Heat Dangers


For game purposes, air temperature falls into one of the nine temperature bands described on Table 1–1.

Table 1–1: Temperature Bands

–51º F or lower Unearthly cold
–50º F to –21º F Extreme cold
–20º F to 0º F Severe cold
1º F to 40º F Cold
41º F to 60º F Moderate
61º F to 90º F Warm
91º F to 110º F Hot
111º F to 140º F Severe heat
141º F to 180º F Extreme heat
181º F to 210º F Unearthly heat
211º F or higher Burning heat

Temperatures in the hot band or above can be hazardous to unprepared characters. Characters can take damage from such extreme heat, a condition generally referred to as heatstroke. At lower temperatures, this damage starts off as nonlethal while the character is still conscious, but it becomes lethal for those already rendered unconscious by heatstroke (with no saving throw allowed). A character who takes any nonlethal damage from heatstroke is considered fatigued.
A character with the Survival skill can receive a bonus on saving throws against heat and dessication damage, and can apply this bonus to other characters as well. See the skill description, page 83 of the Player’s Handbook. The levels of protection described here refer to a character’s protective measures against heat (see Protection against Heat).
Hot: In this temperature band, unprotected characters must make successful Fortitude saving throws each hour (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Characters wearing heavy clothing or any kind of armor take –4 penalties on their saves. Characters whose protection against heat is at least level 1 (such as from the Heat Endurance feat or carrying a parasol) are safe at this temperature range and need not make the save.
Severe Heat: In this temperature band, unprotected characters must make successful Fortitude saving throws once every 10 minutes (DC 15, +1 for each previous check) or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Characters wearing heavy clothing or any kind of armor take –4 penalties on their saves.
To be completely protected against severe heat, a character must have protection level 2 or higher (such as from wearing keepcool salve and carrying a parasol). A character with protection level 1 is considered partially protected, and such characters must attempt this saving throw only once per hour.
Extreme Heat: In this temperature band, unprotected characters take 1d6 points of lethal damage per 10 minutes (no save). In addition, unprotected characters must make successful Fortitude saving throws (DC 15, +1 per previous check) every 10 minutes or take 1d4 points of nonlethal damage. Characters wearing heavy clothing or any kind of armor take–4 penalties on their saves. In addition, those wearing metal armor or coming into contact with very hot metal are affected as if by a heat metal spell (which lasts as long as the character remains in the area of extreme heat).
A character must have protection level 3 or higher to be protected against extreme heat. Level 2 is considered partial protection, and such characters take damage and make saving throws once per hour instead of once per 10 minutes. Level 1 provides no protection.
Unearthly Heat: In this temperature band, which includes many environments normally deadly to all life, unprotected characters take 1d6 points of lethal damage and 1d4 points of nonlethal damage per round (no save). In addition, those wearing metal armor or coming into contact with very hot metal are affected as if by a heat metal spell (which lasts as long as the character remains in the area of unearthly heat).
Characters with protection level 4 or higher are safe
at this temperature range. Levels 2 and 3 are considered
partial protection, and such characters take damage once
per 10 minutes instead of once per round. Level 1 provides
no protection.
Burning Heat: At some point, increasing temperatures
push past even unearthly heat and graduate to
actual burning—when material objects catch fire
spontaneously due to the heat. For instance, paper catches
fi re at 451º F (and dried-out skin catches fi re at around
the same temperature). Characters carrying fuel for their
lamps or other combustibles discover that it catches fi re
at around 260º F. Water boils at approximately 212º F
(depending on barometric pressure), and many potions
or elixirs could quickly boil away to nothing
somewhere near that
temperature range.
In a region in this
temperature band (also known as a fi redominant
area), characters take 3d10
points of fi re damage per round. In addition,
those wearing metal armor or
coming into contact with very hot
metal are affected as if
by a heat metal spell
(which lasts as long
as the character remains
in the area of
burning heat). Generally,
methods of protection
against heat offer
no protection in
areas of burning
heat, and various
of heat protection
if a creature is on
fi re unless it is immune
or resistant to fi re.
Treating Heatstroke
Nonlethal damage from heatstroke (including the accompanying
fatigue) cannot be recovered until a character gets
cooled off—by reaching shade, surviving until nightfall,
getting doused in water, being targeted by endure elements,
or the equivalent. Once the character is cooled or reaches
a cooler environment (a temperature of 90 degrees or
lower), the character responds normally to healing that
removes nonlethal damage. When the character recovers
the nonlethal damage taken from heatstroke, the fatigue
penalties also end.
