Adventure and Exploration

OSRIC is a game of adventure, and the primary activity in adventures is exploration. Even though the rules for combat take up more space in this rulebook, play tends to focus more on exploration than combat. Whether the party is investigating an old ruined shrine, delving into an abandoned dwarfish mine, traversing an unknown wilderness, sailing uncharted waters, or venturing beyond the physical world into the planes of existence, exploration is central to adventure and thus to the game.

While exploration tends to be resolved in a looser, more free-form manner than combat, where description and negotiation are central and pre-defined rules take a background role, there are nonetheless some standard procedures that will help the GM resolve these activities efficiently.

If you are new to OSRIC-compatible rule sets, please re-read the section on “Time Measurement” at the beginning of Chapter III and ensure that you understand it fully before reading further. When exploring dungeons time is measured in turns. In the wilderness or at sea time is typically measured in days. The planes are a special case and can conform to either, or neither, of the above.

Searching the Dungeon

Many OSRIC adventures will involve the characters exploring some enclosed area, be it the dungeons beneath a castle or temple, a system of natural caves and caverns, an abandoned mine, the sewers beneath a city, an enemy fortress, a wizard’s tower, or a shrine to some dark god. For convenience, and by tradition, these enclosed locations are collectively called “dungeons,” which thus refers not just to a set of man-made tunnels but to any indoor adventure location. Indoor/dungeon adventures tend to have similar characteristics and thus the same set of procedures and suggested resolution mechanics applies to most “dungeon” adventures.

Order of Play: While exploring in a dungeon, each turn is resolved separately. Experienced GMs sometimes will allow the turns to run together, but this is only recommended after the GM is comfortable with the basic procedures. The order of events in a game turn is as follows:

  1. Wandering Monster Check: Every third turn the GM rolls to see if any wandering monsters are encountered (typically 1 in 6—consult specific level key for non-standard frequency of check or likelihood of encounter)
  2. Statement of Action: Party caller or individual player describes the activity of the various party members, which are resolved as appropriate by the GM:
    1. Move: Up to full move rate per turn for cautious movement (including mapping); 5x normal rate when passing through familiar areas (no mapping allowed)
    2. Listen for noise: 1 round per attempt, 10% standard chance for success (adjusted for class (thieves, assassins) and race (elves, gnomes, halflings, half-orcs), only 3 attempts allowed per situation (e.g. door)
    3. Open a stuck or locked door: 1 round per attempt, 2 in 6 standard chance for success (adjusted for strength) for stuck door, locked door requires key, knock spell, exceptional strength, lock picking, or breaking down door, unlimited retries allowed but no surprise possible after failed attempt
    4. Search for traps: 1-4 rounds per attempt (covering one object or location), chance of success determined by race (dwarf or gnome), class (thief or assassin) or free-form verbal negotiation (at GM’s discretion)
    5. Casually examine (and map) a room or area: 1 turn per 20 × 20 ft room or area
    6. Thoroughly examine and search for secret doors: 1 turn per 10 × 10 ft area, 1 in 6 standard chance for success (2 in 6 for elves and half-elves)
    7. Cast a spell: See specific spell descriptions in Chapter II for casting times and effects.
    8. Rest: Typically 1 turn in every 6, plus 1 turn after every combat, must be spent resting (i.e. no movement or any other strenuous activity)
    9. Other activities: Duration of attempt and likelihood of success determined and resolved on ad-hoc basis by GM
  3. Encounters: If an encounter (either with a wandering monster or a planned encounter) occurs, the GM determines surprise, distance, reactions, and resolves the encounter normally (through negotiation, evasion, or combat)
  4. Book-keeping: The GM records that a turn has elapsed and deducts any resources that the party has used (lost hit points, spell durations expiring, torches burning out, and so on).

Since each turn represents ten minutes of time, characters may combine several actions in the same turn if each is reasonably brief. Thus a character might draw a sword, move up to a door and attempt to open it all in the same turn, for example. Longer actions may take several turns to resolve (such as making a minute search of a 500 sq ft wall) and sensible parties will take steps to guard a character engaged in such activity from unexpected attack.

The guiding principle behind the exploration rules is to maximise the number of meaningful decisions the players take about their actions, and minimise the number of dice rolls between each decision.

Wandering Monsters: Typically, wandering monsters are checked for every third turn and encountered 1 chance in 6. If a wandering monster does appear, determine the creature involved randomly unless some factor makes it obvious what the party has met.

