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5E How the Camel lost its hump

pdzoch

Explorer
How the Camel lost its hump

When the camel was first introduced as a mount in Dungeons and Dragons, it was a premium mount with preferred abilities over a riding horse in desert environments. However, over the years, with each subsequent edition, the camel has been relegated to a poor man’s mount.

The original edition did not include camels in the rules. Neither did the Basic (Holmes) edition.

The first appearance of the camel was in the 1st Edition of Advance Dungeons and Dragons, but the camel was not listed as an animal for purchase; a riding horse cost 25 gp cost (PHB 36). The Monster Manual described the ability of the camel to travel up to two weeks without food and water (MM13).

Shortly afterward, in the Expert Rules by Moldvay/Cook, character were able to by a camel. Camels cost 100 gp while the Riding Horse cost increased to 75gp (Expert 9). The camel had the specified ability to travel for 2 weeks without drinking, but it didn’t mention food. (Expert 28). Additionally, it used the term “well-watered” to describe a fully heathy hump on a camel.

The BECMI rules maintained these distinctions, including the use of “well-watered” (Expert 46), and costs (Expert 19).

It was the Wilderness Survival Guide for 1st Edition that contained the most comprehensive rules for camels. It differentiated the environmental abilities between a dromedary and a bactrian camel. It also specified that camels can go for up to two weeks without eating or drinking based on the health of its hump. However, it also specified that during the second week without food and water, the camel’s carrying capacity would be reduced by half. If not feed and watered at least once every two weeks, the camel would “rapidly deteriorate”, but the rules did not specify what deteriorate meant (Wilderness Survival Guide 90). But still no cost for a character to purchase the camel.

2nd Edition returned the option for characters to purchase the camels as a mount, this time at a much discounted cost: 50 gp. This marks the first time that a riding horse costs more than a riding horse, now at a more expensive 75 gp (PHB). Oddly, the camel was not listed in core monster manuals. Only the Monstrous Compendium for Al-Qadim provided a listing for camels, and it specified the camel’s humps to allow it to go without food or water for up to two weeks.

Like the 1st edition, the 3rd Edition removed the ability of the characters to purchase camels as mounts. Light horses retained their cost of 75gp (PHB 108). Rules about camels became a vague, citing only a camel’s ability to “travel long distances without food or water” (MM194). The revision 3.5 Edition did not add any clarity to the camel rules (MM270) or change the ability of the characters to buy camels or the cost of a riding horse (PHB 129).

However, the Sandstorm supplement listed dromedary camels for characters at 75gp (Sandstorm 103). Unfortunately, the Sandstorm supplement is contradictory in its rules regarding camels. Though it cites the vague ability for camels to “travel long distances without food or water” (Sandstorm 192), the rules also state that camels “require feed like normal mounts” (Sandstorm 103).

4th Edition performs the cruelest trick to the camel. It does not show up as a purchase option in the players handbook and it appeared in none of the monster manuals. Only the Adventurer’s Vault provided any information on a camel. It had the same cost as a light horse (75 gp) but there was no mention of travel distance without food/water for a camel (Adventure’s Vault 11).

5th Edition did not correct the error from 4th edition. The camel entry in the Monster Manual makes no mention of travel distance without food/water (MM 320). It did become cheaper than a riding horse, but why would a character ever purchase a riding horse.

When we compare a riding horse to a camel, there is no reason for a character choose a camel over a riding horse, even in a desert environment.

[Tale of the Tape] [green is advantage]
CamelRiding Horse
Cost50 gp75 gp
TypeLarge beast, unalignedLarge beast, unaligned
AC910
HP15 (2d10 + 4)13 (2d10 + 2)
Speed50 ft60ft
STR16 (+3)16 (+3)
DEX8 (-1)10 (+0)
CON14 (+2)12 (+1)
INT2 (-4)2 (-4)
WIS8 (-1 )11 (+0)
CHA5 (-3)7 (-2)
Senses passive Perception910
Challenge1/8 (25 XP)1/4 (50 XP)
AttackBite. Melee Weapon Attack: +5 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target.Hooves. Melee Weapon Attack: +2 to hit, reach 5 ft ., one target.
DamageHit: 2 (1d4) bludgeoning damage.Hit: 8 (2d4 + 3) bludgeoning damage.
Carry Capacity480 lbs480 lbs
Travel Pace: Fast50 miles per day60 miles per day
Travel Pace: Normal40 miles per day48 miles per day
Travel Pace: Slow30 miles per day36 miles per day
Feed Requirements4lbs food /4 gals water per day4lbs food /4 gals water per day

