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[Adventuring Hazards]

Copyright © 2001 by Robert J. Hall and Kevin Wiley

Return to Fantasy HERO®

Until agricultural civilization arose humans by necessity had to survive by their wits in the harsh and merciless outdoor environment. Knowledge of the elements and terrain hazards were essential for the wandering tribes. Even disregarding the presence of predators, the outdoors presents a variety of dangers that can create a challenge for the members of any small group.

Characters with suitable survival skills will have the opportunity to detect and avoid outdoor hazards. Suitable Knowledge Skills (KS) will supplement the Survival skill in specific conditions. Nature effects act with SPD 2 unless otherwise noted.

I. Freezing Conditions

Survival in cold, wintry conditions is especially demanding for a character, requiring warm, layered clothing to cover exposed skin, larger food portions to handle the higher metabolic requirements, and bulky survival gear. KS: Artic Survival and KS: Mountaineering are very useful under these conditions for trip planning, building shelters, finding food, and handling various difficulties.

Cold conditions will reduce a characters efficiency when performing any tasks, including planning or other mental activities. The primary impetus of a character will be to get warm, and it requires an act of will to perform any other activities. The flow of blood in the body will slow, making the character sleepy and less effective.

Extended exposure to low temperatures tends to drain a person's resources. In champions terms, perhaps the best way to look at it is that everyone without the proper life support has a Susceptibility to that environment. For example, cold exposure results in 1d6 DEX Drain per 5 hours for temperatures below 50 degrees F; recover 5 per day unless warmed up. Every 10 degrees below the start temperature moves the damage interval time chart. Every 2 points a survival skill roll is made by moves it up on the time chart. Spending 1 on activity per phase will also move it one up the time chart. Protective gear or clothing (or lack of it) will change the starting temperature based on the level of protection or hindrance. Thus a winter coat will change the starting temperature to -30 degrees.

It will inevitably take longer to perform any activities in wintry conditions, including erecting shelter, breaking camp, hunting for food and firewood, melting drinking water, etc. Travel across snow or ice-covered terrain will also reduce progress considerably, especially if the correct travel gear is not available. Finally, more bulky survival gear must be carried in these conditions, which in turn increases the amount of food that must be consumed. As a result, an adventuring party will be heavily burdened and have a much slower rate of travel in winter weather.

Running is most effected by snow on the ground, doing 2xEND and 1/2d6 Suppress. The Suppress doubles for each foot of snow. The suppress is canceled by snowshoes, but they half running. Skis (cross country) would cancel both 2x END and suppress running without penalty but require a transport familiarity.

The size of the character will also have an effect on their ability to cope with the cold. Smaller beings will be at a disadvantage in these conditions, as they tend to lose heat faster. Likewise, large beings will be more effective.

Night time can be especially severe in cold conditions, as the traveller is no longer generating heat by moving about. It is important to find warm shelter at night, either by erecting a tent, building a snow shelter, finding a cave, or staying in a building. Low ground, such as ravines, creek beds, or gulleys, are poor locations to rest as they tend to collect cold air. A fire will help to maintain body heat, as will a sturdy wind break. Neverthless, warm blankets are almost a requirement to prevent chill to the body.


Frostbite is caused when bare skin is exposed to freezing temperatures for more than a few minutes. Blowing winds contribute to this condition by increasing the rate of heat loss. Other exascerbating factors include dehydration and high altitude. The cold causes blood vessels beneath the skin to constrict and the flesh grows chilled, resulting in a numbing sensation. As exposure continues, the skin turns a shade of white and the flesh begins to wither. This condition can result in loss of body tissue, especially on the hands, feet, and exposed facial areas.

Frostbite does 1d6 EB NND (Protective Garb, Heat Source, or Immune to Cold) with BODY once every hour starting at 30 degrees Fahrenheit.


A more severe condition is Hypothermia, created by a chilling of the internal organs. This occurs when conditions cause the body to lose heat faster than it can be replaced. Hypothermia is usually caused by heavy exertion in cold, windy conditions, or immersion in cold water. Smaller beings are especially vulnerable to Hypothermia because they tend to lose heat faster. A Hypothermia victim will suffer a steady decrease in the physical and mental abilities. Eventually he will fall into a deep coma, followed by death. Victims in the water will begin to drown immediately upon losing consciousness.

Hypothermia inflicts 1d6 STUN, BODY, and SPD Drain per 5 hours starting at 50 degrees F. In water the starting temperature is raised by 30 degrees, but this effect is cancelled by a wet suit.


Smooth, icy surfaces, such as a frozen lake, can become exceedingly slippery and require cautious movement to traverse safely. Cleats on the bottom of the shoes, or the use of a cane or staff will help to reduce slides on the ice. A wider footprint, such as a pair of snow shoes, will also increase traction.

Steady exposure to freezing winds can lead to eye injuries. The eye lashes can freeze together, blocking sight and requiring warm fingers to melt. The cold can also freeze the cornea, an unpleasant condition that can cause permanent eye injuries.

Wind chill can rob a body of warmth even under relatively mild conditions. Use the adjusted wind chill temperature to determine the effects of cold on characters that are exposed. The winds also do a Flash to Sight, Gradual Effect (1 Hour), 7- Activation.

Metallic objects make excellent conductors, so they can freeze wet skin on contact. Removing the frozen skin must be performed carefully using warm water, or the flesh can tear. These wounds typically cause only limited damage, but can be quite painful.

Contact with an icy metal surface is a 1-pip HKA with x2 STUN.


Whiteouts occur when snow or heavy clouds descend upon an open, snow-covered landscape, making it almost impossible to navigate. In these conditions it is easy to miss abrupt drop-offs, or to lose ones balance and fall down a slope. When a whiteout occurs, a significant penalty should be applied to any navigation skill rolls.

A whiteout results in a Darkness to Sight.

Trench Foot

Slush is produced when water and ice are mixed together, usually as a result of a partial thaw. Prolonged exposure of the feet to these cold, wet conditions due to inadequate or missing footwear, can lead to Trench Foot. The skin around the exposed foot becomes numb and reddened from the cold, eventually producing tingling pain and turning pale. Severe Trench Foot can result after exposure for more than six hours, resulting in partial or complete loss of the foot.

Trench foot results in 1d6 Energy Blast vs. PD, NND (Protective Garb, Heat Source, or Immune to Cold), Gradual Effect (5 Hours), Target Feet.


Massive snow slides, called Avalanches, will normally occur on open mountain slopes, especially on the leeward side. Slides of powdered snow are known as dry avalanches. Later in the season when some melting has occured, the slides become wet avalances. These slides begin with either a smaller slide of loose snow, or from an unanchored slab of icy snow that breaks loose. As the Avalanche tumbles down the mountain side, the slide accumulates considerable mass from unconsolidated snow, especially near the midslope.

The Avalanche danger is highest within a day or two of heavy weather, or following a sudden thaw. Those seeking to avoid Avalanche danger will travel along the ridge tops or through heavily wooded areas. Open slopes, especially near the release zone, should be detoured completely.

Victims caught beneath an Avalanche may suffer impact injuries from collisions. They also need to be concerned about asphyxia, as their air supply can be cut off by the deep snow layer. If a pocket of air can be created before the snow stops moving, the victim will then need to worry about hypothermia and shock. He will need to be rescued, or quickly dig his own way out, if there is to be any hope for survival.

In the area of the slide, an Avalanche does a 3d6 Entangle which stops Sight and Sound groups. This is linked to a 3d6 PD Energy Blast.


Travellers crossing crossing snow-covered terrain on a clear, sunny terrain have another hazard to worry about - snow-blindness. This is caused when the ultraviolet radiation from the sun is reflected from the snow fields, causing sunburn on the cornea and inner eyelids. Snow-blindness can occur even in conditions of light fog or mist.

As snow-blindness is gradually incurred, the eyes of the victim will grow irritated, accompanied by excessive tear flow. Eventually, the vision will grow blurred, and the victim will be very light sensitive. Painting dark stripes below the eyes, or wearing protective goggles, will serve to reduce the risk. It requires nearly a week to recover from snow-blindness.

Snow-Blindness does 3d6 Drain to Sight Group, Gradual Effect (5 Hours), -5 Penalty to Navigation Skill.

