Wilderness journey hack

The intention of these rules is to set up a conflict whenever the player characters travel to and from an adventure site. It is meatier than a simple Pathfinder roll, while being more abstract than a string of wilderness encounters. It is meant to provide a narrative framework for the journey, and allow the players to flex their outdoorsy skills. It plays out like a normal conflict: if the players win they arrive safe and sound and if they lose or must compromise they arrive in bad shape, get lost on the way or similar.

Wilderness Nature and Disposition
The Nature rating reflects the severity of the journey. It is calculated using a combination of season and the most difficult terrain type of the journey. The season changes each time the players are in a town phase following an adventure.

[li]Spring: 3D[/li][li]Summer: 2D[/li][li]Fall: 3D[/li][li]Winter: 4D[/li][/ul]
(In a tropical climate, use whichever rating fits)


[li]Fields/Moor: 2D [/li][li]Forest: 3D [/li][li]Mountains: 5D [/li][/ul]
(Other terrain types can be substituted here – e.g. Mountains could be replaced by Desert or Jungle)

The Disposition of the journey is based on the length of the trek.
[li]Nearby (a few days): 5 [/li][li]Short journey (about a week): 8 [/li][li]Long journey (several weeks): 12 [/li][li]Halfway across the world (month-long): 16 [/li][/ul]

Example: The players are travelling to a shrine that is about a week out from their starting point (Disposition 8). They are travelling during summer (2D), and while the terrain is mostly moorland they will have to venture through the Deepwood to reach their destination (3D). The combined Nature pool is thus 5D.

Actions and skills
Disposition roll: Pathfinder + Health

Attack (Pathfinder): For the players, this represents a direct march towards the goal. For the GM, it represents the weather and general hardship wearing the adventurers down.
Defend (Survivalist): This reflects the players stopping to camp, eat and regain their strength. When the GM plays this action, it represents a defined terrain obstacle that the players must overcome to continue. If they fail, they may have to take a longer route around instead (the wilderness regains disposition).
Feint (Pathfinder): For the adventurers, this is a shortcut or other risky ways of trying to make ground, such as heading out without taking precautions or continuing the march after sundown. For the GM, a Feint is wildlife and other nuisances that makes camping difficult and prevents the players from resting.
Maneuver (Survivalist): This action is a cautious approach where the adventurers spend time trying to gauge when the weather will turn, estimating which path is the safest or looking for fresh water and shelters as they go. For the GM, a Maneuver is a wilderness feature that obscures the trail and causes the players to waste time as they look to get back on track.

Player weapons
Horses: +1s Attack, -1D Maneuver. These two actions must be tested with the Rider skill, instead of the normal skills.
Gather food: +1s Defend, -1D Attack and the Defend action becomes an independent test against any action (even Feint). Hunter or Scavenger is tested when playing Defend, instead of Survivalist.
Map: +1D Maneuver. This action must be tested using the Cartographer skill.
Feast: +2D Defend. When playing Defend, you must expend 2 rations and test Cooking instead of Survivalist.
Night march: +2D Feint. This action consumes 2 torches, or half a flask of lantern oil (candles aren’t good for trekking in the dark).
Cloak: This piece of gear counts as armor when taking disposition damage from being wet or cold (-1s).

Wilderness weapons
Note that each exchange, the GM picks two weapons from the list below. The bonuses cannot stack, however. This is to make up for the fact that the wilderness is only a single actor without helpers, and to provide a more interesting and varied narrative.

[li]Rain/Snow/Wind: +1D Attack[/li][li]Blazing sun/Freezing cold: +1D Attack[/li][li]River/Swamp/Icy lake: +1D Defend[/li][li]Cliffs/Dense vegetation: +1D Defend[/li][li]Swarming bugs/vermin/beasts: +1D Feint[/li][li]Thunderstorm/Stinky bog: +1D Feint[/li][li]Fog/Overgrown trail: +1D Maneuver[/li][li]Mud/rock slide: +1D Maneuver[/li][/ul]

Note that wilderness weapons can be combined to make sense in the narrative. For example, rain can be used both to attack and to wash out the trail with mud (maneuver), and a swamp could be both a defend action and prevent the players from camping (feint).

