Monday, 30 April 2012

Z is for Zat's it: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Well Zat's it. I made it but only just this year, with flagging energy toward the end.

I stand by what I have said already,

"What would I have liked to have seen then and what would I like to see now.

I think if the book had been broken into terrains, it would have been stronger, far more useful and have become inspirational.

e.g. Arctic - with rules for cold, a new equipment list (sleds, warm clothes, eye protection, new spells, and monster section (including huskies, polar bears etc).

And so on for desert, forest, plains, mountains

You see as DM, the setting can often fire the imagination. Rules don't do it alone, and I like rules. Wilderness is just too broad a terrain type!

I might want to take my players to Hoth - if so I want rules that deal with this easily accessible, not rules on cold spread throughout the entire guide. After reading these imagined arctic rules, perhaps I may have been inspired to take take my players to Hoth, even if it had never occurred to me before.

Or Tatooine, or up the mountains. Or in the open plains, where horse lords rule.

I also think these guides would have been more effective if sold with a DM screen - all relevant tables must be on the DM screen. How much can one remember otherwise?

My dormant Old School Adventure Guide - of course gives Kim the last laugh. He has published I have not! So, take a bow Kim for the WSG, you at least were an important part of the silver age of D&D

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Y is for Yeoman: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

If I was a yeoman adventurer,

the WSG

would not be my SAS survival guide.

Friday, 27 April 2012

X is for Xeno: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Weird monsters - nup.

Weird terrain - nup.

Wacky - nup.

Wealistic - maybe.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

W is for World of Weather: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

A whole appendix on Weather...

with tables like

You know... I am losing interest. Maybe another day.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

V is for Vitals: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Grub, food, water, sustenance, it's all needed in the wilderness.

Going without
Combined Strength and Constitution     Tolerance level (days)
<=15                                                             4
16-19                                                            5
20-24                                                            6
25-30                                                            7
31-35                                                            8
36+                                                              10

Then every 12 hours make a Str or Con check (at +1 cumulative per check) or else... you are weakened (-1 on attack rolls and reflex saving throws cumulative per day in this state). Also now cumulative +2 on subsequent checks. Fail again... distressed (max 2 hours strenuous activity per day). Fail again.... incapacitated (no voluntary physical activity) and in danger of starving to death within hours (losing 1d6 hit points per hour)!

Going without
Max 3 days without water until bad things happen!
Females can manage an extra day! Get that - something in the rules making it advantageous to be a female character.
Other modifiers depending on type of food if available (watermelon a good one to have), heat etc

After this time weakened, then as above to the worsening states, except 1d8 hit points loss per hour when incapacitated.

How much must one eat in a day?
Human, dwarf, half-elf, half-orc = 1-2 pounds of solid nourishment per day.
Elf 3/4 this much, halfling or gnome 1/2.

In game terms...

Standard rations = 200gp encumbrance. Assume 140gp is food, 60 is bulkiness. 140gp = 14 pounds. 2 pounds of standard rations must be eaten per day for a human, meaning standard rations last 1 week.

Iron rations encumbrance is 75gp. 5 gp is bulkiness, since the food is more concentrated and occupied less space)  therefore 70gp or 7 pounds remains. 1 pound of iron rations must be eaten per day for a human, meaning iron rations last 1 week.

Ok, I know the author Kim Mohan completely fudged this so that rations last one week. But it aint a bad fudge!

There is even a table on water requirements per day depending on activity and temperature; range 5-16 pints per day for a human.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

U is for Unusual Hazard: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

An unusual hazard, one best to avoid, is being struck by lightning.

I reproduce here what the WSG says about this unusual event. I found it quite amusing.

The exact chance of lightning hitting a character is left up to the Dungeon Master, but this list does offer relative rankings, using 1 to represent the smallest chance. In all cases except the last, this list assumes that the character has divested himself of armor and other large items of metal and has taken the best available opportunity to  protect himself.

1: Inside a solid, nonmetallic structure and not touching the structure itself. (If someone is sitting or leaning against the side of the structure, treat this as a relative chance of 10.)
5: Protected beneath or within a natural shelter that is not the highest point on nonfeatureless terrain, or a shelter that is expansive enough to absorb the force of the lightning (under a large rock overhang; beneath a thick grove of equally tall trees).
15: Partially protected on featureless terrain (lying in a ditch in the middle of a field, or at the bottom of a gently sloping hill).
30: Scantily protected beneath a large object in the middle of otherwise featureless terrain (standing or lying under a big tree in a field).
50: Unprotected on featureless terrain (standing, sitting or lying in the middle of a field).
100: Unprotected, and asking for it, on featureless terrain (standing fully armored in the middle of a field).

The damage that can be suffered from a lightning strike extends through a wide range of possibilities. A character who has taken no precautions to prevent injury will be killed on a 4 in 6 chance, and if he doesn’t die outright he will lose 40-90% of his maximum total hit points (which may still result in death if  the character was not at or near full hit points to begin with). A character who has taken the best precautions available to him and still gets hit will be killed on a 2 in 6 chance, and otherwise will lose 10-60% of his current hit points.

