Outside the safety of city walls, the wilderness is a dangerous place, and many adventurers have gotten lost in its trackless wilds or fallen victim to deadly weather. The following rules give you guidelines on running adventures in a wilderness setting.
Characters might find themselves without food or water and with no means to obtain them. In normal climates, Medium characters need at least a gallon of fluids and about a pound of decent food per day to avoid starvation. (Small characters need half as much.) In very hot climates, characters need two or three times as much water to avoid dehydration.
A character can go without water for 1 day plus a number of hours equal to his Constitution score. After this time, the character must make a Constitution check each hour (DC 10, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. Characters that take an amount of nonlethal damage equal to their total hit points begin to take lethal damage instead.
A character can go without food for 3 days, in growing discomfort. After this time, the character must make a Constitution check each day (DC 10, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. Characters that take an amount of nonlethal damage equal to their total hit points begin to take lethal damage instead.
Characters who have taken nonlethal damage from lack of food or water are fatigued. Nonlethal damage from thirst or starvation cannot be recovered until the character gets food or water, as needed—not even magic that restores hit points heals this damage.
See also: Survival Skill
To find food and water for one person requires a Survival skill check DC 10. Enough food and water can be found for one additional person for every 2 points by which the Survival check result exceeds 10. The base Survival skill information does not discuss risks of discovering poisonous food or tainted water but was included in "Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle." See below for chances of finding such hazards while hunting or foraging.
Poisonous Food If a player is brave or naive enough to eat a plant or animal she's unfamiliar with or is maneuvered into doing so by well-meaning or mischievous locals you may want to roll on the following table to determine whether or not the item is poisonous. The effects listed below may either represent actual poison or simply compounds travelers have not properly adapted to. Source: Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle.
With a DC 15 Knowledge (nature) or Survival check, a character can use smell, color, and other signs to tell if a potential food is likely to be poisonous, and a DC 20 check is usually enough to predict the severity of the poison effect. Also, an alchemist with access to the proper reagents may preserve the effects with a Craft (alchemy) check equal to 5 + the DC of the poison.
In addition to ingested poisons, there are also a fair number of contact poisons in the wild. Most notable are the poisonous frogs that inhabit jungles. Fortunately, most plants and animals that are poisonous to the touch are brightly colored and easy to pick out (requiring a DC 12 Survival or Knowledge [nature] check to recognize them as poisonous). If a character does touch one of these brightly colored objects, use either the 86-90 or 91-96 result on Table: Poisonous Food Effects above.
Tainted Water Tainted water poses an attractive danger to a thirsty traveler. A character can make a DC 10 Survival check to tell fresh water from tainted water. Most trackers know that still water holds the greatest potential for contamination, while fast-moving streams and headwaters are more likely to be fresh. A purify food and drink spell, of course, removes all doubt, and create water renders the question moot. Canny adventurers pack clean bowls or canteens with which to carry magically purified or created water and boil any water they're forced to harvest from lakes or rivers (effectively eliminating the threat of disease). Tainted water can have any number of causes, from dangerous local plants leaching poison into the water, to a battleground or dung heap upstream, or even a simple animal corpse decaying and putrefying at the water's edge. Source: Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle.
If a character drinks tainted water, she must make a DC 12 Fortitude save or contract filth fever. The amount of water ingested does not modify the save or the severity of the disease in any way, as a thimbleful of tainted water can have the same effect as a bucketful. At your discretion, you can replace the standard filth fever with a different disease (such as dysentery.)
Wading through tainted water can also communicate filth fever, as tiny drops of the water get on the character's hands, clothes, and face and can later be transferred to the mouth, nose, or eyes as the character moves about. It is more difficult to contract a disease in this way, though. When wading or swimming through tainted water, a character receives a +2 circumstance bonus on her save to resist contracting filth fever.
There are many ways to get lost in the wilderness. Following an obvious road, trail, or feature such as a stream or shoreline prevents most from becoming lost, but travelers striking off cross-country might become disoriented—especially in conditions of poor visibility or in difficult terrain.
Anytime characters cannot see at least 60 feet due to reduced visibility conditions, they might become lost. Characters traveling through fog, snow, or a downpour might easily lose the ability to see any landmarks not in their immediate vicinity. Similarly, characters traveling at night might be at risk, too, depending on the quality of their light sources, the amount of moonlight, and whether they have darkvision or low-light vision.
Any character in forest, moor, hill, or mountain terrain might become lost if he moves away from a trail, road, stream, or other obvious path or track. Forests are especially dangerous because they obscure far-off landmarks and make it hard to see the sun or stars.
If conditions exist that make getting lost a possibility, the character leading the way must succeed on a Survival check or become lost. The difficulty of this check varies based on the terrain, the visibility conditions, and whether or not the character has a map of the area being traveled through. Refer to the table below and use the highest DC that applies.
Check once per hour (or portion of an hour) spent in local or overland movement to see if travelers have become lost. In the case of a party moving together, only the character leading the way makes the check.