Some dungeon levels have special provisions for wandering monsters affecting the frequency of checks, the chance of an encounter, or both. For example, in the first level of the Pod Caverns of the Sinister Shroom, the chance of meeting a wandering monster is only 1 in 10.

Wandering monsters in dungeons should be appropriate to the environment both in type of creatures encountered and encounter difficulty. Traditionally dungeons are organised such that the deeper the dungeon level, the more numerous and deadly the creatures encountered—so a group of first level characters exploring the first level of a dungeon should tend to encounter first level monsters, with maybe the occasional second level one, whereas on the sixth dungeon level, characters might expect to meet third or fourth level monsters. This pattern varies from dungeon to dungeon, however. For example, in the Red Mausoleum, an adventure designed for characters level 12 and higher, most monsters are extremely powerful even on the very first level!

At the GM’s option, wandering monster checks may be made less often or even skipped entirely, but before doing so it is important to think about the reasons behind the rules, and particularly what the wandering monster check should accomplish. The first purpose served by wandering monster checks is to create an impression of complexity in a “living dungeon” environment without GM needing to create activity schedules or account for every creature in the dungeon at every moment. Monsters in the dungeon will have various reasons for leaving their lairs: some may be on patrol, others looking for food, and still others exploring the dungeon just like the player characters; all of the above and more are represented by the wandering monster die.

The other purpose of wandering monsters has nothing to do with verisimilitude and is purely a rules construct, but an important one: wandering monsters discourage players from wasting time. If there is no chance of meeting a wandering monster, there is no incentive for the players to keep the game moving no reason why they shouldn't hold long conversations about their course of action and methodically check every inch of floor, walls, and ceiling for traps and hidden treasure. Many players, especially those accustomed to computer games that have no in-game time limits, will tend towards a “pixel-hunting” approach to play. It is up to the GM, by means of wandering monsters, to discourage this kind of slow play and keep the game moving—otherwise the game will become mired in dull minutiae and nobody will have much fun.

The same principles also apply in reverse, though. The GM should adjust the chance of meeting a wandering monster according to the players’ approach. If the party is stealthy, swift, and silent, avoids heavily-trafficked areas and does not stay long in any one place, they should encounter few wandering monsters.

The Role of the Party Caller (Optional): If there are many players in the party, some groups like to designate one player as “Caller,” or party spokesman, and filter communication through that single player. This role should not default to a “party leader” who gives the other players orders and reduces them to spectators! Rather, some groups may find that by having a single player speak for the whole group, potential chaos of each player competing for the GM’s attention is reduced and the game should run more smoothly, improving the play-experience for all involved. Therefore, if a caller is used, he or she should consult with the other players and then report the party’s actions quickly and accurately to the GM.

The caller can be anyone and need not be limited to, for instance, the character with the highest charisma or social standing. In fact, we suggest that if the party uses a caller, the role should rotate among the players from session to session, giving each a turn.

Movement during dungeon exploration: Is at the rates listed at the beginning of Chapter III. This slow, cautious move rate (which works out at a tenth the speed characters move in combat) allows the characters to make a map of their progress, if they wish. When passing through familiar areas or following a map, characters can move at up to five times the normal per-turn move rate (so that a character with a normal move rate of 60 ft could move up to 300 ft per turn if passing through known territory).

Characters fleeing from an encounter may run at ten times their normal per-turn move rate (i.e. at full combat speed). No mapping is possible while fleeing in this manner and a double rest period (see below) is necessary at the end of the pursuit. Since parties will typically want to remain together, movement speed will necessarily be limited to that of the slowest character in the party.

The players should establish, and the party caller inform the GM of, the party’s “marching order,” i.e. which characters are in front, the middle, and bringing up the rear. In a standard 10 ft wide dungeon corridor, up to three characters may walk abreast, though if any are wielding large weapons such as flails or two-handed swords, this may be reduced to two characters or even one. Characters in the second rank may only attack with a long weapon, such as a spear or pole arm, or if they are firing missiles over the head of a shorter character such as a gnome or halfling.

There are various ways of keeping track of marching order. If miniature figures are in use, they can be placed on some board to indicate where each character is. If miniatures are not in play, most GMs will ask the party to show their marching order on paper. Sensible parties tend to hand the GM a default marching order upon entering the dungeon, and may have standard positions and procedures for other common circumstances as well. A well-organised group might say to the GM, “this is our formation when opening a door,” or “in 20 foot wide passages we move like this,” and so forth.

If the party’s position is for some reason unclear to the GM, he or she is well within his or her rights to determine who is where by means of a die roll.