Given the camel’s “legendary ability to travel for days without food and water”, it is certainly not reflected in the 5th Edition rules. The riding horse carries as much, and feeds as much, yet travels faster and further. The camel is a little more durable, but I do not know if those 2 hp are a significant advantage in durability, especially at higher levels.

So, how to get the camel back its hump?

First,
I’d bring back the rules from 1st edition Wilderness guide, streamlined as follows:

A camel can exist up to two weeks without eating or drinking, living off the nutrients stored in its hump. However, after a week without food and water, a camel’s carrying capacity is reduced by half. After two weeks without food and water, it accrues exhaustion as normal and refuses to carry anything. Camels with a full hump have full travel capacity and sell at full value. Camels without an exhausted hump have only one week travel capacity (without food/and water) and sell at half price (“used camels”). Camel will must consume extra feed and water to replenish their hump, up to two weeks of food and water beyond their normal daily requirements, which can be done up to a rate of one week’s worth of nutrition per day.

Second, I’d add the following desert travel rules.

There are two types of desert environments: hard soil and soft sand.

Hard soil deserts consist of most flat or rocky arid environments. Unless impeded by another terrain feature or environmental condition, travel movement rules remain unchanged.

Soft sand deserts consist of numerous dunes of soft sand formed in various shapes and sizes. Fast pace travel is not possible in this environment. Only camels can maintain a full day’s travel at normal pace across soft sand desert environments. Other creatures move 10’ feet slower speed across soft sand deserts.

Trade Routes through soft sand deserts are considered roads at best or hard soil desert at worst.


End result. Horses retain their desirability for fast travel on the roads and in deal environments. Camels retain their desirability for sustained travel over sandy deserts or barren terrain.

[edited: fixed chronology of rulesets and other minor errors]
 
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I've always found mount rules a little confusing. I don't know how long it takes for a horse to get tired, the difference between horse walking speed (maybe not that much faster?) and running speed (far faster than a human),and it seems like a hassle to dismount.

I agree with stealing the wilderness rules. Camels could also have a special quality for, um, walking on sand. They might need an ability to resist sunstroke, if you like stealing 4e's environment rules. (There are no camels on Athas, regardless of edition, but PCs can die of sunstroke in 4e.)
 


You seem like you’ve done your homework...

Personally, I’d abstract soft soil as difficult terrain, and give the camel an ability allowing it to ignore difficult terrain caused by soft soil
 


Hriston

Hero
The AD&D PHB was published in 1978, while the Moldvay/Cook B/X edition came out in 1981. At several points you seem to assume the opposite chronology.
 

pdzoch

Explorer
The AD&D PHB was published in 1978, while the Moldvay/Cook B/X edition came out in 1981. At several points you seem to assume the opposite chronology.

I did not double check publication dates, which I should have. I keep forgetting that the basic rules were still being republished in new edition after the AD&D 1st Edition came out.

If there was ever a group to double-check research, this place is it. I'll make some edits to correct.
 
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Eltab

Hero
I agree with stealing the wilderness rules. Camels could also have a special quality for, um, walking on sand. They might need an ability to resist sunstroke, if you like stealing 4e's environment rules. (There are no camels on Athas, regardless of edition, but PCs can die of sunstroke in 4e.)
I had never realized that last. I am open to differentiating Dark Sun mounts a bit: one has "camel" adaptations, one is faster than the others, one has longer per-day endurance, one is trained / bred for a "cavalry" mount, mekillots are high-load "elephants". It would matter which mount you pick.
 