If a party becomes lost, it is no longer certain of moving in the direction it intended to travel. Randomly determine the direction in which the party actually travels during each hour of local or overland movement. The characters' movement continues to be random until they blunder into a landmark they can't miss, or until they recognize that they are lost and make an effort to regain their bearings.
Recognizing You're Lost: Once per hour of random travel, each character in the party may attempt a Survival check (DC 20, –1 per hour of random travel) to recognize that he is no longer certain of his direction of travel. Some circumstances might make it obvious that the characters are lost.
Setting a New Course: Determining the correct direction of travel once a party has become lost requires a Survival check (DC 15, +2 per hour of random travel). If a character fails this check, he chooses a random direction as the “correct” direction for resuming travel. Once the characters are traveling along their new course, correct or incorrect, they might get lost again. If the conditions still make it possible for travelers to become lost, check once per hour of travel as described above to see if the party maintains its new course or begins to move at random again.
Conflicting Directions: It's possible that several characters may attempt to determine the right direction to proceed after becoming lost. Make a Survival check for each character in secret, then tell the players whose characters succeeded the correct direction in which to travel, and tell the players whose characters failed a random direction they think is right, with no indication who is correct.
There are several ways for characters to find their way after becoming lost. First, if the characters successfully set a new course and follow it to the destination they're trying to reach, they're not lost anymore. Second, the characters, through random movement, might run into an unmistakable landmark. Third, if conditions suddenly improve—the fog lifts or the sun comes up—lost characters may attempt to set a new course, as described above, with a +4 bonus on the Survival check.
Corrosive acids deals 1d6 points of damage per round of exposure, except in the case of total immersion (such as in a vat of acid), which deals 10d6 points of damage per round. An attack with acid, such as from a hurled vial or a monster's spittle, counts as a round of exposure.
The fumes from most acids are inhaled poisons. Those who are adjacent to a large body of acid must make a DC 13 Fortitude save or take 1 point of Constitution damage each round. This poison does not have a frequency, so a creature is safe as soon as it moves away from the acid.
Creatures immune to acid's caustic properties might still drown in it if they are totally immersed (see Drowning).
See also: Mountains Terrain
High altitude travel can be extremely fatiguing—and sometimes deadly—to creatures that aren't used to it. Cold becomes extreme, and the lack of oxygen in the air can wear down even the most hardy of warriors.
Acclimated Characters Creatures accustomed to high altitude generally fare better than lowlanders. Any creature with an Environment entry that includes mountains is considered native to the area and acclimated to the high altitude. Characters can also acclimate themselves by living at high altitude for a month. Characters who spend more than two months away from the mountains must re-acclimate themselves when they return. Undead, constructs, and other creatures that do not breathe are immune to altitude effects.
Altitude Zones In general, mountains present three possible altitude bands: low pass, low peak/high pass, and high peak.
Low Pass (lower than 5,000 feet): Most travel in low mountains takes place in low passes, a zone consisting largely of alpine meadows and forests. Travelers might find the going difficult (which is reflected in the movement modifiers for traveling through mountains), but the altitude itself has no game effect.
Low Peak or High Pass (5,000 to 15,000 feet): Ascending to the highest slopes of low mountains, or most normal travel through high mountains, falls into this category. All non-acclimated creatures labor to breathe in the thin air at this altitude. Characters must succeed on a Fortitude save each hour (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or be fatigued. The fatigue ends when the character descends to an altitude with more air. Acclimated characters do not have to attempt the Fortitude save.
High Peak (more than 15,000 feet): The highest mountains exceed 15,000 feet in height. At these elevations, creatures are subject to both high altitude fatigue (as described above) and altitude sickness, whether or not they're acclimated to high altitudes. Altitude sickness represents long-term oxygen deprivation, and affects mental and physical ability scores. After each 6-hour period a character spends at an altitude of over 15,000 feet, he must succeed on a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1 point of damage to all ability scores. Creatures acclimated to high altitude receive a +4 competence bonus on their saving throws to resist high altitude effects and altitude sickness, but eventually even seasoned mountaineers must abandon these dangerous elevations.
See also: Mountains Terrain
Avalanches are a deadly peril in many mountainous areas. While avalanches of snow and ice are common, it's also possible to have an avalanche of rock and soil.
An avalanche can be spotted from as far away as 1d10 × 500 feet by a character who makes a DC 20 Perception check, treating the avalanche as a Colossal creature. If all characters fail their Perception checks to determine the encounter distance, the avalanche moves closer to them, and they automatically become aware of it when it closes to half the original distance. It's possible to hear an avalanche coming even if you can't see it. Under optimum conditions (no other loud noises occurring), a character who makes a DC 15 Perception check can hear the avalanche or landslide when it is 1d6 × 500 feet away. This check might have a DC of 20, 25, or higher in conditions where hearing is difficult (such as in the middle of a thunderstorm).
