An (even shorter) version of the travel rules.
A journey should generally not result in death.
It could! You could get lost in the wilderness and die of thirst! You could get weakened by hunger and beset by wolves! You could fall down a cliff and break your leg, then stay stuck there and perish! But that shouldn’t exactly happen in a montage: we can montage along happily until things change, and then we gotta adventure for a bit, let the players die on their own merits.
Let rations be a generic measure of all the resources the party needs: the cost is covered by lifestyle expenses, but the weight has to be carried; consuming extra rations builds a cuhsion of defenses. You cannot hunt or glean for these resources; it’s assumed you’re doing it the whole time, and that’s what permits survival at 0 rations.
- 5 pounds/day, check/10 days
- 2 pounds/day, check/5 days
- 1 pound/day, check/2 days
- 0 pounds (if no rations are available), check 1/day and on a failure by 5 or more, ignore the terrain’s exhaustion cap.
The DC for survival checks to navigate, saving throws against exhaustion, and maximal “trail exhaustion” are set by the terrain type. Use the worst terrain type traveled through during a check period; the max exhaustion is the maximum level of exhaustion to which a failure can raise a traveler; a traveler already at that level of weariness can’t be further harmed simply by deprivation unless the situation really is dire.
- Difficult (Arctic, Swamp, Mountain): DC 18, max 4 exhaustion
- Moderate (Desert, Hill, Forest): DC 12, max 3 exhaustion
- Easy (Coastal, Grassland, Urban; by ship or caravan): DC 8, max 2 exhaustion
There are a few special cases:
- Arctic: Max 6 exhaustion; Exposure checks hourly if underprepared
- Desert: Max 6 exhaustion; 16 pounds of water each day or additional exhaustion check each day
- Caught in a storm without shelter: Immediate check, but no change in maximum exhaustion levels.
- Arrival at a destination forces an exhaustion check if there wasn’t already one on that day.
- Large animals consume 4x the rate of rations, and huge ones 16x.
As an example: The Merry Bards of Bindsor want to travel 13 days by road in the hills around Bindsor. They’re not very wealthy or strong, and so elect to carry 21 pounds of rations each. Let’s see how this could play out!
- If they left all their rations behind, they could consume 0 rations the whole way and live off of the land. They’d make a DC 12 exhaustion saving throw each day for 13 days, and saves failed by more than 5 ignore the terrain exhaustion cap, so they might die.
- They could eat 1 lb of rations each day. They’d have to check every second day (6 saves) against a DC of 12, but the terrain’s cap of 3 exhaustion means that they’d arrive in reasonable shape. But remember, once they attain exhaustion 2 (no earlier than day 4), they’ll have their speed halved, leaving them at risk of taking not 13 days but 22 days! If that happened, on the very last day they might be starving!
- They could eat 2 lbs of rations each day. They’d check every 5th day (3 checks at DC 12, max 3 exhaustion), but they’d run out of full rations on day 10, drop down to 1 ration on day 11, and then spend the remaining — 2 days wandering the woods starving and making additional checks daily (a total of 4 checks). This would also be a reasonable approach.
- They could eat 5 lbs of rations each day. This would last them 4 days, at which point they’d spend the remaining 9 days making daily checks. Awful.
A creature in the company of a forraging ranger (the Natural Explorer trait) reduces ration consumption costs by 1.