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[Wilderness] Running River Based Adventures in BX/BECMI

by Håvard

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?