Conditional Temperature Variations
Temperatures can vary signifi cantly with decreasing
elevation or time of day. The presence of wind can also
affect the relative heat and drying effect of a waste
environment. A character might require no special
precautions during the evening or at higher elevations,
but at noon or inside a deep caldera, otherwise tolerable
conditions can become dangerously hot. Conversely,
with the onset of night, the temperature in a desert can
drop sharply, producing conditions of cold even in the
most torrid latitudes.
The most
common factors
that affect
temperature are
described below.
Altitude: Regions that
are comfortable at higher
elevations can become very
hot at lower levels. Some waste regions,
particularly dry seabeds,
are depressions in the surrounding
landscape and might even be
below sea level. The
temperature increases
by one band when
descending from low
peak or high pass elevations
(5,000 feet to
15,000 feet) to hills.
It increases by one
additional band at extremely
low elevation
(200 feet or more below
sea level). For
example, a day
of moderate
heat at higher
elevations is
hot at medium elevation
and becomes a climate of
severe heat at the bottom of a dry
salt lake.
In addition, moving deeper into
the earth raises the ambient temperature as the pressure of
surrounding rock increases. This increase is approximately
1º F per 75 feet of depth; this can be much faster if there
is geothermic activity in the region (magma, hot springs,
and so on).
Night: When most people think of the desert, they
conjure up visions of shimmering heat haze, sand, and
blazing sun. These features do exist—during the day.
At night, the clear, dry air allows the land to give up the
day’s heat with frightening rapidity. Within a few hours, the killing heat of the day is replaced by the chill of the
night. It is quite possible to succumb to cold in the middle
of the desert.
The temperature drop might be as much as three or even
four temperature bands, and characters without adequate
protection against cold run the risk of hypothermia (see
Cold Dangers, page 302 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, or
consult the Frostburn accessory).
Noon: In many climates, high noon (and a few hours
afterward) is the hottest time of the day, as the sun shines
directly onto the planet’s surface. In the arid, cloudless
environment of the waste, there is no barrier against the
sun’s blaze. Rocks can get hot enough to cook food or even
produce fi rst-degree burns.
In most places, temperatures rise by one band after
sunrise, and sometime even by two bands by high noon.
In the waste, this increase is more pronounced, with
temperatures rising by three or even four bands between
the chill of night and the heat of midday.
Wind: Although a cool breeze on the skin can be a
blessing during the day, many waste environments have
winds that actually exacerbate the hot, dry conditions. A
furnace blast blowing over a barren plain not only heats
the air, it carries away precious moisture from the surface
of the skin. If enough fl uid is lost, the body responds by
constricting surface blood vessels—which increases core
body temperature and raises the risk of heatstroke. Winds
that are hot or hotter, as well as strong or more powerful
(see page 95 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide), increase the
effective temperature by one band.
Protection against Heat
Few people venture into the waste without some form of
protection against heat. By far the most common means of
protection is dressing appropriately in fl owing, light clothing
or staying near shade and water. Magical protection
further improves the chance to survive in hot, dry climates.
In addition, special devices and alchemical concoctions
can aid desert travel.
A character’s protection against heat dangers is described
by level of protection, which ranges from 1 to 5 or higher.
Such levels of protection do not confer any special fi re
resistance—a red dragon’s breath still does the same
damage. However, equipment that provides a bonus on
saving throws against heat dangers contributes its bonus
whether it is complete, partial, or ineffective protection
against that degree of heat. Thus, even though keepcool
salve is not suffi cient to offer even partial protection
against extreme heat, a character with keepcool salve (see
page 102) still adds the item’s +1 circumstance bonus on
saves against nonlethal damage dealt by an extremely hot
To determine your protection level, begin with your
base protection level as determined on Table 1–2, and
then add any applicable equipment modifi ers from Table
1–3. For example, a bhuka using keepcool salve and
armorbright has protection level 3 (a base of 1 for the
Heat Endurance feat, with a +1 bonus for the salve and a
+1 bonus for the armorbright), allowing that particular
bhuka to survive conditions of extreme heat indefi nitely
without harm.
