Author Topic: "Fast Travel" in roleplaying games  (Read 984 times)

Steerpike

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"Fast Travel" in roleplaying games
« on: August 23, 2013, 07:48:11 PM »
I'm curious about how other GMs handle this in their games, because I run into this all the time and vary as to my strategy.  The question sort of has two parts.

1) Say your players have thoroughly explored a space - a dungeon level, a city district, or some similar area.  As they went through the area the first time, they naturally had things described to them in detail (room by room, or whatnot).  Let's say they later want to backtrack.  Do you let them "fast travel" back through the explored areas, or do you make them actually re-navigate the explored space?  It seems to me that while the first method is more convenient, it can make the setting feel sort of "vague."  The second approach, however, can get tedious.

2) Say your players are heading somewhere that will take them several days of travel.  How much do you elide?  Do you try to roleplay each day to some degree, or do you usually just say "a week passes" or whatever?  I tend to focus quite closely and make travel take a lot of game-time, but I'm curious what others do.

SA

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Re: "Fast Travel" in roleplaying games
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2013, 08:29:31 PM »
Backtracking
If I don't have anything planned for the explored space, I briefly recapitulate. Describing previous locations often reminds players of unfinished business: "oh yeah, I want to have another go at that locked door, now that we have more time"; or else inspires new investigations. I hijack the PCs' actions, summarising their movement and assuming that they make a beeline for the exit unless they interrupt me with alternate suggestions.

Travel
As above, describe it in summary. There are often interesting landmarks and settlements between destinations. I mention them, and what is interesting about them, just in case the PCs want to take a sojourn or a detour. Otherwise it usually goes like this:

"The trip from A to B usually takes X days. You pass through the towns of M, N, O, and P. N and P have got Q and R going on, and everyone's losing their shit over it."

I'll also mention a few odd events and interesting NPCs. Maybe some mild inconvenience or opportunity that calls fora skill check to resolve ("On the second night you wake to find the innkeep's daughter creeping out your window with some of your sweet swag!"). Otherwise, if they don't take the bait, the PCs are at their destination minutes later.

Seraph

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Re: "Fast Travel" in roleplaying games
« Reply #2 on: August 23, 2013, 09:15:49 PM »
If they are traveling to or through somewhere they have been before, I typically just say "You go to X."  Describing or renavigating seems mostly redundant, unless the chance of getting lost is something that's a significant feature/threat.  But that obviously isn't the case in someplace they know well.  Sometimes I will list off a few of the things they pass by on their way (if they are interested in these they can interrupt) or have something be going to to talk about while they are en route.  It's totally up to the players whether they investigate. 
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Travel
As above, describe it in summary. There are often interesting landmarks and settlements between destinations. I mention them, and what is interesting about them, just in case the PCs want to take a sojourn or a detour. Otherwise it usually goes like this:

"The trip from A to B usually takes X days. You pass through the towns of M, N, O, and P. N and P have got Q and R going on, and everyone's losing their shit over it."

I'll also mention a few odd events and interesting NPCs. Maybe some mild inconvenience or opportunity that calls fora skill check to resolve ("On the second night you wake to find the innkeep's daughter creeping out your window with some of your sweet swag!"). Otherwise, if they don't take the bait, the PCs are at their destination minutes later.
  This is good, it gives some adventure hooks, and shows the PCs that things are going on in the world, without getting tedious.  When things are happening in towns they pass, perhaps if they don't bother stopping, something will have changed the next time they pass through.
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Re: "Fast Travel" in roleplaying games
« Reply #3 on: August 23, 2013, 10:08:28 PM »
To answer 1, if there's no major encounters planned for the trip back (ambushes, patrols, etc.) and the players aren't interested in investigating the area further, I let them tell me in brief how they get back. "We walk back to the main hall, down the main staircase, and out the mansion." "We take the Godsroad back to Korvo, stopping if we pass any caravans." Or the like. If there isn't a chance for a meaningful encounter and they're headed back to the heart of the session/adventure/campaign, I fast forward, though I had in more than one group a guy who would ask, "what about random encounters?"

