The DMG (p111-112) suggests that the party's navigator make a Survival check to avoid becoming lost:

If the Wisdom (Survival) check succeeds, the party travels in the desired direction without becoming lost. If the check fails, the party inadvertently travels in the wrong direction and becomes "lost." The party's navigator can repeat the check after the party spends 1d6 hours trying to get back on course.

(emphasis mine, to clarify to those who are confused that going "in the wrong direction" and becoming "lost" are independent of one another)

So, as this reads, three distinctive things happen if you fail the check:

  1. You travel in a random direction.
  2. You become lost.
  3. You can make a new Survival check every 1d6 hours to stop being lost.

I completely understand points 1 and 3, but it doesn't mean anything without understanding point 2. For example, let's say I'm using the UA Ranger. I'm not able to become lost by nonmagical means, but since there doesn't seem to be a RAW definition, that might mean any (or all) of the following:

  • You don't travel in a random direction when you fail the check.
  • You don't have to wait 1d6 hours to get back on track.
  • You have traveled in the right direction, but you don't know where you are geographically.
  • You know exactly how to get from point A to point B, even if you don't have a map and/or you've never been there.
  • You can't trigger random Terrain Encounters (as in Chapter 2 of Out of the Abyss) because they suggest that you don't know where you're going.
  • Thick fog, rain, darkness, and other nonmagical elements can't keep you from finding the path.
  • You don't make a check at all, and you benefit from all of the above.
  • Maybe something else that I haven't thought of.

Which of these options are true? Why? I will accept an answer that confirms and/or denies all of the assumptions listed above.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 22, 2016 at 3:16

3 Answers 3


You shouldn't make the check in the first place.

Unless they are following a path, or something like it, adventurers traveling in the wilderness run the risk of becoming lost. The party's navigator makes a Wisdom (Survival) check when you decide it's appropriate. (DMG p.111, "Becoming Lost," emphasis mine)

And let's remind ourselves of the UA Ranger's class feature:

Natural Explorer

  • [...] your group can't become lost except by magical means [...].

(N.B. in the UA version, rangers have this in all terrain; there's no more concept of "favored" terrain. Or, if you like, all terrain is favored.)

I argue, then, that the group is following "something like a path": their ranger! Or, at least, that the GM should never decide it's appropriate to issue a 'becoming lost' check to a party with a ranger. I mean, they've got so little...

But let's say you do get lost:

Clearly by magical means. This didn't happen by means of a failed check, so there's no need to assume that all three consequences enumerated for failed checks happen. Let's consider them severally:

  1. ...inadvertently travels in the wrong direction. Well, you didn't. Unless you became (magically) lost without realizing it and continued traveling in the wrong direction. Then you did. GM's ruling on how the magical-lostness works.
  2. ...becomes lost. You are.
  3. The party's navigator can repeat the check after the party spends 1d6 hours trying to get back on course. So a party without a ranger has to wait 1d6 hours and pass the check to stop being lost. It should somehow be easier for the party with the ranger.

    But remember: the only reason they're lost in the first place is because, magic. (Not only magic, but magic a GM made up. I can't find any spell or item in the PHB or DMG that does it.) So you're squarely in the territory of "you make up how to get unlost."

    Perhaps you rule that after 1d6 hours there's no need for a check, because the ranger de facto passes all checks. (That's how you've internalized Natural Explorer.) Perhaps you rule that the ranger has to pass a check, but it's after 1d4 hours, or 1 hour, or lowest 1 of 2d6 hours. (Some way to represent a pseudo-advantage on that time-roll.) Or maybe the party stays lost until you say they're not, because magic.

    Just make sure it's a little easier to get unlost because of the ranger. After all, combat and social scenes are harder for the party because of the opportunity cost of carrying a ranger around; exploration should be a little easier.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Dec 22, 2016 at 3:27



  1. unable to find one's way; not knowing one's whereabouts. "Help! We're lost!"

An UA Ranger cannot become lost by normal means (magic or being moved while unconscious can change this) - she always knows where she is and how to get back to where she came from. She also cannot head off in the wrong direction. She therefore never needs to make a navigation check.


Being lost is different from trying to reach an unknown location

1 - being lost. you are unsure where you are geographically and you do not know where north, east south etc. is. so you have no clue in what direction you are travelling (getting further lost) hence why many lost people walk in circles without even noticing.

2- Not lost but trying to reach an uncertain destination one for which the location from where you are geographically is not specifically known. You know where you are geographically, you know exactly where north is and in what direction you are travelling, but unsure if that direction will lead you to your intended destination.


Navigation or Natural Explorer can help avoid No.1

Navigation or Natural Explorer cannot help at all with no.2.
(You need to figure this out on your own using maps, trails, a guide etc..)


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