I’ve been going over some ideas the last couple weeks, most recently evidenced in my post, “Backpacks, Bedrolls, Rations,” wherein adventurers must be mindful of basic needs like clean food and water, regular sleep, and take precautions against infectious diseases and yadda yadda, bored now.

In the last week or so, I came up with a really easy way of keeping track of these things, basically by creating one “condition” for each one: Starvation, Dehydration, Exhaustion, and Infection. There is an inventory item that can be associated with each, with the except of Infection. (But that has the Heal skill at least, am I right?)

Taking a short rest requires a waterskin, a staple of any explorer’s equipment. A standard waterskin holds about four pounds of water, which is enough for, say, two days, if you take into account the commonly-accepted “eight glass a day” guideline. Adventurers admittedly put a lot of strain on their bodies, which helps to justify this otherwise high rate of water consumption.

Taking an extended rest requires both a bedroll and trail rations (or some other source of food), which are a standard part of an adventurer’s gear. Taking a rest of either type enables a character to spend healing surges to recover hit points, and this process works under most normal circumstances… which brings us to the conditions.

Exhaustion occurs when a character starts a new day with fewer hit points than their normal maximum — this working under the assumption that an extended rest doesn’t restore hit points, only healing surges. “Exposure” to exhaustion puts them at the first stage of the condition (Stage 0) and prompts an Endurance check.

Starvation occurs when a character completes an extended rest without a source of food. This could probably be abstracted as a kind of “upkeep,” but then, there are lots of different kinds of magical food, and neither fiction nor games approach eating as a serious activity. With perhaps the sole exception of The Sims, I think.

(Oh, and the fantasy-themed barbeque simulator, Monster Hunter.)

Dehydration occurs when a character completes a short rest without a source of water. Exposure to Starvation and Dehydration differ slightly in their application — Starvation, like Exhaustion, begins at Stage 0 and prompts an Endurance check. Dehydration, however, immediately moves to Stage 1 and prompts a check. We’re going to keep them all the same to make the rules easier.

Infection occurs each and every time a character rests in a dungeon. That’s short rests and extended rests. Dungeons are hardly disease-controlled environments, and no matter how clean the food and water a character carries with them, there’s a good chance just walking into the dungeon exposes them to all kinds of diseases.

Summary:

Completing either a short rest or an extended rest in a dungeon exposes your character to Infection. They go to Stage 0 and immediately roll Endurance.

>> Completing a short rest without a water source exposes your character to Dehydration. They go to Stage 0 and immediately roll Endurance.

Completing an extended rest with fewer than your maximum hit points exposes your character to Exhaustion. They go to Stage 0 and immediately roll Endurance.

>> Completing an extended rest without a food source exposes your character to Starvation. They go to Stage 0 and immediately roll Endurance.

These are all medium checks for the character’s level.

Endurance checks for a 1st-level character:
17 or more: Condition improves by one step
13 to 16: Condition doesn’t change
12 or less: Condition worsens by one step

The stages are the same for each condition, since they effect the character’s physical and mental well-being, not to mention their ability to function as a character.

Stage 0: The character has some hunger pains, a rough or dry throat, maybe a cough, bags under their eyes, or sneezes from more than just the dust. If they roll a successful Endurance check, the condition ends and they stop making checks.
Stage 1: The character suffers mild auditory and visual hallucinations at this stage, and their daily healing surges are reduced by 1 until the condition improves. This stacks with every stage of the condition, not to mention the other three conditions.
Stage 2: The character’s body is wracked with pain at this stage. It will take some time for them to recover from the condition at this point (from a narrative perspective). Their daily healing surges are further reduced by 1.
Stage 3: Permanent damage has been sustained by this point, though any lasting effects on the character are superficial unless otherwise ruled by a game master with medical background. Daily healing surges are further reduced by 1.

Example: A poor NPC beggar lives on the streets of a city, and while he may not delve into the dungeon where he can be exposed to a variety of exotic diseases, he doesn’t have work and therefore has no need to take short rests, he doesn’t get much to eat … ever. He has one healing surge, as an NPC, and was forced to take an extended rest once, after he was beaten bloody by a jerk of a noble.

Not being trained in Endurance, and basically having no way to acquire money for food, the beggar failed his checks for both Exhaustion and Starvation (fewer than maximum hit points, and no food source). He now lives the life of a person without healing surges. (Since you can’t have fewer than zero, and taking another extended rest might well kill him … metaphorically speaking).


These conditions won’t ever actually kill a character, because they’ll probably die on their own if they have more than a couple of these conditions stacked up. With an extended rest failing to provide them with new healing surges, the characters will be unable to adventure much, if at all, and they may be forced into early retirement.