Tag Archives: Hazard System

Scavenge Dungeon Move

The playbooks inspired by Dark Souls that I am developing for my current Stonehell game do not include traditional attack bonuses derived from class and level. Ability bonuses do contribute to attack competence, and ability scores do improve with advancement, but the scope of bonuses is the stingy B/X +0 to +3. To fill the game role of the attack bonus, Adventurers may enchant weapons. I envision a mechanism similar to that of Dark Souls, where players gather item drops such as titanite shards from monsters and then pay smiths to improve weapons using those resources.

Scavenging and Moves

To gather Monster Parts as resources for later use, Adventurers can use the Scavenge Dungeon Move if there are monster remains available (such as following successful combat). In the Hazard System, Adventurers take Dungeon Turns to make Dungeon Moves. Some example defined moves are Climb, Explore, and Search. This is similar to the various traditional D&D X in 6 checks, though more formalized. In practice, players often need not declare Moves explicitly (though they can), but, for example, the referee will naturally interpret moving from one dungeon area to another as the Explore Move and call for a Hazard Die throw. Making Scavenge a Move means that players expend dungeon time in exchange for weapon improvement resources.

Monster Parts as Incentives

Such resources also provide an incentive to engage monsters, though not necessarily directly. Since one can scavenge the corpse of a trapped monster killed from afar just as easily as one slain in a fair fight, and with less risk, players are rewarded for clever stratagems. Hunting monsters for parts also requires taking care to not damage the goods in the process. Unlike in traditional D&D, in my games Adventurers do not get any XP for blasting an enemy to smithereens with a fireball. This incentivizes player creativity much like rewarding experience points for treasure spent, though the best strategies may differ. (I am also rewarding XP for treasure spent.)

Monster Parts and Improving Weapons

Monster Parts can lend additional properties to weapons, such as fire enchantment from fire monsters. Improvise Monster Parts properties using common sense. There is no need to preemptively design a complicated taxonomy. For example, assuming traditional monsters, Monster Parts Scavenged from giant centipedes might be Poison Monster Parts. To increase the difficulty of improving weapons, have only uncommon or rare monster corpses supply useful Monster Parts. I think allowing brutal weapons or creepy upgraded weapons to be built out of common orc or skeleton parts could be fun though. I generally prefer to make just about all possibilities open to low-level characters so I plan to follow the second route (making all monsters provide Monster Parts).

For simplicity, do not differentiate between monsters with regard to quantity of Monster Parts available. One Adventurer Scavenges Monster Parts from one monster with one Dungeon Move and that exhausts the monster carcass. Specific or unique monsters may be exceptions to this rule. Six parts per Gear Slot seems like a reasonable default for encumbrance, though this is also something that can easily be adjusted by situational ruling. Maybe dragon Monster Parts take up a full slot per part.

Determining Degree of Scavenge Success

I am planning initially to make Scavenge success depend on a Wisdom Check. Make the check, gain 2 Monster Parts. Fail, gain 1 Monster Part. Critically succeed, gain 3 Monster Parts. Critically fail, spoil the remains. A critical success is the best result from the d20 or success by four or more.This follows my general approach for d20 partial success, based on the OD&D purple worm swallow mechanic. In shorthand, gain degree of success +1 Monster Parts.

Alternatively, substitute some system other than a Wisdom Check to determine Scavenging effectiveness, or just grant a unit of Monster Parts for spending a turn and enduring the roll of the Hazard Die. A simple d6 roll would work, avoiding the influence of ability scores, as would an Apocalypse Engine 2d6 roll with success thresholds at 7+ and 10+. Time passing and resource attrition are the important trade-offs.

Since enchanted weapons are powered by the Adventurer’s soul, improving weapons early in the game need not flood the fictional world with glowing +1 swords.

How many Monster Parts are required to upgrade a weapon and how much does it cost? That seems like a topic for another post and will probably require some experimentation and adjustment during play testing. This post has gone long enough. To end, have a formal rule in the Hazard System style.

Dungeon Move: Scavenge

To Scavenge the corpse of a defeated monster, make a Wisdom Check, scavenging Monster Parts equal to the degree of success + 1. Note any special Monster Parts properties, such as poison, slime, or fire.

