To Camp or Not to Camp?

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Talanall
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To Camp or Not to Camp?

Let's say you're adventuring, and you run into a nasty encounter that leaves your party with injuries. Maybe even a dead PC. Or you've just been unlucky and had so many encounters that although no single one of them has done much harm to the PCs, you're starting to be ground down by sheer numbers. Eventually, you're going to need to rest, so that your characters can get that sweet, sweet natural healing (and so the spellcasters can regain spells).

The problem, though, is that you have to decide whether to stop and make camp, or to press through the fatigue and worry until you can make it back to town or some other known-to-be-safe location.There's a risk assessment involved: How likely is it that you'll encounter something? How dangerous is the encounter likely to be? How disruptive will the encounter be, regardless of whether it's dangerous (if you camp and a random encounter disturbs the party's sorcerer while she's trying to sleep, for example, is it going to hinder you from being on time for something)? Some of these questions are impossible to answer if you're not the DM, but you can guess at others. The likelihood of having a random encounter is somewhat predictable. Either it's nil, which certainly is a possibility depending on the DM, or it's a percentile chance. Assuming that your DM uses the Core Rules as a guideline for this, the chance of having a random encounter is as follows:

Type of Area d% Chance
Desolate/wasteland 5% chance per hour
Frontier/wilderness 8% chance per hour
Verdant/civilized area 10% chance per hour
Heavily traveled 12% chance per hour

Based on these percentile chances, you can calculate how likely you are to have at least one encounter over a given span of time. To do that, first turn each % chance into a decimal, and subtract it from 1. So a 12% hourly chance becomes 0.88, for example. This number represents the failure chance for a random encounter. That is, it represents the likelihood that you will NOT experience the event. Raise this number to an exponential power equal to the number of hours that you expect to travel or camp. If you're going to travel for four hours through a heavily-traveled region, that'd be 0.884 = 0.5997, just for example. Once you have done this, subtract the result from 1, and restate the difference as a percentage—40.03%—to determine your overall chance of having at least one encounter during the four hours of travel. No matter the length of time or the likelihood of having an encounter, this method always produces a chance of encounter that is less than 100% but greater than 0%. To state the procedure as an algorithm that you can use anywhere you like, it's this:

p = is the encounter chance per hour, expressed as a positive number greater than 0 but less than 1

We need to produce a chance of "failure," from this variable. So

x = 1 - p

gives us a "no encounter" chance per hour, and

y = # of hours

allows us to calculate

z = xy

the total "no encounter" chance, and use that to get

n = 1 - z

the chance of an encounter during a period of hours at a given chance per hour, by solving for n.

There are a couple of things you can do with the output of this procedure. One of them is to calculate the chance that something's going to pop up during the eight hours or so that your characters are trying to rest. I'm a nice guy, so I'll just go ahead and provide that for you.

Type of Area d% Chance
Desolate/wasteland 34% chance per eight hours
Frontier/wilderness 49% chance per eight hours
Verdant/civilized area 57% chance per eight hours
Heavily traveled 64% chance per eight hours

Now, it's admittedly possible that your DM is using some other method of tracking the chance of having an encounter. That's something I can't help with; we can't conjecture about whatever non-standard system might have been cooked up by one person acting on his or her own. The technique I've shown here also doesn't do much to indicate the possibility that you might experience more than one encounter within a specified period of time. All it does is show you the chance that you're going to make it through a given period without being disturbed. Since the "rest" and "fatigue" mechanics for D&D v3.5 both are tied to eight-hour increments, this second chart is widely useful to players because it allows you to make a rational forecast of your chances of surviving a trip to town versus a night in the open.

There are a couple of caveats to think over, though. First, it's possible that your DM has certain encounters that only happen if you're sitting still, or only happen if you're traveling. For example, you'll almost never encounter a web-spinning spider in my games if you're sitting still; they're ambush predators that stay with their webs. They aren't moving around, so if you're camped you can't encounter one. And in similar vein, a dryad is compelled to remain within a fixed distance from her tree. If she leaves, she dies, so encountering her demands that you pass through the area surrounding the arbor in question. That's not laid out in the Core Rules, or anything, but it's something that I think makes sense.

Second, these tables don't take into account the possibility that you've done things that either make you harder to find (thereby reducing the chance of having an encounter) or make you easier to find (raising the chance). Again, this isn't something that the Core Rules take into account, but your DM might nudge the percentile chance for an encounter up or down, ad hoc, to reflect the fact that you're moving more slowly than normal in order to hide and move silently, or because you've decided to camp on a hilltop and light a bonfire.