Crossing Ice

Attempting to cross Ice-Covered lakes or rivers is a very hazardous undertaking. Any water beneath the ice will be bitterly cold and will quickly induce hypothermia in anybody who falls through a crack. Concentrations of weight can weaken the ice and cause it to break, so party members that stand close together are at greater risk. At least 0.1m of ice is required for a safe crossing.

Movement across ice is normal, but a successful breakfall roll is required to avoid slipping. The roll is penalized by 1 per 2" running. Running also has a turn mode on ice, and DCV takes a -2 penalty with -1d6 knockback. Suitable foot gear, such as cleats or ice skates, will reduce the effects of these penalties.

The safest bodily position on an ice lake is to be laid flat on the belly with limbs spread. This increases the contact area, thus reducing the pressure on the ice. Lying prone in this manner is also the best position from which to attempt a rescue of somebody who has fallen through the surface.

An ice covering will be thickest on the downwind side and along the shoreline of the water body, where snow has had an opportunity to accumulate and form thicker ice. Ice will be thinner near the center; along constricted areas of stronger current flow; or next to protrusions that can absorb heat and melt the nearby ice. Conditions on an icy surface can also change during the course of a day, so a safe crossing in the morning can turn dangerous by the afternoon.


Icebergs are large floating masses of ice that are created by ice packs and glacial flows in the cold, polar regions. During climatic changes, the ice breaks up and floats outward into the oceans. Strong currents can carry these masses considerable distances before they finally melt. Icebergs are a hazard to most ships, as ninety percent of their mass lies hidden below the waterline, making them difficult to sight in the large ocean swells. Thus a vessel could avoid the surface float and still strike the underwater body.


Blizzards are dangerous winter storms that combine strong winds with heavy snow fall, making travel nearly impossible and causing frostbite and hypothermia to unprotected individuals and beasts. Wind speeds are at least 35 mph with temperatures below 20 degrees Farenheit. Severe blizzards have winds over 45 mph with temperatures below 10 degrees.

The blowing snow introduces a high negative penalty to any navigation attempts and severely limits the range of vision. Deep snow drifts created by the strong winds will slow movement considerably. The best protection against a blizzard is to find a shelter and hole up until the storm blows over.

In the aftermath of a storm, a very strong wind can sometimes pick up loose snow, creating blizzard-like conditions. These ground blizzards can occur even when the sun is shining. Accumulations of ice following the storm can also bring down trees and hanging wires or cables.

In addition to freezing effects from wind chill, a blizzard wind is a 10 STR Telekinesis, Effects All Parts of Target, Only in Direction of Wind, Continuous.

Cryogenic Liquids

Gases cooled sufficiently can become cryogenic liquids. These can often flow even faster than water, readily penetrating porous clothing such as cotton or wool. Even brief exposure to these bitterly cold liquids can produce severe damage to the flesh, leaving the skin blistered and causing damage to the eyes. Longer exposure will freeze flesh and cause materials to become as brittle as crystal. In addition, some gases vented from the liquids can be explosive or cause asphyxia when used in poorly ventilated areas.

Contact with cryogenic liquid does 3d6 HKA, NND (Protective Garb or Immune to Cold, Does BODY), Continuous.

II. Hot Conditions

Conditions of extreme heat can be as dangerous as bitter cold to a character. KS: Desert Survival is a useful skill under these conditions for trip planning, finding water and food, managing water loss, finding shelter, and avoiding desert hazards such as mirages and wadi.

The primary effect of heat on characters that are not acclimated to the conditions is a reduction in overall strength. It can require from two days to a week before the body becomes accustomed to the higher temperatures. Unless the individual is acclimated to the climate, loose white garb should be worn to cover any exposed skin and to reflect the daytime heat. Smaller creatures are at a disadvantage under hot conditions as their body will tend to gain heat faster.

Extended exposure to high temperatures tends to drain a person's resources. In champions terms, perhaps the best way to look at it is that everyone without the proper life support has a Susceptibility to that environment. Heat exposure results in 1d6 Drain END once per day, for temperatures above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Every 30 degrees over the start temp moves the damage interval down one on the time chart. Every 2 points a survival skill roll is made by moves it up on the time chart. Protective gear or clothing (or lack of it) will change both the starting temperature, and the temperature change rate, based on the level of protection or hindrance. Thus Desert wear will lower the effective temperature by 20 degrees.

Beyond about 35 degrees centigrade, cooling by evaporation is the only means to prevent tmperatures from building up within a traveller. Thus more liquids will need to be consumed. Travellers in hot weather will lose water and salts at a higher rate, so they will need constant replentishment in order to avoid succumbing to the elements. Alcohol is not a good source of liquid refreshment on a hot, dry day, and can even be dangerous as they cause dehydration.

Conditions of extreme temperature and humidity are very risky, as sweating will no longer help to cool the body. In these extremes, especially in direct sunlight between 10am and 2pm, there is a much higher risk of heat illnesses.


Excessive exposure of unpigmented skin to the harsher ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays from the sun will eventually lead to sunburn and blistering. Sunburnt skin will lose the ability to stretch and can fail to allow the escape of excess heat through sweating. Sunburns will make wearing any type of garb on the burnt area a painful experience. Punctures to the blisters can also result in infection.

The exposure risk to sunburn is greatly increased at mid day and at the lower latitudes. Exposure to this radiation is actually dependent on the amount of sky visible, as UV-B is bounced around in the atmosphere. Hence, finding shade under a tree is no guarantee of protection from sunburn. Water or ice will also reflect much of this radiation, which can more than double the risk of sunburn on even a cloudy day! Greater altitude will also increase the exposure to UV-B at a rate of roughly 3% for every 300 meters in elevation.

Sunburn causes 1d6 STUN Drain, Continuous, Gradual Effect (5 per day), Recover 5/week, Only versus unprotected and untanned flesh.

After a few days the burned skin will begin to peel off and the condition will alleviate itself. Regular exposure to the sun will tan the skin, and significantly reduce the incidence of sunburn. Heavier skin pigmentation will reduce or eliminate the occurance of sunburn.

Lifetime exposure to UV-B radiation can lead to cataracts and age-related near sightedness. UV-B exposure also increases the risk of skin cancer and weakens the immune system.

Heat Illnesses

Heat cramps are painful spasms of the muscles in the legs, arms, and abdomen that usually occur during exertion in hot conditions. They are caused primarily by the loss of salt through heavy sweating. Rest and salty water will usually serve to remedy this problem. Untreated heat cramps will lead to heat exhaustion.

Heat cramps inflict 1d6 STUN Drain per 5 hours starting at 90 degrees Farenheit, with lack of suitable fluid replacements.

Prolonged exposure to hot conditions requires the bodily fluids and salts to be replaced. Up to eight liters of water per day may be required while working in hot, dry conditions, but a minimum of two liters is a must. Failure to consume sufficient liquids can result in the condition known as heat exhaustion. This will result in an overall weakness of the body, along with confusion, irritability, dizzyness, cramps, clammy skin, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. Unless treated by rest, shade, water, and salt, this condition can further escalate into heat stroke.

Heat exhaustion inflicts 1d6 STR, DEX, and END Drain per 5 hours starting at 100 degrees Farenheit, with lack of suitable fluid replacements.

Heat stroke is a critical problem for creatures that are not adapted to heat. Unable to regulate the bodily temperature due to loss of fluids and salts, the victim develops a high fever with hot, dry skin. In addition to the symptoms of Heat Illness, other problems develop, including increased heat rate and shallow breathing. The mind and body will begin to deteriorate rapidly, resulting in confusion and physical collapse. If not treated quickly, this problem will continue to grow worse, and can cause death or permanent injury to the internal organs. (Especially the kidneys, heart, or liver.) Emergency treatment consists of cooling the body, and rehydration via whatever drinks are available.

Heat stroke inflicts 1d6 BODY Drain per 5 hours starting at 110 degrees Farenheit, with lack of suitable fluid replacements.


Mild burns occur when the flesh is exposed to heat sufficient to singe the skin, leaving it red and blistering. More severe burns will leave the flesh blackened, and cause injuries to underlying muscles, nerves, and bones. Should the victim survive these burns, they can still leave him crippled or scarred for life.