A landslide or avalanche consists of two distinct areas: the bury zone (in the direct path of the falling debris) and the slide zone (the area the debris spreads out to encompass). Characters in the bury zone always take damage from the avalanche; characters in the slide zone might be able to get out of the way. Characters in the bury zone take 8d6 points of damage, or half that amount if they make a DC 15 Reflex save. They are subsequently buried. Characters in the slide zone take 3d6 points of damage, or no damage if they make a DC 15 Reflex save. Those who fail their saves are buried.
Buried characters take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage per minute. If a buried character falls unconscious, he must make a DC 15 Constitution check or take 1d6 points of lethal damage each minute thereafter until freed or dead. See Cave-Ins and Collapses for rules on digging out buried creatures.
The typical avalanche has a width of 1d6 × 100 feet, from one edge of the slide zone to the opposite edge. The bury zone in the center of the avalanche is half as wide as the avalanche's full width.
To determine the precise location of characters in the path of an avalanche, roll 1d6 × 20; the result is the number of feet from the center of the path taken by the bury zone to the center of the party's location. Avalanches of snow and ice advance at a speed of 500 feet per round, while rock and soil avalanches travel at a speed of 250 feet per round.
See also: Arctic climatic zone
Cold and exposure deal nonlethal damage to the victim. A character cannot recover from the damage dealt by a cold environment until she gets out of the cold and warms up again. Once a character has taken an amount of nonlethal damage equal to her total hit points, any further damage from a cold environment is lethal damage.
An unprotected character in cold weather (below 40° F) must make a Fortitude save each hour (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. A character who has the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well (see the skill description).
In conditions of severe cold or exposure (below 0° F), an unprotected character must make a Fortitude save once every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check), taking 1d6 points of nonlethal damage on each failed save. A character who has the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well. Characters wearing a cold weather outfit only need check once per hour for cold and exposure damage.
A character who takes any nonlethal damage from cold or exposure is beset by frostbite or hypothermia (treat her as fatigued). These penalties end when the character recovers the nonlethal damage she took from the cold and exposure.
Extreme cold (below –20° F) deals 1d6 points of lethal damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage.
Characters walking on ice must spend 2 squares of movement to enter a square covered by ice, and the DC for Acrobatics checks increases by +5. Characters in prolonged contact with ice might run the risk of taking damage from severe cold.
Darkvision allows many characters and monsters to see perfectly well without any light at all, but characters with normal or low-light vision can be rendered completely blind by putting out the lights. Torches or lanterns can be blown out by sudden gusts of subterranean wind, magical light sources can be dispelled or countered, or magical traps might create fields of impenetrable darkness.
In many cases, some characters or monsters might be able to see while others are blinded. For purposes of the following points, a blinded creature is one who simply can't see through the surrounding darkness.
Creatures blinded by darkness lose the ability to deal extra damage due to precision (for example, via sneak attack or a duelist's precise strike ability).
Blind creatures must make a DC 10 Acrobatics skill check to move faster than half speed. Creatures that fail this check fall prone. Blinded creatures can't run or charge.
All opponents have total concealment from a blinded creature, so the blinded creature has a 50% miss chance in combat. A blinded creature must first pinpoint the location of an opponent in order to attack the right square; if the blinded creature launches an attack without pinpointing its foe, it attacks a random square within its reach. For ranged attacks or spells against a foe whose location is not pinpointed, roll to determine which adjacent square the blinded creature is facing; its attack is directed at the closest target that lies in that direction.
A blinded creature takes a –4 penalty on Perception checks and most Strength- and Dexterity-based skill checks, including any with an armor check penalty. A creature blinded by darkness automatically fails any skill check relying on vision.
Creatures blinded by darkness cannot use gaze attacks and are immune to gaze attacks.
A creature blinded by darkness can make a Perception check as a free action each round in order to locate foes (DC equal to opponents' Stealth checks). A successful check lets a blinded character hear an unseen creature “over there somewhere.” It's almost impossible to pinpoint the location of an unseen creature. A Perception check that beats the DC by 20 reveals the unseen creature's square (but the unseen creature still has total concealment from the blinded creature).
A blinded creature can grope about to find unseen creatures. A character can make a touch attack with his hands or a weapon into two adjacent squares using a standard action. If an unseen target is in the designated square, there is a 50% miss chance on the touch attack. If successful, the groping character deals no damage but has pinpointed the unseen creature's current location. If the unseen creature moves, its location is once again unknown.
If a blinded creature is struck by an unseen foe, the blinded character pinpoints the location of the creature that struck him (until the unseen creature moves, of course). The only exception is if the unseen creature has a reach greater than 5 feet (in which case the blinded character knows the location of the unseen opponent, but has not pinpointed him) or uses a ranged attack (in which case the blinded character knows the general direction of the foe, but not his location).
A creature with the scent ability automatically pinpoints unseen creatures within 5 feet of its location.
Creatures that fall take 1d6 points of damage per 10 feet fallen, to a maximum of 20d6. Creatures that take lethal damage from a fall land in a prone position.
