D&D General Travel In Medieval Europe

Dioltach

Legend
I agree with what you're saying @Dioltach but there is a bit of a problem there. If there are various challenges to get to the "main challenge", then avoiding those challenges is a win condition. After all, if I avoid that vampire's minions on my way to stake the vampire, then I did a good job.
But avoiding the challenges is still part of the adventure. The PCs can't just appear at the vampire's coffin and roll for initiative.
 

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Hussar

Legend
But avoiding the challenges is still part of the adventure. The PCs can't just appear at the vampire's coffin and roll for initiative.
That's certainly one way to go about it. I was more trying to address the point about how his players avoid plot hooks. So, building in avoiding the side bits is perhaps not quite the right solution. :D And, I was assuming, which might be a bad thing, that the side bits aren't necessarily all tied to the main storyline, but, rather, more a "side quest" sort of thing. Maybe something that only takes a couple of scenes to play out - good for character and/or setting building, but, not really part of the main action.

At least, that's how I took the question. I know that it's a problem I tend to struggle with as well. My group tends to be really laser beam focused on the task at hand and I find it really hard to try to broaden that focus. Laser beam focus is great for episodic campaigns but, I'm looking for a more serial approach and that needs some times where there is a need for pace change.
 

Ixal

Adventurer
But, even then @Tonguez, 15000 men is hardly a majority in a population of around six MILLION.

That's the point I keep making. Sure, people traveled. No one is denying that. Heck, there were roads for a reason. What I'm arguing against, is that it was common or that the average person was doing extended travel. @Ixal points to European craftsmen. Fair enough. But, then you have @gamerprinter talking about Japan. A country where pilgrimages were extremely common.

But, the thing is, in Japan, you have pilgrimages to temples that are all within a day or so of where you lived because there are temples everywhere. I go to a festival every year at a temple that is well over a thousand years old. And every year that festival has been held. But, again, it was being held for people who lived near that temple.

Or take Shikoku. Beautiful island and famously 66 temples. There is a pilgrimage where you walk between all 66 temples. Been going on for centuries. Friend of mine did it and wrote a book about it. Really interesting. Took about three months to do. IIRC (been a while since I read it) he walked a bit over a thousand kilometers in that time. Most of it being up and down. :D

But, here's the trick. Historically and even into modern times, the overwhelming majority of people would only visit a couple of temples a year. Remember, this is an island only a couple of hundred miles across. Probably less. So, depending on where you lived, most of the temples are within a day's travel, just not within a day of all the others.

Again, just to be really, really clear, I'm not saying that no one travels. That would be silly. I am saying that, by and large, travel in a D&D world would be very, very different from the real world, simply because of the presence of dangerous creatures that want to eat you. And that fact is often ignored or at least glossed over when people do world building.

Think about it this way. If you know there's a chance that you will meet a manticore or a wyvern as you travel, do you really think spending three years as an itinerant journeyman is a good idea? Or, if you do travel around like that, won't it be considerably different than the real world? That's why I mentioned Africa earlier. That's probably a better model considering that there actually ARE dangerous animals (and still far less dangerous than a D&D world) wandering about.
And why do you think random manticores appear on roads pokemon style?
The world as presented in literally all FR books would not work if that would happen on a regular basis.

Travel and trade is the lifeblood of not only modern but also ancient societies, societies the FR is modelled after. Nothing in any FR books suggest that random travellers would encounter mosters all the time. Instead you have plenty of mentions of merchants and traders, both on an individual and nation basis, and big road networks.

Yes, historically the farmers would visit a couple of shrines a year, shrines which could be days away from where they lived. That is travelling. And once or twice in their lifetime they would go on a longer pilgrimage. Canterbury, Santiago, Rome, Jerusalem, Mecca.
People travelled a lot. Not all the time, but at any year you would encounter long distance travellers on the road. Plus all the people who's professions regularly or sporadically required travelling. Traders, nobles, clergymen, mercenaries and the baggage train, journeymen, etc.
 