Table 1–2: Base Protection Level against Heat
0 Creature with no heat adaptations
1 Creature with Heat Endurance feat (such as bhuka)
1 Nondesert cold-blooded animal or vermin
1 Monsters native to hot climates
2 Desert animal or vermin
2 Monsters native to waste terrain
3 Creatures with endure elements spell or effect
Heat Endurance Feat: Creatures with the Heat Endurance
feat (see page 50).
Nondesert Cold-Blooded Animal or Vermin: Creatures
native to temperate or warm climates with a variable
body temperature that lets them function well in heat
approaching that of human body temperature (such as
insects, lizards, snakes, tortoises, and toads).
Monsters Native to Hot Climates: Creatures whose
Environment entry mentions warm climate.
Desert Animal or Vermin: Animals with variable body
temperatures or special adaptation to hot environments,
such as heat dissipation or water conservation (camels,
scorpions, sidewinder snakes, and so on).
Monsters Native to Waste Terrain: Monsters normally
found in regions of extreme heat (including natives
of fi re-dominant planes) belong in this group.
Endure Elements: Creatures currently protected by
an endure elements spell or similar effect.
Table 1–3: Equipment Modifier to Base Heat Protection
0 No special equipment
+1 Armorbright
+1 Desert outfit
+1 Keepcool salve
+2 Hydration suit
+3 Improvised shelter
Armorbright: This special alchemical item is described
on page 101 of this book.
Desert Outfi t: This special clothing item is described
on page 101 of this book.
Keepcool Salve: This special alchemical item is
described on page 102 of this book.
Hydration suit: This special clothing item is described
on page 101 of this book.
Improvised Shelter: This bonus applies to characters
who are not attempting to travel, but who stop and seek
shelter by digging into the sand, erecting a tent or windbreak,
tapping water from desert vegetation, or the like.
Resistance to Fire
A character with a spell or effect granting resistance to
fi re applies this resistance to both lethal and nonlethal
damage from hot temperatures. For example, a creature
with resistance to fi re 5 subtracts 5 from the 1d6 points of
lethal damage dealt per 10 minutes by extreme heat (and
therefore might take 1 point of heat damage, if a 6 is rolled)
and 5 from the 1d4 points of nonlethal damage dealt. In
this example, since the creature ends up not taking any
nonlethal damage from the heat, it need not worry about
heatstroke or heat exhaustion.
As the body loses fl uids, biological processes begin to
break down. This leads to in pallor, shaking, nausea, and
eventually, a complete collapse of the nervous system.
Though dehydration can occur in any environment, the
combination of high heat and low humidity typical in waste
environments makes it an omnipresent threat there.
As noted on page 304 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide,
a character must consume 1 gallon of water per day to
avoid dehydration. In particularly hot environments
(those above 90º F), characters need double the normal
amount. The amount of water required to avoid dehydration
increases by 1 gallon per temperature band higher
than hot (so 3 gallons in severe heat, 4 in extreme heat,
and so on). A creature can go without water for a number
of hours equal to 24 + its Constitution score. After this
time, the creature must make a successful Constitution
check each hour (DC 10, +1 for each previous check) or
take 1d6 points of nonlethal damage. In particularly hot
environments (those above 90º F), the time a creature can
go without water before making Constitution checks is
reduced, as described on Table 1–4.
Table 1–4: Dehydration Times
Temperature (Band) Time before Con Checks
90° or lower (warm or cooler) 24 + Con hours
91° to 110° (hot) 12 + Con hours
111° to 140° (severe heat) 6 + Con hours
141° to 180° (extreme heat) 3 + Con hours
181° to 210° (unearthly heat) Con hours
211° or higher (burning heat) 1/2 Con hours
Being Dehydrated
A lack of suffi cient water can cause individuals to become
dehydrated—a new condition described here.
Dehydrated: Characters who have taken nonlethal
damage from lack of water are considered dehydrated and
become fatigued. In addition, if a dehydrated character
would take nonlethal damage from hot conditions (such
as those described in this book or on page 303 of the
Dungeon Master’s Guide), that damage instead becomes
lethal damage.
A character who falls unconscious from nonlethal
damage due to thirst begins to take the same amount of
lethal damage instead. Damage from thirst, whether lethal
or nonlethal, cannot be recovered until the character has
been treated (see below); not even magic that restores hit
points heals this damage.