Listening: May be performed in most places, often at doors before opening them. Unless the entire party is still and quiet (no chattering or clanging around), and unless headgear such as helms are doffed, the listener will not detect any noise save the very loudest.

Thieves and assassins have an enhanced chance to hear noise (see “thief skills” in Chapter I). Characters of all other classes have a base 10% chance. This should be modified by race; elves, gnomes, halflings, and half-orcs have a base 15% chance.

Normally the GM rolls this die in secret, because the player has no way of knowing whether no noise was heard because of the roll or because there was no noise to hear. A character who fails (or thinks he or she has failed) to hear noise may try again, each attempt taking one round. However, no more than three attempts may be made the same character before the strain becomes too great and no further listening attempts will succeed until the character has rested for at least one turn.

If the check is successful, the GM should decide whether there is in fact any noise to be heard. Some monsters, such as bugbears, are stealthy and cannot be detected by listening. However, generally if there is some monster in the area and a “hear noise” check is passed, the party should gain some clue about what it is. Clever players whose characters speak various monster languages may gain valuable information from overhearing snatches of conversation—but the GM should be careful only to describe what characters can actually hear. So the GM would not normally say “you hear a giant spider,” but rather “you hear a scuttling, rattling sound” as the creature climbs to a suitable spot from which to ambush the party.

Don’t forget, monsters can hear the party in the same way as the party can hear them!

Listening for noise as often as possible, at every door and intersection, is an understandably common tactic, because it’s one of the easiest ways for players to improve the odds in their favour—so as to be able to make better-informed decisions about their actions. This is fine in moderation. However, if the pace of play slows considerably, diminishing the excitement and reducing the adventure to dice-rolling, the GM should discourage the players from endless listening attempts. Emphasise the inconvenience of donning and doffing helmets and headgear while the rest of the party stands around doing nothing; and if play is still slow, employ tricks that circumvent listening, e.g. silent monsters or phantom noises (perhaps due to strange acoustics in the dungeon or magic). In extreme cases the GM can place traps and monsters that specifically target listening characters, but before it gets to that, the GM should speak frankly to the players and explain that while some degree of caution is good play, carrying things to extremes only makes the game less fun.

Balance this against the lethality of the dungeon. In extremely dangerous areas, the players should not be punished for taking due care.

Opening doors: Is not normally difficult; the player (or party caller) states the action and the door is opened. However, in some dungeons many doors are stuck and must be forced open. Doors may be locked, braced, jammed, spiked shut or otherwise held fast (by means of a wizard lock spell, for example). Stuck doors may be forced by brute strength (see the strength ability in Chapter I for chances of success). Locked doors will need a key, a thief or assassin to pick the lock, or some may be broken down with axes or battering rams. When designing the dungeon, the GM should note which doors are normal, stuck, locked, etc. as well as the locations of any keys.

Attempting to force a stuck door takes one round per attempt and, depending on the size of the door, more than one character may try at once. Thus, two characters could simultaneously try to force a 6 ft wide door—each character makes a check and success by either indicates the door opens. If the first attempt fails, additional tries may be made at no penalty except for time and noise. Attempting to force a stuck door, and particularly multiple attempts on the same door, is noisy and may increase the odds of meeting a wandering monster. In any event, a failed attempt to open a stuck door will prevent surprise on any creature on the other side of the door.

Lock-picking attempts by thieves and assassins are handled in Chapter I and take between 1 round and 1 turn per attempt (depending on the complexity of the lock). 1-4 rounds are typical.

Chopping down a door with axes or by other means is time-consuming and noisy. It takes a full turn at least to chop down a standard-size door, during which time several wandering monster checks should be made. Naturally, the party will have no chance of surprising any creature on the other side.

Furthermore, once a door is opened, it is usually difficult to keep it open, or for that matter to keep it closed. OSRIC has a double-standard that while adventurers may have a hard time opening doors in dungeons, monsters have no such trouble and can open doors automatically unless the players prevent them. The usual way to hold a dungeon-door open or closed is to wedge it with iron spikes. Even then there is a small chance (at the GM’s discretion but often around 20-30%) that a spiked door will slip.

Mapping: A key element of dungeon exploration; but it is one of the most controversial and misunderstood aspects of the game. If not handled carefully, mapping has huge potential to slow down the game and mire it in frustration.

When designing the dungeon, the GM should map it out on sheets of graph paper, showing the rooms, chambers, corridors, stairways, doors, traps, and other features in relation to one another. As the party moves through the dungeon the GM describes to them what they see and, assuming they have light and proper equipment and are not moving too quickly, the players may choose to draw a map of their own based on the GM’s descriptions.

