Friday, April 9, 2010

Wet Spellbooks

There's just not enough writing (writing that has found itself before my eyes, anyway) about the hazards of getting wet. Dungeons are dank, dripping places often enough, but hardly ever has the wetness itself be a problem in my games. Say, just two weekends ago my Bahamuddan cleric was wading free as duck in waist-high frogwater, to say nothing of the juices of the frogs' interiors but not even his fussy white boots were any worse for wear.

So, with no more effort than it takes to type it (which is really the only kind of effort you'll find on this blog), here are the effects of falling in foul pools that should be making PC's cheap lives miserable:

Wet armor padding. It's at least going to slow you down. Maybe make it harder to swing your great-grandsire's single-edged sword, The Gummer. Maybe it's ruined altogether. If you want to keep that harness on, it's gonna chafe.

Wet thief's boots. You're probably gonna squeak, Sneaky.

Wet bowstrings. Yes, I wish you had written down "oilcloth to wrap extra bowstrings" too. Sodden arrows and fletchings probably don't work so well either.

Wet Spellbooks. This has huge potential. I can't believe I've never read the phrase "wet spellbook" before. Scrolls are going to be vulnerable to the smears as well.

Fssssss! Your torch went out. Aww, and the rest of 'em are soaked through as well. You didn't happen to make note of how your flint and steel were stored, did you? Too bad you weren't playing 4e and you could use one of those kewl glow-wands. Barf.

Soggy food. Uh, sure you can still eat it. What's your Constitution score? Thanks. Oh, and do you know what page the disease rules are on?

Foot blisters. Walking around all day in slippery boots and mushy skin has got to be hard on even the most iron-thewed. Maybe my milquetoast modern daintiness is showing through here--but shouldn't road worn feet be a concern to adventures even on the driest delves?

I'd love to hear about how you handle water hazards and suggestions for where to find treatments of these things in actual rules.


Talysman said...

There are some guidelines on the effects of dampness on gear in the 1e Wilderness Survival Guide, pp 28-29. However, they don't stress enough that medieval inks do not tend to run immediately when exposed to water; I'd only apply that effect to a map that the adventurers are in the process of making, because the ink isn't dry.

There was a big discussion on Dragonsfoot about wet spellbooks not too long ago; the summary was that the primary danger to a spellbook from water is mold, if the book isn't properly dried out. Medieval books are usually vellum or parchment rather than paper, and even real paper usually has a higher rag content than today -- but even a cheap mass-market paperbacks of today will survive being dunked in water, if dried out. Spellbooks aren't printed on toilet paper!

Similarly, torches will probably go out if dropped in water, but they can be relit, assuming you have dry fire-making tools. Torches are usually soaked in pitch on the end that you burn.

Will Mistretta said...

I have to admit that spellbooks are one of the main ways I've always given characters a pass.

Trying to be "realistic" in carrying around a huge magic grimoire in a crazy environment like a dungeon is basically just a passive-aggressive way of saying "Nobody better play a magic-user...or else."

All-in-all, those "usually not accounted for at all" books benefit from more magic than they contain in my games!

Remember James Raggi's comedic game supplement "Fantasy Fucking Vietnam." It's great as a joke, but if the players feel as soldiers in that doomed conflict would have long-term...well, your campaign may be short-lived indeed. Don't overdo it.

Erik said...

1. Equipment durability lost due to lack of care in storage/drying.

2. Charisma penalty due to smell

3. Disease/Infestation checks for materials

Barking Alien said...

Coolest PC created spell in a D&D game ever was "Dry", originally invented by my buddy Pete.

And item touched by the caster (volume/size determined by caster level) could not be touched by liquid for the duration of the spell.

In addition to keeping spellbooks undamaged and rendering cloaks waterproof it provided defense against acid and numerous contact poisons.

Aaron Nuttall said...

Thanks for feedback, everybody!

Talysman: that's a lot of good points--I'll seek out the discussion you mention

Will: I see your point about magic-users--they have it hard enough already--but I'm looking to stress ordinary ingenuity and challenging the players.

Erik:I'm adding all those things to the list . . . well, the list in my mind.

ze bulette said...

magic item: gallon sized ziploc plastic bag.

Tommy Smith said...

I think the level of detail you can add into an environment is dependent on how often you get to play. I think it would be great fun taking an hour to role play the after effects of a dunking in a pool. PCs sitting around a fire, drying out their pads, checking their torches, oiling their armor, trying to discern edibility of food, checks for pnemonia, and readability of spells.

But with only five hours a week of play time, such endevours could take more than 20% of the play clock. So I would maybe pick one, like wet spellbooks, and get rid of the rest. Chalk it up to the necessary evil of streamlining.