Survival Horror


Homebrew and House Rules


I'd like to play a high-level survival horror adventure in which food and water are important resources. To this end I would like to ban all magic that creates food or water. Banning "Rings of Sustenance" and spells like "Create Food and Water" are obvious. What else should I think about to make the characters depend on food? Thanks!


I'd check with your players first, to make sure they're interested in counting calories... might not be a game everyone is interested in.

If they're into it, it should be pretty easy - although in any place with animals, any evocation spell is basically create food. Similarly with plants. [b]Neutralize poison[/i] might make some obstacles too easy to overcome as well, if you're planning on having plants around but not be edible. Or, put them on another plane where the natives don't eat or drink.


GM Lamplighter wrote:
... in any place with animals, any evocation spell is basically create food.

It'll be desert first and underdark later, so they'll be able to eat only the encounters.

GM Lamplighter wrote:
Similarly with plants. Neutralize poison might make some obstacles too easy to overcome as well, if you're planning on having plants around but not be edible. Or, put them on another plane where the natives don't eat or drink.

Hmm, good point. In the desert there will be one oasis for replenishment, in the underdark however... Maybe i'll add a plant trait to the moss and fungi called "indigestible". This way places where digestible moss and fungi grow will be like an oasis as well.

Shadow Lodge

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There are other ways to run survival Horror. I ran a campaign where the entire thing took place over the course of a single night of game time. although it was 2 or three sessions of real world time. This allows you to pack many encounters into one day there by placing great strain on player resources and placing a premium on time to rest and recoup. add to this limited access to healing like wands and potions of cure light wounds, and an ever increasing escalation of number of encounters and things get really exciting. Mine was an overnight zombie infestation of a small hamlet. at one point players were forced to do battle against a zombie bull that was charging the door of the house they were barracaded into and later a stealthy Zombie housecat. Additionally I used infection rules where even the tiniest scratch was potentially very dangerous.


takaisan wrote:
I'd like to play a high-level survival horror adventure in which food and water are important resources. To this end I would like to ban all magic that creates food or water. Banning "Rings of Sustenance" and spells like "Create Food and Water" are obvious. What else should I think about to make the characters depend on food? Thanks!

You will need to ban full-caster, or seaching for food and water will be meaningless with teleport and all other kind of bypass spells.


Metal Sonic wrote:
You will need to ban full-caster, or seaching for food and water will be meaningless with teleport and all other kind of bypass spells.

True, teleport should be banned as well. What other bypass spells are there?


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I once tried to do something similar but found real-world survival a bit too complex to recreate the feel of well. I also studied californian ecosystems in college and might be pushing the realism a bit hard, and doing all of these would bog down game play :)

Also, here is a great thread I found helpful: /threads/rzs2q5qt?Wilderness-Survival-Adventure.

Real-world wilderness survival is hard because 1) without weapons, our food options are generally either low calorie or require a lot of time to catch (think Survivorman eating grubs and setting nooses for rabbits) and 2) even with weapons big game is rare. In Pathfinder, both these problems go right out the window. Kill just one edible enemy and your party is set at least for the rest of the day as long as they have time/resources to prepare it.

I don't know what sort of creatures you were planning on using, but I would think the majority would need to be inedible or have a high CR so it wouldn't be a free buffet. Deserts in general have mostly bugs and rodents, but not many big animals. Food is just too scarce. Abilities that can be used to detect might make hunting too easy as well. Undead and constructs might be good to use, but I don't know much about the Underdark.

As you mentioned both places having an oasis, that would be an ideal place for the players to set lures and traps as many other creatures would be using it for resources too. However, it would be quite dangerous to hang around since it will also be a prime hunting grounds for predators.

As for water, deserts are VERY DRY (and often blisteringly hot in the day). IRL water requirements per person in a desert is around 2 quarts of water/hour of hard work (fighting, traveling, hunting) and 1 quart/hour of rest in the cooler parts of the day, and this doesn't take into consideration things like food preparation, medical attention, or hygiene (per army guidelines). So if the party is doing stuff from sunrise to sundown, each person needs 24 quarts of water. That's a lot of water to have to find, and water is heavy. The smart decision for the group is to work at night and sleep in the day, which cuts water needs down to only 12 quarts per 12 hours. However, many predators use this same tactic in deserts, and will make night travel more dangerous.