It is important to understand the purpose of the players’ map. The goal is not to create an exact copy of the GM’s map, but to keep a record of which areas are explored and which not, to allow the party to find their way back to the entrance and, on subsequent expeditions, find their way back to where they left off. If the dungeon is small or simple in layout the players may not need a map. Even if the dungeon is larger or more complex, a “trailing map” with lines for corridors and squares for rooms and chambers, maybe with marginal markings showing length or size, is almost always enough. Only in the most labyrinthine of dungeon levels, with rooms and corridors tightly packed together, are players likely to find making a strictly accurate map rewarding.

On such levels an accurate map can help the players deduce the locations of secret rooms, show them when they’re circling back into areas they’ve already explored by a different route, or even alert them to some trick—a teleporter, shifting room or wall, sloping passage, or the like. Parties keeping a trailing map, or no map at all, may miss hidden treasures or not realise they have gone astray until hopelessly lost, but careful mapping might quickly reveal something is amiss, allowing the party to backtrack and correct their course or search for a solution. These areas are the most difficult to map, but also the most rewarding and fun, since mapping this sort of level can lead to tangible positive results.

Many players hate mapping, considering it a fun-killing burden, and these players will often try to get the GM to design simpler dungeons or even to draw the map for them. The OSRIC GM should avoid these “solutions”; play goes quicker if a player maps. Encourage the players to map appropriately—i.e. only when necessary and use a trailing map where possible.

The GM should make mapping easier by giving effective verbal descriptions: quick, accurate, and reporting only what the party actually sees. Visualise the dungeon in your mind. Describe things in distances rather than squares. The players may show you their map and ask if it is correct. Comply only if there is a major error that would be obvious to someone in the dungeon (such as a triangular-shaped room where the party entered via the apex but drew their map as if they’d entered from the base) or if your description was faulty—and in the latter case try to make your descriptions more accurate in future.

In a particularly complicated setup—a room with lots of odd angles, for instance—a quick GM-drawn sketch may be helpful. Do this rarely, and never directly on the players’ map.

The players’ map represents an actual in-game object. If the players at the table are making a map, then a character must also be making one. This has several corollaries: the party must have light (they can only map what they see) and mapping supplies (something to write with and something to write on), they must be moving slowly and methodically (no more than standard exploration speed), and measuring the size of a room takes time (1 turn per 20 × 20 ft area is suggested). Perhaps most importantly, if something happens to the map in-game, it happens to the players’ map as well! If the mapping character dies and his or her body is left behind, if the characters are captured and stripped of their equipment, or if a jet of acid or a green slime destroys the map, the GM should confiscate it. If the party wants backup copies, the players must actually draw them. If the entire party dies in the dungeon, the only way their maps will survive is if copies were left on the surface.

Clever GMs will see adventure-creating potential here. Maps are a valuable asset for NPCs as well as PCs; map-buying, selling and trading could be rife, and maps found in treasure hoards potentially more valuable than gold.

Searching for hidden treasure, traps, secret doors, and whatnot: A common activity. Looking for secret doors is a time-consuming process, taking a full turn for each 10 × 10 ft area searched. Even so the chance of success is small: 1 in 6 for most characters, with elves and half-elves having an innate advantage (translating to a 2 in 6 chance). Searching for traps is best done by dwarfs, gnomes, thieves, or assassins—chances for success are as described in Chapter I. A search for traps generally takes 1-4 rounds, but it is also limited to a specific object or small (no more than 5 × 5 ft) location specified by the player: “I search for traps on the door,” “I search for traps on the treasure chest,” “I search the area directly in front of the throne for traps,” etc.

The GM may allow “negotiation-based” searching for secret doors or traps, in which, through careful questioning and described actions, the players may achieve a bonus, or even an automatic success, on a search. For instance, players may tap along a section of wall listening for the echo of a hollow space. If such a space is discovered, the players may describe their attempts to find and trigger the secret door they know is there—perhaps looking for loose or ill-fitting stones, suspicious indentations or cracks, wall-sconces that may turn or pivot, etc. The same approach can work for traps as well.

The GM must adjudicate these negotiated searches. Perhaps they have no effect and the die roll alone decides success or failure—which certainly helps keep the game moving, but may strip away too much of the players’ ability to immerse themselves in the situation. Perhaps a careful description can give a bonus to the standard check, or perhaps the description might trump the die-roll entirely—if the player is able to describe a search in such a manner that the GM feels would definitely find the objective. The downside to this is if the player’s description is off-base (searching in the wrong place, via the wrong means, etc.) the GM might actually reduce the chance of success.