Monday, 23 April 2012

T is for Terrain Hierarchy: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

This may not sound like much but I think quite useful. Page9.

1. Seacoast
2. Swamp
3. Forest
4. Plains
5. Desert
6. Hills
7. Mountains

A hierarchy of terrain. If a territory has two or more different types of terrain consider it the higher terrain (1 highest, 7 lowest). The examples given are a sandy beach bordering an ocean is a seacoast not a desert. A low lying area with standing water with lots of trees is a swamp not a forest.

Common sense is advised but may help to guide which wandering monster table to use, which terrain movement modifier etc.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

S is for Starting from Scratch: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Towards the end of the WSG is a chapter called, Starting from Scratch, where Kim Mohan outlines how to create a world map.

I quite enjoyed the chapter actually.

He starts by discussing Realism vs Fantasy, with some appropriate advice for DMs and fantasy writers, to keep their 'fantasy' under control. Earth like human centric worlds allow role players and readers to step into the world quickly and easily.

Kim says, "When a fantastic feature of this sort is localized, it remains intriguing; when it’s used everywhere throughout the world, it loses its distinctiveness and becomes an obstacle instead of an oddity."

He outlines a step by step world / map creation

1. Settle on scale - 20-40 miles per hex recommended

2. Start at the bottom - where the coasts are

3. Now take it to the top - put in the mountains, locating the tallest peaks individually

4. Place it on the planet - where is the land you have drawn located in relation to the poles and equator?

5. Just add water - time fore rivers - flowing from mountains to the coast

6. What's for desert? - He gives explanation on why deserts on Earth are where they are.
"On Earth, most deserts are located in subtropical climate and the part of the temperate zone closer to the subtropical area (the southern half of the zone in the northern hemisphere, the northern half in the southern hemisphere). This is because of global wind patterns; the prevailing winds blow generally east to west around the equator, and usually in the opposite direction in the temperate regions. When they meet each other in the upper atmosphere over the area in between, the cool upper air descends. As the air gets lower, it gets warmer, and its ability to retain moisture increases; thus, the water vapor in the air remains suspended and is not released as precipitation."
 - this is D&D at its best educating as well as entertaining - the things I have learnt about the world and history through gaming.

7. May the forest be with you - showing that Star Wars was close to many gamers hearts(as it still is). Put in the forests.

8. None of the above - everything else is hills and plains

9. Large scale details - oasis in deserts, pass through mountains

10. Points of interest - volcanoes, wonders

Then one moves into politics, cities etc. Smaller scale, more detail.

Finally he ends with Winging it and this piece of advice, which is the end of the book just before the Appendix on weather, so really the last word, "As has been said many times within the AD&D game books, all the rules we can create still provide nothing more than a framework upon which your world and your adventures are built. In effect, we’ve given you the pieces to a puzzle that has an infinite number of different solutions. Now it’s up to you to put those pieces together."

Hard to disagree.

Friday, 20 April 2012

R is for Rockslides: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Rockslides, Avalanches and Mudslides

Is like being attacked 4 times / round for 1d4+1 rounds by a 5 HD creature doing 1d4 damage each hit. Dex check to half damage (minimum 1 damage).
I like the concept of the rockslide being like an attack.
If more than 20HP are taken, you are swept off your feet and take abrasion and impact damage (? how much - see complicated tables on falling)

If climbing, a shield will deflect an successful attack 75% of the time, assuming the shield can be readied. 1 round to ready shield if strapped to back. 1/2 round (?? 5 segments then?) if shield carried on one's belt.

Vertically falling rocks onto a climber - each character attacked by 0-3 rocks per round for 1-2 rounds at 7HD, doing 1-6 damage, if damage roll is 5 or 6, blow to the head, 2 blows = unconscious.

Anyone caught in an avalanche will take 2d10 to 3d20 hit points damage.

So effectively every normal man dies, Which is an interesting problem with our abstracted hit points when we try and give challenge for high level play, we would kill off any other human / demi-human in the way.

Ah, but if you curl into a ball, you can half the damage.

Pass a bend bars or be swept away.

Whatever the case find yourself buried in 2d3 feet of snow (4d3 if bottom of the slope). Make a constitution check to see if conscious. If conscious dig out at 1' / round. If curled and passed bend bars, you will know which way to dig, else pass wisdom check, or dig in the wrong direction!

Hold breath may be important here. 1/6 constitution in rounds (rounded up), since no chance to take a deep breath - normal deep breath hold = 1/3 constitution, half that if no deep breath.
Luckily 1d6+4 round of air, in an air pocket, will be available to breathe on first.

Chance of finding a buried companion - base 10% plus intelligence score + 25% if companion trying to dig out. Roll once for each searcher and each companion missing. Check every round.