GM wins: you have expended all your rations; you are all Sick/Injured/Hungry; transition directly to an encounter in the wilderness (animals attack, lost in the woods at night); entire new adventure lead (give up trying to cross a mountain range and instead go through dwarven mines that aren’t as empty as they seem).
GM loses, compromises: you are exhausted; you are hungry; you arrive late; your cloak is torn; your waterskin is emptied; you lose a ration

Comments and critique are welcome!

I like this. It’s simple but feels good.

I’m not sure what your note about combined wilderness weapons means. At first I thought you meant that it could be both raining and swampy, but then you describe using weapons for different types of actions. You can always use weapons for different types of actions. You can attack with a shield or defend with an ax, you just don’t get the weapon bonus if you choose to do so. So if it’s raining for a set of actions any attacks would be +1D while any other actions would be just at the normal Nature bonus. I imagine you would determine the possible weapons for the journey in advance and that the players, if they do their research, may be able to know about them, so that they can maneuver to disarm any weapons they don’t like. I would also make some of the weapons scale more like:

Rain +1D Attack
Blizzard +2D Attack, +1s Defend

Sorry, that could have been clearer.

I am aware that weapons can be used for actions which they don’t benefit, but what I meant was something different. Here’s an example:

For the first exchange, the GM chooses “Rain” and “Cliffs” as weapons. These grant a +1D bonus to Attack and Defend, respectively. Of course, it’s entirely possible that the GM then chooses nothing but Feint as his actions in the first exchange.

However, my comment about ‘combining weapons’ was about tying some wilderness weapons together narratively. For instance, choosing “Rain” and “Mud” as weapons, and then describing how the driving rain both wears them down (Attack) and obscures the trail (Maneuver). The intention with the 2 weapons rule was to grant the flexibility to do this as well as use two different wilderness features that have nothing to do with each other (Cliffs and Rain, for example). This way, in the few exchanges it takes to resolve a journey conflict the GM still has game-mechanical and narrative freedom to introduce lots of features and use them to flesh out the journey. So for example, if the typical conflict lasts around 2 exchanges, by allowing the use of more weapons the GM can let the players encounter rivers, cliffs, snow storms and wildlife instead of only a patch of rain and a single swamp - does that make sense?

That said, I’m starting to have second thoughts about this rules-exception (mainly because I find it inelegant to deviate from the rules like this). The wilderness weapons were mainly meant as bare-bones examples to build upon, and I’m glad if you can use them as inspiration. If I were to take another stab at making some wilderness weapons that adhered to the ‘One weapon per exchange RAW’, I too would probably scale them a bit differently:

Rain: +1D Attack, +1D Maneuver
Snow: +2D Attack
Blizzard: +2D Attack, +1D Maneuver
Heat wave: +1s Attack, +1D Feint
River: +1s Defend, but if players script Feint they can use Sailor skill and benefit from +1s
Cliffs: +2D Defend, and Defend negates Horse advantage. Players can test Dungeoneer when playing Maneuver.
Dense undergrowth: +1D Defend, a succesful Maneuver disarms Map
Swamp: +1D Feint, +1s Defend
Swarming bugs: +2D Feint
Predators: +1s Attack, +1s Feint, but players can test Hunter with Maneuver and even a single success is enough to count as disarm

Again, people are welcome to contribute ideas.

I used this a few days ago. We hadn’t played in a while, so I was going to have the first scene be their travel from the town they wintered in to the location they wanted to delve, which was a ways away, then have them choose goals.

It took 4 exchanges. Not the quick-ish opening conflict to remind everyone how to play that I envisioned. :slight_smile: Nature 5, Disposition 12 versus “most of us don’t have Pathfinder or Survivalist”, Disposition 8 'cause artha. Everyone played very defensively.

I used one other weapon: Distracting plot threads, +1D to Defend. This was the best weapon ever. Highlights:

  1. Just before they went through the metropolis where they’d generated the most plot, GM Defend versus Players Feint, they go offroad and just skip the metropolis.
  2. GM throws zombies at the cleric as a Defend because he keeps wanting to destroy evil despite whatever the party is “supposed” to be trying to do.