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MGibster

Legend
Ask them what they’re working on, how they pass the time, what they do in the hours between sundown and sleep, etc, and make clear that they can do any downtime stuff that makes sense on the road, or one night at a time in the towns where they stop (when traveling in settled regions).
I feel as though this works great in a novel. While traveling, there's plenty of time for dialogue allowing us to get to know the characters, foreshadow events, and even move the plot along. However, the author has control over the characters in a novel whereas the DM really doesn't have control over the characters in a game. There are times when my players engage in dialogue that reveals something about their character, provides exposition, or even moves the plot along, but when that happens is entirely unpredictable and almost always a surprise.

I think part of the problem is that anything that deviates from the main task tends to be seen as an obstacle. If they take the time to investigate something that isn't linked to whatever they are doing right now, the DM will see that as a fail condition and make things more difficult for them down the road.
In my case, the players see it as a fail condition. "We're being paid to do X, not go check out Y over there. Let's just skip it and continue our journey." Though I can see this from the DM's perspective as well, how many times have we heard of players just completely ignoring the plot and going east when all the "Adventure This Way!" signs are pointing west?

How to fix it? I don't know. At a guess, I think the DM needs to make it clear that there is no negative cost to exploring stuff that isn't related to the main task. Yeah, I know that might stick in the craw a bit, but, again, we need to get around the hump of resource management. If doing the side task isn't going to make the main task more difficult, then it becomes a more viable option.
Yeah, talking about it would help. At my table, part of the problem is that my players see the game as being rather lethal, which is not unfair, and are hesitant to risk their characters' necks without a surefire sign that they have something to gain. As a player, I'm the opposite. I will go explore and if my character dies then he dies.

I've been toying around with running a campaign where all the PCs are ogres traveling from their homeland to another part of the world. I hadn't solidified the reason for their travel, I was toying around with the idea of them in search of the ultimate spice for culinary purposes, but because of this thread I'll have them all go on a pigrimage. When I pitch the idea, I think I'll make it clear that it's a long journey and there will be adventure along the way. i.e. You're going to have to stop and smell the flowers.
 

doctorbadwolf

Heretic of The Seventh Circle
feel as though this works great in a novel. While traveling, there's plenty of time for dialogue allowing us to get to know the characters, foreshadow events, and even move the plot along. However, the author has control over the characters in a novel whereas the DM really doesn't have control over the characters in a game. There are times when my players engage in dialogue that reveals something about their character, provides exposition, or even moves the plot along, but when that happens is entirely unpredictable and almost always a surprise.
I can promise you one thing, nothing in my post requires any particular control by the DM. Just prompts and opportunities.
 

niklinna

Legend
I would greatly appreciate some ideas for how to make travel more fun. One of the difficulties I run into, is that my group tends to make a bee line for wherever their destination is. When their charactesr are traveling, they'll ignore whatever adventure hook I throw at them because "it's not the mission" and this will just delay them. For example, in a Deadlands Hell on Earth game, the PCs came across evidence that two of their rival factions were working together. I expected them to take an interest and find out what was going on, but they skipped over that in its entirety because that's not what their mission was.
Normally I might ask if your players have goals of their own, things they are looking for, personal motivations? However, you said straight up that you threw in something of relevance to them and they ignored it anyhow! Maybe they thought the knowledge they'd gained was sufficient to pursue later, or when it became an issue? What was at stake, during the journey, in them finding out their rival factions were working together, and did it present any issues that needed to be dealt with right away? For example, did the reveal of that fact also present an opportunity to sabotage that relationship (something they might very much want), but it had to be acted on right then and there? The more immediate and transient the motivation/pressure/opportunity, the better.

Short of having interesting things happen or adventures to go on while traveling, I'm not quite sure how to make it fun. Perhaps set it up similar to a dungeon? Just focus on a day of travel where they have to surmount various obstacles such as hostile creatures, geographic features such as rivers, ravines, & rakes, or magical and mundane phenomena including gysers, magical wild zones, or the skeletal remains of giants.
If your players are focused on an overriding goal (which, after all, might have come from you), any safari expedition, no matter how challenging, is going to seem like a diversion. You can make major goals less overriding, of course. You can drop clues that "sidetracks" will actually gain them something that will help them a lot in their main quest (or time to train & practice, as @doctorbadwolf mentioned). You can give the party or individual players "minor" quests that have to be accomplished in small steps integrated into bigger adventures, and give obvious clues that such quest objectives are nigh. You can encourage your players to create personal quests or values (magical researches, defending innocents in the world), which you then provide them with opportunities to pursue or situations that challenge their values (if they're into facing moral dilemmas). For exaple, if your party is on their way to the Big Bad Fortress, but on their way come upon a scene of obvious recent violence and abduction of innocents, how are they going to handle that?
 

