Thoughts About Quicksand


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Due to vacations our group is late to the party, and have just come halfway through 'In Pale Mountain's Shadow'. After a very enjoyable stint of expanding on the exploration tactics and seeing innovative and fun creature mechanics, we encountered the Quicksand...

So with the new exploration mechanics and the story incentive to rush, I asked my group of 6 players whether they would be searching or investigating. After losing a camel to the Hyenas, no one was keen to waste time. So of course they aren't actively looking out and one unlucky player ends up walking straight into the Quicksand. Encounter ensues.

I placed one player (our monk) in the first tile of quicksand. Quicksand won initiative with a 29 total. Monk starts their turn neck deep and are faced with a DC 18 Athletics.

Throughout the encounter we had two players (wizard and ranger) with ropes thrown to the monk, using aid actions to help. I ruled that the Aid Reaction would use the 'Easy DC 10' since they were assisted with ropes.

After an hour or so of play we still didn't manage to get her out, as we figured the Aid action didn't stack (they provide circumstance bonuses), and since Aid and escaping the Quicksand is affected by ACP, we ended up rolling a lot of critical failures on both sides. She ended up suffocating after 14 rounds of unlucky rolls.

Simultaneously we had the "stupid" dwarf barbarian leap into the quicksand, and even he couldn't get out with the help of the cleric and fighter.

There was also no mention of depth of the Quicksand, so do they sink infinitely? I set a limit of 4 steps, otherwise the monk would have been ~10 steps down under at the end.

As a GM I really appreciate the complexity of this encounter and I would love to see it work. If Aid reaction bonuses stacked perhaps the encounter would be more fun, but even then I suspect it would be long-winded.

We fail to understand why there exists a shove action, but no action to drag or carry someone? Why can't my players use the ropes to pull someone instead of simply aiding? It doesn't make sense that two or more players pulling a rope doesn't actually help, but in some cases hamper the effort.

So far we're enjoying the story and ruleset immensely, and we are hopeful for the future of 2E. :-)


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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

We had a spot of trouble with the quicksand too. My group's victim kept getting her head in the air so was never close to suffocation, but could not seal the deal and get out. Aid helped some but not enough. I ended up ruling that allies could use an athletics check so long as she was not fully submerged. That popped her out with a minimum of fuss. Not sure if it was the right call for the rules but for my table in that moment it was the right call to move the game along. The Ankheg was long dead by then, by the way.

Silver Crusade

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure, Companion, Lost Omens, Pathfinder Accessories, Rulebook Subscriber

I'm not quite sure from your description but: did you give the trapped character only one chance per round? or one chance per action, so three per round?

The athletics DC is 18, so the worst possible character is at (level 4, -4 untrained, -1 STR, -5 ACP) -6, but that is a gnome or halfling in full plate. That one has to roll a 14 to not sink.
In this case, even Aid doesn't help much, the character stuck has not enough strength to grab the rope good enough to let him be pulled out. But in that case he shouldn't have put on full plate anyway

A typical bad athletics bonus should be around (level 4, -4 untrained, STR combined with ACP ~0) +0, needing an 8 on the die to not sink.
The monk in OP's post would be around that bonus, if he trained something else than athletics and has no Strength to speak of.

Throwing a rope should grant a +2 conditional bonus, Aid a +2 circumstance bonus, so the typically bad athlete's odds increase by 20%. His chance to sink is now 15%, and his chance to swim is at 35%, so he should try multiple times a round.

Liberty's Edge

I found the quicksand both confusing and weird. The table I was running for spotted the mound and decided to give it a wide berth, which missed the quicksand. I was very glad because I still have no idea how that encounter is supposed to play out without being a bunch of "the GM is a jerk" railroading.


I was very surprised that there was no save. If you walk on it, even if you notice it, you automatically fall in. Luckily our Sorcerer cast web on the corner of the quicksands area and the camel critically failed its save. So no one except the Ankheg died in it, and that's only because I ruled it could burrow through, but that's where the last arrow got it.


Franz Lunzer wrote:

I'm not quite sure from your description but: did you give the trapped character only one chance per round? or one chance per action, so three per round?

The athletics DC is 18, so the worst possible character is at (level 4, -4 untrained, -1 STR, -5 ACP) -6, but that is a gnome or halfling in full plate. That one has to roll a 14 to not sink.
In this case, even Aid doesn't help much, the character stuck has not enough strength to grab the rope good enough to let him be pulled out. But in that case he shouldn't have put on full plate anyway

A typical bad athletics bonus should be around (level 4, -4 untrained, STR combined with ACP ~0) +0, needing an 8 on the die to not sink.
The monk in OP's post would be around that bonus, if he trained something else than athletics and has no Strength to speak of.

Throwing a rope should grant a +2 conditional bonus, Aid a +2 circumstance bonus, so the typically bad athlete's odds increase by 20%. His chance to sink is now 15%, and his chance to swim is at 35%, so he should try multiple times a round.

The characters received as many attempts per round as they had actions available.

The monk in question has a +6 Athletics bonus, but was frankly quite unlucky. They had two people using Aid reaction (a wizard at +0 and a Ranger at +2 Athletics) against a DC 15 Athletics. Theoretically they should have an okay chance to get out, but due to Critical Failure on the Aid Reaction at inopportune moments contributing a -2 penalty, and automatically sinking on the Quicksands initiative, the monk ended up drowning.

