Sunday, August 21, 2016

S&W WhiteBox House Rules (5): Time, Wilderness Travel, Turn-based Actions & Encounters

This is the fifth in a series of posts detailing the house rules I use for Swords & Wizardy: WhiteBox. Today we deal with time, wilderness travel, turn-based actions and encounters. Cheers!

Time: Nothing unusual here. All I did was write out some procedures (a la Moldvay-Cook Basic/Expert D&D) for handling daily- and turn-based actions.
Wilderness Travel & Random Encounters: I've put all but one of my wilderness random encounter tables into the body of this blog post, but you may also find the PDF here for download. Unfortunately, I couldn't paste the creatures encounter table into the blog post because the formatting got really screwy. (Edit: Note that the monster random encounter table has handy page references for each of the monster entries in the various AD&D rulebooks. Woo hoo!)
Turn-Based Actions: I've written out some guidelines for performing actions during a turn. How strictly I enforce these greatly depends on the situation. The search times, for example, may seem a bit stringent. That's because my players (like so many, no doubt) seem to think that they can thoroughly search entire rooms like The Flash while they have spells in effect. I don't think so! However, in fairness, if there are no nearby monsters or reasons to precisely track time while the party searches, I just hand wave it.
The Encounter: Nothing unusual here. Labyrinth Lord fans will notice my encounter distance dice. Also, I use a 2d6 loyalty roll for hirelings instead of 3d6.

Kudos: A special shout out goes to Doug at the Smoldering Wizard blog. His "filling in the gaps" WhiteBox rules expansions were the first I found online and they served as a great reference when developing my own. Thanks kindly, Doug!

One Last Note: You will read "detailed in Such and Such chapter" a few times on this page. The house rules being presented on this blog are taken from my personal campaign rulebook. Such references simply refer to the various chapters within the book. I was too lazy to edit them out. :-)

The passage of time within the game is categorized in four ways: Game Days, Turns, Combat Rounds and Downtime.

Game days are 1 day long. Big shocker. Use the game day time scale when a party travels in the wilderness. The order of events in a typical game day is as follows:

1) Determine Travel Direction. Party chooses direction of travel within a map hex (typically 6 miles per hex, 1 mile per sub-hex).
2) Lose Direction/Random Encounters. Referee uses Table 49: Wilderness Travel (see below) to determine if the party becomes lost and if there are any encounters during the day.
3) Resolve Encounters. Resolve any encounters during the day according to the various Wilderness Random Encounters tables (again, see below). If there are creature encounters, proceed to The Encounter rules (again, see below) and resolve the encounters. There is a 50% chance a creature encounter actually occurs after the party establishes a base camp.
4) Establish Base Camp. Party establishes a base camp for the night and sets a watch order. As noted above, creature encounters may occur at night. Randomly determine who is on watch if the encounter occurs at night.
5) Day Ends. In the morning, the party prepares any spells and readies for another day’s travel. Go back to Step 1.

Turns are 10 minutes long. Use the turn time scale when a party explores a dungeon, cavern, tomb, or other underground location where there could be threats or dangerous encounters. Turns may also be used when the party explores a city or other large settlement. The order of events in a turn is as follows:

1) Determine Wandering Monsters. The Referee rolls 1d6 to see if there are any wandering monsters in the vicinity—a result of 1 indicates a wandering monster encounter occurs, a result of 2-6 indicates no encounter. If there is not an encounter, proceed to Step 2; if there is, proceed to Step 3.
2) Perform Turn-based Actions. The party listens, moves, searches for traps or secret doors, or performs other turn-based actions. The Referee resolves any rolls or tests necessary based on the party’s actions. See Turn-Based Actions below.
3) Resolve Encounter. Resolve the wandering monster encounter according to The Encounter rules.
4) End of Turn. After all turn-based actions and any wandering monster encounters are resolved, go back to step 1.

Combat rounds are 1 minute long. The Combat Rules chapter details what happens during a combat round.

