D&D General Travel In Medieval Europe

Ixal

Adventurer
You guys know that the villager is not walking for exercise or leisure but has to go to the field with all his tools, work there for most of the day and then go vack in the evening (and during harvest season all those produce has to be brought back too). If he has to powerwalk for hours to even reach the fields there is not enough time left to work and transporting stuff too much effort.
 

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Oofta

Legend
Here's a map of the Trade Way taken from the FR Wiki:

View attachment 157207

Please note the number of towns and villages that are not directly on the coast or have a port. Now realize that there are probably dozens of tiny hamlets along that road that aren't listed on that map.
Compare that map to the map of roads* in medieval England
474px-Roman.Britain.roads_.jpg


Note that there are plenty of roads that connect port cities, some going along the coast. Why? Because for many things it simply wasn't worth the cost of shipping. There was still a lot of overland travel, not only for people but for livestock and bulky but relatively low value goods as well. Not to mention connecting all the little towns along the way and access to places where there simply isn't a good site for a port.

I don't expect D&D to make 100% sense all of the time, heck the real world doesn't make 100% sense all of the time. But thinking there would be no roads connecting major cities because there's also the option of using a boat simply is not a valid assumption.

*this is specifically Roman roads, but it's the best picture I could find given the time I want to spend searching. I think the point still applies.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
Well, according to my grandmother's genealogy research, the oldest ancestors in any kind of records, were Irish nobles who settled in western and southern Scotland during the Dal Riata era. And later fought the Romans and lost, so they sailed to Norway to recoup their forces, rest and plan for future attacks against Rome. While they were in Norway, an envoy from Hungary of Attila came and offered rank and title to those who joined their effort. Some of the family went, and today their are descendants in Hungary still. All that traveling occurred sometime in the fourth century, a half millennia or so before the height of the middle ages.

Then there's both pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and the Crusades, priests sent to serve in distant monastaries, not to mention sailors aboard merchant ships across that entire span of time. Not every person of the medieval period was a peasant farmer.

Coming back to this post, travelling in search for a better life also happened, but not to the extend if pilgrimages.
While in central Europe serfdom made that harder it was more common in nordic countries. For example the byzantine empire was a prime destination for people from Sweden to travel to in search of employment (Varangian Guard, etc.).
So much so that eventually laws were passend to discourage travelling by only having you inherit when you where in the country at the time of death of your ancestor.
 


J.Quondam

CR 1/8

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Coming back to this post, travelling in search for a better life also happened, but not to the extend if pilgrimages.
While in central Europe serfdom made that harder it was more common in nordic countries. For example the byzantine empire was a prime destination for people from Sweden to travel to in search of employment (Varangian Guard, etc.).
So much so that eventually laws were passend to discourage travelling by only having you inherit when you where in the country at the time of death of your ancestor.
Well the other side of my family, my mother's side, are Japanese. They of course lived a restricted travel life that almost all Japanese endured throughout it's history. My great grandfather was a physician in what is today Shimane-ken, which historically was the Izumo province on the Sea of Japan side of Honshu, northwest of Kyoto. His ancestors going back 800 years were all physicians serving as the healers of the house of the Daimyo in Izumo, all that time. Though they were only of the Commoner caste, they were considered the highest "rank" within Commoners. Until the 19th century, my family didn't get to leave the Izumo province - so travel extremely limited through most of time.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
No I did answer. All the setting material I’ve seen for Waterdeep and Baldurs Gate go to considerable lengths talking about how trade by sea is the major focus of trade.

Overland trade is barely mentioned. Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong supplements. But sea trade is the whole reason why Waterdeep exists. So I’m rather at a loss as to what answers you are expecting from me. If overland trade is the major part of trade on the Sword Coast, can you point me to where that’s talked about?
I pointed out all those trading companies before. As @Oofta brought up, there's also things like livestock which isn't very easy to ship by boat.

