Acid Sands

Acid Sands

Yes, it’s actual content! A hazard for Earth Delta. (I told you it’s not dead, just pining for the fjords.)


Acid Sands

There are many places in Earth Delta where caustic chemical wastes and industrial metamaterials have combined to form pits of ultra-fine particles that in a corrosive suspension. These hazards often merge imperceptibly with the surrounding landscape, and are avoided by the local natives and wildlife (well, those who don’t avoid them tend to suffer the consequences…)

Acid Sands may be as small as a single square or cover an area 20 or more squares on a side. Large patches are rarely perfectly regular, and often have “solid” areas within them and/or wider and narrower regions.

A DC 22 Nature check or DC 30 Perception check is needed to identify a region of acid sands before someone has actually entered it; once tipped off to the existence of the hazard, the DCs to identify which squares within 5 squares of the observer are acidic drop to Nature 15, Perception 22.

Any non-flying creature entering acid sands is slowed and takes 2d6+5 acid damage. (See below for exceptions.)

Any creature starting their turn in acid sands takes 2d6+5 acid damage, and must make a DC 15 Athletics check as a free action or become immobilized. On the second turn of being immobilized, they become restrained. On the third turn, they are submerged in the acid, and begin to drown, but unless they have acid resistance, it’s likely the acid will kill them first. They can continue to make Athletics checks; once they succeed, they can move normally (albeit slowed) until they fail the check again (at which point, the cycle begins anew) or they leave the pit.

Anyone who can reach a trapped character (with a rope, branch, arm, etc) can try to pull them out as a standard action. The is a DC 15 Athletics check, or DC 22 if the trapped character is carrying more than a normal load. (This assumes the trapped creature is willing to grab the proffered branch, has a free limb to do so with, etc.) A creature who has sunk below the surface cannot be easily rescued in this manner. (They are considered to have total concealment, and vice-versa; DMs should consider the various mechanics and options which can negate such concealment and take them into account if players devise cunning plans, as they are wont to do.)

Characters who do not make ground contact (robots with hovering capacity, some types of mutants, etc.) can move freely across acid sands. Creatures who can walk on liquid, but who still make contact with it, take half damage but do not sink. Flying creatures suffer no particular penalties, unless they cannot hover, or are knocked into the sands while not flying, etc. If immobilized in the sands, they cannot fly out; if not immobilized, though, they are also not slowed, though they do take damage from the acid. (At the DMs discretion, creatures whose flight cannot be physically restrained, such as those who fly via telekinesis or anti-gravity, may be able to avoid being immobilized, or they may get a bonus on the Athletics check to break free.)

Any creature who takes more than 20 points of acid damage from the pits in an encounter has the bonus from their armor reduced by 2 (but not to less than 0) until an extended rest. Any creature taking more than 40 points of acid damage in an encounter has the bonus from their armor reduced by 2 until an Easy Technology check at the level of the armor is made during an extended rest.

The acid sands described above are a level 15 hazard. DMs can adjust the DCs and damage upwards or downwards as needed.


Design Notes: It occurs to me that a true Bastard DM could increase the damage by 1d6 after the character is restrained, and again after they’ve sunk into the pit, to reflect the greater exposure.

An interesting scenario using this hazard could be to place an artillery type monster (possibly an industrial robot which is immune to acid, or which is somehow supported above it, or on a rocky outcropping, or whatever) in the center of it, making it harder for the party’s melee types to close with it. This hazard also lends itself to any place with dangerous catwalks, or to mutant creatures or sapient beings with good forced-movement powers.

On a more meta-rules noted, this is a good example of what I consider to be the right balance of explicit rules and player creativity. (Well, obviously, if I considered it to be wrong, I’d just keep editing it…) To my mind, simply saying, “It’s acid quicksand.” and leaving the DM to decide what the effects might be puts too much burden on the DM to come up with rules on the fly and have them be consistent from week to week — nothing is worse[1] than having the laws of the universe change because the DM has a bad case of CRS. (“Can’t remember shit.”). On the other hand, it’s not possible to list every conceivable combination of abilities and situational modifiers. What I’ve tried to do is address the basic “physics” of the hazard (You get in it, you corrode and sink) and the most common and obvious questions and countermeasures (you can hover over it, you can fly over it, flying creatures who are forced into it will be gummed up, you can pull someone out, etc.). Now, it’s pretty likely any DM worthy of the screen could reach most of these conclusions on their own, but why make him do extra work when it’s the designer’s job to solve these problems for him? Even simple things like “OK, you want to pull him out… uhm… how hard should that be?” are things the DM should not need to waste time solving at the table. Given the data points provided, though, as well as gently nudging the DM towards what factors he should consider when making judgment calls (such as encumbrance level and whether you’re above/below the surface and visible to others), the amount of at-the-table work the DM needs to do ought to be minimized.

[1]Well, OK, being eaten alive from the inside by rabid weasels is probably worse. But it’s a close call.

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One Response to Acid Sands

  1. This would make a nice encounter with those tar creatures you posted earlier. The reduction in AC is a great touch and adds a little bit more presence to extended rests (it reminds the players that their characters are doing stuff during this time – i.e. repairing their armor and maintaining their weapons).l

    I agree about the balance between player creativity and explicit rules. As a DM I like it when everyone at the table agrees about the basics of the game (I hate arguing about what a spell can and cannot do, or how a class feature affects the game) and I don’t have to come up with rules adjudications every few minutes. That said, I also love it when my players surprise me and I need the rules to be flexible enough so that they don’t stand in the way of a clever plan. Helping another player out of a terrain hazard is one of those things that comes up again and again with my players – It’s nice to see you covered that base with this.

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