These detailed, negotiated searches generally take a long time in-play (more than the standard times listed above) and may increase the odds of encountering a wandering monster. This is, of course, deliberate; without some incentive to keep things moving players might tend to conduct the most thorough searches possible, describing every inch of every room in minute detail, and dragging the game to a grinding halt.

Disarming traps is normally a job for a thief or assassin (with chances of success as shown in Chapter I) and takes 1-4 rounds per attempt for a simple trap. A complex trap may take a full turn to disarm. Other characters usually have little to no chance of success, though again careful questioning and attention to detail may create exceptions. For instance, a player may be able to surmise that wedging a pressure plate to prevent it from depressing, or stopping a vent with beeswax to prevent gas from issuing from it, could circumvent a trap.

These sorts of “negotiation-based” solutions to traps are wholly at the GM’s discretion. Some GMs encourage and reward this sort of play, but others will discourage it, perhaps feeling this slows down the game too much, or circumvents the intended role of the thief class. It is important that the players and the GM discuss this issue to make sure everyone’s expectations align–that the players aren’t expecting purely roll-based resolution of traps when the GM is expecting them to play out each attempt, or vice versa.

Traps neither avoided nor disarmed will normally trigger 50% of the time. When designing the dungeon, the GM should define each trap by its nature and effect (see the preceding pages on “Traps”). In areas designed for first level characters, damage should not normally exceed 1d6 or at worst 1d10 and “instant death” effects should be avoided. Lower dungeon levels, on the other hand, are designed for experienced players with high-level characters who should have many ways of dealing with traps, as well as more hit points and better saving throws, so more dangerous and deadly traps may be in order. Even so, the GM should typically allow some kind of saving throw or other way of mitigating the trap’s effects.

Some OSRIC groups enjoy even more lethal traps—such as those that cause death with no save. Placing these is a matter for the GM’s judgement. Do you wish to encourage the players to raise zombies or call forth unseen servants or summoned monsters and send them ahead? Very lethal traps will probably lead to such behaviour, and in some groups there is a place for this kind of play. Others prefer to avoid it.

Casting spells is detailed in Chapter II. Many spells, particularly the various detection and divination-type spells, will make the job of exploration easier. It is up to the players to decide the ideal balance between these "utility" spells and those oriented towards combat or healing. There are circumstances in which a well-timed knock or locate object spell may prove just as crucially life-saving as yet another sleep or cure light wounds.

Rest periods are typically necessary one turn out of every six, one turn after each combat, and double-length (two turns) after an evasion or pursuit. Parties that stay in the dungeon for several hours and are not able or willing to return to the surface may spend an entire “night” holed up within the dungeon to recover spells. During these periods the party cannot move, nor may they perform any other strenuous action (though passive activities such as mapping should be allowed). Players should be aware of when these rest periods are coming up, and make sure their surroundings are as inconspicuous, or at least defensible, as possible. A small, out-of-the-way room with a single door that can be spiked shut could be a good location to rest in for a single turn or an entire night; in the middle of an open corridor or near a stairway to a lower level is likely a bad place for even a short rest period, and often a suicidal place to spend several hours.

Occasionally, by accident or design, characters will not take these required rest periods and attempt to press on regardless. If this happens, everyone in the party is fatigued. What this means, and what sort of impact it has on the characters, is left to the GM’s discretion but likely consequences are a reduced movement rate, penalties in combat, temporarily reduced ability scores, and morale reductions for any NPCs who are accompanying the party. The longer the party goes without resting, the worse these effects become.

Other actions are defined in several of the race and class descriptions in Chapter I. For instance, a dwarf can attempt to determine depth underground, a gnome can try to determine direction, a paladin can detect evil, a ranger can attempt to follow a set of tracks, and so on. Unless otherwise specified, these actions take one round per attempt.

Beyond these sorts of pre-defined activities OSRIC has no specific system for resolving most other tasks. This is intentional—the player characters are heroes, and should be able to do most mundane things without a roll.

Certainly the authors could have included a skill system covering activities such as “horse riding” or “swimming,” but doing so is actively detrimental to heroic gaming. Had we included a “horse riding” skill, characters would start falling off their horses. This strikes us as unnecessary, in the context of heroic adventure gaming, so if you seek a generic skill system for your game, seek it elsewhere. Success at most horse-riding tasks (for example) is automatic.

