Hazardous Water
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Basic Information

Hazardous Water is a horror trope. It means that a character in a dangerous situation in a horror plot who falls into a body of water will have great difficulties getting out again before the monster lurking in the water attacks him.

Also, water plays absolute havoc with the ballistics of pretty much all ranged weapons - especially firearms - so fighting anything in the water is liable to be tricky.

The water itself may also be literally hazardous - typically through being funky with something toxic or infectious. For example, where the water is, essentially, an open sewer (as in many urban areas in many eras) falling in the water can lead to exposure to all manner of nasty diseases - and even "natural, clean water" can have all sorts of things in it that you don't want getting into an open wound. Or your mouth. Perhaps most insidious of all are those toxins that leave the water looking nice and clean and fresh (naturally occurring alkali pollution is bad for this) - the fact that this pool of water doesn't have things living in it should be a warning, and unlike biological contamination, boiling this sort of water generally doesn't help. Other objects, concealed in the water, can also cause problems - a whole subspecies of abbatis has historically been devoted to fouling fords and other water obstacles.

Speaking of open sewers, it is worth noting that it can be extremely hard to judge the depth of a body of water - especially if it happens to be opaque. This can cut both ways, from diving into water too shallow to prevent you slamming into the bottom, to accidentally entering what you assumed was a puddle but is in fact much deeper. This is where the sewer comes in - on at least one occasion during the garrisoning of Iraq, an allied vehicle drove into a puddle that turned out to be a collapsed sewer main big enough to largely or completely submerge the whole vehicle. Once any hole fills with dirty water, it becomes a surprise for anything that doesn't know it is there.


Hazardous Water

Game and Story Use

  • Sometimes, it's best to ignore distance and movement rules for monsters, and just have a monster attack when a character falls into the water. Anything to increase the tension.
    • Besides, if the water is opaque (like in a swamp), then it's not as if the characters can prove that there wasn't a monster just moments before…
      • Seriously, get on YouTube (or equivalent) and look at some of the videos of 'gators creeping up on people - or, for that matter, crocodiles bursting out of the water like a sub launched ICBM…
    • And then there are puddle sharks.
  • Water is generally a good place to store monsters, it's just a question of those that will (at least partially) emerge from the water after passers-by and the opportunistic ones that will quite happily stay in the water for ever minding their own business until something lands on them.
    • The dungeons of Castle Ravenloft - from the eponymous classic module for that RPG include an infamous flooded section populated by undead. For non-water breathing PCs, time keeping suddenly becomes a very big deal…
  • Can be played remarkably straight in most fRPGs given that PCs tend to insist on wearing the heaviest possible armour at all times. Even without armour, most natural bodies of water have a thick, sticky layer of mud and/or organic silt at the bottom which can make them surprisingly hard to get out of.
  • Great for subversion for SBS/Navy Seal type characters who can be the monster in the water.
  • Note the bit about the water itself being hazardous - a good thing for botched survival rolls: the unlucky character has chugged water that is infested with pathogens, or worse yet a naturally occurring solution of caustic soda.
  • Likely to be in effect when in a swamp or on a swamp planet.
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