Downtime is loosely-defined as anything going on “behind the scenes” or in the background of the game. Activities like researching spells, hiring assistants or NPC experts, resting and healing for an extended time, building a stronghold—these things might take days, weeks, months, or even years to do. Generally speaking, the Referee decides what happens during downtime and relays the details to the players involved. The Referee might call for tests or dice rolls to resolve these activities.

Table 49: Wilderness Travel
Wastelands Region
Lost %
Lost Direction/
per Day
Chance of
Badlands of Paj
Hills of Zim-Zalabazul
Jungles of Su’Janga
Kreth Verdant
Mountains of Flame & Shadow/Gulgash/Mordai
Peaks of Insanity
Sea of Choking Dust
Shimmering Glacier
Slagg Hills
*Special denotes any magical, extra-planar, bizarre, or otherwise exceptional terrain or location, at the referee’s discretion.
Lost %: When the party enters a new 6-mile hex on the campaign map, roll d% to determine if the party becomes lost. The lost % varies by region, as shown above. If the navigating PC has a wilderness background, reduce the % chance of becoming lost by half.
Lost Direction/Distance: If the party becomes lost, this indicates how far off-direction the party travels in 1-mile hexes. Use a “scatter” die (or d6) to determine direction. If the scatter die turns up “target” (or 6) the party is lost, but happens to continue in their intended direction for the appropriate number of 1-mile hexes for the terrain.
Checks per Day: This column indicates how many times per day to check for random encounters.
Chance of Encounter: This column indicates the chance of a random encounter occurring on a check. Roll d6 and if the result falls within the chance range, an encounter occurs. Consult Table 50: Wilderness Random Encounters to determine the nature of the encounter.

Table 50: Wilderness Random Encounters
Roll d20
Encounter Type and Table
Wilderness Random Encounters I: Hazardous Weather
Wilderness Random Encounters II: Natural Features & Phenomena
Wilderness Random Encounters III: Creature Encounter
Wilderness Random Encounters IV: Discovery
No Encounter
Roll 1d20 to determine the encounter type. Consult the appropriate Random Encounters Table below.

Table 51: Wilderness Encounters I: Hazardous Weather
Roll d20
Encounter Type
Tornado or hurricane: Must seek shelter or risk exposure, lose 1 day travel.
Extreme heat or cold: Must seek shelter or risk exposure, lose 1 day travel.
Storm: Must seek shelter or risk exposure, lose half-day travel.
Thunderstorm: Must seek shelter or risk exposure and lightning damage (1-in-20 chance to suffer lightning bolt attack), lose 1 day travel.
Magical storm: Must seek shelter or risk exposure to spell (1-in-20 chance to suffer spell effect), lose half-day travel.
Volcanic eruption: Must seek shelter or risk exposure and fire damage (1-in-20 chance to suffer fireball attack), lose 1 day travel.

Table 52: Wilderness Encounters II: Natural Features & Phenomena
Roll on Natural Features & Phenomena (NFP table) in d30 Sandbox Companion, p 16.

Table 53: Wilderness Encounters III: Creature Encounter
Roll on Table 53: Wilderness Encounters III: Creature Encounter (by Predominant Terrain). See the PDF here (this document includes all the wilderness tables, as noted above).

Table 54: Wilderness Encounters IV: Discovery
Roll d20
Encounter Type
Abandoned campsite (50% chance useful or valuable items remain)
Pilgrims [Roll on Pilgrims Generator (PLG1 table) in d30 Sandbox Companion, p 23]: Follow instructions as per tables.
Battle site (50% chance useful or valuable items remain)
Settlement [Roll on Settlement & Inhabitation (IPD table) in d30 Sandbox Companion, p 18]: Follow instructions as per tables.
Creature lair (50% chance currently unoccupied)
Adventure site (discover ruins, caverns, dungeon, etc. that may be explored)
Magical place [Roll on Magical Places Generator (MPG1 table) in d30 Sandbox Companion, p 22]: Follow instructions as per table.
Astronomical Event: An eclipse, a comet streaks through the sky, the moons change color, the stars seem to change, or some other event occurs.

