Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Travelogues: health

We're coming to the end of the subsystems for travelogues (thank goodness), and having thrown out some ideas about rest, food, morale and maintenance, I'm going to move on to health.

Health isn't a big part of most roleplaying games, particularly combat-adventure games like D&D, where there's a ferociously-handwavy zone of "either stabbed in the kidneys or badly bruised or forced to make a sudden dodge, we're not sure" around injuries and where diseases only exist as things that kill you quite quickly and probably turn you into a monster. That's fair enough. Head colds and carpal tunnel syndrome don't fit well with that brand of fantasy.

Nevertheless, travelogues do feature health as a concern. Characters worry about bad food, or getting poisoned by careless foraging. Bad weather makes them worry about chills, and marshes or infected wounds cause fevers. People and mounts alike twist ankles, grow footsore, and are afflicted by noxious miasmas.

Like Morale, I think Health will be mostly a tracking thing, tied into random encounters. Unlike Morale, this will be tracked individually. I know fantasy characters do differ in their stoicness, but I feel like it's specific characters that are ill during travelogues (thus burdening the rest of the party) while overall mood is typically more of a party thing. Also, having the entire party sick just feels wrong.

As per usual, I'm basically making this up as I go along.

Tracking health

So, first up. Characters on travelogues (but not in general play, just for simplicity) have a Health tracker. This ranges from -3 to +3. -3 means the character is feeling utterly lousy (though not ill enough for it to materially affect their performance during combat); they might have a streaming cold, huge blisters, indigestion, insect bites, pulled muscles, dizziness or fever. +3 means they have a real spring in their step.

  • Awful (-3): the character cannot make downtime rolls. This status also imposes a penalty on Morale checks.
  • Poor (-2): the character makes all downtime rolls at disadvantage. This status also imposes a penalty on Morale checks.
  • Under the Weather (-1): no effect
  • Healthy (+0): no effect
  • Good (+1): no effect
  • Hale and Hearty (+2): no effect
  • In Fine Fettle (+3): the character gains advantage on any rolls to resist Exhaustion caused by the travelogue.

Unlike Morale, characters will typically start off an adventure being Hale and Hearty. It seems reasonable to assume that adventures tend to begin with people in good condition, and they are gradually worn down by their journey.

For clarity, "downtime rolls" means rolls that I've introduced for downtime activities related to the travelogue: foraging, hunting, providing healthcare and animal care (below), maintenance, and some other activities yet to follow. It does not mean Exhaustion rolls or all rolls that are performed during downtime.

At the end of the day (or whatever period is being used), characters make a Health roll to determine whether their health has been taxed. Modifiers are as follows (suggestions, of course).

  • drank filthy water: suffer a -2 penalty on Health checks. Roll an additional Health check, with advantage if you boiled it; this roll cannot lead to an increase in health, that would make no sense.
  • drank tolerable water: suffer a -2 penalty, unless you boiled it.
  • spent at least an hour in unhealthy environment (mosquito-filled marsh, sulphurous cavern): -2 penalty
  • soaked through, chilled to the bone, sunburned or otherwise afflicted by weather: -2 penalty
  • filthy for a substantial period: -2 penalty
  • haven't changed clothes for days: -2 penalty
  • injured by poison, disease or an inherently unclean source: -5 penalty
  • ate squalid food: -5 penalty
  • fell unconscious due to injury: -5 penalty
  • did not use Forced March: +2
  • at least one hit die remains unspent: +2
  • ate healthy food: +2
  • encountered only pleasant weather and environments: +2
  • no strenuous exertion: +2
  • rest was Adequate or better: +5
  • spent downtime on personal fitness and hygiene, or received Healthcare (see below): +5
  • drank clear, sweet water: gain advantage on Health checks

Racial or class immunities apply: a druid can't be poisoned by bad food or water, and ignores penalties for toxic wounds.

Many spellcasters can trivially deal with dirt, damp and other hygiene issues.

If the character fails to make a DC 15, their Health decreases one step. If they successfully make a DC 25, their Health increases one step. For simplicity, assume that whenever the PCs stay more than a few days in comfortable surroundings, they can return their status to Hale and Hearty.

I'm wary of the effects of Exhaustion as well, so Health status has only minimal effects, on downtime activities, but will also affect the random events the party encounters on their travels. Specific health crises will be modelled as events.


One of the new downtime options I want to introduce is personal fitness. This represents the PC taking some time out, not simply to rest, but to take care of their health. As well as resting, they basically do everything worried mothers advise: take their time over eating, wrap up warm, wash or otherwise clean themselves, stretch properly, massage aching muscles, clean teeth, apply blister plasters, clean and bandage wounds, trim nails and hair, remove lice and so on.

When a PC is unwell, they may be unable to look after themselves. Another PC (or an NPC) can perform Healthcare on their behalf, granting them the same benefits. Success requires a DC 10 Wisdom (Medicine) roll. Magical healing ability grants advantage on the roll.

Animal care

I don't really want to individually track the health status of the party's mounts and pack animals. However, they will be affected by some random events.

Animal Care will be a new option for downtime. This is essentially healthcare for your mounts. The character inspects the party's animals, grooms them, removes lice and fleas, takes stones out of hooves, cleans and treats wounds, adjusts tack and packages to minimise the risk of injuring them, and perhaps gives them some anti-parasitic herbal draughts.

Success requires a DC 10 Wisdom (Animal Handling) roll. The ability to speak with animals of the mounts' type grants advantage on the roll.

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