The only alternative I could think of was allowing the player to climb the rope using the "Ordinary Athletics Tasks" on page 338, but given the nature of the playtest we decided to stay away from taking liberties with the rules.

We did not know about the +2 conditional bonus from the rope however. Where is this stated in the book? All I can find is a +1 item bonus to Athletics to Climb from Climbing Kit.

EDIT: Looking at the numbers (disregarding the supposed rope bonus)...

The Wizard has a 30% probability to aid, and a 25% to crit fail.
The Ranger has a 40% probability to aid, and a 15% to crit fail.
The Monk has a 45% probability to swim, and a 10% to crit fail.

Even if one of the Aid Reactions succeed, the probability to swim up is still just 55%. Given that you have to make two out of three attempts every round to negate the Quicksands automatically pulling you down, the most likely outcome in this scenario seem to be a slow death. If the rope actually does confer a +2 bonus then the odds are more even.

Silver Crusade

I have to agree with the complaints about quicksand, while they might not be a deathtrap (unless you have bad Athletics), it takes forever to help someone to get out of it.

Aid another is just a very clunky way to resolve this and even with several characters standing by to support via aid another check on one of the three attempts each turn.

I would rather not see it again, but something like this might actually need unique rules to resolve.

EDIT: Also this is a huge trap, but as written it will always affect the first person to move into one of its squares, not sure if that is absolutely intentional given the size of it. I don't even see a situation where the person slipping into it won't always be at the border of it.


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The rules seem to be trying to model the difficulty of escaping quicksand once you have sunk to your waist, and assume that you are not bouyant, which may be true for an adventurer laden with gear.

In real quicksand, you sink slowly and as long as you think to lie on your back right away, you won't sink very far and can easily be pulled out by someone else. Edited to add: The ease with which this can be done does not seem to be modeled well.

If you don't, you sink to your waist, at which point it is next to impossible to be pulled out unless you can wiggle your legs enough to free the water around them (sounds like a swim check to me?)

But you don't sink farther or drown. People and animals that get trapped in quicksand die of exposure or from predation. Quicksand really is dangerous and deadly, but only if you don't know what to do or are alone.

Liberty's Edge

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I despise Quicksand with a fiery passion for all the reasons mentioned here (well, none of my PCs actually died, but otherwise).

I also agree that the complete inability of someone with Str 18 to pull out someone in a mechanically meaningful fashion is the standout bit of weirdness here.

Dark Archive

I had one character die in it and I think this hazard should NEVER be used ever again. As it also creates a LOOOOOOONG die rolling where everyone gets disinterested in it very fast.


I think we feel the restraints of a playtest here. In a normal Situation, everybody would come up with several Workarounds on how to model "3 Guys and a rope solve this Problem", be it Athletics rolls via a theoretical Pull Maneuver or whatever.
Us trying to stay Close to RAW and the traps being thrown together with limited space is what makes this Hazard unfun and unintuiive.


DerNils wrote:
Us trying to stay Close to RAW and the traps being thrown together with limited space is what makes this Hazard unfun and unintuiive.

I am not sure I agree with this. The basic hazard as written in the Bestiary is unrealistic in how quickly it works, and offers no saving throw when you trigger it. It's basically "swim checks until you escape or die". I don't see how this is fun.

Real quicksand works very slowly and doesn't drown you. You sink to your waist and get stuck, requiring outside help to free you. Modeled as a game mechanic, you would be making swim checks until you were exhausted, or had help to pull/dig you out (yes, you can dig in quicksand, it's just sand that is saturated with water).

At least in that scenario the trapped character would still have actions even when they were up to their waist. And things might get interesting if a random encounter came along. :)

This trap needs to change.

Liberty's Edge

DerNils wrote:

I think we feel the restraints of a playtest here. In a normal Situation, everybody would come up with several Workarounds on how to model "3 Guys and a rope solve this Problem", be it Athletics rolls via a theoretical Pull Maneuver or whatever.

Us trying to stay Close to RAW and the traps being thrown together with limited space is what makes this Hazard unfun and unintuiive.

That would allow others to make the checks, but the fact that it's 'three checks a round until you escape or die' often for as much as 15 minutes of real-world time, would still be a major issue.


John Mechalas wrote:
DerNils wrote:
Us trying to stay Close to RAW and the traps being thrown together with limited space is what makes this Hazard unfun and unintuiive.

I am not sure I agree with this. The basic hazard as written in the Bestiary is unrealistic in how quickly it works, and offers no saving throw when you trigger it. It's basically "swim checks until you escape or die". I don't see how this is fun.

Real quicksand works very slowly and doesn't drown you. You sink to your waist and get stuck, requiring outside help to free you. Modeled as a game mechanic, you would be making swim checks until you were exhausted, or had help to pull/dig you out (yes, you can dig in quicksand, it's just sand that is saturated with water).

At least in that scenario the trapped character would still have actions even when they were up to their waist. And things might get interesting if a random encounter came along. :)

This trap needs to change.

I think the trap is supposed to be unrealistic movie quicksand and that is fine by me. That said, I still share OP's concerns.


Excaliburproxy wrote:
I think the trap is supposed to be unrealistic movie quicksand and that is fine by me. That said, I still share OP's concerns.

Or characters wearing medium and heavy armor, which would be fine by me, too.

Regardless, I think we all agree that roll-until-escape-or-die puts this in some bad territory.

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