Survival Proficiencies

Survival Proficiencies Slots Ability Modifier Prerequistes
Alertness 1 Intuition +1
Animal Lore 1 Knowledge +0
Animal Noise 1 Intuition -1
Animal Rending 1 Aim +2
Crude Armoring 1 Reason -1
Camouflage 1 Intuition 0
Crude Clothesmaking 1 Reason -1
Crude Weaponsmithing 1 Intuition -3
Deep Diving 1 Fitness -1 Swimming.
Drinking 1 Health 0
Eating 1 Health 0
Endurance 2 Health 0
Fire-building 1 Willpower -1
Foraging 1 Reason -2
Fungi Recognition 1 Knowledge +3
Heart Feast 1 Willpower -3
Heat Protection 1 Reason -2
Hold Breath 1 Fitness 0
Hunting 1 Intuition -1
Mountaineering 1 NA 0
Navigation 1 Reason -2
Orienteering 1 Intuition 0
Rope Use 1 Aim 0
Set Snares 1 Aim -1
Spelunking 1 Reason -2
Survival (specify) 2 Reason 0
Swimming 1 Stamina 0
Tracking 2 Intuition 0
Trail Marking 1 Intuition 0
Trail Signs (specify) 1 Reason -1
Venom Handling 1 Willpower -2
Water Finding 1 Reason 0

Alertness: This proficiency allows a character to instinctively notice and recognize signs of a disturbance in the immediate vicinity. This ability reduces a character’s chance of being surprised by 1 if he makes a successful proficiency check.

Animal Lore: This proficiency enables a character to observe the actions or habitat of an animal and interpret what is going on. Actions can show how dangerous the creature is, whether it is hungry, protecting its young, or defending a nearby den. Furthermore, careful observation of signs and behaviors can even indicate the location of a water hole, animal herd, predator, or impending danger, such as a forest fire. The DM will secretly roll a proficiency check. A successful check means the character understood the basic actions of the creature. If the check fails by 4 or less, no information is gained. If the check fails by 5 or more, the character misinterprets the actions of the animal.

Finally, animal lore increases the chance of successfully setting snares and traps (for hunting) since the character knows the general habits of the creature hunted.

Animal Noise: A character with this proficiency can imitate the noises made by various animals. This ability is limited by volume. The roar of a tyrannosaurus rex would be beyond the abilities of a normal character. A successful check means the character’s noise cannot be distinguished from that of the actual animal, except by magical means. The cry is sufficient to fool animals, perhaps frightening them away or luring them closer. A failed check means the sound is incorrect in some slight way. A failed call may still fool some listeners, but creatures very familiar with the cry automatically detect a false call. All other creatures and characters are allowed a Intuition check to detect the fake.

Animal Rending: This proficiency confers expertise in skinning and butchering animal carcasses. It lets a character derive the maximum amount of food from a carcass. It also lets him harvest valuable products from the carcass without damaging them. Such products typically include furs, horns, teeth, hides, and organs. Use of this proficiency requires access to the necessary tools.

No proficiency checks are necessary to butcher most animals, but the DM may require checks in unusual situations. For instance, a check may be required to butcher an animal the character has never seen before, or to successfully harvest a delicate body part (say, the eye of an immature beholder). If the check fails, the character is only able to obtain an average amount of food, or he damages the body part he was attempting to harvest.

Armorer, Crude: With this proficiency, a character can make crude but effective armor from natural materials like hides, furs, and shells. He can’t create armor better than AC 6. It takes one week per level of AC below 10 to make crude armor (assuming the availability of the necessary materials). A character can make hide armor in four weeks, a shield in one week.

Crude armor tends to be more flawed and less durable than standard armor. After crude armor is created, make a proficiency check. If the check fails by more than 4, the armor is unusable. If a failed check is within 4 of the amount needed for success, the armor is flawed and functions at an AC 2 worse than normal (but never worse than AC 10). Flawed crude hide armor has AC 8; a flawed crude shield offers no protection whatsoever.

If flawed crude armor is struck in melee with a natural die roll of 19 or 20, it falls apart. The wearer’s AC immediately worsens by 4 (to a limit of AC 10). Removing the useless armor takes 1d4 rounds; during that time, the wearer moves at half his normal rate and suffers a 4 penalty to all attack rolls.

Camouflage: By using this proficiency, the character can attempt to conceal himself, his companions, and inanimate objects by using natural or man-made materials. Successful use assumes the availability of all necessary materials. In forests and jungles, the character can use shrubbery, mud, and other readily available resources. Arctic or similarly barren terrain usually requires special clothing, paints, or other artificial materials (although “digging in” is an old trick which may be applicable in such terrain, depending on local conditions). It takes a character a half-hour to camouflage himself or another person, two or three hours to conceal a cart or inanimate object of comparable size, and a half-day to hide a small building.

