Saturday, 25 January 2014

Hunger, Thirst and Fatigue in RPGs

Hunger, Thirst and Fatigue in RPGs

One thing has always irked me in RPGs - the PCs tote around enormous amounts of money, but they never seem to spend it on anything other than weapons, armour and bribes. They can always save up perfectly for the next sword that they want, or can always just wait out a situation. Travelling faster than normal - like forced marching - never affects them, so why would they choose to travel at a leisurely pace? Walking through the desert for 40 years wont affect them, because water skins are forever filling, or not even mentioned.

Some GMs have attempted to ratify this with complex systems of accounting and economics, but really, who has time for that? My players are here to game, not to have a 4 hour shift as an office clerk. We need something simple, yet robust enough to have proper mechanical effect.

The Baseline Mechanic

My proposition is that we add three new "Health" systems to the game - one for Hunger, one for Thirst, and one for Fatigue. Warmth can be brought in there if you wish, but most of the time this can be handled with GM fiat. If you want it in there, it will work identically to the others.

Each new stat is equal to your Toughness Bonus (WFRP) or 4 + Constitution Modifier (DnD) or equivalent. Each stat further has a half-line, which is 50% of the total value, rounded up.

Hunger

Hunger drops when the PC hasn't eaten for a day, and it drops by one point per day of not eating. It replenishes by one point for each Average Meal (I.e. enough food for a proper lunch, for instance), or to full if the PC has 3 meals that day (or one particularly big meal, like a Banquet).

If Hunger reaches its half-line, then the PC suffers a -10% (WFRP) or a -2 (DnD) on all actions until it is restored. If Hunger reaches empty, the PC suffers -30% or -6 on all actions.

Each day, the PC may attempt a Willpower (WFRP) or Wisdom (DnD) Test, after the modifier is already applied, to ignore the effects of Hunger for that day. If they fail, there is no adverse affects, but they cannot test again that day.

Thirst

Thirst drops when the PC hasn't drunk water or equivalent for a day, and drops a further point if the day was particularly hot, or the PC over stretched themselves that day (full day of marching, etc). It replenishes by one point if the PC drinks at least a litre of water (one water skin) or equivalent (beer, etc), and replenishes to full if the PC drinks in excess of 3 litres (three water skins).

If Thirst reaches its half-line, then the PC suffers a -10% (WFRP) or a -2 (DnD) on all actions until it is restored. If Thirst reaches empty, the PC suffers -30% or -6 on all actions.

Each day, the PC may attempt a Willpower (WFRP) or Wisdom (DnD) Test, after the modifier is already applied, to ignore the effects of Thirst for that day. If they fail, there is no adverse affects, but they cannot test again that day.

Fatigue

Fatigue drops when the PC hasn't slept or rested well for a day, and drops a further point if the PC over stretched themselves that day (full day of marching, etc). It replenishes by one point if the PC sleeps for a night anywhere outside, such as a camp or bedroll, or in a tavern common room, and replenishes to full if the PC sleeps in a proper bed, in a private (or shared with the party) room. PCs can also "sleep in", by sleeping for 1.5x their normal sleeping hours to regain 2 points.

If Fatigue reaches its half-line, then the PC suffers a -10% (WFRP) or a -2 (DnD) on all actions until it is restored. If Fatigue reaches empty, the PC suffers -30% or -6 on all actions.

Each day, the PC may attempt a Willpower (WFRP) or Wisdom (DnD) Test, after the modifier is already applied, to ignore the effects of Fatigue for that day. If they fail, there is no adverse affects, but they cannot test again that day.

Death From Harsh Living

If a PC ever has all 3 stats at their empty stage, they must pass a Toughness (WFRP) or Constitution (DnD) Test after modifiers each day or suffer a 1d10 Damage (unmodified by armour or TB) (WFRP) or 1d6 Damage (automatically hitting) (DnD).

Managing Vital Stats

If the PCs just maintain a standard meal, a water skin of liquid, and camping in a bedroll every day throughout their adventures, then all should be well. Nothing should feesibly go wrong. However, if they ignore these vital aspects of life, things will start going poorly very quick.

As a last point, if PCs are travelling very far, and don't want to have to uphold all of these issues for each day of travel, accept an easy stance of of the following:
  • If travelling at normal speed, each PC needs 1 meal, 1 water skin, and adequate rest per day of travel time to survive at full potential.
  • If travelling at double speed (marching), each PC needs 1 meal, 3 water skins, and double rest time per day of travel to survive at full potential.
Don't let this become a case of accounting - just simple logistics.

I hope this gives your games a little more realism and strategy, without bogging it down in the details. Let me know how it goes!