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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Get Lost

Discussion on the forums about wilderness hexcrawls and subhexcrawls prompted another forum thread about getting lost. It seems this is one of those topics that really bothers one group of gamers. Actually, two groups: the storytellers think that a random roll to get lost is "de-protagonizing", while the hardcore superhero types think that it is demeaning for their character to flub a roll when their teammates are able to raise the dead and throw lighting bolts.

First of all: Stop thinking of it as a skill roll. In the original rules, there isn't even an adjustment for high intelligence or having a guide. You don't get lost because you are a failure as a human being; you get lost because of circumstances beyond anyone's control.

Second: It's mostly a matter of messing up your map. The clue is that there is a 1 in 6 chance of getting lost when starting in a river hex. How could you get lost following a river? You can't, but rivers aren't straight; the multiple twists and turns may confuse you about where you are on the map.

Nevertheless,  I would definitely not apply the rule about getting lost to every travel situation. The rule is in a section about traveling through unmapped wilderness. It's not meant for following a road, or traveling n a known area. This is when I would roll:

  1. Unknown Territory: Always.
  2. Unknown Territory, Heading Towards Landmark: Only when landmark obscured.
  3. Known Territory With Guide: Only in unusual circumstances (caught in storm, evading savages.)
  4. Known Territory With Ranger: Never.

A ranger only counts if the terrain is the ranger's specialty (not every ranger is woodsy...) Rangers in their specialty terrain shift down the list to the next item, so a prairie ranger leading the party through unknown territory towards a visible mountain peak on the horizon will only roll to get lost when a blizzard strikes; even clouds obscuring the horizon won't thwart the ranger.

On the other hand, magic or a curse shifts up the list at least one item; a ranger at best can only eliminate mild magic.


  1. In noting down the link to this page to refer back to later, I took a few minutes and developed a simple "Chinese menu" version. Total up the points from the following pairs of choices:


    0: In a known area, or in an unknown area heading toward a visible landmark.
    1: Unknown area; no landmarks.


    0: clear or light terrain.
    1: dense terrain (forest, swamp, jungle) that impedes long-term visibility.


    0: Good weather.
    1: Bad enough weather to impede visibility.


    0: Party isn't under any other stress.
    1: Party is under stress (e.g., being pursued; dealing with lots of wounded).


    Total points = N. There's your N in 6 chance of getting lost for the day. Reinventing the wheel, most probably, but it's easier than looking up "getting lost" in lots of rulebooks. :-) :-)

    1. Darn... forgot the ranger/guide option. Maybe that gives a minus 1.