[D&D] Costs and benefits for bedrolls, tents and campfires

For these three things, I'm trying to find out something simple and abstracted that's consequences and costs for having vs not having them. I'm going to brainstorm but I don't know anything about camping or scouting so feel free to suggest corrections:

Tents
One tent fits two (according to PHB)
Setting it up takes... 20 minutes? 5 minutes? Which?
Tearing it down takes? 10 minutes?
What's the point of a tent, to protect from precipitation?
Does it do anything against cold?
Does the tent make you extra vulnerable? How?
Do you like freeze to death if you don't have a tent? Or what happens?

Bedrolls
What even is a bedroll?
And can you sleep without one, if so why do you need one?
Like in our games people have just been plopping down to sleep in any place. In the dunes in the desert or in the stairs of Dracula's castle. Inside the castle in the stairs, how do you even sleep in stairs? I'm sick of this, I want to understand what's going on in the fiction!

Campfires
How long does it take to set it up or put it out?
It leaves tracks, right?
(But so can just sleeping. But... remains of a campfire makes it easier to track you, I figure?)
Does it attract monsters?
Does it scare away monsters?
As with tents and bedrolls, is there any "you don't die of cold" benefits?

Other similar things
Any obvious oversights or are these three things enough if I already have a good system for food and water, and I deliberately want to exclude/handwave toilet stuff?


Overall, as I said in the other thread, this is something that we can quickly zoom by "We set up camp as usual", "We set up camp as usual but no fire this night" etc once we've done it a couple of times and once we know the consequences of each item.
And I'm not talking about "roll Survival to set up tent"... I'm thinking more... Blog of Holding suggested that not having a fire hid you from intelligent monsters and that having a fire scared away unintelligent monsters. Does that make sense? Simple rules-of-thumb like that is what I'm looking for. I'm looking for snowy blizzardy winters as well as leafy green grassy summers because I'm trying to set up a seasonal game.
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Comments

  • Just brainstorming here but maybe not having a bedroll adds two hours as you toss and turn trying to sleep?
    As a simple consistent rule idea
  • So in our modified hexcrawl rules for Moldvay, not have the right gear incurs some extra HP damage from exposure. But you could easily have stat damage or some condition.
  • That sounds great! Exhaustions levels!

    Summertime: Bedroll, or your exhaustion level ticks one step towards 1 instead of towards 0.
    Summertime raining: Bedroll + tent, or your exhaustion level ticks one step towards 2 instead of towards 0.
    Wintertime: Bedroll + tent. But still some problem? Don't know what
    Wintertime w/o tent: you just can't long rest.
  • Yeah, it's pretty much like that! We tried to keep it simple and in-line with Moldvay.
  • Yeah, sounds great. How are you doing campfire?
  • If you have a fire it makes for a nicer time but your encounter distance during the watches is much shorter. Plus you are broadcasting to everyone "HERE WE ARE!".
  • I'll unpack this in a few. Sorry for the super short answer ;) multi-tasking.
  • From a realism perspective most of these boil down to weather conditions and quality of rest. Some basic observations:

    The purpose of a tent is to trap warmth and keep away biting insects, rain and wind. Its utility for this variety of purposes depends mostly on the quality of the canvas. Routine use of tents in camping is a modern innovation, as dedicated canvas of appropriate quality would have been out of reach of most people in medieval times, and even where it was possible the weight of the tarp would have been an issue for people who had to carry their own gear, which would have been most people most of the time. Military organizations have been an exception for a long time, as they're hauling around a lot of gear anyway, and there is often more utility to the tent solution for an organized company than there is for a random wanderer.

    In other words, a tent is often a luxury that has become a mainstay for us due to the availability of excellent canvas materials (really, a modern tent tarp is a lightweight wonder, not to speak of the tent struts). Having one in a pre-industrial setting implies a very sophisticated and purposeful cultural relationship to wilderness survival. It is practically the last thing you add to your survival gear, after everything else has already been taken care of.