Severe burns inflict 3d6 HKA, NND (Protective Garb or Immune to Heat, Does BODY)

Flesh burns can also be inflicted by hot surfaces, such as a stove or oven pot; by boiling fluids; and by certain chemicals such as acids and alkalines. Pots of boiling oil and lead can be poured over the sides of besieged castles, causing nasty burns on the attackers below.

Fire and Smoke

In a medieval setting, with plentiful wood and almost no practical fire fighting ability beyond the bucket brigade, the threat of a spreading fire is an ever-present hazard. Within crowded cities, the fire from a burning building can quickly spread and become an all-consuming conflagration. As the heat builds, less conbustible materials will begin to ignite. Air will be drawn into the burning area, feeding the flames and creating a strong draft. Strong winds can further accelerate the fire, causing it to spread in the direction of the air and to carry across gaps.

Effect of a major fire is 3d6 HKA, Explosion, Area EFfect (Combined with explosive effect), NND (Immune to heat or protective garb), 1/2 effect if doused, Sticky versus combustible materials.

In addition to the material damage, the fire will release carbon dioxide and consume much of the oxygen, leading to unconsciousness from asphyxia. Open flames will quickly burn flesh and most dry garments. Choking clouds of smoke can also be produced that will burn the lungs and respiratory passage. Depending on the types of materials being consumed, fine soot particles and toxic materials will be carried by the smoke, increasing the lethality of the cloud.

The drowning rules can be used to model asphyxiation from a choking cloud of smoke.

To escape from a fire, the victim will need to stay close to the ground as the heated air will rise to the ceiling. Wet clothing and cloths across the mouth and nose will help alleviate the effects of heat and smoke. Any nearby water bodies can also be used to escape the flames. However, if the water surface is coated in oil, a swimmer could find himself trapped beneath a burning inferno.

In hot, dry conditions, grasslands can prove very combustible and fires can spread quickly with any kind of wind. Areas of the wilds that have recently burned can still hold hot spots and ash pits that can inflict burns if stepped upon.

Fires can be particularly hazardous aboard wooden vessels, where flames have plenty of fuel to consume. This is particularly true in warm, dry conditions where there is a wind to spread the combustion. If such a fire is not quickly brought under control, it can burn a ship down to the waterline. The only option in this case is to try and get the small boats into the water, or throw overboard any barrels, chests, and other floating objects, and then quickly abandon the doomed ship.

Due to careful control of any open flames, ship fires rarely occur during peace time. Typical sources of such a fire aboard a ship are lanterns, the kitchen stove, and burning cinders for incendiaries. More often, ship fires are used as a weapon during war time. For example, an arrow or ballista bolt with a burning oil wrag attached to the tip can be launched into enemy sails, setting the sheets on fire.

Fire ships are a desperate ploy that can be used to scatter an enemy fleet. Such a burning ship can spread fire to nearby vessels as burning cinders are lifted by the smoke and carried across the open water. However, this tactic can easily backfire (so to speak) if the wind should change direction and the fire ship drifts into the owner's fleet.

Arid Regions

During the daylight in a hot desert, the sand and rock surfaces can climb to much higher temperatures than the surrounding air. This radiated heat, along with the intense sunlight, can increase the bodies need for water. Such exposure to the direct sunlight can also damage radio transmitters and other sensitive equipment. Fortunately, travel at night time when the temperature is cooler will reduce the water requirements.

Within the areas of arid conditions, there are locations where a high mineral content has built up in the earth. These include corrosive substances, such as borax, lime, salt, and alkali. Shoes and clothing in contact with these corrosives will wear out quickly. Pools of water in such locations are extremely hard and undrinkable. Even dampening the clothing in such a pool can cause a rash. Such areas of high mineral content can be readily identified by the lack of plant life. Thus there is rarely shade or shelter to be found at such sites.

Desert regions are infamous for their mirages. These optical illusions are caused when light passes through the hot air rising from the desert floor. The mirage will make objects about 1-2 kilometers away appear to move, and give the illusion that a sea of water surrounds the location. These wavering images make sighting distant landmarks very difficult, and obscure natural features that are needed for navigation.

Mirages occur in the interior of a desert away from the coast. They do not occur during the cool desert night, and can be easily negated by climbing at least 3 meters above the ground.

Geysers, Fumaroles, and Hot Springs

Upwelling springs in volcanically active regions can be heated by geological activity. Depending on the amount of heat, these springs can range from comfortably warm to almost boiling hot. At extreme temperatures, these springs can quickly cook anybody foolish enough to enter. However, short exposures to milder hot springs can be comfortable and even has some beneficial aspects. Some towns will even pipe in the warm spring water via aqueducts so as to provide heated baths.

Exposure to extreme hot springs does 2d6 HKA, NND (Immune to Heat), Area Effect (Pool), Continuous

Geysers are formed when large amounts of hot water pool in underground chambers that are further heated by geologic activity. When a portion of the water suddenly turns to steam, the mass is ejected through a hole in the ground, forming a spectacular eruption. This water is at or close to the boiling point of water, so it is hot enough to burn flesh.

Fumaroles are vents in geologically acitive regions that emit steam and other heated gases from deep underground. Typical gases emitted by a fumarole include Hydrogen Sulfide, which readily forms sulfuric adic upon reaching the surface. Most of the gases released by a volcano do not pose a significant hazard once they are dispersed away from the vent. The concentrated gases, however, can inflict some respiratory problems and fatigue.

Fumarole gas vents cause 4d6 STUN Drain, Not if Air supply or no need to breathe, Explosion, Continuous.


Volcanoes are mountainous structures that have built up over hot spots or plate boundaries deep within the earth. When sufficient pressure has built up, the buoyant magma rises up through tubes toward the surface. This molten rock will then erupt through any weaknesses it finds in the mountain crust. Depending on the temperature conditions, this eruption can take the form of a quiet lava extrusion, or an explosive eruption of lava fragments. In the later case, dense ash-laden clouds will form over the volcano. These clouds can pose a significant hazard to airborne navigation.

Airborne ash clouds create a darkness to sight effect for pilots. They also do a 1d6 pentrating RKA versus engines.

Lava temperatures typically range from 600 to 1600 degrees C. The temperature of the lava determines the viscocity, which limits the rate of flow down the mountain side. Higher temperature lava has a lower viscocity, so the flow is faster. However, most lava flows are slow enough that a man on foot can readily flee the eruption. Still, this hot, liquid rock will flow over and through any stationary objects, such as roads or buildings.

Hot lava inflicts 6d6 HKA, Area Effect (Lava flow), Continuous, Sticky, No effect after cooling.

The more extreme eruptions of volcanoes can create Pyroclastic flows. These fast-moving avalanches are created by the explosive eruption of rock fragments, or from the collapse of a lava dome. The flow consists of rock and lava fragments accompanied by a turbulent cloud of ash. Flow speeds of 80 kph are not uncommon, and maximums of 300 kph can be reached on suitable slopes. Temperature extremes of up to 600 degrees centigrade are possible within the flow. Anybody caught by the cloud will quickly die from the intense heat and asphyxiation. The rock fragments can also cause severe damage on impact, and the pyroclastic flow can blow down a building or set it aflame.

Pyroclastic flows do delayed 4d6 HKA, Area Effect, NND (Immune to heat, does BODY), continuous, linked to Darkness to Sight.

Large and dangerous flows of mud and debris can occur in the vicinity of an eruption, spreading its damage far downstream. Another hazard is the dense clouds of ash unleashed by the eruption. This can cause vision and respiratory problems, up to and including asphyxiation. The mass accumulation of ash can also lead to building structural damage or complete collapse.

Thick ash clouds do 2d6 EB versus PD, NND (Air supply or no need to breathe), Linked to Flash to Sight Group, Continuous

Volcanoes can vent gases, including water vapors, carbon dioxide, and sulfur dioxide. The CO2 is heavier than normal air, so it can collect in low-lying pockets, sometimes at lethal concentrations that can suffocate animals and people. The Sulfur Dioxide can mix with water in the atmosphere, falling as acid rain that will cause corrosion and damage vegetation.

