Sunday, March 24, 2013

Real Overland Movement

A friend of mine has been working on a series or articles on the role of beasts of burden in war. First up the camel, and now the mule. They are short and fascinating pieces, not least of all because of the game ideas they can churn up. Take, for example, this excellent chart that has been reproduced from a 19th century British military handbook.

Animal Speed (Miles per Hour)
Pack Load (Pounds)
Draught Load (Pounds)
Work Day (Distance in Miles)
50-100 by sleigh

The original source for these figures is The Soldier's Pocket-Book for Field Service by Field Marshal Garnet Wolseley (a Modern Major General with an amazing bio of his own).

One thing that strikes me about this table is how different the numbers are from those given for overland movement in gaming. Take the d20 SRD for example. The mule numbers match up pretty well, but the gaming horses are way faster than the real horses, covering 40 or 48 miles in a day. Of course, Wolseley's numbers have to consider the movement of these animals as part of a large force, but I do wonder how various gaming systems came up with their overland movement rates. There's much more to be explored in this regard.

In general, gaming needs more rules for reindeer. (New York Public Library)

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

How's the Weather?

Any ongoing campaign inevitably has to deal with the weather. From day to day rain or shine decisions to the changing of seasons, the GM has to put some thought into a reliable system.

One basic trick is to base the weather on a particular location in the real world. Our Slaying Solomon campaign does this by referencing the historical weather in Massachusetts on the dates that the episode takes place. But what to do if your campaign isn't actually set in a real place? Recently, I came across some cool science that can help out: the Koppen climate classification. (Sorry, I can't get Blogger to do the umlaut.)

Courtesy of the University of Melbourne via Wikipedia.

As you can see on the chart, the system has 29 categories of climate, broken into various groups, based on annual temperature and precipitation averages. What's cool about it is that it groups regions from around the world into the same category, so you can see that Mexico City, Johannesburg, and Addis Ababa, for example, are all in the same category.

So let's take Markaz, the city at the center of my world. Roughly, I imagine the climate to be like Amman, Jordan. By consulting the Koppen system, I can see that Amman falls into the same category as Denver, Boise, Kabul, and Samarkand. Holy crap. Now I have not just one city to model my weather on, but an entire host of them. Maybe it would be easier to borrow Denver's weather than Amman's for a campaign.

Drawing parallels across different regions of the world can also help in developing descriptions and characteristics of locations. Maybe I'll find inspiration for something in the Samarkand countryside. I surely wouldn't have looked there before.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

DC Gameday XII

Even though I keep missing it, DC Gameday is this weekend. I was lucky enough to learn about it four or five years ago, and it was a starting point for getting me back into gaming after a many-year hiatus.

It has gotten much bigger (it's so big, the day is a whole weekend!), and I'd love to go, but we've still got too much on our plates to be able to take a day off. Hell, if I can't find an hour to blog, I sure can't cut out for even half a day. I'm aiming for the fall.

But if anyone in the DC area comes across this, I encourage you to go register and enjoy. It's a great group of folks.