Treating Dehydration
A character who has taken nonlethal damage from lack of
water must be treated with long-term care (see the Heal
skill description, page 75 of the Player’s Handbook) to recover.
This treatment requires 24 hours of care and double the
normal amount of water required per day for the conditions
(for instance, 2 gallons of water in normal conditions). If the
character has also taken lethal damage from lack of water or
from a hot environment, add 5 to the Heal DC and double
the time required to recover (to 48 hours). Once this Heal
check has succeeded, the damage taken by the character
can be restored through the normal means.
Alternatively, certain spells can be used to rehydrate a
character in place of the recovery time, water, and Heal
check. The hydrate spell (see page 117) accomplishes this
function, as does the heal spell.
Winds in the waste can be violent or even deadly. Worse
still, winds laden with grit—whether volcanic ash, sand,
blowing soil, dust, powdered charcoal or bone, or even tiny
chips of precious gems—pose a variety of hazards.
More information about the hazards in this section, including
durations of typical storms, can be found on pages 93–95
of the Dungeon Master’s Guide. If the needs of the campaign dictate it, the DM can decide that a storm in the waste lasts
for even longer than the normal maximum time.
Severe and stronger winds pose a far graver danger than
winds of equal velocity within landscapes that support
a ground covering of grasses, sedges, and other terrain
features that preclude instantaneous erosion. In waste
areas covered by sand, loose earth, or grit, high winds are
always accompanied by duststorms or sandstorms. The
stronger the wind is in such regions, the more severe
the effect.
Contrary to popular belief, nonmagic duststorms and
sandstorms do not bury people alive. The accumulation
does not occur so quickly as to prevent escape or digging,
but a sandstorm can suffocate and kill victims by burying
them under the accumulation. The heaps of debris left
behind might be deep enough to cover small buildings,
though, and the landscape is drastically reshaped after a
major storm, which could remove landmarks and cause a
party to become lost.
Table 1–5: Sandstorm and Wind Effects integrates the
wind effects rules as presented in the Dungeon Master’s
Guide with complementary sandstorm effects rules,
described here.
Duststorm: Duststorms arise in waste areas when the
wind speed rises above 30 miles per hour. A duststorm
blows fi ne grains of sand that reduce visibility, smother
unprotected fl ames, and even choke protected fl ames,
such as a lantern’s light (50% chance). A duststorm leaves
behind a deposit of 1d6 inches of sand.
Visibility in a duststorm is reduced, so all creatures
within a duststorm take a –2 penalty on Search and
Spot checks.
Sandstorm: Sandstorms arise in waste areas when the
wind speed rises above 50 miles per hour. Sandstorms
reduce visibility to brownout conditions (see below),
smother unprotected flames, and choke protected
fl ames, such as a lantern’s light (75% chance). Moreover,
sandstorms deal 1d3 points of nonlethal damage each
round to anyone caught out in the open without shelter
and pose a suffocation hazard (see the Suffocation in a
Sandstorm sidebar). A sandstorm leaves 2d3–1 feet of
fi ne sand in its wake.
Brownout: Sandstorms create brownout conditions.
Swirling grit obscures the horizon and makes it nearly impossible to get one’s bearings. Any character in brownout
conditions caused by a sandstorm takes a –4 penalty
on Dexterity-based skill checks, as well as Search checks,
Spot checks, and any other checks that rely on vision.
These effects end when the character leaves the brownout
area or enters a protected shelter.
Sandstorm, Flensing: Flensing sandstorms arise in
waste areas when the wind speed rises above 74 miles
per hour (fl ensing sandstorm conditions can also occur
during a tornado in a waste setting). Flensing sandstorms
reduce visibility to severe brownout conditions (see
below), smother unprotected fl ames, and choke protected
fl ames (100% chance). Moreover, fl ensing sandstorms deal
1d3 points of lethal damage each round to anyone caught
out in the open without shelter and pose a suffocation
hazard (see the Suffocation in a Sandstorm sidebar). A
fl ensing sandstorm leaves 4d6 feet of sand in its wake.
Severe Brownout: Even more severe brownout conditions
apply during a fl ensing sandstorm than during a regular
sandstorm. Swirling grit obscures the horizon and makes
it nearly impossible to get one’s bearings. A character in
brownout conditions caused by a fl ensing sandstorm takes
a –6 penalty on Dexterity-based skill checks, as well as
Search, Spot, and any other checks that rely on vision.
