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How to make a DnD Travel Session fun

There's a good chance that your Dungeons and Dragons campaign is taking place over a vast scale, with events unfolding throughout the realms having a bearing on the fates of your heroes. As such, it's equally likely that your party are going to undertake a good deal of travel during your sessions.

These kinds of travel based sessions can go in a couple of different directions, though. They can pretty easily become tedious and repetitive - with one session of walking for 20 miles through the forest feeling a lot like the next. But, with a little bit of work, these session can also be awesome! They can add depth to your characters and the world they inhabit - all the while acting to get your players more invested in the story that you're telling together. Here's a few tips and tricks to help your travel sessions become that little bit more fun!

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Interesting and relevant encounters

It's really easy for your travel sessions to fall into the trap of just becoming bog-standard combat encounters. You know the drill, you're walking along the highway, when your party in set upon by bandits/ dragons/ insert random monster picked blindly from the Monster Manual(*) here. These kinds of sessions can get real old real fast - because while sure, the assailant might change, effectively it's just the same session repackaged endlessly - with no plot or character developments coming as a result.

Instead, try to make any encounters on the road somehow relevant either to your player's backstories or to the overall plot of your campaign. If you're determined to go down the combat route, then try to ensure that the antagonists are in some way connected to at least one of your characters, or the story - otherwise it'll just feel like as a DM you're just playing for time. There's loads of ways you could do this - the obvious one is to make the assailants known to your party, though you could also ensure that they're carrying some kind of loot (a secret message, a sacred tome, a long-lost artifact etc) which will drive the plot forwards and increase your players' understanding of the world.

It's not all about fighting

Not all travel encounters have to be combat based, though! Think about it, when you go out for a walk, the vast majority of the people you come across you don't want to battle to the death with! But you may want to talk to some of them! They may have information which would be useful to you, or just make interesting companions who you enjoy spending time with. Travel encounters should be like this in D&D as well!

How about coming across a village fayre, or some children lost in the woods, or an old merchant going from town to town selling his wares. None of these encounters necessitates combat, but all could make interesting opportunities to develop your world, and allow your players to better understand their place within it.

Opportunities for roleplay

As a DM, I love when my players engage each other in roleplay - to find out more about each others' backstories, and how they tie into the campaign as a whole. While I don't want to force this too much (different people are more or less happy roleplaying, and it's totally fine that it's not for everyone), travel can be a perfect time to give your players the opportunity to engage in this if they want to. Something as simple as saying 'ok, so you decide to make camp here for the night. There's probably a couple of hours before you'll need to get some sleep - is there anything you want to do or talk about in this time?' can really work wonders for giving your players permission to get into character.

By giving a set space for your players to roleplay with each other, you can ease any anxieties that they may have of feeling like they're taking over the game too much, or whether roleplaying in character is appropriate. And if they're still struggling to come out of their shells, maybe try utilising an NPC they meet on the road - perhaps a fellow traveller could ask a little about the characters and what they're doing there. Simple stuff, but it can make a massive difference to the depth of your campaign. Of course, this doesn't only apply during travel sessions, but the large amounts of free time implied by walking or riding all day give a good opportunity to get your players talking, and hopefully get them more invested in each other's backstories and the plot as a whole.

Interesting locations

Travel can be an awesome way of introducing some weird and wonderful locations to your campaign. This can be a real great way to add more depth and variety to the world you're building, and can really increase the epic sense of the adventure. If you want to work on your narrating as well, you can really go to town with your descriptions here - thinking not just about how a place looks, but also the unfamiliar sounds and smells that your players would come across in each environment.

Of course, you can then tie these locations into any random encounters that you intend to give your players during their travels. When I'm struggling for inspiration, I'll often get out my copy of the Game Master's Book of Random Encounters (amazon link here(*), review here) - which is a great source of inspiration not just for encounters themselves, but also for interesting locations in which to situate them. Often you can mix and match a bit by taking certain elements of one encounter and placing it in the context of another. Sometimes though, one small detail of a location is enough to build your own encounter around. In a one-shot I ran some time ago, I took a waterfall flowing upwards from one encounter in the book, and used it as inspiration to come up with an entirely different encounter to the one written in there. Whether it's a full encounter then or just a passing scene, some cool locations can really make your campaign feel unforgettable for your players.


One final great element that you can introduce into your travel sessions is a sense of foreboding. By including a few nods to what's going on in the background of the adventure, or hinting towards some difficult trials to come, you increase the tension surrounding your campaign and increase buy-in from your players. And while this can be done in any session, a travel session gives some great opportunities to ratchet up the tension. This can be something to do with the weather or terrain while your players are moving - such as a gathering storm in the direction the party are travelling, plumes rising from a volcano in the distance, or coming across something in the wilderness - like the site of an ambush or a desecrated burial ground. Whatever works for the story you're telling.

As well as using the terrain to build tension, you can also use any NPCs your characters come across on their travels. Maybe you come across refugees fleeing from the town up ahead, or villagers who refuse to go into the surrounding woods after dark, or bump into a traveller who heard tales of a strange creature living in the wilderness to the north. Again, there's no reason why ways of building tension and suspense should only be used on travel sessions (they shouldn't) but by introducing elements to your story which may not have a pay-off for several sessions to come, you really increase your players investment in your story, and make your world feel like a living, breathing entity.

Using these ideas then can turn your travel sessions from a bit of a drag, into one of the most fun and enjoyable parts of your campaign. Give them a go!


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