These percentile chances also are based on the proposition that you're spending the entire time within a single type of area. That is, you're not moving from a "heavily traveled" to a "desolate/wasteland" region. That's fine if you're camping, but if you're traveling for a whole day, it's entirely possible that you're crossing boundaries between one or more categories. Let's say that you travel for two hours through a heavily traveled region (a major road) and then turn off into a desolate/wasteland area (a haunted forest) and travel for three additional hours. The "no encounter" procedure yields 0.774 for the road and .857 for the forest, which you then multiply to get 0.663, and subtract from 1 to get 33.7%. The algorithm here, for general use, is as follows.

N = 1 - (z1 * z2)

We solve for N with the understanding that z1 and z2 are "no encounter" chances for two periods where the value of p, from our previous algorithm, are distinct and the value of y may also be distinct. In the long form, our example with the road and haunted forest works out like so.

p1 = 0.12

p2 = 0.05

x1 = 1 - p1 = 0.88

x2 = 1 - p2 = 0.95

y1 = 2

y2 = 3

z1 = x1y1 = 0.882 = 0.774

z2 = x2y2 = 0.953 = 0.857

N = 1 - (z1 * z2) = 1 - (0.882 * 0.953) = 1 - 0.663 = 0.337 = 33.7%

This method works with any number of different percentile chances for encounter, over any length of time. You can adapt it to lots of other situations, too. Concealment, stabilization, and anything else that involves multiple attempts with a d% chance of success/failure are all susceptible to analysis by this same process. You also can use it anytime you can reduce a d20, d12, d6, or any other die to a percentile chance. That's a little outside of the scope of this discussion, but it's useful if you're a DM trying to gauge the risks of an encounter you're planning for a given set of PCs.

Anyway, it's really not that hard to figure out how likely you are to experience a random encounter, if you know roughly what kind of area you're in and how long you'll be in it. Most of the time, at least if your PC is not lost, your DM is going to be able and willing to tell you how far you are from a given place. And you know that if you rest, it's going to be for a minimum of eight hours. So most of the time, you (as a player) can easily calculate your chances of having at least one encounter.

This is metagaming, of course, unless your character knows enough about the locale and its geography to have some idea how much traffic moves through it. Unfortunately, the Core Rules don't have much to say about how to determine whether a PC has that information. I'm inclined to say that Survival is the skill that best suits this task, because it's what you use to avoid getting lost, it's applicable to any environment, and it's synergized by Knowledge (dungeoneering), (geography), and (planes) depending on whether you're trying to find your way through an underground, aboveground, or extraplanar environment. But I also am willing to consider that Knowledge (geography), Knowledge (dungeoneering), or Knowledge (planes) might also be acceptable as alternatives, especially if they apply at a penalty compared to Survival. Knowledge skills, when you get down to it, are concerned with either handing out plot tokens or with administrating the flow of metagame knowledge into the PCs' decision-making. So it seems clear to me that there's a basis for using them. I'd be interested in hearing what other people think. I'm also not really sure where to set a DC for this check, regardless of the skill being used.

The other half of assessing the risks of camping versus running back to town is that you may not have a lot of information about the nature of the threats that face you when you're in the open. If the DM is just building his random encounter tables by throwing everything that could possibly live in an environment onto the table, giving it a % chance to show up, and assigning a whatever-sided die to determine how many you encounter, it's unlikely that even he is going to know how dangerous it is for you to stay out, much less for him to dole out a threat assessment to a PC who ought to have enough knowledge to be able to make informed decisions. Again, I feel as if Survival or Knowledge skills ought to allow something like this to take place, but it's not something that's addressed well by the Core Rules, even though it probably ought to be.

Thoughts?

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

Using random encounters with any degree of regularity regarding how you adjudicate the results of die rolls doesn't really work out-of-the-box, in my experience. As you observed, the Core rules provide a little bit of insight into how this might work in an average campaign, but you have to take so many extra things into account that you might be better off devising your own system anyway.