If a character deliberately jumps instead of merely slipping or falling, the damage is the same but the first 1d6 is nonlethal damage. A DC 15 Acrobatics check allows the character to avoid any damage from the first 10 feet fallen and converts any damage from the second 10 feet to nonlethal damage. Thus, a character who slips from a ledge 30 feet up takes 3d6 damage. If the same character deliberately jumps, he takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage and 2d6 points of lethal damage. And if the character leaps down with a successful Acrobatics check, he takes only 1d6 points of nonlethal damage and 1d6 points of lethal damage from the plunge.
Falls onto yielding surfaces (soft ground, mud) also convert the first 1d6 of damage to nonlethal damage. This reduction is cumulative with reduced damage due to deliberate jumps and the Acrobatics skill.
A character cannot cast a spell while falling, unless the fall is greater than 500 feet or the spell is an immediate action, such as feather fall. Casting a spell while falling requires a concentration check with a DC equal to 20 + the spell's level. Casting teleport or a similar spell while falling does not end your momentum, it just changes your location, meaning that you still take falling damage, even if you arrive atop a solid surface.
Falling into Water: Falls into water are handled somewhat differently. If the water is at least 10 feet deep, the first 20 feet of falling do no damage. The next 20 feet do nonlethal damage (1d3 per 10-foot increment). Beyond that, falling damage is lethal damage (1d6 per additional 10-foot increment).
Characters who deliberately dive into water take no damage on a successful DC 15 Swim check or DC 15 Acrobatics check, so long as the water is at least 10 feet deep for every 30 feet fallen. The DC of the check, however, increases by 5 for every 50 feet of the dive.
Just as characters take damage when they fall more than 10 feet, so too do they take damage when they are hit by falling objects.
Objects that fall upon characters deal damage based on their size and the distance they have fallen. Table: Damage from Falling Objects determines the amount of damage dealt by an object based on its size. Note that this assumes that the object is made of dense, heavy material, such as stone. Objects made of lighter materials might deal as little as half the listed damage, subject to GM discretion. For example, a Huge boulder that hits a character deals 6d6 points of damage, whereas a Huge wooden wagon might deal only 3d6 damage. In addition, if an object falls less than 30 feet, it deals half the listed damage. If an object falls more than 150 feet, it deals double the listed damage. Note that a falling object takes the same amount of damage as it deals.
Dropping an object on a creature requires a ranged touch attack. Such attacks generally have a range increment of 20 feet. If an object falls on a creature (instead of being thrown), that creature can make a DC 15 Reflex save to halve the damage if he is aware of the object. Falling objects that are part of a trap use the trap rules instead of these general guidelines.
Source: Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle.
Native flora, especially tall trees, have generally adapted to seasonal storms and rarely come down due to rainfall. At times, though, a particularly strong storm can erode the soil and pound a tree with enough force to cause it to topple, possibly setting off a chain reaction. Anyone in the path of a falling tree must make a DC 14 Reflex save to leap clear or take 3d6 points of damage. Fallen trees can block routes, but travelers can usually climb over the trees, which measure anywhere from 5 to 20 feet in diameter. Fallen trees can, however, block river travel and require travelers to abandon their boats or to drag them out of the river and portage them around the obstruction.
Most campfire sparks ignite nothing, but if conditions are dry, winds are strong, or the forest floor is dried out and flammable, a forest fire can result. Lightning strikes often set trees ablaze and start forest fires in this way. Whatever the cause of the fire, travelers can get caught in the conflagration.
A forest fire can be spotted from as far away as 2d6 × 100 feet by a character who makes a Perception check, treating the fire as a Colossal creature (reducing the DC by 16). If all characters fail their Perception checks, the fire moves closer to them. They automatically see it when it closes to half the original distance. With proper elevation, the smoke from a forest fire can be spotted as far as 10 miles away.
The leading edge of a fire (the downwind side) can advance faster than a human can run (assume 120 feet per round for winds of moderate strength). Once a particular portion of the forest is ablaze, it remains so for 2d4 × 10 minutes before dying to a smoking wasteland. Characters overtaken by a forest fire might find the leading edge of the fire advancing away from them faster than they can keep up, trapping them deeper and deeper within its grasp.
Within the bounds of a forest fire, a character faces three dangers: heat damage, catching on fire, and smoke inhalation:
Getting caught within a forest fire is even worse than being exposed to extreme heat (see Heat). Breathing the air causes a character to take 1d6 points of fire damage per round (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save every 5 rounds (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. A character who holds his breath can avoid the lethal damage, but not the nonlethal damage. Those wearing heavy clothing or any sort of armor take a –4 penalty on their saving throws. Those wearing metal armor or who come into contact with very hot metal are affected as if by a heat metal spell.
Catching on Fire
Characters engulfed in a forest fire are at risk of catching on fire when the leading edge of the fire overtakes them, and continue to be at risk once per minute thereafter.