Vented gases inflict 4d6 STUN Drain, NND (No need to Breathe), Continuous.

III. Water Travel


Falls of water occur when there is a sudden drop in elevation along a channel. Most such falls occur in young mountain ranges where the effects of erosion have not yet smoothed out the terrain, or in locations where there are significant variations in rock hardness. There are many types of waterfalls, ranging from small drops over a ledges, to great falls in height over a cliff face.

Usually a large waterfall will carve out a canyon as the water flow gradually eats away at the underlying rock over the ages. This can also leave a large pool at the base of the falls where a diver can potentially survive a great drop. However, projecting rocks and the force of the falling water provide additional hazards to the diver. The water can create strong currents that can send a swimmer to the bottom and hold him there.


Crossing a river without a bridge can be frought with danger for a lone traveller. The river bottom can be covered with loose rocks that provide treacherous footing, while strong currents can drag at the clothing. Large, sharp rocks can make the crossing hazardous should a fall occur. Once off balance in the water, currents can drag an encumbered traveller underwater to drown.

The best locations to cross a river without a bridge are usually at a ford. Such safe crossing locations can usually be spotted by the trails of herds that use the site. However, such sites are good locations for ambushing a foe or hunting meat, so the traveller will need to be wary of predators in the area. Crossing a ford at a location just upriver of a waterfall or deep channel can also prove hazardous should somebody lose their footing and be swept away.

Shallow water is not always desirable as a place to cross a river as the water can move more rapidly at these locations. Deep water will usually indicate slow moving water, making the crossing less risky. Locations where the river branches into two or three channels are usually good locations to cross, as the smaller channels are easire to cross than the main river. However, obstacles on the banks of the river will hinder travel, regardless of the crossing difficulty.

Finally, crossing a river may be less risky if pants are removed, as these provide drag for the currents. Packs can be dangerous if they can not be released quickly. Should a traveller fall into the river, the pack can drag him down with the current and make escape difficult.

Whitewater Rapids

Rapidly flowing water passing through a narrow opening will create whitewater rapids. A variety of hazards await the intrepid adventurer in these stretches, including moderate to extreme irregular waves, turbulence, constricted passages, underwater obstacles, chutes, and narrow channels. Safely maneuvering through this terrain requires experience and a knowledge of the terrain.

When a passenger is thrown from a boat in the rapids, further hazards lie in wait. Cold water will sap strength from a swimmer and lead to hypothermia. When water flows over an obstacle, it can curve back upon itself and create an upstream flow. These holes can be capable of holding even a strong swimmer in place. Strainers that allow water to pass through, such as rocks and trees, can pin a swimmer to the side. When a boat is pushed sideways against a rock, it can collapse and wrap around the obstacle. This can create a deadly trap for any remaining passengers.


When heavy rain falls over a short period of time, usually at least 2-3 centimeters per hour, the water can rise and transform streambeds into a destructive river. The flood can appear in only a short period of time, and can wash away trees, dwellings, and bridges. Even seemingly dry areas can receive flash floods as the water arrives from a remote location where rain is falling. Floods can submerge low lying buildings and make travel very difficult.

Flooding can occur due to heavy rains, snow melt, and severe weather. In severe cases, the waters from a flood can cover entire towns. In addition to the soaking by the water, and damage from the flow, heavy deposits of silt and debris can be left by the floods.

In relatively flat terrain, a wall of water can be created by the flood, producing a devastating flow. The strong currents of these floods can exhaust even a good swimmer and lead to loss of life. Only firmly anchored structures and trees can withstand the power of a surging flood of water.

Most floods occur on land that is unable to absorb a large amount of water in a short space of time. This is usually the case when an area has already received a good soaking from recent rains. Likewise, hard ground, such as rocky terrains or urban development, can cause strong floods. Flash floods can also be created by a dam break or ice jams.


A maelstrom is a significant body of water that moves in a circular motion to form a gap in the center. These water vortices are similar to the structure of a tornado in the air. The swirling water tends to draw everything caught in the vortex toward the center. Thus a small boat that slips into the rotating current will be pulled around until it is drawn into the depths. Typically maelstroms form when tidal currents collide above an uneven ocean floor.

Heavy Surf

Powerful ocean surf can pose a significant hazard, as thousands of liters of water rush toward the shore. A swimmer can be forced underwater for extended periods of time, or picked up and hurled against the shallow bottom.

Tsunami, also known as a Tidal Wave, are long, shallow ocean waves usually created by earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, or landslides along the ocean floor. (They can also be created by explosions or the impact of significant meteorites.) When the wave reaches a shallow coastline, the wave height will rapidly increase, resulting in a powerful and devastating bore of water that can carry inland hundreds of meters beyond the normal high water mark.

A Tsunami wave is often preceeded by a withdrawal of the water along the shore as the crest begins to build. The peak height of such a wave will normally range from 10 to 30 meters. The initial wave will often be followed by several smaller, but almost equally devastating waves. In addition, the pull-back from the waves can also be a powerful force that draws victims out to sea to drown.


Dangerous rip currents are formed when surf water runs out to sea along channels or reefs. These usually occur in areas of deeper water, and so may even appear safer due to smaller incoming waves. The outgoing current can carry the inexperienced swimmer out to sea, and will exhaust the victim trying to swim against the current toward land. Such fatal currents are by far the leading cause of distress among those recreating in the ocean surf.

Travelers following a beach beside a steep rock face may find themselves cut off by a high tide. These locations can become hazardous as the waves slowly rise up to crash against the cliffs.

Tidal Bore

A tidal bore occurs when the incoming tide travels up a narrow river channel and causes the water to reverse its flow. This results in an abrupt front that can have considerable size. The height of the bore depends on the strength of the river flow, the size of the channel, the weather, and the phase of the moon. The primary result is an obstacle to navigation that can upset a boat.

Navigation Hazards

These hazards to navigation can take several forms, including sand bars, submerged rocks, and coastal reefs. Shallow draft boats have less to be concerned about as their keel can usually clear obstacles that would beach or even shatter a larger vessel.

Where a river widens to meet the sea, the flowing currents meet the ocean waters and the suspended silt is gradually deposited along the bottom. Over time these sandy deposits build up to form a sand bar, posing a navigation hazard to ships passing through the waters. The sand will rise to a level where it is just below the water at high tide. Any ships that do not have a shallow draft can easily become beached on this obstacle.

Reefs are hard, sharp structures that are usually found in warm, ocean waters around a land form. In addition to being a hazard to any vessels, they can also pose a hazard to anybody walking across in bare feet. The life forms inhabiting these reefs can infect any cuts suffered from crossing their surface.

Sea Sickness

Sea sickness is a condition caused by motions that disturb the fluid in the inner ear. These motions cause problems with balance that can lead to stomach upset. The usual symptoms of sea sickness include an upset stomach, vomiting, headache, yawning, sweating, dizziness, fatigue, and loss of appetite. These problems will usually go away after a day or two, once the body has ajusted to the motions. About half of all people who go ocean sailing will develop sea sickness.


Characters run the risk of drowning whenever they enter a body of water that contains physical hazards, such as poor footing, strong currents, or no air spaces. If the character is conscious, he will need to battle the elements as well as panic in order to reach safety. Swimming in clothing, or other encumbrances, is significantly more difficult, and precious moments may need to be spared to rid these obstructions.

Victims of drowning may require aid from others in order to win free of the water. This is especially true if the victim is unconscious, or otherwise unable to signal for help. Indeed there may be splashing from the drowning victim to warn of trouble.

Deep Water Diving

The maximum useful depth that can be reached with a single breath of air is about 50 meters. A weight of some kind is needed to reach this depth. The total time underwater for an experienced diver is up to two to three minutes.

Due to water pressure on the lungs, it is impossible to use a snorkel more than a few feet in length. Diving beneath the water for extended periods of time requires the use of a breathing aparatus, such as a SCUBA tank, or some magical means to sustain the flow of oxygen.

