I think I’ve figured out how to break up “The Camping Challenge” into three parts (which you should recognize if you’ve read my previous post, “Once You’ve Obtained An Audience”) and might simultaneously eliminate one of the single most needlessly frustrating Perception checks in all of Dungeons & Dragons.

Roll to notice an ambush while on watch.

Selecting a campsite or an inn, like making an introduction during a negotiation, will require at least one attempt, and no more than three. To start, you use either Nature (in the wild) or Streetwise (in town) to find a place with clean, accessible food and water, or a good deal in a relatively safe part of town.

Just like the introduction phase of a negotiation, you’ll need to keep track of your failures during this first step. Your group suffers a cumulative -1 penalty to attempts made to secure your campsite for every failure made while selecting your campsite.

Once you’ve chosen an inn or a place to set up, you enter the phase where you secure the surroundings, set up traps or find suitable places to hide while keeping watch — all that good stuff. Here you’ll make more Nature or Streetwise checks, though you may substitute Perception or Stealth checks, depending on the place.

(Taking into account the idea that establishing a safe camp on a hostile plane of existence may require more complex preparations, we’re going to assume that the players may attempt up to ten checks during this phase to secure their camp.)

Finally, the challenge enters the third phase: protecting the camp. Rather than making the players figure out who’s keeping watch when and figuring out how to make sure everyone sleeps at least six hours, they make between one and three attempts to keep watch, and you can randomly determine who’s awake when the ambush starts.

Remember that during the protection phase, the players get a cumulative +2 bonus to their Perception checks for every success scored during the selection phase.

Unlike a negotiation, however, the challenge doesn’t end when the players score three failures. Failure indicates the characters are basically guaranteed an ambush during their extended rest. When setting up the encounter, the attackers should be the same level as the characters, and should outnumber them by at least one.

Similar to a negotiation, the characters should receive experience for succeeding on at least four attempts while setting up camp, and for every two successful attempts after that. Award experience as though for creatures of the group’s level.