Saturday, August 4, 2012
Going off the map
Last week we talked about maps and the party staying on the road. Now I like to let the party do whatever they want, but I also believe (very strongly) in punishing them for not doing what I wanted in the first place. So how do you punish the party for going off road? It’s really easy. First, they would likely be moving at a third of the rate of what they could on the road. Slow them down in other ways. If they have horses, they might need to lead them, not ride them. Branches have a tendency to catch on backpacks; in other words, hand them equipment failures. Tell an adventurer that his backpack won’t hold loot before he gets into the adventure, and you’ll find an adventurer willing to turn around and go home. As you slow them down, their provisions will not go as far. Now, they will insist that they are hunting or fishing as they go. OK - Check their hunting or fishing abilities, but then have them spend all the daylight hours hunting and fishing. If they succeed at their gathering abilities, then they don’t go hungry, but in any case, they don’t progress towards the ultimate goal. In the end, they will likely start running low on provisions, but not be near anywhere they can refill them. I normally won’t have them run into real trouble with the wildlife. It is not as though a pack of wolves is going to attack and run combat. Instead - the pack of wolves will follow them for a little while, howling and forcing them to post watches, just in case. Would those wolves spook the horses? I know it’s a fantasy RPG and all, but there are no cases of wolves killing humans in the US’s history. (OK, the Old World was a little different.) So avoid the combat (which the PCs would likely win), and just harass them. Then there are the opossums and raccoons who will steal those precious provisions. Skunks? Bees? Mosquitoes? You know in real life, I’m willing to do quite a bit to avoid mosquitoes. I’d bet the fantasy characters would be too. Doing damage is not the point; I mean how much damage do you take from a bee sting? The point is to fill their time with things that are disadvantageous to them. At the same time, if they divert from the main road to avoid an ambush, then I congratulate them, but get them back on the road ASAP. Skipping encounters has a tendency to make those encounters come back later, but only if properly role-playing the bad guys would lead to that. Sometimes it can be more fun to have that encounter they missed form the basis of next week’s adventure/mission. The adventurers feel so smart for avoiding the bandit trap, only to find out that the merchant and his family fell into it and now need to be saved. (After all, you made up those bad guys anyway, might as well use them.) Actions and decisions have consequences, even inactions.