I therefore felt I needed to show the adventurers that overcoming physical obstacles is not without risk, and requires thought.
I know it seems a bit overkill - the point is not to make the game unnecessarily complex, the point is that you can use this if you want to make adventurers think harder about how to overcome physical obstacles (and make it feel more real-world).
Guidelines for using rope:
Would be interested in your feedback!- Tie rope to something with a robust knot: this is generally the best idea. Tying a knot is easy to learn, regardless of occupation, and some professions know it (e.g. seafarers). But they have to inquire to learn it, or the characters climbing need to make a luck check (falling damage if failed.) If they have no thief or character with the right occupation in the party, they won't be able to make robust knots before they inquire in town.
- Holding someone with a rope from atop: bad idea. If it’s only one person holding the rope, the person needs to pass a DC15 strength check or they loose grip (the climbing person takes falling damage), and they need to pass a DC10 Reflex save, or fall down too.
Three or more people can easily hold one descending character with a rope, but it has a drawback: if one of the rope-holders trips, e.g. due to bad grip / loose footing, on a failed DC5 Reflex check, the whole rope-holding party can be affected. If one character trips, the other two have to do another DC10 Reflex check, and if one of them trips, it has to be repeated with DC15. If the party trips, the descending character and any rope-holding character that rolled below DC5 Reflex falls too.
- Binding people together: really bad idea (and the reason this came to my attention). Say you want to pass a dangerous passage, e.g. a crumbling dam. If the ground underneath one person collapses, a chain effect to both sides might result. The person in front and behind the person that is falling make a DC10 strength check, both need to succeed, and if not, the second person needs to make a DC15 etc.
In a real-world situation (e.g. a crumbling dam, a slope prone to avalanches), you want to do the opposite. Have people walk one by one, to minimize damage if the dangerous event occurs.
- Climbing up a rope: with the right technique it's easy (thieves are trained, and will fail only at a fumble), with the wrong technique it’s hard (non-thieves need to roll a DC15 strength check and climb awkwardly using brute strength) or the practice the right skills. They need to inquire about it from a thief or otherwise proficient climber and then the game pauses to watch a video about rope climbing (e.g. here). After learning it for an hour, adventurers can climb with a DC5 agility check (if they mention a phrase to make sure they are aware of what they’re doing, e.g. “use breaking squat technique”)
- Climbing down a rope: This is risky without security; they need to learn the right technique as above (watch here, announce e.g. as “leaning back feet-wrapped"), otherwise they lose 1d3 stamina from burning damage. They also need to pass a DC5 strength check or slip and incur falling damage
Without a skilled person in the party (i.e. a thief for basic skills) or experience / knowledge, using rope can become dangerous. Make sure adventurers learn that early on that they need to think about the game like they are in a real-world situation.