    I would suggest that having a tent should improve the quality of the rest (by whatever mechanics you find appropriate) in camping situations. It can replace a campfire for warmth as well, which is desirable. In "shelter mandatory" circumstances a tent is often a much easier type of shelter to procure than alternatives such as lean-tos or snow shelters or whatnot.

    A bedroll or sleeping bag is basically a blanket sewn into a wraparound "bag" that you sleep in. (It's called "bedroll" in English because of the way it's tied into a roll for carrying, I imagine) It's better than a blanket because it's easier to get more airtight around a person, which reduces the airflow and thus makes it warmer. Like the tent, it is primarily a modern idea, and anachronistic in D&D (as are many other things, of course). A bedroll is better than a blanket, but its existence implies somebody dedicated to sewing them, and as it's not a massive improvement, most places in most times in history have made do with simple blankets.

    As for the necessity of a bedroll or blanket, they are often near mandatory for camping; lacking extra insulation during rest at night will at best make for fitful and uncomfortable sleeping, and at worst be cause for hypothermia. Depending on the climate, sleeping without blankets should reduce the quality of rest drastically, and possibly cause illness or injury.

    The primary purpose of a campfire is to boil water and cook food. The secondary purpose is to provide additional warmth and light. The tertiary purpose is to keep wild animals away (realistically a moot point, but you'll see this thrown out there as a narrative). A campfire ranges from being a luxury to being mandatory depending on the type of maintenance your expedition needs: if your food has to be prepared, or you need the light at night for something, or your blankets are insufficient for the climate, you'll want to have the fire.

    Note that building the fire takes time as you need to gather the firewood for it. In non-forested conditions this can be a major issue in itself, such as in a desert, where you'd likely carry the fuel with you from far away.

    In summation: blankets are the most basic and important part of this triad, and all campers should have something of the sort no matter what. Tents are second-most useful, but it's far from given that you have access to such. Campfire access is easy, but the benefits are situational, and in any case less than those from blankets and tents.

    Note that the ideal camping arrangement depends on the nuances of the weather: how cold, windy and rainy it is when and where you camp. On a warm (like, >10 Celsius), calm and dry night just blankets will suffice in most climates. Adding a camp fire makes it possible to camp out at freezing temperatures (0 C) provided the correct camping techniques are used. Below that a tent or other shelter is pretty mandatory. An insufficient camping solution for the weather will result in anything from exhaustion to hypothermia, depending on how much you fall short of the conditions.

    Rules implications

    As you might discern from the above short treatise, I tend to view the "camping conundrum" in terms of risk management, with the understanding that individual player characters have differing levels of wilderness survival skill. For this reason most of these choices about the appropriate equipment and its use in our campaign are made on "autopilot" - players make various skill checks for their characters, and the GM describes culturally appropriate things for the characters to do. Sometimes their knowledge and common sense fail, which causes risks, that may or may not actuate into a crisis situation.

    Specifically, I tend to avoid simple rules like "if you sleep without blankets, lose 1 hitpoint per night" because of how much realistic uncertainty there is to something like that: the outcome depends on how cold the night is, what the sleeping surface is like (convection heat loss is a major part of the equation in camping), how inured the character is to sleeping like that, and a host of other nitpicky details. It's more realistic and interesting to make the occasional dice roll about the matter to see when the circumstances should happen to conspire in a way that truly becomes a serious survival problem. Sometimes bad choices won't matter because you were lucky, sometimes even good choices will only help you barely scrape by.
  • Eero, this is... AWESOME!!!
    Now, I thinking kinda Finnish style summers and winters, like how the climate in Pohjanmaa was in the fifties and sixties. Birches and clover! Blankets needed in the summer then? My guess... yes?

    And in the winter, lean-tos, tents or other shelters are an absolute necessity for even being able to sleep?

    Personally, I have no problems with introducing blankets, bedrolls, tents etc into D&D. It is an ancient world built on many ruins after all.