Neither human, demihuman, monster, nor animal passersby will be able to see a camouflaged character, presuming the character makes a successful proficiency check. Camouflaged companions will also go unnoticed; only one proficiency check is required for the entire group.

Objects may also be camouflaged. Objects the size of a person require no penalty to the check; cart-sized objects require a -1 penalty, while building-sized objects require a -3 penalty. The DM may adjust penalties based on these guidelines.

Camouflaging has no effect on predators that locate prey by scent or other keen senses; a hungry wolf can still sniff out a camouflaged human. A camouflaged person has no protection against a passerby who accidently brushes against or bumps into him. Likewise, a camouflaged person may reveal himself if he sneezes, cries out from the sting of a bee, or makes any other sound.

Note that camouflaging is only necessary for persons or objects that would otherwise be partially or entirely exposed. A person hiding behind a stone wall wouldn’t need to be camouflaged to avoid detection, nor would a buried object.

Clothesmaking, Crude: This proficiency enables a character to create simple garments from furs, skins, leaves, and other natural materials. Although crude clothing isn’t attractive or stylish, it‘s generally comfortable and functional. Fur cloaks, grass skirts, and hide loincloths are typical examples.

Deep Diving: A character with this proficiency can add 10 feet per round to his speed of descent when diving into the water, or from the surface. Thus, a character with the deep diving proficiency can descend 30 feet per round, plus modifiers for encumbrance, running start, and height. Likewise, a character with the deep diving proficiency can surface at a rate of 30 feet (not 20 feet) per round.

This proficiency provides characters with the ability to hold their breath for 2/3 their Fitness scores in rounds, not the 1/3 allowed to most characters. Effects of exceeding the allotted time are the same, regardless of proficiency ratings.

Drinking: This proficiency, and its companion proficiency, Eating, is important to many humanoids, including centaurs, satyrs, and wemics. A successful check indicates that the humanoid can consume up to twice as much as normal at one sitting. This will allow the humanoid to go twice as long without drink before beginning to suffer adverse effects. If alcoholic beverages are involved, a successful check allows the humanoid to consume twice as much before adverse effects begin to bother him.

Eating: Much like the drinking proficiency, this proficiency allows the humanoid to store up food. A successful check indicates that the humanoid can consume up to twice as much as normal. This allows the humanoid to go twice as long without food without suffering any adverse effects from hunger.

Endurance: A character with endurance proficiency is able to perform continual strenuous physical activity for twice as long as a normal character before becoming subject to the effects of fatigue and exhaustion. In those cases where extreme endurance is required, a successful proficiency check must be made. Note that this proficiency does not enable a character to extend the length of time that he can remain unaffected by a lack of food or water.

Fire-building: A character with fire-building proficiency does not normally need a tinderbox to start a fire. Given some dry wood and small pieces of tinder, he can start a fire in 2d20 minutes. Flint and steel are not required. Wet wood, high winds, or other adverse conditions increase the time to 3d20, and a successful proficiency check must be rolled to start a fire.

Foraging: By using this proficiency, a character can search a wilderness area to locate a small amount of a desired material, such as a branch suitable for carving into a bow, enough kindling to start a fire, a medicinal herb, or a component required for a spell. The character must spend 2-8 (2d4) hours searching, and the material must theoretically be available in the area being searched (for instance an icicle isn’t available in the desert, nor dry kindling on the ocean floor). The DM doesn’t confirm if the material sought is actually available until after the character has searched for the designated period. If the DM decides the material isn’t in the area, no proficiency check is necessary; he merely reveals that the search was in vain.

If the DM decides the material is indeed available, a successful proficiency check means the character has found what he’s been looking for. As a rule of thumb, the character locates no more than a handful of the desired material, though the DM may make exceptions (if searching for a few leaves of a particular herb, the character may instead find an entire field).
If the check fails, the material isn’t found. The character may search a different area, requiring another 2-8 hours and a new proficiency check.

Fungi Recognition: A character with this proficiency is able to tell edible fungi from the poisonous or unwholesome varieties. Approximately 50% of underground fungi are poisonous. They may cause an upset stomach or be so poisonous they cause death. It is impossible to harvest edible fungi without the fungi identification proficiency.

If the character has plenty of light and an opportunity to study the fungus in question closely for 10 minutes, no proficiency check is required. If he is unable to see the fungus properly, often the case when using infravision, or has to make a hasty decision about edibility, a proficiency check must be made.