I like the idea of PCs being able to make an educated guess about whether it's a good or bad idea to shelter in place. Something else to consider here is the potential for violent weather, which comes up in 2EE almost every single day you're spending any time outside. It seems plausible that particularly nasty weather should tweak the results of the random encounter chart a little bit; tending to make a random encounter less likely to occur, of course, but maybe there are some things that are MORE likely to happen (like maybe if it's pouring down rain but it really did just start and you're due for an encounter, you're MORE likely to encounter one or more other travelers if you have decided to hunker down somewhere; because it makes sense that if you made your Survival check to find shelter, maybe they did too, and yours was the first one they came across).

I like to make the DC for a skill check using a non-optimal-but-still-potentially-relevant skill either 2 or 5 points higher than it would be normally.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Violent weather also is a potential factor when I'm processing random encounters, but it seemed a little extraneous to the discussion here. If I'm eyeballing the parts that allow for an educated guess in "normal" circumstances then I'm not ready to figure out how to nudge things around to account for weather. Your example makes sense, but I'm not in a place where I can address something like that. I'd like to get there.

Mostly, I don't really think that the difficulties lie in the hourly encounter mechanic. Rather, it's a problem that needs to be ironed out with regard to how the DM and players determine what the PCs know, and when they know it. Obviously, the PCs in Cataclysm now know about slitherwebs and how fucking BIG they get.

It's low effort for me as a DM if I just let the PCs find out everything the hard way. Or I could just kind of eyeball everything and call for whatever Survival or Knowledge checks at whatever DC I think is appropriate, but that's inconsistent, and arguably unfair because it depends on how lazy/evil/generous I feel that day.

Ideally, what I'd like to do is construct an extension of the rules that would be easy to adapt to multiple situations, so that I give consistent results to the players over time.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

deadDMwalking
deadDMwalking's picture

If you're in a situation where you can either rest in place for eight hours or travel for eight hours, your chance of having an encounter (assuming the same terrain type) is the same. The big difference from a PLAYER perspective is that if you're traveling, you have everyone awake and ready to take actions at the start of the fight. Just being alert (like real life!) can help prevent a dangerous encounter. A CR 1 or 2 critter might avoid an EL 10 encounter. But if the party is asleep and there is a single sentry, the risk to reward calculation for the opposition changes significantly.

Effectively, if you are in a position that you CAN'T fight another encounter your best option is to move UNLESS you're able to secure your campsite to the point that staying in the same place isn't a problem. That's where Leomund's Secure Shelter comes in handy. Heck, even rope trick isn't bad if you're not traveling with mounts.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

As a shelter, rope trick is superior in virtually every respect, at least provided that you're of sufficient level to make it last a full night. It's much more secure.

Secure shelter is about as safe as a physical shelter can be, short of building an actual castle, but there are ways to defeat its security measures, including several that could leave the party just as surprised as an ambush while they're around a campfire. Also, it's debatable whether a secure shelter really is large enough for your horses to fit comfortably inside it while you're also inside. The shelter is 20 x 20 feet, which would be filled to bursting by horses. I doubt you'd get much sleep if you were a party of four and everybody had a mount inside. It'd be really cramped and smelly. The big draw of the spell is that its duration is 2 hours/level, so as soon as you can cast it, you're capable of using it to get a full night of sleep.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Okay, so I've been thinking about this for a few days, and I've decided that several things really need to be true about any system that I cook up.

First, I think that it needs to be something that would be useful to model the decision making processes of low-level characters, including NPCs. People who live in and around a given region must have some basic grasp of its hazards, even if they haven't got ranks in Knowledge (nature) or Survival. So success against DC 10 needs to represent some kind of basic but useful guideline about which places are potentially dangerous and are best avoided.

This can be pretty basic, because your average 1st-level commoner doesn't need to know whether people who disappear in a nearby forest are being eaten by a pack of eight dire wolves (CR 3 each) or a CR 24 great wyrm green dragon. Just whether an area is dangerous, and maybe whether it's dangerous all the time, irregularly, or at specific times of day or in particular seasons.

Second, it needs to scale upward so that better results allow a PC (or NPC) to do risk assessment before traveling or camping in a region. The output of this system must be such that a relatively modest success (DC 12 to 15) provides an educated guess about the most prevalent type of dangerous creature in the area.

This can be relatively vague, but I'm inclined to say that I think it ought to provide enough guidance that a successful check would clue the players in that they should buy (for example) a specific kind of +1 bane or similar magical ammunition for the archers in the party.

