Creating a dynamic journey [new mechanic]

First I’ll say that this was inspired by the Savage Worlds chase mechanic. Though it’s been heavily modified, that was the seed for the idea.

Anyway, here’s the description.

  • Ambassadors = Party of level 3
  • Voyage = Boat trip across an ocean, but can be applied to any journey

**Required: ** Deck of cards
Each day or night cycle the Ambassadors determine what skills they will use to aid in the voyage. They roll that attribute and will receive a card if they score a 10 or higher. For every 5 over (e.g. 15, 20, 25) they get an additional card. They can also spend a Legend point to get a card. At night any perception rolls for the players are at Disadvantage 2.

Only their highest value card is used. It is GM vs Players.

During the day cards are dealt face up (to all players), while at night all cards are dealt face down and can only be looked at by the card owner until they are revealed (when dealing is completed). The GM cards are always face down. Rotate the recipient of the first card clockwise each deal. If a Joker appears, that player receives a Legend point. Jokers outrank the Ace.

In case of a tie between the GM and the highest card from the party, a single card is assigned to each person to break the tie (like the card game WAR).

The GM rolls at Attribute level 6 (d20+2d8).
If the GM wins any round, determine how that affects the Ambassadors. It could be breakage of a part of the vessel, an attack, or cause a delay (increase the # of ‘day/night’ tests by 1). The players reduce the total number of ‘day/night’ tests by 1 by successfully navigating at night.

Be advised that players can take NO CARD to rest at any time. For every 2 cycles (day or night) they do not rest, they suffer Disadvantage 1 to their attribute tests. Thus, if awake for 2 days and 2 nights, they are at disadvantage 2 to start.


Interesting, I’ll have to give it another read to get the whole flow of it.

It seems like it can be nice b/c instead of just a random roll to determine something breaking or wearing out, the players have a little more control.

The only question I have is… it doesn’t seem to explain the difference between the cards you get from good rolls and legend points vs the cards that are dealt.

Are you able to sub those cards in? Or are those the cards that are dealt? They way it is explained seems to seperate the cards you receive from the cards that are dealt (since dealt usually means receiving new cards).

I definitely could use a second pass on the write-up, but your best card is made out of all the cards you are dealt (either from rolling at least a 10 or from spending Legend points). Each player says what they are doing, rolls, gets their cards, then decides if they want any additional cards (1 Legend Point = 1 Additional Card). It then moves to the next player (or GM depending on where you are in the order).

And since the start point moves each deal, it spreads around the responsibility.

That’s the exact reason for it… their actions determine how strong their performance is as a group. I can roll really well and still lose (as the GM). They can all be really tired and need to rest (thus getting fewer cards overall as a group) and thus increasing the chance that the GM has the highest card (this actually happened) but in a completely logical and fun way.

So the perception rolls also give you cards, right?

So this determines how many cards the GM gets?

Can anyone in the party play a card or is it always the first in the round?

i think a video would help in fully understanding how it works.

That and me spending more time reading through it again, but who wants to do that when you can have a guy with sooooooo much free time just make a video, right?

Absolutely. Your attribute roll determines cards. Perception is an option.


It’s more of revealing cards rather than playing them. If you get 3 cards, they are dealt and the best one is used as your high card. The highest card in the party vs highest card of the GM.

Great idea. I’ll try and make one today or tomorrow.

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Video as requested. it’s basically first-take in 3, two-minute parts so forgive.

I basically need to reshoot the whole thing if I was to release it elsewhere.


makes a lot more sense now.

I thought you were keeping cards over time from what you had written.

This may be a bit of a crude comment, but to me this seems simply like a more elaborate form of RNG, the only difference being that players can spend legend points to get a card, instead of making it more probable to get a card.

So is this all about that little extra bit of pc control? Or was there some other goal you were striving towards?

Thanks a lot for the explanation! I really like this and will probably try it out once a longer journey comes up in my campaign

I"d say it is just you trying to understand something better.

I dont’ believe this is designed for every time someone travels, and many times game mechanics are (or at least often should) be designed to invoke a certain feel. By dealing out the cards, you create a different feel than if you are just rolling dice.

