Illustration by Kieran Yanner


Hazardous Terrain

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In last week's Design Tuesday blog, I delved into the importance of terrain to push your encounter design to the next level, and provided you with some design philosophy to ponder when designing your own terrain. This week, I'm back with some concrete examples.

The Pathfinder Roleplaying Game assumes combatants are able to use their movement abilities with little or no hindrance. Sure, there are walls, doors, and difficult terrain to navigate, or maybe some obscuring effects to grant a little concealment, but for the most part PCs and monsters have free reign to move about the rooms and corridors of the dungeon as they wish. The following types of terrain are all exceptions to this norm. While some act as difficult terrain, they present further hazards while navigating the battlefield.

One thing to keep in mind about all of these new terrain types is that they typically work best as smaller, tactically placed patches. You may be tempted to fill an entire battlefield with one of these new terrains, but doing this should be the exception rather than the rule. They all work best when they give characters a choice between freedom and danger. When properly placed, they can reward the use of combat maneuvers and spells that grant increased mobility to allies or restrict or force the movement of enemies, and may limit the opportunities to make charge attacks without stymieing that tactic outright.

You may notice that these new terrain types are very similar to the hazards presented on pages 244–245 of the Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide. So what is the difference between these terrains and hazards? These hazardous terrains involve slightly more choice on the part of combatant than hazards do. Most, if not all, have effects when a character chooses to move into or is forced into them, and those effects should be relatively easy to determine before the combatant enters them, either by way of their physical characteristic or an easy Knowledge check (DC 10) of the appropriate type.

Anchor Stone: This strange stone has a debilitating gravitational effect on those who do not traverse over it quickly. Each time a creature starts its turn on an area of anchor stone, it must succeed at a DC 12 Fortitude saving throw. Any creature that fails can only take a 5-foot step on its turn. Any creature that succeeds at the saving throw must move at half speed on its turn.

To take the effects of anchor stone, a creature must be standing on or touching the stone. Anchor stone has no effect on those who fly over it or otherwise do not have physical contact with the stone.

Some areas of anchor stone are more powerful than others, having a DC of 15, 20, or even higher.

Choke Spores: This type of fungus thrives in subterranean caves and other damp and lightless areas. The first time a creature starts its turn within an area containing choke spores, the poison of the fungus is released, inflicting those within that space with the following poison.

Choke Spore Poison

Type poison, inhaled; Save Fortitude DC 14

Frequency 1/round for 1d4 rounds

Effect 1 Dex and 1 Wis damage; Cure 1 save

Once an area of choke spores releases its poison, that area becomes dormant for 1 day. With a single standard action, a creature can use fire (from a torch, a flaming magical weapon, or a similar implement) to destroy all the choke spore balls within all 5-foot-squares adjacent to the creature. Acid, cold, and fire damage from area effect spells automatically destroy patches of choke spores within the spells' effect areas.

Fey Mist: This strange swirling mist of purple and green gas and motes of light dazzles those who stray within it. Fey mist provides concealment. Furthermore, a living, non-fey creature that starts its turn within the mist must make a DC 12 Will saving throw or become confused for 1 round. Those that make their saving throws are dazzled for 1 round instead. This is an enchantment effect.

Some areas of fey mist are more powerful than others, and have and require a DC 15, DC 20, or even DC 25 Will saving throw to avoid its confusion.

Flame: A house is on fire and that flame rages in large areas, a hellish landscape burns around you, or a large bonfire rages in a clearing where a coven of witches chant evil incantations. While the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook has rules for forest fires, sometimes you may want to have a section of an encounter area that just burns.

When a creature starts its turn with its space fully within an area of flame, it takes 1d6 points of fire damage, and if the creature is wearing metal armor, it is affected as if by a heat metal spell. A creature that starts its turn with its space only partially within an area of flame must succeed at a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or take the damage and the heat metal effect if it is wearing metal armor. A creature that moves through areas of flame must make a DC 12 Reflex saving throw or take 1d6 points of fire damage, but avoids the heat metal effect. This save is made the first time a creature moves into flame with a move action or when it is affected by something that pushes or otherwise forces the creature into an area of flame.

