Revised Overland Movement and Fatigue Rules (3.5e Variant Rule)

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Author: Tarkisflux (talk)
Date Created: Aug 2009
Status: Complete
Editing: Clarity edits only please
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The movement rules in the SRD are not particularly satisfying. Like most of the original skills, they don't grow in any meaningful way with character level. It's unlikely that you can naturally run any farther at level 20 than at level 1 regardless of archetype. While you might be able to run another couple of rounds at higher level, it almost certainly all comes from the constitution bonus item you happen to be wearing rather than anything about yourself. They also interact badly with the fatigue you get from swimming or climbing, and the translation from local movement to overland movement is barely there. But while there are limits on how long you can run and walk and swim and climb, there aren't limits on how long you can keep swinging your sword or chop down trees or chisel away at castle walls or other non-movement physical activities.

So we're going to revise the rules to open the door for cross-country runners as well as more rigorous modeling of running / walking cycles by changing the way that fatigue is generated by various actions. This means that we can track fatigue from movement and battle and anything else that a character does in one place and apply penalties as they do more without resting. We can even apply this to extraordinarily long fights, like one man against an army much lower level than he, where fatigue is a much greater enemy than the individual opposing troops. It allows a streamlined way to incorporate fatigue from all action sources into one result, instead of the patchwork of obscure conversions and absent rules that we have now.

Of course, you could simply ignore most of the fatigue rules, as they rarely come up outside of running, extremely long epic fights, and overland travel (which will be discussed on its own) and use this variant because it better defines the movement aspects of the game world and the actions that they use. And it also allows some characters to make heroic run attempts across vast distances that leave them unconscious. Those are good reasons to adopt it too.


The lives of adventures happen at three distinct speeds: the leisurely or cautious normal pacing, the swift and sometimes rushed hustling pace, and the desperate pace of the flat-out. These are described below.

Normal Pace[edit]

Whenever you fill your round with a single move or standard action, you are moving at a normal pace. There are a lot of actions that can be taken at this pace, as long as they aren’t paired with other actions, since most actions in the game are either standard or move-equivalent actions. A ‘full-round action’ is never a normal paced action despite the fact that it is only one action during your entire round. This is because it uses both your standard and move actions for the round.

For the purposes of overland or local movement, this pace includes taking only a single move action to move up to your base speed in one of your movement modes for the round. When this is done by humanoids with their base land speed we call it walking, but it’s no more tiring for a bird to fly or a mole to burrow at their base speeds. Moving in a fashion for which you do not have a base speed, like climbing a wall without a climb speed, may or may not fall into this pace depending on the actions required.

Hustling Pace[edit]

Any round in which you take both a move and a standard action is a round spent at the hustling pace. This category also includes many full-round actions, but not all of them. Casting a spell with a 1-round or full-round casting time is a full-round action at the hustling pace, while running is a full-round action at the flat-out pace.

For the purposes of overland or local movement, this pace includes taking either a single or a double move action with one of your movement modes for the round. When this is done by humanoids with their base land speed, we call it jogging or hustling (if they take another action in addition to movement). Moving in a fashion for which you do not have a base speed, like climbing a wall without a climb speed, may or may not fall into this pace depending on the actions required.

Flat-Out Pace[edit]

When a creature throws caution to the wind and sacrifices endurance for speed, they are moving at a flat-out pace. There are few actions that even allow this pace, and almost all of them are movement. All flat-out actions are full-round actions.

The most common action taken at a flat-out pace is the Run action. The run action is also the only action we care about for the purposes of local or overland movement. Moving in a fashion for which you do not have a base speed, like climbing a wall without a climb speed, may or may not fall into this pace depending on the actions required. By defining this pace in this way, however, we can alter the Run action slightly to make it more equitable, since every action in this category will tire you in the same way.

