The following rules are as suggested by cardinalsin (with one or two wording clarifications), and are currently in beta.
- Travelling is broken into rounds, which approximately equal a day’s travel. For very long journeys you could increase the length of a round.
- You have a journey distance in miles. Every round this is reduced according to the group’s movement, which is not based on the 25-miles per day rule, but rather on that rule with obstacles and terrain factored in. So if part of the journey took place over broken terrain then the group might only cover 15 miles in a round. Through use of navigation, local knowledge etc. the players can increase travel speed, but never to more than 25 miles per day (or whatever the party’s movement rate would be). A forced march (weakest character makes a toughness roll) or hard ride (worst rider makes a ride roll) could increase it still further, at a cost in endurance (see below). Any of these will be marginal, say you make a roll to increase speed by d5 miles. Except where there’s a one-off special circumstance, other skills cannot be subsituted in place of these – but could allow rolling these to increase speed by 1, or d2-1, or something. Movement speed could obviously be increased dramatically by acquiring a faster form of movement, e.g. new horses, a boat, whatever.
- Each character has an individual endurance score measuring how much more they can take. These reduce by a small amount – 1 per round would do – to represent background fatigue, but can also be reduced more significantly by specific events. If a character reaches zero, they cannot go on and must rest or be carried (or possibly could go on but would take real wounds).
- The party has a rations score representing available food and water, in man-days of food. These rations reduce by #party size every round, unless something has happened to replenish/deplete the rations by more than that. Players could make Outdoor Survival or Set Trap rolls to increase rations by d5, assuming circumstances allow (see below). Except where there’s a one-off special circumstance, other skills cannot be subsituted in place of these – but could allow rolling these to increase rations by 1, or d2-1, or something.
- You have external threats, which can be ongoing or acute. An example of an acute threat is a chasm which the players must cross. An example of an ongoing threat is a stint of very hot weather. An example of a threat which could be either is bandits, which could keep coming back if not defeated. Some threats have a challenge rating to be overcome – for example, bandits must usually be driven off by force (roll WS or BS and damage the rating). But a chasm has no rating – you either cross it by cunning, in which case you’ve got past it in a round, or you have to go around it, in which case it adds to your journey time. You can’t just roll Outdoor Survival to overcome the chasm faster. Hot weather has no rating – it just hurts your endurance and/or reduces your provisions (water loss) by a small amount; clever plans involving parasols could reduce these but nothing will make the hot weather go away. Except where there’s specifically surprise involved as with the bandits, the threat is announced at the start of the round so people have the chance to take action to avert disaster.
- I think it’s also good to include stuff which might be helpful. Again, they could be ongoing or acute. Ongoing: you pass through an area filled with fruit trees, +20% to Outdoor Survival rolls for the next three days. Acute: you come to a settlement. You can make social rolls to trade, gossip and so on.
- It follows from the above that sometimes you won’t be able to use certain skills. Gossip doesn’t work if there aren’t any settlements, Search won’t work if there aren’t any ruins and so on. In extremis, Navigation might not work if a massive snowstorm prevented us getting any bearings at all, and Outdoor Survival might not work (or at least, not provide any provisions) if we’re in an area so barren that there isn’t any food to find. So the group can’t just apply the same skills to every situation, though some will be more likely to be applicable than others.
The following is an addition to allow for scouting. It needs to be merged into the above eventually, but for now is just quoted separately (and tidied up a bit).
There are several kinds of thing you might find when scouting:
- Gross physical features of the terrain which the party would have spotted from some distance anyway, like a mountain. This simply gives slightly earlier warning than the party would otherwise have had. It doesn’t require a Perception check to spot it; a scouting action automatically detects it, providing a +X bonus to Navigation or other such cunning use of skills. (“X” depends on how navigable the feature is. A mountain is quite navigable, a mountain range less so, and a massive cliff spreading 1000 miles in each direction entirely un-navigable.)
- Less visible physical features of the terrain which the party would only have spotted when it was too late to avoid a delay. These would require a Perception check, and provide a +X bonus to navigation checks. (Again, dependent on the feature in question.)
- Potential sources of food. Perception check to locate. These shouldn’t just yield provisions by themselves. A scout could find a massive area of mushrooms, but need an Outdoor Survival check to confirm if they’re poisonous. Or they could locate a herd of deer, but need a Silent Move check followed by a BS check to make the kill. In either case the scout himself might not have the relevant skills, so could invite someone else to make the relevant skill check. In the case of the mushrooms that should mean a chunky bonus to Outdoor Survival because otherwise it’s no better than the OS expert could do on their own; in the case of the deer there’s no bonus, but instead of yielding virtually nothing, a successful Silent Move and BS check yields d5 provisions.
- Moving threats, e.g. dogs, bandits. Detecting these requires a Perception check, which just yields the information “you see campfire smoke” or similar. An optional Silent Move check would yield detailed information, i.e. the size of the bandit horde. Failure would trigger an attack. Spotting one of these would give an opportunity for a WS or BS check (either by the scout or another person) with a +X bonus as the party ambushes the threat. Alternatively the party might try to avoid the threat (Navigation roll to reduce the threat’s rating, instead of improving journey time), or whatever.
The GM would presumably decide what things were available for the scout to find, then give the scout a roll to find each one. So you could potentially find food, bandits and a mountain in one go, or find nothing at all. Alternatively you could limit the action to one check, and randomly determine which thing the scout discovers.
Note that scouting by itself yields nothing at all: it just creates opportunities to use the appropriate skills (Navigation, OS, Silent Move, BS/WS, etc). So scouting is vital but not sufficient by itself. Scouting effectively enables non-wilderness-inclined party members to assist wilderness-inclined party members.
If the party knows or suspects that a particular threat is out there, then they should be able to make a Follow Trail check to find it. Unlike Perception, success means the party knows where the threat is without having to get close to it. They can then take the actions mentioned above (sneak up and attack or navigate to avoid) with a big bonus.
It is possible to defend against bandits or other threats using a “keep watch” action. Everyone taking a “keep watch” action gets a WS or BS (their choice) check to defend when bandits/dogs/whatever attack, doing damage as applicable. A successful perception check means the damage is done before the threat attacks, leading to the possibility the threat never does any damage. GM’s note – Given that it’s not really part of travelling, I think a keep watch action should be additional to your day’s action, but cost you endurance to stay up overnight.
It is also possible to scout for a decent place to camp. “Decent” means sheltered, defensible, comfortable, dry. A Perception roll yields a GM-determined camp site with some or all of the above features. In general this means that the group doesn’t lose any endurance from the day’s travel, plus the effects of relevant environmental threats is reduced, e.g. heavy rain fended off by selection of a sheltered site. A defensible site might also provide (a) a reduction in the chance of a bandit (or whatever) attack (b) a bonus to Perception checks to spot the bandits before they arrive ( c) an opportunity to make a Concealment check to ambush the bandits as they arrive, for extra damage or something of that sort.