Friday, 20 May 2011

A cry for abuse: Yet more on an Overland Travel System

So my attempt to build off the inspiration from ZzarchovAnthony,  and Alexis has met with mixed success.

Alexis, was particularly dismissive. That's completely fine by me. I don't put my ideas on the blog for congratulation but to try and build something better.

His point that medieval man was fearful of the wilderness and seldomly ventured into it, fits well with what I am attempting, though as always few are as eloquent as he. Probably why he is a paid writer, I only dream of such, and why I have a completely different day job.

The devil is always in the detail - and the detail here is a conflict between the idea by Zzarchov that wilderness travel leads to hit point loss, and the mechanical reality outlined by Anthony and Alexis, that this would mean a normal man (HP 1-4) would never survive a journey into the wilderness. 

Reconciling these two conflicts might just lead to something worthwhile and achieve what Alexis wishes, "spectacular collaborative sessions with people that led to collaborative or individual changes to my world."

I outlined a few ideas to reconcile this:

One option is the Alexis and new Anthony model, of time based accumulated loss, base 0.1 hit points per day + modifier, the hit point loss getting exponentially higher the longer the travel duration. Such that it is very unlikely a normal man will die on a 3 day journey. And even parties with lots of hit points and high level clerics would get nervous over time.
Makes sense but leads to a complex system requiring a calculator. The latter would present no problem for Alexis, given his use of a computer to calculate real time XP gain.

A second option was the use of modifiers that reduce hit point loss to something, which allows the normal man to survive familiar journeys eg familiarity with the journey. Such a system might result in characters seldom losing hit points, making the whole system defunct. One could add saving throws into the system to prevent damage as I first proposed.

A third option, would be to say that wilderness travel hit point attrition can not reduce a character below 1 hit point. Ok, I except that this is indeed crap. It remains crap, even if the next option is added. Or with Alexis eloquence, "Every detail richly describes how characters travelling through such a region would be likely to die regardless of enemies.  They would suffer damage, considerable damage, and not in some silly manner that left them one magical hit point at the end of a week."

A fourth option is to build off the game mechanic already given to us in D&D to cause hit point attrition and recognise the time based danger of exploration. Wandering monsters. Or as I proposed a Wilderness Encounter Roll, which would include non-creature events that led to hit point loss eg falls, laming of horses, land slides, worsening weather etc.

A fifth option by Richard is, "assigning each terrain type a number, either number of hours to cross (so high is bad) or speed you can go (so low is bad). Every [travel period] you have to roll against this number to avoid damage, because in general I'm convinced harder terrain is also riskier." Thus giving the normal man a chance of avoiding fatal damage.

A sixth option by JDJarvis is, "Each hex side has a score for getting out of the hex in each direction (along a hex side). A party will have a given number of rolls each day/outdoor turn based on their movement rate and can only leave a hex if they get or beat the required roll (for now I'm considering 2d6 to be the roll). Multiple attempts to go in the same direction could get a bonus. Any number of modifiers could be applied to the roll such as travel mode, weather, guides, racial abilities and class abilities along with clever planning." An example can be seen here. In itself this doesn't lead directly to hit point loss but obviously longer time in the wilderness may have other ill effects.

Now the seventh option, is what I have been waiting to see. It is Zzarchov's and this is his comment in Alexis' post.

"The rules are all available on my design blog, but there have been some major changes to both clerical healing and damage that for a quick recap it may be simpler to refer to the system I used in 2e.
A die of damage per week, with modifiers based on equipment, gear and retainers. For partial weak, partial damage. Specific skills would reduce damage (ie, rangers would take less, mountaineering would make you take a point less per die, etc).
This still didn't get around the infinite mobile hospital that is a cleric, but that isn't specifically a travel thing, its a damage thing. There is a reason clerics being "Use or lose em" healing batteries was one of the first thing I chopped.

So I checked out his Piecemeal the RPG: Beta Version 1e. Try here for direct download. I was blown away with the breadth and length of his endeavour. So please check it out. I was left feeling down hearted at just how far the Old School Adventure Guide has to go.

