Dungeons and Dragons is testing out some new rules to help players explore the wilderness.
Each month, Dungeons and Dragons releases an "Unearthed Arcana" supplement containing a set of unofficial rules meant for playtesting. While not technically part of the game, these "Unearthed Arcana" rulesets provide hints as to what game developers are working on and give DMs a chance to try out potential new mechanics months or years before they officially come out. Players who use the "Unearthed Arcana" rules have a chance to comment on them later that month, which gives developers valuable feedback.
This month's "Unearthed Arcana" is titled 'Into the Wild' and gives DMs a new approach for how their players explore the wilderness. The centerpiece of the new ruleset is a new Navigation Difficulty Check, which gives players a chance to determine how quickly they find a location in an area they aren't familiar with.
While some locations have clearly marked paths pointing explorers as to where to find them, other locations might be secret or abandoned. With these new "Unearthed Arcana" rules, a DM can make players roll a Wisdom (Survival) check to see how much progress they've made towards their destination. An unsuccessful roll could mean that the group gets lost and faces a higher likelihood of stumbling across a group of monsters in the woods or that they end several miles away from their chosen destination.
The new ruleset also encourages DMs to assign Navigation Checks to different locations when tentatively mapping out an area. For instance, a region with lots of wide open fields and few forests might be easy for players to navigate, but an area with lots of hills and cliffs may increase the difficulty of finding a specific location.
These rules appear to work best when coupled with a region that the DM has mapped out in advance and has lots of secrets to discover. Walking a few miles off course might not matter much unless players end up stumbling across a new threat or make an unexpected discovery.
You can check out the full "Unearthed Arcana" supplement here.