Dig the com anion out at 2' / round or 3' / round if using an implement. Each extra character digging add +1' / round.

Will be carried down with the mud unless can grasp something solid and not moving.
Abrasion damage depending on how far fell.
See yesterdays post for swimming in mud.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Q is for Quicksand: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

What's a wilderness without quicksand?

Varieties can be mud, and the dreaded (and worse) sand and water version.

But these rules, rather than having the movie 'sucking' quicksand of rapid death, have the more realistic, but more boring, option of allowing the victim to tread water in the mud/sand.

Sorry that's all for this post - real life really intervening on my AtoZ challenge - but not failed yet! Come on Sunday rest day.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

P is for Precipitation: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Sort of like the weather outside. Rain rain go away...

The WSG index has:

collecting - maths formula for volume in a cylinder, melted snow to water ratio is 10:1,

determination - coming soon W is for weather

effects on combat - will make the effects for gusts and gales worse

extraordinary - rain that goes on and on

extreme - Hail, Sleet, Lightning, Snow (interesting just descriptions and timings for how long the precipitation will last - not really linked to mechanical effects)

portable shelters - covered in C is Camping and Comforts, with the moisture resistance for certain types of tents and shelters.

(quick post today)

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

O is for Oceans: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Swimming (drowning) rules.

"Only characters with proficiency in swimming" can swim.

Rules are provided for encumbrance on swimming and its effect on endurance, speed, diving and surfacing.

Endurance (turns of swimming) = experience level + constitution score
Speed = base (40 feet / round humans, demihumans 30') modified by strength, current, above or below the surface.

Diving and surfacing base = 20' per round.

Other rules
Treading water (turns) = double endurance

No proficiency in swimming = tread water for strength score in rounds.

Breath holding - did this one in A (2011) Dungeoneers Survival Guide
1/3 Constitution in rounds

Not too bad.

Shipping (more boating) rules follow with capsizing rules depending on boat size and wind, portaging, movement modifications for large move (miles / day) and small move (feet / round) covering normal sail, max sail, normal oar and max oar.

Monday, 16 April 2012

N is for Non-weapon Proficiencies: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

"WSG gets proficiency checks right, correcting a major DSG error". So said Carl Sargent in White Dwarf 85.

It is an interesting point. I wasn't overwhelmed by the DSG non-weapon proficiencies.

But I have to confess I am struggling to find the difference, or at least see why the WSG is better than the DSG.

The DSG states "Under normal conditions, there is no chance of failure involved when characters attempt to use most nonweapon proficiencies... A Proficiency Check for use of a proficiency is necessary in two cases: to determine if the specific task is performed within a given set of limitations [time pressure, inadequate resources], or to gauge the quality of a piece of work when such an evaluation is desired."

This sounds pretty good to me.

Compared to WSG "Unlike a weapon proficiency, the possession of a nonweapon proficiency does not always mean that the character can realise the benefits of having a certain skill"

Mechanism in WSG is: d20 roll against proficiency using one of the six ability scores as the base, 19-20 automatic fail (exceptions exist).

Wilderness Proficiencies on offer (some of the 25 anyway):
Alertness - surprise only on 1, first make prof check against wisdom at +1 penalty
Animal Handling, Lore
Direction sense
Fire building
Healing - same as DSG able to give 1d3 hit points back to wounded character if character tended within 1 round, increase healing per day if healer in party, and if can tend character in same round as poisoned +2 to save. Additionally in WSG, healer can treat diseases.
Plant Lore
Riding, airborne - gain some flying feats to impress the ladies with
Riding, land-based - as above, but on the ground - vault into a saddle, urge mount to jump obstacles, spur mount onto greater speeds, leap from the back of mount and make a melee attack at +4
Running - sprinting or distance options
Survival in cold and heat, desert
Tracking at half chance as ranger
Weather sense

So any idea what was right and what was wrong in the Survival Guides, when it came to proficiencies?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

M is for Mounted Combat: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Mounted Combat

Pages 47-48 deals with flying mounts, with a number of tables giving mount, encumbrance limits for normal load and max load, with move rate, manoeuvrability class with a rider or with a load and stamina. And rules for chance of falling from the flying mount. Base chance of 0% sounds good, until +1% per wind mph, +2% per Dex or Str less than 12 (plus many others); and all checked every 3 turns. I vote for the fully strapped in -200% chance of falling.

I would have liked to have seen a check required if damage taken and at +1% chance of falling for every hit point damage to mount or character.

Page 86
Land Melee combat from a mount
+1 to hit unmounted opponent if same size
0 modifier if unmounted opponent larger size
-1 to hit unmounted opponent if smaller size

Unmounted attacking mounted, -1 attack. If 'to hit' is exactly what is needed to hit, mount hit instead. (Interesting, realistic?)

Swooping flying attack is made at +2.

