Friday, November 17, 2017

Wilderness Encounters as Attrition 2

I received a comment on a recent post inquiring if I had fiddled with my rules for "wilderness attrition" at all, and whether I had anything further to write about them. The short answer heretofore was "no" because I have been using the rules as I wrote them for the last few sessions (and they've been pretty simple and effective so far, and people are starting to carry back-up items, which is one thing I envisioned for these rules ... thus necessitating a mule and porters ... mwahaha!)

The longer answer is, I do actually have an idea for making "wilderness attrition" a little better, I hope--"concreteness".

As written so far, and as used so far, I roll the encounter chance, elucidate the results and the number of damage dice for the party, and then come up with a lame reason for it afterward (especially when prompted by the player of Rendorsheeg the Elf). This is abstract; abstraction, of course, was the main purpose for creating these rules; yet nevertheless, D&D is so often about concreteness that it pains me to just kind of handwave why a week of rations, 12 arrows, a spear, and a shield were all lost. Generally I've been calling it skirmishes with goblins or orcs ... but what if I had said it was wolves, and a druid, say, replied by saying, "I want to cast speak with animals and talk them out of attacking us"?

Moreover, of the three dice I roll for every encounter/wandering monster check, on of them is not pulling much weight in these "attrition" rules, and I think "concreteness" could be a better use of its pips on the table.


When I roll for encounters, I roll 3d6, one black, one white, one red:
black -- encounter chance
white -- party surprise chance
red -- monster surprise chance

I ignore the red and white dice if black comes up nothing.

For attrition in the wilderness, rather than rolling up a full encounter on a positive result from the black die, I look to the other dice:
The white die determines "attrition dice" inversely to the number rolled on the die, e.g. 1 is 6d6, 2 is 5d6, 3 is 4d6, 4 is 3d6, etc.
Instead of an extra chance to "ignore" the encounter as I originally wrote, the red die can be used to determine "concretely" just what happened, thus:

1 - animal encounter -- a bear, a pack of wolves, a rutting moose, a baboon troupe, etc.

2 - men encounter -- a group of hunters, some brigands, some local ruffians

3 - humanoid encounter -- a skirmish with orcs, goblins, ogres, etc. per what I've generally said

4 - fey/unusual encounter -- undead perhaps, or faerie trees/briars that grasp at characters, etc.

5-6 - non-creature encounter -- a freak storm, a patch of poison ivy, a nest of young ticks, etc.

These are vague, and I think necessarily. As I said above, abstractness is the reason for these rules of attrition--what I get out of them is focusing on the dungeon while retaining some of the danger of the wilderness and travel through it. Attrition is a quick way to move through the consequences of the wilderness than having to describe an entire encounter with a band of orcs transporting prisoners, etc.

And yet, having a sense of what concretely the characters have encountered allows the players to respond to it with their skills, spells, etc in somewhat of the way that they would if presented with a full encounter. The best example I have is that if the referee rolls an "animal" encounter of six attrition dice, and the party includes a druid who responds by casting the spell speak with animals, the referee could allow the druid to just talk to the animals and avoid the encounter altogether, OR allow that spellcasting to replace one (or so) of the "usual" means of eliminating attrition dice (including the otherwise invulnerable sixth die, perhaps!).

Perhaps the party encounters "animals"--the referee declares them spiders
... and the halfling of the party uses his halfling abilities to sneak around
distracting the spiders with anti-arachnid slurs like, "Hey, atter-cop!"

Maybe an "unusual encounter" is undead, and the cleric can turn undead to eliminate an attrition die; or perhaps a group of men can be charmed or slept by a magic user to eliminate dice ... etc.

And of course, if the players just blithely accept the dice that you put forth, break their items, and move on, it's no skin off the referee's back. I just felt a strong need to have a way to clearly allow more player agency in response to the "attrition".

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