This post follows-up on Playstorming Embarkation Tweaks in Adventures in Middle-earth. There are also a few conversations on Reddit regarding this series.
I keep coming back to the Embarkation system. I suppose it's because it provides a subsystem that aims to emulate journeys without grinding through each hex. Also, within the Journey system, are clear transitions from “adventuring state” to “encounter state” as well as procedures for that transition. Several years ago, I wrote about transitions in RPGs. In essence, how does the game transition from one sub-system to another sub-system? Perhaps this is something to revisit.
A Bit More In-Depth
In the RAW system, Embarkation results drift towards a 12. Below is the 12 result:
12 (or more) From Auspicious Beginnings
The company sets out upon a path that will likely show them wonders long since forgotten or into dangers that most would quail at the thought of. But the auspices are good, and should the company be true, they will surely prevail.
As a result, add 2 to the rolls on the Journey Events Table. Additionally rolls made to determine the initial outcome of these encounters should be made with Advantage.
In the RAW system, as skill goes up, you begin skipping events on the Journey table; namely chance encounters with travellers and foraging opportunities. And push towards more encounters with powerful entities; 25% of your journey rolls will now result in 12s “Many Meetings? Fly You Fools!"; Below is an excerpt.
If the Embarkation roll was a 1, the encounter will automatically be with a servant of the Enemy. Conversely, if it was a 12 the company has encountered one of the great powers for Good. The outcome of such a meeting however, will depend on how the company approaches matters.
Without quoting the whole “Many Meetings? Fly You Fools!” the gist is as follows. As your Embarkation rolls trend upward, your chance encounters on the road drift from the following:
- Powerful agents of the Enemy
- Low-level strangers
- Hunting and foraging opportunities
- Powerful agents of Good; to
- Powerful agents of Good
Which may work from a campaign stand-point; As you gain in levels and the Shadow encroaches, you are likely to meet agents of Good moving throughout the land. But 25% of each travel encounter with agents of Good and advantage in that encounter seems a bit much.
In addition, the trend of your Embarkation rolls will be towards applying advantage to Journey rolls. Which raises some questions; Should your journey's be getting ever easier? And if so, should you even roll for them? Should the implied “darkening” of the campaign world impact the Embarkation rolls? As time progresses and the Shadow strengthens (at least according to canon), might we consider modifications to the Embarkation roll?
All of this is speculation; I haven't used the rules as written, but wanted to explore that sub-systems boundaries. And in a level-based system, such as 5E, with bound accuracy, we do need to examine the distribution of modifiers within that boundary.
I want the Journey subsystem to work. I'd love for the Journey process to help build out the world.
I even wrote a script to generate results. It's a lot of aggregate data that would require further complication and pivot tables to glean further insights. Please let me know if you do anything interesting with this.
The Embarkation and Journey tables makes a critical assumption that may not be in play for most sandbox games; There is a common map from which the players can plan their journeys. Not everything need be filled in on the map, but underneath that player facing layer is a layer that the Loremaster uses to adjudicate difficulty.