    I'm OK with not putting in a specific rules/mechanics. The post really helped me start understanding the benefits and costs of having and not having these items -- a necessity for trying to adjudicate what happens.
  • Yeah, you'd need blankets in the summer in Finland. In the winter you need at minimum blankets, lean-tos and a fire - or alternatively heavy blankets and tents (or other enclosed shelter). In all cases you'll also need to use these correctly, and there may come about nights when your equipment falls short. For example, if all you have a single blanket, there's a big difference in whether you form a bed out of boughs under a tree, or plop down in a wet puddle in the middle of a field to sleep - the former case minimizes your heat loss during sleep, while the latter maximizes it. Similarly, while the blanket will suffice you most nights in the Finnish summer when appropriately used, it will fail you on a wet frosty night in the early summer.

    (I'll note that when I say "need", I am being literal. What you "want" to have for camping in Finland in the summer in the modern day is a tent plus a bedroll - that's the normal loadout anybody would take today. I happen to have done camping with just the blanket solution myself, so I know it to be feasible, but generally you'll want to have the tent if you can.)

    What happens when you don't have sufficient equipment for the conditions? In liminal cases you may be able to get a bit of sleep, but you wake up sorely stressed by the cold, as your muscles (the ones against the ground will likely be the coldest) cool down. This may then cause either stiffness in the limbs, involuntary shivering, or cold numbness and eventual frost-bite as the most serious outcome. The basic problem is that either your body presence is aware enough to try to keep you warm, in which case you'll maintain a level of activity that prevents sleep (resulting in exhaustion), or you're exhausted enough to sleep despite the lowering body temperature, which could end up with either frostbite (in winter) or lowering of the core body temperature and sheer death due to exhaustion. You're likely to catch a flu of some sort and succumb to that long before then, of course, as the immunological defenses suffer from the heat deficit.

    Of course, as humans we can act consciously on this sort of thing, too. It is entirely realistic for a person to realize that their camping solution is being insufficient and that they can't go to sleep tonight without just making things worse for themselves. In those situations what you do is basically a sitting camp: rest as well as you can sitting or standing, leaning against something that doesn't transmit heat very much, exercise regularly through the night to keep warm in the extreme conditions (this is a scenario that would mostly come up in the winter), and in general focus on keeping your muscles warm and limber while also resting as much as you can. It's not actual sleeping, but it's better than nothing, and if it helps you get to a safer place the next day, then it's much better than a night of sleep after which you may not be able to walk at all. (Or won't wake up at all, I suppose, in the most extreme case.)

    As you can see, it's not exactly trivial to systematize the effects of "sleeping on the cold ground" - it's a complex set of interactions that most of the time result in trivial consequences like feeling stiff in the morning. It's only when you combine exhaustion over many days of hard trekking, constant exposure to elements, low quality of sleep and other physical expenses that all this starts to matter much. I mean, I could probably go out tonight without even a blanket (I'd want something for the bugs, though) and sleep out for one night with nothing worse than bad rest and stiff muscles; this would not matter much in the big picture for me, but that's because I'm otherwise healthy and I've been resting well recently and I won't need to walk 20 kilometers and fight three skirmishes tomorrow, too.

    It's possibly simplest to just shave off a single hitpoint for a night with marginal equipment, and rule rest impossible when the deficit is major (bringing whatever exhaustion rules you use into play, of course). That way it mostly won't matter, but if you're in bad shape otherwise, taking exhaustion damage from other stuff, or fighting battles, then that single HP might matter. Methodologically I feel that this depends heavily on the particulars of a campaign, where it is and what the group is doing; for example, my procedures for camping fantasy tend to ebb and tide depending on whether we're doing hardcore hexcrawling or just a quick jaunt to a dungeon :D
  • edited June 2016
    Just as an aside, 5e's exhaustion rules have been posted before but there are six levels, the first level is disadvantage on checks, the sixth levels is death, bypassing all saves. And one of them I think the fourth is "you can't move" and they're cumulative.

    Edit, I forgot to say that typically, you improve one step per night of good comfortable sleep, and you gain one step per hour of forced march if you fail saving throws.

