Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Attrition By The Numbers

Ok, let's see how these factors for attrition play out. You might want to keep that post open in another window to follow along with the modifiers. I am going to present this as a narrative, but I can post raw numbers for those so inclined.

Our first case will be your average peasant who wants to move some excess flour from the quaint plot of land he works on his lord's manor to market. Let's assume Forest, Cold, Fall, Trail, Sufficient provisions. He suffers no HP loss until day 5. This fits well with our implied world, a farmer would not live more than 2 days travel from a market to sell/barter his extra goods, so he can make a 4 day round trip with no harm done.

What if the same person struck out under the same conditions, but decided to not follow any trail? He would take his first hit point loss on day 4, and suffer death (to negative constitution) from accumulated damage on day 7. Does this sound reasonable? Assuming you had food and water, I believe I could survive 7 days wandering in the woods. Well, if it is a fantasy world, maybe HP loss can also abstract the fantastic dangers that lurk beyond civilization... Or maybe this is where sheltering down comes into play; parties stranded in the wilderness typically sit tight for most of their ordeal.

This time, a merchant sets out from market to move some goods a few towns away for a tidy sum. Same climate conditions, but now he is on an established dirt road. His wagon and oxen suffer no damage until day 6, or a journey of roughly 150 miles. This makes sense, 6 days of travel and 1 day of rest and no harm done. Maybe instead of traveling between markets, this is a pilgrim on a good portion of the Via Francigena (paved) heading to Rome. He can go 9 days without ill effect.

So this creates our lower boundary. For a party who treks out during the right time of year in mild conditions (total modifiers: three at 1.1, one at 1.2) can go off the beaten path for 3 days before harm occurs and if they stick to a road, this can be as long as 6 or 9.

What about sheltering down? So our party is traveling in the above climate, but they have been off any sort of trail and into deep wilderness for 6 days now. They've suffered 7 damage total (1 on day 4, 2 on day 5, 4 on day 6) over the last 3 days, but they have been able to keep up with healing. However, day 7 will inflict 6 damage to everyone, more than they can safely cope with. Instead, they hunker down in their tents to rest and heal. One day in camp will reduce attrition to 2, two days back down to 1, and four days to get it back to 0. Even just 1 day of sheltering down replenishes healing spells and gets their attrition back to a manageable level for a few more days. If they have the provisions to last and feel safe risking the potential encounters, it is a way to trek through the wilderness.

Of course, the best way to shelter down would be in a wayside inn or some other structure, which would reduce an attrition of 4 down to 1 in a day and 0 in two days.

Ok, what about a gonzo example? Parties are pretty safe while traveling during the right time of year and avoiding difficult terrain. But what happens when they need to cross an expanse of desert, or need to make a quick move during the dead of winter?

Let's take a perilous trek across Russia in the winter shall we? Forest, Cold, Winter, No Roads. First hit point loss on day 3, 4 hit points by day 5 (total of 7). Our land war in Asia is going well so far because this is a high level party that can drop tons of healing per day. Okay, 9 damage on day 6 (16 total) then 18 on day 7 (32 total) and even a high level party isn't going to be able to cope once day 8 drops a 34 hitpoint bomb.

Pretty brutal, huh? Well, sheltering down periodically can mitigate this damage, but how long will food last in this harsh winter? What if we take the same situation and throw in a PC Ranger or Druid to help? Instead of 66 damage after 8 days, the party only takes 18. So there is plenty of room for a party to conquer the elements as they reach high level and stay prepared.

Overall, the numbers fit well enough for my liking at the moment. Reasonable travel conditions permit safety up to a 75 mile round trip and judicious use of stops along the way in an inn or even a camp make long distance traveling feasible. Yet, the truly daunting terrains pack quite a punch even for high level parties. Just for fun, what happens when traveling across the Sahara in summer? Well, by day 3 they are doing ok and have only taken 2 damage. After 5 days of baking in the sun, they just took 15 damage (23 total) and a fool who wants to spend a week takes a hit of 94 damage. Realistic? Well, deadly for sure...

Feel free to let me know what you think in this post or the previous one.

Attrition - A Better Overland Travel System

Okay, Alexis blew my overland travel system out of the water with his improvement. Using this idea, let's rethink the damage caused by travel.

This system focuses on accumulation of damage, so that short trips are very safe for our precious 1HD characters but longer journeys will eventually tax even high level characters. Here's some pseudo code to represent what I am talking about.

Base damage = 0.1
Attrition(0) = Base damage
i = 1

Attrition(i) = Attrition(i-1) * Topography * Climate * Season * Road * Situation * Provisions + Base Damage

The Attrition value represents Hp damage taken. I would truncate the value and take its integer so anything <1 would be 0 damage. Then, all these modifiers act as a factor as follows:

Definitions remain the same as in the previous post. Here's a quick list of situational modifiers; there is plenty of room here to incorporate spells, non weapon proficiencies and skills, class abilities, hirelings/guides, etc etc. Feel free to tinker to your hearts content.

