View Full Version : Fear the Open Desert

08-07-2008, 05:59 PM
Any ideas to make a group of adventurers fear the open desert in a Dark Sun campaign, without just killing them outright?

I'm not sure if there are rules out there for heatstroke or sandstorm damage... but any ideas to make them really think twice before heading into the open desert would be awesome.

08-07-2008, 06:28 PM
Make heat exhaustion and exposure do CON ability damage. Not a lot. Not permanent once they have cool water and a chance to escape the heat. But even a little will terrify them. And if they get to fight "an easy battle" with everyone being down somewhere between 4 and 8 points of constitution, all the better.


08-08-2008, 09:42 AM
I don't know if you have access to any of the Dark Sun campaign materials, but there was a lot of stuff written about what happens to characters in the wastes.

First off, in high temperatures, armor becomes a real burden and characters wearing armor fatigue (aka take ability damage, etc) much more quickly than unarmored characters, not only because of the extra weight but because the material traps heat and dehydrates the wearer faster. Such characters have two choices: 1) continue to wear the armor at increased risk which might end up making them useless when they are attacked anyway, or 2) ditch the armor and be more vulnerable to nasties that want to make a meal out of you.

Then you've got heat stroke, sun burn, dehydration, sink holes, bad footing, sand storms with no shelter to seek, wind burn. There's a real danger of getting lost as you have no kinds of consistent landmarks (except the sun or stars) by which to judge your location, and the winds will keep you from locating your own tracks to retrace you steps. Not to mention, you can't keep things clean as sand gets everywhere and is nearly impossible to be rid of.

One thing that most people forget about is that open desert isn't just hot. At night, after the heat dissipates, the desert can get extremely cold as well. Characters who don't have proper bedding to keep them warm will probably get poor quality sleep (and thus may recover fewer hit points or perhaps none at all).

There's also the issue of eating. Except for what materials you bring with you, you generally have no wood to burn to build fires or torches which means that any food you acquire will have to be consumed raw (uncooked Thri-kreen meat...yuck). This can cause a host of its own problems (digestive and otherwise). You can't boil water to purify it and you can't cauterize wounds to prevent infection.

Just some basic thoughts to keep in mind. I think the 3.X DMG goes into temperature extremes and dehydration, but most of the rest requires a little more research to get mechanics. Slow ability damage is a good one though, especially Dex and Con as those are really important to any character, regardless of class.

08-08-2008, 09:53 AM
Crack open Sandstorm (the accessory).

Failing that - the desert has lots of possibilities. If you want to generate fear, toss out some rumors of water-sucking sand (dust) devils, or fey that lure weary travelers with mirages. Throw in a sandstorm while the PCs are still in a safe place, and let them watch as the locals go running for cover.

Water's a big issue in any deset, but a hot desert makes it that much more important. Make sure the PCs are keenly aware of how hard it is to carry lots of water. Also, during the daylight, hourly subdual damage is a good way to simulate the impact of heat. They might be able to recover during the day if they stop moving, drink water, and find shade. Otherwise, there's no respite until darkness falls (which is when the other creatures of the desert come lurking).

In flat desert, getting lost can be an issue. This is scarier when the PCs know exactly how long their provisions will last, and watch that number slowly come up.

08-08-2008, 10:53 AM
Al-Qadim also had some recommendations, players will get penalties depending on which Armor they are using. In a "Dune" type also movement will be hindered.

How about their "Mounts", I assume being native to Dark-Sun they will be somehow addapted. But the PCs may have to kill them and drink their blood if they plan to stay alive.

All this assumes they get lost.

08-08-2008, 12:25 PM
I still have my books for Al-Qadim/Arabian Adventures and Emirates of Ylaruam, so I'll have to take a look and see what they have to say on desert environs. I wish I still had my Dark Sun stuff, or I'd look it up from there too.