If prompted, they got a random encounter, eliciting groans from the rest of the group. But that's another story.

For 2, it depends. For much of my most recent campaign, the process of getting from place to place was a big part of the adventure. There were certainly long stretches where there wasn't much, but I tended to roll hourly on a random encounter chart regardless, and that provided some interesting flavor (my random encounter charts mix in a healthy amount of NPC travelers for established highways, which spices up otherwise boring road trips).

When I ran an episodic game, I would start new sessions in entirely different locations unless I had left on a cliffhanger of some kind. For instance, I ran a supernatural cop game in d20 Modern where the players would start every adventure at a new crime scene, skipping past the necessary procedural and travel times to get from place to place. Only works in some contexts though.
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LordVreeg

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Re: "Fast Travel" in roleplaying games
« Reply #4 on: August 24, 2013, 12:41:18 PM »
I erased this once, crap.

1) I always do a review of every area, even if cleared, to keep it feeling dynamic and alive, to keep the players on their toes, making note of small changes, but also reminding them of high points, to indel them into the players minds and to bond them to the setting and that part of the world again.

2) I write the trips from players HQ or living areas to an adventure area as part of the adventure. Those who played SIG remember the chanign factions and detailed areas and the 2-3 sessions it took to go back and forth from the south edge of Steel Isle Town to the Southern and Far Fields to Shuruum's, then though the swamps over the bridges, the Crones, the Trines (especially Guldana), the cultists, the knights, the ruins of Vericulum, all the unshrived undead, then finally the swamps and the ruins of Vexchian.
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khyron1144

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Re: "Fast Travel" in roleplaying games
« Reply #5 on: August 29, 2013, 02:14:50 AM »
For an already cleared area of dungeon, I would probably pause things a minute and try to see how the most efficient, least time route they know of compares to their movement rate.  If it would take two or fewer 10 Minute, 10 Round Turns, then boom they're back at the known entrance/exit they're shooting for.  If it would take them over a half hour to make the trip, I would break it down into Turns and roll for some chance of a random encounter in each one.  Maybe one squad of guards just got off duty and is in that previously empty barracks-like room they went through, maybe someone wants to know what the fuss is about.  Maybe some ghouls or carrion crawlers showed up to eat the PCs's leftovers.

If it's overland travel, I tend to have an over-all number of days in mind for the trip.  I then roll for a random encounter about every half-day with chance of an encounter and the exact table I roll on keyed to the area they are traveling through.  I tend to assume that unless they are trying to do something different, most travel is on the high roads as much as possible and that they will be ninety percent of the time passing through sleepy little hamlets exactly like the ones they left before heading for Terra Prima and a life of adventure, so there's really no need for an adventure hook halfway between Terra Prima and whatever the dungeon in question is.
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sparkletwist

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Re: "Fast Travel" in roleplaying games
« Reply #6 on: August 29, 2013, 02:13:00 PM »
All of my RPGing these days is played on IRC or using other online means, so one advantage there is the option to cut and paste. If players are going through a previously visited area, I can just copy and paste from my notes or from previous chat. It allows them to see the description again, and it's in its entirety to avoid Steerpike's issue that sometimes the setting can feel "vague." Sometimes, things will change, and I'll point that out in the description too, which helps give a feeling of a world where things are happening even though they're not looking directly at them.

As for distance travel, that really depends on what the players want. If it's a continually evolving adventure where everyone is just crafting the story as we go, I agree with the idea of making the trip part of the adventure. There can be lots of potential opportunities, hazards, and other interesting things along the various roads, and they should have a chance to experience them. On the other hand, sometimes we all want a dungeon crawl or something specific like that-- in those cases, I'll tend to elide what's in between in order to get us to the adventure that we're all hoping to have.