Let It Ride or Push Your Luck

Following is a designer note from the current working draft of Hexagram, the ruleset I have been working on.

The game Burning Wheel has a principle called Let It Ride:

A player shall test once against an obstacle and shall not roll again until conditions legitimately and drastically change. Neither GM nor player can call for a retest unless those conditions change. Successes from the initial roll count for all applicable situations in play (Burning Wheel Gold, page 32).

This means that once the players agree upon a particular test to resolve an uncertain outcome, the result of that one test fully determines the outcome. For example, a player may roll to determine if a character is able to open a lock. According to the Let It Ride principle, the player gets only one try to accomplish this goal using this means. Spending more fictional time for another attempt is not possible. Players must consider other means to get past the lock, such as smashing it with a hammer that may come with additional unintended consequences.

Hexagram play is based on a different game design principle: Push Your Luck. In Push Your Luck play, the number of attempts is not limited but risk attends each try. Additional tries tempt fate. In Hexagram, making Moves requires taking a Turn and taking a Turn requires rolling the Hazard Die and possibility of setbacks. In other words, potential mechanical reward entails potential risk. Part of the risk in taking another Turn comes from advancing fictional time. For example, taking a Haven Turn to recover could result in opponents gathering reinforcements, weather taking a turn for the worse, a political crisis, or a natural disaster. Though Adventurers may be making the same Moves, the setting does not remain static in response.

From a general perspective, Let It Ride and Push Your Luck can be seen as two poles of a bipolar resolution finality spectrum. Let It Ride specifies that a resolution is final after one iteration while Push Your Luck specifies that resolution may be indeterminate. An Adventurer may fail to open a lock, take the outcome of the Hazard Die in stride, and then try again, repeating this procedure as many times as desired assuming the Adventurer remains capable. Various intermediate principles are also possible along this spectrum. For example, limiting the number of potential retests to some arbitrary number or requiring players to spend some consumable game resource to try again.

Neither principle is inherently superior, but they do have different properties and structure play differently. In Burning Wheel, the purpose of Let It Ride is to continuously push the fictional narrative forward. Additionally, Let It Ride may encourage more diverse problem solving over time as probability suggests that a given means will be insufficient at least some of the time, forcing players to use alternative strategies. Push Your Luck leverages the psychology of temptation, assuming the uncertainty in question stands between players and their desires. By allowing players to take on greater risk in pursuit of outcomes judged important, Push Your Luck also lends weight and consequence to player decisions.

Tactical Hazard Die


NES Dragon Warrior

The current unreleased working version of the Hazard System uses six potential outcomes which are then interpreted relative to the current turn type. The four turn types, from most abstract to least abstract, are Haven, Wilderness, Dungeon, and Combat. The six outcomes, mapped to the sides of the 1d6 Hazard Die, are 1) Setback, 2) Fatigue, 3) Expiration, 4) Locality, 5) Percept, and 6) Advantage. This unifies the set of potential outcomes so referees need learn fewer exceptions. Additionally, the order roughly ranks the outcomes from most negative (Setback) to most positive (Advantage) taking the perspective of player characters.

Previous versions of the Hazard System only used the Hazard Die for Haven, Wilderness, and Dungeon Turns, not Combat Turns. This makes sense genealogically given that the Hazard System was adapted from the Overloaded Encounter Die which was inspired by traditional random encounter checks. However, there are uncertain outcomes that require dice resolution during combat regularly, such as initiative, so perhaps the Hazard Die can subsume the resolution of uncertainty at all levels of abstraction.

It is not hard to find analogues in combat for most of the Hazard Die outcomes. For example, Setback could mean that reinforcements arrive or the opponents act first. Fatigue could be general attrition, such as all engaged combatants taking a point of damage. Locality could be any kind of change on the battlefield, such as a door being locked or a table overturned. Percept could be information telegraphing an opponent’s future strategy. Advantage could be an additional move per player character or a forced morale check for the enemy.

This set of outcomes does not replicate the probabilities of initiative in the same way that the wilderness travel or dungeon exploration applications of the Hazard Die replicates the chance of having an encounter. As described above, opponents have only a 1 in 6 chance of acting first, compared to the traditional 50/50 odds. Whether this is a problem will depend on how one sees the purpose of initiative. If the point of initiative is to inject some regular uncertainty and tension into combat, then it seems like the set of abstract Hazard Die results should serve the same purpose while also increasing combat dynamism through variety of events.

