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The relevant part of the PHB ranger's Natural Explorer feature states (emphasis mine):

While traveling for an hour or more in your favored terrain, you gain the following benefits:

  • Difficult terrain doesn’t slow your group’s travel.
  • Your group can’t become lost except by magical means.
  • [...]

The way I read this, per RAW, is as follows:

When a party with a ranger in his favored terrain starts travelling, the first hour of travel the feature is not active and will activate only starting at the 2nd hour of travel. So they could become lost during the first hour of travel if the navigator fails a Survival check. If they stop travelling for some reason and resume travel later, they then need to again make Survival checks for the first hour, and then Natural Explorer will kick in again at the 2nd hour.

Am I correctly understanding the Rules as Written for the Natural Explorer feature?

(NOTE: We are not playing with UA rules.)

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2 Answers 2

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Traveling is present tense

If it said 'after traveling for an hour or more' your conclusion would be correct, but as written it basically means that as long as the journey will last an hour or more the feature is active. Even the first second.

Also the spirit of the ability, is basically just to make it clear that it is non-combat. I believe the travel section of the DMG suggests overland travel to be split into hourly or longer sections, so this fits into that.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I was tending to this reading also, but what if you start your daily travel and are stopped by something for the rest of the day (lets say a powerfull storm that makes you hide in a cave for the rest of the day) befalling upon you 30 mins after starting your daily travel.. You did not travel for 1h or more.. So you should not benefit from the natural explorer feature (personnalyt I think it totally sucks the way it is written, but we are very adamant in playing HARD RAW) so how can i make this game mecanic works and still be RAW ? \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2020 at 18:02
  • \$\begingroup\$ @kilrathisly if you are only traveling 30 mins you presumably don't need to be making checks, it is very difficult to get lost in that kind of time unless you are in a maze. But also there is no mention of a time limit, so just because you pause doesn't mean you won't continue the next day, which is still traveling for 1 hour or more. The only thing that would in my opinion stop this feature is when you reach the destination. \$\endgroup\$
    – SeriousBri
    Oct 1, 2020 at 19:22
  • \$\begingroup\$ For lack of a better answer, I flagged your answer as good for now, but coulds you edite the word journey to travel.. there is no such thing in the RAW rules of D&D as a journey in that rule. It specifically mentions your TRAVEL, not journey (in fact journey is not mentioned anywhere in the TRAVEL mode rules). By the way I make navigation checks to get lost every start of an hour in travel mode. so yes you could get lost in 30 mins of travelling. this is totally realistic (see below) \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2, 2020 at 3:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ If you ever went to a real wilderness trek in the deep woods you will see quite soon enough that without a compass and an accurate map you will get lost and likely die of exposure. and in a few days not weeks. I want to bring that gruesome realism to the game, by making the navigator check every hour to see if he gets lost. with a DC15, without a map and a way of knowing where north is accurately and unneerigly. they will get lost within a day. So better get equipped or die in the wilderness which is totally realistic. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 2, 2020 at 3:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ @KilrathiSly within one day, not within one hour... \$\endgroup\$
    – STT LCU
    Oct 2, 2020 at 7:06
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The DM decides when it's appropriate to check if the party's navigator is lost in the wilderness

Source: Dungeon Master's Guide, page 111

Strictly rules as written, it's the DM that decides when to check if the party is lost. If your DM decides that it's opportune (and appropriate) that the party is lost from the start, then the Ranger's Natural Explorer ability doesn't trigger.

Now, the following is my own personal consideration:

It doesn't make any sense to me to "be lost" without magical interference already at the start of the journey, and it's also very hard to lose yourself in the first hour if you're even moderately proficient with being outdoors, which for most Rangers inside their favorite terrain is definitely the case. I'd say that this could be a passive survival DC 10 check.

Lastly, penalizing the Ranger on a ribbon feature that already sees the light of day very rarely would leave a sour taste in my mouth, so I'd recommend not going down the route of getting lost in the first hour.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ I see what you are saying but we are a group that play STRICT and HARD RAW. even if it is dumb or irrealistic we just want the game mecanic to play like almost a computer game. (we have fun doing RP so we don't care realism or logic of a rule, we care about following the rules to the letter as they are written. Unfortunately Jeremy Crawford did not shed light on this one. \$\endgroup\$ Oct 1, 2020 at 18:05

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