Monday, December 25, 2017

Wilderness Exploration: Conjugate Systems for Dying to Exposure + Holidays

Art by W-Dog

Player Wilderness Travel 

As far as I'm aware every OSR system has a measurement of character speed and wilderness/travel/bushcraft/journey skill for characters. This conjugate system is based on those two values and 6-mile hexes. Also I apologize in advance if this article is written strangely, I'm in a strange mix of traveling to the other side of the world, holidays, and being ill. 

Character Speed 

In B/X characters are given movement values of feet of movement per turn. These values can be simply divided by 10 in order to derive a movement value. LotFP characters have similar values, but instead of being divided by 10, they are divided by 20. Swords and Wizardry characters each have a base movement value given by how much weight they're carrying. GLOG characters each have a movement score which is used as is.

So now we have OSR characters with movement values of 3-15*

*In my games horses simply increase this movement value by 3. 

This value then configures how much time it takes the character to cross a 6 mile plains hex.
8- Movement/3 = hours needed to cross 6 miles of plains

Thus for the following movement rates the time need to cross 6 miles of plains is 
Movement score of 3 - 7 hours
Movement score of 6 - 6 hours
Movement score of 9 - 5 hours
Movement score of 12 - 4 hours
Movement score of 15 - 3 hours

Each type of terrain then modifies the time needed to travel to cross by their modifier. Further bas  weather modifies the time taken to cross a hex by it's rank. Pleasant weather decreases the time need to cross while hostile weather increases the time needed to cross.

Roads decrease the time needed to cross by 2 hours to a minimum of 1 hour.
Hills hexes need an additional hour to cross
Forest, Waters hexes need an additional two hours to cross
Swamps hexes need an additional three hours to cross
Mountains hexes need an additional four hours to cross

Thus a character with a movement of 15 traveling through the mountains takes 7 hours to cross and a character with a movement of 6 in hills in a blizzard takes 10 hours to cross.


Characters cannot meaningfully travel across hexes under darkness, for those who doubt me try to hike at night. The amount of light depends on the season with the winter and summer having around 6 hours of difference in hours of light. These are super rough estimates on how much natural light. 

Winter - 8 hours of light
Spring/Fall - 11 hours of light
Summer - 14 hours of light 

This means that in winter it's harder to travel and further, in bad weather in winter there will be very little traveling taking place. 

Character Skill

The other part of wilderness travel is how well a character can navigate the wilds. As far as I know only LotFP has a dedicated skill (Bushcraft) for determining how well characters travel through the wilderness (if this an incorrect way of using this skill let me know). In my games characters have a 1 in 6 skill which they can improve for traveling through the wilderness. If characters are successful in their travel attempt, nothing happens. Otherwise consult the table below.

Wilderness Travel Complication Roll (1d6)

1 StalkedWandering Monster strikes in 1d4 nights or at sign of advantage
2Dire CircumstanceNext wilderness encounter roll is at a +6
3 Misdirection 1 in 6 chance of being lost, 2 in 6 for Swamps
4Incelement Weather - Weather worsens by 1 category
5Menacing LandscapeSave or take effects of 1d6 severity Roll
6MiasmaSave or Disease

Wilderness Travel Procedure and Encounters

For each hex traveled through a wilderness anecdote occurs. The time taken to cross the hex may take up all of the remaining daylight and the party may need to make camp. For each day of travel the party must roll their Wilderness Travel Skill to determine if a complication occurs on the table above.. 

Wilderness Anecdote Table

1Lair of something
2Spoor of something
3Tracks from something
4Traces 1 of something
5Traces 2 of something
6Monster encounter

Further while traveling through the wilderness, characters may take actions on their journey. Each attempt incurs a roll of the Wilderness Anecdote Table. 

A character may attempt to roll under half of their wisdom in order to Hunt, Forage, or find Herbs. Hunting costs 1d4 arrows and gives 1d4 rations. Foraging gives 1d3 rations. Herbalism gives a single beneficial herb which can act as medicine.

To determine what the "something" is on the Wilderness Anecdote Table, consult the Encounter table below.

Wilderness Encounter Table (1d12)
1 As Polite Lands Encounter
2 Corpse of (Roll Again)
11 Conflict (Roll Twice)
12 Roll on Pernicious Encounter Table

Pernicious Encounter Table (1d8)

These two tables have 16 entries for creatures to be encountered. The two tables are blank on purpose. The first would be filled with "normal" encounters like animals or wild people while the pernicious table would be filled with more gonzo and weird options.


Rather than having a unique mechanic for weather, I simply substitute weather as an encounterable monster. The reaction table below determines if the weather is gonna be pleasant or hostile. 

The essentially distribution is 2-5 as negative, 6-8 as neutral, and 9-12 as positive. It's pretty simple to assign different effects on the weather. I've also added the categories of Double Negative and Triple Negative for the effects of rolling multiple negative reactions in a row. For Double Negative and Triple Negative weather treat further reaction rolls of Neutral and Positive reactions as a reset into Neutral Weather. Every time you roll for the weather also roll a 1d6, the value of that die determines how long the current weather situation lasts.