Sheltering down is a way to reduce the attrition rate currently being suffered. In order to shelter down, no travel may be undertaken for an entire day. Travelers are free to act without restriction so long as they refrain from strenuous activity outside of maintaining camp. Sheltering down works as follows:

Attrition(i) = Attrition(i-1) * Shelter

Shelter values are:

Structures would be buildings and permanent shelters that provide protection from the elements and a warm hearth (wayside inn, homestead, monastery). Natural shelter would be a cave or enclosed canyon that protects against all but the worst weather and temperature extremes. Camps consist of tents and other temporary shelters.

Next post, I'll tease out the numbers and demonstrate some examples. I'm sure these numbers will shift and change over time. Feel free to make them more forgiving or brutal as desired.

At Death's Door

Due to a common complaint that the overland travel system for HP loss is prohibitive to low hp (N)PCs, I will add my houserule on death and dying.

When a character falls to 0 hit points or below in combat, they are considered Hors de Combat and can take no further actions. They will continue to lose 1 hp per turn (10 minutes) until 1 turn of medical assistance can be administered. After aid is administered, the character can act normally again. Magical healing will instantly prevent further hit point loss and enable normal action.

When characters are able to act and are at negative hit points, they receive a penalty of 1 to all stats per negative hit point. If any stat goes below 3, they are considered comatose; characters die when their hps reach their negative Constitution value. In addition, spellcasters lose the ability to cast when their prime requisite no longer reaches the minimum for their class.

Hit point loss from overland travel that brings a character to 0 hps or lower does not cause a character to be considered Hors de Combat, cause further hit point loss, or require medical assistance before the character may act again. However, penalties to statistics do apply as above.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On The Road - Tolls and Traveling

While overland travel has its perils when you go off the beaten path, taking the established travel routes has its cost as well. Nearly any man made or natural feature that facilitated travel is an ideal place to extract a toll from travelers. This includes obvious examples such as roads, bridges, towns, ports, or river crossings but even natural mountain passes could feature toll collection.

Collecting tolls is typically the business of the ruling governance, whether it is the emerging national governments in centralized states like France, local lords extracting a toll from traveling through their demesnes, guilds, bandits, strongmen, and anyone who thought they could get away with it. The question of legitimacy could often be raised when away from areas with a well established and strong rule. Even so, the collection of taxes and tolls could also be sold by rulers to other parties or delegated to the emerging class of bureaucrats, leaving behind a tangled mess.

The exact amount of tolls could vary widely; the following table lists a standard toll rate.

In general, the toll rates above should be applied for travel; however, rates may change as the world situation changes. As a rule of thumb, any wild deviation from these numbers should probably be reserved for a situation that would require role playing or as a part of a plot or adventure storyline. Deviations from these amounts can occur as a result of an increase in taxation and tolling, as a consequence of petty corruption to skim an extra coin, an illegitimate toll, or any fathomable plot hook. Otherwise, you will be role playing a lot of pointless toll collection.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Roughing It - Wilderness Travel System

Ninja Edit: Download the Attrition Calculator spreadsheet from the side bar to the right and look at this post for the system in it's final/current form.

Zzarchov has a great house rule for handling the rigors of wilderness travel:
"I use more abstracted rules than this, basically boiling down to you take damage as you travel and heal slowly while going through the wilderness without creature comforts ... as well as different terrain types having different "Miles per day" ratings.  This leads to two things: 1) an increase in taking the longer route if it passed through civilization, roads and inns; 2) No more 'rushing through the wilderness', the bean counters came out and 'frontier living' was replaced with carefully planned expeditions."
Let's shamelessly steal the idea. It feels like the perfect abstraction that highlights the contrast between traveling through civilization and wilderness without bogging down into a level of detail that would detract from the evening's fun.

Essentially, every hex of wilderness (at the macro scale, roughly speaking 1 hex = 1 league = 1 day's travel on foot) will deal X hp of damage per day as it is traversed. Roads, settlements, proper provisions, the right clothing, and such will all reduce the damage taken. This damage is applied to everyone traveling, including animals. The damage abstracts all negative aspects of travel, such as animals foundering and an increased chance of disease.

Tally the following adjustments to find the total damage taken per hex traveled. Select one value from each column of the following table:

Terrain type is highly abstracted and can be expanded to fit more thorough hex maps. Climate uses the five main definitions of climate according to the Köppen-Geiger climate classification. Season is a temporal factor, so after every hex has been populated by terrain and climate type, the DM will have to throw in season as well. Likewise with roads; roads could also be defined as major roads (such as Imperial highways or Reichsstraße), maintained roads between towns, and trails that are only maintained by foot traffic. However, the road modifier would not apply to the entire hex, rather only if the party was traveling along it.

The following situational modifiers are applied on the fly and are not part of a hex's intrinsic HP penalty.

This provides a backbone for an abstraction to cover overland travel. An enterprising DM can calculate the HP loss value for each hex on their map and have a valuable resource for gameplay. More situational modifiers can make the calculations more robust if needed. Feel free to chime in with any suggestions on adding more entries to either table.