Note: If you haven't checked them out yet, I highly recommend Richard J LeBlanc, Jr.'s (of New Big Dragon Games Unlimited fame) d30 Sandbox Companion and d30 Companion. With their excellent worksheets and plethora of d30-based tables, I find these companions invaluable tools for running old-school games. You can find links to print versions on this page (for USA and international customers).

This section details the four primary turn-based actions characters may perform: Listening, Moving, Opening Stuck Doors and Searching. Finding secret doors and finding and disabling traps are also discussed here.

Generally speaking, a character performs only one of these actions during a turn, but certain actions don’t take a full turn to perform—check below. Characters under the effects of a Haste or Slow spell double or halve their activity rate, as appropriate.

Characters may listen for faint noises at doors, down dark corridors, in pits or caverns, and myriad other places. To listen, a character must stand completely still and concentrate for 1 minute. No other party member may move, speak, or make any kind of noise within 30 feet of the listening character.

All characters hear faint noises on a 1-2 on a d6. The Referee makes this roll, not the player. At the Referee's discretion, conversation-level noises or loud or unusual noises do not require a roll to hear.

A party moves in a dungeon or other underground environment as a unit or group, at the rate of its slowest member. This is typically 240, 180, 120, or 60 feet per turn, depending on the weight carried by the slowest party member.

The movement section and tables in the How to Play chapter detail the various movement rates. Characters that separate themselves from the party may move at their own individual rates, as desired.

Forcing open a stuck door may take a few seconds, a minute, or even longer—it all depends on the nature of the door itself. Stuck doors may be forced opened on a 1-2 on a d6. A character’s Strength modifier adjusts the range of success.

For example, a +1 Strength modifier increases the range of success to 1-3 on a d6; a -1 penalty decreases the range to 1 on a d6. If two or more characters try to force open the door, add 1 to the success range for each extra person, but apply only the strongest character’s Strength modifier. Three characters at most may attempt to force open the same door. The success range can never be greater than 1-5 on a d6 or less than 1 on a d6, regardless of all modifiers.

Forcing open stuck doors makes a lot of noise. Roll for a wandering monster encounter whenever a character forces open a stuck door.

Thoroughly searching for things takes time. A lot of time. To search a 10-foot square area of dungeon, a character must stop moving and spend the entire turn searching. If a character “quickly” searches an area or object, reduce the chance of finding hidden things there by 50%.

Following are a few examples of how long it takes to thoroughly search various areas and objects:
Corpse: Searching a corpse for valuables takes 1 minute.
Furniture: Searching chests, desks or furnishings for valuables takes 1 minute. Searching them for secret doors or traps takes 1 turn (see below).
Secret Doors: Searching an entire 10-foot square section of dungeon, a human-sized statue, a chest, an altar or throne, or another similar object for secret doors takes 1 turn. This is a separate activity than searching for traps.
Traps: Searching an entire 10-foot square section of dungeon, a human-sized statue, a chest, an altar or throne, or another similar object for traps takes 1 turn. Disarming a trap—assuming it’s possible—takes the same time.

All characters may find secret doors they search for on a 1-2 on a d6. Elves may find secret doors on a 1-4 on a d6, and on a 1 on a d6 by merely passing within 10 feet of them. The Referee makes all of these rolls secretly.

All characters may find traps or pits on a 1-2 on a d6. Dwarves may find metal and stonework traps and pits similar to how elves find secret doors, 1-4 on a d6.

Generally speaking, when characters don’t find traps or pits, they activate them on a 1-2 on a d6 when they pass over the triggering mechanism at walking speed (or accidentally touch or manipulate the triggering mechanism). Running characters activate traps and pits on a 1-4 on a d6. Certain traps may have very specific or sensitive triggering mechanisms which activate automatically (no roll to activate). The Referee makes all of these rolls secretly.