These effects end when the character leaves the brownout
area or enters a protected shelter.
The baking ground of the waste heats air above it very
quickly, producing spinning winds of varying intensity.
When the weather is clear, the rapidly rising hot air
forms a dust devil. This resembles a tornado but is smaller
and relatively weak, with winds rarely exceeding 60 miles
per hour. Still, winds that reach severe or windstorm speed
are strong enough to deal damage (see Table 3–24: Wind
Effects, page 95 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide). At ground
level, visibility is reduced to practically nothing, granting
total concealment to creatures within.
A tornado is the most violent kind of mundane whirlwind,
with winds that can exceed 200 miles per hour. It is
very localized, though—the widest tornado is less than a
mile across, and most have a diameter of only a few hundred
feet. Tornadoes move relatively slowly across the landscape
but can make sudden, erratic turns that are impossible to
predict. They occur most often at the boundaries between
waste environments and more temperate areas. A whirlwind
spawned at the edge of a desert can move into the
temperate region, or into the deep waste.
The most severe thunderstorms (roughly one in ten)
also generate tornadoes. Even so, fewer than half of those
whirlwinds pack winds above hurricane strength (75
to 174 miles per hour). For game purposes, assume one
thunderstorm in twenty generates a tornado-force wind.
In the heart of such a violent storm, visibility is reduced
to zero (total concealment), and Spot, Search, and Listen
checks are impossible, as are ranged weapon attacks. Refer
to Storms, page 94 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, for more
information on these hazards.
Sand Dunes
Most people immediately think of sand dunes when
they imagine a desert, but in fact many kinds of waste
have no dunes at all. Winds carry away soil, sand, and
even light pebbles, leaving behind a thin “pavement” of
larger stones. Dried lake beds are plains of cracked mud
crusted with salt. Lava fl ows cover the land with humped,
rough stone. Still, hardy grasses and undergrowth do
exist in some parts of the waste, catching grains of sand
and holding them in place long enough for immense
“waves” to grow.
Sand dunes are wandering things, although the mundane
variety travels no more than a couple of hundred feet
in a year. This is enough to eventually overrun farmland
and choke out forests, but it is not an immediate hazard
to most creatures. However, the constant action of wind
on sand produces potentially hazardous situations.
Collapse: A sand dune has a long, shallow back slope
shaped by the wind and a sharp leading edge with a steep
drop on the lee side. This edge is precarious, with the pull
of gravity just balanced by the tendency of sand grains to
stick together. Coarser sand or lighter gravity produces
higher and steeper dunes, while fi ne grains or heavier
gravity produces low dunes with gentler slopes. However,
the wind can swiftly shift the balance, blowing sand off
the edge and triggering a sudden collapse. A collapsing
dune is every bit as dangerous as an avalanche and follows
the same rules (as described on page 90 of the Dungeon
Master’s Guide).

blowout, hollowing out the center of a dune and leaving
a large cavity. This cavity is not always visible, and a
thin layer of safe-looking sand might cover a vast tomb
that swallows people and animals without a trace. The
crust covering a blowout is too weak to support any
creature larger than Tiny. Noticing a blowout requires
a successful DC 10 Survival check; however, charging
or running characters are not entitled to a check.
Characters enveloped by the sand begin to take damage
and suffocate as though trapped by an avalanche. A
blow out hides in one out of every one hundred sand
dunes (1% chance).
Sand dunes that have been stabilized by grasses or
shrubby trees are much less likely to collapse. Still, even
such a place can hide a blowout if the undergrowth in the
area is thin.
Quicksand can’t occur without water. Saturated sand is
surrounded and buoyed up by the surrounding liquid,
forming a suspension that unwary travelers can mistake
for normal sand. While an oasis or the edge of a salt lake
might contain the conditions for quicksand to occur, it
is not likely—and there is no chance of encountering
quicksand in the dry waste. Supernatural hazards, though,
such as slipsand (see page 25), are sometimes mistakenly
referred to as “quicksand,” and such places give rise to
terrible stories.
Sand Travel
Fields of deep sand can impede the movement of creatures
that cannot fl y, fl oat, or otherwise stay off the ground
when traveling. Most creatures do not automatically sink
all the way into deep sand. A hard crust of dried mud or
salt can make the surface hard enough to support some
weight. Sand that has been stabilized by desert growth is
generally safe to walk on.