Missile combat from a mount
Requires riding proficiency for that mount.
- 1 attack if mount moving less than half full movement rate, -3 more than half full movement rate, -5 more than 3/4 full movement rate; in addition to any penalty for range and visibility.

Falling from a mount (example if mount killed) rider takes 1d3 damage, and the rest of that round and the next, is used getting their bearings.

Jousting - a natural 20 will dismount opponent, (riding proficiency to save).
Similar chance an unmounted opponent dismounting a mounted, if weapon 5-9 feet in length. Natural 16-20 and weapon greater than 10' will dismount opponent.

Pulling an opponent from their mount, attack roll at -4. Again riding proficiency check to avoid dismount.

See the next post for the dreaded N is for Non-weapon proficiencies.

Friday, 13 April 2012

L is for Light: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Light and vision, important for any adventurer, and well covered in the WSG.

Page 40
Overland movement in reduced visibility.

Clear moonlight, 2/3
Darkness snow, 1/4

Pages 72-75 a whole section on Vision and Visibility
Table 41: Outdoor Range of Normal Vision

Clear daylight 500 yards to make out a man sized creature. Double for L, half for S.
Twilight 300 yards, moonlight 50 yards, darkness 25yards.

And rules for overcast; moderate fog; heavy fog, rain or snow; heavy snow with wind; blowing sand/dust.

While perhaps more options than needed, the 500 yards for M size figure - actually very helpful.

Rules for Infravision (page 73-74) quite good descriptions, and would have been helpful as a DM, who always struggled with infravision.


Some interesting rules about torches being effected by wind velocity.
Wind 11-25 mph, illumination 30' instead of 40' and will burn out in 4 turns as opposed to 6.
It takes 1 round to light a torch, plus 1 round for every 10mph wind velocity.
A lighted torch can be seen 200 yards away in moonlight and darkness.

Page 86
Fighting in poor visibility
eg moonlight -1 attack, and -1 all saving throws related to dodging or evasion

In darkness, if the modified attack roll is 0 or less = will have struck another creature or object (must save vs crushing blow).

Thursday, 12 April 2012

K is for Kim (the author): Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

So Kim, you wrote a Silver Age D&D publication?

A definition from Grognardia:
Silver Age (1984-1989): The Silver Age is a transitional age that marries a sophisticated (some might say "decadent") interpretation of Gygaxian naturalism with a growing concern for "dramatic" coherence. The Silver Age is one of "fantastic realism" and the construction of believable worlds and stories is its great concern. It's also the age where the Great Wyrm begins to eat its own tail, being influenced not just by epic fantasy generally but more specifically by second or third order epic fantasies that were themselves influenced by D&D. The Silver Age is when the mass marketing of the game begun in the late Golden Age reaches its fullest flower.

Unfortunately for me, the WSG is just too unorganised and not inspirational enough, to work as anything more than a guide for the sake of a guide. Rules for rules sake. It is a Silver Age publication, for these reasons, and fails for the same reason.

I have been asking myself if I would have felt any different in 1986. I think the answer is no - but that is a difficult one.

Now unorganised may feel harsh when the contents are very clearly set out, but the rules are spread throughout the entire guide. So land-based mounts are: characteristics 90-91, combat 16,86, fatigue 88, lack of food 52, movement 32-33, reactions 92.

This might sound like the Dungeon Master's Guide, but it had an inspirational charm, that surpassed it's design flaws.

I'm not sure what publishing pressure Kim was under, but the WSG comes up short, and much shorter than the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. The DSG made me want to take my players spelunking.

Could I have done better?
I am sure I could not. For proof, see my dormant Old School Adventure Guide - yep empty.

What would I have liked to have seen then and what would I like to see now.

I think if the book had been broken into terrains, it would have been stronger, far more useful and have become inspirational.

e.g. Arctic - with rules for cold, a new equipment list (sleds, warm clothes, eye protection, new spells, and monster section (including huskies, polar bears etc).

And so on for desert, forest, plains, mountains

You see as DM, the setting can often fire the imagination. Rules don't do it alone, and I like rules. Wilderness is just too broad a terrain type!

I might want to take my players to Hoth - if so I want rules that deal with this easily accessible, not rules on cold spread throughout the entire guide. After reading these imagined arctic rules, perhaps I may have been inspired to take take my players to Hoth, even if it had never occurred to me before.

Or Tatooine, or up the mountains. Or in the open plains, where horse lords rule.

I also think these guides would have been more effective if sold with a DM screen - all relevant tables must be on the DM screen. How much can one remember otherwise?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

J is for Jumping: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Anyone who has followed my blog over the last year will know that jumping rules are a bit of an obsession with me.

It all began on the 12th April 2011, J is for Jumping, in Digging for Gems in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide.

And continued here and here and here.

So I was pleased to see that the WSG, has jumping rules (page 39), which are directly reproduced from the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, showing some degree of cohesion. High Jumping rules are a new addition.

The rules are based on level and describe standing broad jump, running broad jump, and high jump (which wasn't in the DSG).