Forest fires naturally produce a great deal of smoke. A character who breathes heavy smoke must make a Fortitude save each round (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or spend that round choking and coughing. A character who chokes for 2 consecutive rounds takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. Smoke also provides concealment to characters within it.
Heat deals nonlethal damage that cannot be recovered from until the character gets cooled off (reaches shade, survives until nightfall, gets doused in water, is targeted by endure elements, and so forth). Once a character has taken an amount of nonlethal damage equal to her total hit points, any further damage from a hot environment is lethal damage.
A character in very hot conditions (above 90° F) must make a Fortitude saving throw each hour (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Characters wearing heavy clothing or armor of any sort take a –4 penalty on their saves. A character with the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well (see the skill description). Characters reduced to unconsciousness begin taking lethal damage (1d4 points per hour).
In severe heat (above 110° F), a character must make a Fortitude save once every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Characters wearing heavy clothing or armor of any sort take a –4 penalty on their saves. A character with the Survival skill may receive a bonus on this saving throw and might be able to apply this bonus to other characters as well (see the Survival skill in Using Skills). Characters reduced to unconsciousness begin taking lethal damage (1d4 points per each 10-minute period).
A character who takes any nonlethal damage from heat exposure now suffers from heatstroke and is fatigued. These penalties end when the character recovers from the nonlethal damage she took from the heat.
Extreme heat (air temperature over 140° F, fire, boiling water, lava) deals lethal damage. Breathing air in these temperatures deals 1d6 points of fire damage per minute (no save). In addition, a character must make a Fortitude save every 5 minutes (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Those wearing heavy clothing or any sort of armor take a –4 penalty on their saves.
Boiling water deals 1d6 points of scalding damage, unless the character is fully immersed, in which case it deals 10d6 points of damage per round of exposure.
Characters exposed to burning oil, bonfires, forest fires, and non-instantaneous magic fires might find their clothes, hair, or equipment on fire. Spells with an instantaneous duration don't normally set a character on fire, since the heat and flame from these come and go in a flash.
Characters at risk of catching fire are allowed a DC 15 Reflex save to avoid this fate. If a character's clothes or hair catch fire, he takes 1d6 points of damage immediately. In each subsequent round, the burning character must make another Reflex saving throw. Failure means he takes another 1d6 points of damage that round. Success means that the fire has gone out—that is, once he succeeds on his saving throw, he's no longer on fire.
Those whose clothes or equipment catch fire must make DC 15 Reflex saves for each item. Flammable items that fail take the same amount of damage as the character.
Source: Pathfinder Adventure Path volume #25: Bastards of Erebus
Core Rules: A character on fire may automatically extinguish the flames by jumping into enough water to douse himself. If no body of water is at hand, rolling on the ground or smothering the fire with cloaks or the like permits the character another save with a +4 bonus.
Adventure Path #25: Dousing a fire requires a large amount of water or other non-flammable material, such as dirt, to be deposited on the burning area. One effective strategy for extinguishing a fire quickly is to surround the burning area with nonflammable material. PCs doing this must make a ranged touch attack against an AC of 10 to deliver their payload to the intended square.
The following indicates how many 5-foot squares of fire a number of the listed containers can extinguish with successful delivery.
A character who breathes heavy smoke must make a Fortitude save each round (DC 15, +1 per previous check) or spend that round choking and coughing. A character who chokes for 2 consecutive rounds takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. Smoke obscures vision, giving concealment (20% miss chance) to characters within it.
Source: Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle.
Lightning strikes also occur during storms. It is exceedingly rare for a creature to be struck by lightning, though such an unlucky character would suffer between 4d8 and 10d8 points of electricity damage from the strike. Lightning strikes rarely produce forest fires, yet on the plains (see Plains Terrain) it's possible for a strike to ignite a drought-plagued field and start a wildfire.
Patches of quicksand present a deceptively solid appearance (appearing as undergrowth or open land) that might trap careless characters. A character approaching a patch of quicksand at a normal pace is entitled to a DC 8 Survival check to spot the danger before stepping in, but charging or running characters don't have a chance to detect a hidden patch before blundering into it. A typical patch of quicksand is 20 feet in diameter; the momentum of a charging or running character carries him 1d2 × 5 feet into the quicksand.
Effects of Quicksand: Characters in quicksand must make a DC 10 Swim check every round to simply tread water in place, or a DC 15 Swim check to move 5 feet in whatever direction is desired. If a trapped character fails this check by 5 or more, he sinks below the surface and begins to drown whenever he can no longer hold his breath (see the Swim skill description in Using Skills).
Characters below the surface of quicksand may swim back to the surface with a successful Swim check (DC 15, +1 per consecutive round of being under the surface).
Rescue: Pulling out a character trapped in quicksand can be difficult. A rescuer needs a branch, spear haft, rope, or similar tool that enables him to reach the victim with one end of it. Then he must make a DC 15 Strength check to successfully pull the victim, and the victim must make a DC 10 Strength check to hold onto the branch, pole, or rope. If both checks succeed, the victim is pulled 5 feet closer to safety. If the victim fails to hold on, he must make a DC 15 Swim check immediately to stay above the surface.
