Posts Tagged With: travel

Horseriding Mishaps

So, I imagine that a lot of PCs ride around on horses at least some of the time.  They are great for quicker long-distance travel, and make excellent platforms to fight from.  But, when was the last time one of those fantastic horses stepped in a hole or threw a shoe?  Horses shouldn’t just be a maintenance-free battle car, there is a reason that only nobles kept horses in the time period most games take place in.  Horses require care, lots of it.

First, the food.  Horses need to eat a lot, and frankly, the grass growing around the roadside just isn’t that great of quality.  Sure, it can keep the beast going through the day, but he also needs some real nutrition to maintain fighting trim.  Oats are called for, or some other “supplement” feed.  Every day.

Grooming is also rather important to keeping horses happy and healthy.  Removing parasites, detangling matted fur/manes, checking for sores under the saddle and straps, each should be done every day to prevent disease and pain in your beast of +1 fast travel.

Now for the meat of the matter.  Riding through difficult terrain.  Taking your horse “off-road” may seem like it would be a natural thing to do, after all, horses are animals, and animals wander all over the place, right?  True, animals go everywhere, but an animal is really suited to one kind of environment, and horses are great on the steppe.  Or they were, when they were smaller, more agile, and used to dealing with untamed grassy flatland every single day of their lives.  But nowadays, and in the days of your PCs as well, horses are bred, kept, trained, and pampered to maximize their usefulness to the human population.  Warhorses are heavy and powerful to cause as much damage as possible on the battlefield, riding horses are lighter (so they eat less), but strong enough to carry a person.  Draft horses are used for carrying or pulling loads along roads.  And each of them are raised in paddocks and trotted out to the pasture for training and exercise.

What happens when you take an animal that has known prepared surfaces all it’s life, and then make it run through wild forestland, over rocks, up mountains, across plowed fields and through deserts?  It’s not going to go so well.  Walking is one thing, of course, but running?  That’s a thousand pounds of horsemeat hurtling along at 25 mph on spindly little legs with not much time to look where each one is being placed.  There’s a pretty decent chance something bad is going to happen to a horse being put through that obstacle course.  Which is where the following table comes in.

Riding HazardsFor each minute spent travel at above a trot (The four speeds of horses being “Walk” “Trot” “Canter” and “Gallop”), roll a percent chance according to the terrain type.  If the chance for a mishap is rolled, then roll a d20 to see what kind of mishap occurs.  Feel free to adjust DCs and checks to suit your game.

Galloping through the woods is not something that is not normally done, and it should feel just as risky as it is in real life.  Please note, however, that galloping on a road is a different matter, as those surfaces are “prepared” in that they are generally well suited to foot and wheeled traffic.  Horses are used to roads, that’s why roads exist.  If it’s raining or the roads are otherwise less suited to traffic than normal, you can roll for the cropland mishap.

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Change of Plans

You ever hear of DMs talk about how their players don’t do what is expected of them? Me too. I once ran a campaign that was founded on that principle, in fact. Now I’m older, slightly wiser, and I run a different kind of game now.  Everyone who has followed along up until now will know that I run a “DM’s Plot” free sandbox campaign.  Which is great for being ready when the players jump the rails, because I myself tore the rails up and threw them away before the game even begins.  Which leaves it to the players to look around, pick a direction, and go exploring.

So you wouldn’t think that there would be any rapid plan changes to throw me off, would you?  Well, these are human beings we are talking about, and sometimes they change their minds about what they are doing.  So they did.  Not in a huge way, but I thought that they would sit around in Hamburg for a while while they waited for a ship that was bound for Oslo came in to port.  Turns out they are tired of sea travel (Three thunderstorms in a week isn’t too much is it?), so they bought some horses, tack, feed, tents, and set out north through Denmark to find a cheaper ship, as well as run into some adventure along the way.

That’s all fine.  But I thought there was going to be more time spent dealing with things in Amsterdam.  But our friendly neighborhood Sorcerer-Assassin decided that it wasn’t worth it to explore the house/shop of the butcher he was supposed to scare into silence after he found a notice from the town council declaring it to be vacated and handed over to the Honourable Guild of Butchers.  So they set sail, weathered two small storms (the third was a big one which forced them into Amsterdam for repairs) and made it into Hamburg.  Once there, they made contact with the harbormaster and arranged for passage on a small ship that was due in to port in about six days.  Then they decided to buy some horses (which were cheap), some saddles, (which were not), provisioned up (in theory) and set off.

Which, like I said, is fine.  They are totally entitled to do that.  In fact, I am happy for them.  Because they chose this whole trip of their own accord.  Going to Oslo was their idea.  I believe their intent is to meet relatives.  They probably will, by the way.  Eventually.  But I was not expecting them to take the land route.  Which means I hadn’t looked closely at maps of the area, explored the territory, seen what kind of terrain is between Hamburg and Frederikshaven.  I thought it was going to be a week of chilling in the Big City, maybe being mugged again, and then another week (or so) on the sea.  I didn’t expect to transition into a land-based adventure so soon.  Thankfully, however, I have a few tools that helped me out.

First is my Agglomerated Monster Index Sorting Suite (or AMISS for short).  When it’s actually complete I’ll post a copy somewhere for y’all to use.  Using that, I can sort monsters by CR, Climate, Environment, Type, Subtype, Name, and Weight.  It’s pretty handy when generating random encounter tables on the fly.  Which I did.  Second is Google Maps.  Since my world is Magical Earth circa 1550, I can Google up the distance (and walking time) from just about anywhere (Hamburg, say) to anywhere (Frederikshaven?  I haven’t even heard of Frederikshaven!).  So that’s nice.

Point being, being prepared for the unexpected with quick, useable tools I was able to roll with the change in plan no problem. Although I’m curious to see what they do to deal with that shade they ran across on the road north…

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