This is meant for longer journeys, to help simulate what is happening throughout. You could do this by rolling a 54 sided dice, and letting the highest win, but again, different feel.

Of course, that’s just me postulating, I’m sure @ucffool can answer more on his reasons than I can :wink:

Sure, you could think of it like that. Though it does something more when you actually play it out for a few reasons.

  1. Players with non-spectacular dice rolls can still feel llke they are contributing to the whole, not bringing it down. To explain that further, basically if you do a group skill check (how many pass X Challenge Rating) players can fail and feel like they are pulling down the group. Since the CR here is so low for 1 card (and the Legend point option), even low rollers can feel good about contributing.
  2. Tension. Unlike dice rolls, there are fixed values in the deck. Everyone knows that Joker is coming and when a player’s dice explode and they get a ton of cards, it’s exciting to know you have a greater chance of controlling your destiny.
  3. Group dynamics. It makes it a team effort rather than an average of individual efforts, and that’s what a journey is. They can visually see themselves contributing to the whole (getting cards) and see what the GM is getting. Adding additional story never hurts (for instance, before one round of the boat journey I mentioned storms moving in. They lost that round and so a part of their rigging snapped. The next round the mechanic contributed by repairing it. Now, all that could happen with just dice, but once again, there is a psychological effect here.

Sorry if this would be considered necrothreading, but I’m new here and would like to add some thoughts/ask some questions about this topic because it is an interesting idea which I’m hoping hasn’t been abandoned.

I understand how the mechanics of this work, and can tell that this is meant to be quite a streamlined and flavour style thing to do long journeys in a more exciting way. But I would like to clarify a few things from your perspective @ucffool though I may tweak this somewhat for use in my own games if that is okay!

Firstly, a mechanics thing: Is there a particular reason why the tie-break mechanic is an additional card? If not, my suggestion would be to use suit ranking (like in Savage worlds), so Spades > Hearts > Diamonds > Clubs.

Secondly, one thing I’m not sure of is if this is meant to have much of a sense of peril associated with it? For example, the GM wins a round and as a result the PCs have to fend off a pack of wolves, I’m assuming this isn’t an actual combat encounter, as that would disrupt the flow of the system. So what sort of penalty do the players get for this? Should I deal them an amount of damage for instance? Give them disadvantage for the next cycle?
And what happens if they fail too many? I can see with the boat example if the mast broke and then wasn’t fixed they could potentially be shipwrecked. So essentially, they could fail the journey and end up somewhere they didn’t want to be. Does that seem reasonable based on how you intended the system?

Third thing I thought of: To keep things interesting with this mechanic at higher levels, would you want to scale the GM dice at all? If all the players are able to roll with amazing dice pools and therefore end up with a large amounts of cards (high probability of getting higher values than the GM) also the number of players would affect this, as more players means more cards against the GM, even at lower levels.

Thanks, sorry for the long post.

You totally can, there is just more tension with another card and it’s obvious to everyone (when you use suit ranking, unless your players are fully knowledgeable about it, it’s more obvious to just draw another card).

Totally would be. Though, that isn’t to say that it has to be combat. It could also be a hindrance. Imagine being on a large boat and chased by pirates. That loss could mean rigging issues or other hindrance that the party must now solve (giving them a different set of skills to use to generate cards). If they lose again it may be that the pirates catch them and combat ensues, but the idea is to make it dynamic so they don’t roll the exact same skill X number of times.

Absolutely. More players, higher levels… up the GM skill level. The important detail is to not have it grow by fiat. By that I mean don’t do it just because you want to win. There are other ways to make card rounds interesting, such as setting up that moment: “a dust storm looms in the distance and threatens to catch up to you as you cross the desert” or “the plains ahead are barren, save for the millions of small dots; it’s migration season and the xxx stretch for miles.”

Mind you, you’re not doing this all the time; most times travel between places just happened (“a few hours later you come across…”) to keep the game in-the-moment, but when it feels like it should be a dangerous or epic journey, it’s a fun way to keep the player agency and control (vs random encounters).