Supernatural or powerful flames can have higher DCs. A raging fire can have a DC of 15 or the fires of Hell can have a DC of 20, 25, or 30 depending on the power of the flames.

Areas of flame often create smoke, the effects of which can be found on page 444 of the Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook.

Haunted Ground: These areas of accursed ground are often the sites of horrid crimes or intense and bloody battles. The intense fear of those who lost their lives lingers and saturates the area. This fear affects living creatures that stray within these areas. A living creature that starts its turn in an area of haunted ground must succeed at a DC 15 Will saving throw or become shaken for 1d4 rounds. If the creature is already shaken, it becomes frightened for the same duration instead. Frightened creatures become panicked for the same duration instead. Creatures that are immune to fear effects are immune to haunted ground.

Razor Rubble: Either rubble made of sharp stone, or laced with small sharp blades, this terrain functions like difficult terrain (see Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook193), but each square a creature enters deals 1 point of damage to that creature. A creature moving at half speed, or that succeeds at a DC 15 Acrobatics check as a free action when first moving into an area of razor rubble can avoid the damaging affects for the round but not the difficult terrain effect.

Slick Ice: A frozen lake, a sheen of thick ice on a dungeon or cavern floor, or some other cold and slick surface, slick ice can be hard to traverse, but can also increase the speed of creatures that are agile or foolhardy enough to utilize its surface's lack of friction.

A creature traversing slick ice at more than half speed is required to make a DC 15 Acrobatic check at the start of the movement. Failure causes the creature to fall prone at the start of the movement. Running or charging on slick ice increases the DC by 5, with the same effect on a failed skill check. A creature that succeeds at this check by 5 or more can increase its move across the ice by 10 feet, but is considered flat-footed until the start of its next turn. Creatures (like those with enough levels of barbarian or rogue) that can't be caught flat-footed at the start of combat are immune to this flat-footed effect as well.

Tentacle Mold: This strange vermillion fungus clings to the moist walls, floors, and even ceilings of dungeons and caverns. When a living creature is in or near a patch of this fungus, acidic pseudopods lash out, with sickening effect.

When a living creature starts it turn in an area of or in a square next to (if it clings to the walls or the ceiling) of tentacle mold, it must make a DC 15 Fortitude saving throw; on a failed saving throw the creature takes 1 acid damage and is sickened for 1 round. Though the effect is like a poison, this is not actually a poison effect; the strange chemistry of this kind of mold makes it more alchemical in nature.

Stephen Radney-MacFarland
Pathfinder RPG Designer

More Paizo Blog.
Tags: Design Tuesdays Dwarves Fighters Harsk Iconics Kieran Yanner Paladins Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Rangers Seelah Terrain Valeros Wallpapers
Dark Archive

The iconic Ranger, Paladin, and Fighter step out of a bar without the iconic Rogue ...

Silver Crusade

Printing. Tucking into Core.

Also, always thought Seelah looked kind of queue't in this picture.

Sovereign Court

Stephen RMcF isn't all over the message boards but I appreciate almost everything I read by him.

Bit late to say it but, a great recruit.


Pathfinder Companion, Lost Omens Subscriber

Like the Anchor stone and Fey mist.

Paizo Employee Senior Designer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
GeraintElberion wrote:

Stephen RMcF isn't all over the message boards but I appreciate almost everything I read by him.

Bit late to say it but, a great recruit.

Thanks!

As for the messageboards, I poke in here and there. I've just been super busy working on Map Packs (design for 3 of those under my belt, Flip-Mats (working on my third), Ultimate Magic, Rival Guide, Inner Sea Guide, Ultimate Combat, Faiths of Purity, Chase Cards, and a number of super-secret projects I can't talk about just yet.

Currently I'm busy talking about the gunslinger in that corner of the messageboards.


Semantic Question:

[b wrote:
Anchor Stone[/b]]Any creature that succeeds at the saving throw must move at half speed on its turn.

So, if someone makes their save they have to leave that square on their turn? Or should "must" in this instance be something more along the lines of "can only"?

I really, really enjoy these Design Tuesdays. They are chock full of helpful ideas - definitely the blog day I look forward to most now. Keep up the great work!