Heart Feast: A product of an uncivilized environment, a character with this proficiency believes that the hearts of his enemies, if consumed, will provide him with strength and healing. The character must take 1 turn (10 rounds) to harvest and prepare the heart of a once-living foe. On a successful proficiency check, consuming the heart heals the character of 1d8 plus twice his character level in hit points. Only the character with this proficiency can benefit from a heart feast. A character can benefit from a successful heart feast no more than once every 4 hours.

Heat Protection: A character with the heat protection proficiency has learned to use clothing and personal pacing to optimize endurance against the rigors of desert heat. With a successful check, the character need only consume half the normal amount of water per day to avoid dehydration. In combat, the heat protection proficiency allows a character wearing metal armor to battle better and longer. A successful check each round allows the character to avoid attack penalties for heat and exhaustion for that round. In addition, when the character reaches his Fitness score limit to rounds of combat, a successful check will allow him to fight for five more rounds. This check can be made at the end of every subsequent five round period, but once failed, the character collapses from exhaustion.

Hold Breath: This proficiency helps a character hold her breath for extended periods of time. With Hold Breath proficiency, a character can hold her breath for half her Fitness score in rounds (rounded up). If the character is exerting herself, this time is halved (again rounding up). When attempting to hold her breath beyond this time, the character rolls the usual Fitness check each round. The first check has no penalty, but each subsequent check takes a cumulative -1 penalty. Once a check is failed, the character must breathe; if she cannot reach air, she dies.

Hunting: When in wilderness settings, the character can attempt to stalk and bring down game. A proficiency check must be made with a -1 penalty to the ability score for every nonproficient hunter in the party. If the die roll is successful, the hunter (and those with him) have come within 101 to 200 yards (100+1d100) of an animal. The group can attempt to close the range, but a proficiency check must be made for each 20 yards closed. If the stalking is successful, the hunter automatically surprises the game. The type of animal stalked depends on the nature of the terrain and the whim of the DM.

Mountaineering: A character with this proficiency can make difficult and dangerous climbs up steep slopes and cliffs with the aid of spikes, ropes, etc. If a character with Mountaineering proficiency leads a party, placing the pitons (spikes) and guiding the others, all in the party can gain the benefit of his knowledge. A Mountaineer can also accelerate a party’s descent when climbing via rappelling. A character with this proficiency gains a +2 bonus per proficiency slot spent to his chance to Climb any surface.

Navigation: The character has learned the arts of navigating by the stars, studying currents, and watching for telltale signs of land, reefs, and hidden danger. This is not particularly useful on land. At sea, a successful proficiency check by the navigator reduces the chance of getting lost by 20%.

Orienteering: This is the ability to keep one’s bearings on roadless, trackless land. Proficient characters will not get lost as long as they can either see the sky or have the use of a compass. This means that they can maintain track of a given direction, keeping themselves and their companions traveling in a straight line.

Characters who possess a map and can track their direction of travel can arrive at specific points—towns, ferry crossings, bridges, monuments, wells, springs, etc., without proficiency checks.

If the map is slightly erroneous, or lacking in crucial details, the characters will have to make successful proficiency checks to accurately arrive at a specific point. This check can be modified for increased difficulty based on poor weather or major problems with the map.

Rope Use: This proficiency enables a character to accomplish amazing feats with rope. A character with rope use proficiency is familiar with all sorts of knots and can tie knots that slip, hold tightly, slide slowly, or loosen with a quick tug. If the character’s hands are bound and held with a rope, he can roll a proficiency check (with a -6 penalty) to escape the bonds.
This character gains a +2 bonus to all attacks made with a lasso. The character also receives a +2 bonus to all Climbing checks made while he is using a rope, including attempts to belay (secure the end of a climbing rope) companions.

Set Snares: The character can make simple snares and traps, primarily to catch small game. These can include rope snares and spring traps. A proficiency check must be rolled when the snare is first constructed and every time the snare is set. A failed proficiency check means the trap does not work for some reason. It may be that the workmanship was bad, the character left too much scent in the area, or he poorly concealed the finished work. The exact nature of the problem does not need to be known. The character can also attempt to set traps and snares for larger creatures: tiger pits and net snares, for example. A proficiency check must be rolled, this time with a -4 penalty to the ability score. In both cases, setting a successful snare does not ensure that it catches anything, only that the snare works if triggered.

Setting a small snare or trap takes one hour of work. Setting a larger trap requires two to three people (only one need have the proficiency) and 2d4 hours of work. To prepare any trap, the character must have appropriate materials on hand.

