Hazards & Dangers

Hazards such as being on fire, falling, drowning, disease, madness and amputation put the characters' lives in jeopardy and limit their ability to act. There are also the self-inflicted dangers of falling in love or dedicating oneself to a cause which may bring benefits but also have potentially fatal consequences.

Instant Dangers

Some threats to a character exist for a mere moment, appearing, causing carnage and then disappearing. The most common form of instant danger is falling (or more precisely the impact after falling), but being caught in the path of a tornado or a gamma-ray burst are also instant dangers. These threats make a single attack against the characters who must resist as best they can. The strength of the attack is dependent on circumstances and the Game Leader's discretion, but for falling a good rule of thumb is 1d6+0 per 10' fallen in an Earth-like gravity. Instant dangers normally occur in narrative allowing characters to use all their potential and advantages but can also occur during combat rounds where the characters' potential may be limited.


Hazards are status effects which are detrimental to the character. They are often dangers such as drowning, disease or being on fire but may be psychological effects or the impact of magical / technology attacks. As a status effect they last a scene unless they have the Hazard (Specify) keyword which identifies how long the hazard lasts unless removed. They operate by either attacking the character at regular intervals via the Start-Of-(Specify) keyword or handicapping the character's ability to act.

Characters may receive hazards because of their circumstances or as the result of failing to resist an attack. Such attacks give the target a hazard with a CP and dice value equal to the attack's degree of success. For hazards gained because of circumstances, e.g. drowning because the character is trapped in a sinking boat, the Game Leader will allocate a CP value.

Hazards such as On Fire make an attack against the character at regular intervals. The hazard's dice value is used as the attack and the character must take a resistance action. Characters suffering from multiple hazards may find them combining into a single attack or they may face each attack individually prompting different resistance rolls. Successful attacks inflict life damage unless the hazard specifically states otherwise.

Mr L Pliskin was sipping a cocktail in the ship's lounge, trying to enjoy his holiday. A nice relaxing cruise around the moons of Epsilon 5 was just what he needed after his recent adventures, but then the pirates announced their presence with a volley of laser fire.

A freak shot from one of the pirates has ruptured one of countless pipes hidden behind the walls, sending caustic liquid coolant spraying everywhere. Both Pliskin and the pirate are caught in the spray and the Game Leader declares the spray will attack for 3d6+0. Anyone failing the resistance will gain a status effect. Not having a hazard prepared for this, the Game Leader decides the corrosive substance simply has the Start-Of-Round keyword.

Both the Pirate and Pliskin used all their resistance in the last exchange of gun fire. Pliskin's free resist of Dodge will help him but the pirate's free resist of Brawn offers no protection. The Game Leader rolls 17, almost maximum, on Pliskin who manages a plucky five on his resistance leaving a degree of success of 12. Pliskin notes down the CP 12 / 1d6+3 hazard on his character sheet. The Game Leader's attack on the pirate only manages to roll six, minus one for his minimum resistance, leaving a CP 5 / 1d6+1 hazard on the pirate.

It is now Pliskin's turn. Immediately, before he has a chance to recoup potential, the hazard attacks with 1d6+3. Pliskin has no potential left and his free resistance is useless against this hazard. The Game Leader rolls a three, plus three for the modifier but minus one for Pliskin's minimum resistance, leaving Mr L. Pliskin with five points of damage. In deep trouble, Pliskin hatches a plan and does nothing so he can recoup potential ready for the next round.

Now the pirate takes their turn. Similarly defenceless, the rogue is attacked by 1d6+1 and ends up taking two points of damage. The pirate decides to simply ignore the situation and continues to take shots at Pliskin. The adventurer decides to rely on just his free resist, the pirate rolls badly and Pliskin is untouched.