Another idea is that the characters are probably either going to have water skins on them, or will want to try to improvise one out of a bladder or something. Depending on how far they have to travel away from the oasis, you might need to take portable water into account.

One aspect you didn't mention was environmental hardships. Heat stroke is a HUGE risk in hot deserts (over 100 degrees F) and nights are just as harsh (less than 20 degree F). They are windy no matter the time of day and make dehydration even worse. 100 F while in armor I imagine would be akin to sitting in a car with the windows up in summer.

The Underdark, I'm guessing, will be very damp since you are mentioning edible fungus. If the party is there for longer than a week, any metal, wood, or hide will start to decompose. They might have to roll for infections like foot rot unless they find a way to dry out every night.

Spells/abilities that give environmental resistance/disease resistance would largely negate the increased water needs, heat stroke, the cold, and the dampness. Know Direction would make navigation significantly easier too.

Sorry for the huge post! I hope I gave you some things to think about, and I'm very curious to know how you plan to balance the realism while keeping it fast-paced.


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Never underestimate the nutrition value of an unconscious horse wearing a Hand of Glory with a Ring of Regeneration on it.


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Anything that lets them carry more than the minimum

Bags of holding, portable holes, ant haul, etc.

Basically, if they can find a single drinkable lake, they can get a hundred gallons of water without too much trouble, theoretically. And if they take down a mammoth, they could possibly get months worth of food.

So make them FEEL the pain of a dumped str score. Make the wizard seriously consider whether he should grab the belt of +2 str over the dex/con belt.

As an addendum- a lot of the usual problems this approach would cause obviously would not come up- why would they need to hold onto loot if they are in a game where resources are scarce- if they could honestly trade, couldn't they stock up on supplies?


Find the Path. Miracle. Heroes Feast. Dream Feast.

Maybe that nap stack spell? Or is quick sleeping OK?

Endure Elements will be a party staple if you allow it. Probably same for Abstemiousness. They might like Enhance Water, too.

Depending on how you want it, Rope Trick, Mage's Magnificent Mansion, and that druid refuge spell thing might be bans, too. Is free sleeping safety allowed?

No long-duration summons that you don't have to feed. Mount could be an unbalancer depending on the scarcity of motion abilities.

Grand Lodge

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Also, even orisons can break the game. Create water, for example, totally breaks it. Something almost any Cleric, Oracle, etc., can use infinitely.

And, if you allow traits, any caster can add it to their spell list using Two-World Magic.

Any of the Summon spells.
Fabricate.
A good portion of the Conjuration, Transmutation, Abjuration and Evocation lists.

While a lot of the spells aren't written that way intentionally, a lot of them can be used for it.

Create Water, Purify Food and Drink, Heroes' Feast, and this is just off the top of my head form the CRB.

CRB Spells:
Animal Growth
Augury
Baleful Polymorph
Clone
Control Water
Control Weather
Control Winds
Create Food and Water
Create Water
Detect Animals or Plants
Divination
Elemental Body I-IV
Endure Elements
Fabricate
Gaseous Form
Gate
Goodberry
Heroes' Feast
Ice Storm
Iron Body
Legend Lore
Limited Wish
Major Creation
Minor Creation
Miracle
Plant Growth
Polymorph
Polymorph Any Object
Polymorph, Greater
Purify Food and Drink
Regenerate
Reincarnate
Resurrection
Scrying
Scrying, Greater
Simulacrum
Sleet Storm
Stone to Flesh
Summon (much anything)
True Resurrection
Wall of Ice
Wish

And that is just a list out of the CRB, with mainly working from looking at spell names and my memory of the spell.