I reproduce here for discussion purposes.

While level based jumping rules work in a table, provided they can be easily accessed by the DM, the rules still feel rather clunky.

And unrealistic.

Level 1-6 and can't jump a 10' gap, yet under 13 girl record is 16'. Male world record 29'.
Ideally therefore a range of 16-29 feet, for running broad jump.

Hence my obsession.

So my current stab is:

Running broad jump in feet = 2 times movement rate (if using inch scale).
0 Level = -1d6 feet
1st level and above = dexterity check to avoid -1d6 feet
eg Lvl 2 character with move 12" = running broad jump in feet = 24', roll dexterity check, if fails subtract 1d6 x1' from 24'.

I toy with exploding dice, so that if 6 is rolled, roll another d6 and subtract the total. Evil.
I allow higher strength to increase encumbrance limit, which keeps movement rate high, and allows strength to effect jump distance.
One could allow increases in distance with level if non-weapon proficiencies are used, or simply 1' for every 3 levels.

Standing broad jump in feet = half times movement rate (inch scale).
0 Level = -1d2 feet
1st level and above = dexterity check to avoid -1d2 feet
eg Lvl 2 character with move 12" = standing broad jump in feet = 6', roll dexterity check, if fails subtract 1d2 x1' from 6'.

Thoughts on jumping rules???

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

I is for Illustrations: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

With the pending publication of the Dungeon Masters Guide, I have started wondering about what constitutes fair usage, with respect to posting images from the D&D tomes.

I know there is a lot already available on the internet, and last year when I AtoZ'd the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, the images were already easily accessible from Google Images.

This hasn't been the case for the Wilderness Survival Guide, perhaps because it was less popular. In fact, I have yet to find one internal illustration on the internet.

This is a surprise as artists are: Jeff Easley cover art always a winner. Also features illustrations from Mark Nelson,Jim Holloway, more Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore and Valerie Valusek.

So, I'm not going to give you any images. I know, boo hoo.

I will say that I found the interior art in the WSG satisfying for two reasons.

Firstly, the illustrations closely follow the text. This is not always usual in D&D, but for example in the WSG, when discussing rules for jumping, there is an image of someone jumping. I like that.

Secondly, there is a lot of humour.
My favourite is the campfire illustration. Where the party are all sitting around an unlit campfire, while the magic user is preparing to cast a spell to light the fire. Some are looking hopeful, some clearly think the magic user has no chance, and the magic user himself looks less than sure he can.

A close second is the fighter trying to pull his stubborn mule forward.

Anyone got a copy of the WSG, and have a favourite illustration, or knows why so few images from the WSG are on the internet?

Monday, 9 April 2012

H is for Health (First-Aid): Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Page 69-71 WSG.

First-aid is always close to a player's heart. Clerics, walking healers, in the worst games, aren't always available, or willing, or enough.

It's natural then that in the wilderness players might seek more natural healing options - like plants and herbs.

Table 40: Availability of Medicinal Plants
So say you sub-arctic, autumn and in the hills - there is a 25% chance there are some useful plants in the area, and a 20% chance the character will find the plant in one turn of searching.

Here's the rub, if the player rolls 1-10 a useful plant is located. 11-20 - a false plant is located which the player thinks is useful.

Maybe that plant lore proficiency outlined earlier in the WSG, may be worth taking. (Keep with me until N = non-weapon proficiencies)

Which plant - see appendix J of the Dungeon Masters guide. What a fabulous table the DM guide is - inspirational.

A warning is given not to allow players to become a walking storehouse of medicine (else what is the role for clerics?)

This section is ok, but the two number rolling seems a bit much (the 25 then the 20). Either the player finds something or not. Why two numbers? The example given in the text even suggests that the DM rolls the first number, and if no useful plants are in the vicinity, he tells the players there is no use looking for more.

The next section deals with Injuries and Treatment for broken bones, minor burns and major wounds.

Broken burns - until splinted, will not be able to regain any hit points lost due to the injury - whatever that means in an abstract system of hit points? Using an injured extremity leads to an extra 1d6 damage.

If minor burns are not dressed, -1 penalty to attack and saving throw.

Major Wound - if hit by an edged weapon and unmodified damage role is 6 or higher, 25% chance weapon has struck an artery, causing severe bleeding. Lose an additional d3+1 hit points per round.

All a bit much I think. I like this however...

Minor Wound - It is assumed all characters treat their wounds. "A character who totally disregards his injuries by not even bothering to have them covered should be penalised by having a greater chance of contracting a disease due to infection."

To this end one character should be carrying bandages in their backpack. And perhaps equipment for splints and even a STRETCHER. Now this is interesting. The WSG suggests carrying the poles for a stretcher, but really, they are likely to be too unwieldy. I did consider whether 10' poles might do, but I always imaging them as fairly thin, better for poking ahead, than carrying weight.