Once again it is Pliskin's turn and his hazard attacks for 1d6+3. This time Pliskin has potential and decides to resist by wiping the substance away from his eyes and face using his Manual Dexterity and Cool Under Pressure. This nets him a resistance of 2d6+4 and he easily beats the attack. He has counteracted its effect this turn but the hazard is still on him. After recouping some potential, Pliskin decides to strip off to rid himself of the hazard, again using his Manual Dexterity and Cool Under Pressure. This time Pliskin is attacking the hazard whose resistance is 12 (its CP) with 2d6+4. He scores nine on the dice bringing his total to 13, just enough to beat the resistance. As the result was very close, the Game Leader decides Pliskin had to strip naked to get all the coolant off him.

With laser pistol in hand and his balls blowing in the breeze, Pliskin gets ready to finish the pirate…

Not all hazards attack the character directly; some simply make it a lot harder to act. These work against actions by the character, including resistance actions, handicapping their ability to successfully act or defend themselves. For example the Blindness hazard adds its dice value against any action or resistance action that needs the character to see. Hazards may detail the type of action they oppose or identify which specific keywords or advantages they handicap.

Removing a hazard uses the same mechanism as removing any other status effect. The character must undertake an appropriate action using available advantages and potential to beat the resistance. With all status effects the resistance is the CP value (not the dice value) of the status effect. A successful action removes the hazard. If appropriate, other characters may attempt to remove it from a character or assist in its removal. Some circumstantial hazards cannot be removed via this method, e.g. a character keeps drowning until they have an oxygen supply. A change in circumstances may also automatically remove a hazard without the character needing to take an action against the status effect.

Hazards are short-lived, normally only lasting for one scene, and many have an effect every round or even every action. If the characters are not already in combat it is often useful to switch into combat rounds to help track the passage of time and the use of potential.

Persistent and Episodic Hazards

A Persistent hazard is a disease, injury, genetic mutation or magic curse afflicting the character for days, months or even their entire life. Persistent hazards can be gained via an attack or through circumstances but they can also be a feature of the setting. Horror games may introduce mental or physical effects as a consequence of dealing with monsters beyond human understanding; characters in post-apocalyptic games may be born with mutations. These hazards focus on handicapping the characters' actions rather than dealing life damage. They use the Start Of… keyword less often and when they do it is for a longer time frame, e.g. a lycanthropy hazard would have the Start Of Month keyword as it affects the character at the new moon.

Long-term hazards cannot be removed by a simple action as other status effects can be. They may require the character to undertake a quest to remove the curse or to seek out expensive and experimental medical treatment but they may be impossible to remove. Game Leaders may allow the CP value to reduce as the character rests and seeks treatment or increase as they expose themselves to danger.

Depending on their nature and the magic or technology available to the character, persistent hazards can suppressed for a short period. Characters must take an action and beat the CP value of the hazard as if attempting to remove it. Success in this action will suppress the hazard for a scene. It can be suppressed for longer with the standard situation bonus for altering the time scale.

More complicated persistent hazards may be triggered by particular circumstances or, in the case of allergies, exposure to certain substances. These Episodic advantages have no effect on the character until they are triggered but once activated they give the character new hazards which normally last a scene. When circumstances trigger the hazard, it makes an attack using its dice value which may be aided by situation bonuses for the circumstances. Failure to resist the attack adds a short-term hazard to the character with a CP equal to the attack's degree of success. The nature of the new hazard is based on the ongoing hazard and circumstances, and decided by the Game Leader in discussion with the group.

Having read one too many ancient scrolls, Corvell is afflicted with a corrupting, persistent evil curse. In the presence of a holy symbol from the Blessed Mary Goodsoul his skin burns as if exposed to a great heat. His curse has a CP of 15 worth 1d6+4.

Sitting quietly in the tavern one day, a fellow patron pulls off his cloak to reveal The Blessed Mary Goodsoul's symbol on his chest plate. Corvell's curse is immediately activated and he is attacked by his curse for 1d6+4. He has no suitable advantages to protect himself against this and the curse has a degree of success of seven. This does not do damage directly but instead applies a new status effect of Heat. It has a CP of seven (the degree of success), attacks every round for 1d6+2 and even if the offensive symbol is covered up, will continue for a scene (the default for any status effect).

