed map to use in-game. An example map has been provided on page 159 to photocopy and easily drop into play, but you and your players can also use the following rules to create a whole new map randomly during play. This can empower your players to discover the unexplored world around them. The options presented below are intentionally designed to be generic types of temperate terrain; adjust them for your own game. In a frozen wasteland, plain hexes could represent great expanses of icy ground, while in an arid climate they could represent massive alkali flats. Use these examples as a springboard to create a unique campaign of exploration.

To generate a new map, begin by selecting a hex on your blank map as the starting point. Then decide the type of terrain for that starting point (such as a settlement in a forest hex). From that point onward, the reins of exploration are in your players’ hands. Let them decide which direction they travel, and let each player take a turn generating the next hex by rolling 1d20 twice to determine the terrain type and terrain element for that hex using the tables below.

d20Terrain Type
17-20As previous terrain type

d20Terrain Element
7-10Hunting Ground

Exploration Hazards

Source Ultimate Campaign pg. 159
Hazards are dangerous obstacles or events relevant to a hex’s terrain type. They represent the natural disasters, harsh weather, and bad luck that can befall an expedition, and are included to liven up the PCs’ journey as they explore the world. In addition to these hazards, you might use an environmental danger that’s suitable to the current terrain. After the effects of a hazard have been resolved, treat the hex as a standard example of that terrain.