Where a player character tries something beyond the mundane, the GM should determine the chances of success on an ad-hoc basis. The GM should look at the circumstances and the character’s class, level, race, and ability scores and make an informed judgement about his or her chances of success. This could be a flat judgement—“you succeed” or “you fail”—but is more commonly a die-roll of some kind. The GM should usually tell the player what the chance is, ask the player if they still wish to proceed, and if so allow the player to make the appropriate roll him- or herself. However the GM always has the right to roll the dice on behalf of the player, or in secret, if the GM feels the situation demands it.

In determining the ad-hoc chance for success for various tasks, it may be helpful for the GM to look at other similar tasks that have already been defined. For instance, the strength-based chances to Open Doors and/or Bend Bars, the magic user’s intelligence-based Chance to Know Spells, and the constitution-based roll to survive System Shocks can all be extrapolated to cover a wider variety of situations. The same applies to saving throws, which consider class and level rather than just raw ability, so that high-level characters will be generally more successful than lower level characters, and each class will tend to have areas of speciality (clerics better at tasks that require a save vs death, Magic users at tasks that require a save vs spells, etc.)

Book-keeping: The GM should set up some simple system for book-keeping and may wish to delegate some tasks to the players. The present author, for example, keeps a piece of scratch paper by his books and makes a tally mark when each turn has elapsed, enabling him to see at a glance when to roll for wandering monsters, when the next rest period is required, and when the party has run out of lantern fuel. In extreme cases, if the campaign has grown so large that ten or more players per session is typical, an assistant GM can help—the assistant, or apprentice, GM helps the main GM with book-keeping and organisation, and may help the main GM design new dungeons and adventures, eventually becoming either a co-GM or branching off into a separate sub-campaign.

Exploring the Wilderness

For the purposes of this section of the OSRIC rules, “Wilderness” can mean any adventure in open country, including adventures at sea. The basic unit of time for wilderness exploration is the day. It is a good idea for the GM to use paper marked with a hexagonal grid (“hex paper”) to pre-draw maps of the wilderness before the players explore it, if possible.

Order of Play: When starting out with OSRIC games, each day should be resolved separately. More experienced GMs sometimes tend to allow the days to run together; but please don’t try this until you are certain you know what you’re doing. The order of events is as follows:

  1. Setup: The GM advises the party of prevailing weather conditions and the party decides which way to go.
  2. Navigation: The GM checks in secret to determine if the party has become lost.
  3. Wandering Monster Check: The GM rolls for wandering monsters.
  4. Move and Act: Party members move, make stationary actions, or both.
  5. Encounter: Any encounter is resolved.
  6. Camp: The GM indicates what options the party has for a campsite. The party camps.
  7. Wandering Monster Check: The GM rolls for wandering monsters again, and if one is met, begins the resulting encounter.

On the time scales allowed for wilderness adventures, most static actions take negligible time, so as a general rule a player character can combine many static actions with a normal move.

  1. Weather and Direction: While choosing a direction of travel should present no problem to anyone capable of playing OSRIC, determining the weather can be a more complex matter.

    Some GMs write campaigns with detailed rules for randomly generating the weather by month or season. Others prefer to decide the weather on the spur of the moment based on their gut feeling or to create a sense of narrative tension. This is not a matter in which generic tables would be helpful—a campaign set in a Norse winterland would need quite different tables to one set in a Caribbean archipelago—so no weather-generation rules are provided here. The GM must decide and advise the party accordingly.

  2. Lost: The party will never become lost if following a road, river or other natural feature, nor if they are following an accurate map, nor if they are travelling over terrain at least one party member knows well. (This could include an NPC guide if one is hired for the purpose.)

    Otherwise, the party’s chance of getting lost depends on the terrain and prevailing weather conditions. If the party is crossing a flat savannah towards a range of mountains they can see, the chances of becoming lost are negligible, but if they are travelling a forest at night through thick fog, getting lost is virtually guaranteed!

    As a guideline, allow a 10%-25% chance of getting lost if the party is crossing normal terrain and taking normal precautions.

    If the party does become lost, determine their actual direction of travel randomly. In most cases they will go somewhere within a 60° arc in front of them, but if the roll is particularly bad, the GM may adjust this to 120°. Only in exceptional circumstances will the party get completely turned around.

