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...


  1. Oh, good. There ARE some A-Z gamers out there this year. I didn't see many on the blogrolls yesterday....

    Keep it up...we're 1/13th the way there!

  2. Thanks Boric, there are a few of us.

  3. Good post - I need to dig out the WSG again.

  4. Stick with me - there are some survival hints in the WSG that are worth using and preserving. The Guides cry out for a heavily modified clone. It's what the Old School Adventure guide (see link to the right) was meant to grow into... one day...