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Fill In The Gap

The Longest Winter

by Matt Turnbull
Dec 29,2005



Welcome to Fill in The Gap, a column devoted to individual, "one-off" scenarios, that any GM can run for his/her group.

This month's scenario involves the players unified against a harsh set of circumstances.

If you need to know more about the FITG(Fill in The Gap) system/column, please check out the first (and second) of these monthly columns. Without further ado, I bring you today's scenario:

The Longest Winter

As always, if you're going to play in this scenario (run by your favorite GM) then please read no further, for fear of spoilage.

Today's is a scenario for three players. In today's scenario, they'll each play the part of a member of a squirrel family, facing a harsh and dangerous winter together.

The Premise

The Longest Winter is a sad tale of heroism in sacrifice, where your players will each need to use their various skills in concert to survive a very unfortunate set of circumstances.

Each player takes on the role of a squirrel. They're each a member of a squirrel family that is only a few nights before the first frost. They'll need to gather food and resources, protect each other from predators, and think on their paws to survive.

It's important to note that for the purpose of this scenario, the squirrels can communicate with each other on a human level (with that amount of intelligence/knowledge), but can't really interact in an intelligible way with any of the other animals of the world, man included.

The squirrels are in dire straits. The food is scarce, there's only three baby squirrels left alive, and they have to be protected and sheltered at all costs. That, combined with the fact that man and other natural predators are lurking about in these woods, means these squirrels are in a dangerous fight for survival.

This is a tough scenario, with a focus on the virtues of self-sacrifice for the family, and on hardship building strength and cohesiveness. Each of the squirrels has a unique ability or talent, that will help the players in their tasks.

In the Events section, we'll detail the various situations the squirrels will have to overcome. In the Setting section, we'll describe the small forest they live in.

When running this scenario, feel free to be harsh. As long as the players know they're in for a tough time, it can be pretty rewarding when only some survive. Still, make sure that the survivor's don't see themselves as the "winners", as it's really a win for the group if any of them can survive the winter - doubly so if more than one survives, and triply so if the babies live.

The Characters

As earlier described, the characters are squirrels. A squirrel's capabilities relative to the world in which they live should be fairly clear. In addition to similar squirrel abilities, each of the three squirrels has their own unique trait, detailed below.

Leader. The player with the leader squirrel is known by the other squirrels to be in charge, as he is the eldest. As such, once during the game, the leader squirrel can draw upon his experience, and dictate the exact die result of any one roll he makes.

Sneaky. This squirrel is slightly smaller and weaker (physically) than the other squirrels, but this allows him to run faster and hide easier than the other squirrels, as well as get into smaller places.

Strong. This squirrel is bigger and tougher than the other squirrels, able to injure similarly sized animals, and also more capable of lifting and moving food, as well as surviving longer without eating.

The Setting

The setting for this scenario is the forest. Inside the forest are numerous trees stretching in all directions, very little food, and a lot of predators. Anytime the player's squirrels go foraging, give them a chance to run into something on the following encounter table, by rolling a D10 and comparing the result. The first "week" is the end of fall, where there's still some food to be had. After that, it's wintertime, and the food is scarce.

1. The Fox. The fox will chase any squirrel, to eat it. If the fox chases Sneaky, then he gets away whether he's hungry, or not. If he chases one of the other two squirrels, they get away, unless they are hungry, at which point he catches them and eats them.

2. Extra food! The squirrel finds a piece of food thrown away by a man, and takes that back to the squirrel hole. The squirrels get an extra piece of food in addition to whatever the squirrel could forage.

3. The Snake. The snake will attack any squirrel it meets. The snake has 2 pieces of food in its belly, which is obvious to the squirrel. If the squirrel decides to flee from the snake, he'll escape whether he's hungry or not. Any squirrel may decide to fight the snake to kill it, and claim the food in its belly. The squirrel should roll a D6. If the squirrel is hungry, -1 from the die roll. If the squirrel is Sneaky, he defeats the snake on a 5+ on a D6. If the squirrel is Leader, or Strong who's missed a week's meal, he defeats the snake on a 4+ on a D6 roll. If the squirrel is Strong (and retains the strong ability) he defeats the snake on a 3+. If the snake wins, he manages to injure the squirrel before escaping to tend his own wounds. Whatever level of hunger the squirrel was at, set him one lower. If a squirrel was hungry when the snake defeated him, that squirrel dies.

