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 Post subject: Tropical Diseases ?
PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2011 8:56 am 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:08 am
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Location: Sonthofen / Germany
During the work on my West Africa setting I realized that I would need some
game mechanic for tropical diseases. During the time period of the setting the
region was known as the "white man's grave" because of the high death rate
of explorers and colonists, so the diseases should also be an element of the
setting.

The normal game mechanic of Call of Cthulhu / BRP includes daily CON rolls to
fight the disease and enables the characters to remain at least partially active
during the worst phase of the disease. I was looking for something less compli-
cated, but at the same time perhaps a little more realistic overall - in my view
a character who suffers from high fever and stomach cramps does not go hun-
ting elephants.

Yesterday I posted some first thoughts on a possible game mechanic over on
BRP Central, this here is a more organized description which I post because I
would like to ask for your opinions, too.

First, there is a general probability to become infected with a disease, which is
modified according to the terrain (swamps are more dangerous) and the charac-
ter's precautions (like taking chinin and using a mosquito net).
Each of the major tropical diseases of the region (malaria, sleeping sickness, yel-
low fever ...) has a specific incubation period, a disease period during which the
character is incapacitated, and a lethality rate.

The character rolls for his basic probability to become infected, perhaps once per
month and more often in dangerous terrain, with a modifier based upon his precau-
tions. If he is infected, the specific disease is determined randomly.
If he had the bad luck to catch a disease, he rolls for the length of the incubation
period (different diseases have different incubation periods) and then also for the
length of the disease period (again, depending on the disease). During the disease
period the character is "out of business".
Finally the character rolls for his chance of survival, modified for his constitution
and the medical treatment he received during the disease period. Some diseases,
like the mild forms of malaria, are rarely lethal, other diseases, like the sleeping
sickness, always have a lethality rate of 100 % ...

I think (well, hope) that such an approach would still demonstrate the dangers of
the tropical diseases and would still simulate the differences between the diseases
(length of incubation period and disease period, lethality rate), it would still give
the character a chance for precautions and medical treatment, but with only four
die rolls it should not slow down the game too much.

Well, what do you think ? :)


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 Post subject: Re: Tropical Diseases ?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 6:45 pm 
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Joined: Wed May 18, 2011 7:01 pm
Posts: 350
Location: Bristol
I think the problem will be that the high death rate for the period was because they had little clue at to how these diseases were transmitted, and COULDN'T cure many of them (or the cure has side effects as bad as or worse than the disease, like black water fever from quinine), so if your PCs catch them they will be stuck with them. Characters slowly dying of yellow fever or having recurrent and debilitating bouts of malaria doesn't sound much fun for the players!

Unless you want to give them visions and/or plot clues during fever hallucinations! ;)


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 Post subject: Re: Tropical Diseases ?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:10 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:08 am
Posts: 3107
Location: Sonthofen / Germany
strontygirl wrote:
Characters slowly dying of yellow fever or having recurrent and debilitating bouts of malaria doesn't sound much fun for the players!

Our usual solution for such problems in realistic pseudo-historical settings
is to give each player at least two characters to play, so the player can
continue with the game while one of his characters is "left behind in a vil-
lage" to recover from (or die because of) a wound or disease.


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 Post subject: Re: Tropical Diseases ?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:19 pm 
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IIRC the Dark Continent RPG had very extensive rules for all sorts of fun diseases (tropical or otherwise). Including Syphilis, IIRC (or Cholera? or maybe both?)

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 Post subject: Re: Tropical Diseases ?
PostPosted: Sun Oct 23, 2011 8:28 pm 
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Joined: Thu Jul 03, 2008 1:08 am
Posts: 3107
Location: Sonthofen / Germany
Unfortunately I was unable to find a copy of Dark Continent, but over on BRP
Central I was told that The Black Seal 3, a magazine for Call of Cthulhu, had
an article on tropical diseases, and this article really covers the subject very
well, although from a more modern perspective - which is no problem, I only
have to ignore the informations about modern medications and treatments.

http://rpg.drivethrustuff.com/product_i ... s_id=87219


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