  3. Wandering Monsters: Normally the GM should make two checks each day, with a 1 in 12 chance of encounter per day, and a third check at night (see below). As always, GM discretion is critical—adjust this frequency downwards if the party is crossing patrolled and civilised terrain, and upwards if they wander into a goblin-infested forest, for example.
  4. Movement and Stationary Actions: See the previous section (on dungeons) and the Movement Rate section in Chapter III.
  5. Encounter Resolution: The mechanics of this are as in a dungeon, though tactically the wilderness presents entirely different challenges. (Player characters will find horses, missile weapons, and long-range spells much more helpful in the wilderness.)
  6. Camping: The party has to camp if spellcasters are to regain their spells. Mounted parties will normally need to rest their animals and armoured player characters, or physically weaker ones, will need rest and sleep. In a forced march situation, the characters could march through the night, but a second night without rest will result in the characters suffering a penalty of -2 or -10% on ability scores, “to hit” and damage rolls, and saving throws from exhaustion. A third night without rest will increase this penalty to -5 and spellcasters will begin to forget any spells they still have memorised. At this point, player characters should check their system shock rolls (see Ability Scores, Constitution) or fall asleep involuntarily. No human or demi-human in OSRIC may go four nights without sleep.

    Sensible parties will set a watch rota overnight, with different characters standing watches to ensure the safety of the sleepers.

Aerial Agility

This section of the rules outlines the basics of aerial movement to assist the GM with flying monsters and movement on flying mounts or otherwise in the air. Flying creatures gain altitude at half their movement rate and dive at a 45° angle, descending 1 ft for every 1 ft of forward movement. Creatures with aerial agility level VI are not subject to these two restrictions (see below). Diving attacks over 30 ft grant a double damage bonus vs non-diving targets, including ground targets. Attacking while climbing incurs no damage or attack penalty. The GM may wish to consider an operational flying ceiling of 5,000 ft above sea level, the upper limit of breathable air without special means on Earth, though a campaign world might be quite different.

Apart from aerial agility level I, the lower level classification of fliers are generally larger, more massive creatures. Lighter and smaller creatures tend to be classed in the higher levels. Except for very large creatures, such as dragons, riding a flying monster reduces its aerial agility by one step.

The levels enumerated below represent stops along a spectrum of ability, so the GM may assume a small amount of variance within each level. Turning capacity assumes full movement rate; creatures moving at half-speed turn as one class higher. Level II, III, and IV creatures must be moving at least half-speed to remain airborne.

Level I: Barely a flying creature, these creatures float on the air, allowing the wind currents to carry them from location to location. These creatures can sometimes slightly alter their direction of travel or move at very slow speeds, but otherwise manoeuvre like a hot air balloon (e.g. levitate spell). This category also includes gliding creatures, such as flying squirrels or flying fish, that travel through the air but do not truly fly.

Level II: Creature requires 5 rounds to reach full aerial movement rate and can turn 30° per round (e.g. dragon).

Level III: Creature can reach full aerial movement rate in 2 rounds and can turn 60° in one round (e.g. sphinx).

Level IV: Average agility. Flying creatures of this type reach full airspeed in 1 round and can turn 90° per round (e.g. flying carpet, giant bat).

Level V: Full airspeed is reached in 6 segments and the flier can turn 120° per round. These creatures can also come to a complete stop in 6 segments and are capable of hovering in place (e.g. fly spell, mephit).

Level VI: These are creatures born to fly, taking to the air as naturally as a human walks on the ground. Such fliers can reach full speed or complete stop in 1 segment, and can hover. Level VI fliers can easily reverse course in flight, gracefully executing turns of 180°. A Level VI flier has nearly complete control over their movement in the air (e.g. genie, air elemental).

Special Cases

Movement in sailing vessels depends crucially on the wind. A sailing ship can make progress into wind coming from nearly ahead of her (the process is called “tacking”), but for travel at any great speed, the wind must be from somewhere roughly behind. GMs expecting to run a campaign where lot of action takes place at sea should probably decide on prevailing trade winds, because a purely random way of deciding this will lead to ships making little headway over a statistical long term.

Movement underwater may become an option if the players discover the correct magic items. All missile weapons, many hand weapons and many spells are virtually useless in this environment—assume that magic invoking fire will fail, and if it involves lightning, will most often strike the caster.

Adventures in Town

Most activities that characters perform “in town,” such as gathering information, hiring men-at-arms or guides, purchasing equipment, liquidating treasure, resting and healing, hiring NPC spell-casters to identify unknown magic items or remove afflictions, training to gain new levels, etc. can be handled abstractly. It occurs “offstage”—the players make notes in their records (adding or subtracting the corresponding amounts of gold), the GM notes the number of days that have passed, and the game resumes when the players are next ready to venture into the dungeons or wilderness.