I had never realized that last. I am open to differentiating Dark Sun mounts a bit: one has "camel" adaptations, one is faster than the others, one has longer per-day endurance, one is trained / bred for a "cavalry" mount, mekillots are high-load "elephants". It would matter which mount you pick.

They have rules like that, but less detailed. Crodlus are fast while kank soldiers are slower but tougher, and their workers are basically goats (they can eat anything, and give milk... er honey). Also they're social insects, and I think their flesh is poisonous, but that might be edition-dependent.
 

pdzoch

Explorer
Personally, I’d abstract soft soil as difficult terrain, and give the camel an ability allowing it to ignore difficult terrain caused by soft soil

I thought about that. I was thinking of sandwalk ability, but that sounded too much like a 4e terrainwalk ability that does not exist in 5e. (except for the White Dragon which has Ice Walk). I also did not want to overemphasize soft sand as difficult terrain and leave it up to the DM to make some sand dunes more navigable than others. But doing so make make it a cleaner a simpler rule.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
Starvation, dehydration, and forced marching all force the creature experiencing them to make a Constitution saving throw to avoid accumulating levels of exhaustion. The camel has a +1 Constitution bonus relative to the riding horse. That’s not much (certainly not a simulation of its water storage capabilities), but it’s not nothing...
 



Normally I don't care much about having D&D creatures have comparable traits to real creatures, but how does the various camel version traits compare to real camels? Can they really go 2 weeks without water? What about food? Speed and everything else?
 

pdzoch

Explorer
Starvation, dehydration, and forced marching all force the creature experiencing them to make a Constitution saving throw to avoid accumulating levels of exhaustion. The camel has a +1 Constitution bonus relative to the riding horse. That’s not much (certainly not a simulation of its water storage capabilities), but it’s not nothing...
True, but I do not think such a small bonus influences any player to choose a camel over a horses. I see the fiscal decision still driving the decision in game for 5e. Unlike 1st edition, the camel offered a clear choice over a horse for desert environments.
 

pdzoch

Explorer
Normally I don't care much about having D&D creatures have comparable traits to real creatures, but how does the various camel version traits compare to real camels? Can they really go 2 weeks without water? What about food? Speed and everything else?
Camels can survive up to seven months without food and water, but these are wild camels and not carrying a load, i do not think it is a worthwhile model to try to represent.
 

I thought about that. I was thinking of sandwalk ability, but that sounded too much like a 4e terrainwalk ability that does not exist in 5e. (except for the White Dragon which has Ice Walk). I also did not want to overemphasize soft sand as difficult terrain and leave it up to the DM to make some sand dunes more navigable than others. But doing so make make it a cleaner a simpler rule.
Sand walk is a nice, simple sounding ability, and as others have said, one with enough precedents to make it « 5e legit ».

5e tends to be pretty black or white when it comes to terrain conditions; either the terrain is difficult, or it isn’t...

i don’t have any experience navigating sand dunes but we used to practice running in loose sand, and it definitely is more difficult than running on packed or wet sand. Enough to cut our speed by 50%? Probably not but in a D&D abstraction, I could accept sand desert as difficult terrain. It would make being lost in the desert a lot scarier actually, and camels would be come a huge advantage
 
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If you want to consolidate food / water consumption and the camel‘s ability to go without food or water, you could word it as « a camel can store up to two weeks worth of food and water in its hump. Once the camel has used all stored water and rations, rules for starvation and dehydration apply normally. » or something among those lines. This way you wouldn’t be able to go 2 weeks, give it one meal, and be good for 2 more weeks shenanigans.

with that and sandwalk, you get yourself a real ship-of-the-desert
 
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pdzoch

Explorer
I will note that in real life, camels are superior pack animals to horses when carrying capacity is considered.

Quick google search indicated that a riding horse should carry no more than 20% or its weight, or typically around 240 lbs (and that includes the rider!). Way less than the 480 lbs cited in the rules. Whereas a camel can carry anywhere between 375 lbs and 600 lbs. The 480 lbs cited in the rules is a nice middle ground. It seems that the riding horse has been beefed up to accommodate loaded loot carrying for most environments. Shame. That reduces the appeal and utility of pack mules in game.
 

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