So I think the thing to do may be to look at a given random encounter chart for a region, counting to see the percentile chance of hitting an encounter with each type of creature on it, and then telling the PCs which would be the most likely thing for them to encounter. For the rest of this comment, please assume that when I talk about a "type" of creature, I mean this game-specific term: animal, magical beast, etc. If I'm talking about ghouls versus ghosts, both are of the undead type. I'll designate them as different "kinds" because "sub-type" has its own game-specific meaning.

Anyway. On one of my current tables, there's a 45% chance of encountering humanoids, 30% for undead, 8% for animals, 7% for magical beasts, 4% for aberrations, 4% for giants, and 3% for monstrous humanoids. Based on that breakout, I think it might be fair to use the output of this system to warn the PCs that there are smugglers, bandits, orcs, and other ne'er-do-wells lurking in the forest, with the orcs representing the most numerous group. This represents the humanoid type from that percentage breakout.

Again, I don't think I want this DC to be very high; I eyeballed it at 12 to 15 because that's low enough that an NPC or PC with a couple of ranks in the pertinent skill(s) ought to be able to succeed pretty easily. From here, I think it'd also be fair to parcel out information about one additional type of critter for every 5 points by which the character exceeds the base DC.

I guess the other thing to consider is whether to demand specific Knowledge skills for specific types, or allow them to overlap. That is, should the system be set up so that if you have one applicable skill, you can roll a check to see what you know about the hazards of the Scary Forest and get the same overview every time? Or should you need Knowledge (local) to know about the humanoids, (religion) for the undead, (nature) for the giants, monstrous humanoids, and animals), (arcana) for the magical beasts, and (dungeoneering) for the aberrations?

If we take this example Scary Forest locale, then Knowledge (nature) would only reveal the animals, giants, and monstrous humanoids. If I'm scaling up by 5 points from a base DC of 12, then that's DC 12, 17, and 22. I like this idea because it means that even a PC who's only invested a couple of cross-class ranks into a Knowledge skill has a chance to make them pay off. But I also have to acknowledge that it makes life more difficult for those who aren't playing high-Int skill monkeys with points to burn.

And maybe worst of all, I think that it leaves something to be desired in terms of how it addresses characters who are seasoned life-long outdoorsmen who basically live in the wilderness. Survival checks represent a character's ability to get along in the wild, and knowing which places to avoid is a huge aspect of wilderness survival. But it's not a Knowledge skill.

I don't REALLY want to cook up a system that does the same thing, only differently. So do I assess a penalty, but treat it like a combination of several Knowledge checks?

Do I add a feat to extend the Survival skill's rules, kind of like Track does?

Opinions?

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Darker

Well, it seems you might be trying to do several different things. The appropriate knowledge skill would apply to the terrain. Because I know that thing "a", thing "b", and thing "c" live in a forest with particular characteristics and therefore I'd be likely to run into them in that forest. If a creature is on the random encounter chart and that knowledge is not applicable, the character wouldn't know about it. The same thing for chance encounters with other travelers -- knowledge (local) would tell someone that the route is used by slavers, so it'd be likely to run into a caravan.

Now, for pop up things, like the odd group of ghouls hiding out in a burned out temple along the route, no knowledge skill is going to help. It's not a common part of any knowledge set (undead are, but these undead are not where they should be), so this sort of thing would only be available if the party collected rumors and such via gather info before leaving on the route.

The last thing I think you should have a chance to do is avoid encounters. Much like hide and move silently allow you to avoid detection, moving slowly through the wilderness (not on the road), should help you avoid encounters as well. Knowing what to look for (tracks, snapped twigs, disturbed leaves), should help you spot signs of possible danger and avoid it before stumbling on it (and needing to hide or fight). This would be where a feat would come into play or where you would allow another skill use under the track feat. If included in Track, it would make it a much more useful feat. That is, by moving half speed, you are able to spot signs of encounters and avoid them will a survival skill check. Modifiers would apply if the thing being avoided had extra powerful senses, didn't leave tracks, was actively hunting the party, or was unexpected (i.e. not native to the terrain), etc. Some terrains could be easier or harder to do this in (like tracking through a swamp). This would explain how a ranger could survival in the wilderness for a long time, even in dangerous places.

I think in this case, you'd set the DC on your random encounter chart for each possible encounter. Then make the player roll a survival check for each hour while you roll a random encounter check. If you roll for an encounter and the player beats the DC, something tips them off and they can go around the area.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Darker wrote:

Well, it seems you might be trying to do several different things. The appropriate knowledge skill would apply to the terrain. Because I know that thing "a", thing "b", and thing "c" live in a forest with particular characteristics and therefore I'd be likely to run into them in that forest. If a creature is on the random encounter chart and that knowledge is not applicable, the character wouldn't know about it. The same thing for chance encounters with other travelers -- knowledge (local) would tell someone that the route is used by slavers, so it'd be likely to run into a caravan.


