Thursday, February 6, 2014

Effects of Overland Travel in DCC RPG

A recent Google+ post Peter Leban, in reference to THIS BLOG POST, got me thinking about a subsystem for DCC.

In my experience, it's pretty rare for judges to really keep track of things like provisions, water, and the like. It's even rarer for them to concern themselves with the longterm effects of travel in the game world. But what if we wanted to do that, to introduce environment as an opponent, an enemy just as dangerous as a monster the PCs might face?

Think about it. 

The PCs are riding (or marching), at speed, for days. They've barely rested. (exhaustion)

The PCs are lost at sea, becalmed, and their water is foul. (deprivation)

The PCs are fleeing (or chasing) through a hostile environment (desert, snow, whatever). Though they have supplies, they need to be rationed for the long haul, and the endless marching is wearing them down. (deprivation and exhaustion)

In each of these cases, the PCs are trying to achieve a goal of some kind, and their ability to endure their circumstances is being tested. Certainly such a test should have some effects on the PCs, right? I mean, if you spend three days on a forced march, with little food and no rest, you're probably not going to be in very good shape to fight when you reach your destination. How do you model that, mechanically?

One option would be to model this on the Spellburn mechanic in DCC RPG. Reflect the cost of journeying (or whatever durance and/or deprivation) astemporary attribute loss (to Strength, Stamina, and/or Agility). When any of these goes below a threshold (say, 3), then the PC is unconscious. You could also tack on actual damage to HP if that happens, or permanent stat loss, or even death, if the circumstances suggest it. 

For example, the PC is fleeing through the desert, pursued by X. He has no water or food, and cannot stop to rest. Maybe for each of those factors, for each period of travel (whatever that might be, perhaps half a day), he loses 1d4 or 1d6 attribute points from each attribute (with saving throw, modified by current attribute, for half loss). At some point, it might pay to turn and fight X, instead of fleeing. If the PC continues to flee, he may become exhausted (reduced STA), weakened (reduced STR), and/or lack of mobility (reduced AGI).

Further, the PCs might find that their ability to fight or cast spells is reduced (via lost attributes), leaving them even less able to deal with whatever it is that they must face.

If we assume that some environments (more extreme ones) are more challenging than others (milder ones), perhaps we could use steps on the dice chain to represent the relative advantage/disadvantage conferred by environment. If the PCs have supplies and equipment that allow them to mitigate the environmental factors, then that also could be represented on the the dice chain.

First, let's make an assumption. Each half day of normal traveling costs 1d3 attribute points in Strength, Agility, and Stamina, with any extras taken from Stamina. This is the base die in the chain. 

Then, we consider aggravating and/or ameliorating factors. They have no food (+1 on dice chain), they have no water (+1 on dice chain), but they have beasts of burden to carry some of the their load (-1 on dice chain). I'm keeping this to a simple +1/-1 just for the sake of simplicity. I'm sure there could be other numbers. These just keep it simple to use and remember.

Factors that aggravate or ameliorate circumstances of travel could be environmental (weather and climate, geography), circumstantial (supplied for environment, or not; encumbered, or not; wounded, or not), and so forth.

The idea, in the end, is to encourage the PCs to think about resources and capabilities, and to make choices that reflect the actual circumstances. How the hell, for example, could a group of PCs march three days through the desert, in mail, carrying 30,000 gp, without water or rations, and then arrive at a crucial battle, ready to fight? That's silly. They'd be exhausted, at best. Hell, they might be dead in the desert, food for the vultures and jackals.

Does this seem like a reasonable system to model such circumstances?