[Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

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[Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by Havard »

I've been thinking about how "Wilderness" encompasses a lot of different environments and how each presents different challenges and situations where rules might be handy.

The Isle of Dread elaborates a bit on oversea travel and some of this can be used here.

Rivers of course can be little more than narrow streams or wide as the Amazon River.

Adventures can involve travelling on river boats along the river, or perhaps simply involve a single encounter crossing a river via a bridge or ford or even swimming across.

Enemies attacking a river boat or people crossing a river can be sea monsters, flying creatures, enemy river boats (pirates, humanoids etc) or creatures attacking from the shore.

Many Merchants prefer transporting their goods along rivers instead of overland. This is usually faster and often probably also safer.
Riverboats usually do not travel by night and will need to dock before it gets dark. Navigating in darkness can be dangerous as they can hit rocks, riverbanks etc. While docked for the night, this is when the riverboat will be in the most need of guards (ie adventurers). Certain spots are probably popular for docking and in some places there might even be simple wharfs constructed where river boats frequently dock even outside cities and towns. These spots will likely be known to bandits, humanoids and other hostile creatures.

Riverboats are typically a safe method of travel, but they can run into ground, get damaged from rocks or attacks. People can also fall overboard. Wearing armor, especially metal armor is not recommended unless you have a ring of water breathing or similar magic.

Some rivers can be crossed by wading across or swimming. Most D&D characters are assumed to be able to swim. I would normally require a Dex check or General Skill roll if the situation is challenging (powerful streams, swimming while attacked etc). Swimming while wearing metal armor is impossible. Even with leather armor or other equipment it will be difficult.

Horses and mounts can usually swim across, but probably not with a rider or otherwise encumbered.

Bridges and Fords are usually found along commong merchant routes. As such they will also be known to bandits and monsters. These are places where the PCs can be attacked. Older bridges can also be dangerous if you want to add tension there.

Have your campaigns involved crossing rivers or travelled on river boats? What type of encounters did you have? Did you feel like you had to introduce additional rules for this environment? What sort of monsters would you use in a River encounter?


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Re: [Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by agathokles »

There are several fords in B10, with encounters. Also, I remember at least one adventure in Dungeon Magazine that took place on one of Karameikos' main rivers.


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Re: [Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by zontoxira »

River towns and other similar settlements could be interesting, serving as hubs or adventure sites by themselves.
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Re: [Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by shesheyan »

In my adaptation of Temple of the Frog the PCs did a long stretch of travel in the swamp on a river boat. There were several encounters against water creatures. A small island in the middle of the river was the lair of water bandits exacting illegal passage taxes. I added a settlement with houses on high pole structures linked by suspended walkways.

The river itself is dangerous. Falls, rapids, hidden floating trees, current traps, sink holes. Characters might have to carry the boat on land for a portion of the river to avoid a dangerous stretch.

Deliverance, the movie, is the best example of a river adventure. The original 1972 version with John Voight and Burt Reynolds.

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Re: [Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by maddog »

The first section of X4, Master of the Desert Nomads is a river adventure. I tend to use it as a template when I have a river adventure in other modules.
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Re: [Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by Mike »

Fun topic, I love rivers in the wilderness because you can do so much with them. Normally I just ad-lib but a table makes it easy to enumerate ideas, so...

CROSSING: A river may not have a good ford for quite some distance. Nearest good ford is in the next wilderness hex upstream and/or downstream. If you insist on crossing here, roll 1d12:
1. cliff or abrupt bank, no easy access to water. You could jump in (10-60 feet) but no way to get out.
2. steep bank or shale, you cannot approach without sliding into the water, and no way to get back out
3. thick foliage/briars and marshy ground. Animals may lair within thicket. You will need an hour to find your way through, 4x if you have horses, impossible with wagons.
4. slot canyon so narrow and slippery you can't even see the water without risking falling in
5. water is extremely deep, no way across except to swim. Swimming in current will sweep you downstream.
6. water is rough: whitewater, eddies, strong currents, undertow, waterfall, save vs death or drown
7. strong current and deep water will sweep you against rocks, 2d6 damage
8. river floor is very slippery slimy mossy rocks, almost impossible to keep footing, DEX roll each round or fall, 1d4 damage and be swept downstream
9. area is full of leeches / catfish / piranhas / crocodiles / hippos / giant crayfish / mosquitos / stirges / snakes / freshwater clams / etc. Don't neglect the idea of fire ants or bees nests in the trees around the river, those will ruin your day.
10. river is very wide here, twice as many rounds to cross it.
11. river is choked with boulders/logs, extremely difficult terrain. 2-12 hours to climb across, save vs death or lose grip and plunge into the water
12. multiple hazards. Roll twice more on this table. Multiple 12's stack. Multiple results increase effect.
Creek: 1-6 rounds to cross, Small River: 2-12 rounds to cross, Large River: 20-120 rounds to cross and requires swimming/rafting.

