These rules were used in Rise of the Runelords to try and find the lost city of Xin-Shalast. They differ from the Discovery rules in the Ultimate Wilderness book because I wanted to allow a party of characters to be able to use more than one skill, therefore involving more of the characters in the process (rather than simply the one person with the highest Survival skill).
Exploration of the wilderness in an attempt to find a route or location requires a number of Knowledge (Geography) checks. How long a check takes depends on the terrain, but often it will be one day if on foot, or one hour if flying.
One character is designated as the guide, and they make the primary Knowledge check. However, other characters can aid another on this using a variety of skills, also possibly getting extra bonuses.
Example: The Epic of Gudjoni
The characters are following clues in the poem known as the Epic of Gudjoni in order to find the Norns known as the Twisted Three up to the north of Lake Stormunder.
Each character can choose to use one skill each time, but they can switch skills on different attempts.
This is the primary skill to use. Other characters can also use aid another to grant a +2 bonus if they achieve a DC of 10. Untrained characters can attempt to aid in this if they want.
Can be used to aid another on the Knowledge (Geography) check:
- DC 10: Counts as aiding, granting a +2 bonus to this check.
- DC 20: In addition, you can help avoid going around in circles. All further attempts gain a further cumulative +1 bonus.
Can be used to start making a map..
- DC 20: All further attempts gain a further cumulative +1 bonus. This stacks with the cumulative bonus from Survival.
Both through your knowledge of the fey and where they are likely to be found, and also by understanding of natural formations, you can help others in following the path.
- DC 20: Grants a +2 aid another bonus.
Being able to interpret the poetic words of the Epic can provide a large help. The Epic is written in Skald, so it really helps to natively speak that language in order to fully understand all the subtle nuances of the descriptive passages.
- If the character speaks Skald, then they get a +1 bonus for every 5 DC rolled.
- If they do not speak Skald and use a translation, they get a +1 bonus for every 10 DC rolled.
Using Linguistics or Comprehend Languages counts as using a translation. Being a fluent speaker gives you all the puns and double meanings common in poetry that a static (or magical) translation won’t give.
Following the Epic
Three successful checks are needed in order to find the way to the Norns. Each check takes a day (if on foot) or an hour (if flying). Failure means time is wasted and another check will be needed.
The Roar Falls into the Storm
Knowledge (Geography) DC 10: There is the Oskrandi (“Roaring”) River, which flows down from the mountains and empties into Lake Stormunder via a waterfall about 60ft tall and 40ft wide.
This is the first clue that can be found in the poem, and is relatively easy to find.
The Mouth of the Mountain
Knowledge (Geography) DC 15: Following the river upstream, it empties through the “Mouth of the Mountain”, a rift in the rock some ten miles upstream about 10ft wide, which the water pours through. This is actually off a tributary of the Oskrandi river, so merely following the main river won’t find it.
Behind that is a bit of a lake, but the main river winds up the mountain. There is a small settlement of a couple of dozen orcs on the shore of the lake, who are led by a huge Ettin named Glonk and Dronk. The orcs are actually more interested in hunting things that don't fight back too much (such as elk), and if the party approaches them peacefully they are happy to talk. They are still Chaotic Evil, they've just got used to the relatively easy life and prefer drinking and feasting to fighting.
Glonk and Dronk is interested in stories, and a suitable Diplomacy check will get him to open up about the fires he saw in the sky a few months back. He's heard of witches that live in a cave up in a mountain somewhere - about where the fires were seen.
Each 5 DC rolled on a Diplomacy will grant a +1 bonus (maximum +5) to the final Knowledge (Geography) check due to the clues that he can provide.
If the party is aggressive, then Intimidate can be used instead, but it is harder, granting +1 for each 10 DC rolled, again to a maximum +5 bonus.
The Dark Eye, Watcher of Trees
Knowledge (Geography) DC 25: This is the Cave of Twisted Sorrows, which sits above a forest valley, another 15 miles further inland.