Decompression sickness occurs when nitrogen gas bubbles out of the blood due to the diver ascending too rapidly. This occurs with the use SCUBA tanks because extra nitrogen gets into the blood at the higher pressure underwater. The bubbles can cause severe pains in the joints, occuring in spasms. These can be accompanied by abdominal pain and vomiting, dizziness, headaches. In extreme cases there is a paralysis of movement and a numbing sensation. The prelimiary symptoms begin about twenty minutes after the ascent. More severe symptoms occur after an hour. (Note that a similar malody can strike when the ascent is via a rapid ascent through an open air passage.)

Swimmers who hold their breath, rather than using a tank, will not suffer from the bends when diving from the surface. Similarly, diving animals will not suffer from this sickness. (Characters who have been breathing and dwelling in an underwater city, however, are at risk.) Decompression sickness must be treated with a recompression chamber to dissolve the nitrogen bubbles, then slowly lower the pressure.

Another hazard of rapid ascent is arterial gas embolism (AGE). This is caused when holding the breath during a rapid ascent. The air being held in the lungs expands rapidly, causing damage to the lung tissues. This allows air bubbles to directlly enter the blood stream. These tiny bubbles can obstruct the flow of blood to the brain, heart or spinal cord, often resulting in unconsciousness, paralysis, or even a stroke. Symptoms of an arterial gas embolism will usually occur within ten minutes. Treatment of AGE requires recompression in a hyperbaric chamber as quickly as possible.

SCUBA tank users may suffer from another malody, known as nitrogen narcosis. This results from high nitrogen pressure exposure to the nervous system. The symptoms are somewhat akin to having a few drinks of an alcoholic beverage. The victim will begin feeling a sense of euphoria, then becoming giddy, woozy, and unbalance. Finally the diver will drift into unconsciousness. The symptoms of nitrogen narcosis can begin at various depths for different divers, but the symptoms always increase with depth. The diver will act totally drunk, and may even perform a life-threatening actions.

IV. Ground Hazards


While a horse or other mount is suitable for travel on most types of terrain, there will come a time when the ground will need to be covered on foot. If the travellers feet are not hardened to lengthy walks across rugged terrain, then the feet may develop painful blisters. What is worse, should these blisters burst from continued wear, they can become infected.

A variety of hazards await the cross country traveller. These include injuries due to a trip, slide, or fall from a height. Such an accident is more likely on steep slopes, or while crossing unstable ground, fallen trees, rotting vegetation, various snags, obstructions, or damp, slick surfaces such as exposed stone. Such falls can be avoided by the use of good foot gear; being attentive to hazards; and experience in wilderness travel.

In arid regions, the ground can become highly disected due to the infrequent rainstorms that erode the soft ground and carve small canyons. These ravines can vary considerably in width and height, ranging from a couple of meters in size, to hundreds of meters in both height and depth. The wadi can twist and turn, intersecting other canyons to form a maze. While such terrain is excellent for finding cover, it is very easy to become lost.


The primary hazard while climbing is, naturally, that of falling. The climber may have sufficient strength and skill to scale a surface, but weather will weaken rocky obstacles, causing a limb to lose a grip. Bluffs suffer from constant erosion that can weaken the face. Climbers may dislodge a large piece of the face, posing a hazard to those below.

Highwalls are vertical cliffs. These are common features of open pit mines. They can be dangerous to climb as they are unstable and prone to collapse.

Rock Slide

Slides of rock or mud down a hillside can occur without warning, and the massive flow of debris will devastate anything in its path.


Earthquakes are sudden shakings of the earth that are caused by the shifting and cracking of the rock deep beneath the ground. These natural disasters are especially insidious because they arrive with little or no warning, and can occur almost anywhere at any time of the year. This aside, however, Earthquakes are much more likely in certain coastal zones where there is a high proportion of geologic activity. The scale of the disaster caused by the earthquake depends both on the magnitude and location of the event. The results can be disasterous, causing massive damage to infrastructure.

Most quakes are moderate in strength, causing a gentle rolling or shaking motion of the ground. More severe quakes can begin gently, then grow in strength until it can throw victims of their feet. Other quakes will strike with a sudden jarring motion. The ground will have a deep rumbling sound, accompanied by the crashing of unsecured objects to the earth.

The heavy shaking inflicted by a quake can cause objects to topple or slide about, and brittle structures to snap. Breaks in gas lines or flammable liquid containers can cause fires for periods after the earthquake has ceased. Water aqueducts can rupture and river flows change their course. Another hazard is slides of slides of loose materials along hillsides. Fine-grained soils and sands are especially vulnerable to this type of mass wasting.

Mires and Quicksand

Quicksand is formed when a body of sand becomes "liquified" through some form of aggitation. Usually this occurs when bodies of water lie near sand or loose soil. Because quicksand is denser than water, a victim caught in deep quicksand will only sink up to their chest or shoulders, unless they are wearing something bulky or carrying a backpack. The primary hazard from these deep pools is the difficulty of escape, since there is nothing solid on which to stand. The sand can also grip the shoes like mud, making escape from the pool even more difficult. Fortunately, most bodies of quicksand are only a meter or less in depth, and the majority of those are less than a centimeter deep.

If crossing a mire is necessary, travel by swimming motions is usually more effective. Standing upright and lifting the feet will usually cause the individual to sink deeper into the muck. Plant growths provide firmer footing, however, allowing better progress to be made.

Wetlands are areas of lowland that have become inundated with water, resulting in a soft mire that makes ground movement especially difficult. There are several varieties of wetlands, depending on the conditions and type of vegetation. Thus, marshes form in low-lying grasslands. By contrast, Swamps are wetlands with a growth of forest or scrubs. Bogs and Fens have a wet, spongy soil that is made from accumulations of slowly decomposing matter known as peat. Other marshy grounds can be found in coastal mud flats, or areas of bare ground that receive steady rain fall over an extended period of time.


The mass movement of herd animals in a stampede is a common escape strategy for such creatures. The large body creates confusion for the predator and makes individual members more difficult to isolate. A character caught by a stampede risks knockback from the onrushing animals, followed by trampling by the mass of hooves.


Scrambling around underground can be highly dangerous, presenting many lethal traps for even the experienced spelunker. There is the danger of a cave-in from weakened mine walls; falls down a crevasse; bad air; too narrow passages; and so on. Rescue from underground locations can be extremely difficult and require considerable manpower.

Mine shafts are vertical openings within a mine. They are the leading cause of injury and death in abandoned mines. The lack of light in the mine can make assessing the depth difficult. The edge of the shaft may be loose and hazardous, potentially breaking away when stepped upon. Shafts can be concealed by darkness, loose debris, rotten floors, and water.

Caves differ from mines in that they are formed naturally over many years. They are more stable than mines and less likely to cave in. Both caves and mines can be home to rattlesnakes, bats, bears, or mountain lions.

Bad air can build up in unventilated mines and caves. This air can cause dizziness and even unconsciousness. This bad air is both odorless and tasteless. It collects in pools in low areas, but can be stirred up by walking.

Abandoned mines can become flooded, presenting water hazards to the adventurer. The water can conceal dropoffs, dangerous edges, and similar hazards.

Salt Marshes

Salt water marshes occur in places where the land meets the sea, such as barrier islands and other low coastal areas. They frequently form on the leeward side of barrier beaches next to the ocean shore, or in river deltas downstream from brackish tidal marshes.

These areas support large numbers of insects, most of which bite. The terrain is also highly corrosive, resulting in damage to boots, cloting and exposed skin.

VI. Atmospheric Hazards

High Winds

Coastal regions have a greater chance of experiencing a severe wind. Winds stronger than about 30 knots can cause damage by flying debris.

Strong winds tend to rob the body of warmth, causing wind chill. This effect can greatly lower the effective temperature and inflict the effects of cold more rapidly than might be expected.


Storms are preceded by a darkening of the skies, increasing wind, and possibly thunder and flashes of light. Storms are typically 30 kilometers across and can reach as high as 15 kilometers. Once thunder is heard, the storm is close enough for a victim to be struck by lightning. The shock wave from thunder can occasionally damage weak structures.

Sleet is caused by rain drops that freeze in the air forming ice pellets. They bounce on impact and accumulate on the surface in a slick, icy covering.

Freezing rain occurs when the ground is at freezing but the air is warmer. The rain freezes on the surface, forming a glazed, icy surface that is hazardous to traverse.