Paizo Employee Senior Designer

Dal Selpher wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

I really, really enjoy these Design Tuesdays. They are chock full of helpful ideas - definitely the blog day I look forward to most now. Keep up the great work!

Awesome! That is one of our goals.

As for you question, it should be can only move.


Stephen Radney-MacFarland wrote:

...or an easy Knowledge check (DC 10) of the appropriate type.

Neat. I'll definitely use some of these.

It would be nice if the appropriate Knowledge check to detect (and maybe bypass) were part of future write ups should more "Hazardous Terrain" examples find their way into a print product or future blog posts.

Something like this:

Anchor Stone: This strange stone has a debilitating gravitational effect on those who do not traverse over it quickly...(rest of important details)

Detection: Knowledge(Dungeoneering) DC 10,Knowledge(Architecture and Engineering) DC 12
Bypass: Knowledge(Dungeoneering) DC 20,Knowledge(Architecture and Engineering) DC 22

The Exchange

Stephen Radney-MacFarland wrote:
Haunted Ground: These areas of accursed ground are often the sites of horrid crimes or intense and bloody battles. The intense fear of those who lost their lives lingers and saturates the area. This fear affects living creatures that stray within these areas. A living creature that starts its turn in an area of haunted ground must succeed at a DC 15 Will saving throw or become shaken for 1d4 rounds. If the creature is already shaken, it becomes frightened for the same duration instead. Frightened creatures become panicked for the same duration instead. Creatures that are immune to fear effects are immune to haunted ground.

this is a nice touch for the new Carrion Crown adventure path.

Haunting of Harrowstone:
where in the prison grounds would this be effective? the whole prison could be considered haunted, but this would mean constant checks for the whole adventure. would it be better to use this rule at the locations of the major ghosts? like Vesorianna, the Lopper, Father Charlatan, The splatterer, etc. I mean I know it is up to me as a gm. but i like this idea, and as it applies to the new adventure path a lot, I Seek input.

Love the Paizo support for the game community! keep up the hard and excellent work! it is much appreciated.

Sovereign Court

raylyynsedai wrote:
Stephen Radney-MacFarland wrote:
Haunted Ground: These areas of accursed ground are often the sites of horrid crimes or intense and bloody battles. The intense fear of those who lost their lives lingers and saturates the area. This fear affects living creatures that stray within these areas. A living creature that starts its turn in an area of haunted ground must succeed at a DC 15 Will saving throw or become shaken for 1d4 rounds. If the creature is already shaken, it becomes frightened for the same duration instead. Frightened creatures become panicked for the same duration instead. Creatures that are immune to fear effects are immune to haunted ground.

this is a nice touch for the new Carrion Crown adventure path.

** spoiler omitted **

Love the Paizo support for the game community! keep up the hard and excellent work! it is much appreciated.

I haven't gotten my copy yet, but I would say anywhere an encounter relies on a Fear effect it could be fun to make that room Haunted, but with a fairly easy save. I'd probably use it with Haunts that don't do a lot of damage, but use a fear effect. That said it should be a focal point for the tragedy that happened to the prison. Where the fire broke out or where many inmates died?

--As the Vrock stuck midnight...

Shadow Lodge

Will these blog posts rules ever be collected and published? Or dribbled into future products piece by piece?

Sovereign Court

Kthulhu wrote:
Will these blog posts rules ever be collected and published? Or dribbled into future products piece by piece?

You could always list the thread?

--ShamVrock

Dark Archive

Dal Selpher wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

I really, really enjoy these Design Tuesdays. They are chock full of helpful ideas - definitely the blog day I look forward to most now. Keep up the great work!