But to get back to the original purpose of this tangent--there are still plenty of reasons for roads to exist, because walking is free whereas traveling by boat costs money, plus not everyone lives near a port. And there are still plenty of people who have a vested interest in making sure that the roads are in decent condition and fairly safe. You seem to be under the impression that stepping outside should mean anywhere from constant stubbed toes and broken wheels due to potholes all the way up to instant death by owlbear. When... no.
 

gamerprinter

Mapper/Publisher
Actually, interestingly, in feudal Japan, due to the lack of iron and metals in general, farmer horseshoes were made from woven straw. Which meant that shoes fell apart after only 4 miles or so of movement across the road to market. Farmers spent much of any "idle time" weaving straw shoes for their horses, until they had large bags full of shoes. While that 4+ miles average distance between shoe changes isn't an imperial measurement, every farmer knows the distance between regularly traveled destinations, due to number of shoe changes. You could explain to someone on the other side of Japan, that you live 46 shoe changes southwest from Tokyo, and they'd know how far and roughly where that is...

straw-shoes.jpg
.
 
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doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
Ok. I’m misunderstanding something.

Are you guys seriously arguing that overland trade is even comparable to over water trade? At any point in history including now?

Do you really think that an equal or even large minority of the trade between Boston and New York prior to the railroads went by land?

Or am I missing something?
Enough travel, including trade which you seem to only be thinking of in large scale terms for some reason, has always gone between settlements along roadways, that those roadways have been worth maintaining and keeping safe, and there have pretty much always been places to stop and rest along those roadways, between settlements.

Like...a large portion of trade is historically done by people who cannot afford to charter a ship, and thus traded along roadways, doing trade at most or all of the stops along the way.

That "small" trade benefits merchant guilds, because it gives them much easier access to goods from the surrounding environs, which they buy in town and then ship by whatever means makes the most sense at their scale of business, and given the destination.

Again, overland trade routes have always existed, throughout recorded history, for a reason.

More to the point of the thread, overland trade routes and maintained roadways specifically, exist in all of the major published dnd worlds. If you don't like that, feel free to start a thread about it, but you're mostly just derailing this one at this point.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
look up the Boston Post Road
the Old Conneticut Road section was in use in 1630 and was based on an older Native American trail connecting the Massachusetts Bay to the Conneticut Valley. The Road then extended via Hartford and New Haven to NYC.

it was the major postal route linking New England towns and become US Highway 1

heres a 1962 map showing the old postal routes in red
Exactly this.
In the late nineteenth century, my understanding is that the cost of droving livestock from inland Australia to a port (probably Sydney or Brisbane) was about the same as, perhaps more than, shipping them from Australia to Britain.

Historically, trade by sea is far cheaper and more efficient than trade overland. Assuming FR has post (itself a somewhat anachronistic assumption), I can imagine a post road linking all the little towns and hamlets down the coast. But it would be for carrying messages between those places. It wouldn't be for carrying trade goods on a large scale. Those should be shipped.
Trade by sea, like many things, is cheaper if you already have money. If your trade is primarily along the lines of barter for low value or small amounts of something, not necessarily the case.

It's also worthwhile to note that trade along those roadways still happened. So it clearly had a good enough profit margin to be viable. (again, because there is trade at every stop along the way, usually)
I’m not denying that roads exist. I mean come on. We all know that roads exist.

What I am denying is that significant trade would go north and south overland compared to by sea I the Sword Coast or in historical Eastern United States.
You've misunderstood what other people are saying, then. We aren't claiming that overland travel is comperable in weight of goods or money made or anything like that between the two. What people are trying to explain, rather, is that enough trade goes by overland roadways to make it worthwhile to build and maintain roadways overland, between settlements, even along a coastline.

Some folks have shown some different ways that land and sea are fairly comparable (or at least can be) in terms of danger and other downsides, in order to show that not all trade is going to choose one or the other, and have also shown that we can't just assume that conditions are simply directly comparable to IRL, because IRL doesn't have krakens.

At every turn, you've twisted these statements around and asked hyperbolic rhetorical questions that mostly just make it seem like you skimmed our posts and then replied with some offhand snark rather than actual engagement.

Compare that map to the map of roads* in medieval England
View attachment 157229

Note that there are plenty of roads that connect port cities, some going along the coast. Why? Because for many things it simply wasn't worth the cost of shipping. There was still a lot of overland travel, not only for people but for livestock and bulky but relatively low value goods as well. Not to mention connecting all the little towns along the way and access to places where there simply isn't a good site for a port.

I don't expect D&D to make 100% sense all of the time, heck the real world doesn't make 100% sense all of the time. But thinking there would be no roads connecting major cities because there's also the option of using a boat simply is not a valid assumption.

*this is specifically Roman roads, but it's the best picture I could find given the time I want to spend searching. I think the point still applies.
Awesome map. Thank you.
 

