Exploration in The World of Cartyrion | World Anvil


Before your player character party can defeat monsters and haul off the treasure they were guarding, you have to actually find them! This is the Exploration phase of play, and is the least structured of all aspects of play in Laurels and Loot. This phase involves the Gamemaster describing locations: what is seen, heard, smelled, etc. It then requires the Player Characters to decide what they are going to do to interact with, ignore, or avoid the things the Gamemaster described.

Time and Distance

The Exploration Phase of play is the most fluid in terms of the passage of time in the game world relative to the real world. Sometimes, entire days of adventuring time may pass in a single sentence. Other times, an hour of game time may pass as the party spends ten minutes exploring a single room.

Traveling 20 miles along a road from village to village typically would take a full day for the characters, but unless the Gamemaster has something interesting planned for the party along the way, this whole day could take no more than a minute or two to narrate away.
You leave the inn at dawn, and after a day of travel, arrive in the village of Lardbottom just as the sun sets.

Conversely, it might take a half-hour or more of "real time" for a table full of players to explain how they're going about searching the elaborate, furniture-filled bedroom of Countess Cruellina, and for the Gamemaster to describe all of the things that each searcher uncovers and answer questions each player may have about those descriptions. But in game, a mere ten minutes or so passes.

It is the responsibility of the Gamemaster to keep track of the passage of time in the game world, and to keep the players informed of its passage - especially if the table is strictly following rules related to rest and exhaustion, hunger, and thirst.

Activities During Exploration

Exploration involves much more than just traveling from Point A to Point B; there are a number of activities for PCs to engage in during this phase of play. The party may be seeking long-forgotten ruins in a jungle. They may be trying to track some beast that has been terrorizing a village, or an NPC band that has kidnapped the mayor's child. They may simply be traveling, but staying alert for any dangers that might present themselves along the road.

All of these things are handled with Skill Checks. Any time a PC wishes to do something that involves the possibility of failure, a Skill Check is used to determine the outcome.
Here are a few general guidelines for Gamemasters and players to help with time and distance during Exploration:
  • It takes about a half hour to set up a simple camp in the wilderness. This includes clearing spaces for bedrolls or tents, preparing a campfire space, finding firewood. A similar time is needed to break camp the following morning.

  • Eating rations "straight out of the pack" takes a negligible amount of time, provided nothing else is going on. Preparing a meal over a campfire takes about a half hour.

  • When traveling overland by road at a casual pace, whether mounted or on foot, it takes a full day to travel between 20 and 25 miles. This can vary slightly at the Gamemaster's discretion depending on terrain, weather, or other conditions.

  • Movement while attempting to follow tracks or some other faint trail can vary depending on whether the creature being tracked is trying to conceal its trail, and what sort of terrain and conditions exist. Tracking an elven archer through the forest might be difficult, slowing a party down. Tracking a Hill Giant through a field of recently fallen snow is considerably quicker.

  • Even given these guidelines, each exploration situation will require the Gamemaster to exercise discretion in determining how much time passes during a given activity. Ultimately, the Gamemaster controls time during Exploration moreso than in any other phase of game play.


    When a party of adventurers is exploring, much of their activity will involve carefully examining their surroundings - perhaps looking for hidden loot and concealed passages, checking for traps and other hazards, or trying to find traces of the creature they're hunting down. Some of this activity may require skill or ability checks to determine success; other times it is simply a matter of spending enough time to do the search.

    If a party declares that it is searching a bedroom, for example, it should not require anybody to succeed at an ability check to discover the jeweled necklace in an unlocked drawer of the dressing table. However, if that necklace is in a compartment concealed by a false drawer bottom, a check may be required.

    In general, if no exceptional measures have been taken to conceal something (such as a false drawer bottom), discovering that something should simply be a matter of time and intent. As a rough guideline...
  • Searching a typical room of approximately 100ft2 (9m2) takes a party of four about 10 minutes. This includes looking in unlocked drawers, cabinets and chests (picking locks may add a few minutes).
  • Larger spaces, especially places like caverns where there really isn't anything to search in the dirt or stone floor, take about 10 minutes per 50ft (7.5m) of wall length to search. If the party is looking for things beneath the top layer of dirt, though, additional time will be needed.

  • Finding things that someone has taken special care to conceal requires the player to explicitly state they are trying to do so. This requires much more time, and is not guaranteed to succee. The player should indicate what the character is doing (e.g. tapping on walls to find hollow spots, searching for minute cracks that indicate secret doors, looking for secret buttons or levers on mantelpieces and bookshelves, removing drawers from desks and cabinets, or dumping contents of chests to check for false bottoms, etc.) Such concealments will likely require an INT Skill Check to succeed (the Gamemaster will set the DC based on the situation.)


    It will eventually become necesary to attempt to follow the trail of someone or something, whether in the forest, the dark alleys of a city at night, or through the twisting passages of a cave system. Tracking a character or creature requires a skill check, and usually requires the party to travel more slowly than they normally could. The Gamemaster will set the DC of the WIS skill check based on the obviousness and freshness of the trail. Failing the check means the trail has "gone cold". It may be possible to pick up a trail again, but this will require time and effort equivalent to searching a room.

    The Tracking Acquired Specialty will always provide a bonus to the skill check, but depending on the situation, the Gamemaster may award bonuses to characters with other Acquired Specialties as well. (For example, Animal Handling or Wilderness Survival might provide a bonus when tracking a bear in the forest, but not when tracking a criminal through the sewers of a city.) In these cases, the Gamemaster decides whether or not to grant a bonus.


    The Laurels and Loot Rule System is published by Bob O'Brien
    It is available to all in accordance with the Creative Commons (Attribution) license
    (Creative Commons 4.0 International License)

    Laurels and Loot Rules are derived in part from the following sources:
    Knave 2.0 TTRPG System Rules published by Ben Milton
    in compliance with
    (Creative Commons 4.0 International License)

    The banners on these pages was composed with art attributed to:
    b0red from Pixabay (treasure chest image)
    Gordon Johnson from Pixabay (laurels image)

    The side panels are composed with art attributed to:
    Evelyn Chai from Pixabay (dungeon passage)


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