Sometimes the group will wish to play out one or more of these in-town activities rather than relegating them to an offstage between-session limbo. This could be as simple as a few minutes’ pre-expedition interviewing potential hirelings, or post-adventure cajoling a local wizard to transform an unfortunate companion back into a human for a reasonable rate, or as complex as a whole session spent gathering intelligence for a major expedition. Some adventures can take place in-town with only brief dungeon or wilderness interludes, such as a murder-mystery or an adventure focusing on diplomatic negotiations or political skullduggery.

Even when these sorts of activities are played out, they still tend to be conducted in a more abstract and free-form manner than a dungeon or wilderness adventure. For instance, in town-based adventures the players rarely if ever draw a map, record-keeping of supplies such as torches or rations is rarely an issue, and a strict marching order may not be necessary or even applicable. Even the notion of keeping the party together often falls by the wayside as one character buys equipment while another gathers rumours from travellers at the inn, and a third visits the local temple. When a less-abstract reckoning is required, such as when the party is venturing into a dangerous Thieves’ Quarter and are in danger of being ambushed and mugged, then the norms and standards of a dungeon exploration will generally apply–time measured in turns, movement in tens of feet (typically at the “travelling” rate of 5x normal, if the party is not mapping or expecting traps), “wandering monster” checks every 3rd turn (though in town such an encounter is usually with a beggar, urchin, pickpocket, member of the town watch, or one of Gary Gygax’s infamous Wandering Prostitutes).

Because adventures in town tend to be so much more free-form than dungeon or wilderness exploration, they can be harder for the GM to run. There is no convenient flowchart of steps, making it easier to overlook things. Also, because town adventures tend to focus more on negotiation and in-character conversation between players and NPCs, the focus is more one-on-one of player to GM. Other players whose characters are not involved in a particular scene can be left sitting around observing and waiting for their “turn” which can lead to player boredom and frustration. For both of these reasons, town adventures are only recommended for experienced GMs, for small groups of players, and for those who particularly enjoy the in-character “play-acting” aspect of the game. Be wary of bored players who might have their characters pick random fights in town just to have something to do, and realise, if this does happen, that the blame can lie as much or more with the GM than with the player.

Exploring the Planes

These rules mention of the Planes of Existence in many places, but for the purposes of the OSRIC core rules, the authors do not intend to explain very much about them. This is deliberate—the planes are intentionally left blank as a possible route for future creativity. They are for higher-level play (for characters of at least 10th level), when play in the normal game world should be growing too easy. The OSRIC core rules game balance begins to break down at higher levels than this, though enjoyable adventuring in carefully-designed environments may still be possible.

At this stage, suffice it to say that:

The normal campaign world is situated on the Prime Material Plane, wherein things and creatures are generally made of matter (hence “material”). There are two planes immediately contiguous with the Prime Material Plane: the astral and æthereal planes.

These planes are misty, vaporous places. It is possible dimly to perceive the Prime Material Plane from the astral or the æthereal, but only as shadowy and indistinct shapes and forms. A creature the size of a human is only visible within about 30 ft of the viewer. While certain magical creatures can perceive the astral or æthereal planes or even attack within them, apart from this a character on an alternative plane is completely imperceptible: not just invisible, but silent and similarly concealed from all senses.

A character can use the astral or æthereal planes to pass through solids such as walls on the Prime Material. Such things are not solid at all on these planes. If the character is “inside” a solid object via this route, visibility is zero; the character is effectively blind. He or she must emerge into some open area, or return to the Prime Material will be fatal, no saving throw.

When a player character enters a new plane, he or she makes a “bloink,” like the splash when someone jumps into water. Powerful hostile creatures on the planes can detect the “bloink” and will move to intercept. A character below 10th level may remain on another plane for up to 1d6 turns. Beyond that, assume he or she is consumed by the astral/æthereal equivalent of a grue. In other words, that character is gone, permanently and irrevocably destroyed without any possibility of raising or resurrection short of a wish.

Certain other planes (the elemental planes, the abyss, the hells, the negative material plane, and so on) are mentioned from time to time. These references are deliberately left obscure.

In the planes, things are different. The core rules will not necessarily apply. Magic items and spells may not function as they would elsewhere. “to hit” and damage rolls may vary, as may class abilities, saving throws or indeed anything else at all.

When a character above 10th level desires to explore the planes, as will eventually happen in a long-running campaign, the GM will need to determine what happens there. By that stage, the authors hope, the GM will be sufficiently experienced to cope with the situation and indeed enjoy rising to the challenge.