    I guess you can kiss this goodbye if you don't have gear!
  • Sounds like a good fit for this purpose, doesn't it? I could see characters with slightly insufficient camping mojo suffering a single level of exhaustion overnight, and those with major mismatch suffering two. (Any more drastic than that would probably be more appropriately handled as automatic death - if you sit down in a random snowbank and fall asleep, you will die, and your state of exhaustion doesn't really play into it except insofar as it was exhaustion that caused you to pick this particular spot for a nap in the first place.)
  • They'll get Leomund's tiny hut soon enough. But for those first few levels :D
  • Eero and Akooser, thank you both, you've been a tremendous help!
  • To elaborate on a couple of things that Eero said:

    Wind matters a lot (as much as wet does--sometimes, even more so, since it tends to be easier to get out of the wet). Even on an otherwise pleasant summer night, you definitely need a blanket to prevent wind chill with any moderate breeze (very roughly, something like 20km/hr or faster). A wind break--natural or constructed--is crucial at higher speeds.

    A fire for boiling water is usually very important. One commonly needs to refill water stores, and realistically, boiling prevents at least some water spoilage (from certain bacteria, at minimum) that can prevent seriously incapacitating illness. (Hence those "purify food/water" spells--the fantasy equivalent of iodine tablets or UV light.)

    I have a ton of camping/wilderness experience, so feel free to ask about specific cases!
  • edited July 2016
    It's possibly simplest to just shave off a single hitpoint for a night with marginal equipment, and rule rest impossible when the deficit is major (bringing whatever exhaustion rules you use into play, of course). That way it mostly won't matter, but if you're in bad shape otherwise, taking exhaustion damage from other stuff, or fighting battles, then that single HP might matter. Methodologically I feel that this depends heavily on the particulars of a campaign, where it is and what the group is doing; for example, my procedures for camping fantasy tend to ebb and tide depending on whether we're doing hardcore hexcrawling or just a quick jaunt to a dungeon :D
    Yeah, in general, the simplest way you can handle any of this is likely to be the best.

    Especially in a typical D&D high-fantasy kind of deal, I wouldn't sweat the details. Everyone has their camping gear and there's no reason to be unusually cautious? Fine, no reason for us to discuss it any further: no penalties, no bonuses, no arguing over who lights the campfire and who sets up the tents and who does the cooking. If there's an encounter table, the rolls we make on it will be the default ones. If there are some character-specific requirements ("8 hours of uninterrupted rest" or whatever), we'll assume they can be satisfied under those circumstances, no debate required.

    We'll talk when you're escaping from the evil sorceror's castle without your stuff, or when you're trying to sneak through bandit country, or when you decide to go ahead with your plan to take the mountain passes even though everyone told you it was going to be an early winter this year. Those might actually be situations where how you sleep and stay warm and get fed aren't boring questions. (They will also be, by definition, unusual situations: if it keeps happening over and over and over to the point where we're spending more time playing Man vs. Wild than anything else, then we'll really need to figure out why we got our own game so very wrong.) But even then, I don't know that it's going to be worth our time to do more than abstract the effects into very simple, mild-to-moderate penalties of some kind, or maybe handwave some other rule into the mix ("make a Fortitude save versus this DC to avoid penalties for your awful night out in the woods").
  • edited July 2016
    It's precisely for those "we lost our gear" situations that I want to be prepared.

    Ideally, if they have everything, we can just go through it "Have your tent? OK. Have your bedrolls? OK. Do you light a campfire yes/no? OK." the first couple of nights and from then on it's "We camp as usual". I wasn't talking about making a bunch of skill checks for just ordinary camping. But we've had the opposite extreme with plopping down in the sand dunes without problem
  • edited July 2016
    As an aside, it's usually not much of a problem to just plop down in a desert to sleep.

