Sunday, January 17, 2016

Outdoor Survival - the Rule of Three

When I say Outdoor Survival I don't mean the Avalon Hill game of the same name. Though in fact I do own the game. Pages 15 of Volume 3: The Underworld & Wilderness Adventures recommended using the map from Outdoor Survival. "Off-hand adventures in the wilderness are made on the OUTDOOR SURVIVAL playing board (explained below)." Now while the board from Outdoor Survival was beautiful, durable, and available for purchse, and while one could use catch-basins as castles and buildings as towns no one I know ever did that. Even though several of us were naive enough to buy the game. Though once we had it, it seemed simple enough to map out terrain of one's own devising. So that's what we did. This had the additional benefit of allowing each DM to create his own unique vision for the game world. Or at minimum for the terrain around the local dungeon. I'm possibly one of the few people who actually played Outdoor Survival as written. Though it's been decades, it was, as I recall, at best a mildly diverting game. Far less interesting than journeying five miles over to see what was in the next hex in a D&D game world. All that is by way of preamble to the Outdoor Survival Rule of Three. 

This seemed like a very handy thing to keep in mind for gaming in all sorts of situations and especially handy as a rule of thumb for GMs. The author discussed adapting this for D&D 5E, but that's pretty useless for me so the key question was how best to implement something like that for Honor+Intrigue. 
First let's take a look at how H+I handles survival. Page 94 has a section entitled "Disease, Hunger, Thirst, Exhaustion, Intoxication." 

Disease, Hunger, Thirst, Exhaustion, Intoxication
Sometimes the greatest struggle that a hero faces is against nature, or for sheer survival. While Composure is usually used to reflect emotional distress, the GM may use Composure loss to represent a myriad of debilitating conditions, such as extreme hunger, thirst, exhaustion, illness, etc. It is especially suitable because the penalty for Composure lost applies to all 2d6 rolls representing the toll that is taken on the hero. Unlike Composure lost due to emotion, Composure lost to these forces is not automatically restored at the end of the scene. A starving man does not stop starving when the scene ends. He starves until he eats.

At the first sign of a problem, the GM will give a Moderate (+0) Task Roll using the Quality (and maybe Career) that is most appropriate. Subsequent rolls become increasingly difficult. Once all Composure is lost, some additional problem befalls the hero. If it is something deadly, the character will likely begin taking damage at regular intervals. Otherwise it may be unconsciousness, or something else the GM deems appropriate. Below are a few examples of how you can use this method to resolve different effects on a character. Feel free to alter these examples or come up with new ones.
Below the quoted section is a table listing various composure losing conditions along with the time to onset, relevant Quality to test, frequency for repetition of the roll, the end result when composure reaches zero, and means to reverse the condition.

Condition Onset Quality Repeat End Result Reverse
Hunger 3 days w/o food Might 3 days 1d3 Lifeblood/day 2 meals/day for 3 days
Thirst 1 day w/o water Might 12 hours 1d3 Lifeblood/6 hours Drink Sufficiently
Exhaustion 24 hrs w/o sleep Savvy 8 hours Unconsciousness 8 continuous hours sleep

A starting Hero in H+I will have a starting stat between -1 and 4 where an average human has a stat of 0. And a starting Hero will have 10 Lifeblood. To succeed at a moderate (+0) difficulty roll with a Quality of 0 requires a 9+ on 2d6. Which gives a 28% chance to succeed and a 72% chance of failure.

Let's look at Hunger. The first roll is made after 3 days without food. The odds are the average human fails this roll (72%) which causes a loss of 1d3 Lifeblood/day until the next roll on day 4. So we would expect a loss of 2 Lifeblood each day, e.g. Day3: LB=10; Day4: LB=8; Day5: LB=6; Day6: LB=4. A second roll is then made after Day 6, which we would again expect to fail. (There is, after all, a cumulative probability of 52% that both rolls are failed.) So Day7: LB=2; Day8: LB=0, Day9: LB=-6. So by Day 8 a hero with average Might is unconscious on Day 8 from lack of food and dying on day 9, when another roll is called for. And with some bad luck, the character could be dying by Day 4. Even without bad luck, it's not unlikely that a character could be dying by Day 9 and dead before 12 days have passed. This seems much too fast given the 3 week rule of thumb.

Thirst is not quite as fast a death compared to the rule of thumb. Even with two failed Thirst rolls in a row, since the loss is -1d3 every additional 6 hours, we would expect it to take 5 additional 6 hour increments (total 42 hours) before unconsciousness results and one more increment (total 48 hours) before Lifeblood is negative and death begins. This seems to align tolerably well with our rule of thumb. Worst case, if the character fails both Might rolls and rolls maximum Lifeblood loss each time it will take 4 additional increments (36 hours total) for the character to reach negative Lifeblood. And the odds of failing both Might rolls and then rolling maximum damage three or four times in a row is only around 1%.

One way to fix Hunger would be to make a minor adjustment. If the Repeat die roll is successful, no Lifeblood is lost just like in the rules. If the Repeat die roll is a failure, then one die of Lifeblood damage is rolled. But when the increment for the next die of damage has occurred, give the Hero a second Might roll. If this succeeds skip that one die of damage. If it fails, the Hero takes another die of damage. This will require more rolls, but still only rolling once every day for Hunger or every 6 hours for Thirst.

This seems like an improvement. So I think I'll give that a try. Next, some reason to get the PCs to be stranded on a deserted island or lost in the Sahara Desert.

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