But one could pack the heavy duty cloth with sewn holes for any makeshift poles one might find in the wilderness.

Good for the wounded and the dead.

Two comrades can carry an injured character on a stretcher, as long as each of them is able to support half of the character's weight without being too encumbered to move.

Stretcher rules and need for bandages - I'd add them to a campaign.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

G is for Gusts and Gales: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Wow, there is a lot in the WSG about wind.

Table 5: Wind Velocity Effects

eg Wind velocity 21-30 Missile combat will be at -1 point blank, -2 short range, -3 medium range and impossible long range; -1 melee combat, move into the wind 3/4 normal.

Wind velocity is in miles per hour.
I am yet to find a table that randomly assigns wind velocity - found it in the weather appendix page 109. Stay with me until W - that's the big one for the WSG.

But if one wanted to have a wind increasing through the stages, during combat for example, this could be interesting worsening effects until 80+ miles per hour.

Then we have passed from gales into worse.

A gale is winds 46-79 miles per hour. The DM may require, in severe gales, to make a Str check every round / turn (depending on severity) to see if the character is knocked off their feet and suffers 1d3 damage.

Cyclones and Hurricanes 
Instructions are given for how a character can hollow out a hole in the ground and lie face down in it. A Str check as above may be required if no protection from the wind is possible. Standing up requires strength checks every round at +2 penalty.

Table 6 gives rules for Structural damage of the winds intensity, as given by a rating of light, normal, heavy against wood, earth, sort stone and hard rock. 50% chance every 3 turns structure takes that damage. This is linked to page 110 DMG where many constructions are listed with their Defensive Point Value. I like this, using and building on, what is already there in the core AD&D knowledge base.

A cyclone or hurricane usually starts as light and moves over many hours into normal and then some will even move onto heavy (200 miles per hour). So that Str check every turn would soon kill most normal men and characters, if they are foolish enough to be out in the storm.

Tornados, as my relatives in Texas this week can attest, are forces of nature best avoided. The WSG suggests that a tornado, owing to their small area of effect, are usually quite easy for a group of players to avoid.

If they do not - 4d20 damage by debris battering damage, lifted 1d6 x 10 feet off the ground and carried along for 1d6 x 100 yards and then dropped... remembering the Falling Post yesterday, where anything over 51 feet fall is 20d6 and even 41-50 feet is 15d6!

Despite tornadoes being easy to avoid, they surprise on a 1 on a d6, 1-2 at night.

Tornados have their own seperate table for damage to buildings. DM discretion if tornado hits building.

Roll 1d6, refer to building type
Either '-' = no damage
'D' = Damaged, lose half defensive point value, and occupants take 3d6 damage.
'X' = Destroyed, 3d10 damage to each occupant, 1in10 chance that single character determined randomly, swept up with tornado with damage as above.

All interesting little facts, to make wind, a monster and chief protagonist in an encounter.

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.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

E is for Encumbrance: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

In the Wikipedia review of the WSG they state 'Carl Sargent reviewed Wilderness Survival Guide for White Dwarf No. 85, stating that a good wilderness adventure rulebook is hard to write, because of the lack of sharp discontinuities as opposed to dungeon adventures, although "Mohan has pulled it off brilliantly." Sargent called the weather system "splendid", and felt that the rules on encumbrance and movement rates "make sense and work easily".'

I'm interested today in the last point, 'encumbrance and movement rates "make sense and work easily".'

This section is long Pages 30-49, and I am a fan of encumbrance. I'm only tackling the first 4 pages.

So firstly Strength score gives encumbrance allowance in gold pieces, which ends up being Light, Moderate, Heavy or Severe encumbrance. This can be compared in the next table to terrain type of Normal, rugged or very rugged, which leads to NOT a modifier on movement, but a table with standard 1/2 day move in miles per day,and an accelerated movement, all based on a 12" movement rate, which may need to be modified, if going faster or slower than 12". No, I am not going to explain that again.

Interestingly 16 hours is the most one can travel without stopping to eat and rest else movement beyond is reduced to 1/3 normal max.

Animals have their own table. With text explaining rules for fatigue beyond 12 hours of travel per day.

Yaks, as my favourite example, have 2250 gp normal load, 3500 gp max load and travel 12/6 normal terrain, 9/6 rugged, 6/3 very rugged; where the number to the left is normal load or less in inches.

So one table, character on foot, is in miles per half day with normal and accelerated movement.

The next animal table is in inches for movement rate.

The next table is land based vehicles, carts, chariots and wagons - based in miles per 1/2 day.

Well that makes sense and works easily. 

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

D is for Dressing: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Page 18 and 19 of the WSG - Dressing for the Weather

Effective temperature = temperature around the character

Personal temperature = temperature of the player, which may vary from the player standing right beside (imagine a desert - one character in plate mail, one in a robe; effective temperature is identical for both, personal temperature may be very different).

Maybe that's why sword and sorcery female warriors wear skimpy armor?

