This page is about the genre. For the skills that you'd need to survive in this genre, see Survival Skills.

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Basic Information

Survival is a genre in which the primary conflict is between Man and Nature, and where the main character has to struggle against a hostile environment. Stories of Exploration, such as the climbing of Mount Everest or the Ernest Shackelton Expedition are often Survival stories. So are Robinsonades, in which the main character is stranded in a remote location and must live by his wits using what resources are at his disposal. Survival stories generally assume that the hero is cut off from civilization and has only limited resources.

The survival genre also extends into those settings where the environment is actually hostile - zombie apocalypses and death worlds are good examples of the type. These may be sub-classified as survival-horror. Or not. The environment must typically only have access to non-sapient aggressors though - sustained sapient opposition will tend to change the genre. Bad Places may have some degree of exemption if there is a hostile genius loci involved …

See Also


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Although campaigns are rarely based entirely on Survival themes, they can form an interesting backdrop for a campaign.
  • The PCs are traveling to a distant location through uncharted territory. How do they survive in a hostile environment?
    • Frequently this is done simply by saying "I make a Survival Skills roll"; but actually having the players decide what they are going to do and determining how well this works can add interest to a long, overland journey.
      • As long as you don't overdo it. If the journey gets too long, having to role-play foraging for food and boiling the water can get tiresome.
  • Hostile environments come with hazards that can make the journey more challenging: Poisonous snakes, lack of water, health problems due to malnutrition, frostbite. etc. It depends on the environment.
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