Anyway in dangerous events he outlines the following system for wilderness travel. It's a bit complicated because he uses body points and luck points. A test for injuries is made each week modified by terrain:
Pleasant, Normal,Harsh, Inhospitable, Deadly and Suicidal.

Zzarchov may wish to expand on his system further and point out any errors in my interpretation. Given that there is a roll involved then there is hope built into the system for the normal man.

So seven options. I'm not going to choose now, I want to do more research. Apart from my suggestion that wilderness travel can't reduce a character below one hit point I think all the above are not crap, or need not be if implemented well.


  1. Wow. I am an asshole.

    The Zzarchov link to his system doesn't go to his system. FYI.

  2. Try this:

    Actually I thought your points were pretty fair Alexis.

  3. I may get a chance to read back through these posts, but I don't see wilderness as inevitable attrition, and it's just a matter of time before people die. Maybe the argument is the fantasy wilderness is such a place. In that case, the medieval man being fearful of the wilderness is beside the point (even if there was a homogeneous "medieval man"). Well, I'll read more before going to far.

    I'm heading to the wilderness next week, I'll let you know how many hit points I lose per week.

    Rock out.

  4. Hey Spawn

    When are you reposting your article on horses that was lost in the great blogger crash?

  5. It may be too 3rd Edition for you, but i think you could cook up a good system by using conditions and ability drain. After X days, make a saving throw or gain the Fatigued condition. After x days Fatigued, make a saving throw or become Exhausted. After X days Exhausted start to loose Con points. At zero Con you are dead. Since Con scores are reasonably stable from 0 to 36th level, PCs will not have a great advantage over peasants (except for their better saving throws).

  6. To save people who may have a lack of interest in reading through the WIP that is piecemeal I might be able to simplify it into an "elevator pitch".

    Hit points are split into two different pieces, body points and luck points. Luck points are what most D&D players think of as hit points, you gain them every level and 1 or more is "ready to rock". These represent the hero/villain who just luckily dodges out of the way at the last moment, but mechanically its a hit point as normal. Only characters with levels have hit points, and when a character runs out, they suffer damage to body points.

    Body Points are the physical damage you can suffer. Characters generally would have a number equal to a stat (in D&D think strength or constitution) and it never goes up. A character is incapacitated after they lose more than half, and die when they run out. These take weeks to heal and cause penalties to all actions a character takes. Suffering 4 luck points is having an arrow knock off your hat, suffering 4 body points is that same arrow sticking into your gut as you crawl around spitting blood.

    So with travel, you make a weekly check (think constitution check) or take damage straight off your body points, with penalties or bonus based on the terrain (and any skills you can bring to bear as a bonus).

    Thus after 2 weeks of travel there is a good chance you will be ragged and at least somewhat sick and injured when you reach the dragon, and it will impact you. Its not just "Oh I lost 2 hp, but I have 38 left so I am good", it is a serious issue.

    As for healing, the cliff notes are that cleric's do not get a daily allotment of spells. They earn piety (think spell points) for doing religious deeds (converting, slaying heathens, building churches, destroying enemy shrines etc) and use that to cast spells. But it is something they can stockpile until they need it. Healing is both increased (instead of say healing 1d8hp they heal 1d8 luck point per level of the character they are healing) but also decreased (usually only 1 body point is healed).

    Net result is that clerics can be a giant band-aid..but not frivolously.

    Hopefully that pitch may have saved some with only passing curiosity the need to search through it all, though if you are looking for ideas to tinker with the system is full of things to run with and I would encourage a look.

  7. Zzarchov, that's excellent. In my campaign I moved from hit points to fate points. You die when fate catches up with you, so to speak.

    The difference to your system is I said that a normal man is 3 hit points (this is species related for humans), anything above 3 represents his fate points, which increase naturally with levels. If a character is wounded to 3hp or less than they have taken a physical wound. No mechanical change but I can start describing the blood.

    I will have to mull over what I want for the Old School Adventure Guide. I suspect my preference will be to build something within the rules as they are presented to us without major overhaul. This will make the Guide more useful to more people. So that would mean even my own fate points out. Umm... thanks for the write up of your system. I can see it would work well. Double umm.....