Another benefit I see of overloading the initiative die is that some other aspects of combat, such as morale, which are easily overlooked but quite beneficial to the dynamics of play, can be potentially built into regular game procedures. I am not sure if a 1 in 6 chance of opponent morale check (on the Advantage Hazard Die result) is the best way to do this but it seems promising. Are there any other combat events that deserve a place in the Combat Turn Hazard Die interpretation guidelines?

As with most systems that replace bookkeeping with probabilities, such as tracking ammo abstractly, there are absurd edge cases. What if your torch runs out on the first turn in the dungeon? What if you run out of arrows immediately? I see three solutions to this sort of problem: 1) use rulings based on fictional appropriateness, 2) use illogical results as a kind of oracle demanding explanation, or 3) make the system more complex to handle such edge cases reliably. I lean toward option 1 and away from option 3. In my opinion, it is no particular shortcoming in the system to rely on the referee to determine whether it makes sense fictionally for reinforcements to arrive in any given instance. Illogical results can also just be ignored occasionally given that doing so just falls back to the traditional mode which works reasonably reliably.

More concretely, my current play test interprets Combat Turn Hazard Die outcomes as:

  1. Setback: opponents act first or reinforcements arrive
  2. Fatigue: combatants engaged in melee suffer 1 point of damage
  3. Expiration: some or all ongoing effects end (such as burning oil)
  4. Locality: the battlefield changes in some way
  5. Percept: players gain some clue to opponent strategy
  6. Advantage: players choose extra action or forced morale check

(Post image is only mildly relevant, but hey it’s combat right?)


Hazard System v0.2

The Hazard System is the gameplay engine behind The Final Castle. Though it assumes games of fantasy adventure and exploration, it is modular and should be easily adaptable to many kinds of tabletop RPGs. I use some variation on this approach for pretty much every game I run now and I don’t think I could go back to any other method of pacing or timekeeping. It is the natural outgrowth and generalization of the overloaded encounter die.

Gameplay proceeds in turns at different fictional timescales with each turn accompanied by the chance of a hazard. What “hazard” means will vary based on the context. For example, a hazard during a haven turn, when characters are recovering between adventures, might be a natural disaster, while a hazard during a dungeon turn, a much shorter period of fictional time, might be an encounter with a wandering monster. The hazard system also serves as a general timekeeping and resource tracker.

The text below the divider is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license. Attribution:

Necropraxis Productions Hazard System v0.2 http://www.necropraxis.com/hazard-system/

A PDF is also available.

Currently, several references to undefined terminology from The Final Castle remain, such as Ability Tests. It should be relatively easy to interpret these in light of whatever system you are using, but the final Hazard System text will likely be entirely system agnostic. Additional turn types will also likely be included (Domain Turns and Generation Turns, particularly).

Hazard System v0.2

The game proceeds in turns of several different types. The turn types are haven, wilderness, dungeon, and combat. Each represent a progressively smaller amount of fictional time within the game world, though the exact durations are usually abstract. The passage of time within each turn is a resource to be spent wisely, as the hazard die is rolled for every turn that passes to represent potential danger.

The Hazard Die

The six-sided Hazard Die deploys threats, manages resources, keeps time, and tracks light. In short, it is the engine that drives gameplay forward and the heart of the Hazard System. Every significant action, whether in town recovering, traveling through the wilderness, or searching a dungeon corridor for traps, takes a turn. Every turn is accompanied by a roll of the Hazard Die. The exact interpretation of the die result varies by turn type, but the outcomes are conceptually similar. A haven hazard might be a shortage of supplies while a dungeon hazard might be a wandering monster.

Players other than the referee should roll the Hazard Die to make the time cost salient. After rolling the Hazard Die, hand it to another player so that everyone gets a chance. If playing in person, rotating clockwise around the table works well.

Beginning the game

Start a new campaign with the first Wilderness or Dungeon turn of an adventure. Players should choose a clue or quest from the Tavern to pursue. Roll HP following Recovery guidelines to determine initial HP.

