I have been looking into setting up an adventure in the wilderness for our table, where there is an element of being chased and the party is purposely trying to outrun and outsmart their chasers.
Background: The party is travelling north to a distant town through the wilderness. The party is lucky enough to bump into a friendly NPC who lets them know that a large band of Orcs have been on the move and they are tracking the party - they are about 2 days behind. The party does not know that the band or Orcs has a Half-Orc Ranger/Rogue in their midst whose favoured enemies are various humanoids and who has expertise in Survival.
The idea is that the band of Orcs will eventually find the party: if the party are caught out in the wilderness, they will have a tougher battle to handle; whereas, if they make it to within 5 miles of the town, they will have help either from a small group of local hunters or the town guards.
So far, I can use the information on Tracking (DMG, p. 244) to set a DC for the Band of Orcs, or more specifically the Half-Orc tracker. The terrain is a mixuture of woodland and grassland. I used the guideline in the DMG for tracking over "dirt or grass": DC 15 Wisdom (Survival). The band of Orcs are 2 days behind so that is +10 difficulty (+5 for each day). This is a total of DC 25.
Now, the only thing I'm struggling with is how to determine a fair penalty (or bonus) to the check according to the party's actions and their own survival skills.
By RAW, what I can see is that the awareness of being tracked and any subsequent actions the party takes do not realy matter. So the tracker's dice roll is the only thing that matters. But, this makes for a very boring track, chase and capture (or escape) adventure.
My thoughts are that, if the party are well aware that they are being hunted, they will keep up the pace and avoid leaving tracks where possible. I will ask the party to describe what actions they are taking to avoid being tracked, e.g. walking up a stream for an hour, not lighting open fires, not leaving traces of food, etc.
I think it is fair that the party has the option of making a Wisdom (Survival) check to avoid being tracked.
I intend to set the DC according the terrain table (DMG, p.244) but in reverse to show the difficult in covering their tracks:
- DC 20 - soft surface such as snow
- DC 15 - dirt or grass
- DC 10 - bare stone
So, in this case I have set a DC 15 check as it is woodland and grassland - however, it may snow overnight at one point and then I might use a DC 20 instead.
I am going to use the Group Checks rules (PHB, p.175) so that once per day they whole party rolls for a Survival check.
The adjustments I intend to use for the Half-Orc tracker's Wisdom (Survival) check are as follows:
- If more than half the party succeed with an average of 5 above the DC, then I will add +5
- If half, or more than half the party succeed, then I will add +2
- If more than half fail, then I will take away -2
- If more than half the party fails with an average of 5 below the DC, then I will take away -5
I am looking for an answer that addresses the idea of a balanced bonus or penalty for the check from DMs with lived experience in adjudicating this type of scenario; or, even better, any rules from the 5e official published adventures where there is a section where the party is being tracked.
I found this related topic from 3.5: Are there rules as written for counter tracking?