    Keep in mind that it often gets fairly cold at night in the desert, so you'll need a bedroll, but you usually don't need (or even want!) a tent. If you're expecting inclement weather (which would usually be a flash flood or a sandstorm), you'll normally need more drastic shelter than a tent. Otherwise, it just gets in the way of the stars. :)
  • As an aside, it's usually not much of a problem to just plop down in a desert to sleep.
    Don't you get sand in the hair?
    Maybe that's not so bad.
    I knew it got cold but I thought it might be too cold
    See, this is the stuff that I know my own ignorance about, and it bugs me

  • It depends on the desert, but the hot deserts like Sahara get down to single-digits Celsius at night, I think. Close to freezing at most, but normally not below that. Just as Stephen says, that's cold enough to require a bedroll, but not, you know, freezing cold. As winds are not usually very strong, and there obviously isn't moisture in the air to soak up heat, outright freezing is unlikely through a single night. Perhaps if an evil vizier's spell trapped the adventurers in the desert night for 2d6 days straight it might be different - the desert could conceivably become quite chill indeed over a hundred hours of darkness :D

    The concept of desert (wasteland devoid of plant life due to lack of moisture) stretches seamlessly towards the tundra of course, so you could have a desert that goes sub-zero regularly, day and night. It's really the lack of water in the local biosphere that makes a desert environment different; I understand that the reason for the unusually quick reversals in temperature between night and day are largely because the desert environment does not have moisture in the ground and air to soak up heat and thus moderate the temperature. In a more normal environment the heat evaporates water and cold condenses water, which is all energy that doesn't go into heating or freezing the ground and the people.

    Speaking generally of D&D practice, I tend to view the wilderness survival lore in a similar way as I view the military know-how, pre-industrial handicrafts, folklore and small group commando tactics featured in the game: it's all beautiful knowledge about the world applied to gaming. Learning about the practicalities of adventuring and putting that knowledge to use in the game is, for me, a similar essential pastime as painting miniatures is for some gamers. Thus it's no surprise that I recommend learning more and satisfying your thirst for well-regulated gaming procedures by finding stuff out and applying it. The more we learn, the more entertaining and intricate the game becomes.
  • Calling it desert is perhaps exaggerating it, it was a couple of days marches away from Mahabba, a League city in Zakhara in al-Qadim!
    But, I've already been immensely helped by this thread so far so I'm very happy I asked.
  • Ideally, if they have everything, we can just go through it "Have your tent? OK. Have your bedrolls? OK. Do you light a campfire yes/no? OK." the first couple of nights and from then on it's "We camp as usual". I wasn't talking about making a bunch of skill checks for just ordinary camping. But we've had the opposite extreme with plopping down in the sand dunes without problem
    I figured as much, honestly. It's the sane way to go, definitely.


    Although if I were running a game right now, I'd even go so far as to skip asking questions for the first couple of nights to establish what their usual routine is; I'd just tell everyone up front that if they've got camping gear, then I'm never going to ask for details unless there are specific and unusual circumstances for doing so. (We're all getting older, we can't be wasting time on things that none of us care about and add nothing to our limited playing time. ;) )

  • There's few things I care more about than living in the game world.
  • There's few things I care more about than living in the game world.
    I find this interesting.

    When I first started playing tabletop RPGs I bought the idea that playing these games was like living in a virtual reality. Anything is possible, it's like a small-scale MMORPG without the constraints of a computer program.

    It's a fascinating idea, but I've since noticed that it doesn't hold true, at least not for me even though I encounter people who clearly enjoy RPGs and view them as a sort of virtual reality. RPGs sing to me when we're playing the conflicts in one way or another, be it mutually exclusive character goals or problem solving in a dungeon.

    That implies to me, very clearly, that RPGs are first and foremost games and the more you add secondary aspects like living the life of your character the less fun per hour you get (this can't be the core fun in playing dollhouse style Ars Magica, right? It's more about expressing your unique character in conflict situations?). And I mean secondary to the conflicts. Camping equipment can definitely be important in the conflicts of a logistics heavy game.

    What do you care more about than living in the game world? Do you care more about the challenge aspects, or finding out how the core conflicts in the situations at play work out? If not, what makes the game sing for you?