Clothing (attire) can be designed for very cold, cold, moderate and hot effective temperatures. The types of armor also have different effects on personal temperature depending on the effective temperature.

For example using Table 3: Effects of Clothing and Armor on Personal Temperature

Loin cloth in the hot and humid jungle  +0 addition to effective temperature to calculate personal temperature.

Plate mail in the hot and humid  jungle, +30 Fahrenheit.

Though the table only deals with temperature, not humidity effects - believe me it is complex enough. Exertion adds heat.

A player may find themselves in too much or too little clothing, leading to being unprotected (I can't believe I am writing this).

Provided the player's personal temperature is between 21 - 79 F, all is good. Fall outside that boundary and Str, Dex, Con, Land movement and attack rolls can be modified. Not sure what this has to do with protected and unprotected as is stated on page 19, that being protected reduces chance of suffering damage as a direct result of exposure to temperature.

Ah, that's many tables forward in Table 9, page 26, damage from heat and cold.

Ok in the jungle in plate mail, and it's 100F, personal temp +30 = 130. Fighting for 6 turns = +5 F = 135F total. That's hot.
I am Personal temp > 120F therefore Str -2 no exertion, -4 exertion; Dex -1/-3, Con -4/-5; Land move 1/2, Attack -4.

I am wearing metal armor in an effective temperature > 80F = UNPROTECTED.

DM must make a Con check at +6 every 3 turns (assume on modified con), or I suffer 1-6 damage (max 10% current HP)! 10% rule must be else normal men would die like flies in heat and cold - hey isn't that what happened to Napoleon's army?

If I am higher level I can modify the Con check, e.g. at 4th level by -1.

These lost hit points may kill me but if I survive, I can regain these HP at a rate on 1 per hour; if I can get my temp into a tolerable range.

Wow - is this clunky or what.

For everyday play - no way.

But if venturing to Tatooine or Hoth - yes these tables might be a resource the DM could avail themselves PRIOR TO GAMEPLAY.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

C is for Camping and Comfort: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Camping, unless you are in a totally city based campaign, all characters have to do it. Yet mostly it is assumed.

Alexis blogged about Breaking Camp - The Best Part of the Day back in May 2011.

The WSG gives rules (percentage chance) for finding natural shelter based on terrain and season.

So Spring in the hills, 60%; the plains in Autumn, 30%.

It's a simple enough table, which could fit onto a DM screen. Perhaps DMs need different screens for wilderness than dungeon. Now that's a thought. I just received my Labyrinth Lord screen, maybe I need a different one for the wilderness. A city one with level advancement? I'm getting sidetracked.... camping.

Alexis in his post, made comment to the time it takes to break camp, and the weight of tents.

Well in WSG, this need for realism is catered for in Table 36: Portable Shelter Characteristics.

A good (4 poles - ridgepole, cross-brace, and 2 side poles; cord and rope cut to length, overlapped pieces of weather proof material so the seams are covered plus with reinforced holes) medium tent (fits two human sized charcaters or twice as many in close quarters), encumbrance 800 cn, will set you back 120 gold, take 1d3+2 turns to set up by one person, has heavy moisture resistance, can tolerate winds up to 40mph and has a life span of 120 (1 point lost for every 3 times set up, 1 point lost if exposed to wind greater than given, 2 points lost if precipitation equal to given, 4 points if precipitation greater).

Compare that to a poor tent, which is really just a cloth, and single pole, and bring your own rope. The equivalent medium variety has a life span of 40, wind resistance of 20mph and only has a light moisture resistance.

In a long trek these factors may make a difference. Isle of Dread?

Finally I want to mention Rest and Comfort, particularly lack of sleep. A character can miss one nights sleep, and be fine the next day, but if they don't get a minimum of 5 hours the next night, trouble sets in. 5 hours is the magic minimum number to remember.

Table 37: Effects of Lack of Sleep (starting from the second night and persisting until 5 hours sleep is had)
4-5 hours sleep = Dex check at +1
2-3 hours sleep  = Dex check +3, Str check +2, Wis check +1, -1 to hit, Climbing -10%, Movement -25%.

Again I think tables like these have to be accessible to be of use, and a Wilderness DM screen, seems the obvious answer. It should have come with the book. That would have been cool and made the guide instantly useable.

Monday, 2 April 2012

B is for Beasts of Burden: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

There is an interesting little section (pages 90-94) entitled 'Mounts and Beasts of Burden'.

Since overground wilderness travel almost necessitates mounts, and I have recently written my own house rules on morale for mounts, I was immediately drawn to this section.

Do you know you could persuade (magic or training) gorillas to act as guards or pack animals? How cool is that? Or that sheep, as herd animals, can have small loads attached to their backs, 'with the result that a small herd of two dozen has a greater carrying capacity than many larger animals have.'

I can just see the looks on the other party members faces when Harold the Halfling, and his herd of sheep, manage to transport out of the dungeon more gold than any one else!

