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Survival rules in RPG's

   
Survival rules in RPG's

Question for the Weave...how do you handle the elements? I think this may be a two-parter really. One being how do you manage it over long periods of time (say a LotR type journey) Vs how do you deal with it during combat? If PCs are battling it out on a frozen hillside do you give them circumstance penalties if they fail a save? In effect, they are shaking so much it impacts their abilities? Or is it just theatrical?

Just looking to see if anyone has used weather and come up with a different approach to dealing with it and its effects on the game.

If the PCs are traveling over inclement terrain for an extended period I might ask one player to describe an environmental hazard they face; on the tundra it might be biting cold or blinding snow or a crevasse opening under their feet. Going through a jungle they might face a nearly-solid swarm of midges or quicksand or simply enervating heat. Then I ask the player to their left how they solved the problem; that usually involves a skill check and if they fail, I do some damage or take away some of the party's healing resources ("Once you run through the gauntlet of biting flies, you all stop for a rest and down a healing potion. Mark of one of those off.").

If it's a fight I assume the PCs are staying wrapped up in the cold, well-watered in the desert, etc. If there's some environmental condition that they wouldn't have prepared for or couldn't take precautions against ("This magical crocodile drags some of nature of the swamp wherever it goes...") I build that into the encounter and the monster's statblock ("... So anyone within range of the beast can only move at half speed.").

Most systems already have rules for weather and terrain - I usually just go from there. If the current system I'm using doesn't have its own rules, I borrow from a similar system and adjust accordingly.

I was thinking something like a Constitution/Stamina/Wilpower based rule. Something like...

If your Con is >13 then there is no effect. If your Con is 9-13 then you are at -1 to hit and -5' of movement or something similar. Is that too heavy-handed being an effect that they cannot roll a dice to overcome? Just makes more sense to me that the higher the Con the more likely they will be ok and luck cannot affect the results.

For long exposures, you might consider a Con save every hour or so to avoid +1 level of Exhaustion.

For combat, you might consider a Dex save at the start of every round or fall prone in slippery conditions (possibly breaking concentration), or a Str save at the start of each round or be unable to move in sandy/muddy conditions. In rainy or similar conditions, all sensory checks and ranged actions at penalty/disadvantage.

Survival usually doesn't matter past low levels in most D&D based games post 3rd edition. Magic and skills usually become high enough that the survival part isn't the biggest challenge of the journey.

Funny enough, the LotR official rpg for 5e (well modified heavily, hard to even call it 5e anymore) has a journey system that you can steal verbatim. It would take long to explain but in brief, just like LotR the game is mostly about traveling/journey/reaching other destination, events are rolled. Sometimes good stuff happens (like meeting Legolas strolling around), sometimes terrible stuff happens. It works well too with the influence of Sauron growing and heroes getting more and more corrupted.

As with most everything, it depends on the system used. Some systems place a lot of emphasis on travel. Others not much. I tend to go with what the game expects and run with that.

But if I have to create my own mechanics, or am working with a system toolkit ala Fate Core or Genesys where I need travel and survival mechanics? That's a more interesting question, and one that I feel I'll be answering in depth in the near future as I look at that part of the game I'm working on. The most probable result is that I'll look at the various kinds of games with travel and how they do it, and adapt those mechanics one way or another.

A few games that focus on travelling (and maybe even survival) in some way that come to mind are The One Ring, Fellowship, Mouse Guard and Ryuutama. Worth looking at if you're interested in different takes. I'm sure there are lots more, but that'll have to do for now.

Most DnD/PF related systems have entire sections for the GM to play with elements and their effects, heck, 3.5 even has an entire book for Desert campaigns called Sandstorm. It comes equipped with feats, monsters, save tables, effects, etc. It really comes down to how you want to run them, if you want a focus to be on survivability in those environments and players who really want to use them.
Personally I like the idea of adding the grit of dealing with frozen landscapes or brutal heat and desert creatures. With that said, it always needs a good plot and storyline to make it interesting and not just a series of skill checks to survive. As with anything it should add good flavor but not consume the entire focus of the game.

Also note that even though 3.5 D&D has books for specific elements, not all portions of those books are well-written. Stormwrack's rules for dealing with storms (requiring round-by-round checks/saves!) are particularly bad.

Of course this is D&D we're talking about, where sea monsters should make sailing too risky for any sane person to attempt. Even a ship with a crew full of adventurers should think twice!

Several low-CR creatures can sink ships, and by the time you reach the dragon turtle you'd better be within teleport range of land at all times. Before that, you're limited to
CL5 = one nautical mile
fly,
CL7 = 6.5 nautical miles if taking double moves with a 20' speed
air walk, or water walk. For both fly and air walk, you'll want to trade some of that distance to gain altitude to keep you safe from beasties. Water walk solves the problem of drowning but doesn't keep you from being eaten.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dalar View Post
Also note that even though 3.5 D&D has books for specific elements, not all portions of those books are well-written. Stormwrack's rules for dealing with storms (requiring round-by-round checks/saves!) are particularly bad.

Of course this is D&D we're talking about, where sea monsters should make sailing too risky for any sane person to attempt. Even a ship with a crew full of adventurers should think twice!

Several low-CR creatures can sink ships, and by the time you reach the dragon turtle you'd better be within teleport range of land at all times. Before that, you're limited to
CL5 = one nautical mile
fly,
CL7 = 6.5 nautical miles if taking double moves with a 20' speed
air walk, or water walk. For both fly and air walk, you'll want to trade some of that distance to gain altitude to keep you safe from beasties. Water walk solves the problem of drowning but doesn't keep you from being eaten.
3.5 books poorly written and riddled with flaws?? Inconceivable!







 

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