Hussar

Legend
he world as presented in literally all FR books would not work if that would happen on a regular basis.
And thus the tautology. The world works because it works and wouldn't work if it didn't work. :D

Forgotten Realms is a theme park. It works because the setting runs on Narrativium and Plotsium-290. There's nothing wrong with that of course. It's how most fantasy worlds work. Which is fine. But, it doesn't change the fact that it makes about as much sense as a rubber hammer. Roads are perfectly safe to travel and monsters are almost never met, until we have a Player Character halo hover over the party and suddenly all the rules of the setting go out the window and we have dangerous monsters so often that people talk about how the Five Minute Workday doesn't work because there are so many monsters and dangerous beasts out there that taking a couple of extra days to finish an adventure means that the party will be overwhelmed.

Look at it this way. In the real world, long distance travel was dangerous, right? People died and died pretty regularly on these pilgrimages and various other trips. And that's in a world that is FAR safer than a D&D world. Our world doesn't have any really dangerous creatures in it in any large numbers. Certainly not ones that specifically hunt down and eat people.

But, apparently, adding in lots and lots of very dangerous beasts into the world, complete with the notion that these are naturally occurring creatures with life cycles and whatnot, in no way actually changes how dangerous long distance travel would be.

I'm just really not buying it.
 

Hussar

Legend
I've been toying around with running a campaign where all the PCs are ogres traveling from their homeland to another part of the world. I hadn't solidified the reason for their travel, I was toying around with the idea of them in search of the ultimate spice for culinary purposes, but because of this thread I'll have them all go on a pigrimage. When I pitch the idea, I think I'll make it clear that it's a long journey and there will be adventure along the way. i.e. You're going to have to stop and smell the flowers.
There's actually a really, really cool adventure path adventure on the Canonfire! site where the party is taking a river journey through most of the setting. I can't quite remember the hook for the campaign, but, it's something that might be right up your alley. Let me do a quick bit of googling.

Ahh, here it is. The Great Flanaess River Adventure - Greyhawk Online
 


Hussar

Legend
Well, I've said it before: make your own world that is logical to you. Or rewrite the Realms so that it's logical.
Well, that would imply that I actually care that much. :D

I have no problems with Theme Park Worlds. Setting is one of the least important things to me in a campaign. I simply don't care. My only dog in this race was the notion that it's somehow logical that in a world where you have a pretty lengthy list of things that actually eat people (some of which specifically eat people) travel would be as easy as in the real world.

But, yeah, we're not going to convince each other here. There's no point in getting bogged down in this. I think that @MGibster's question is far more interesting.
 


Ixal

Adventurer
And thus the tautology. The world works because it works and wouldn't work if it didn't work. :D

Forgotten Realms is a theme park. It works because the setting runs on Narrativium and Plotsium-290. There's nothing wrong with that of course. It's how most fantasy worlds work. Which is fine. But, it doesn't change the fact that it makes about as much sense as a rubber hammer. Roads are perfectly safe to travel and monsters are almost never met, until we have a Player Character halo hover over the party and suddenly all the rules of the setting go out the window and we have dangerous monsters so often that people talk about how the Five Minute Workday doesn't work because there are so many monsters and dangerous beasts out there that taking a couple of extra days to finish an adventure means that the party will be overwhelmed.

Look at it this way. In the real world, long distance travel was dangerous, right? People died and died pretty regularly on these pilgrimages and various other trips. And that's in a world that is FAR safer than a D&D world. Our world doesn't have any really dangerous creatures in it in any large numbers. Certainly not ones that specifically hunt down and eat people.

But, apparently, adding in lots and lots of very dangerous beasts into the world, complete with the notion that these are naturally occurring creatures with life cycles and whatnot, in no way actually changes how dangerous long distance travel would be.

