Thursday, May 14, 2015

Dungeon Viddles - HMS Apollyon Player's Guide

Rations have been on the equipment list for D&D since it’s earliest incarnations In the first game I played (Keep of the Borderlands of Course) the GM insisted that each PC buy one Iron Ration (A term perhaps originating with the 1907 – 1922 US military individual ration, and including parched wheat and beef bullion cakes) but it was never heard from again.  Now rations have uses – specifically to throw to animal intelligence monsters to distract them, and theoretically the party eats them at some point, but they are largely not mechanically significant.  They should be in an exploration game however and below are my house rules for HMS APPOLYON regarding food and exhaustion.

Giuseppe Recco - Still Life 17th century
The Dungeon is a strange place, filled with the physical challenges of climbing, fighting and forcing doors as well as the stress of intruding into a terrible, magically charged nightmare.  A lot of people deal with stress and strain by eating, and there is nothing like a quick bite to restore a person physically and mentally.
Exhaustion is modeled as a random effect on the “Exploration Die”, rolled every turn. When a ‘6’ results the party takes an exhaustion pip, and when three pips accrue the characters have become exhausted.  Exhaustion is a state of being overwhelmed physically and mentally by the rigors and horrors of the Apollyon, the stink of old death and rotten metal, the creaking of the tired hull and hissing whispers of the damned all take their toll, just as much as climbing slime encrusted chains or swinging a crowbar into the skull of another zombie.  When exhausted characters receive a -4 to all rolls, cumulative to any other negative effects for darkness, injury or encumbrance. 

Food and Exhaustion
The Gm should clearly describe each exhaustion pip, as there is nothing hidden about the characters growing tired and frightened, but after the third is rolled the negative effects of exhaustion – a culmination of hunger, thirst, paranoia, minor injury and overwork – are dully evident and penalties apply. Exhaustion can be  overcome with rest and food.  The comforting feeling of a full stomach is the only way to mitigate the penalty of exhaustion, either fending it off through the occasional snack or with a full meal and a longer rest.
Each exhaustion pip can be removed by sharing a single ration of food amongst the party, allowing them to catch their breath and wolf down some seaweed crackers, a handful of dried shrimp or a few strips of dog jerky.  This act of generosity and camaraderie takes  an exploration turn (and results in a die roll).

When complete exhaustion has set in (after three pips accumulate) the party is completely spent and penalties immediately accrue.  Each party member must eat an entire ration and rest for a full turn or continue to suffer -4 to all rolls. If a random encounter is indicated during this rest period the party will have not completed their rest and must engage the encounter while suffering the Exhaustion penalty.

Rations Aboard the Apollyon
There is no distinction between preserved and regular rations on the Apollyon, it is largely unnecessary as most expeditions into the hull are of a fairly short duration.  Food may be had for 10GP a ration, or 15GP for an all meat ration (popular amongst Merrowmen and better for distracting carnivores) or 100GP for a luxurious ration.  Most rations consist of dried or tinned fish, including shellfish or squid and several flat dried leathery mushroom caps or similar chunks of ‘bread’ made from starchy seaweed.  Luxury rations include dainties imported from the hells or crafted aboard form Uptown’s minimal stocks – fresh fruits, candies, delicate cuts of spiced meat and  goat cheese are common in these rations which provide excellent eating and make excellent trade goods, but are only available to characters who can trade outside the Rustgates.

I like the way this rule works as it allows frequent rests with a lower individual risk or one longer risk with a nasty consequence and higher use of resources.  The ‘exhaustion’ effect also provides an additional condition for traps, spells and monster attacks to create.  (e.g. Ray of enfeeblement now produces  1+1/2 caster level exhaustion pips or 2 if cast at 3rd level when it first becomes available – which I figure will enfeeble most enemies who are undoubtedly a bit tired, but not all).

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