Tuesday, November 6, 2012

How to kill a horse (Again about Endurance...)

This is not about animal cruelty. It's rather a dry-run for the Endurance system I proposed here and here (and thanks to the comments by 1D30!).

I really hope somebody will take the time to read all this (and maybe comment?). Sorry for the huge post, I guess (it's not what I meant with "Again about Endurance").

After doing a little research, I realized it's hard to find rules for extreme travel situations like forced marching or how far you can push a horse without killing it. This might be due to the fact that to many factors need to be considered or that it doesn't happen that often in a game and a rule of thumb is enough to make it happen.

But it should be possible to estimate the breaking point for an individual (be it character, npc or monster) derived from actuall play and I think it should have a place in the game (not just a number in a table...).

So what do we have?

Endurance (very short summary):

  • Characters use CON/2
  • Monsters/NSCs use 4 + HD
  • A fight costs 1 Endurance (you loose more in a fight, but it's recovered fast, see links above)
  • Skill checks cost 1 Endurance
  • Endurance is only recovered with a full days rest (or magic)

Travel rates will be taken from the Rules Cyclopedia as a guideline for the loss of 1 Endurance per miles travelled:
As per Rules Cyclopedia. p. 88
Interesting part:

"The travel rates listed here are possible but will kill the horse if only one is used for the entire trip. Typically, a rider only manages to achieve these rates by riding one-third the distance listed and trading his horse in twice at way stations for fresh mounts. At the end of the day, he and the three horses are exhausted, but all are alive. If a rider does not intend to kill or exhaust his horse, he should use the travel rates listed for the war horse instead." (RC, p.88, Travelling Rates by Terrain Table)
This assumes a rate of 72 miles/day under ideal circumstances (36 miles/day with a war horse or travelling without killing a riding horse). Is this realistic? Google agrees mostly, so I'll take it as a basis and go from there.

Now some calculations and additions to make it fit.

  • After 36 miles/day a riding horse is exhausted (normal road/weather for travel).
  • Having an Endurance of 6 this means it looses 1 point Endurance every 6 miles travel.
  • Doubling the speed doubles the loss of Endurance, so with a travelling rate of 72 miles/day it looses 12 Endurance (which is the maximum before the horse is in mortal danger).
  • A first skill check is needed to keep the horse going after it reaches zero Endurance (36 miles)
  • After 72 miles a second skill check is due, after that it needs a successfull skill check for every six miles (the rider looses 1 Endurance for every skill check).
  • The rider additionally looses 1 Endurance for 12 miles travel.
  • So if the rider in our example wants to get there (see below), he has to succeed in 5 skill checks or the horse struggles and goes down before he arrives.
  • Any mount can be forced a number of times equal to it's HD and is entiteled to a save versus death to survive the treatment, after that it just drops and dies with the first failed skill check (same goes for humans, etc.).


With 36 miles/day being the suggested norm, I'd go for 3 possible random encounters on the road (ca. 3 times the norm). Each encounter could force a skill check to avoid and costs Endurance.

This leaves us with the following basics to apply the idea everywhere.

Having four legs is a boon, so a horse would only loose halv the Endurance a human would, while sitting on a horse makes a human only loose half of what the horse is about to loose. Other than that I took the base rate (36 miles for being exhausted) for a given factor (riding horse, 2 HD) and divided it by the Endurance (4 + 2 HD = 6). So here are a few examples how it turns out (based on the table above):

Travel Mode      Trail    Clear   Hills   Mountains Desert
Foot              1/3      1/2     1/1       1/1      1/1
Horse, riding     1/6      1/4     1/3       1/2      1/1
Horse, war        1/5      1/3     1/2       1/2      1/1

With this on hand it is possible to see how far an army might get with forced marching and how many dead would be left behind.

Or one could try and see if a courier would be able to deliver a urgent message in a totally random setting and with a satisfying result...

So this is a small setting and a dry-run.

Let's build a course for our courier. I used the always fantastic Abulafia to generate the background information and gimp for the map. This is what I got:

Cave Bridge is a dangerous farmland in the frozen north.
The weather there is usually almost windy and warm out (because of the Letchhead Gulf).
It is ruled by an ancient vampire (Count Shrop).
The people of this domain are cannibals (a cult that worships the Count and eats the sucked-out victims of him and his vampires).
This domain is famous because it is a place of uncanny magical occurances (see the red skulls).
The laws of this domain are harsh and unjust. Punishments for misdeeds tend to be almost nonexistent.
Recently, the land has experienced the flight of a prince and his forbidden lover into hiding .

