Desert terrain exists in warm, temperate, and cold climates, but all deserts share one common trait: little rain. The three categories of desert terrain are tundra (cold deserts), rocky desert (often temperate), and sandy desert (often warm).
Tundra differs from the other desert categories in two important ways. Because snow and ice cover
much of the landscape, it's easy to find water. And during the height of summer, the permafrost thaws to a depth of a foot or so, turning the landscape into a vast field of mud. The muddy tundra affects movement
and skill use as the shallow bogs described in marsh terrain
, although there's little standing water.
The table above describes terrain elements found in each of the three desert categories. The terrain elements on this table are mutually exclusive; for instance, a square of tundra may contain either light undergrowth
or an ice sheet
, but not both.
Consisting of scrubby, hardy bushes and cacti, light undergrowth
functions as described for other terrain types.
Small rocks are strewn across the ground, making nimble movement
more difficult more difficult. The DC of Balance
checks increases by 2.
This terrain feature consists of more and larger stones. It costs 2 squares of movement
to enter a square with dense rubble
. The DC of Balance
checks increases by 5, and the DC of Move Silently
checks increases by 2.
Created by the action of wind on sand, sand dunes
function as hills that move. If the wind is strong and consistent, a sand dune
can move several hundred feet in a week's time. Sand dunes
hundreds of squares. They always have a gentle slope pointing in the direction of the prevailing wind and a steep slope
on the leeward side.
Other Desert Terrain Features:
Tundra is sometimes bordered by forests, and the occasional tree isn't out of place in the cold wastes. Rocky deserts have towers and mesas consisting of flat ground surrounded on all sides by cliffs and steep slopes
(described in Mountain Terrain
, above). Sandy deserts sometimes have quicksand
; this functions as described in Marsh Terrain
, above, although desert quicksand
is a waterless mixture of fine sand and dust. All desert terrain is crisscrossed with dry streambeds (treat as trenches 5 to 15 feet wide) that fill with water on the rare occasions when rain falls.
Stealth and Detection in the Desert:
In general, the maximum distance in desert terrain at which a Spot
check for detecting the nearby presence of others can succeed is 6d6x20 feet; beyond this distance, elevation changes and heat distortion in warm deserts makes spotting impossible. The presence of dunes in sandy deserts limits spotting distance to 6d6x10 feet.
The desert imposes neither bonuses nor penalties on Listen
checks. The scarcity of undergrowth or other elements that offer concealment
makes hiding more difficult.
reduces visibility to 1d10x5 feet and provides a -4 penalty on Listen
, and Spot
checks. A sandstorm
deals 1d3 points of nonlethal damage
per hour to any creatures caught in the open, and leaves a thin coating of sand in its wake. Driving sand creeps in through all but the most secure seals and seams, to chafe skin and contaminate carried gear.
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