    Are you asking about the pros and cons of camping equipment precisely to include more depth to the virtual reality in a meaningful way, gameplay and challenge-wise?

    If you've got techniques or mindsets to make virtual reality fun without it being secondary to the game I'd be interested to hear about them.

  • Yeah, I think part of it is the challenge and part of it is the dollhouse.
    Need to test more :)
  • What a great thread! For what it's worth, the notes so far match my own experience. (I once camped quite comfortably at high altitude during a windy and stormy winter night, for example, simply by walking down to the edge of the tree cover, setting up a *tiny* tent, and sharing a sleeping bag. The tiny coniferous trees hug the landscape and provide both windbreak and a "roof" of sorts, being small and tough and thick.

    However, all the branches we could find were covered in a layer of ice, and it was utterly impossible to start a fire - had we needed to spend more than one night there, it would have been a difficult situation.
  • edited July 2016
    I slept on like a park bench one time
    I was exhausted the next day for sure
    I can't see myself having restored any hit points

    I've slept in sleeping bag + tent combination a couple of times, that can work.
    But all of this was summer.
  • If you've got techniques or mindsets to make virtual reality fun without it being secondary to the game I'd be interested to hear about them.
    Glowie my friend, everything I ever came up with in this regard is here on S-G in bits and pieces.
    In this case it's definitely part of a challenge/logistics element. "The pixies stole our blankets so we died"

  • Thought experiment time:

    If we were to spend a session roleplaying a "night in camp" - gathering wood, making a fire, sleeping or tossing and turning, watching the sun come up... (no monsters, no conflicts, no disasters, no surprises)

    Is this fun for you, or not?

    If so, what makes it fun? (Particularly, what are player behaviours which contribute to it being fun?)

    If not, what would you need to add to it to make it fun gaming for you?
  • The two things needed: 1. Not spend a whole session (we sometimes play 9 hours) on this, just spend a couple of minutes. That can be enough to make something very beautiful and mundane.
    2. I'd like for there to be monster checks, rolled openly. Even if the monster checks don't come up anything. To me a blank monster check is awesome too.
  • It's these checks that really help make the game feel "alive" to me.
  • edited July 2016
    We are all entitled to our playing priorities and tastes, but I find it pretty odd that you couple these two:

    There's few things I care more about than living in the game world.

    1. Not spend a whole session (we sometimes play 9 hours) on this, just spend a couple of minutes. That can be enough to make something very beautiful and mundane.
    2. I'd like for there to be monster checks, rolled openly. Even if the monster checks don't come up anything. To me a blank monster check is awesome too.
    So, in summary, you want to "live" in the game world, but only for short periods of time, and punctuated with openly rolled monster checks.

    I bet that, for a lot of gamers, those would polar opposites!

    It shows us a lot about how our experiences and our preferences can shape the gaming we can enjoy and "immerse ourselves" in, and which we cannot.
  • But I've already explained this discrepancy over and over in this thread and in the thread that spawned this thread.

    I was getting weirded out by not knowing whether or not they could really sleep under the conditions they were trying to sleep.

    That was it. No more -- no three hours of rolls trying to make 1 campfire. No less -- no keep on handwaving it.

    That one thing was required for me to live in the world.

    Again I seem to have fallen for one of the rhetorical tricks?
    I was answering honestly.
    Actuallly spending a few hours on this, with an encounter table filled with deer, rabbits, fireflies, mosquitos etc, that could be very beautiful.

    It's not about the fighting, it's about the "life factor" that encounter tables bring.
  • edited July 2016
    Please stop tricking me.
    You are making me feel like a complete fool

    edit: do not be alarmed dear readers, we worked it out later
  • Sandra,

    I'm not sure why you keep assigning malevolent intentions to my posts lately. I intended nothing of the kind. :( I'll stay out of your threads for now, then.

    I think the preferences you posited are completely valid. For importantly, they are *fascinating*! To me, that's the beauty of our hobby! It's our equivalent to diverse sexual orientations, say: we all have our preferences, and, as a community, we cover a very large range. I say we celebrate that!

