Friday, 6 April 2012

F is for Failings and Falling: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

I have been pretty critical of the WSG up until now.
I'm trying to work out if that is just me or something intrinsic to the WSG. It could be me. I am writing these posts early morning or late evening, so as not to interfere with family time. Time, therefore, is precious, and tables that are overly complex or require multiple pages to flick through, will not impress me.

I have no doubt that Kim Mohan did his research. This is what he says in the preface,
"I scrounged some research material from Frank Mentzer’s shelves, sent away for a couple of books from a catalog that Zeb Cook thought would be helpful. and made a lot of trips to public libraries. I went from a person who never seems to find time for reading to one who didn’t do anything but read. And when I was well stocked with facts and figures. I strapped on my mental backpack and started writing -the real treacherous part of the journey."

So when he describes the movement and carrying capacity of yaks (see last post), I believe him. When I need to house rule something, effects of cold climates, carrying capacity, I generally find myself going to wikipedia and beyond, trying to find real facts to guide my house rule decisions. The WSG is a real fact guide, already modded for gaming. So the WSG is a resource that one should go to early.

My problem, and here is where I think it fails. It gives new game mechanics, when it should have modified an existing game mechanic.

It has tables and tables. At the back, just like in the DSG, is a compendium of tables, which is helpful, but what it really needed, was to come with a Wilderness DM screen; with tables confined to that screen. The book would have served to explain the DM screen. This would have made the book and the screen useable, not just providing an obscure gaming reference tool.

Sorry Kim.

On page 35 of the WSG, falling damage is given, which is different to what I have always used.

Now I am currently on holidays in Australia and don't have my players handbook - but apparently page 105, falling damage is given.

I have always known falling damage as 1d6 per 10' up to a maximum of 20d6 to account, I have always assumed, for terminal velocity.

WSG gives falling damage as 1d6 cumulative for every 10' fallen. The CUMULATIVE is the key word. In Table 17 this is explained, and I reproduce here for clarity of explanation.

Table 17: Damage from Free Fall or Severe Slope
Distance of Fall          Damage
10 feet                          1d6
11-20 feet                     3d6
21-30 feet                     6d6
31-40 feet                     10d6
41-50 feet                     15d6
51 feet or more             20d6

I have a few problems with this - here I go again, Mr Critical.

Firstly why take a rule, that is easily memorable (I remember it after 20 years+), and create something like Table 17.
You fell 45 feet, go on, don't look at the table again, how much damage did you take?

Is this an attempt at realism? Certainly, damage from a fall goes up dramatically faster than the old 1d6 per 10'. But normal men only have around 4 hit points anyway, so we are abstracting how heroes might survive an imagined fall?

I'm not even sure the maths is correct - but this is hard to say when hit points are abstract concepts with no real life equivalent.

DELTA - you reading - as the OSR maths expert - am I correct below?

v = square root of (2gd)

This is the formula for calculating instantaneous velocity in a fall where v = velocity, g = gravity (acceleration) and d = distance fallen.

Force of impact can be given

Force * time  = mass * acceleration

time = time force applied from impact velocity to zero velocity (so landing on a soft object that slows the fall or spreads the time the full force is applied, is helpful)
Acceleration or deceleration in this case = velocity prior to impact to zero velocity.

This becomes

Force * time = mass * (impact velocity - zero velocity)

The important thing from both equations is that I don't see any cumulative damage occurring. Distance fallen gives impact velocity, which in turn will determine the force of the impact.

I think Kim is confusing distance fallen over time which does increase exponentially until terminal velocity is reached. i.e. you fall further distance the 2nd second than the 1st second, as your velocity increases.

So, now I am really depressed with the WSG.

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