The following new terrain features are provided to
supplement those found under Desert Terrain on page 91
of the Dungeon Master’s Guide.
Shallow Sand: Shallow sand is much more common in
desert areas than deep sand. Areas covered by this terrain
feature have a layer of loose sand about 1 foot deep. It costs
2 squares of movement to move into a square with shallow
sand, and the DC of Tumble checks in such a square
increases by 2.
Deep Sand: Deep sand is most often found in deep
deserts near areas of rolling dunes and fi erce storms. Many
creatures unfamiliar with desert terrain mistake deep sand
for quicksand, although deep sand is not nearly as deadly.
Areas covered by this terrain feature have a layer of loose
sand up to 3 feet deep. It costs Medium or larger creatures
3 squares of movement to move into a square with deep
sand. It costs Small or smaller creatures 4 squares of movement
to move into a square with deep sand. Tumbling is
impossible in deep sand.
Sand Crust: A sand crust appears as normal solid
ground. Usually formed from a hardened crust of dried
mud or salt, sand crusts sometimes cover areas of shallow
sand (or, very rarely, deep sand). If a creature weighing
more than 100 pounds (including equipment carried)
enters a square covered with a sand crust, it breaks
through to the sand below. The creature treats the square
as shallow sand or deep sand, whichever lies below that
square of sand crust, and it must deal with the effects
of the sand on movement as described above. Creatures
moving through an area of sand crust leave a trail in
their wake, turning the sand crust they pass through
into shallow sand or deep sand squares as applicable.
Creatures weighing 100 pounds or less can treat sand
crust as normal terrain.
In the clear, dry air of the waste, nothing blocks the sun’s
rays, which can pose dangers of their own.
The sun can be extremely dangerous to unprotected eyes,
drying and irritating the tissue. Areas of white sand, salt,
gypsum, or similarly light-colored material refl ect the sun’s
glare into the eyes even when not looked at directly. Sun
glare is doubly dangerous during winter months, when
the sun is low on the horizon and thus diffi cult to avoid
looking at.
Characters traveling in such conditions must cover their
eyes with a veil, dark lenses, or a similar eye covering.
Those whose eyes are unprotected in such conditions
are automatically dazzled. Such characters take a –1
penalty on attack rolls, Search checks, and Spot checks.
These penalties are doubled for creatures that have light
sensitivity (such as drow or orcs). Characters who take the
precaution of covering or shielding their eyes automatically
eliminate the risk of being dazzled by sun glare and take
no penalties.
Glare-induced blindness lasts as long as characters
remain in an area of sun glare and for 1d4 hours thereafter,
or for 1 hour thereafter if the character enters a shadowed
or enclosed area. The dazzling effect of sun glare can be
negated by a remove blindness spell, but an unprotected
character still in an area of sun glare immediately becomes
dazzled again when the spell’s duration expires.
Sunburn is a serious hazard when traveling in the waste.
A mild sunburn is merely distracting, but more severe
burns can be life-threatening.
Avoiding sunburn requires covering up exposed skin,
wearing hats or robes, or carrying a parasol. Protective
lotions also keep the skin safe, and beings native to
torrid climates have developed dark skin pigmentation
to protect against the sun. Of course, wearing heavy
clothing carries its own risks (increasing the likelihood
of succumbing to heatstroke), and sunlight reflected
from light-colored surfaces can still reach beneath a hat
or shade.
Characters who take even minimal care to protect
their skin from direct sunlight (a hat, a cloak, or other
body-covering garment will do) are not subject to sunburn.
Wearing the desert outfi t described on page 101 is
suffi cient to prevent sunburn. In addition, several other
items described in Chapter 4 can protect against the
effects of sunburn.
If a character is caught out in the sun and completely
unprotected, serious consequences can result. After 3
hours of such exposure, the character is mildly sunburned
and takes 1 point of nonlethal damage. After 3 hours
more exposure, the character develops severe sunburn
and immediately takes 2d6 points of nonlethal damage
and a –2 penalty on Fortitude saves to avoid damage or
fatigue from heat dangers until the nonlethal damage
is healed.
Characters or creatures with naturally dark (or tanned)
skin pigmentation are naturally resistant to sunburn.
Such individuals can remain in the sun unprotected for
6 hours before becoming mildly sunburned, and for 12
hours before becoming severely sunburned.
Even without the threat of dehydration, heatstroke, or
sandstorms, waste terrain can be deadly.
