Exploration rules

So, I didn't find any one talking about the new exploration rules so I thought I would bring it up. I was really excited about using these rules and really enjoyed them. 

My first impression is that it was very nice as it made the time inbwetween combats more interesting. When travling to the dungeon players had to think about what pace they wanted to move at, and what each of them were going to be doing during their travels. It helped get every player more involved in the game outside of combat, whether it was overland travel or dungeon crawling. In previous editions, it was typically the thief searches for traps untill it was time for combat. But now, there were certain jobs that needed to be done, a lookout to avoid being ambushed, some one to search for traps or secret doords, another to map or navigate to prevent the party from getting lost, and perhaps some one to scout out ahead using stealth. 

This added a few things to the game. first, it forced me to make sure every one was involved, as I would ask each player what they were doing while travling. Second, it was a new way to handle random encounters and getting lost that I found to work pretty well. 3rd, if the party wished to just explore the outdoors to see what they can find, this was a nice system to help adjuticate the activity. 4th, it allowed me to narate the exploration in better detail. When the party travled to the dungeon at a cautious pace, they were able to esaily find the tracks from the trolls they encountered (and fled from) in the previous nights random encounter. Later in the day, when heading back to town, the party went as quick as possible as they wanted to get back to down before dark and reduce risks of encountering monsters, as they were quite beat up from the dungeon adventure. In this hurried pace, they had to make a navigation roll to keep from getting lost, which would not have been good in their weakend state. Luckily, they made the roll and found their way back to saftey with little trouble. 

What did it feel like using these rules? It was not to different from the feel of skill challenges in 4th ed. You asked each player what they wanted to do, roll checks, and then continue on and let them know what happenes. It is different from skill challgegnes though in the sense that there is no pass/fail. If the navigator messes up his navigation check, the party gets lost. If the lookout fails to see the lurking gnolls up ahead, they automatically get suprise. So, its not an "either this happens or that happens to the party" based on an aggragate of player dice rolls but instead each character contributes directly to some aspect of the exploration. You can have players doing the same task to improve the chances of perfoming that task, but this might leave other tasks unatended. 

It is also great if you are more of the referee style DM, the kind that likes to let players have alot of freedom in their choices about waht they do and where they go. In this case, the DM can easily organize what is going and let the dice fall where they may. It also makes the party have to really think about where they want to go, how hard it is to get there, what dangers they might encounter, how much food and light source they might need....It helps draw the players into the world and makes the game more than just a serious of combats. 

It could benifte from more terrain modification tables, and rules for fleeing/pursuing activities. Also, instead of just a random mosnter table, having random discoveries could be neat too. So, maybe a cave, or ruined castle, or lake, could be things to put on the random encounter tables. Or, better yet, make a random wilderness and random dungeon generator tables that can work in conjunction with the exploration rules. It would be neat if you could use these rules to basially run a random adventure in which you almost would not even need a DM. It could just be a fun, alternative way to  play DnD when people are in the mood to play but nothing is prepared. 

This, along with the random traits for magic items, and the backgrounds for characters are some of my favorite things about DnDN. 

Has any one else used the exploration rules and, if so, what did you think?

I agree with you that it feels a bit like skill challenges in 4e, but it isn't as bulky or unwieldy. I also like how it takes advantage of ability (skill) checks to keep the story moving.

The funny thing is, when I was running a Blingdenstone campaign with the last playtest package, I had a section of the campaign where the PCs had to traverse the Underdark, and although the rules were not out yet, I used ability checks and asked people what they wanted to do as they were traveling. I guess what I like most about these rules are that they are intuitive, and serve as good guidelines for making exploration a game within the game.

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I have only played one session so far of Next, but have loved it a lot.  The exploration rules was one of my favotire things so far.  I feel it's a lot better and more fun for the players to travel with this system.  Also, feel it is easier for the DM to run the game when the party is traveling.

Having more charts for random things is an amazing idea.  I would love to see something like that put into Next.  Anything that makes the DMs job easier and make the game run smoother is a big plus in my book.
Exploration does seem really streamlined and well thought out AND easy to follow for everyone. Not comparing to older editions, just my observation.