I'm just really not buying it.
One one hand we have a working world with lots of travellers, on the other we have your insistence that like pokemon dangerous monsters jump out of the grass every time someone leaves a village with no explanation besides you screaming "they exist so it must happen!"
 

Hussar

Legend
One one hand we have a working world with lots of travellers, on the other we have your insistence that like pokemon dangerous monsters jump out of the grass every time someone leaves a village with no explanation besides you screaming "they exist so it must happen!"
Yes. This. This is the argument I'm making. :erm:

Again, we're just talking past each other now and you seem to be far more interested in winning than having a conversation, so, sure, you're 100% right. Absolutely right. Well done you.
 

MGibster

Legend
Normally I might ask if your players have goals of their own, things they are looking for, personal motivations? However, you said straight up that you threw in something of relevance to them and they ignored it anyhow! Maybe they thought the knowledge they'd gained was sufficient to pursue later, or when it became an issue? What was at stake, during the journey, in them finding out their rival factions were working together, and did it present any issues that needed to be dealt with right away?
It's been more than five years since we played that game, I don't remember what their "real" mission was, but they pretty much accomplished it early in the session. Early as in we still had 2+ hours of gaming time left. Their line of reasoning was twofold: We're not getting paid to look into that and it's dangerous. But they did learn something of value, their hometown's two main enemies were working together somehow.

For example, did the reveal of that fact also present an opportunity to sabotage that relationship (something they might very much want), but it had to be acted on right then and there? The more immediate and transient the motivation/pressure/opportunity, the better.
They didn't investigate at all. From a distance, they observed a group of prisoners being held by faction A given to faction B. They observed this and the group consensus was "Not our circus, not our monkeys." There was one person in the group that wanted to check it out more closely but he was overruled.

For exaple, if your party is on their way to the Big Bad Fortress, but on their way come upon a scene of obvious recent violence and abduction of innocents, how are they going to handle that?
My players are likely to ignore it. Whatever distraction that is, it's not the mission.
 

niklinna

Legend
One one hand we have a working world with lots of travellers, on the other we have your insistence that like pokemon dangerous monsters jump out of the grass every time someone leaves a village with no explanation besides you screaming "they exist so it must happen!"
There can be no "working world" if that world is imaginary. Literally nothing happens—or even exists—in an imagined world without a real-life person deciding it is so. No screaming necessary. You two clearly each have your own imaginary worlds, in which you are deciding different things happen.
 



Hussar

Legend
This entire thread would indicate otherwise.
Oh, don't get me wrong. It's interesting to discuss from an academic standpoint. Would I actually bother rewriting Forgotten Realms to try to make it make sense? Not a chance. Just no. :p

OTOH, my home-brew world that I'm currently building is at least trying to make sense of the initial set-up that I've created. Lots of "If this is true, what does that mean" sort of discussions with my group - we're working on it (very slowly and in fits and starts) collaboratively since they're very likely to see things that I miss.

But, please stop making personal assumptions here. I'm not "screaming" nor am I even being particularly unreasonable. I disagree, of course, but, the endless snark and ad hominems get rather tiresome after a while and aren't in any way actually needed.

I look at something like the Sword Coast, described as one of the most dangerous areas in all of Faerun, and then think, hmmm, no overland travel in somewhere like that would be more difficult than in the real world. Obviously, you disagree and think that it should be about the same as the real world. Fair enough. I don't really see how, but, hey, you're more than welcome to your interpretation and, clearly, your interpretation is the one that the source books largely follow, as @Ixal points out.

Me, I just find it jarring to see something like maps of Phandelin, a northern town surrounded by very, very dangerous monsters, and has zero actual defenses. No walls, no moat, no siege weaponry, nothing. To me, a town in the Sword Coast should look a lot more like Roman hill forts than 15th century English towns. Granted, that's just one example, there are -others, but, yeah, I don't think that Forgotten Realms, as written, is anything more than a theme park setting. It's certainly not anything remotely close to an attempt at anything functional. It works great for setting adventures there. Which, given that it's an adventure setting, is fantastic. But, I'm not going to pretend that it's more than that.
 