Baleful Polymorph should be fine, because it requires you to target a creature, probably one you were planning to eat anyways. Wish and Limited Wish should be OK, though debatable. In the wilderness, where will they get the money to do that? Simulacrum requires a boatload of snow to function, if they had that much snow, they might as well drink it. Ice Storm should be fine, as the effects disappear as stated in the spell. Reincarnate might be fine, as it's still expensive and not super predictable. I don't see why Iron Body would be something to ban, as it has a relatively short duration and a number of adverse effects. Same with Gaseous Form.

Plane Shift is a no. Same with Overland Flight. Regular Fly might stay, though.

Grand Lodge

Iron body because you no longer need food or water while under its affects.

Gaseous form because it allows you to go places you shouldn't, like follow a trickle of water or a root system to its source.

And if they get a lot of money, making food or water would allow them to rapidly break WbL, I would suspect.


Don't forget those crazy OP Replenishing Aquarium Balls.

Grand Lodge

Under the theme of increasing carrying capacity, there is those overpowered Floating Disks, too.


kinevon wrote:

Iron body because you no longer need food or water while under its affects.

Gaseous form because it allows you to go places you shouldn't, like follow a trickle of water or a root system to its source.

And if they get a lot of money, making food or water would allow them to rapidly break WbL, I would suspect.

Iron body lasts 1 min/level. Don't tell me you burnt an 8th level spell slot for those effects.

Grand Lodge

My Self wrote:
kinevon wrote:

Iron body because you no longer need food or water while under its affects.

Gaseous form because it allows you to go places you shouldn't, like follow a trickle of water or a root system to its source.

And if they get a lot of money, making food or water would allow them to rapidly break WbL, I would suspect.

Iron body lasts 1 min/level. Don't tell me you burnt an 8th level spell slot for those effects.

Didn't notice the duration, but it still breaks things, in some ways. Then again, most spells at that level break things.

Gaseous Form is a lot lower level, and even with the slow speed, you can still get places you shouldn't. See the module Dragon's Demand for an example of that.

Shadow Lodge

You could look for things like pervading evil in the area causing food stores to wilt or decay rapidly, or become infested with insects. it will only take a few fortitude saves from eating infected maggots before the party willingly starts to go hungry. but make it a puzzle they can solve or something they can do to purify the area as one of their quest objectives. then it becomes a race, can they find and purify before starvation sets in.


These are good tips - many thanks.

My basic idea was to establish food as a power source in the Deeps, a resource to be warred over. And it should entail a minimum of bookkeeping on the players behalf, just so much that they understand. But I can tell that it will influence the game in an interesting way with all this magic that cannot be used freely. There will be a lot of exceptions and arbitrary rulings. I like that.

Good idea about the rot, it is very damp down there, so destroying a supply is a good option to generate pressure or a story hook for the party.


I'm tempted to say everything has to be banned, because I'm not a fan of PC abuse games.

That being said, stone ceiling. Not a spell, but a concept. The rich and powerful will hoard all persons and objects that generate resources. If all spells have to be rolled for like with wizards, then adventurers simply can't learn create water or food. Spells for exploring such as mount will come automatically to them. The mount spell might just be called summon camel. Their sponsors will give them only the bare minimum of supplies, and a quest spell each to bring back stuff.

What's on the aristocrat wishlist? Food and water of course. Farming techniques, crops, and livestock. A ritual that creates a water trapping dome over an oasis. Spice(like in Dune) if it exists. Any other oasis is of interest. Many leaders have dreams of opening a trade route out of the wasteland. If the adventurers find an oasis overrun with undead, they come directly home, then lead high level characters they never knew of to the place to cleanse and occupy.


You never answered the question earlier if your players are on board with this concept? You are stripping the game of a whole lot to create your vision of a game which contains an aspect, finding food, that most players don't find super exciting.

It is very possible to create survival horror without food being an issue. The way this game is structure, it's going to be very unpf-just make sure your players are actually interested in these plot hooks, because while you as GM find them interesting, they are kind of bland. I know I wouldn't want to spend the rare time I have to sit down at a gaming table searching for food.