Generally speaking, a player should describe how his character is disabling a trap based on the Referee’s description. If the disabling method seems logical, it succeeds; if it doesn’t, it fails.

To randomly determine if the disabling attempt succeeds, roll 1d6—on a 1-2 the trap is successfully disabled. Add the character’s Intelligence or Dexterity modifier to the success range, as appropriate for the type of trap. Use Intelligence for traps requiring deduction or reasoning; use Dexterity for traps involving manual dexterity or finesse. Thus, a character with a +1 Intelligence (or Dexterity) modifier succeeds on a 1-3 on a d6.


There are three things to determine before an encounter begins: Surprise, Distance and Reaction. Hireling loyalty is also discussed in this section.

In general, characters (and creatures) cannot be surprised if they are already aware of an opponent’s presence. A party walking quietly down a dark dungeon corridor won’t surprise any monsters if they carry a lit torch or lantern—the light gives away their presence. Similarly, making a lot of noise while exploring—talking loudly, bashing doors down, dragging heavy objects, smashing evil statues to bits—likely means the monsters hear the party long before they see them, and prepare accordingly.

If surprise is a possibility, roll 1d6 for each character (and creature) who may be surprised. If the result is a 1 or a 2, the character (or creature) is surprised. The Referee should judge surprise based on the specific circumstances, and use common sense and logic as much as dice rolls.

While underground, in a dungeon, or in a city, the distance between two groups when they encounter each other is 2d6 x 10 feet. Outdoors, encounter distance is 4d6 x 10 yards, or if the visibility is poor (fog, smoke, etc.) half that. This assumes unobstructed sight lines. If there are obstacles or intervening terrain (rocks, trees, etc.) adjust distances appropriately.

Intelligent monsters and NPCs do not always attack immediately. Unless they are under specific orders to attack, or they are at the ready for violent intruders, the Referee may roll 2d6 and modify the result by the PC leader’s Charisma modifier to determine how the monsters (or NPCs) respond to the adventurers. At the Referee's discretion, mindless or unintelligent monsters attack immediately.

Table 33: Monster & NPC Reactions
Roll 2d6
Immediately Attacks. If attack is impossible then reacts as Hostile.
Hostile. Attacks if possible, otherwise harms party.
Cautious. No change, wary, standoffish.
Friendly. Greets pleasantly, responds positively to aid requests, helps out.
Enthusiastic. Goes above and beyond to provide help or information.

If the monster reaction indicates “hostile” or “immediately attacks,” or the PC party decides to attack regardless of the monster’s disposition, proceed to the combat resolution sequence outlined in the Combat chapter.

The referee might also use this table when PCs try to lure monsters into their service, offer bribes to city officials, make job offers to hirelings, and other similar actions. You may want to modify the result from -2 to +2 based on the amount of gold (or treasure or magic, or food for hungry monsters) offered in such situations.

Similar to a morale test, a loyalty test should be made periodically when the Referee decides that a hireling's loyalty to his employing PC is threatened—whether by continuous excessively dangerous work, a better job offer elsewhere, repeatedly poor or demeaning treatment, a bribe to betray the PC, and so forth. Roll 2d6 and consult the table below, adjusting the result by the PC's Charisma Loyalty/Morale Modifier.

Table 35: Loyalty Tests
Roll 2d6
Affect on Loyalty
Traitor. Prepared to betray or desert at first chance. -2 to Morale Checks.
Disloyal. Reconsiders allegiance faced with any serious threat, bribe, or temptation to betray. -1 to Morale Checks.
Loyal. Generally satisfied, no significant reasons to reconsider loyalty.
Faithful. Eager to serve and prove deep loyalty. +1 to Morale Checks.
Fanatic. Does anything asked (within reason) without hesitation or question. +2 to Morale Checks.
Note: Morale checks are detailed in the Combat chapter.

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