Additional Information below: Source: Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle.
Quicksand is nothing more than sand or loose soil that is supersaturated with water. This effect allows creatures to sink into the mixture much as if they're settling into nothing more than silty water, but then requires them to fight the crushing weight of sand as if they had been buried alive to escape. The main dangers of quicksand are becoming trapped and unable to move or having one's head submerged and suffocating. Even a trapped individual who manages to stay partway out of the quicksand is still at risk from the dangers of exposure and is easy pickings for the other denizens of the jungle.
Quicksand appears primarily along the banks of rivers and the beaches of lakes. However, it can also occur near springs and areas where runoff leaches into the ground, or anywhere in the jungle after a violent storm. All it takes for quicksand to form is an abundance of water and sand or loose soil, all of which are plentiful in the jungle. The water must be forced into the sand at a volume greater than the sand or soil would normally hold. Supersaturation can be caused by the force of a swiftly flowing river, tidal action on a lake, or water flowing from an underground spring (though it may also be created artificially via the effects of a control water spell).
A DC 15 Survival check tells a character in advance that something is not right with the patch of ground containing quicksand, but the character must actively be searching for such dangerous ground. This is especially tricky because ground that initially appears solid may begin to give after a few steps as the vibrations on the surface loosen the structure of the sand, allowing the compacted top layer to lose solidity. Thus, several people in a party may already be on the surface of the sand before it gives, trapping more than just the first individual to step on it. Running or charging characters have no chance to detect quicksand before falling prey to it.
Once a creature has set foot in quicksand, its natural tendency is to struggle to free itself. Any type of struggle will actually have the opposite effect. Moving any portion of the body that has been submerged causes the sand to shift from underneath the moved body part, thus sucking it deeper into the morass. The best way to escape quicksand is to simply lie still. Once a creature stops struggling, it will naturally float just as it would if it were in a pool of still water, albeit rising more slowly due to the weight of sand. Characters in quicksand must make a DC 10 Swim check every round to stay afloat, or a DC 15 Swim check to move 5 feet. Failing these checks by 5 or more results in sinking and the very real possibility of drowning. Note that anything a character is carrying that is submerged in quicksand has also been saturated with water just as if it had been dropped in a pool of standing water.
It is extremely difficult to pull something directly out of quicksand, as the pressure needed to move upward through the sand is roughly equivalent to having been buried alive. A trapped character may easily free himself with levitate, fly, or similar effects (note that only magical flight helps, as quicksand fouls wings).
Creatures with tremorsense can easily locate patches of quicksand due to the difference in vibrations and density of the pits of sand. Creatures with a burrow speed treat quicksand as difficult terrain, but they can still suffer the effects of suffocation if they are submerged in it and do not free themselves. Creatures that can breathe water also suffocate in quicksand, but they take twice as long to do so. Water Dangers The serpentine rivers and still ponds of the jungle both sustain life and take it. All creatures, be they animals, monsters, or humanoids, require water in one form or another, and the local watering hole is the common bond that both predator and prey share, albeit not peacefully. Slow-moving jungle rivers also make for easy ship and barge travel, and where their overgrown banks turn sandy the rivers can provide a welcome respite from underbrush for those traveling on foot. The biggest danger inherent in any jungle water supply is from the creatures that live within it or set ambushes near its banks, waiting for weaker creatures to approach and drink. Yet along with high-profile dangers like crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and carnivorous fish, the lakes and rivers also hold many lesser dangers, some inherent to the water itself.
A character who has no air to breathe can hold her breath for 2 rounds per point of Constitution. If a character takes a standard or full-round action, the remaining duration that the character can hold her breath is reduced by 1 round. After this period of time, the character must make a DC 10 Constitution check in order to continue holding her breath. The check must be repeated each round, with the DC increasing by +1 for each previous success.
When the character fails one of these Constitution checks, she begins to suffocate. In the first round, she falls unconscious (0 hit points). In the following round, she drops to –1 hit points and is dying. In the third round, she suffocates.
Slow Suffocation: A Medium character can breathe easily for 6 hours in a sealed chamber measuring 10 feet on a side. After that time, the character takes 1d6 points of nonlethal damage every 15 minutes. Each additional Medium character or significant fire source (a torch, for example) proportionally reduces the time the air will last. Once rendered unconscious through the accumulation of nonlethal damage, the character begins to take lethal damage at the same rate. Small characters consume half as much air as Medium characters.
Source: Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle.
Equatorial storms can be both devastating and predictable. In many jungle areas, rainstorms come every afternoon and last anywhere from 20 minutes to 6 hours. In other areas, ferocious storms break suddenly and end quickly. These tend to deliver more precipitation than heavy wind, as the thick jungle growth protects those beneath it from the direct force of the storm. Still, in addition to the inconvenience of being wet and miserable, jungle storms bring with them dangerous possibilities including falling trees, lightning, and floods (see separate entries below.)