Hussar

Legend
I don't expect D&D to make 100% sense all of the time, heck the real world doesn't make 100% sense all of the time. But thinking there would be no roads connecting major cities because there's also the option of using a boat simply is not a valid assumption.
But, that's not my argument. I totally agree that there would be roads. What I disagreed with is that you would have this huge, major, and above all REALLY EXPENSIVE highway like the Trade Way - a paved road wide enough for two wagons, stretching from Toronto to Miami all along the coast.
 

Hussar

Legend
At every turn, you've twisted these statements around and asked hyperbolic rhetorical questions that mostly just make it seem like you skimmed our posts and then replied with some offhand snark rather than actual engagement.
Please stop. I'm asking politely. Please stop. No one else seems to have any issues with my replies. I seem to be having a pretty civil conversation with everyone else. So, in light of the fact that you've already received one Mod warning, please stop responding to me.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
The irony....


Anyway, I've been thinking about it, and I think that itineraries might be an excellent way to dig into regions within a setting. Rather than just handwaving travel in safe areas, name the roads and the stops along the way.

There are a few points in the Aquisitions Inc The C Team campaign where Jerry does a great job of this, naming roads and how they connect different little towns, and giving an idea of what these different towns do and trade with eachother, etc.

Especially helpful if you want to start small at the beginning of a campaign, and even moreso if you want the players to participate in worldbuilding by giving names and attributes to the next town on the itinerary.
 

Oofta

Legend
But, that's not my argument. I totally agree that there would be roads. What I disagreed with is that you would have this huge, major, and above all REALLY EXPENSIVE highway like the Trade Way - a paved road wide enough for two wagons, stretching from Toronto to Miami all along the coast.
I honestly don't know enough FR lore to speak to this. About all I know is what I need to for AL (i.e. not much).

On the other hand, the Romans built really amazing roads that if properly maintained lasted for centuries. With the aid of magic ... I don't know. Maybe not all that unreasonable? But again, not an FR junky. 🤷‍♂️
 

Hussar

Legend
I honestly don't know enough FR lore to speak to this. About all I know is what I need to for AL (i.e. not much).

On the other hand, the Romans built really amazing roads that if properly maintained lasted for centuries. With the aid of magic ... I don't know. Maybe not all that unreasonable? But again, not an FR junky. 🤷‍♂️
Is it possible? Oh, sure. I mean, heck, if we want to go the magic route, simply using a lot of Wall of Stone spells could make one HELL of a road. But, most people aren't real thrilled about that level of magic in the setting.

Is it plausible? That you have a very expensive, highly traveled route stretching from Toronto to Miami (a tad farther than Boston to New York mind you) through monster infested territory, considered some of the most dangerous lands in Faerun, when all the major points on the road are all major sea ports. I don't think so.

Are there real world routes overland? Of course. The Tea Horse road in China was used for centuries to transport tea to Tibet in return for horses bred there. Fantastic effort. Totally understandable. But, you'll notice, decidely lacking in a water route which kinda explains the land route. I am somewhat unaware of that major land route paralleling the Nile in Egypt, for example. Or that major land route next to the Mississipi, as another example. So on and so forth.
 

Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
.

Are there real world routes overland? Of course. The Tea Horse road in China was used for centuries to transport tea to Tibet in return for horses bred there. Fantastic effort. Totally understandable. But, you'll notice, decidely lacking in a water route which kinda explains the land route. I am somewhat unaware of that major land route paralleling the Nile in Egypt, for example. Or that major land route next to the Mississipi, as another example. So on and so forth.

Both the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road operated in parralel linking China to India and the Middle East (and hence Europe), with the Maritime route linking in the lucrative SEA Spice islands. So such parralel routes werent entirely unknown or implausible.

Look I appreciate your commitment to playing devils advocate in tnis thread but denying the effects of magic and gods ad nauseum renders the discussion moot.

For the DnD worlds there a gods of roads and trade, with rich temples that like investing tneir gold in public works projects. The idea that the Church of Waukeen invests in maintaining a coastal road and regular postal stops (inns) in conjunction with the help of local governments, merchant companies, and other wandering adventure bands is plausible in the DnD melieux - and as this thread has demonstrated repeatedly while they may not be on so large a scale, there are real world examples to aid justificatiom
 

MGibster

Legend
I ran an Acquisitions, Inc. campaign set on the sword coast. The big campaign baddie took over the seas between Baldur's Gate and Waterdeep and demanded tribute for passing ships. The alternative for traders was to use the road, but this cut more deeply into their profits than just paying the sea toll.
 

