Friday, February 15, 2013

The wear and tear of campaigning

Hard traveling men.
Credit: Wikipedia.
Inspired by this post I read last night from Erik Tenkar of Tenkar's Tavern: Does Anyone Use Real Life Illnesses / Viruses in Their Campaign?. Oh, the things one thinks of when they're sick.
As I sit here, waiting for my next "call to nature", it occurs to me that the only times I've seen illness / viruses / flus and the like in an RPG campaign, it been as part of a plot hook.

I don't ever recall an adventuring party getting sidelined by dysentery, a flu, the norovirus (love ya dude, but you are more than welcome to take your leave now) or any such run of the mill illness.
It got the gerbil running in its wheel and I started to think about the other riggers a hard traveling, hard fighting party of adventures might face. Footwear, for example, would probably have to be replaced at least once or twice a year, depending on what kind of paces they're put through. Clothes would likely fair worse, especially given frequent combat. Then there's personal hygiene. Questing would work up a mighty sweat and unless a party bathes regularly, villagers (and monsters!) would undoubtedly smell them coming from a mile away!

All of this led to an idea: What if personal maintenance played a roll in a campaign? The DM/GM could keep track of each character clothing, equipment, and hygiene and decrease their value with dice rolls. There would have to be corresponding tables for each, of course. The value of each item (clothing, equipment) would vary based on the quality of the item. For example, if you bought a tunic made by a half-blind granny with the jitters, in a poor village, then it won't have the same level of quality as one made by a master tailor/seamstress in a big city.

When the quality of any of those items decreases to a certain point, maybe the DM/GM could give them a heads up? If not, then they wait until the value reaches zero and then tell the player(s) that their character's clothes have developed tears or that they have BO so bad, not even flies want to have anything to do with them! Consequence-wise, having a boot that's falling apart is going to affect how far and hard you can travel before your character starts to feel uncomfortable. If your clothes have rips and tears, then that's going to affect how well they'll keep you warm when it's cold and how people see and interact with you. After all, is a rich merchant or the leader of a militia going to take your party seriously if you all look (and smell) like shit warmed over? Hell, would they even bother meeting with you? This, of course, would have a negative affect on things like charisma and such.

Having poor hygiene especially would have negative consequences - it's mighty hard to hide from monsters and other enemies if you stink. In terms of game mechanics, maybe that would lead to a loss to evasion or concealment? It would also wear down the body's immune system and make a character more susceptible to illness.

Now, all these factors can be avoided or lessened by the players themselves. A bar of soap is small and light enough to carry in a pack, maybe a toothbrush too. A party could easily stop during their travels for a quick dip at a nearby river or lake. I'm sure inns would have access to water, and even ancient cities of the Indus Valley Civilization had bathhouses. For clothing, it probably wouldn't cost that much to pay a granny or another NPC patch up clothing when the party visits a village. For the thrifty players, they could have their character learn basic sewing skills and do it themselves. Packing an extra set of clothes or two wouldn't hurt either. I'd imagine almost every village and certainly towns have cobblers that would be more than happy to repair a pair of boots or sell a fine pair to an adventurer in need.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Tell me in the comments!

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