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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    Griffon

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    Default Fun survival mechanics?

    Hello lovely and attractive forum folks!

    I have stranded my players on a small island in the middle of the ocean. They will be rescued at the end of next session (about a week of time in-game), but I'd like to give them some fun survival stuff to do. This has been a largely urban campaign to date, and I want to give the ranger and the hunter/fighter lizardfolk a chance to shine.

    Rolling one Survival check to determine if they fish enough food for the day isn't very engaging. I'm planning at least one straight-up combat encounter with a giant shark or something. What survival stuff have people done in their games that players enjoyed? Building shelters? Combating disease?

    Thanks for your help!
    Last edited by PiperThePaladin; 2019-05-18 at 08:09 PM.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Dealing with other inhabitants on the island (doesn't need to be a BIG threat, just some small critters than need to be accounted for)
    • Unless they can keep a fire going through the nights, stirges are drawn to the camp while the party sleeps.
    • Crabs attempt to steal food and supplies that are left on the ground
    • If the base camp is set up near a food source, monkeys will throw coconuts/poop at the party from treetops to try to drive them away
    • A tribe of tiny coconut folk (Kakamora) mistake a party member for one of their gods and want to cook and eat them to 'free them from their mortal restraints'


    Or have the party view something huge at a distance, far enough out at sea or in the sky that they cannot directly interact with, but gives them a view of the world being bigger than the immediate goals of the campaign.
    A ship of some kind seen out in the ocean, and while it looks like they are headed towards the island, have it intercepted by some aquatic-tarrasque style monstrosity that wrecks the ship and sinks it. The creature moves on, but it can give the players a site to swim out to looking for supplies (set up for your shark encounter), or have some drift wood or supplies wash up on shore for the party to use and they needn't ask question on why it was there. Or let them speculate as players feeding ideas into the game and working out backstory is an engaging time filler in a session.
    • Where they merchants? Pirates? Was this a military vessel?
    • Did the crew know about the sea monster?
    • There's a whole lot of engravings on this piece of wood from the ship, what language is it in?
    • This artwork has a bunch of vile looking tentacles. Is it just decoration, or an indication of the ship under the employ of some kraken type figure?
    Last edited by Zhorn; 2019-05-18 at 09:07 PM.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    You could look at Farcry 3 for ideas. There might be cliffs to climb to have a look around. Or an ancient set of tombs/bunkers/etc from an old civilizations your players can explore. Maybe there's a pirate outpost with a few guys the pirates left to hold the outpost while they went out to sea. Or a myconid colony that sends them all on a terrifying vision quest!

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Greywander's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    If your players work to create their own fun, then just roll with it and lead them along. When they try to solve a problem you haven't presented yet (e.g. "We have to build shelter before a storm comes"), then use it as an opportunity to create that very problem for them to solve (e.g. "As you look out to sea, you see ominous, dark clouds on the horizon. You're not sure which way they're moving"). This can be a great opportunity to let them play around in a sandbox making their own fun.

    That said, they might not feel engaged in a little survival play, in which case you'll need to give them a hook to go after. The rule of 3s is a good place to start:
    • Three minutes without air.
    • Three hours without shelter.
    • Three days without water.
    • Three weeks without food.

    These are (roughly) how long a person can survive without those resources. Obviously dependent on the circumstances, of course, like, you don't need shelter unless the weather is bad or the environment is too hot or cold.

    So yeah, toss a storm at them, so they can scramble to erect shelter and wait it out. Have them hunt down a source of fresh water so they can drink. A week isn't long enough to starve to death, but if they don't eat they could get pretty weak, and they might need to be ready to fight at any moment. You could also throw some disease in there and make them care for a sick party member on top of it all (protip: if one of the party members can trivialize survival, e.g. a cleric with Create Food and Water, then they're a prime candidate to get sick and not be able to work their magic). Make sure if a PC gets sick that they still have something to do to have fun during the event, like maybe they can't use their leveled spells, but they can still use cantrips and perform ability checks (at disadvantage). Better still, set things up so they have to rely on the sick PC to pull their weight. Perhaps as the week progresses, they all start getting sick, and have to really work together to stay alive.

