Thursday, May 5, 2011

Hard Trekking

When I said Monday that this blog would suffer from my not having as much time, I meant that I wouldn't be able to produce as much deeper material ... that is, I'm reduced to commenting on other people's comments, or occasionally on general stuff that just occurs to me.  On the other hand, writing a post on 'great villains' (which would involve gathering a long list of movies and reducing it) or a post on 'paper' (which I need to do more reading in order to tackle) are just out of the question.

Thankfully, I'm getting so many great comments, I'm not short of things to write.  The one below from Zzarchov, that he wrote yesterday in reference to breaking camp.  Zzarchov has apparently taken it upon himself to provide endless material for this blog, both positive and negative.  Keep it up, brother!

Zzarchov says,

"I use more abstracted rules than this, basically boiling down to you take damage as you travel and heal slowly while going through the wilderness without creature comforts ... as well as different terrain types having different "Miles per day" ratings.  This leads to two things: 1) an increase in taking the longer route if it passed through civilization, roads and inns; 2) No more 'rushing through the wilderness', the bean counters came out and 'frontier living' was replaced with carefully planned expeditions."

I really like this idea.  I can't say, of course, how Zzarchov runs it, but I can see heaping up considerable damage for a wide range of vegetation/topographical features, to discourage travel.  An ordinary, open forest might just cause one damage a day, but a deep jungle, such as Laos, filled with toxic plants, leeches, dry rot, malaria-carrying insects, rough up-and-down terrain, heavy rainfalls mixed with high humidity and heat, etc., could cause 7 or 8 hit points per day, depending on which part of the jungle being moved through.

I love the idea of giving each hex a "hp damage" rating ... however much the party might really, really hate it.

Fact is, any high level party is filled with healing ability, and it would do less to wear down the characters actual hit points than it would to wear down their spell-healing potential.  But that, too, leads to a greater chance of death.

If the reader is looking for substantiation for this policy, I would recommend reading about the expeditions into Africa by Mungo Park, Henry Morton Stanley and James Bruce.  Obviously, there's also Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton describing the Antarctic, and Elisha Kent Kane in the Arctic, along with the writings of John Franklin prior to his disappearance and James Clark Ross.  Descriptions of horrid conditions, the destruction of men by the environment, worn down by long winters and the wilderness.

The weather, too, is as justified a damage-causing force as the terrain.  Why shouldn't an ordinary thunderstorm cause 1 damage?  Have you been in a heavy storm for two hours, without shelter, and has that not exhausted you and encouraged you to spend the next day inside and warm, resting?  Maybe it is because I'm old.

I have been caught in a hail storm, however, in countryfied Saskatchewan, where the hail was the size of peas.  If you have been to central south Saskatchewan, you'll know there is no cover.  Where I was, walking back three miles from a service station to my grandparents lakeshore cabin (I was 14), there were no trees within two miles, in any direction.  The storm came up quickly.  My sister and I saw it coming and we counted on getting wet.  We did not count on having to cover our heads with our hands while curled up in a ball, taking the hail on our backs.  Do I believe that was worth 2 hit points damage?  You bet I do.

A great part of the reason we don't have rules like this in D&D is due largely to the insistence on some that human beings and humanoids can realistically have 1 hit point.  Thus, no one wants to make a statement that walking through a forest could kill a kobald, or that getting caught in a hail storm could cause the death of a small orc.  This just seems ridiculous to most people, so the idea can't get off the ground.

I could make an argument that creatures with higher armor classes (and I class most humanoids as having such without needing armor) could be immune from a lot of things that would hurt humans.  Also, rules could be applied that those who grow up in forests are immune to the damage they do - Mungo Park's men died, but the natives did not ... obviously.  And finally, the climatic region one grows up in should apply as well.  Some of my readers down in Florida would certainly be uncomfortable in an ordinary Canadian winter, and I would have trouble with an ordinary Florida summer.  So in many cases, exceptions would help mitigate those unlikely deaths.

And still, why shouldn't it matter that certain persons would have to run for shelter or die?  After all, we're not saying the hit point damage would necessarily be in the moment the rain struck.  History and literature are full of children who were caught in the rain, caught pnemonia and died ... which is really just the one hit point damage extended over a great time period than a sword thrust.  Who is to say that the moment the storm hit, the child was already suffering a minor ailment, but not enough to register on hit points, hm?

