How do you make being lost interesting?
It’s such a staple of Wilderness adventuring, even since the Expert set of BECMI and 2nd edition AD&D. It’s still there in 5e – so much so that the Ranger has a special ability of not being able to be lost.
So I’ve played around with the party getting lost. Recently they have been lost in the Kobold Press’s Old Margreve Forest. And I struggle with it. How do you actually make it interesting? They have a mission, but they’re just stumbling about at random. How is that fun?
Maybe it’s similar to me not getting hexcrawls. When I played X1 Isle of Dread it was our first experience outside, and the point of play was to beat up monsters and steal their treasure, so a hexcrawl wasn’t too bad, but even then I remember thinking after a few sessions “where is the end of this? What are we trying to achieve? When will we know when we’re done?”
Now I really don’t see the point in a hexcrawl. You’re wandering around aimlessly with no idea what you’re going to find and randomly stumbling into things which seem unrelated – where’s the fun in that? Granted, I’m almost certainly a story-teller now, so I want some overall purpose to the session which leads towards the campaign, but I really don’t see how it adds to the session to be wandering around and getting lost without a real target. It seems to be just frustration and lack of success for the sake of it. The initial sections of Tomb of Annihilation don’t do it for me (or for my son, for that matter – he ended up creating a whole new thread with lizardfolk and the dwarves to give his players some sort of guidance as to what they should be do and some story progression).
Maybe I’ve never had the right occasion or storyline to make it appropriate. Maybe if there is some special goal, and a map, and the characters are trying to navigate somewhere and avoid perils it might be a bit more interesting.
If you like a hexcrawl or have had a case where getting lost added fun to the session, please let me know in the comments. I’d love to know what I’m missing and how to use it better in future. Until and unless I work it out, I think I’ll steer clear. Another case of fun trumping realism.
Tomorrow we have “Surprise”.