Right from the first Survival themed post here on the blog, I’ve struggled with something and it’s come into focus as I’ve tried to find other survival situations to give stats to. I’ve wanted to do a river passage stat block. I kept trying to come up with ways to include situations where survival is less of an issue. For example, you can walk along a river or you can ride a raft or a canoe or a speed boat. All of them are possible but at what point is it no longer survival and becomes travel?
For instance, what about the first set of stats I made up for a hot desert. What if the characters are crossing that desert in a car? How does the GM deal with that? If the dessert is large enough the characters could still be in a survival situation if they’re lost without adequate supplies. Now what if they’re on a horse or camel?
These travel issues change the scope of a survival situation. In many cases they nearly eliminate the danger of a hostile environment. When looking into the effect of riding a horse or a camel, I found that they travel about as fast as a human does over long distances. They primarily relive the traveler of exertion, which can have a significant impact on survivability. It’s only when man is unaided by motorized transport that a situation remains a survival situation.
When the Car Breaks Down
So what that means, in a modern setting as long as the characters have a vehicle, they are traveling. When the vehicle breaks down and they are in a hostile environment, they’re surviving.
I know that may seem obvious but I was imagining that survival was a sliding scale, which it is but the scale jumps when a motor vehicle is involved to a point where survival is such a small issue that it’s difficult to simulate. If it were a number from ten to zero on the survival scale, it’s a .4 and may as well be a zero.
So if the characters are accustomed to taking a car, if you want to introduce a survival situation, you have to make them get rid of the car. Maybe the car can’t go where they need it to go, maybe it’s an old clunker and dies on them. However you do it, if you want survival and not just travel, get rid of the motor vehicles.