    One last thing is that I would rely less on skill checks and more on colorful descriptions of what they want to be doing. Don't just have them roll one survival check and then say, "Yeah, you survive long enough to get rescued," as that reduces the whole event to nothing more than a single ability check. Likewise, don't just have them roll to find/create shelter, make them describe what they're doing and how they're doing it. What are they using to build their shelter? How are they securing it? Where are the building it? And so on. Many of these tasks won't even require an ability check, just so long as they can tell you what they're doing and it isn't particularly complicated.

    Really, an ability check is just as much for when you want to skip past something and handwave it as when you need to test your character's actual skill. A lot of tasks could be done with relatively low levels of skill, but an ability check glosses over the whole thing to skip to the end and find out the result.

    And remember, players shouldn't ask to make skill checks. They tell you what they want to do, and you decide if it merits a skill check. Don't let them get away with vagueness ("I want to make a Survival check to, you know, survive"), make them describe how they're doing it, which might not require a skill check.

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    Dwarf in the Playground
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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    I'd suggest treading carefully, though. While certainly it's dull for everything to just be resolved by a check, it's also frustrating for a player to be told that their character's training and knowledge of survival is largely irrelevant and that the players are the ones who need to actually know what to do properly. The middle ground, of course, is probably to have survival skill confer a lot of guidance to what goals need to be met and where to look for them, and then have more specific puzzles/challenges/whatevers for those goalpoints.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGirl

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by OvisCaedo View Post
    I'd suggest treading carefully, though. While certainly it's dull for everything to just be resolved by a check, it's also frustrating for a player to be told that their character's training and knowledge of survival is largely irrelevant and that the players are the ones who need to actually know what to do properly. The middle ground, of course, is probably to have survival skill confer a lot of guidance to what goals need to be met and where to look for them, and then have more specific puzzles/challenges/whatevers for those goalpoints.
    This. Avoid Angry DM's Survival article. An outlander ranger was born and trained in the wilds for decades. For all that, they get advantage on survival checks.

    In general, scraping by to survive is tedious and you should respect abilities that trim down that tedium, especially when they those abilities account for a significant portion of a character's build.

    You could spice things up by having dangerous monsters either as or guarding the only sources of food, water, or shelter. Challenge them to Bear Grylls it up and make them eat an entire giant crocodile. If they need to build a shelter, let hem have fun by asking them how they decorate their paltry lean-to. Do they hang a holy symbol? Do they wear their shoes inside because that was the NPC's, rule- not theirs?

    If you don't want it to be fun and you want to underscore how lethal it can be, have them find someone dying of exhaustion on the island already. Exhaustion and disease rules are sort of the only ways by RAW a DM can act out a slow death.
    Quote Originally Posted by Petrocorus View Post
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    Halfling in the Playground
     
    Griffon

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Thank you everyone, this is great feedback. :) I'm going to spend the week drawing up a plan!

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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    QuickLyRaiNbow's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    There are cool mechanics in Tomb of Annihilation for survival stuff, and after a few sessions of it my players were sick to death of all of it. That said, generally what we did was establish a specific routine: who does what at what times, and what procedures they follow. Then things would occur to poke holes in the routine. Storms, variance in danger level, limited supplies, unanticipated hazards. Because a lot of ToA is a hex crawler, their basic procedure was repeated many, many times, which is why it was so important for us to have it straight so we didn't have to go through six months of 'who is keeping watch when'. For a shorter time period, you probably won't need to get that as dialed-in as we did.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    BardGuy

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    See signature on "how to wear down a party" . It's a great way to soften them up before an encounter, especially if it's the only encounter that day. It's just an example, and is very similar to a skill challenge in the way that it serves as a "montage" of many complex challenges in a short period if time, but differs in the way that it uses actual resources instead of successes and failures.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    This. Avoid Angry DM's Survival article. An outlander ranger was born and trained in the wilds for decades. For all that, they get advantage on survival checks.
    Can you provide a link to the article? I searched the site for 'survival' and 'survive' and came up empty.

    I don't know any 'fun' mechanics for mundane biological maintenance survival. I don't quite see where getting ground down to zero by forces you cannot defeat or flee and fun intersect. But I'd definitely use exhaustion, not hit points, as the punishment for failure.

