Monday, May 30, 2011

Grueling Expeditions

Currently in Piecemeal, when a party travels across the wilderness it takes its toll on them. When the party reaches their destination they are ramshackle and at sub-par effectiveness, often requiring several weeks to recuperate from a similar amount of time in the wilds. But no matter how grueling the terrain they will not (barring exceedingly poor luck) wind up dead just from travel. Damage from travel is primarily thematic. They are grizzled, unwashed, with sprained ankles and the flu. They don't lose a foot to frostbite then fall down a crevasse to their death.

I am unsure if this is good or not, as foreboding terrain can be an adventure element in and off itself. The best sources of XP for Piecemeal are travelling and exploring new locations after all.

To fit with the overall mechanic structure I am considering a two roll system, the first to see if they fail their health check and lose a body point (As normal), the second a die roll to see how many body points they lose.

The problem I see with this is it doesn't really create a 2-axis system that I can think of. You won't have an environment that is "pleasant and idyllic" (say +5 to health check) but also on a major failure deals 1d20 body points in damage, nor an inhospitable hellhole with a -20 penalty to health checks that only deal 1 body point in damage.

The idea I am mulling around to that would be that the penalty only applies if one moves about in the area. If one sets up camp and is more or less stationary then perhaps that would be a solid chance to heal, without the check having a hideous penalty. Still, it seems off.

The next thought was some sort of "knock on effect" based on terrain. You will have some sort of "unfortunate episode" each week of travel.

Once per week roll a d6:

1.) Make a strength check or suffer the environment die of damage
2.) Make an agility check or suffer the environment die of damage
3.) Make a health check or suffer the environment die of damage
4.) Make an awareness check or suffer the environment die of damage
5.) Make a luck check or suffer the environment die of damage
6.) Discard a random item or suffer the environment die of damage

This would also cause regular damage, not a straight body point loss. Thus a player might fail their health check by 10 and lose a body point, then roll a d6. A 2; the environment is a swamp that deals a d4 damage. The situation is quickly rationalized by player and/or GM (whoever thinks quicker with a plausible and rational event) as the character is walking along a raised sandbar and steps on a slick patch of mystery goo, if the character fails their agility check they bash their head for a d4 damage.

I like this because it would give more of a "flavour" and "story" to wilderness travel, but dislike it for the same reason. If the players lead expeditions frequently the same old crap comes up again and again. It just slows things down.

So back I loop, perhaps the first option is the best option? ie, not only does taking the pass through the badlands give -5 to your health check, it also deals a full d4 body points in damage. Taking the river path gives -0 and only 1 point of damage, even if it takes three times as long.

If travel becomes so dangerous, such an arduous part of the adventure, then there should be one class who is better at it. Right now the rogue strikes me as the best fit for two reasons.

1.) Being a shady character means you'll have to move around a lot, even in a city it may mean sleeping on the odd park bench/dirty alley. If your rogue doesn't have this kind of background, don't make this one of your power selections.

2.) The rogue has a spare power. No one is really using "vigilance", it really seems less useful than the other options available.

The power should probably be something along the lines of "roughing it" or "guide" or "frontiersman". The ideal mechanic being a reduction in body points lost due to wilderness travel. Currently I am thinking 1 less lost per milestone, thus an epic hero of legend would take 4 less per failed check. I am also considering upping this to 1 cumulative per milestone, that an epic hero would take 10 less. The caveat being that this only functions while the character is at peak health.

The idea is still just forming in my brain. Right now my weekly game has wrapped up for a weeks of downtime and boardgames. The party reached an appropriate stopping point after a major event, and this allows them time to plan what they want to do next and fill me in on their grand schemes.


  1. All I would point out here is that the overwhelming majority of people who hike the Appalachian Trail every year do not die in a horrifying and/or squalid manner.

    A rather larger number of those who attempt Everest or K2 do die, but the conditions there are... considerably different.

  2. True, but that has a trail, and maps, and nearby towns if things get bad (not to mention helicopters and cell phones if you fall down a gorge).