Okay, so it sounds like you're basically advocating for the approach I suggested, where you need to have the applicable Knowledge skill in order to know about each class of threat. In this case, you're saying that if we have Thing A and Thing B, both applicable to (nature), and Thing C, applicable to (local), you'd prefer to see that distinction honored, but with low-ish DCs. Is that right?

Quote:

Now, for pop up things, like the odd group of ghouls hiding out in a burned out temple along the route, no knowledge skill is going to help. It's not a common part of any knowledge set (undead are, but these undead are not where they should be), so this sort of thing would only be available if the party collected rumors and such via gather info before leaving on the route.

Eh. The ghouls and the temple are both highly applicable to Knowledge (religion). I could see a case for using Gather Info instead if the ghouls' presence or the destruction of the temple is a new development, though.

Quote:

The last thing I think you should have a chance to do is avoid encounters. Much like hide and move silently allow you to avoid detection, moving slowly through the wilderness (not on the road), should help you avoid encounters as well. Knowing what to look for (tracks, snapped twigs, disturbed leaves), should help you spot signs of possible danger and avoid it before stumbling on it (and needing to hide or fight). This would be where a feat would come into play or where you would allow another skill use under the track feat. If included in Track, it would make it a much more useful feat. That is, by moving half speed, you are able to spot signs of encounters and avoid them will a survival skill check. Modifiers would apply if the thing being avoided had extra powerful senses, didn't leave tracks, was actively hunting the party, or was unexpected (i.e. not native to the terrain), etc. Some terrains could be easier or harder to do this in (like tracking through a swamp). This would explain how a ranger could survival in the wilderness for a long time, even in dangerous places.

I don't disagree. This may be the correct role for Survival to play. I'm not wild about having a second system (it's more work for the DM), but it's also probably more robust overall, since it does something slightly different but related.

Quote:

I think in this case, you'd set the DC on your random encounter chart for each possible encounter. Then make the player roll a survival check for each hour while you roll a random encounter check. If you roll for an encounter and the player beats the DC, something tips them off and they can go around the area.

I think I'd prefer to set the DC by terrain, and then just track whether the encounter in question can be avoided.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

MinusInnocence
MinusInnocence's picture

You could adjudicate it so that doling out additional pieces of information for every 5 point increment by which the character beats the DC happens at the same time as information about other types of monsters is made available but at a penalty. A 20 on Knowledge (nature) would tell the character a little bit more about the Fey than the locals might be able to casually impart as if it were well known barroom gossip, while also conferring a bare bones breakdown of at least one other Knowledge category (like Undead). You could throw in these extra scraps about intel that would really be better covered by other Knowledge skills in descending order from most to least prevalent on the relevant encounter chart - for the Scary Forest, the character would get even more info about humanoids than the average Joe could tell him with a Knowledge (local) check but would also learn that some varieties of Undead are also present. If he rolled Knowledge (religion) instead he would learn quite a bit about what kinds of Undead he might expect to run into in the forest but also get a short blurb about the humanoids.

This solution makes Knowledge skills a little bit more valuable than I think most of us are used to but only really in this context. You still need to make an investment to get any decent mileage out of them and if you want to then make Knowledge checks about specific kinds of creatures once you hear one of the locals mention they live in the area, only having one or two ranks probably isn't going to cut it unless you have an incredible roll. I am not particularly concerned about one or more classes not really having the resources to allocate to something like this because we're talking about extra intel that isn't necessarily critical to an adventure's success. The party fighter is used to not being able to do much of anything other than fight; his most useful non-combat skills are Climb and Swim and both of these are heavily penalized if he's wearing heavy armor (which almost every fighter does). He'll get over it, and one way to do so might be to spend more time at the bar where he might as well spread the wealth a little bit and see what he can dig up with an old-fashioned Gather Information check anyway.

