Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Notes on the Simulacrum Wilderness Exploration Mechanic

I'm completely in love with the wilderness exploration mechanic from the Simulacrum blog (which I'll call Simulacrum Overland in this blog). It prioritises:

  1. Elegant simplicity (which I love because once rules become too baroque I stop using them).
  2. Player facing mechanics (good, because I'm playing with the rest of the table, not with myself).
  3. Interactions not already present in dungeon based play (good, because variety is the spice of D&D).

I am going to use the process pretty much as presented I think... plus a few more things, of course, because home brewing. Here are my thoughts at the moment, including a bunch of to-dos.

Note: Burden Level & Fatigue  OSE

Simulacrum uses a few abstractions which I'll have to translate to OSE. The first one is burden level, which is easy enough. Here's a bullet point table comparing OSE & B/X movement rates to Simulacrum Overland burden levels:

  • 120' (40') ←→ no burden
  • 90' (30') ←→  light burden
  • 60' (20') ←→ medium burden
  • 30' (10') ←→ heavy burden
  • 0' (0') ←→ immobile

One way to deal with encumbrance is to use a wagon. Not too convenient for dungeons, however.
(Theodore Gericault)

Note: Weather for Simulacrum Overland

There are a number of systems for determining weather in OSR. I'm going to brew my own, with a view to working with Simulacrum Overland.

Simulacrum Overland is concerned about two conditions - precipitation and temperature. For my part, I am concerned about four seasons: Spring (the season of mud and rain), Summer (campaign season), Fall (harvest), and Winter (when it gets really cold).

I'm working on a first draft for a simple system which I'll share on this blog once it's done.

Muddy roads are inconvenient for hex crawling
(Johann Jungblut)

Note: Adapting Simulacrum Overland Travel to work in non-wilderness contexts

When rolling for Random Encounters in the Simulacrum Overland Travel procedure they are more likely in "wild" hexes and in "unsafe" locations.

That's cool, but doesn't work for one of the things I'm looking to get out of my homebrew - namely to make adventuring in settled areas as eventful as adventuring in the wilderness (corrupt nobles! peasant brigands! tax collectors! family feuds!).

Right now I can think of a few ways to address it:
  • Remove the modifiers and have "local folks" entries on the encounter tables. This would be fairly simple, but lessens the difference from travelling through different hex types.
  • Just add "local folks" entries to encounter tables where appropriate. That would make non-wild areas less interesting (fewer encounters) and significantly less threatening (assuming "local folks" encounters are less likely to result in fights). On the upside, it's the simplest.
  • Leave the encounter tables for "monsters" and have a separate process for "interesting locals". Maybe make it part of the "generating hex features" part of the procedure. The challenge here is deciding on edge cases - where do brigands go? What about farmers who sometimes engage in brigandage? Or farmers in the middle of a dispute that the PCs could dragged into.
I'll definitely have to do some thinking here.

Note: Fatigue OSE

Simulacrum Overland uses fatigue levels. I'll have to figure out what to do with them. Right now, I'm leaning towards one of two options:
  1. Just convert it into HP damage. OSR already has one track for deleterious consequences, and I'm not sure adding more status effects will help what I'm after.
  2. Have one "fatigued" status that can be on or off, and which - once on - requires all the different triggers to be addressed (so say, if you're fatigued from lack of food, overheating, and lack of sleep you'll need to eat, cool down, and sleep for the fatigue penalty to be removed).

Note: Develop (or steal) tables for overt and hidden features

I need to strike a good balance between hand placed features (which require some work) and random features, both overt and hidden (which in turn require work to develop as well). 

My sense is that somewhere between 50-75% of hexes should have some sort of hidden feature to encourage digging deeper. I also think that overt features should give hints of potential hidden features.

This is a problem for future me, but one I'll need to solve to my satisfaction.

This looks like the kind of feature where you roll a d6 and maybe get a boon or maybe something goes wrong.
(I'm not sure of the source)

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