Cave Bridge (I'd go for 10 miles per hex)
Hexmap Key

Castle, Towns and Settlements:
0500 Shropcastle
0800 Scholar's Peak
0401 Muntonburgh
0201 Inverby
0704 Chesterwich Farm
0802 Rustyhickory
0305 Trebluff
0505 Havster Springs
0006 Lydstanham
0808 Confidantsbarton Springs
0905 Axefathom
0208 Tower of the Relentless
0508 Monk's Vale

0205 Ivory Arch
0208 Barber's Cove
0303 Dolphin Kurgan
0304 Ruins of Bird Haven
0306 Northwood Bluff
0401 Queen's Bridge
0403 Tree of the Banshees
0507 Bear Head Trail
0507 Bear Menhir
0508 Monk's Vale
0601 Dishonor Cave
0701 Neophyte Mines
0701 Brazen Hill

Areas (land):
0505, 0506, 0605 - 0607, 0704 - 0708, 0807 - 0809 Tinker's Flatland
0502, 0602, 0603, 0702, 0703, 0802 Hog Forest
0305, 0405, 0406, 0504 Griffon Morass
0403, 0404, 0405, 0503 The Marsh of Destruction
0306, 0307, 0408 Berkway Forest
0201, 0202, 0301 Dawn Delta
0006, 0106 Owlbear Isle
0204, 0205 Westlock Archipelago

Areas (sea):
0000 - 0009, 0100 - 0109 Letchhead Gulf
0200 - 0207 Titan Coast
0208, 0209 Wolf Coast
0105, 0206, 0207 Bullsmore Channel
0003, 0004 Hunter's Sargasso
The Course:

Our courier starts at the Wolf Coast from the Tower of the Relentless and aims to reach Muntonburgh as fast as possible. He wants to arrive within the day.

Using the roads available, he has to pass two towns (Trebluff, Havster Springs) and use Queen's Bridge to get there. It's round about 100 miles.

This means he has to travel through Berkway Forest, the Griffon Morass and, finally, the Marsh of Destruction.

And now we deliver an importand message

We need a normal horse and a skilled Courier to make this happen. If it is a player character, one starts with the distance he wants to cover and goes from there (maybe even with an individual horse, healing potions, etc.). In this example I'll keep it as simple as possible (with no random encounters):

The Horse: 2 HD, 6 Endurance

The Courier: 3 HD, 7 Endurance, DEX 12 (riding +5)

First skill check (Courier Endurance after 36 miles = 4):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) + 1D20 (15) vs. DC 25 (success)
Second skill check (Courier Endurance after 72 miles and one skill check = 0):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) + 1D20 (18) vs. DC 25 (success)
Third skill check (Courier Endurance after 78 miles and two skill checks = -1):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 1 (Endurance) + 1D20 (19) vs. DC 25 (success)
Fourth skill check (Courier Endurance after 84 miles and three skill checks = -3):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 3 (Endurance) + 1D20 (18) vs. DC 25 (success)
Fifth skill check (Courier Endurance after 90 miles and four skill checks = -4):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 4 (Endurance) + 1D20 (12, close call...) vs. DC 25 (success)
Sixth skill check (Courier Endurance after 96 miles and five skill checks = -6):
Dex 12 + 5 (riding) - 6 (Endurance) + 1D20 (14) vs. DC 25 (success)
So they manage to arrive in Muntburgh, the courier is dead tired, the horse stops and drops dead. I'm happy with that, it is as it should be. But don't try this at home...


  1. You might be able to simplify this and cut out a few rules if you say the horse counts as a secondary endurance pool for the rider. It's kinda like a riding skill where you can choose whether incoming damage will hit you or your horse.

    That way the courier would want to put END on his horse first so he can be in shape if he gets in a fight or has to use his skills. At some point the horse will start getting some movement penalties, so he wants to take some END on himself. Eventually it comes down to who stays conscious so he puts it all on the horse until it's about to die. Now he thinks, should I press on and probably kill this horse and have to walk, or can I afford to rest here?

    Since the horse recovers END at the same time the rider does, having a horse not only increases your speed and max distance, but your END recovery for the man-horse team.

    Similarly, if you have a wagon with a load that requires 4 horses, if you put on more horses you get a greater END pool and faster END recovery for the wagon team than if you just had 4.

  2. This would also let a courier who had the ability to change horses really travel for a long time before his END started getting hit. Except that his personal actions like skill tests and fighting would NOT be transferable to the horse, so he would eventually need to rest.

    How about extra penalties for bad weather, lack of food and water? Maybe just "if conditions are bad, double END usage, but if conditions are really terrible double it again". Stuff like armies not marching because the weather really sucks, or being stuck in an area in the winter and suffering casualties even though they aren't doing anything.