Making jungle travel its own adventure
May 11, 2011
There has been discussion on various blogs lately about abstracting overland travel in a way that uses Hit Points to represent endurance while moving through difficult wilderness. Essentially, travel = damage. Roger effectively summarizes the idea here.
I like the general idea and how it encourages planned expeditions in place of simply rushing through the wilderness, but have two problems with tying Hit Points to travel:
- It reminds me of the practice of including random pit and spear traps in dungeons just to drain some Hit Points before the “real” adventure happens.
- The end result is that a journey usually just takes a little more time to complete. Why not skip the whole damage thing and just have a system that introduces travel delays when various bad things happen?
An example of such a system is the Jungle Event and Travel System in the FitJ Supplement. The basic idea is that main effect of the “bad events” on the encounter table is a reduction in the rate of travel. This reduced rate of travel ultimately results in more rolls on the encounter table and the risk of additional hardship and excitement. Eventually, the hirelings may start to die off one by one.
Examples of events that affect the rate of travel:
- Difﬁcult Travel cuts the movement rate in half for one day due to exceedingly hot weather, especially difﬁcult terrain, etc.
- Good Travel doubles the movement rate for one day due to a trail, easy terrain, etc.
- River Obstacles can be rapids, waterfalls, boulders, whirlpools, fallen logs, etc. Most can be detected and avoided, but this reduces river travel by 50% that day to account for the extra planning, caution, or portaging. There is also a small chance of disaster occurring while passing the obstacle: Roll 2d6. If snake eyes, then there is a disaster. The watercraft is severely damaged and some food supplies are lost, causing a Food Shortage. A disaster also has a 50% chance of killing a hireling.
Natives seldom starve to death in the jungle. For outsiders, the problem is that many of the jungle’s food sources are either unknown or unappetizing. A foreign army will have difﬁculty with food supplies in the jungle, but a relatively small and resourceful expedition should ﬁnd adequate sustenance in the jungle…most of the time. Instead of meticulously tracking food supply, it is assumed that the PCs are somewhat capable of it on their own and engage in low-risk food gathering and hunting when able. Nonetheless, bad luck can happen to even the most skilled and prepared…
The Food Shortage event can mean several things: Maybe this part of the jungle is unusually void of food sources or an accident sent supplies tumbling into a ravine. Perhaps vermin stole some food away or some of those iron rations just couldn’t hold up to the heat and humidity of the jungle. In any case, something happened to diminish food supply to the point of concern. To reﬂect this concern, the effect of a Food Shortage is a 50% rate of travel for a period of time. This is to allow more time each day for hunting, gathering, and conserving energy until food stores are back to comfortable level.
The slower rate of travel exposes the party to additional random encounters and events, which is the true danger of a food shortage. Compounding food shortages can be a dire situation. The original supplement says shortages eventually expire on their own, but now I’m leaning towards having them persist until civilization is reached or an extraordinary solution is performed.
One way for the PCs to end a food shortage quickly is to plan a solution (such as go kill something big for meat and preserve it in some way). It may be entirely conceived by the players, or the judge may design appropriate challenges. In either case, completing the solution should involve risk and/or adventure.
Sooner or later, the jungle gets its prey.