Revised Run Action[edit]

Run action: As a full-round action, a creature can take up to 4 movement actions in exchange for caution and precision. They may even split their movement actions among different movement modes, but all modes must be natural for the creature. Most humanoids can only do this with their base walk speed, but flying, swimming, climbing, burrowing, and any other natural movement speed is also eligible. A creature with a base land speed of 30’ and a burrowing speed of 20’ could thus run 60’ on land before burrowing the final 40’ by taking this action. You may not take a run action if you are fatigued or exhausted.

Special: Some characters may take more or less than 4 movement actions as part of a run as a result of feats, class features, armor, or encumbrance. These movement limits supersede the 4 movement actions listed here.

Combining Pacing[edit]

Taking actions at the different paces tires a character out at different rates. Everyone can move flat-out for 1 round per point of constitution, so even those of average constitution can run for at least a minute. Moving at a hustling pace for 1 minute is equivalent to 1 round of running. As most fights happen at this pace, this means that battles lasting longer than 1 minute per point of constitution may be hazardous for characters. Lastly, moving in a normal way for 15 minutes is equivalent to 1 round of running. While that doesn’t have much bearing on combat, it does mean that you can walk across the mountains for a few hours, resting for a few minutes every hour, without really wearing yourself out. Exactly like a heroic adventurer should.


Having better defined the various ways that an adventurer can tire themselves out, and made these paces function in similar and interacting ways, we need to discuss what happens when you reach your limit.

Continue Exertion[edit]

Whatever action pace brings you to your limit, characters have to start making checks to see if they become tired once there. This is an Endurance skill check, or just a constitution check if the skill is untrained. The base DC for this check is 10 or the DC to traverse the terrain, if it is difficult. Use the highest DC applicable. The results of this check appear in the check result table below, and include fatigue and exhaustion. You suffer a penalty to this check based on your exertions since you were last fully rested, however, generally as a result of previous checks.

If you become fatigued during your exertion, you’re done moving faster than a hustle for a while, since the condition actually disallows taking any flat-out actions. If you become exhausted during your exertion, it stops you from doing pretty much anything beyond a normal pace, since it disallows everything except walking or other actions at the normal pace. You may also fall unconscious when you acquire the exhausted condition, if you have taken enough subdual damage, and that disallows everything except sleeping it off. Any subdual damage acquired will need to heal normally and does not heal at all during any hour in which you acquire more of it.

To become fully rested after an exertion, you have to rest for a while. Resting in this case means not taking any actions at even the normal pace, though you can take 5' moves to "walk it off" if you like. You must rest for 1 round per round of flat-out action or 1 minute, whichever is less. After the time has passed, you are considered fully rested, and you are no longer fatigued if you acquired that condition as a result of these checks. If you became exhausted as part of your exertion, you must rest for 10 minutes to clear that condition before any time spent counts towards you being fully rested and clearing the fatigued condition. If you fell unconscious during your exertion, you have to wait for the subdual damage to heal to the point where you regain consciousness before you can begin to recover from exhaustion. It takes a lot of time to recover from that sort of strain, so you should probably not do it unless you're really desperate.

If you begin exerting yourself before you have become fully rested, your previous penalty is reduced by 1 point for each round spent resting after clearing the unconscious and exhausted conditions, if they applied, but you must begin making checks as soon as you have moved the equivalent of 1 round at a flat-out pace with the current penalty.

Special: Characters who reach their limit by taking actions almost exclusively at the normal pace are granted a bonus to continuing their exertion. They may take 10 on these checks as long as they continue to proceed almost exclusively at the normal pace. In addition, they only need to make a check after every 2 check periods. "Almost exclusively" in this case means no more than 1 full period of hustling or flat-out action before you reach your limit, and then no more than 2 rounds of hustling action for each extended period once you have reached your limit and are making checks. If you exceed these limits, you may not take 10 on your checks and must make a check after each period.