Heavy winds during a storm can down heavy branches and even uproot vulnerable trees. This debris will slow travel along roads. Weak roof can collapse from snow loading and freeze-ups.


Tornadoes, and their waterborn cousin the Waterspout, consist of long vortex of air that can have tremendous wind speeds and prove devastating to the areas where they travel. Most tornadoes last only two to three minutes, and have an average speed of about 35 mph. However, some tornadoes are stationary while others move up to 60 mph. Occasionally an outbreak of 6-10 tornadoes will occur from the same storm.

The tornado usually begins its life as a thin vortex and gradually grows wider and stronger. The air is sucked into the tornado by the updraft of the storm above. However, most victims are not blown upward by the tornado, but are instead blown sideways by the winds. As the air rushes past, it can create a sound like a train, a jet, or even a swarm of bees.

  F0 - 40-72mph - light damage - break branches
  F1 - 73-112mph - moderate damage; hurricane wind speed
  F2 - 113-157mph - considerable damage - uproot large trees
  F3 - 158-206mph - severe damage - throw heavy cars
  F4 - 207-260mph - devastating - houses leveled
  F5 - 261-318mph - incredible - houses lifted into air

For safety, victims can find shelter in an underground cave or lie down in a ditch.


Dense fog will reduce visibility down to 0.4 kilometers or less. This is usually only a hazard in a modern society where visibility is required for driving vehicles, such as cars, ships, and aircraft. It will also make navigation very difficult.

Dust Storm

Typically it is in desert regions where such storms are frequently experienced. Wind speeds can start slow but reach gale force by early afternoon. The worst sand storms can leave sand drifts over two meters in height, and carry dust great distances. Major sand and dust storms can occur at least once a week in desert regions.

Dust storms are rarely fatal, but the flying particles can pose an irritant to the eye and greatly reduce visibility. The greatest danger from such a storm is getting lost in the swirling sand. The fine dust also can have unfortunate effects on sensitive electronic equipment. The flying particles can also interfere with radio transmissions. The ingredients for a dust storm consist of strong winds, fine-grained particles on the ground, and lack of significant vegetation.


The electrical shock from lightning can produce serious burns under the skin and tissue injury. It can also render the victim unconscious and cause heart failure and arrest breathing. Finally, the victim is likely to be in deep shock, due to lack of blood to the head.

Ninety percent of all people struck by lightning manage to survive the event. However, a quarter of these survivors suffer psychological or physiological trauma.

Sheltering under a tree during a lightning storm is not a good idea. If lightning strikes the tree, it is more likely to leap across to the human as the percentage water content is much higher than in wood. The safest location is probably an all-metal vehicle, such as a car or truck.

High Altitude

When a rapid ascent is made to an altitude of a kilometer or more, the air grows thin enough to induce hypoxia in some victims. Early symptoms of hypoxia include impaired judgement, increased heart and respiratory rates, and tunnel vision. As the condition deteriorates into altitude sickness within 2-6 hours of ascent, the victim can also suffer headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizzyness, as well as acute tunnel vision, slurred speach, and memory loss. These symptoms are even more pronounced above two kilometers, where the air and humidity are only half that at sea level.

One of the more serious potential symptoms of altitude sickness is an edema. This is a release of fluid from the blood stream as the body attempts to carry more oxygen. The edema can occur in the lungs or the brain, and both can be fatal - although a cerebral edema is much more rapid and severe.

After two days, the victim grows acclimatized to the altitude and the symptoms will fade. Within two weeks, the body has adjusted to the thin air by producing more red blood cells to carry increased oxygen. The best way to avoid these high altitude conditions, therefore, is to make a gradual ascent over 2-3 days.

The air at higher altitudes will be less effective at blocking harsh ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Hence sunburn damage is a greater threat with increased height above sea level. There is also an increased rate of fluid loss due to the dry air and increased respiration rate, so more liquids must be consumed to avoid dehydration. Finally, the effects of alcohol are more pronounced with increased altitude, which may or may not be a problem to a party of adventurers.

Diving within one or two days prior to climbing to high altitudes increases the odds for altitude sickness.

Cooling air settles rapidly, carrying anything flying in it down with it. This is a problem for any flying thing, plane, dragon, or superhero.

Hurricane (Typhoon, Cyclone)

These powerful storms are extremely destructive, causing damage through severe winds, heavy rain, and tidal surges. Ninety percent of the deaths from a hurricane are caused by drowning, due to the storm surge created from the low pressure air. The strong winds can also carry deadly debris. Tornadoes can also be spawned by the turbulent weather about the hurricane.

Hail Storm

Hail storms lasting for lengthy periods can inflict severe damage to crops, structures, and exposed animals and people. The falling hail will produce a steady drubbing effect that inflicts a slow, but steady beating to anyone who can not find shelter. In extreme cases, hail stones can reach a massive 8cm in diameter, although most storms produce smaller hail on the order of 1cm or less. The ground will be quickly covered in a slick, icy sheet, making movement very difficult.

Dead Calm

These areas of calm winds can present a hazard to sail-driven vessels at certain latitudes.

VI. Toxins

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol in nature is naturally produced by some micro-organisms as a toxic chemical. However, humans can consume limited amounts of this liquid without lethal effects. Long term exposure to quantities of alcohol can produce damage to the liver, brain, heart, stomach, pancreas, and intestines. Heavy consumption can also lead to incidental injuries due to temporarily debilitating effects on the nervous system. Finally, recovery from a bout of heavy drinking can inflict a hangover - a strong headache caused by dehydration and low blood sugar.

Toxic Plants

While not overtly poisonous, plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac can cause swelling and severe itching of the skin. Symptoms usually develop within one to two days after exposure. The irritating rash will usually disappear after a week to ten days. At worst, oozing sores may appear, potentially leading to infection.


The lethal toxin Cyanide can be readily found in apple seeds; the pits of plums, apricots, cherries, and peaches; bitter almonds; plus certain leaves, such as the wilting leaves of native cherries. These sources can easily be the cause of death of horses and cattle if consumed. Ingestion of less than 0.1 gram of cyanide is sufficient to cause sudden death of a human. The initial symptoms of cyanide poisoning include rapid respiration and gasping; a weak but rapid heart beat; staggering walk; tremors; and depression. Death from anoxia, a severe deficiency of oxygen reaching the tissues, can occur within a few minutes or last for several hours.


This toxin is also known as Deadly Nightshade. Atropine is the primary chemical agent in belladonna. Symptoms of poisoning include extreme dryness of the mouth and throat, a scarlet rash, and uncontrollable convulsions. The symptoms are similar to rabies, but can be distinguished by the dialated pupils.


Hemlock poisoning causes a numbness around the periphery which spreads inward until reaching the heart and lungs. The resulting paralysis of these organs results in death. Hemlock also causes vertigo. Curiously, Hemlock is the antidote to another poison - strychnine.

Poisonous Mushroom

Poisonous Mushrooms have a milky juice, and usually change their color when cut or broken. The symptoms of mushroom poisoning includes headache, stupor, prostration, fever, and delirium. Death follows due to paralysis of the heart.

Some cultures use hallucinogenic mushrooms for their rites. Eating these mushrooms may cause one to see visions, but can also be lethal.


Opium comes from the juice of the unripe seed capsules of the poppy plant. Opium poisoning can result in an intense itching sensation of the nose. Opium doses result in a deep sleep and a gradual paralysis of the heart and lungs. Death follows from the immobility of these organs.

Bites and Stings

The effects of bites from insects can cause painful stings, swelling and inflamation, disease, and even death from the toxins. Scratching the bite can also result in dangerous infections.

Stingrays can bury themselves in the sand in shallow water. When stepped upon, the stingray can flip their barbed tail toward the wader. This sting is venomous and very painful. Stepping on a jellyfish causes a painful, but usually harmless sting that is similar to that of a bee or wasp.


When the skin is broken in an unsterile environment, infection from microorganisms can result. This can lead to the more serious problem of gangrene.

Intestinal parasites can enter the body through uncooked meat or fish, or through raw vegetables that have become contaminated by wastes. They can also enter the body through the bare feet.