Characters with animal lore proficiency gain a +2 bonus to their ability score when attempting to set a snare for the purposes of catching game. Their knowledge of animals and the woods serves them well for this purpose. They gain no benefit when attempting to trap monsters or intelligent beings in a Snare.

Spelunking: A character with this proficiency has a thorough understanding of caves and underground passages, including their geology, formation, and hazards. The character generally knows what natural hazards are possible and what general equipment a spelunking party should outfit itself with. A successful proficiency check can reveal the following information:

  • Determine, by studying cracks in the walls and pebbles on the floor, sniffing the air, etc., the likelihood of a cave-in, flash flood, or other natural hazard. This only works with respect to natural formations, and is negated if the natural formations have been shored up, bricked in, or otherwise tampered with.
  • Estimate the time required to excavate a passage blocked with rubble.
  • While exploring extensive underground caverns, a successful check reduces the chance of getting hopelessly lost when confronted by multiple unmarked passages, sinkholes, etc. to a maximum of 30%, assuming good lighting (see rules for getting lost in the Dungeon Master’s Guide).

Survival: This proficiency must be applied to a specific environment—i.e., a specific type of terrain and weather factors. Typical environments include arctic, coastal, woodland, desert, steppe, mountain, or tropical. Less typical environments might include other planes of existence (such as the Abyss or the Outlands), underwater, urban environments, or the underdark. The character has basic survival knowledge for that terrain type. Each terrain must be purchased as a separate proficiency.

A character skilled in survival has a basic knowledge of the hazards he might face in that land. He understands the effects of the weather and knows the proper steps to lessen the risk of exposure. He knows the methods to locate or gather drinkable water. He knows how to find basic, not necessarily appetizing, food where none is apparent, thus staving off starvation. Furthermore, a character with survival skill can instruct and aid others in the same situation. When using the proficiency to find food or water, the character must roll a proficiency check. If the check is failed, no more attempts can be made that day.

The survival skill in no way releases the player characters from the hardships and horrors of being lost in the wilderness. At best it alleviates a small portion of the suffering. The food found is barely adequate, and water is discovered in minuscule amounts. It is still quite possible for a character with survival knowledge to die in the wilderness.

A character with this proficiency also knows the general characteristics of his chosen environment. When in those environs, the character can determine whether something is safe or not. This proficiency allows a character to check to see whether a plant is edible, the water safe to drink, or if the gravity is going to change over the next ridge. Only constant and established dangers can be avoided.

Survival does not give any knowledge about the animals, monsters, or other denizens of an environment.

Swimming: A character with swimming proficiency knows how to swim and can move according to the rules given in the Swimming section of the Player’s Handbook. Those without this proficiency cannot swim. They can hold their breath, but they cannot move themselves about in the water, nor keep themselves afloat.

Regardless of proficiency, a character at medium or greater encumbrance or wearing any kind of metal armor will sink in water.

Tracking: Characters with tracking proficiency are able to follow the trail of creatures and characters across most types of terrain. For tracking to succeed, the creature tracked must leave some type of trail. Thus, it is virtually impossible to track flying or noncorporeal creatures. The DM may allow this in rare instances, but he should also assign substantial penalties to the attempt.

To track a creature, the character must first find the trail. Indoors, the tracker must have seen the creature in the last 30 minutes and must begin tracking from the place last seen. Outdoors, the tracker must either have seen the creature, have eyewitness reports of its recent movement (“Yup, we saw them orcs just high-tail it up that trail there not but yesterday.”), or must have obvious evidence that the creature is in the area (such as a well-used game trail). If these conditions are met, a proficiency check is rolled. Success means a trail has been found. Failure means no trail has been found. Another attempt cannot be made until the above conditions are met again under different circumstances.

Once the trail is found, additional proficiency checks are rolled for the following situations:

  • The chance to track decreases (terrain, rain, creatures leaving the group, darkness, etc.).
  • A second track crosses the first.
  • The party resumes tracking after a halt (to rest, eat, fight, etc.).

Once the tracker fails a proficiency check, another check can be rolled after spending at least one hour searching the area for new signs. If this check is failed, no further attempts can be made. If several trackers are following a trail, a +1 bonus is added to the ability score of the most adept tracker. Once he loses the trail, it is lost to all.

Tracking checks are modified by a variety of circumstances, as detailed on the table below. These modifiers are cumulative, total the modifiers for all conditions that apply and combine that with the tracker’s Intuition score to get the modified chance to track.

If the modifiers lower the chance to track below 0 (for example, the modifiers are -11 and the character’s Intuition is 10), the trail is totally lost to that character and further tracking is impossible (even if the chance later improves). Other characters may be able to continue tracking, but that character cannot.