Base DC: 10 or difficult surface DC
Check Result:

  • DC+0 and above: You suffer a cumulative −1 penalty to this check. This penalty lasts until it is reduced through resting as described above.
  • DC-1 to DC-5: You suffer a cumulative −2 penalty to this check. This penalty lasts until it is reduced through resting as described above. You also suffer 2 points of subdual damage per level, but never enough to cause you to lapse into unconsciousness. If suffering this damage would cause you to fall unconscious, reduce the damage dealt until the point where you would not lose consciousness.
  • DC-6 and below: You suffer a cumulative −2 penalty to this check. This penalty lasts until it is reduced through resting as described above. You also suffer 4 points of subdual damage per level and become fatigued. If you are already fatigued, or are immune to fatigue and have rolled this result before without becoming fully rested, you become exhausted. Unlike the previous result, this subdual damage can render you unconscious.

Level Based Adjustments[edit]

Characters with 8 ranks in Endurance can move at a normal pace for 1 hour and 40 minutes per point of Constitution. In any day where they stop to sleep, they are unlikely to reach their limit before they need to begin making checks, even if they take normal paced actions every single round. Yes, they really can chop wood without rest all day, and you probably don't need to worry about it.

Characters with 12 ranks in Endurance can perform at a hustling pace for that length of time instead, and that means they can pretty much jog all day as long as they stop to sleep. Again, you probably don't need to worry about tracking actions at this pace anymore, and you certainly shouldn't track actions at a normal pace at this point.

Characters with 14 ranks in Endurance can move flat-out for an hour per point of Constitution. You only need to track actions or fatigue for these characters in really extreme circumstances, like sprinting for a day at a time.

Overland Movement[edit]

Now that the detailed movement and fatigue rules have been laid out, it's time to apply these rules to overland movement.

Your normal marching overland movement rate is equal to your base rate divided by 10, but is measured in miles instead of feet. This is a downward rounding of the full distance you would move at your base rate for every round in an hour, as overland movement doesn't generally account for minor rest stops or time spent detouring around or navigating through gullies, dense brambles, canyons, and similar terrain features.

As a minor simplification for ease of use, overland movement is determined on a per half-hour basis. Each half hour can be spent at a normal march, a forced march, or resting. The distances associated with the are presented here for ease of reference, and the two different types of marching are discussed below.

Base Speed
15 feet 20 feet 25 feet 30 feet
Per Half Hour (Normal Marching)
Unhurried Pace 3/4 mile 1 mile 1 1/4 mile 1 1/2 miles
Hustling Pace1 1 1/2 miles 2 miles 2 1/2 miles 3 miles
Flat-Out Pace (×3)1 2 1/4 miles 3 miles 3 3/4 miles 4 1/2 miles
Flat-Out Pace (×4)1 3 miles 4 miles 5 miles 6 miles
Per Half Hour (Forced Marching)
Unhurried Pace 1 miles 1 1/3 miles 1 2/3 miles 2 miles
Hustling Pace1 2 miles 2 2/3 miles 3 1/3 miles 4 miles
Flat-Out Pace (×3)1 3 miles 4 miles 5 miles 6 miles
Flat-Out Pace (×4)1 4 miles 5 1/3 miles 6 2/3 miles 8 miles
  1. Movement at this pace may not be possible for the listed period, and may require feats or a higher level to achieve.

Normal Marching[edit]

Normal overland movement includes time spent moving around gullies and dense patches of forest and over hills and all sorts of minor "straight line" distance deviations that add up to make 3 miles per hour in any specific direction rather generous. The other thing to remember is that you're often taking breaks during this movement. You don't just start walking and stop 8 hours later with no breaks in between. You have all sorts of physical concerns that slow you down or stop you temporarily, and this time spent not walking is time spent not making any progress at all.

Importantly though, it is time spent resting. And since you can walk for 15 minutes per point of constitution and only need to rest 1 round for each of those 15 minute periods, even a minute resting per hour is enough to reset your exertion clock. Because of this you can keep up a normal overland pace for as long as you want to, subject to available light and evening rest requirements. Most people walk for 8 or 9 hours before making camp, because making camp is a somewhat time consuming process that often requires light. If you just want to sleep in a bed roll on a rock without a fire you can walk farther without too much of a problem.

