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Wandering the Desert

Level 3 Exploration Scenario

There are no roads, no well-worn trails, through this harsh desert of sand and rock. Outsiders attempting to make their way through will find their endurance tested to their limits.

This scenario is useful for long-distance travel through warm desert environments. For shorter trips you could have each round take as little as 30 minutes, but it's also plenty appropriate for a round to last an entire day. Because of the longer round length, permit players to swap up to all of their Gear, including armor and clothing, with a single Strategy play. Since the desert is filled with dangers, PCs shouldn't be able to reconfigure their decks overnight in the case where you do choose day-long rounds.

By default the scenario only presents heat-related dangers, but if you want the cold desert nights to be equally as threatening, simply swap in appropriate Challenges depending on the time of day.

Region B offers an endless loop where the PCs essentially roam around in place. If you show on the map that they have arrived in the exact same region even after moving, it'll quickly give away the puzzle (and also not make much sense since the PCs aren't literally moving in a small circle and should be able to Move away from each other). Instead, draw endless copies of the Lost in the Storm region as the PCs Move about until they finally figure out the solution. One Move through the Forward exit from any region copy will take a PC to the Oasis Village, helping to reunite them if they got separated in their wanderings.

This scenario also bends the usual constraints a bit by introducing an optional use of Charisma, normally reserved for interaction scenarios. Some groups may find this a nice change of pace and good for setting a fluid and believable scene, but others may find it frustrating and difficult to organize. It's easily swapped for more traditional Challenges if you prefer, including being Hidden or simply removed in favor of the alternate path.


Setting Wilderness
Type Normal
Lighting Lit (assuming daytime travel)
                E   F (goal)
            |   | \ ^
(start) A - B ~ C ~ D


(Region A) Sandy Canyon
Up until now, directions have been fairly easy to follow thanks to the rocky cliffs making up the walls of this canyon. Ahead, however, the geography opens up to sand and dunes that reach to the horizon. But before you can get there, you'll have to find a way through the pit of tar that fills the edges of the canyon.
Exit To Obstacle
East B Tar Pit
Scorching Sun
Fortune Hidden: 1d10
(Region B) Lost in the Storm
The sandstorm appeared suddenly and viciously, whipping about and making it almost impossible to see. Any sense of direction faded quickly. If there's shelter nearby, it's invisible thanks to the swirling sands.
Exit To Obstacle
North B -
South B -
West B -
East B -
Forward C Hidden: 2d4; then, Quicksand
(Region C) Oasis Village
Free from the storm, you make your way to a beautiful oasis surrounded by a small village. The occupants are immensely distrustful of outsiders; while they may be able to help you find your way, it would take some quality convincing.
PCs may choose to treat the setting as civilization at will.
Exit To Obstacle
North E Difficult Road
East D Directions (Charisma vs. 2d6)
West B Quicksand
Roving Pickpocket Hidden: 1d4 Respawn: 1 (does not pursue)
Saboteur Hidden: 2d4 Respawn: 2 (does not pursue)
(Region D) Rocky Mountain
Rocky cliffs loom overhead. The broad mountains offer no trails up or around, though you can see a plateau you could reach without too much climbing.
Exit To Obstacle
Up F Rocky Wall (Height 2)
Northwest E Difficult Road
West C -
Scorching Sun
Jagged Stone Hidden: 1d4
Fortune Hidden: 1d8
(Region E) Stone Wastes
The uneven cracked ground here would be easier to walk than the sands if not for the constant threats of tripping and slipping on the many sudden slopes and changes of elevation. Rock formations abound, which at least make it easier to avoid getting lost. There is more life here than in the sands, but much of the fauna here is venomous.
Exit To Obstacle
South C Difficult Road
Southeast D Difficult Road
Knot of Serpents Follow to D only
Vermin Swarm (Scorpions) Follow to D only
(Region F) Haunted Trail
The atmosphere has changed dramatically. You're getting close to something, but you suddenly feel as though no living person should be here. Even for a desert mountain, this place is dead, with absolutely no signs of any plant or animal life. Despite this, you hear noises and see movement in the corner of your eye.
Exit To Obstacle
East Goal Haunted Passage
Down D Rocky Wall (Height 2)
Unsettling Ambiance
Wandering Spirits
Fortune Hidden: 1d6


With three players, the Challenges here might be a bit much. Consider removing the Knot of Serpents and either the Unsettling Ambiance or the Wandering Spirits.

You may want to focus more on the oasis villagers than what's presented here (with a pair of Challenges and a Charisma check). You could put this scenario on pause and run a full interaction scenario, returning here once complete. If the PCs win the scenario, they get correct directions and may proceed East from C. If they lose the scenario, they get bad directions and must proceed North from C instead. If you take this approach, you'll need to make sure the PCs all arrive together at the Oasis before proceeding.

Note that running an entire interaction scenario just to avoid one region might be a bit much, so you'll want to offer an additional reward for success. You could allow the PCs to barter with the villagers; perhaps they're able to trade items of little value (knick-knacks that aren't tracked as Gear in the game and thus cost the player no actual Wealth) for a couple Valuables the villagers have. Or, you could have the PCs gain some shelter and rest. It may even be best in this case to divide this scenario into two, adding more regions on each side and letting the players recover as normal in the oasis village before starting the second leg as a fresh new scenario.

If you wish to model the nighttime desert cold in the regions that otherwise feature a Scorching Sun, you could use Bitter Cold. This is potentially a more dangerous Challenge than the Sun, which you may or may not want (depending on time of year). This is easily tweaked by reducing the Bitter Cold's Damage dice level by 1 (or boosting the Sun's by 1 if you want to increase difficulty instead).

The final region assumes the PCs are headed to a dungeon filled with evil and/or the undead. You can leave it as-is even if that's not the case, making the mountain plateau an isolated haunted area (in which case it may be good to come up with reasons for its existence, perhaps leading to additional future questing). If you want to remove the haunting nature, reflavor the region and reuse Challenges from prior parts of the scenario. You could require some additional climbing, adding another Rocky Wall (potentially with more Jagged Stone to continue the theme). Or you could add more Sun and Quicksand, or another Tar Pit. If you want fresh Challenges, Plague Rats or a Beast of Baying can work alongside Bloodbriars, perhaps by putting some ruins or a mountain creek in the region.

This scenario is written assuming very long round lengths and thus is “zoomed out” quite a bit even by exploration's standards. If you use shorter rounds, you might choose to fill out the scenario with lots more regions, creating alternative routes, more Fortunes and other loot to find, and additional dangers. If you do this without dividing the scenario into two separate ones at the oasis village, use lower-level Challenges like the Scorching Sun and/or spread out some of the Challenges above. You can also use a respawning Beast of Baying to add a single threat to multiple regions. Make sure many of the new exits have no Obstacles so the scenario doesn't bog down.

More level 3 exploration scenarios

scenario_e_wandering_the_desert.txt · Last modified: 2019/01/04 08:24 by triptycho