Frozen Wind is a free one-shot module (for 5 PCs at 5th level) for Rite Publishing's Kaidan setting of Japanese horror (PFRPG) and is very much a survivor horror adventure involving both natural and supernatural cold, based at a mountain based monastery, a freak snowstorm (early in the season), and an old promise to a powerful oni spirit of the cold, the Yuki-onna that is being enacted coincidentally when the PCs show up. Using the pregen characters, while there is a sorcerer with fire-based spells, no one has the normal Endure Elements spell or ability (purposely so, to make a more exciting situation). This module was designed as a Con game, and used at past Origins and Gencon events, so explaining some of odd features like a scoring system. Still the module is broken into set situations that change over a short timeline, making for an interesting adventure.

Using the pregens is ideal for this module, as each has a specific mission separate from the rest of the party, and GMs don't have to struggle with player designed PCs being put into such a dire survival horror situation, with limitations for coping with extreme cold and little resources.


Check out gamer-printer's suggestion. Excellent adventure and you can't beat the price..

Otherwise for survival horror I immediately think Total Party Kill Games.


I don't think limiting the number of spells other than ones that directly create food or water is necessary. with most of the other spells that sort of circumvent the need to eat or make it easier to find food and water you might ban a few that make it too easy but if you're players are creative enough to find a use for a spell that other than how it is built for then why not let them have it. it would encourage them to think outside of the box more in order to survive wwhich is a key aspect of survival horror and can lead to and could be quite rewarding for them.


Making some of the food dangerous might be fun, especially if PCs have a chance to figure out which food is safe using their skills. Survival and Knowledge(Nature) would obviously be useful, but other Knowledge skills could help out for more exotic creatures. Profession (Cook) could also assist with safe cooking methods (think about blowfish)

I also suggest watching an old Japanese film called Matango and designing an adventure based on it (though perhaps adapted to a subterranean setting). I've always kind of wanted to run such an adventure, perhaps using Will saves for the PCs to resist eating as they start becoming more and more famished. The film seems to be inspired by "The Voice in the Night" by William Hope Hodgson, which is in the public domain.

Forgetting about food for a moment, I'd think that enhancing and extending the role of ability damage, disease, and poison in the game could lead to a more "survival horror" feel. Eliminating the spells which get rid of these problems completely could be problematic unless you also change drain to damage, but you might consider raising a the levels of some spells or adding expensive material components to encourage the PCs to "tough it out". Of course folks have already warned you that players might not like this sort of game. If folks are up for struggling to survive and working through problems it could be interesting though.

@gamer-printer - I've added the free PDF and will check it out. The premise reminds me a lot of a free adventure called "An Icy Grave" which I downloaded years ago and always wanted to run. I was thinking of increasing the CR of that one a bit to run higher level PCs through it, but I figured that magic might become a problem (the PCs wouldn't need to seek shelter from the storm, the cold weather wouldn't be a threat, etc)


Oh, and just another thing to carrying capacity- Take a note from one of the best survival horror games, and turn the campaign into Attache Case HD: the table top game


This does not sound like a great idea, there are other systems much better suited than pathfinder, since like half the magic in the book circumvents this.

Also what does it get replaced with? One skill roll...? Or worse, just nothing, "I eat the dude I just killed." Okay.


Creating a speadsheet which calculates encumbrance after you enter the weight of each item is trivial. Making one which includes most common equipment along with weights would be a little more ambitious (and possibly worth sharing with the community)

I guess that the DM maintaining a copy of each PC might matter more in a survival horror themed game. Then you could just call for a d20 roll and apply the appropriate modifier for a Perception check, Will save, etc. Of course you could also just call for pointless d20 rolls and then nod, shake your head, and jot something down.


Thanael wrote:

Check out gamer-printer's suggestion. Excellent adventure and you can't beat the price..

Otherwise for survival horror I immediately think Total Party Kill Games.

Fixed the link. Read the reviews for TPK's Reaping Stone and Bleeding Hollow.

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