With the new status effect having an attack every round, the Game Leader switches to combat rounds and the initiative starts with Corvell. The wizard is attacked by the burning Heat hazard for 1d6+2. Again lacking any suitable advantages, Corvell takes a potential action to tip his drink over himself in a desperate attempt to cool his flesh. The group discuss this and think it is appropriate. Corvell gets a lucky break as he beats the attack by rolling a six to its score of four, and avoids any damage.

Still his turn, Corvell uses all his potential to run away. His only hope is to escape the area and persuade the Game Leader the scene is over, thus ending the Heat status effect. Meanwhile, in the tavern, a devout knight of the Blessed Mary Goodsoul rises to his feet, suspicious of the wizard who behaved so strangely at the sight of the holy symbol.

Hazards such as amputation and mental health problems have a significant effect on the character. They form part of the narrative and role playing of the game. Game Leaders and players should work together to use persistent hazards to enrich the game world and the characters' personalities. Overuse of these hazards or inflicting hazards that make a character unplayable is detrimental to the game and the players' enjoyment.

Love, Oaths and Missions

Some forms of persistent hazards are self-inflicted, or at least shaped by the character's actions, and bring the character some benefits. These take a variety of forms depending on the game's setting. In Ancient Greece or King Arthur's court the hazard may come from swearing an oath; for a robot it may be a mission programmed into them; or it can come from an emotional commitment such as falling in love or becoming a member of a religious cult. The narrative of how and why the character gained the hazard is left to the group but the hazard itself must have the Compulsion keyword and have requirements, benefits and consequences.

To create the hazard the character undertakes an action. This may be a public declaration of love or enrolment to a cause, or it can be a very private event or internal process that no one else knows about. The character plays their advantages and can use mundane equipment such as a sacrificial goat to boost their action. These actions normally take a scene but the character may gain situation bonuses by changing the time scale. Other situation bonuses may be applied. The resistance is set by the Game Leader based on the action and the setting. If oath-taking is significant within the society it will be reserved for important causes. A character attempting to swear an oath for something easily achievable or trivial will face a 6d6+6 or more resistance but one dedicating their life to an important and danger-filled quest may face only a 1d6+1 resistance. In some cases the resistance score may be set at one, almost guaranteeing success. A successful action adds the compulsion hazard to the character. The player notes the advantage's description as well as its dice value and CP which are set by the action's degree of success. The keywords for the advantage are always 'Compulsion, Hazard, Persistent, Static'.

Having created the hazard, the character can now benefit from it. Whenever they are behaving in accordance with the compulsion they may use the advantage in an action. It has the Static keyword and requires static potential but may be used whenever it is appropriate. This is highly subjective and groups are encouraged to discuss its usage. By taking on the hazard the character accepts a burden and a level of risk so they should not be prevented from benefiting from it. On the other hand, using it in every action or for trivial purposes devalues it. Deciding where the balance lies is left to the group to decide.

The downside to these hazards is when the character acts against the compulsion. This triggers the hazard and it now adds to the resistance for any action by the character. It may also be used against the character in other ways. Someone who breaks an oath to a spiteful god may find the hazard adds to the resistance for anyone trying to help them as well as their own actions. If the oath was public, a character may find it used against them in social encounters as the community shuns a known coward or oath breaker. As with the benefits of an oath or mission, the penalties for acting against them are left to the group.

Using compulsions as oaths, missions and emotional attachments gives players great opportunities for role playing and for shaping their characters. They can also be abused. The hazard is a free advantage for the character and allowing them to gain too many can be detrimental to the game. Compulsion hazards should not be consequence-free and the benefits of accepting one must be balanced with the penalties for failure.

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open/mechanics/core/naturalhazards.txt · Last modified: 2013/12/05 10:21 by tregenza
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