[RPG] How to manage long journeys as DM


I recently started running Hoard of the Dragon Queen as a DM and this is the first time for me. During the campaign there are a lot of journeys that take several days, even weeks, and in some cases nothing important happens. Now, my question is: how much time should I dedicate to them? Should I just say "You travel from A to B in X days", maybe adding some details about the road, or should I provide a longer and more detailed description? The same question holds when some important events are planned: should I move directly from one event to the other, like "two days after event A, event B occurs"? I read the advices in the DMG but I would like to have more specific indications on the typical approach. Also, I am afraid that if I start describing some elements of the environment (a waterfall, a big rock, a tree and so on) then the players start investigating about it thinking that it is important for the plot.

Best Answer

This largely depends on both you and your group. Do they want a lot of random encounters? Would they prefer to just play the module out? Do you want to throw things in the mix to interfere?

Hoard of the Dragon Queen, and the Rise of Tiamat, both allow for a lot of flexibility. In addition, they use milestone levels instead of XP based levels. So encounters can be fun, but with this being your first time, I strongly recommend sticking to the books. It will give you a good idea of what to do for encounters, how to tinker with the characters, setting up a good ambush, and most importantly, it will stop you from overpowering them with hordes of magical loot or ridiculously strong enemies.

As for worrying about descriptions, my advice is: Don't. If it's not important, just keep telling them, "It's still a waterfall. Your investigation skill reveals the water falling now is different from the water falling from before. Largely due to the fact that the water can not defy gravity and return to the top of the waterfall." or something like, "You turn the rock over and over, attempting to discern anything at all from it's bleak, soulless face. Getting frustrated you even try licking the rock and singing it a sweet song. Alas, it has a heart of stone, and forever rebukes your attempts by refusing to display even the slightest emotion." Then, when the players leave the area, you should pass the investigating player a note that just has, "I'll miss you.... :(" written on it. It's always good for a laugh.

They'll learn to ask about things, and you'll learn how to be descriptive, or sneaky, in setting up your terrain while they work through ways of using it to their advantage.

A piece of side advice if this is your first time: Don't be afraid to say, "Wait. I screwed something up. We need to rewind 5 minutes." Players are generally less mad at open admissions to a mistake than they are to underhanded retcons.

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