Re: whether Survival needs an overhaul or if you can supplement how it works with a feat like Track, rolling a 15 or higher allows someone using Survival to avoid natural hazards. Helpfully, the writers have included an example of what they're referring to: quicksand, but we can also probably extrapolate from that something about, say, finding shelter during a thunderstorm. It happens pretty much every day in 2EE and when it does, if the party hasn't already stopped marching early enough to reasonably expect Argus or someone to have taken 10 on the roll, I make another check on his behalf and if successful, no one in the party needs to worry about being struck by lightning. There was that one time Gideon got nailed real good but he was doing everything in his power to do so (running around outside during a storm, wearing metal armor, standing on top of a hill, etc).

What if we just added another item t0 the chart - "DC 20 - avoid hostile encounters with local creatures?" Or maybe limit it to animals, plants and Fey, since there are a few other areas where Knowledge (nature) and Survival overlap. Maybe the DC would be even higher for other types of creatures, or you could rule that the character needs to make a supplemental Knowledge check of the appropriate type to be able to add monsters in that category to the list, or maybe it would call for a feat like you said. Safe Passage: Prerequisites: Wisdom 13, 5 ranks in Survival. Benefit: You can roll Survival DC 20 to avoid an encounter with creatures of any type.

But going back to the other topic of how to adjudicate Knowledge checks for determining how dangerous a particular geographical region is, I like the idea of locals being able to tell you something about it even if they don't have any ranks in the relevant skills simply because they live there and may have encountered some of these critters or know someone who has. I do still think there is a place for Knowledge (local) or (history) to tell you something vague about it but it might not be 100% reliable, just like a Gather Information roll.

"Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag and begin slitting throats." - H.L. Mencken

Darker

Yes, on the first comment. To me, the player could be a great naturalist and know what's in every type of forest terrain. Even if he's never been there, he'll know every natural creature he could possibly run into out there. However, being that he's never been there, how's all that nature knowledge going to help him know that there's a group of bandits that operate out of it? So yes, a distinction needs to be honored.

The ghoul example was supposed to be something that was a new development and thus outside the purview of the local and religion knowledge domains. It hasn't been around long enough to be part of lore or local knowledge, but enough have seen them recently to be part of the rumor mill.

I don't think there's an issue doing the DC terrain, but you may still want to do situational modifiers to the DC. For example, a hungry creature that can track the party is going to be harder to avoid that one that's sleeping in its lair. A character with an astronomical check (30 +) may be able to avoid almost anything. But traveling at half speed is going to increase the number of chances for a random encounter too, so the system is only subject to abuse with a character that has dumped a lot into survival. And the speed reduction could be its own penalty.

Talanall
Talanall's picture

MinusInnocence wrote:

You could adjudicate it so that doling out additional pieces of information for every 5 point increment by which the character beats the DC happens at the same time as information about other types of monsters is made available but at a penalty. A 20 on Knowledge (nature) would tell the character a little bit more about the Fey than the locals might be able to casually impart as if it were well known barroom gossip, while also conferring a bare bones breakdown of at least one other Knowledge category (like Undead). You could throw in these extra scraps about intel that would really be better covered by other Knowledge skills in descending order from most to least prevalent on the relevant encounter chart - for the Scary Forest, the character would get even more info about humanoids than the average Joe could tell him with a Knowledge (local) check but would also learn that some varieties of Undead are also present. If he rolled Knowledge (religion) instead he would learn quite a bit about what kinds of Undead he might expect to run into in the forest but also get a short blurb about the humanoids.

If I were going to allow cross-Knowledge checks, this is roughly how I'd do it, except I probably would use (planes) and (dungeoneering) instead of (nature) for environments that were extraplanar or underground. I think I'd end up assessing a -10 penalty, or something like that.

Quote:

This solution makes Knowledge skills a little bit more valuable than I think most of us are used to but only really in this context. You still need to make an investment to get any decent mileage out of them and if you want to then make Knowledge checks about specific kinds of creatures once you hear one of the locals mention they live in the area, only having one or two ranks probably isn't going to cut it unless you have an incredible roll. I am not particularly concerned about one or more classes not really having the resources to allocate to something like this because we're talking about extra intel that isn't necessarily critical to an adventure's success. The party fighter is used to not being able to do much of anything other than fight; his most useful non-combat skills are Climb and Swim and both of these are heavily penalized if he's wearing heavy armor (which almost every fighter does). He'll get over it, and one way to do so might be to spend more time at the bar where he might as well spread the wealth a little bit and see what he can dig up with an old-fashioned Gather Information check anyway.

