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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Traveling Without "True" Roads - How Do You Handle Traveling in Your Fantasy Campaigns?

Probably the biggest thing I "handwave" in my fantasy campaigns is travelling, because even the rules that seem to handle it, don't generally handle it so well. They seem to assume there will be "paved" and maintained roads, kinda like the Romans built. That, or there will be forced marches like an army, with the front clearing a pathway for that which follows - the genre is built on wargaming after all.

The problem is, without roads like that, you get muddy tracks that suck in cart wheels and risk breaking the legs of galloping horses.

Heck, I've driven on poorly maintained, partially washed out dirt roads in the Poconos and I can't imagine making any kind of actual time with a horse and cart.

Many paths are actually animal trails, and these obviously wont work for carts and may not work with a riden horse.

Of course, any well travelled paths / roads will have those that prey on those that travel them.

Which of course brings me back to the beginning - how do you handle overland travel?


  1. It depends on the group, if they like random encounters we do more documenting of travel. If however they don't we just tend to skip the process as a whole. Overall I like travel because of the randomness of it all. You never know when a random outdoor encounter may become the seeds of a future story arc.

  2. As a dedicated verisimilitician, I try my best to recount road conditions, particularly on unpaved tracks and dirt/mud roads. I have some custom charts I keep in my pocket for any such checks. I also have a separate chart for awful events that can happen at sea (based on how well you've propitiated Vodei, Lord of the Depths) so I guess I'm not the best person to ask.

  3. Honestly, I figure the characters are hiking, not using carts.

    1. with the amount of treasure and the weight of coins in a OD&D / AD&D game, pack mules or a cart are a given - unless they plan to leave loot behind ;)

    2. Not to mention food and wine, sleeping arrangements, and maybe a wagonful of weapons and armor. I've never run a game where the PCs didn't eventually turn into either a fortified HQ or an armored caravan.

    3. I would expect pack mules + walking would allow PCs to cover most normal terrain at their regular walking pace; 3 miles/hour or 24 miles/day. With horses they might get it up to 30 miles/day. 60 miles/day I use for a single horse, single day's journey, on road or good track. In theory you can use multiple horses at relay stations and do 120 miles/day or more, Pony Express style.
      Carts are going to be much slower unless you're on a hard level road or similar. I've never seen PCs bring a cart to a dungeon though,

    4. Oh, I use 100 gp to the lb in 1e, 50 gp to the lb in 3e-4e, so this does not come up so much for me. :)

  4. Just started playing a game where we started with a pack mule and in the first encounter it gets eaten by giants while we cowered in some rocks nearby. We now have a cart and two horses (Arcanis based adventure, Romans and Roads baby)

    As a GM tend to sandbox the story arc so lots of travel as the hapless players try to figure out what to do next and I love the random encounter on the road. Not many have used carts, mostly horses and they get off a lot when the horses need to be led.

  5. I normally use 1e AD&D DMG movement rates or similar for short term travel, assuming hard ground and good weather. They seem to match pretty well to real-world movement rates for fit men on dry, level ground - eg the WW2 Wehrmacht reckoned they had a sustained march rate of 40 km/day, very close to the B/X 24 mile hex/day rate - and those German soldiers were carrying a good load. From my own experience in off-road hiking (army & civilian) with or leading groups on level or rolling terrain, I get the rule of thumb that if you're taking it easy you may walk 3 miles/hour, but actual rate is closer to 2 miles per hour of daylight due to leisurely rest breaks - which again is exactly 24 miles in a 12 hour day, with 8 hours of actual walking. Totally sedentary people will struggle with this - eg I once lead a mixed group in the English countryside comprising the American Woman's Club plus Texas Exes (University of Texas alumni), a 10-12 mile hike on a sunny day, rolling terrain, mostly tracks. The AWC women were used to walking and could easily sustain that rate (3 mile/hour walk, 2 mile/hour net), but some of the Texas Exes women were sedentary and were really struggling after 5-6 miles or so.
    I generally assume the PCs are adventuring in the local 'marching season' and if not I will impose movement penalties for mud, rain, snow etc, typically halving the rate. Large groups such as armies have their rate halved again unless they are disciplined, and long term travel (1 week or more) also reduces the rate further, to a minimum of 1/2 for a full month or more's travel.

    1. With a light load you can go a long way in a day - I once left my parents' house in the Grampian mountains on a sunny summer morning, hiked 12 miles down the glen then back again, so 24 miles, and I could easily have gone a lot further, say 36 miles, without being tired. If my PCs needed to force march 40 miles in similar terrain & climate that would probably be fine, the main risk would be heat exhaustion if the warriors were marching in heavy armour. Load weight for tents, food etc is a factor, but with STR 18 PCs (I'm more like STR 10-11) I'm not sure it's as much of a factor as commonly assumed. In the army reserve aged 27-28 I could run several miles with 60+ lb kit, and march in it at full 3 miles/hour rate no problem. British infantry routinely march with 120 lb kit, and real tough soldiers like the Paras and Marines can do it with a lot more; in the Falklands some men were carrying 180 lb kit over boggy terrain in Antarctic conditions. I'd think those elite troops would be the best equivalent for the high-STR D&D Fighter, I'm more like the wimpy M-U. :)

  6. I usually hand wave it but use the BFRPG movement tables to figure out how far they can go in one day. Then I check for random monsters and throw one in if they roll the unlucky 1.



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