  • edited July 2016
    I'm not intending to be malicious either, it's just like I feel like you ask questions and then I answer and then it's like "Oh, you were supposed to not be able to answer that" or "That answer would be considered a polar opposite to this other answer by most".

    I'm not feeling anger, I'm feeling shame and embarrassment for how I answered.

    I don't want to lose you as a poster in threads I'm in or create. That's why I'm seriously and genuinely bringing up this issue. Please mark rhetorical questions as such. It's the language barrier maybe. I'm trying to learn English, but… it can be tricky.
  • Sorry, Sandra. Didn't intend any of that! And, no, it wasn't a rhetorical question. In fact, I think it has implications for the correct answers to your preferred way of handling camping issues. (I like the "attracts intelligent monsters" guidelines from your original post - I look for that kind of shorthand myself in games I enjoy.)

    Your English is fantastic - I didn't know you weren't a native English speaker. (But, then again, I'm not either.)

    I can only say again that you have nothing to be embarassed about - your gaming preference are perfectly valid and reasonable. Expressing them openly is precisely what we all need to more.
  • To step back a bit, it's like how I don't like "I search for traps" either. It's one of those "er… how?" situations.
  • edited July 2016

    1. Not spend a whole session (we sometimes play 9 hours) on this, just spend a couple of minutes. That can be enough to make something very beautiful and mundane.
    2. I'd like for there to be monster checks, rolled openly. Even if the monster checks don't come up anything. To me a blank monster check is awesome too.
    So, in summary, you want to "live" in the game world, but only for short periods of time, and punctuated with openly rolled monster checks.
    You might count this as a technique, and it might work for me as well! This way the meat of the game is still in the conflicts, partly even in the camping interlude. When the camping situation is described in detail the possible combat encounter would have a lot more depth I think.

    The trick might be to have this interlude 1) pace the overall gameplay, sometimes a break in tension does wonders before delving into the next horrible pit of death, and 2) keep it short enough that it doesn't get boring. You can always cut the scene with the encounter roll if you or the players seem anxious to continue.

    Perhaps I'll try this to build lifelike detail to the world and the adventure next time I'm running an OSR sandbox.
  • Yeah, I'm really stoked about this technique!
    next time I'm running an OSR sandbox.
    Me too! I've used 6-mile hex maps a lot but only in the most broad "How many days until you reach the dungeon and how many encounter checks on the way there" way.
    Now I want to do everything, getting lost, rough terrain, searching for dungeons... Zelda style!
  • I don't think that Sandra's preferences on this are strange. They are in fact very similar to my own. The way I phrase this issue in D&D is that I want the game to develop situations "organically", which means a kind of automatic writing: we talk about blankets and campfires non-intentionally, merely because they are something that occurs in the fictional situation, not because any player particularly has a ploy in mind for them. Then later on, it just so happens, with no planning on anybody's part, that the blankets and campfires and whatnot come to matter for play. It is a very powerful thing for something like this to pre-exist as an organically established fact, as opposed to having e.g. the GM invent the details to match the challenge.

    (Note that this technique is in no way limited to campfires. It is a core technique or instinct for this kind of game that whenever something new and fictionally intricate occurs, should there be any interest, the players will focus on talking it out in detail. When the party haggles with a merchant for the first time, we want to see what "haggling" in this sense even means and what it may accomplish; when the party looks for secret doors, we want to see what that can even conceivably mean; when the party decides to "make torches" out of scratch, we want to talk out what goes into making one. This same process of delving into the fictional detail to ground future decision-making is all around us in D&D.)

    What this creative process looks like in practice is exactly as Sandra describes in her case: we want occasional, fleeting discussion of fiction-qua-fiction, without being stuck in the eternal moment, all embedded in the wider concerns of game-mechanical backbone and strategic goals of the adventurers. The clarity in itself is satisfying, because it affords us greater confidence in case the discussed issue proves tactically crucial later on. There is no contradiction in wanting to talk about the specifics of what "making camp" looks like, and there is no contradiction in wanting to only do this occasionally, when the mood strikes. The purpose of this kind of play content is very clear, and if anyone can suggest a better way to establish a naturally emergent tactical landscape, I'm sure that I wouldn't be the only one interested in that.
  • Yes!

