Vastlands Houserules – Survive the Night

This post has been much researched, discussed, discarded, and rewritten. It all comes down to “what am I trying to represent”… Finally I think we’ve got something that my players like.

Oregon Family Trail, by Morgan Weistling

Old School Essentials is really light on rules for “survival” or hardship while travelling. It amounts to the following:

  • Starvation: If characters go for a full day or more without food or water, the referee may begin to apply penalties to attack rolls and movement rate, require more frequent rests, or even begin to deduct hit points (in extreme cases).
  • Healing: For each full day of complete rest, a character recovers 1d3 hit points. If the rest is interrupted, the character will not heal that day.

Its fairly scant, and the players don’t really have anything that they can use to gauge how long they might last, or how difficult it will be to travel in hard environments. The problem is that most of the “solutions” I’ve seen to implementing better “survival” mechanics result in more things to track – a slow death-spiral effectively.

The question came up – what exactly am I trying to achieve here? The main thing is to encourage players think about what they are carrying when travelling – do they take more gear, more food, or leave space for treasure? Also, I don’t like penalising for not having stuff, but I’d rather give some kind of buff/bonus for using rations.

So I want to make the whole balance of “rations or gear” be a little more important, without punishing the players anymore than base OSE. This reminds me of the whole system of Electric Bastionland – when characters don’t eat/rest/drink they become deprived, and while deprived they cannot heal.

So for our Vastlands campaign lets just swap around the terms a little and say “eat/drink/rest makes you heal”. It feels like it makes things as simple as possible.

  • No natural healing: we’re ignoring the “heal 1d3hp per day of rest”
  • Rations take space: Fresh Rations take 1 slot, Preserved Rations take 1/2 slot.
  • Rations heal: when you have a chance to rest, cook and eat food (2+ hours) heal 1d6 hp.
  • Rations expire: when you try to use Fresh Rations, they are tainted on a 1-2 on a d6
  • Preserves: you can turn 2 Fresh rations into 1 Preserved ration by cooking at camp

This lets players “ignore” the whole survival schtick if they wish – they just need to be careful not to loose hit points. If they want though, they can bring a cooking kit, and loads of rations so they can heal up in the wilderness. I’m probably going to be using the “hunting and cleaning” rules from Into the Wyrd and Wild which allows my players (Especially Alette the Hunter) to hunt wild animals and collect rations (and goods to sell)


2 thoughts on “Vastlands Houserules – Survive the Night

    1. Yeah, took some discussion with my players to get it this simple. A “ration” is a mix of food, water, kindiing, etc – everything you need to get comfortable and cook a good meal. Preserved rations are at least 2x as expensive (takes two fresh rations and time to process them)

      And its always a trade off – something that is more reliable and lighter, vs having to take the time to make them. (and as always, the choice of rations vs something more useful like a weapon or dungeoneering equipment.)

      Liked by 1 person

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