Abstract Orienteering: playing cards and Int modifiers

For when you don’t feel like tracking the constant geo-location of your players. This system works for hex-crawls, urban exploration, or abstracted subterranean movement.

The bones

This system is designed to allow the orienteer to push their luck and risk running the group into trouble.

Note: in my game, I use a small packet of cards called the meat deck.  It is constructed from the two to eight of each suit from a regular pack of playing cards, along with one of the jokers.  If you don’t want to use a meat deck, gather a pool of at least eight d8 of at least three different colours: note which colour represents spades (threats) and which represents diamonds (discoveries).

  • Each day is split into three watches of eight hours each. Each watch is split into a variable number of reaches determined by the orienteer’s skill and the luck of the draw.
  • For each reach, the orienteer draws a number of cards from the meat deck equal to one plus their Intelligence modifier, then selects one of these cards:
    • the value determines how many hours this reach lasts
    • the suit determines if there’s an encounter during the reach:
      • hearts and clubs: no encounter
      • spade: a threat
      • diamond: a discovery (esp. the keyed location for the hex)
    • treat the joker as wild: the orienteer may choose any value or suit for this card
  • Keep the cards that have been selected for each reach separate from the discard pile.
  • The orienteer may choose to end the watch at any point between reaches, unless:
    • If the total number of hours combined from all reaches exceeds eight, the party will recognise that they have become lost at the end of that reach. Becoming lost ends the watch.
  • Once the watch is over and any encounter has been resolved, shuffle all of the cards back into the meat deck.

The party may choose to press on once this watch is over. PCs may explore for a number of successive watches equal to their Constitution modifier before risking exhaustion.  (Low level groups will typically travel for one watch before resting.)

What if we want to work together?

If the orienteer wants to take useful advice from her peers, she may make a Charisma save (made one step more difficult for each PC she wishes to consult).

  • If this is successful, she may add each PCs Intelligence modifier to her own when drawing cards each reach during this watch.
  • If this is unsuccessful, she forfeits her own Intelligence modifier for this watch.

Overland standard time

This system assumes PCs travel overland at an average of three miles per hour, working with six mile hexes.

For urban or underground exploration, instead set watches to two hours total, made of eight 15m turns.

Advertisements
Abstract Orienteering: playing cards and Int modifiers