No doubt the general section would argue saving throws.  Always, always, it's saving throws.  No doubt, I could walk through an African jungle without shots and just be so lucky that I not only do I avoid malaria, dysentery and diptheria, but also spurred branches, sharp stones, the scraping bark of deadfallen trees and rocks I must cross over and even burrs and thorns.  More than that, I don't lose my footing a single time, and I am utterly ignored by every living creature so that I plunge into ponds and the leeches ignore me, the ants and flies ignore me, etc., etc.

No, sorry, that's not how it works.  Come this summer, take a journey to northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan or Alberta and find how long it is before you start being eaten by the blackflies there.  No one is exempt.  So unless you're going to have saving throws for every possible hazard - which will only mean you'll suffer a certain percentage on average anyway - or you just establish the 'average' as the automatic damage and save yourself a lot of annoying rolling of dice.

For my players, no, I have no plans at this time to implement any of this.  But it is very intriguing.


DRANCE said...

I vote for not using this level of crunch for wilderness travel unless the GM wanted to take a "half the fun is getting there" tack for a particular journey. I would like to hope that someone wouldn't use rules like this every time a party left the safety of a settlement.

I personally might use something like this if a party was traveling during a region's stormy season, heading into a non-temperate climate, or going on a quest for a particularly important object. Basically, if travel ever became an integral part of the "story."

Besides hit point damage due to travel, there's also the possibility of adding in equipment damage due to adverse conditions, and perhaps the potential for all but the most "iron" of rations spoiling.

DRANCE said...

Another thought occurred: this could also be a replacement to a wilderness random encounter. If your players head out into the wilderness and are clearly gearing up for meeting some monsters, throw them a harsh weather curve ball!

Alexis said...

Following Zzarchov's lead (guessing here),

If there's a road, or if the weather is anything less than a full-on storm, no damage.

A night spent at an Inn, no damage.

A night spent in a camp. no damage, but no healing from rest, either.

A night not spent with proper gear, one damage at least.

A party could easily avoid damage by keeping to travelled areas and equipping themselves. But one step off road - and off well-beaten trail - into an untamed wilderness ... well, they should know what they're getting in for.

Would be tough in Chgowiz's world. He doesn't run campaigns in town.

James C. said...

"A great part of the reason we don't have rules like this in D&D is due largely to the insistence on some that human beings and humanoids can realistically have 1 hit point."

Damage could be a % of max hit points with a ceiling instead of an objective value. You'd be in effect ignoring damage to one hit point creatures unless they spent a lot of times in harsh, outdoor conditions that would kill them, eventually. This seems reasonable to me.

Zzarchov said...

In terms of when damage is taken and how it occurs, provisions matter.

A standard has become caravans and other large expeditions. Think your stereotypical Roma/Traveler wagons, big tents with internal furniture the servants set up.

So the servants who set up the tents may get their ankles broken, covered in poison ivy or succumb to dysentery.. but until they die off the VIP's (the PC's) usually live pretty well.

This eats up money, and as the survival rate of servants drop..I make new servants cost more and more. The party occasionally offsets this by promising a share of the dragon's treasure to the workers.

etc etc etc..

As I said though, is this good? It makes the party plan a lot more into expeditions, less "lets ride east to the dragon through the swamps of doom for ships and goggles".

I personally like the "expedition" more than the "joy ride" method of travel. Just know that if you have ADHD players or those who suffer from Analysis Paralysis this may pose a problem.

Oddbit said...

Honestly, I would rule that orcs native to underground environments or mountainous ones (or wherever your orcs spring from) with one hit point could easily die. I like that ruling, and feel that when describing the damage taken, adding a few words as to why you're taking damage rather than leaving "In net you arrive -5 hp" is key.

Also, this provides an opening for new spells relating to travel. Perhaps adaptive spells that sacrifice spots but are more efficient and predictable than heal spells.

Oddbit said...

There is also a great list of some of the top 10 worst places to be. Including an island covered in deadly poisonous snakes that somebody thought to put a lighthouse on with a tragic story of the family that lived there and a swamp full of crocodiles that a platoon of asian troops force marched through and only a handful survived.