Starting and ending sessions

Sessions should begin and end in a Haven if possible. This allows the the players and PCs to vary between sessions. After a session, players should tell the referee if they are going to follow a different clue or Quest during the next session so that the referee can do any preparation required beforehand.

Haven turns

To recover and replenish resources in a civilized refuge, take a Haven Turn. The exact fictional duration of a Haven Turn can be anything from a few days to several weeks. It is rarely necessary to interrogate the details.

  1. Roll the Hazard Die and resolve any hazard
  2. Pay upkeep: accommodation, retainer, property, and so forth
  3. Recover (roll HP, applying accommodation modifiers)
  4. Process retainer loyalty
  5. Reckon XP gained and level up if appropriate
  6. Buy or sell items, repair damaged gear, or recruit hirelings
  7. Optionally, take one Haven Action (scribe scroll and so forth)
  8. Prepare spells
  9. Review rumors and news

Haven Hazard Die results

  1. Complication (introduce at any point during the turn)
  2. Clue about next complication
  3. Abatement of one or more (by referee whim) haven conditions

Ignore results of 4 – 6. Starred complications persist as conditions.

Haven complications
d20 Complication d20 Complication
1. Assassination 11. Insurrection *
2. PC challenged 12. Invasion *
3. Curse * 13. Jailbreak
4. Earthquake 14. Mobilization *
5. Flood 15. Monster attack
6. Falling star 16. Murderer on the loose *
7. Famine * 17. Pestilence *
8. Fire 18. PC slandered
9. PC impersonated 19. PC item stolen
10. Inflation * 20. Winter *

Wilderness turns

Wilderness turns alternate between day and night. Characters taking two non-camp wilderness actions in a row suffer 1 damage and gain a point of Exhaustion. Choose a wilderness action: travel, search, explore, hunt, track, or camp.


Move the party into an adjacent area or access a known landmark such as a haven or dungeon.

Search, Explore, Hunt, or Track

The party leader makes a Search Test to locate (and enter, if desired) a hidden feature. To Explore, Search without a stated goal. Success reveals a random hidden feature. Track is a Search to follow a quarry. Hunting yields 1d6 rations (adjust for terrain) per hunter. Night applies a -1 penalty to Search, Hunt, or Track.


Camping requires a bedroll and consuming 1 ration per character. One person may stand watch for each four party members without impairment. Ignore Hazard Die results above 3.

Wilderness Hazard Die results

  1. Encounter (may differ between day and night)
  2. Percept (regarding next encounter)
  3. Locality (mechanical change in environment)
  4. Percept (regarding hidden feature)
  5. Resource exhaustion
  6. Lost


Travel is no longer an option if a party is lost. Search must be used to locate a landmark before travel can be resumed.


Each point of Exhaustion imposes a cumulative -1 penalty on all physical Ability Tests. This adds to Encumbrance penalties.

Dungeon turns

Some actions that require a Dungeon Turn include climbing, forcing a door, guarding the party, listening at a door, moving to a new area, searching the current area, and other tasks of similar scope. Each player may take a different action during a Dungeon Turn. Dungeon Turns can represent a fictional amount of time anywhere between a few minutes to an hour, though most commonly are about 10 minutes long.

In practice, the passage of Dungeon Turns can be more fluid than selecting actions by name, resolving any hazard, and iterating. However, always remain cognizant of lurking dangers and call for the Hazard Die whenever significant actions are taken.

Free dungeon actions

Minor actions often do not consume a full Dungeon Turn. Interacting with particular features such as looking under a rug, opening doors that are not stuck, and pulling levers are all free actions. Clever use of free dungeon actions can forestall the Hazard Die and thus decrease risk.

Dungeon Hazard Die results

  1. Encounter
  2. Percept (regarding next encounter)
  3. Locality (mechanical change in environment)
  4. Fatigue (take 1 damage unless the next turn is spent resting)
  5. Resource exhaustion (spell duration, etc)
  6. Light source exhaustion (any or all light sources go out)

Reasonable resolution

Fatigue and light source results may be ignored when they do not make fictional sense, such as during the first few turns of an exploration. Exhausted light sources rarely all go out at exactly the same time, but instead dwindle over the course of the turn, and may be relit given sufficient PC resources.

Released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license


Necropraxis Productions Hazard System v0.2 http://www.necropraxis.com/hazard-system/