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Old 07-09-2011, 10:45 PM   #1
Mr_Sandman's Avatar
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: L.I., NY
Default Hazards and speed of movement over bad terrain

I've got a situation involving on-foot movement coming up in an upcoming session that I'm not sure how to deal with.

The player characters will have to cover about 500 yards of bad terrain (salt marsh, with at least one creek to ford, in the rain, at night). Since it is a cloudy night, the only light will be flashlights carried by the PCs. They will be working against the clock to stop an NPC from completing a magic ritual. They won't be sure how much time they have, or what resistance they will face when arrive, so they'll have to decide whether to risk fatigue loss and injury to move as fast as possible, or to move slower but more safely.

So, how fast should I let them move? And what kind of rolls should I have them make to avoid fatigue, injuring themselves, or other mishaps, and what kind of penalties should they roll at?

Sprinting might be completely out of the question. If not, it should be hazardous, with a very high chance of injury.

If they try paced running, by my math, PCs with move 5 and movement halved by bad terrain should cover the distance in about 5 1/2 minutes. I think there should still be a good chance of falls, twisted ankles, etc. But I'm not sure how often they should roll, against what, and what should happen if they fail.

Moving at hiking speed (move/2 mph, halved for bad terrain) would take longer (13 1/2 minutes), but should have a much lower chance of mishap and injury, probably only on a critical miss on a hiking or HT roll. If they hike, I'm leaning towards having them make just one roll, at -3 for darkness. I'm still don't know what kind of damage should result in that case.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Old 07-10-2011, 06:57 AM   #2
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: Cambridge, UK
Default Re: Hazards and speed of movement over bad terrain

I don't think you're so much looking at hit points damage for failed rolls as delay, getting wet and muddy, and possible risks of drowning. How wide and deep is the creek? What's the TL? What equipment do they have? What are the plot consequences if they fail to arrive in time?

For sprinting, I'd ask for DX rolls every few seconds, with failure resulting in significant delays while they disentangle themselves, and/or rescue each other from drowning and critical failure resulting in crippled limbs due to sprains. Sprinting, unless they're extremely athletic, is likely to take at least as long as hiking and do them more harm.
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Old 07-10-2011, 07:19 AM   #3
Join Date: Aug 2004
Location: Buffalo, NY- the weak live elsewhere!
Default Re: Hazards and speed of movement over bad terrain

If I were GM-ing this situation, I would give them a DX or Per-based Hiking roll (to spot hazards) at -3, as you suggested, as long as they kept at a cautious pace, with a possibility of injury only on a critical failure (Then roll vs. DX or Acrobatics to avoid 1d cr at a random location- treat it like an attack roll with no defense.). If they wanted to pick up the pace, make the roll every (10-current speed) turns. Sprinting in a swamp pretty much calls for a DX roll every turn- if you're feeling generous, an IQ or IQ-based Hiking or Survival (Swamp) roll will tell them it's not a good idea. It should also start costing FP. And there's nothing with rolling dice once in a while, with no care for the result, just to keep 'em guessing!

Since the PC's "won't be sure how much time they have", ramp up the tension by keeping strict track of time spent, and calling attention to it, perhaps mentioning to one of the PC's at the start of the run "You glance at your watch, and notice that it's ten minutes to midnight", then keep mentioning the time. Of course, unless you're prepared for the bad guy's ritual to succeed , the PC's WILL arrive in time to try to stop it, regardless of how long it takes.
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Old 07-10-2011, 08:21 AM   #4
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: L.I., NY
Default Re: Hazards and speed of movement over bad terrain

Thanks for the replies.

It's a pulp-era adventure, set in the 1930s, so TL 6. I'll rule that one or more of them thought to bring a flashlight, although using them will make their approach more visible. None of them did much research on the island (looking up maps, etc.). They drove most of the day to get there, and then paid a local boater to ferry them out to it, so they don't have much else in the way of equipment. They do have a few charms prepared.

I'm perfectly fine with the ritual being successful, preferably with the PCs arriving just in time to witness the conclusion, and either stop it or fail to. Although I do want them to be in time to rescue the victim that the bad guy abducted as a sacrifice. That's mostly why I'd like them to waste a considerable amount of time mucking about in the marsh. I want it to be credible that the NPC was aware of them, and had time to complete the ritual. (A Doom ritual from Path/Book magic, so having them spend about an hour from when they are first spotted coming over on the boat would be perfect timing.) I'm also planning on having them delayed by some other distractions, a false lead that has them start off in the wrong direction, and an ambush by some zombies that the NPC controls.

Mostly I want them to get the feel that even though they are on a small island, it takes precious time to get anywhere, so every delay costs them. Also attempts to make up time by moving faster could save them time, but at a considerable cost of fatigue and possible injury, making it harder to battle the zombies when they meet them. But I want them to have the choice between safe and slow, or moving faster at greater risk, with the choice having real consequences.
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