A tracking character can also attempt to identify the type of creatures being followed and the approximate number by rolling a proficiency check. All the normal tracking modifiers apply. One identifying check can be rolled each time a check is rolled to follow the trail. A successful check identifies the creatures (provided the character has some knowledge of that type of creature) and gives a rough estimate of their numbers.

Terrain Modifier
Soft or muddy ground +4
Thick brush, vines, or reeds +3
Occasional signs of passage, dust +2
Normal ground, wood floor 0
Rocky ground or shallow water -10
Every two creatures in the group +1
Every 12 hours since trail was made -1
Every hour of rain, snow, or sleet -5
Poor lighting (moon or starlight) -6
Tracked party attempts to hide trail -5

Trail Marking: By notching trees, scattering pebbles, piling stones, and clipping weeds, the character can mark a trail through any wilderness area. Providing he moves at 2/3 his normal movement rate, he can mark a continuous trail as long as he likes; however, the longer the trail, the less likely he’ll be able to follow it back.

A successful proficiency check enables a backtracking character to follow his own trail for a distance equal to his level in miles. If he fails a check, he loses the trail. For instance, assume a 3rd level character marked a 12-mile trail. His first successful proficiency check enables him to follow this trail back three miles. A second successful proficiency check means he can follow the trail another three miles. The third check fails, and he loses the trail; he’s only been able to follow his trail for a total of six miles.

The tracking proficiency isn’t necessary to use the trail marking proficiency. However, when a character loses his own marked trail, he may still attempt to follow it using the Tracking proficiency. Any other characters with the tracking proficiency may also attempt to follow a character’s marked trail.

A marked trail lasts unless it is obscured by precipitation, a natural disaster, or the passage of time (an undisturbed trail marked in a forest should last for weeks, while an arctic trail may last less than a day during periods of heavy precipitation; the DM decides). A Character with the tracking proficiency may still attempt to follow an obscured trail using the normal tracking rules.

Trail Signs: A character with this proficiency can read symbolic messages indicated by an arrangement of stones or other physical objects. The character must designate the method of leaving messages preferred by his family, tribe, orgnization, or culture. Typical methods include piling rocks, stacking branches, or building snow sculptures. When the character encounters such a message, he understands the meaning if he makes a successful proficiency check. (“A dragon dwells in these woods.” “Eat the green berries for restored health.”) The message is meaningless to characters without the trail signs proficiency. A character with the trail signs proficiency who uses methods other than the one encountered can try to read it at half the normal chance for success. This proficiency can also be used to identify the cultural group or tribe that has left a specific trail sign.

Venom Handling: With this proficiency, a character learns how to safely use both magical and mundane poisons. There is no danger of such a character accidentally stabbing himself or someone with a poisoned weapon. In addition, characters can identify naturally occurring animals, plants, or monsters that are poisonous or venomous (with a check). Any roll of 20 results in a misidentification of both the venemous creature.

Weaponsmithing, Crude: This proficiency allows the making simple weapons out of natural materials. This skill is most often found in those from a primitive, tribal, or savage background. The crude weapons are limited to natural materials: stone, wood, bone, sinew, reed, and the like. Crude weapons take a certain amount of time to make.

The chance for success is based on the character’s Intuition, with a -3 penalty. A character who also has the Hunting proficiency negates this penalty. The fashioner must be proficient in the use of the weapon to be made.

If successful, the weapon can be used normally. If failed, the weapon is so badly flawed as to be useless. On a roll of 20, the weapon seems sound, but will break upon first use. On a roll of 1, the weapon has no chance of breaking except against a harder material.

Weapon Construction Time
Arrows 7/day
Axe, Battle 4 days
Axe, Hand 1 day
Axe, Throwing 6 days
Bow, Long 15 days (plus 1 year to season the wood)
Bow, Short 12 days
Dagger 2 days
Dart 3 day
Javelin 1 day
Knife 2 days
Quarterstaff 1 day
Spear 2 days
Staff Sling 3 days
Warhammer 5 days

Water Finding: Even the most barren desert yields water to those who know how to find it. Small animals burrow in the ground and store water there; some rare plants store water in cistern roots beneath the soil; seemingly lifeless trees sometimes have moist heartwood. The find water proficiency can only be used once per day and takes an hour to perform. During this time the character can only move half as far as normal. A successful check indicates he has found sufficient water to sustain himself for one day. It does not mean that he has found enough water to rehydrate, but he will not further dehydrate that day. The character can only find enough water for himself, if he shares his find with others, none of them gains any benefit.

Survival Proficiencies

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