Brown bears as a pack animal - capable of traversing any kind of terrain except for swamp and desert.

And wouldn't you want to know about Yak's?

These pages of animal tit bits, fire my imagination. And that is WSG working well for me.

Some of the rules are likewise very helpful.

Camels - 'can go for up to two weeks without eating and drinking' although in the 2nd week carrying capacity is reduced by 50%. Fair enough - simple and memorable.

Horses lame on a 2% chance per day. Roll of 01 - 12hrs lamed. Roll of 02 = permanently lamed.

I like these rules.

I don't like the rules and Table 42: Reactions of animals.

For example our Yak reacts to odor 6/10/12. Other options are fire, weather, noise and OTHER.
When a yak encounters an unpleasant odor (dwarf perhaps) the DM rolls a d12. A result equal to or greater than the left most number means the yak has noticed the condition (in this case odor) before the characters.
A result equal to or greater than the middle number means the yak becomes agitated, and refuses to move. A result equal to or greater than the right most number means the yak is panicked, and will try and flee for 2d3 turns.

And the rules cover all of the above animals I have mentioned, plus more, all with those x/y/z numbers.

There is a game mechanic in D&D already for reaction rolls - it's called a morale check - I would rather a modification to that rule, than a brand new one.

In fact I would rather a mini -monster manual of mounts - that would be something very worthwhile to a DM. What are the stats for a yak?

Another missed opportunity in this section is the small paragraph on 'animals as individuals' where the suggestion is given 'to treat each mount and pack animal as a unique sort of non-player character'. When purchased a trait may be explained by the seller, or the characters may have to learn from bitter experience. Only one example is given, a horse that is known to be, 'very sure-footed, but hates to get his feet wet.' - the animal being less susceptible to going lame but will not willingly enter a swamp or ford a river.

One can quickly see that the role playing opportunities are immense. We are left tantalising close to something really enhancing for a game (not a hack and slash game granted, but even then this suggestion would bring humour and fun for the DM). Yet we get nothing more. A missed opportunity.

So below is my 1d12 of animal traits, hereby declared as in accordance to the Open Game Licence.

1.Likes carrots (or another root vegetable), increased carrying capacity by 25% if offered this vegetable
2. Weak willed, -2 morale
3. Half wild, bucks if morale fails.
4. Pheromone positive, when in heat (or aware of female in heat), hold onto your hats
5. Hates loud noises, morale check or flees
6. Deaf, all commands must be by touch
7. Visually impaired, chance of laiming 5%
8. Strong as an ox, may not look like much but carrying capacity increased by 50%
9. Grudge holder - randomly hates one member of the party and will bite, kick or buck that individual at any opportunity
10. Loyal steed, +1 morale
11. Sprinter, 25% faster movement for the first hour.
12. Likes a cuddle and kiss.

Begging for a d30 table me thinks...

Sunday, 1 April 2012

A is for Author, Artists and Aims: Hitting the Trail with the Wilderness Survival Guide

Last year in the AtoZ challenge I covered The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide. But it was the Wilderness Survival Guide I always coveted as a young and enthusiastic, but financially constrained, player. All those weather systems, surely that's what my game needed, to awesome it up?

Adulthood and eBay paved the way for eventually this Guide finding its way into my collection, where it has sat on a shelf, unread and gathering dust.

This years AtoZ  once again represents my attempt at research into a 25 year old book and the silver age of D&D. What worked, what didn't. But first and foremost my aim is to read the thing! and if I can share any handy survival hints from the trail, that will enliven any campaign, so much the better.

Published: 1986
Author: Kim Mohan
Seems to have joined TSR in 1979, lots of editorial experience in Dragon Magazine and then onto Amazing Stories. In the opening preface gave thanks to Frank Mentzer, Zeb Cook. In the Special Appreciation he refers to Douglas Niles who wrote 'The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide' as writing a book 'that was a very tough act to follow.' To EGG he said, 'who planted and nurtured the tree from which this branch has grown' which is one twig short of a love in, but I get the gist. It was the 80s, Duran Duran, Toni Basil and Lional Richie.

Artists: Jeff Easley cover art always a winner. Also features illustrations from Mark Nelson, Jim Holloway, more Jeff Easley, Larry Elmore and Valerie Valusek.

I'm not sure what the cover monster is? Crazy ass giant? But at least there is a river in the background showing something wildernessy - and really a nice link with the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide, which only now one year later - do I notice the stalactites. I thought, stupidly, it was also on a mountain, which I never understood.

Aims: The front cover says, "Topics covered include the effects of the wilderness on characters, how to design a campaign map, a system for weather, and more!" Kim Mohan says on page 5, "This book is an attempt to add structure and detail to that part of AD&D game rules concerned with the proper administration of outdoor wilderness adventures in the campaign."

Umm, administration and adventure in the same sentence... hardly allows for gonzo.

Well hit the trail with me over the coming month and let us see what we shall see.