Forced marching does not allow periodic rests, but requires a half hour rest stop to reset the exertion clock and cure any fatigue that has been acquired. If a period includes any forced marching, you do not gain the benefit of periodic rests that occur before the next full half hour rest, and must take a half-hour rest at the end of the current movement block to become rested. Once you start a forced march, you may as well continue for as long as reasonable.

Forced Marching[edit]

Taking 10 and Forced Marching
The special rule for exceeding your limits at the normal pace is a lifesaver here, literally. Without it, about half of any group with no ranks in endurance and an average of 10 constitution will be exhausted, or worse, within 3 hours because of the 3 checks they have to make and the penalties of rolling poorly. Because of the special rule, however, the same group can walk for 4 hours and need only a half-hour rest to cure fatigue and reset the exertion clock. It is unlikely to heal the accrued subdual damage, however.

A forced march is not the same thing in this revision as it is in the SRD. Aside from the vastly different fatigue setup, there's simply no 8 hour walking cap for anyone to exceed. A forced march in this case is where you try as hard as you can to get that extra distance you normally lose to breaks and detours. You don't stop to rest, you don't stop to eat, you don't stop for the bathroom, and you don't stop at all except as scheduled. Anything that can be done while walking, gets done while walking. Anyone who stops has to hustle to catch back up, which makes the break not particularly useful.

And what do you get for all of this extra effort? You get an extra 1/3 of your normal per hour travel distance; for characters with a base speed of 30 and 3 miles per hour this becomes 4 miles per hour. This is slightly more than you would have lost in normal movement, but it's a convenient simplification. Most creatures can forced march for 4 hours before they become fatigued and take substantial subdual damage, after which they need to rest for a half hour to recover from fatigue and reset the exertion counter. A second push of 4 hours is generally possible, but some creatures may succumb to exhaustion or unconsciousness.

This pace is sometimes worth doing when you really need to get somewhere nearby slightly faster, but you take a lot more subdual damage for your trouble and low level characters aren't in any shape to fight when they're done walking. Since there is no longer an 8 hour travel restriction, it's generally advised that you do not push people on a forced march if you just need to go a bit farther in a day. An extra hour or two of normal movement is probably better for everyone, but if time is of the essence a forced march may serve better.

Mixed Marching[edit]

If a period includes any forced marching, you must take a half-hour rest to become fully rested at the end of the period, and do not gain the benefit of periodic rests from normal marching until this rest period has been taken. Therefore, once you start a forced march, you may as well continue for as long as reasonable. This is a bookkeeping simplification solely aimed at preventing people from micro-managing the number of rounds spent forced marching in order to maximize distance without risking subdual damage and fighting capacity.

Using This Variant Without ToP[edit]

The revised skills in the Tome of Prowess are not appropriate for everyone or every game. If those skills don't work for you for whatever reason, but you would still like to be able to use this revised movement and fatigue mechanic you can do so with a few minor tweaks.

  • Players make constitution checks when they reach their limits instead of endurance checks, since the skill doesn't exist. The check results are still appropriate however.
  • Players with the Endurance feat double the time they can spend running per point of constitution. This is doubled again for every 4 character levels they have.
  • Players can add make a swimming or climbing check in place of a constitution check to continue the appropriate action after they reach their limit. This provides the skills with additional value while also reinforcing tropes.
  • Players with the Run feat can add their character level to constitution checks to continue running after they've reached their limit.

Back to Main Page3.5e HomebrewVariant Rules

AuthorTarkisflux +
Identifier3.5e Variant Rule +
RatingUndiscussed +
SummaryThese rules are intended to better model the unfortunate truth that is fatigue while also allowing for characters to exceed their normal limits as they grow in level. +
TitleRevised Overland Movement and Fatigue Rules +