Allergic Reactions

Some individuals can be allergic to certain types of food, insect stings, and other irritants. The victim may experience swelling, respiratory difficulties, numbness, nausea, difficulty speaking or concentrating. In severe cases, these allergies can result in severe conditions that can be fatal.

Acidic Fumes

Fumes from powerful corrosives, such as Sulfuric Acid, is often very damaging to the nose and throat, and result in erosion of dental surfaces. Stronger concentrations, or longer exposure, can result in spasms, lung and eye irritation, and difficulty breathing. Delayed effects from the acid mist can cause spasms, inflammation, and potentially deadly fluid accumulations in the larynx and lungs. The fumes from such acids can often be odorless.

Natural Gas

Natural gas is a mixture of various hydrocarbons in a gaseous state, with the chief component being methane. Methane is a biologically inert gas, but it is explosive and can inflict asphyxia at high concentrations. Methane is often trapped in coal seams, only to be released by mining activities. As the gas is colorless and odorless, it must be detected by special means, such as with a canary - if the bird dies, then the methane is at dangerously high levels. Methane can also be released by rotting plants, but usually at non-fatal concentrations.

Air Pollution

There are several sources of air pollution - burning fuels such as oil or trees, agricultural and industrial chemicals, smoking tobacco products, and a contaminated sealed environment such as a building.

Air pollutants can have a complex effect on the lungs, respiratory tract, nose, and sinuses. This is especially true if a mixture of pollutants is being suspended in the air. Victims can suffer adverse effects to the mucous membranes, causing swelling and obstruction of the breathing passages.

Carbon Monoxide

For humans, this toxic gas is colorless, odorless, and tasteless, making it impossible to detect directly. Low concentrations of this gas can gradually build up in the blood stream, causing headaches, nausea, and possibly coma or death. The most common source of this gas are the combustion of carbon-based fules, such as gasoline, propane, natural gas, and kerosene.

Mercury Poisoning

Also known as quicksilver, the vapours from this liquid metal are readily absorbed through the lungs. Inhalation of strong concentrations can result in irritation to the respiratory tract, an upset digestion, and kidney damage. Once inside the body, Mercury will remain in the blood stream for an average of ten weeks and can very slowly poison the host. The primary effects of minor Mercury poisoning are neurological, with symptoms including tremors of the hand, eyelids, lips, and tonuge. Other symptoms include vertigo, fatigue, memory loss, headaches, anorexia, weight loss, and depressed moods. More severe exposure can lead to kidney and nerve damage. Infants under the age of six are especially susceptible to Mercury toxins.


Plutonium that is inhaled is far more hazardous than plutonium that is ingested or on contact with the skin. Once in the lungs the plutonium is absorbed into the blood stream where it makes its way to the bones and liver. Short term effects include pulmonary edema and damage to the gastro-intestinal tract. Longer term hazards increase the risk of cancer mortality.

The lethal dosage for plutonium ingestion is about 0.5 grams. Inhaling about 20 milligrams of plutonium dust can cause death within about a month due to pulmonary fibrosis or pulmonary edema.

VII. Ailments

During ancient times, nobody understood the cause of many diseases, so ailments could often become attributed to bad air, evil spirits, imbalance of the bodily humors, and so on. Treatment for these supposed causes often did little to alleviate the condition, and often made matters worse. Ordinary healers had little of the respect they possess today, so patients often resorted to unusual remedies concocted entirely from superstition.

With the availability of magical miracles, however, healing for lethal conditions becomes available. The dispenser of such reliable remedies will often hold an exalted position within a community, and his services will improve the general health. However, such aid is not always available for travellers, so herbal remedies and primitive first aid is stll a necessary survival skill.

Personal hygiene is an important habit to prevent infection and disease. Unfortunately, some ancient cultures viewed practices that resulted in cleanliness as somehow evil, and thus their people suffered from the many ills that lack of hygiene can inflict. Dirty hands can infect open wounds and food supply. The hair on your head can become a haven for lice, fleas, and bacteria unless cleaned regularly. Filthy clothing and bedding can harbor parasites and cause skin infection.


Inadequately chewed food can become lodged in the throat or windpipe, causing a gagging reflex and making it nearly impossible for the victim to breathe. The obstruction may be cleared by coughing, but will often prove fatal unless assistance is available.


While asleep, the individual is essentially blind with a penalty to all perception checks. The sleeping target has no active defenses, unless suitable wards have been prepared. Depending on the depth of the sleep and the manner in which he is awakened, perception may recover immediately or slowly over several minutes.

For a deliberate attack on a sleeping camp, the most likely time for an organized assault is just prior to dawn. At this time the guards are often tired and least alert. There will usually be a hint of light, allowing the attackers to see each other during the fight.


Sprains occur when a joint is moved outside its normal range, due to a violent twist or stretch. These injuries can be especilly painful and result in impaired movement of the joint.

Dislocation of a joint results when the end of a bone is forced from its normal position. The injury is accompanied by severe pain, swelling, and difficulty of movement.

Broken bones can result from impacts with a solid surface. A severe break can result in bleeding and bones sticking out of the flesh. Types of injuries caused by broken bones include concussion, neck or spinal trauma, and loss of teeth.

Severe bleeding from a wound will result in shock and eventual death. Loss of one quart of blood will produce moderate symptoms of shock, while loss of two quarts results in severe shock. Loss of the third quart of blood is usually fatal. The symptoms of shock include faintness; confusion; cold, clammy sweating; and a weak, feeble pulse. More severe shock will cause irregular pulse; difficulty breathing; and eventually coma and death.

Tooth Decay

Tooth decay is caused by foods that contain sugars or acids. Bacteria feed on the sugars and form a plaque on the teeth. These bacteria produce acids which eats into the tooth enamel. Once a pit has formed, the cavity can continue to grow until it destroys tooth structure. Once the decay has reached the nerve, the victim will begin to experience annoying pain and sensitivity to hot and cold. When the cavity reaches the pulp of the tooth, an abcess can occur. This abcess can spread to the bone.

During medieval and ancient times, tooth decay was more prevalent among the rich and noble, who had the means to enjoy pastries and other sweet foods.

Bubonic Plague

This highly contageous epidemic is spread by a flea that is carried by the domestic rat. The first symptoms are a painful and tender swelling of the lymph nodes, which can grow to the size of an apple. These swellings spread across the body, and are soon followed by multiple black spots. Death soon followed the appearance of these marks. The rates of fatality vary by site, ranging from half to nearly all of the local population.


This unpleasant affliction is normally contracted by travellers when they enter a previously unvisited land and consume some of the local food or drink that has been contaminated with bacteria. The primary symptom is unformed stools, but it is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and fever. Beyond some delay and discomfort and imposition, the biggest danger from Diarrhea is severe dehydration.


The initial symptoms of Scurvy is an extreme loosening of the teeth. This is followed by pain in the arms and legs, which swell up and become difficult to use. There is pain in the groin and intestinal area, accompanied by a nasty cough and difficulty breathing. The victim is unable to exert themselves to any great degree and almost certainly doomed to a painful death.

This condition is caused by a deficiency of vitamin C. Scurvy is especially prevalent on long sea voyages and in isolated colonies, whenever there is a difficulty preserving fresh fruit and vegetables. Typically the first symptoms appear about six weeks after resorting to salt provisions.

The remedy for Scurvy is usually fresh fruits and vegetables. Acidic fruits, such a lemon and lime, are especially useful in this regard. However, it is unlikely that a land-bound medieval civlization will be aware of this condition or the correct treatment.


The symptoms of unrelieved hunger and starvation include weight loss; weakness; dizzy spells and blackouts; and increased thirst. This will affect morale, attitude, and the will to live.

This extreme form of hunger is caused by lack of the calories and nutrients necessary to sustain normal activity, health and growth. Specific conditions can be caused by vitamin deficiency, including scurvy, beriberi, pellagra, xerophthalmia, rickets. Malnutrition during infancy can also permanently reduce mental development and learning capacity.

A healthy individual can survive for several weeks on 500 calories a day with no side effects, given plenty of water and a comfortable resting place. Extremes of weather or activity will require more food to maintain a normal body temperature.