Hussar

Legend
Both the Silk Road and the Maritime Silk Road operated in parralel linking China to India and the Middle East (and hence Europe), with the Maritime route linking in the lucrative SEA Spice islands. So such parralel routes werent entirely unknown or implausible.

Look I appreciate your commitment to playing devils advocate in tnis thread but denying the effects of magic and gods ad nauseum renders the discussion moot.

For the DnD worlds there a gods of roads and trade, with rich temples that like investing tneir gold in public works projects. The idea that the Church of Waukeen invests in maintaining a coastal road and regular postal stops (inns) in conjunction with the help of local governments, merchant companies, and other wandering adventure bands is plausible in the DnD melieux - and as this thread has demonstrated repeatedly while they may not be on so large a scale, there are real world examples to aid justificatiom
But, the Silk road isn't actually a road. It's a collection of routes used by various traders at various points in time. It certainly isn't a paved, double lane road.

And, again, this all started with the notion that large numbers of people travelled great distances in Medieval periods. Which is directly contradicted in the first three minutes of the video that was posted that states that about 90% of your population in Europe are farmers (of various sorts) and can't travel.

Granted, that still leaves lots of people who can travel true. But, I'm pretty sure that only a tiny, tiny percentage of the people born in Britain from, say, 1000 AD to 1500 AD ever set foot in the Holy Land. I'd be pretty shocked if it was more than 1%. And, probably a heck of a lot less than one percent.
 

Faolyn

(she/her)
Is it possible? Oh, sure. I mean, heck, if we want to go the magic route, simply using a lot of Wall of Stone spells could make one HELL of a road. But, most people aren't real thrilled about that level of magic in the setting.

Is it plausible? That you have a very expensive, highly traveled route stretching from Toronto to Miami (a tad farther than Boston to New York mind you) through monster infested territory, considered some of the most dangerous lands in Faerun, when all the major points on the road are all major sea ports. I don't think so.
So you really believe the following:

One: Nobody tries to patrol the roads to try to make them safer. No ranger patrol, no marshals employed by the local nobility, no interested religious groups or secular factions who see it as their duty to protect travelers. Nobody.

Two: Everyone has the money and inclination to use a boat, even though the oceans are equally dangerous and monster-infested, plus you can run out of fresh water and possibly drown or have all of your goods fall to the bottom of the sea.

Three:
That this road is always in perfect condition and made out of the most expensive of materials, and can't possibly consist of local roads that have been connected over the centuries and given the name "The Trade Road" and is in various states of repair or disrepair depending on the location.

By the way, are you aware that this road doesn't stop in Baldur's Gate? It continues down to Calimport. If Calimport wanted to take a boat to Waterdeep, it would have to go through incredibly treacherous waters filled with "shoals, currents, small exposed or submerged islets, and other hazards [...] most of the islands were surrounded by perilous reefs." (So sayeth the FR wiki) The wiki goes on to say that Asavir's channel is a well-traveled sea lane but treacherous because of the many pirates.

Hmm, it's almost like this road was at least partly made so that people could travel between Calimport and Waterdeep without having to go only through incredibly dangerous waters and risk losing their entire cargo. Baldur's Gate is just a stop along the path.

Actually, by your logic, nobody should be using either road or boat to travel, because both Waterdeep and Calimport are famed for their Spelljamming ports. They have the two largest ports in Faerun! Everyone should be traveling and trading by spaceship!
 

pemerton

Legend
It's also worthwhile to note that trade along those roadways still happened. So it clearly had a good enough profit margin to be viable.
I'm pretty sure that the Roman Empire built roads as a public good (in some sense of that phrase), at a net fiscal cost to the state. To the best of my understanding, the roads weren't paying for themselves in virtue of tolls they generated or even taxes levied on the trade that they may have generated.

And the public good the Roman Empire acted on, as I understand it, was not that their roads would make small-scale local trade viable. It was that roads permitted the imposition of imperial administration and the projection of imperial power. In this respect Roman roads seem to bear some resemblance to Britain's maintenance of its navy, which depended heavily on indirect taxation levied within Britain, not on the navy having to generate sufficient revenue to pay for itself.
 

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