Flash Floods
Storms or spring runoff from nearby mountains can
send deadly walls of water through ravines or along low
desert gullies. A fl ash fl ood can suddenly raise the water
level of an area, fi lling a dry gulch to the top of its walls.
A flood raises the water level by 1d10+10 feet within
a matter of minutes. Water washes through affected
squares, traveling at a speed of 60 feet or more, unless
impeded by slopes or solid barriers. Treat a fl ash fl ood as
stormy water (Swim DC 20 to avoid being swept away).
An additional DC 20 Swim check is required each round
to keep the head above water. Characters who stay below
the surface might drown (as described on page 304 of the
Dungeon Master’s Guide). See Aquatic Terrain, page 92 of
the Dungeon Master’s Guide, for more about the effects of
being swept away.
Along with the hazards of fast-fl owing water, the fl ow
uproots trees and rolls enormous boulders with deadly
impact. Characters struck by a wall of water during a fl ash
fl ood must make a successful DC 15 Refl ex save or take
3d6 points of bludgeoning damage. A fl ash fl ood passes
through an area in 3d4 hours.
As air heats up over the desert fl oor, shimmering convection
currents appear. These currents blur and distort
features behind them and can even produce optical illusions
called mirages. A mirage is formed at the boundary
between hot air at ground level and a cooler layer higher
up, which acts as a lens to refract light and refl ect images
of more distant objects. Mirages can disorient travelers in
the waste by obscuring landmarks or making distances
seem shorter than they actually are.
One can reduce the effect of a mirage by getting to
higher elevation, which minimizes the amount of refraction.
Of course, this requires not only a place to climb (or
a fly spell) but also the ability to recognize what you are
looking at. An observer can make a DC 12 Will save to
disbelieve the apparent image. A character who suspects a
mirage gets a +4 circumstance bonus on this save. Once the
existence of a mirage is revealed, disbelief is automatic.
Getting Lost
As discussed in Wilderness Adventures in Chapter 3 of
the Dungeon Master’s Guide, adventurers might become lost
when traversing various sorts of terrain. Refer to that chapter
for more information regarding the chances and effects
of becoming lost as well as regaining one’s bearings.
Additionally, sandstorms, steam clouds, mirages, trackless
lava fl ows, and glaring sand can easily confuse and disorient
characters. Disorientation or even hallucinations from
heatstroke can also cause a character to become lost.
Table 1–6: Survival DCs to Avoid Getting Lost
Terrain Survival Check DC
Badlands 12
Barren waste 12
Evaporated sea 10
Glass sea 15
Petrified forest 17
Table 1–7: Survival DC Modifers to Avoid Getting Lost
Condition Survival Check DC Modifi er
Duststorm +4
Sandstorm +6
Map –4
Mist or steam +2
Heat shimmer +2
Glare +2
Mirage +4
Trackless* +2
*See Overland Movement, page 164 of the Player’s Handbook.
Steam and Mist
Although the waste is usually dry, circumstances can combine
to produce thick clouds of mist or even steam. Some creatures living in such regions adapt and become able
recover the precious moisture from the atmosphere.
Deserts that border coastal areas do not themselves
receive much precipitation, but when cooler, moist ocean
air encounters the superheated air over the land, water
condenses out into a thick mist. During the day, this mist
is uncomfortably hot, while at night it is more tolerably
warm until it is dispersed by strong winds that kick up as
the land cools. In active volcanic regions, hot springs and
fi ssures vent scalding steam. Lava fl owing into a body of
water throws up huge clouds of hot mist, as well as showers
of stone fragments and ash.
Areas of hot mist increase the effective temperature
band by one (see Table 1–1, page 12), as humidity combines
with high temperature to keep the body from cooling
during the day and conversely moderates the cold of the
desert night.
Steam erupting directly from a hot spring, lava fl ow, or
other fi ery source is much more dangerous, dealing 1d6
points of lethal damage per round to a creature within (no
save). Such steam does cool rapidly in the air, however, and
only deals such damage within a 30-foot radius of its fi ery
source. Beyond 30 feet from the source, the steam is just
a warm mist.
Mist or steam obscures vision, providing concealment.
If it contains dust, powdered salt, and similar noxious
substances, mist also poses the risk of suffocation (see
page 304 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide). Toxic vapors mixed
with fog act as an inhaled poison.

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