SeasonPositiveNegativeDouble NegativeTriple Negative
SummerCloudyHotDroughtFlash Fires
Spring/AutmunClearRainStormsFlash Flooding

Weather Mechanical Effects Table for Those Traveling Outside or Without Shelter
Positive+1 to Wilderness Traveling Skill, -1 Hour need to cross 6 miles
Negative-1 to Wilderness Traveling Skill, +1 Hour need to cross 6 miles
Double Negative-2 to Wilderness Traveling Skill, +2 Hour need to cross 6 miles
Triple Negative-3 to Wilderness Traveling Skill, +3 Hour need to cross 6 miles
HotSave or gain the Fatigue Encumbrance
DroughtSave or gain the Fatigue Encumbrance with a -3 penalty
1 in 6 
Flash FireGain the Fatigue Encumbrance
1 in 6 chance of  Flash Fire: Save or 3d10 fire damage
RainSave or gain the Damp Encumbrance
StormsSave or gain the Damp Encumbrance with a -3 penalty
1 in 10 chance of Lightning Strike: Save or 3d6 electric damage
Flash FloodingGain the Damp Encumbrance
1 in 6 chance of Flash Flooding: Save or swept away and begin drowning
SnowSave or gain the Cold Encumbrance
HailSave or gain the Cold Encumbrance with a -3 penalty
Save or take 1d6 damage from Hail
BlizzardGain the Cold Encumbrance
1 in 6 chance of Blizzard: Save or Freeze to Death

Lunar Calendar

So the effects of weather changes based on the season and we have a way to track the days so why not simply combine the two into a calendar. Each season is composed of three months and each month is composed of 30 days. This gives us a year with 360 days, and is honestly good enough for me to use in game as a referee. Many cultures used lunar calendars (in Ukrainian the word for month is literally the word for moon) and is a useful heuristic for making a gameable calendar. So in real life the moon changes from New Moon to Full Moon over 14 days. I'll use 13 days between the New Moon to Full Moon, 1 day of New Moon, and 3 days of Full Moon. You can start every month on the New Moon which causes days 15-17 to be the Full Moon. This gives us a 30 day cycle and three usable states of the moon the effects of which are detailed on the table below.

Moon StateEffect
FullMonsters get +2 HD and Undead treat each HD as having rolled an 8
NewComplete Darkness at Night 100% chance to be surprised
ChangingNo Effects


Seeing as we now have a full calendar for tracking the moon and the seasons, and it's Christmas as I write this I figure I might as well add content for holidays. There are three types of holidays each distributed through year. I would try to have one season with four holidays, one season with three holidays, and two seasons with two holidays. Each Holiday doubles the XP gained for carousing and has a unique opportunity associated with it. 

Astronomical -  Based on the Solstices and Equinoxes
Examples: Summer and Winter Solstice (Ivan Kupalo, Saturnalia) and Spring and Fall Equinox (Higan)

Religious - Based on Religious Traditions 

Cultural - Based on Cultural Ideals

Example OSR Holiday Calendar

Winter Month 2, Day 15 - Fimbulvinter (Winter Solstice)

Winter Month 3, Day 2 - Ardor Eve (Old Faith)

Spring Month 1, Day 1 - New Year's Day

Spring Month 1, Day 20 - Benediction (The Church)

Spring Month 2, Day 15 - Blossoming (Spring Equinox)

Summer Month 1, Day 23 - Exaltation of Kiril (Anniversary of Hero Slaying Evil Giant)

Summer Month 2, Day 15 - Midsummer (Summer Solstice)

Summer Month 3, Day 3 - Armistace (Anniversary of End of Civil War)

Fall Month 1, Day 5 - Blessings (The Church)

Fall Month 1, Day 23 - Geas (Youths turning seventeen leave village to live in wilderness for 1 week)

Fall Month 2, Day 15 - Nightfall (Fall Equinox)

Fall Month 3, Day 22 - Barrow's Close (Old Faith)


  1. I'm using a lot of this in my rules. Do you mind? How would you like credit?

    1. Based of "Lungfungus's Wilderness Conjugate"

  2. What do you do if your players just want to hike faster?

    1. How much faster? I would use the terrain and weather modifications to time to cross a hex as penalties on an attempt to roll under movement score to progress at a faster rate. Each such attempt would result in another wilderness encounter chance and a failed attempt would incur a travel complication.

    2. They wanted to go 50% faster. I'm running LotFP with a few house-rules, so I'll probably do a Poison save with penalties equal to the stuff in their way. Though I feel like the encounters would get out of whack if you piled even more chances on failure along with zooming through the hexes faster than usual.

    3. So LotFP base rules (good weather and clear terrain) is for hex-crawls is 4 hexes a day rather than my base (good weather and clear terrain) is 2 hexes a day for unencumbered characters. The intent of my reduced speed is to have each day of wilderness be more memorable via monster signs/hex fillings and have roads be important. Using the established LotFP rules for forced marches is an additional 50% travel and for another 4 hours of journeying. If this is what you are referring to then I would use the rules there. If they are simply trying to go at 1.5x speed of travel, I would more likely increase the chance of complications or encounters instead of rolling multiple times. That way instead of possibly being raided by seperate horse-nomads twice, you instead are twice as likely to incur them because you focused on speed instead of smart travel. I hope that makes sense.