A steady intake of water is an important requirement for survival. Every individual needs about two liters of water a day to stay healthy. In more extreme conditions, such as hot or cold weather, high altitude, heavy activity, burns, or illness, the body will lose water more rapidly and so will need a greater supply to stay healthy.

Most of the water is lost through urination. However, about a third is lost through skin evaporation. So the water supply in the body can be preserved by wearing suitable garments to soak up this fluid. By the time a body is feeling thirsty, the effects of dehydration can already be established. So it is important to continue water intake throughout the day in small quantities. Even a mild thirst can dull the mind and make a victim less alert.

Besides thirst, the signs of dehydration are dry lips and mouth, a low amount of urine with a cloudy appearance, and an irritating sensation in the throat or respiratory passages.

At moderate levels of dehydration, the victim can suffer from thirst, irritability, nausea, and weakness. As the dehydration increases in severity, he will begin to suffer from headaches, dizziness, a tingling in the limbs, and difficulty walking. At extreme levels, the symptoms can include a swollen tongue, dim vision and poor hearing, painful urination, and a numbness of the flesh. Beyond this extreme, death will occur.

The risk of dehydration is especially high among the elderly, as they often do not realize they are thirsty and aging kidneys can increase urination output. Other animals besides humans will also suiffer from dehydration. For example, horses can suffer muscle problems and heat stress due to long, high-intensity work.

In temperatures below 100 degrees F, drink one pint of water per hour. In temperatures above 100 degrees F, drink one quart of water every hour. Drinking water at these regular intervals helps your body to remain cool.

VII. Miscellaneous

Falling Debris

Debris from a cave-in or collapsing building can prove a hazard to intrepid adventurers, especially if no protective head gear is being worn. A less likely hazard is a falling tree, although the branches can also cause damage to neighboring buildings.


For social species such as human beings, extended periods of solitude can be stressful and psychologically damaging. This is more true for individuals who require extensive social activity in their lives. Being alone and lonely can also lead to the victim feeling helpless and suffering from dispair. If the person is able to provide his basic needs, however, such sensations can be overcome.


Most humans require a steady core of about five hours in order to operate effectively. Most people sleep longer than this, and two weeks of steady training is needed to reduce the required sleep to this core level. The actual amount of sleep required will also vary by age.

Humans are quite capable of remaining awake for many days. However, lack of sleep will increase fatigue, reduce the ability to retain short-term memory, reduce mental activity, and make a person careless. After 100 hours of such sleep deprivation, the individual can begin to experience hallucinations, paranoia, increased appetite, increased sexual drive, and brief intervals of snoozing known as microsleep.

Fatigue can be caused by over exertion, but also through mental attitude. Hopelessness, frustration, boredom, and dissatisfaction can all cause fatigue. Such mental fatigue, however, can usually be overcome by varying activity, conversation, or mild physical exertion.

To restore alertness, a brief nap of only twenty minutes duration may be all that is required. Such naps are most effective during the mid-afternoon lull. Alertness is at a minimum in the morning, and peaks in the late afternoon.

Slick Patch

A patch of lubricating fluid, such as oil, can make a very slick surface that is difficult for even a well-balanced individual to traverse. Another slippery surface is formed on frozen lakes that have been swept clean of snow by the weather. When a slip occurs on such a low-friction surface, the victim usually continues to slide for several meters in the direction they were heading. Some amount of turning motion may also be introduced, facing victim to a random direction. Finally, there are the usually hazards from a fall, such as cuts and bruises. An icy surface can be extremely resilient and can inflict broken bones on impact.

Abandoned Explosives

Old mines can contain explosives that have become highly unstable due to the effects of time and the elements. Older sticks of dynamite will often contain nitroglycerine, which will explode with only the slightest vibration. Even more dangerous are blasting caps. These can become scattered about the floor by rodents, and will explode when stepped on.

VIII. Outer Space

Many of the hazards described hereafter are common to our own world. However, some conditions may only be experienced through magical or high tech travel, such as flights beyond the atmosphere, or extra-dimensional movement.

Atmosphering Reentry

The extreme temperatures of atmospheric reentry are prohibitive for unshielded life forms. Usually a suitable vessel is required for rapid atmospheric entry. The angle of entry is essential as too steep a descent can overcome thermal tiles, while too shallow an approach may cause the vessel to skip off the atmosphere.

Meteor Strike

Normally the smaller particles of dirt that travel through outer space burn up upon entry to an atmosphere such as Earth's. In the vacuum, however, even tiny particles can pose a hazard to poorly protected space travellers. The smallest such specs of debris, travelling at a typical velocity of 70 kilometers per second, are vaporized on impact, creating a hot plasma that can damage sensitive equipment. Slightly larger particles can penetrate materials, producing severe impacts that have the impact of a bullet wound.

A sufficiently large iron or stone meteor can survive passage through the atmosphere and create a massive release of energy upon contacting the surface. The odds of being struck by such a meteorite are extremely small, however. The minimum mass needed for an asteroid to produce global effects is on the order ten billion tons, which corresponds to a diameter of one to two kilometers. Smaller objects can cause still significant local damage, with results resembling a ground detonation of explosives. The damage from such an asteroid impact is roughly 100 kilograms of TNT per kilogram of impacting stone.


While in outer space, the effects of harsh ultraviolet radiation from nearby stars is more severe due to the lack of protection from the atmosphere and an ozone layer. Special protection is required to shield space dwellers from this hazard.

Additional worries include radiation from solar flares. Magnetic fields can trap these particles near a planet, producing a strong flux of dangerous radiation. The sun will go through an 11 year cycle of high and low activity, with the radiation increasing with the number of sun spots. This radiation is also a hazard for unshielded electronics on board a space craft

Cosmic rays also cause flashes of light as they pass through the eye. These can make it difficult to sleep.

Zero Gravity

During the first few days in zero gravity, about half of all travellers experience Space Adaptation Syndrome (SAS). The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, sickness, fatigue, and occasionally illusions and loss of knowledge of limb position. SAS is caused due to conflicts between the various senses that the body uses to judge body position and movement. SAS can often be reduced by limiting movement until the body has had an opportunity to adapt.

Another problem caused by zero gravity is back pain caused by the elongation of the spine under weightlessness. Roughly two thirds of all space travellers experience this minor effect.


Unlike what you might see in some movies, exposure to vacuum is unlikely to produce any permanent injury, at least during the first minute. If the victim holds his breath, however, he could suffer lung injury from the expanding air held inside. Various minor ailments will begin to appear, such as swelling of the skin and possibly "the bends" - caused by nitrogen bubbles forming in the tissues. Eventually, the victim will lose consciousness from lack of oxygen. Further injuries accumulate and death will result after a few minutes.

High-G Acceleration

Typically, forces beyond 8g's are sufficient to cause chest pains, shortness of breath, and occasional blackouts. However, the effect of g-forces on a human passenger will depends on his position with respect to the acceleration. The ideal position is to have the body transverse to the force. Special protective clothing and seats wlll serve to distribute the forces more evenly across the body, allowing greater forces to be tolerated for short periods. Immersion in water is even more effective in this regard. Finally, special breathing exercises will help to avoid chest pains and blackouts.

An acceleration of 5 g's can be easily tolerated for many minutes. As the force increases, however, the comfort period will shrink until high g-forces beyond about 10 can only be tolerated for several seconds.

Some data:

   Time      Accel Couch     Water Immersed
   (min)        (Gs)              (Gs)
  -------    -----------     --------------
    0.5          23                28
    1.0          17                22
    2.0          12                17
    3.0           8                14
    4.0           7                12
    5.0           6                 9
    6.0           5                 8
    7.0           4                 7
    8.0           4                 6
    9.0           3                 6
   10.0           3                 6

     Time         Safe            Moderate injury      Severe injury
   (seconds)      limits (Gs)     limits (Gs)          limits (Gs)
   ---------      -----------     ---------------      -------------
     0.005           < 45            45-160                  160
     0.01            < 45            45-100                  100
     0.02            < 40            45-70                   70
     0.05            < 40            40-45                   45
     0.10            < 40            40-42                   42
     0.50            < 18            18-26                   26
     1.00            < 13            13-23                   23
     2.00            < 14            14-31                   31
     5.00            < 12            12-26                   26

Bob Hall, 07apr99