Wilderness Survival

In a recent post from Chatty DM, he says:

I bought the Wilderness Survival Guide (X-mas gift I wrapped for myself when I was 15-16) when it came out. I disliked it so much that I threw it away and never used it, disgusted that I would ask my players to roll percentiles EACH DAY for food and shelter.

The 1st Edition Wilderness Survival Guide is also a book I read once and never used. I don’t remember being disgusted with it, but it never fit into any of my games, possibly because nothing important happens in the wilderness.

DMs are in the business of peddling illusions: illusions of meaningful choice to players when they are really on the rails; illusions of danger in a combat when maybe a fraction of a percent result in a TPK. Books like the 1e Wilderness Survival Guide, on the other hand, peddle an illusion to DMs. The illusion is that their campaign world is a real place, run by laws different from, but mirroring, the laws of the actual world. By rolling on the appropriate charts, the DM is running a universe. Many sourcebooks, especially those late in the run of any edition, lavish detailed rule considerations on things that rarely or never come up in play. Some of these make great reading: they allow DMs to imagine the perfect D&D game, with the DM able to raise a glorious edifice of simulated creation, using a million charts, all on hand, for players with infinite appetite for randomly-rolled minutia.

The Wilderness Guide has about 50 charts. I’ll list a few highlights: imagine having one of these situations come up in play and asking players to hold on while you find the appropriate page in the Wilderness Survival Guide.

-Effects of Clothing and Armor on Personal Temperature (for instance, in temperatures of 0 to 30, you are 10 degrees warmer if you are wearing banded mail)
-Damage from Free Fall or Severe Slope (this is a replacement for the classic 1d6 damage per 10 feet fallen rule: damage ramps up more quickly in this chart, maxing out at 20d6 for a 50-foot fall.)
-Grappling Success (I thought at first this was modifiers to the Grappling rules, modified for fighting on a slope, which would be HILARIOUS; but in fact it is chance of using a grappling hook on various slopes, modified by how slippery they are.)
-Chance of Food Spoilage (modified by type of food and temperature)
-Campfire Characteristics (degrees of heat by different types of campfires, provided at 10-foot increments from the fire up to 60 feet: what circumstance ever forces anyone to remain more than 10 feet from the fire?)
-Availability of Fuel (maybe in the desert, you can only make a Small campfire, which is trouble for the guys 40 feet away from it!)
-Reactions of Animals (where you can find out, I kid you not, the effects of odors on a yak! The effects are “6/10/12”)

None of these charts, nor most of the rules, have any relation to what happens in actual play. In a real D&D game, the DM has plot points he wants to hit, encounters he wants to run, and a ton of books open. While the PCs journey from the city to the ruined temple, the DM could remember all the relevant charts in the Wilderness Survival Guide, flip to the appropriate pages, and roll on the various percentile charts – but it’ll be easier to say “Ok, you get there without incident”, which is probably what he’ll do.

It’s too bad: the DM-as-world-simulation is a beautiful illusion.

8 Responses to “Wilderness Survival”

  1. […] taken Chatty DM’s post as a challenge: how can I make usable wilderness rules, with lots of dice-rolling for weather and […]

  2. Hello, I wish for to subscribe for thi web site to take hottest updates,
    therefore where can i do it please help.

    Here is my blg post: disaster survival gear

  3. Howdy just wanted to give you a quick heads up and let you know
    a few off the pictures aren’t loading properly.
    I’m not sure why but I think its a linking issue. I’ve tried it in two
    different wweb browsers and both show the same results.

    My homepage :: Wilderness Survival shelter designs

  4. That is the entry level gun protected collection for Remington Gun Safes.

    My homepage – remington gun safe manual

  5. strips bonds says:

    Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was super long)
    so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I wrote and say, I’m
    thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring
    blog blogger but I’m still new to the whole thing. Do
    you have any suggestions for newbie blog writers? I’d really appreciate it.

  6. Glossing over some of the details of the original movie, Spirit of Vengeance picks up with Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) laying low in a remote area of eastern Europe, trying
    to avoid human contact — particularly with those of an evil nature, who
    would trigger his demonic Rider alter ego to send them where the sun don’t shine.

    It’s easy to watch movies online and catch up with
    your favourite movie stars. Online free movies are still
    available to you if you choose the right websites
    to use.

  7. I believe that iss one of the most significant information for me.
    And i’m glad studying your article. But should remark on some normal things, The web site
    style is perfect, thhe articles is in reality great :
    D. Just right activity, cheers

  8. Surfing through your archives and enjoying these old articles along with the discussions in the comments. Not sure why this post in particular is such a spam magnet, but I find it hilarious.

Leave a Reply