D&D has done Travel/Trekking/Journeys 3 ways. If you want to do either of the first two in 5e you're going to need to do some heavy-lifting of hacking it in yourself and then stress-testing to make sure its tightly integrated or find a product on the DMs Guild or whatever that has already attempted to do so (successfully or not you'll have to put the work in to figure out!).


* B/X RC hexcrawls w/ high resolution map and integrated rules/procedures. Procedurally, its just like dungeon crawls except mapped with fully prepped and high resolution hex-map (each hex themed and stocked w/ topography/hazards/denizens) + encounter tables + exploration turns/rest per 4 turns + wandering monster clock + monster reaction + encumbrance and loadout enforcement + gold/xp. This struggles when magic starts becoming ubiquitous (particularly powerful, terrain and light obviating magic.

* 4e map + conflict resolution (Skill Challenges) with intent/goal and stakes and Fail Forward. You can do this with each individual Skill Challenge being a leg (therefore likely Complexity 1) or the whole thing (therefore Complexity 3 to 5). Regardless, you've got a constantly changing situation with new topographical/locale-inspired dangers/obstacles to overcome (each with their own inferable consequence-space) > resolution > new obstacle/danger or escalated existing one > Win/Fail-state. Success means you complete the charted course (leg or the whole deal) w/ failure meaning some interesting twist happens that complicates or subverts your intent/goal and now you have to deal with that before you move onto your next leg (if going the leg route) or your next site of conflict if you're doing the entirety of the macro Journey as a singular conflict/Skill Challenge.

* Various other D&D where you're basically just simulating the experiential aspect of journeying/trekking with maps and rules and procedures and loadout and player decisions being faithfully observed or abridged/elided/ignored with the toggle being the GM's discretion at what best promotes the experiential quality of journeying/trekking at the moment. All that stuff is more "GM prompt" than actual consistent ruleset/journey engine with gears and teeth. So you'll go between vignettes with a lot of purple prose/flourishey-discriptions of vistas > maybe onto some moments of meaningful gamestate movers that involve system/player input/map reference > maybe some handouts or cool tokens to amplify "the feel" > maybe pretending that you're spending time on meaningful gamestate-moving decisions but its partly or mostly or wholly just performative theatrics + Force to engender the mood/experiential quality. Some formulation of all of that stuff.
 

clearstream

(He, Him)
@doctorbadwolf @Hussar I've run many healthy journey-rich campaigns over the years. In common to them is a framework that I adopted consistent with my preference for open play (following the player-characters' interests.) It was part intuition, and part Griffin Mountain (RQ) that led to it.

It may be diagrammed like this

PAR > JA* > PAR

P
is for populated place of any type - town, citadel, manor, witch's hut - anywhere there are many NPCs with means and motivations that PCs may become involved with. (I often lean into "points of light" settings.)

A and A* are differentiated arenas of proof, where skill is tested. Travel leans into navigation, resource management, tracking, skirmishes and pursuits. Places lean into negotiation, reputation management, investigation, confrontations and assassinations. There are overlaps, but these are well differentiated by context.

J is for journey.

R is for resolution(s), which can happen anywhere, but more often in populated places.

Occasionally journey is to, or broken by - dA? - which is a small dungeon. A ruin, a well, a cave high on a mountain - part of the world, not a world unto itself.

I'm still figuring out this framework (I only recently articulated it). My theory is that it works by differentiating on what is in play in each phase. A decision is made that Journey will not compete with Place. In a sense, it makes the whole surface world the "dungeon", if you think of places as rooms and journeys as corridors. Differentiation means that place challenges are not impinged by journey attrition. Journey in a sense is a cost paid to reach each place (and perhaps you see how that does work with the location of resolution.)

One "problem" in higher tiers is character power to compress it into

PAR > PAR

I don't personally find that problematic, following the philosophy evidenced so clearly in FFVII that relieving players of the journey phase reifies their watershed in power. R is (typically) in place, so in the end everyone is where they most want to be. However, I also use something like Gritty Realism and moderately slow advancement, so it comes late and can be taxed.

This all highlights for me that 5e leans hard on DMs to figure this stuff out and make decisions for their campaigns. (5e has the mechanics needed to give Jouney consistency and teeth. Wielding those is another matter!)
 
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