My thoughts exactly; great work, SRM! :)

Hazardous terrain has been on top of my wishlist, because I feel PF core rules didn't include enough satisfactory tactical options for the GM. For example, combat inside burning buildings is a classic, and over a year ago I decided that I want a major battle pitting the PCs against orcs inside a town that's been set on fire; however, I thought the mechanics of a forest fire in the core rules were lacking something, so I've been postponing this (I've foreshadowed the orc invasion for some time, so it should happen soon). Now I want to run it. And Fey Mist and Haunted Terrain will fit very nicely into my other adventure ideas as well! :)

If I can be as bold as to make a suggestion: I'm fairly sure that a harcover book dealing with this sort of mechanics -- hazards, terrain effects, traps and haunts -- would sell pretty well. I know you guys will be publishing this stuff online and across the AP books, but a single tome ("Guide to Haunts & Hazards", or whatever it would be called) would be easier for reference.


These Design Tuesday blog entries are interesting.

Could I request one on setting DCs for saves and skill checks? I'm comparatively inexperienced at this sort of thing, and I often find it hard to figure out how difficult to make things.

I doubt there's a formula per se, but I'd be interested to hear discussion of what factors to consider.


These are great!

Social encounters would be a really cool thing to see covered!

Paizo Employee Senior Designer

vagrant-poet wrote:

These are great!

Social encounters would be a really cool thing to see covered!

You know I've been toying with doing something using the Chase Card mechanic (or similar to that mechanic) with social encounters. Don't be surprised if you see something about that from me or someone else on the design team in the future.


Stephen Radney-MacFarland wrote:
vagrant-poet wrote:

These are great!

Social encounters would be a really cool thing to see covered!

You know I've been toying with doing something using the Chase Card mechanic (or similar to that mechanic) with social encounters. Don't be surprised if you see something about that from me or someone else on the design team in the future.

Awesome. I think its something that would be neat, yet easily and nicely modular. Hence lending itself well to the whole Design Thursdays shtick.

And its something I would like to have, little ways to interact, maybe some ways that other less diplomatic characters can have input, while letting the diplomacy guys get their glory from the non-combat areas they excell at.


Asgetrion wrote:
If I can be as bold as to make a suggestion: I'm fairly sure that a harcover book dealing with this sort of mechanics -- hazards, terrain effects, traps and haunts -- would sell pretty well. I know you guys will be publishing this stuff online and across the AP books, but a single tome ("Guide to Haunts & Hazards", or whatever it would be called) would be easier for reference.

Seconded! And please include a "Page 42" style on-the-fly chart. ;)

-The Gneech

Dark Archive

John Robey wrote:
Asgetrion wrote:
If I can be as bold as to make a suggestion: I'm fairly sure that a harcover book dealing with this sort of mechanics -- hazards, terrain effects, traps and haunts -- would sell pretty well. I know you guys will be publishing this stuff online and across the AP books, but a single tome ("Guide to Haunts & Hazards", or whatever it would be called) would be easier for reference.

Seconded! And please include a "Page 42" style on-the-fly chart. ;)

-The Gneech

That would be cool; some kind of damage and DC chart for improvised stuff. :)


Ya'll all need to come out to Houston in May to meet Stephen & Hyrum for some serious Pathfinder gaming!

www.warhorn.net/comicpaloozahouston

www.comicpalooza.com

Dark Archive

George Comits wrote:

Ya'll all need to come out to Houston in May to meet Stephen & Hyrum for some serious Pathfinder gaming!

www.warhorn.net/comicpaloozahouston

www.comicpalooza.com

If I came there, I'd have to wrestle SRM... and I couldn't help it, because I have this weird urge to wrestle guys with wrestl... er, sports entertainment monikers! ;)


George Comits wrote:

Ya'll all need to come out to Houston in May to meet Stephen & Hyrum for some serious Pathfinder gaming!

www.warhorn.net/comicpaloozahouston

www.comicpalooza.com

George! I didn't know you were into Pathfinder now. (I was the fire genasi in your 4e Living Forgotten Realms game until I couldn't take 4e anymore.) I hadn't known that Comicpalooza had good gaming opportunities, I'll have to look into it.

Lantern Lodge

Sorry for necroing. Just came across this blog post while looking for the effects of ice slipperiness on movement.

Are this blog's Hazardous Terrain rules valid for PFS games? Or they more like recommendations or extra options for homebrews?

Community / Forums / Pathfinder / Pathfinder RPG / General Discussion / Paizo Blog: Hazardous Terrain All Messageboards

Want to post a reply? Sign in.