I can’t seem to find anything in the book about suggestions for handling environmental hazards.

I can’t seem to find anything in the book about suggestions for handling environmental hazards.

I can’t seem to find anything in the book about suggestions for handling environmental hazards. I first started thinking of it when I was thinking about a green dragon. A green dragon would breathe a cloud of poison gas that would stick around for a while. A similar thing could apply to a red dragon though. It could set the ground on fire. It could also set characters on fire. Black dragons acid would have similar ongoing harmful effects.

What are some good ways to handle these environmental hazards—especially when they’re applied directly to a character like being on fire or covered in acid?

Not running through a field of flames is obviously defy danger.

Standing in a room filled with poison gas would be defy danger to hold your breath, but how frequently should they be rolling it?

How frequently should a player on fire take damage? Each time they do something other than successfully put out the flames?

What about a building on fire collapsing around the players?

10 thoughts on “I can’t seem to find anything in the book about suggestions for handling environmental hazards.”

  1. My thoughts on this would be go with defy danger in all of the case above, but only roll once and then go with the roll result and the fiction that comes from the roll. DW is not a ‘roll lots of time game until players fail and get punished’ type game or system. What is more fun, rolling once to pass through a cloud of poison gas, going with the fiction that comes from the roll, or saying “Ok roll defy danger (CON) for every x second your in the cloud, 7-9 take damage, 6 pass out, over come by the fumes, take damage”

  2. Poisonous gas or smoke could have other ramifications as well as damage – obscuring vision, hiding an enemy ambush, bringing on a coughing fit (causing no damage, but making noise and leaving them vulnerable.) You can always offer these options to the player and ask: “OK, your lungs are on fire, but you’re still standing. Do you want to brave the gas and press the assault, or find fresh air while you’re still standing?”

    I’d say defy danger if the players insist on staying in the danger (to attack or whatever.) If they’re actively looking for a way out, how about discern realities? For example, some kind of vent leading to fresh air might be “useful or valuable” if the room is filled with gas.

  3. Noel O’Connor I understand that. The cloud isn’t going anywhere any time soon though. It’s not just a matter of walking through it and being done. Hell, you might need to stand in it to hack and slash the dragon or it could even be filling the room. That’s what I’m talking about. Not just OK you avoid the momentary danger. You are on fire and haven’t put it out yet. You’re standing in a poison cloud holding your breath. You’re bathed in acid and haven’t washed it off.

  4. You can also feel free to just deal damage. If standing in the cloud is difficult, you can just have the players lose a d4 in HP every few minutes to show that the clock is ticking…

  5. Maybe I’ll handle the on fire or covered in acid as the result of failing to defy the danger. No immediate damage. Instead they’re now on fire. If they don’t act to put out the flames or remove the acid (possibly meaning stripping) then they take damage when they do something else because they’re ignoring the danger—otherwise they’ve succeeded and are safe.

    For the cloud maybe a defy danger to keep holding their breath if they do something that involves exertion like attacking or getting hit hard where they might get the wind knocked out of them. Otherwise they’re holding their breath as best they can for a reasonable time. Of course that makes it tough for a bard to sing, or for a cleric or wizard to cast spells. Yes, this might mean running away in order to get away from the cloud. That’s fine with me. Outside the cloud is likely to dissipate quickly but inside it will take longer.

  6. Avoiding D&D is what I’m trying to do. In D&D the dragon breathes 30 feet of fire and people take damage but miraculously nothing and no one is on fire. The green dragons cloud of chlorine gas instantly disappears after it does its damage and the black dragon’s acid is the same. It makes no sense for the fiction of the situation.

    “OK I take the damage then I keep stabbing it until I break it open and the XP and money comes out.” No.

  7. I know it sounds obscure but when it clicks you’ll know it: Stick to the fiction.

    DM: The black dragon inhales deep, it’s about to spray acid all over the ranger. Ranger what do you do?

    Ranger: My wolf runs off until I call him and I jump behind a couple of trees for cover to let the worst of it pass (DD Dex roll: 7)

    DM: You hear a mighty “Whoosh” as if a wave just passed you by, then you notice the sizzling. The trees, bushes, AIR, everything seems to be burning. You are not hurt, but you cannot move for the moment. Wizard you can see momentarily through the gasses, the ranger is in trouble, what do you do?

    Wizard: Well,  my magic shields might protect us both long enough to make our next move. I just have to get to him. I’ll find the best path and move towards him (DD Dex or Int roll: 8)

    DM: You run in amongst the gasses and your eyes begin to weep and get dry at the same time. You can make it to the ranger right now but you have to push through the pain or are you more cautious and trying to avoid injury? (No need pushing things: take my time) 

    The Wizard is nearly at the ranger when Fighter, you see the dragons head arching up over the spot where you saw the ranger take cover. What do you do?

    Fighter: Well I can’t let them have all the glory can I? I jump into the fray, shield over head to protect us from the next spout of acid.

    DM: What about the acid on the ground and the fumes in the air?

    Fighter: Desperate times. I’m pushing through (DD CON roll: 7 then Defend 10. takes damage, 8,  but gets there in time to protect)

    GM: Just as the dragon lets out another gust of devastating acid the fighter throws his shield up and the wizard fortifies it with magic. Around the three of you the ground turns into a pool of acid and you are standing on the only island of safety, until the edges start to creep in. What do you do?

    Just keep it interesting. Is it interesting for a player to catch fire and die for no reason other than wrong place wrong time? Not really. Is it interesting for a player to catch fire because he has foreseen that the ranger will play a part in the events to come? Maybe.

    It’s good that you are not thinking in terms of a 30ft radius and 1 time damage of 50hp. Bring it to the next level and use the fact that the forrest is burning to spotlight certain dangers at certain times. Of course the acid is still burning their lungs, of course it is still hard to see, but right now, that pool of acid is all that matters.

    Long post, but I had fun 🙂

  8. Sounds like you have the idea to me 🙂 As Alberto Muti suggested, a custom move might be in order for breathing/fighting in smoke. Something like:

    When you attempt to act (move, fight, talk) in the dragon’s smoke, roll +CON. On a 10+, pick 2. On a 7-9, pick 1:

    You can see OK

    You can breathe OK

    The enemy can’t see you.

    EDIT: Matt Smith has it!

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