    Here's the key:

    The "punctuated by monster checks" bits (a metaphor for various kinds of danger and risk-assessment in D&D) make the detailed bits of narration matter. Describing our campsite in detail pays off when a monster wanders into it and we have to fight. Describing our style of travel allows us to construct and face challenges, while clothing them in enough fiction to make them feel meaningful and believable.

  • I'm getting a Torchbearer vibe from these priorities, which is cool and I'd totally be down for a tabletop rendition of The Revenant. The only problem I can see is if these priorities got skipped. If bedrolls are important, then they should always be important in the same way.
  • That's always the challenge in D&D-type games, isn't it?

    We want these things to matter, so our attention and our time spent on them is rewarded. But we also want to be able to pull our focus away from them at times. However, if we only ask about the campfire on the one night when it matters, it's painfully obvious what's going on, and the answer becomes too clear-cut (if I'm being asked whether I want to check for traps in this room, it must be because there ARE some; ergo, I will always check for traps when asked). So, what do we do?

    In my opinion, finding ways to cut through this dilemma is THE single biggest challenge of this kind of gameplay (old-school D&D/challenge-based adventuring).
  • I'm getting a Torchbearer vibe from these priorities, which is cool and I'd totally be down for a tabletop rendition of The Revenant. The only problem I can see is if these priorities got skipped. If bedrolls are important, then they should always be important in the same way.
    Right, they're only skipped in the sense of "We make camp in the usual way"
    "OK" [implicit: I know you've still got your bedrolls because I haven't seen you selling them or having them stolen, and I know how long time it usually takes to make camp because we've done it a couple of times and you've been OK with the time cost so far, I'll just deduct it.]

    It's not a "OK, let's skip the make camp rules tonight", it's an "OK, we know what's going on so let's just say you do it and it takes the usual 20 minutes".
  • This is why I was very careful to add "in the same way".

    So far it seems the idea here is that bedrolls only matter when they're missing, so they can be ignored and assumed in use otherwise. That's important to establish as I've encountered too many GMs who reverse this and require explicit action to establish these assets in use. Did you state you were using a bedroll? No? Then you aren't, even though you assumed you were.
  • Like we put it in one of our DM's head that we had this whole procedure that we used for every room:
    1. Look at the ceiling before entering
    2. Slam every tile hard with a 10' pole before stepping on it

    So he just time docked us for it and never "you didn't say you were doing it this time".
  • And Burning Wheel also accounts for things like that mechanically with Instincts.

    It's surprising this isn't more of a thing in RPG design considering how often I've encountered problems of this nature.
  • Everyone seems to have their different set of problems, I've never seen that one even though I realized from BW that it existed.
  • However, if we only ask about the campfire on the one night when it matters, it's painfully obvious what's going on, and the answer becomes too clear-cut (if I'm being asked whether I want to check for traps in this room, it must be because there ARE some; ergo, I will always check for traps when asked). So, what do we do?
    I'm not convinced that's an actual problem.

    I mean, is the interesting thing supposed to be figuring out what to do (or, in some games, whether your character is able to do it at all), or is the interesting thing supposed to be the uncertainty about whether what you're doing is actually going to be worth the time spent describing it this time? Because if it's the former, then really, knowing that tonight it matters how you set up camp not only doesn't ruin anything, it may actually make the challenge of setting up camp properly more exciting.

    And if it's the latter -- if the fun is supposed to be that you'll be performing a certain number of unnecessary (or even pointless) tasks in order to be pleasantly surprised the one time that the task is actually significant -- then you might still wonder whether that's a good use of your time in that particular game. (I could see the answer to that being 'yes' for a group that does 8-hr sessions and doesn't mind being a little bored during them on a regular basis, and 'no' for a group that plays a 3-hr session every two weeks.)
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