Saturday, 2 April 2011

B is for Belays: Digging for Gems in the Dungeoneer's Survival Guide

Belays and Roping Together
DSG Page 18
The character performing the belay holds the other end of the rope, but does not tie it to himself. Instead, he pays out the rope slowly as the other character moves farther away from him. Characters can attempt to insure greater group security by roping together - tying the characters to a rope with 20 or 30 feet of slack between them. 

What sensible character wouldn't rope themselves together when crossing a chasm. How does the DM know if one member falls? How should the DM decide if the other characters, roped to the falling character, also fall? The Dungeoneer's Survival Guide (DSG) gives you the answer to this and other questions!

But first have a good look at the example illustrated above. You'll need it to make sense of the below...

It begins with a Climbing Check.
Thieves use their climb walls percentage, all other characters have a base Climbing Rating of 40%. 
Failure of the climbing check means the character has fallen.
This is modified by Character Race and the Climbing Surface.
Character Race
Dwarf   -5%
Gnome -10%
Halfling  -5%
Half-orc +5%
Climbing Surface
Tree with branches  +40%
Sloping Wall              +25% (not quite a vertical wall, yet too sloped to allow normal walking; if a character   falls while on a sloping wall surface, he can make a saving throw vs petrification; if the save is successful, he takes no damage from the fall. Even if the save is unsuccessful, the fall only inflicts half of the normal damage.)
Pole                           +20%
Rope and Wall        +40% (any situations where a character can climb up a rope and brace his feet against a wall or some other vertical surface as he climbs)
Slightly slippery     Chance of falling is twice normal 
Slippery (eg slime) Chance of slipping is ten times his normal chance (Thus the 3rd level thief cannot even attempt the climb)

Say what? AD&D - what the heck are you talking about? Why give us an explanatory picture by Doug Chaffee with text, a fairly unique combination in the TSR rulebooks, but not talk directly to this example?
What percentage are you saying the Climbing Check should be for the non-thief in the 'Example of a Party Roped Together'? I assume it is 40% + racial modifiers. That's steep.

So using the example as given, and with the rules above and others in the DSG, I'll try and make sense of it all.
Character 1, looks like a halfling in metal armour (non-thief), Climbing Check = 40% -5% = 35%. HE FALLS!
Character 2, looks like an elf, is performing the belay. He must roll a Climbing Check, at 40%, in order to arrest the fall of character 1. If the roll is unsuccessful the rope runs through the hands of the belayer too quickly, and the fall proceeds normally.
[Would this mean the belayer has one or two chances with 100 feet of rope? No idea.]
Let's assume Character 2, the elf, passes his roll, grabs the rope tightly and braces himself to catch the shock of the halfling's weight. Damn that second breakfast! Cue, sigh of relief from the halfling. Except if the elf occupies a dangerous or narrow spot, he must make a second Climbing Check or fall himself. Looks like dangerous and narrow - he rolls, he fails - AND HE FALLS.
Except wait, is he merely holding the rope as as a good belayer should, or is it tied to his waist as well? No idea, let's just say he miraculously keeps hold of the rope anyway. (Please no ability score roll, to see if he keeps hold of the rope, let's just let him succeed - how many rolls do you want to make?) 
Now Character 3 must attempt to halt the fall of two of his comrades. Except for every additional falling comrade after the first 10% must be deducted from the Climbing Check.
Character 3, the human Cleric, see that mace at his side, must roll 30%. Relief he succeeds. EVERYONE LIVES.

But what, as the example gives, it was Character 4, the dwarf who fell (Climbing Roll 35% Base - race adjustment). Now both Character 3, the cleric and Character 5, the thief must roll to see if they arrest the fall. Both must succeed to arrest the fall, since the process is continued until a successful Climbing Check is made to each side of the falling characters, or until the entire party falls! 
Character 3 fails and falls as well. 
Character 5, the thief, looks like he is on the edge of steep wall. Let's make it a slightly slippery wall and make him 5th level. Thief climb walls = 90%, slightly slippery = double the chance of falling (10% times 2). So he needs to roll 80% or less not to fall.
He succeeds but since Character 3 failed now both Character 4 and 3 are falling so Character 5 the thief and Character 2 the elf must roll, but since there is an additional person falling all rolls are at -10%. The thief succeeds, as does Character 2. Except as we said before the character is belaying, not roped to the party, and he is on dangerous and narrow ground and must roll agin. 
He falls. NOW THREE ARE FALLING! [This dangerous and narrow ground is very confusing as it appears to only apply to belays, not parties roped together - oh well; if one fails one's 1st climbing check in a belay the only person to die is the one falling as opposed to failure in roping together when everyone can die]
Character 1 is lifted up out of his hole and he and the thief roll to save the party at -20%. The thief succeeds but the halfling fails! NOW EVERYONE EXCEPT THE THIEF IS FALLING. Certainly emphasises the importance of having a thief in the line.
The thief must now arrest the fall of all the party! That's a roll at -30%. 
HE SUCCEEDS - he braces, but he is belaying and certainly is on dangerous and narrow ground, he must roll again - HE FAILS - THEY ALL FALLLLLLL!

but wait...

Isn't that a spike in the wall near his right hand?
A spike can anchor the character. The spike can catch all the falling characters. However the spike has a 10% chance per supported character of pulling loose. That's 50%. A 52 is rolled.
TPK - damn.

Another interesting tidbit is the rates of climbing Table.
Characters with heavy gear or very heavy gear move at 1/2 the movement rates given.

 What gems can we take?
1. Non thief characters have a base chance of climbing success of 40%, which can be modified by race and climbing surface if desired. A complicated table can be used to give movement rates for climbing (if desired). 
2. If ropes are involved they can be of belaying (not tied) or roped together variety.
3. If a character is falling with a rope held by characters on either side of him or her, BOTH supporting characters must succeed to arrest the fall.
3. For every additional character falling -10% is deducted from the chance of success for a Climbing Check.
4. For belays, failure means the character's fall is not halted, but the belayer is not affected (well not physically, perhaps emotionally...) Success means the fall is arrested, unless the belaying character is on dangerous or narrow ground, in which case a 2nd Climbing Check must be made, failure means the belaying character has fallen as well.
5. For parties roped together, no 2nd Climbing Check is required. Success means the fall is arrested, failure means the character has fallen as well.
6. Climbing checks continue until each character on either side of a falling character succeeds, the entire party falls or if only one end of the rope line/belay has fallen, a single character can arrest the fall.
7. Spikes can arrest the fall of an entire party, but have a chance of pulling loose at 10% per character the spike is trying to support.

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