On PHB p. 50, the Totem Warrior Barbarian's Wolf totem for the 6th-level Aspect of the Beast feature grants the following benefit:

You gain the hunting sensibilities of a wolf. You can track other creatures while traveling at a fast pace, and you can move stealthily while traveling at a normal pace (see chapter 8 for rules on travel pace).

On PHB p. 182, the Travel Pace chart says that you can normally only move stealthily at a slow pace, but there is no mention of a restriction on travel pace for tracking. The stealth benefit for the Wolf aspect is useful at least. A fast pace causes a -5 to passive Wisdom (Perception) scores only. The Track activity under "Other Activities" on PHB p. 183 states:

A character can follow the tracks of another creature, making a Wisdom (Survival) check when the DM calls for it.

Again, there is no mention of travel pace being a factor. A check of the DMG section on tracking, DMG p. 244, lists several modifications for checks to track, none of which mention travel pace. Even the "Chases" section (DMG p. 253-255) doesn't mention anything where this part of the Wolf aspect would come into play.

Does the tracking at fast speed portion of the Wolf Aspect of the Beast adjust a game mechanic?


3 Answers 3


Tracking is mentioned only briefly, in/around the pages you mentioned, in both the PHB and the DMG. And as you pointed out, in the PHB and in the DMG it doesn't specify tracking as having any maximum speed.

On PHB page 181, under Travel Pace:

A fast pace makes characters less perceptive, while a slow pace makes it possible to sneak around and to search an area more carefully (see the "Activity While Traveling" section later in this chapter for more information).

This sentence, depending on how you read it, could mean that any "Activity While Traveling" (which is the section Tracking falls under) can only be taken while moving at a slow pace:

... a slow pace makes it possible to to search an area more carefully (see the "Activity While Traveling" section ...

However, several activities specify how they operate under different speeds, meaning this interpretation doesn't hold up.

Additionally, Foraging, another Activity While Traveling that points to full rules in the DMG, has the following statement (DMG page 111):

Characters can gather food and water as the party travels at a normal or slow pace.

It makes sense that Tracking would have a similar statement, but it does not, so for the time being there's no RAW restriction on tracking at a fast pace.

You can, however, interpret it as being RAI due to Foraging or due to the negative implication of the Barbarian ability.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Given that the DM has to fill in the gaps for 5e anyway, this seems like the best answer. Tracking doesn't have specific RAW, but that's RAW as we're used to. I'd definitely agree that tracking falls under "activities while traveling" and should be done at a slow pace. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason_c_o
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 18:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Judging from the wording of wolf aspect (tracking can be done at a fast pace) and that they seperate it out from moving stealthy (at a normal pace) I suspect tracking was intended to be done at a slow AND normal pace for regular folks, so wolf aspect was just a single step up (just like moveing stealthy got a single step up). I doubt many folks dive into the movement weeds this deep WRT tracking and stealthy movement but I thought it was a curious ommission. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason K
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 20:46
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ I'm assuming the intent was for a stealthy party to be unable to keep up with a party traveling at normal speed, and a tracking party would be unable to keep up with a party traveling fast, so the wolf aspect allowed the character to surpass this. Just a guess but seems to jive with the spirit of the ability. \$\endgroup\$
    – Jason K
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 20:55

You've found a gap in the published rules

Great question, listing all the places such a rule should be. I've done a thorough search of the PHB and DMG. (Believe me - there's a lot of "tracking" going on, but it's mostly "tracking hit points" etc.) But nothing to make sense of this benefit of the Wolf ability.

Why this happened (probably)

The fateful expression in the PHB seems to be "The Dungeon Master's Guide has rules for tracking" (PHB 183) And as you say, there's nothing in the special section in the DMG about disadvantages to tracking while moving fast. So it seems that this rule slipped down the gap between the PHB and the DMG...

Possible RAI

It would seem logical to reconstruct from the Wolf aspect rule that some sort of penalty was intended for travelling at fast pace and tracking. This makes sense if you think about what tracking actually involves, and can be compared to the -5 penalty for Wisdom (Perception). After all, tracking is also a Wisdom check to notice things. But I think you have found a genuine gap, which I suppose may at some point be clarified by the 'Word of God' or official errata.

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ I suspect that either an earlier version of the rules, or something had a reference to that penalty, either that or it's protection from the DM imposing one (which they'd be right to do). \$\endgroup\$
    – wax eagle
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 15:54
  • \$\begingroup\$ @waxeagle Yeah, that would make sense. Spurred on by your first idea, I searched the D&D Next playtest pdfs, but not found anything of relevance. \$\endgroup\$
    – harlandski
    Commented Apr 28, 2015 at 16:22

It is not stated, the only mentions of a penalty are on

page 182 of the PHB

While traveling at a fast pace, characters take a - 5 penalty to their passive Wisdom (Perception) scores to notice hidden threats.

on Page 111 of the 5 DMG

The party's navigator makes a Wisdom (Survival) check when you decide it's appropriate, against a DC determined by the prevailing terrain, as shown on the Wilderness Navigation table. If the party is moving at a slow pace, the navigator gains a +5 bonus to the check, and a fast pace imposes a - 5 penalty.

It seem from the wording of these two section that the authors assumed that there will be penalty for travelling activities if they are done while the party is moving at a fast pace.

Ultimately it will be up to your referee to decide if a house rule make sense. My personal opinion is that it make sense to apply a -5 modifier to any of the skill rolls called for in the Activity while Travelling section while moving at a fast pace.

  • 5
    \$\begingroup\$ It would be reasonable to infer that the Wisdom(Survival) check for tracking suffers the same penalties/bonuses as the Wisdom(Survival) check for navigation \$\endgroup\$
    – Adeptus
    Commented Apr 29, 2015 at 0:15

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