DH's Blog
Map Scales
Modern RPG maps, regardless of system, all seem to have the same problem: crappy scales. More often than not they're written in some unit of measurement equal to so many miles, or leagues, etc. The problem is, the actual distance between two points is not at all what gamers want to know, what they want to know is how long it takes to get there.
Combine that with the fact that it's nigh impossible to find solid info on how far someone can travel in a day by foot, horse, or cart, and your map is pretty much useless. Of course the reason for this is that the time it takes to travel a given distance is very subjective. What's the terrain like, what kind of load are you carrying, how long will you be traveling? I suspect a man on a horse can travel much further per hour if he only intends to travel for 23 hours than if he plans to travel for 23 weeks. Likewise a good road greatly increases speed, while steep hills or mountainous terrain greatly slows things down. From this we start to see games with crazy rules that try to take all the above into account. Suddenly I've got to launch Microsoft Excel to figure out how long it takes to get from the Shire to the Lonely Mountain. And ultimately, I think we could've fixed the problem right away by simply defining our map using a scale that's friendlier to game terms. Here's my plan. My map is on a hex grid. I haven't figured out the exact numbers, but I'm thinking that each hex will represent a certain amount of travel time, eg. each hex is half a day's travel by foot. Then I'll assign bonuses, in explicit map scale terms, for things like terrain. For example, on a road you can travel 3 hexes per day instead of the usual 2, while on mountainous terrain you can only travel 1 hex. For mounted travel, since we're almost always talking about longer (several days at least) travel, it's the same as walking. Perhaps if I want to get extra fancy, I'll allow players to 'push' their horses to travel an extra hex in one day, but require the horses be rested the next day (no travel at all). I might toss in a random chance there that the beast overexerts itself and dies, just so players don't abuse the system and always push on the last day. This might even allow for a horseswitching system (ala the Pony Express) if there's ever an area where a bunch of towns are all less than a day's ride from each other. Anyway, this is all probably pretty obvious, and mostly I'm writing it here just to get my thoughts onto paper and out of my head. I'm hoping if I set this stuff up ahead of time, it will just be easy during play.