See also: Desert Terrain.
A sandstorm reduces visibility to 1d10 × 5 feet and provides a –4 penalty on Perception checks. A sandstorm deals 1d3 points of nonlethal damage per hour to any creatures caught in the open, and leaves a thin coating of sand in its wake. Driving sand creeps in through all but the most secure seals and seams, chafing skin and contaminating carried gear.
Source: Gamemastery Guide.
Tsunamis, sometimes referred to as tidal waves, are crushing waves of water caused by underwater earthquakes, volcanic explosions, landslides, or even asteroid impacts. Tsunamis are almost undetectable until they reach shallow water, at which point the mass of water builds up into a great wave. Depending on the size of the tsunami and the slope of the shore, the wave can travel anywhere from hundreds of yards to more than a mile inland, leaving destruction in its wake. The water then drains back, dragging all manner of debris and creatures far out to sea. The exact damage caused by a tsunami is subject to the GM's discretion, but a typical tsunami obliterates or displaces all temporary and poorly built structures in its path, destroys about 25% of well-built buildings (and causes significant damage to those that survive), and leaves serious fortifications only lightly damaged. As much as a quarter of the population living in the area (including animals and monsters) perishes in the disaster, either swept out to sea, drowned on shore, or buried under rubble.
A creature can avoid being pulled out to sea with a DC 25 Swim check; otherwise it is pulled 6d6 x 10 feet away from shore. Waters after a tsunami are always treated as rough or stormy, barring magical conf lict. A creature caught in a collapsing building takes 6d6 points of damage (DC 15 Reflex save for half), or half that amount if the building is particularly small. There is a 50% chance that the creature is buried (as for a cave-in), or the tsunami may tear the building apart, freeing the creature from the rubble.
Source: Gamemastery Guide.
When the world’s crust ruptures and expels its molten heart, one of the most dramatic natural disasters results: a volcano. Volcanic eruptions offer a wide range of options for the GM, including lava, lava bombs, poisonous gases, and pyroclastic flows. GMs might also consider presaging a dramatic volcanic eruption with existing hazards, like avalanches and minor earthquakes.
Lava or magma deals 2d6 points of fire damage per round of exposure, except in the case of total immersion (such as when a character falls into the crater of an active volcano), which deals 20d6 points of fire damage per round.
Damage from lava continues for 1d3 rounds after exposure ceases, but this additional damage is only half of that dealt during actual contact (that is, 1d6 or 10d6 points per round). Immunity or resistance to fire serves as an immunity or resistance to lava or magma. A creature immune or resistant to fire might still drown if completely immersed in lava (see Drowning).
Lava flows are usually associated with nonexplosive eruptions, and can be a permanent fixture of active volcanoes. Most lava flows are quite slow, moving at 15 feet per round. Hotter flows move faster, achieving speeds up to 60 feet per round. Lava in a channel such as a lava tube is especially dangerous, moving as fast as 120 feet per round (a CR 6 hazard). Creatures overrun by a lava flow must make a DC 20 Reflex save or be engulfed in the lava. Success indicates that they are in contact with the lava but not immersed.
Blobs of molten rock may be hurled several miles from an erupting volcano, cooling into solid rock before they land. A typical lava bomb strikes a point designated by the GM and explodes in a 30-foot radius. All creatures in the area must make a DC 15 Reflex save or take 4d6 points of damage. Creatures under cover or capable of covering themselves (like with a shield) gain a +2 bonus on this save. Particularly large lava bombs might sometimes occur, dealing 12d6 points of damage. Normal lava bombs have a CR of 2, large lava bombs have a CR of 5.
One of the more insidious threats of a volcano is toxic gas, often escaping notice amid the fire and destruction. A wide variety of poisonous vapors can result from a volcanic eruption, some visible, some unseen. Poisonous gas causes 1d6 points of Constitution damage per round if inhaled (Fortitude DC 15 negates, the DC increases by 1 per previous save), and visible gases also function as heavy smoke. Poisonous gas clouds flow toward low ground, and are typically 50 feet high. Gale-force winds can divert gas clouds, as can high barriers—provided the gas has somewhere else to go.
Some volcanic eruptions create a devastating wave of burning ash, hot gases, and volcanic debris called a pyroclastic flow that can travel for miles. Treat a pyroclastic flow as an avalanche traveling at 500 feet per round, combined with the effects of poisonous gas listed above. Contact with the searing-hot debris of the flow causes 2d6 points of fire damage per round, while any creature buried in the flow suffers 10d6 points of damage per round. Only reality-warping magic like miracle or wish can turn aside or impede a pyroclastic flow.
Any character can wade in relatively calm water that isn't over his head, no check required. Similarly, swimming in calm water only requires Swim skill checks with a DC of 10. Trained swimmers can just take 10. Remember, however, that armor or heavy gear makes any attempt at swimming much more difficult (see the Swim skill description).