There's also the example of Chuul (and Johten in the Cataclysm game). In both cases, Fixxxer has opted to buy cross-class ranks of Knowledge, mostly for flavor reasons having to do with a tendency to play characters who've got some degree of intellectual curiosity. But this project would actually reward that approach, because it gives you a genuinely useful application for those cross-class ranks, other than "flavor" and "I needed them to get into a prestige class."

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Re: whether Survival needs an overhaul or if you can supplement how it works with a feat like Track, rolling a 15 or higher allows someone using Survival to avoid natural hazards. Helpfully, the writers have included an example of what they're referring to: quicksand, but we can also probably extrapolate from that something about, say, finding shelter during a thunderstorm. It happens pretty much every day in 2EE and when it does, if the party hasn't already stopped marching early enough to reasonably expect Argus or someone to have taken 10 on the roll, I make another check on his behalf and if successful, no one in the party needs to worry about being struck by lightning. There was that one time Gideon got nailed real good but he was doing everything in his power to do so (running around outside during a storm, wearing metal armor, standing on top of a hill, etc).

It happens a lot in Ancestral Burdens and Cataclysm, too. Most of the time I gloss over it in AB, because several characters have such high Survival modifiers that they can just take 10 to know what the weather's going to do or avoid natural hazards. Cataclysm is getting to that point, as well, because we've got a couple of druid/ranger types who have decided to lean hard on Knowledge (nature) and Survival.

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What if we just added another item t0 the chart - "DC 20 - avoid hostile encounters with local creatures?" Or maybe limit it to animals, plants and Fey, since there are a few other areas where Knowledge (nature) and Survival overlap. Maybe the DC would be even higher for other types of creatures, or you could rule that the character needs to make a supplemental Knowledge check of the appropriate type to be able to add monsters in that category to the list, or maybe it would call for a feat like you said. Safe Passage: Prerequisites: Wisdom 13, 5 ranks in Survival. Benefit: You can roll Survival DC 20 to avoid an encounter with creatures of any type.

I think that if I were going to do something with this, I would make it a feat, and have it grant the ability to reduce the hourly chance of having an encounter. Probably I would allow it to scale depending on how comprehensively you succeed versus a set DC. For example, in a "frontier/wilderness" area, the chance per hour is 8%. Maybe the feat lets you roll versus some DC to reduce that to 4% or 6%, and then you get a further reduction of 1% per X points by which you surpass the DC.

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But going back to the other topic of how to adjudicate Knowledge checks for determining how dangerous a particular geographical region is, I like the idea of locals being able to tell you something about it even if they don't have any ranks in the relevant skills simply because they live there and may have encountered some of these critters or know someone who has. I do still think there is a place for Knowledge (local) or (history) to tell you something vague about it but it might not be 100% reliable, just like a Gather Information roll.

Yes, this was kind of where I was coming from with this whole project. It doesn't make sense that a lifelong resident of Alaska would not know the basic stuff to do when encountering a grizzly bear, to give a real-life example.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold

Talanall
Talanall's picture

Darker wrote:

Yes, on the first comment. To me, the player could be a great naturalist and know what's in every type of forest terrain. Even if he's never been there, he'll know every natural creature he could possibly run into out there. However, being that he's never been there, how's all that nature knowledge going to help him know that there's a group of bandits that operate out of it? So yes, a distinction needs to be honored.

I don't disagree.

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The ghoul example was supposed to be something that was a new development and thus outside the purview of the local and religion knowledge domains. It hasn't been around long enough to be part of lore or local knowledge, but enough have seen them recently to be part of the rumor mill.

Noted. I think we're on the same page, then.

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I don't think there's an issue doing the DC terrain, but you may still want to do situational modifiers to the DC. For example, a hungry creature that can track the party is going to be harder to avoid that one that's sleeping in its lair. A character with an astronomical check (30 +) may be able to avoid almost anything. But traveling at half speed is going to increase the number of chances for a random encounter too, so the system is only subject to abuse with a character that has dumped a lot into survival. And the speed reduction could be its own penalty.

My inclination is to check every 8 hours, have the attempt halve your movement speed, much as Track does, and impose a hefty penalty if you want to move at your normal speed. I think the real value is in using it to make a safe(er) camp at night. At this point, I think that Ancestral Burdens and Cataclysm have both demonstrated—extensively—that nighttime random encounters are extremely dangerous, even in cases where the same encounter might be a pushover if the PCs are awake and able to see well.

Wæs se grimma gæst Grendel haten,
mære mearcstapa, se þe moras heold