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by QuickLyRaiNbow View Post
    There are cool mechanics in Tomb of Annihilation for survival stuff, and after a few sessions of it my players were sick to death of all of it.
    I've been playing in ToA about every other week for 8 months, and I'm sick of it. Bug juice? Oh yeah gimmie more mundane stuff in my fantasy gaming time! Wheeee!!!! Mark off another ration? Oh boy, this is REAL D&D now.

    My bard chose Tiny Hut because of this exciting addition to the game play.

  12. - Top - End - #12
    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    QuickLyRaiNbow's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt Kurageous View Post
    I've been playing in ToA about every other week for 8 months, and I'm sick of it. Bug juice? Oh yeah gimmie more mundane stuff in my fantasy gaming time! Wheeee!!!! Mark off another ration? Oh boy, this is REAL D&D now.

    My bard chose Tiny Hut because of this exciting addition to the game play.
    As a DM, I hated it. There were some high points - running one of the forts as something straight out of Apocalypse Now was fun, and a fight atop Firefinger was great - but most of it was a huge slog. There's only so many ways to be creative about "you are walking through a swamp, do not know where you are going and there is a random encounter every six feet." It's a shame, because some of the set pieces are interesting as heck.
    Spoiler
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    Some are awful. Looking at you, house of man and crocodile
    Last edited by QuickLyRaiNbow; 2019-05-21 at 02:16 PM.

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    Troll in the Playground
     
    BlueKnightGuy

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    So, then...what survival mechanics work?

    ---------------------------------------------

    One thing I've been considering playing with is allowing someone to get benefits of a rest, depending on the comfort of the resting conditions.

    Something like:

    Long Rest: Rest Condition => 10
    Short Rest: Rest Condition => 5

    Rations: Rest Condition + 1
    Warm meal: Rest Condition + 3


    8 hours of rest: Rest Condition +4
    Bed: Rest Condition + 3
    Shelter: Rest Condition + 3
    Medical Care (DC 15): Rest Condition + 2



    So under perfect circumstances, a party might get the benefits of a Long Rest within a Short Rest's time. In poor conditions (sleep + ration), a party might get the benefits of a Short Rest over a night's sleep.
    Last edited by Man_Over_Game; 2019-05-21 at 02:30 PM.
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    5th Edition Homebrewery

    Prestige Options, changing primary attributes while maintaining balance with default options.
    Adrenaline Surge, fitting Short Rests into combat to fix bosses/Short Rest Classes.
    Pain, using Exhaustion to make tactical martial combatants.
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    Bugbear in the Playground
     
    QuickLyRaiNbow's Avatar

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Man_Over_Game View Post
    So, then...what survival mechanics work?
    Lots of them, I think, over a short period of time. Survival sessions good, survival campaigns bad, has been my experience.

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    Ogre in the Playground
     
    OrcBarbarianGirl

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kurt Kurageous View Post
    Can you provide a link to the article? I searched the site for 'survival' and 'survive' and came up empty.

    I don't know any 'fun' mechanics for mundane biological maintenance survival. I don't quite see where getting ground down to zero by forces you cannot defeat or flee and fun intersect. But I'd definitely use exhaustion, not hit points, as the punishment for failure.
    Spoiler: Link to the article
    Show
    https://theangrygm.com/getting-there-is-half-the-fun/


    It was about overland travel, not exactly 'survival', but the two go together. The tweaks for 5E seemed both wack and out of whack. Does Ranger really need to be nerfed?
    Quote Originally Posted by Petrocorus View Post
    This thread, Questions that can't be answered... Answered by RAW by No brains, is Epic.
    Quote Originally Posted by illyahr View Post
    That is so stupid it's hilarious.
    Quote Originally Posted by georgie_leech View Post
    ...I've clearly been playing D&D for too long, because that made a demented kind of sense.
    Quote Originally Posted by that_one_kobold View Post
    And this is why I love D&D

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    Barbarian in the Playground
     
    Kobold

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    Default Re: Fun survival mechanics?

    Quote Originally Posted by No brains View Post
    Spoiler: Link to the article
    Show
    https://theangrygm.com/getting-there-is-half-the-fun/
    Thank you ! Now I know why I didn't find it searching "survival."

    Yeah, his advice here is not really about survival, but a series of arguments against making travel grind your game time while still making it relevant.

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