4. The Little Boy. The Little Boy wants to play with the squirrel. He'll feed the squirrel a single piece of food, if the squirrel takes the food and runs away, he escapes. However, the boy will lay out a trail of several pieces of food. Each time the squirrel takes a piece of food, roll a D6. On a 5 or less, the squirrel gets the piece of food, and is able to escape. For each piece of food after the second the squirrel goes after, add 1 (cumulatively) to the die roll. On a 6+, the boy traps the squirrel in his squirrel trap - the squirrel loses all of the food - and the boy keeps him in his house for the next two weeks, feeding him, but preventing him from escaping. After the two missed weeks, the squirrel is discovered by the boy's father and released to the forest, where he is welcomed back by the squirrel family.

5. Nothing special occurs.

6. The Owl. The owl will chase any squirrel, to eat it. If the owl chases Sneaky, Sneaky is able to hide successfully. If the owl chases Leader, roll a D6 - on a 3+ he hides successfully, but on 2 he's hurt by the owl (lower his hunger level by one), or on a 1 he's caught and eaten by the owl. If strong is chased by the owl, he's unable to get away, and is automatically wounded by the owl - lower his hunger level by one, to either have him lose his strong ability, become hungry - or die.

7. The Rabbit's Burrow. The squirrel finds a rock, rolled in front of a rabbit's burrow. If Strong finds it, and he's fed recently, he can push the boulder out of the way of the burrow, revealing 4 pieces of food. If any of the other squirrels find it, they can note its location. If Strong forages next week, and he's fed, he can be considered to automatically roll a 7, discover the burrow, and push the rock out of the way - revealing 2 pieces of extra food.

8. Too Cold! The squirrel's foraging turns up nothing, as the ground is too cold and hard - don't roll for the squirrel's foraging.

9. Rival Squirrels. The squirrel runs into a rival squirrel. If this happens to Strong, he can steal

10. The Ferret's Burrow. The squirrel finds a tiny burrow in the ground. If Sneaky finds it, he can squeeze into the burrow, revealing 3 pieces of food. If any of the other squirrels find it, they can note its location. If Sneaky forages next week, he can be considered to automatically roll a 10, discover the burrow, and wriggle in - revealing 1 piece of extra food.

The Events

Before jumping into the events, let's set out some ground rules. First and foremost, the biggest threat to the squirrel's survival is starvation. With the snow, there's plenty of water, but there's little food. Each of the below events occurs after a single week of time. During each week, every squirrel (who is currently alive) is able to forage. When a squirrel forages, they first roll a D10 as per the setting section, and resolve anything that happens there. After that, they roll to see how much food they find. During the first week, each squirrel that forages automatically brings back 3 pieces of food. Every subsequent week, the foraging squirrel should roll a D6. On a 1, they get no food. On a 2-5, they get one piece of food. On a 6, they get 2 pieces of food. A piece of food lasts a squirrel 1 week. If any squirrel (other than Strong) doesn't eat for a week, he's "hungry" which can cause some difficulties. If Strong doesn't eat for a week, he loses his "strong" ability until he eats again. If any squirrel (other than Strong) doesn't eat for two weeks, he dies. Strong becomes "hungry" after not eating for two weeks, and dies if he can't eat after three. The baby squirrels between them split a single piece of food. If any baby squirrel never gets his one-third piece of food, he dies. One-half a piece of food can keep a hungry squirrel alive for another week, but that squirrel will remain hungry. A non-hungry squirrel will not be maintained by a half a piece of food, eating a half a piece of food will just be a waste for a non-hungry squirrel. The players should be clear on all of these rules in advance.

The first week is the end of the fall forage. Nothing particularly special occurs, however as this is the first time the squirrels are foraging, they should get a decent stock of food and probably play it pretty safe.

The second week is the first frost. The squirrels are all -2 from the die rolls for foraging.

The third week involves lumberjacks knocking down the squirrel's tree. The squirrels have to escape with the babies, and are unable to forage this week. They find a new nest during the time, but still have to eat.

The fourth week is Christmas. Due to the extra food, add 1 to each squirrel's foraging rolls.

The fifth week involves the baby squirrels getting sick. Each baby squirrel will, for this week, require a whole piece of food to be kept alive.

The sixth week involves rival squirrels moving into the tree. If any squirrel stays behind from foraging, then nothing happens. If all the squirrels go out and forage, they lose any stored food - but not any food that they find.

The seventh week involves the first thaw of spring. Nothing special happens, but if they survive their foraging this week, they can be considered to have survived the winter.

The End, Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year.

Let me know what you thought of this scenario by E-mailing me at

See you next month!

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