By contrast, fast-moving water is much more dangerous. Characters must make a successful DC 15 Swim check or a DC 15 Strength check to avoid going under. On a failed check, the character takes 1d3 points of nonlethal damage per round (1d6 points of lethal damage if flowing over rocks and cascades).
Very deep water is not only generally pitch black, posing a navigational hazard, but worse, deals water pressure damage of 1d6 points per minute for every 100 feet the character is below the surface. A successful Fortitude save (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) means the diver takes no damage in that minute. Very cold water deals 1d6 points of nonlethal damage from hypothermia per minute of exposure.
Large, placid rivers move at only a few miles per hour, so they function as still water for most purposes. But some rivers and streams are swifter; anything floating in them moves downstream at a speed of 10 to 40 feet per round. The fastest rapids send swimmers bobbing downstream at 60 to 90 feet per round. Fast rivers are always at least rough water (Swim DC 15), and whitewater rapids are stormy water (Swim DC 20). If a character is in moving water, move her downstream the indicated distance at the end of her turn. A character trying to maintain her position relative to the riverbank can spend some or all of her turn swimming upstream.
Swept Away: Characters swept away by a river moving 60 feet per round or faster must make DC 20 Swim checks every round to avoid going under. If a character gets a check result of 5 or more over the minimum necessary, she arrests her motion by catching a rock, tree limb, or bottom snag—she is no longer being carried along by the flow of the water. Escaping the rapids by reaching the bank requires three DC 20 Swim checks in a row. Characters arrested by a rock, limb, or snag can't escape under their own power unless they strike out into the water and attempt to swim their way clear. Other characters can rescue them as if they were trapped in quicksand (see Marsh Terrain.)
Any character can hold her breath for a number of rounds equal to twice her Constitution score. If a character takes a standard or full-round action, the remaining duration that the character can hold her breath is reduced by 1 round. After this period of time, the character must make a DC 10 Constitution check every round in order to continue holding her breath. Each round, the DC increases by 1.
When the character finally fails her Constitution check, she begins to drown. In the first round, she falls unconscious (0 hp). In the following round, she drops to –1 hit points and is dying. In the third round, she drowns.
Unconscious characters must begin making Constitution checks immediately upon being submerged (or upon becoming unconscious if the character was conscious when submerged). Once she fails one of these checks, she immediately drops to –1 (or loses 1 additional hit point, if her total is below –1). On the following round, she drowns.
It is possible to drown in substances other than water, such as sand, quicksand, fine dust, and silos full of grain.
See also: Fast-flowing water
In many wilderness areas, river floods are a common occurrence. In spring, an enormous snowmelt can engorge the streams and rivers it feeds. Other catastrophic events such as massive rainstorms or the destruction of a dam can create floods as well.
During a flood, rivers become wider, deeper, and swifter. Assume that a river rises by 1d10+10 feet during the spring flood, and its width increases by a factor of 1d4 × 50%. Fords might disappear for days, bridges might be swept away, and even ferries might not be able to manage the crossing of a flooded river. A river in flood makes Swim checks one category harder (calm water becomes rough, and rough water becomes stormy). Rivers also become 50% swifter.
Additional Flooding Information
Source: Pathfinder Chronicles: Heart of the Jungle.
Heavy rains can cause rivers to swell and break free of their banks, turning valleys to rushing mudflows and filthy lakes. Experienced guides know to stay clear of rivers during rainstorms, but tropical storms often erupt quickly, and the torrential downpour can catch adventurers in a flash flood without warning. At other times, a storm some distance away can push swelling water down the river and catch travelers in a rushing wall of water.
A traveler can make a DC 20 Survival check to notice the telltale rise in water or other dangerous conditions that signal an impending flash flood. Success means the traveler and her allies have 1d4 rounds to prepare or reach high ground before the flood strikes. A flash flood sweeps past at a speed of 60 feet with enough force to knock down trees and toss boulders around (see Fast-Flowing Water for rules pertaining to potentially being swept away.) At the GM's discretion, characters caught in a flash flood might suffer additional effects, outlined below.
Characters within 50 feet of a flash flood must make a DC 12 Reflex save or take 2d6 points of damage from hurtling debris. Any character wading through a river or within 10 feet of the river's edge is caught in the flash flood when it erupts and is subjected to a bull rush (CMB +20). A successful bull rush indicates the character is swept away, taking 2d6 points of damage per round (a DC 12 Reflex save each round negates this damage). Swim checks are possible in a flash flood, but they are difficult due to the churning, raging waters and should be treated as stormy water (see Fast-Flowing Water), with DC 20 Swim checks required to move through the torrent. Most flash floods last 3d6 minutes before subsiding, but on occasion longer flash floods may occur. It's also important to note that certain animals may sense an impending flood before adventurers, and even if the player characters manage to reach the safety of high ground, they find themselves face to face with other jungle denizens who aren't interested in sharing it.