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Exploration Mode

While encounters use rounds for combat and roughly real time for social encounters, exploration is more free-form.

The GM determines the flow of time, as you could be traveling by horseback across craggy highlands, sailing on a ship, or delving in a dungeon in search of danger and treasure. Exploration lacks the overt danger of encounter mode, but it often has its own challenges.

Much of exploration mode involves movement and roleplaying. You might be traveling from one part of a town to another, chatting with a couple of sages and experts at this business or that home along the way, or maybe having a terse conversation with some bored city guards as you pass through the city gates. Instead of measuring your rate of movement in 5-foot squares every 6 seconds, you measure it in feet or miles per minute, hour, or day, using your travel Speed.

Travel Speed

Depending on how the GM wants to track movement, you move in feet or miles based on your character’s Speed for the relevant movement type. Typical rates are given below.

Speed Feet per Minute Miles per Hour Miles per Day
10 feet 100 1 8
15 feet 150 1-1/2 12
20 feet 200 2 16
25 feet 250 2-1/2 20
30 feet 300 3 24
35 feet 350 3-1/2 28
40 feet 400 4 32
50 feet 500 5 40
60 feet 600 6 48

The distances in the table assume traveling at a determined pace, but one that’s not exhausting or dangerous, over flat and clear terrain. Moving through difficult terrain halves the listed movement rate. Greater difficult terrain reduces the distance traveled to one-third the normal amount.

Exploration Tactics

While you are traveling and exploring, tell the GM what you’d generally like to do. The GM will determine which exploration tactic applies and describe the result. It isn’t necessary to go into extreme detail, such as “Using my silver baton, I nudge the door forward so I can check the hinges for devious traps.” Instead, “I’m searching the area for hazards” is sufficient. Use the list of common tactics that follows as inspiration. If you come up with your own idea, the GM will adjudicate your idea using these as a baseline.

Some exploration tactics are fatiguing—these tactics cause the fatigued condition after 10 minutes of performing them. Such tactics are indicated by the word “fatiguing” in parentheses. While you’re fatigued, the only tactic you can use is wandering. Taking a significant break to catch your breath can allow you to continue onward using a fatiguing tactic, but because of this, when you’re traveling for a long time, you will sometimes need to use other tactics, like wandering, so you don’t exhaust yourself.

The most common exploration tactics are detecting magic, hustling, searching, and sneaking.

Casting a Spell (Fatiguing)

You repeatedly cast the same spell and move at half your travel Speed. Typically this spell is a cantrip that you want to have in effect in the event a combat breaks out.

Concentrating on a Spell (Fatiguing)

You keep up the effects of a spell that requires concentration and move at half your travel Speed.

Covering Tracks

You cover the group’s tracks to prevent pursuit, rolling a Survival check to determine how successful you are.

Covering tracks forces you to move at half your travel Speed unless something grants you the ability to move at full Speed while covering tracks. You still have to move as slowly as the slowest person whose tracks you are trying to cover.

Defending

You move at half your travel Speed with your weapon out and shield raised. If combat breaks out, you gain the benefits of Raising a Shield before your first turn begins.

Detecting Magic

You cast detect magic while moving at half your travel Speed. You have no chance of accidentally overlooking a magic aura at a travel Speed under 300 feet per minute, but the party could move into a magic aura before you detect it for travel Speeds over 150 feet per minute. You can always move at a slower travel Speed while detecting magic to cover the area more thoroughly. Unlike most types of repeated spellcasting, detecting magic is not a fatiguing tactic.

Following Tracks

You Track while moving half your travel Speed.

Hustling (Fatiguing)

You strain yourself to move at double your travel Speed.

Investigating

If you want to find out more information about your surroundings, you can move at half your travel Speed while using Recall Knowledge to look for clues among the things you can see. You can use any skill that has a Recall Knowledge action for the investigating tactic, but the GM determines whether the skill has any relevance.

Searching

You Seek meticulously for hidden doors, concealed hazards, and so on. You normally move at half Speed and make an educated guess as to which locations are best to check. In order to guarantee a chance to detect any hazard or secret before walking into it, you must move at a travel Speed of no more than 100 feet per minute. You can slow down to that travel Speed if thoroughness is necessary.

Sneaking

You attempt a Stealth check to avoid notice while moving at half your travel Speed, unless you have an ability to move at full Speed while Sneaking. If you’re Sneaking at an encounter’s start, you usually roll a Stealth check instead of a Perception check as part of your initiative roll, both to determine initiative order and to see if the enemies notice you.

Wandering

You move at your travel Speed.

Social Tactics

Exploration mode covers more than just wandering in the wilderness or exploring a dungeon—it can also be used in town while perusing a market or hobnobbing with nobles at the queen’s jubilee. Use the following ideas as inspiration when describing your actions in an urban or social setting.

Carousing

You enjoy yourself in the company of other characters, partaking in whatever activity is happening, whether it’s dicing, drinking, or telling tall tales. This tactic is useful when you plan to use Diplomacy to gather information or otherwise listen to rumors and news about current events.

Conversing

You engage in a significant back-and-forth conversation with other characters in a single location. You use this tactic when you plan to use Deception to Lie or Make an Impression, or to use Intimidation to Coerce, not for back-and-forth banter with the other PCs.

Looking Out

While you take efforts to remain polite and minimally engaged in events, you are actually keeping an eye out for trouble. This tactic is used when you want to use Perception to watch for threats or deceptions.

Shopping

You wander through a market or store looking for items you need to buy for your next adventure.

Stealing (Fatiguing)

Others might think you are simply wandering, but in fact you are looking for easy targets to Steal an Object.

Rest and Daily Preparations

You perform at your best when you take enough time to rest and prepare. Once every 24-hour period, you can take a period of rest (typically 8 hours), and then prepare, which typically takes 1 hour. After your rest, you regain a number of Hit Points equal to your Constitution modifier (minimum 1) times your level. When you prepare, you regain resources that you can use only a limited number of times per day. For instance, if you are a spellcaster, you regain spell slots and can prepare new spells. If you have Spell Points, you regain those. Magic item uses refresh, and so on.

You can make your daily preparations only if you’ve rested, and it’s typically best to do so right after. If you don’t rest at least 6 hours in a 24-hour span, you become fatigued (you cannot recover from this until you rest).