I took a trip to the Amazon basin once (Cuyabeno / Ecuador). The water was opaque like chocolate milk and very deep at all times with a steady current. I have no doubt there were large fish in there but you couldn't see them. It was a small river, only maybe 50-100 feet across where we were, but very deep. The guide said the piranhas will only attack if they haven't caught any monkeys lately or if you're bleeding. Caymans are always a danger and lurk along the banks hidden by overhanging trees. The trees are full of dangerous insects and it's best not to touch them unless you know what you're doing. Anacondas were often coiled around tree roots near the water's edge. Tarantulas and worse spiders were omnipresent. Once a tarantula fell into our boat when we were close to the shore and hid itself among the clutter, freaking everyone out (but not enough to capsize). In many places the river has flooded the forest for a hundred feet past the apparent "edge" of the river, so you'd have to wade through a cayman-infested swamp with very thick foliage just to reach the dry land. The guides took us swimming but only in the middle of a large deep lagoon a thousand feet from the shore, because the dangerous fauna was mostly in the shallow water near the trees. They said the lagoon was especially dangerous because there were no monkeys for the fish and caymans to eat, so they were always hungry and aggressive. Of course in D&D there would be sea serpents and stuff in the water, and dragons flying overhead, and lizardmen throwing spears from the trees. (And in the forest you have cover to hide you, but on the water you are a sitting duck, exposed for all to see and no way to quickly get to shelter.)

Rivers in the USA have their own hazards, which is what I based the d12 table on above.

Also, +1 for Deliverance!

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Re: [Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by Mike »

I'd also like to add the converse: rivers make great "highways" to explore the wilderness, and a riverboat makes a wonderful "mobile base" for the PCs. In the known world I've GMed a lot riverboat travel with few hazards other than the usual random encounter checks. Lots of hazards turn rivers into an obstacle to be avoided, but ordinary hazards make them attractive.

Benefits of river travel are, as mentioned, a mobile base. You can carry lots of supplies and bring men at arms. You can carry your loot back out. The boating rules in the Expert book are simple and lots of fun, and players have fun hiring crews and marines. A mounted catapult gives mid level parties a fighting chance against big monsters. There are unique river encounters like termites and pirates that you don't normally get to use, so it's a nice change of pace. River adventures are a good choice if you want to focus less on logistics. In my experience players really enjoy running their own boat, it's a crowd pleaser.

Another benefit of river travel: it is linear! You can predict exactly where players may go, and can plan interesting encounters. It is a lot like a dungeon crawl in that regard. On foot players can go literally anywhere, but a river constrains them; even moreso if they have sunk a lot of cash into riverboats and crew. They'll go ashore but won't stray too far. Civilization tends to cluster along rivers first, so the shores are where they are most likely to find towns, castles, old ruins, and similar things. No worries about wandering the wrong direction in the forest, there's no way to miss an old ruin on a cliff overlooking the river. A river in a place like Karamiekos or Darokin is also where you're most likely to meet merchants and other travelers, whether on boats or hoofing it along the banks... roads and trails often follow rivers. And where there are travelers, there are bandits preying on the travelers. Everything is simplified and concentrated, but in a believable way.

So, you don't have to make rivers super-challenging to have fun with them.

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Re: [Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

Post by Cthulhudrew »

maddog wrote:
Fri Jul 31, 2020 2:33 am
The first section of X4, Master of the Desert Nomads is a river adventure. I tend to use it as a template when I have a river adventure in other modules.
Beat me to it. This is the iconic river adventure in my mind. I seem to recall that it even includes some additional mechanics for handling some riverine events, though I could be mistaken.
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