Medieval Perspective on Traveling

I read a great blog by Rick Stump, a fine nerd, who talked about the realities of travel and distance in a medieval setting.]Modern Minds and Medieval Distances

This is mundane travel information, so no backtalk about flying, carpets, magic and such! :slight_smile:

Fascinating facts, though, and I love to read this sort of stuff. The bit on comparing horses to a walking man is surprising, especially.

Now, what if I had a horse? Believe it or not, not a lot would change. Horses also have preferred travelling speeds for their various gaits and when carrying a rider they must be rested, watered, fed, etc. As historical writers seem to point out often, a dedicated man on foot can actually catch a man on horseback over the long term because a man on foot can cover more ground over weeks of travel.

And then there’s the bit about how many villages to expect in a certain distance of a castle and other assorted goodies.

Now I know BW really doesn’t encourage this sort of detailed map building, but it certainly is useful for setting Obstacles and applying modifiers to skills while traveling!

I read this yesterday! It’s great stuff, but also very anglo- and franco-centric. He sort of alludes to this when he notes that there was basically 200 miles of howling wilderness between Leipzig and Posnan. Well that’s true, because that area was basically an impenetrable forest that spread from the Rhine to Russia. This is why Rome never really founded a city north of Trier and the German tribes never really adopted town and village life in Germania Superior until a fair bit into the medieval period, even though many german tribesmen were Roman citizens and liked towns just fine.

He touches on this slightly when discussing the Mongols, but I think he downplays the speed advantage horses provide over shorter distances or when replacement mounts are available. If you need to cover 20 miles as fast as possible, a horse is your best bet, ceteris paribus. Your horse will be blown, in no shape for a fight, and you’ll kill it if you keep it up, but if nothing matters but getting there, jump on a horse. Worst case, you can push the horse until it falters then walk the rest of the way.

Cool post, though. Thanks for sharing it.

In BW, it’s never a matter of you horse falters and you have to walk the rest of the way. More like, you failed your Riding test to make it to the next village in time. Your horse breaks its leg and you fall into a ravine filled with Giant Spiders! Meanwhile, the village never hears about the orcish raid happening tomorrow. Haha!

Agree, Kubai, but it’s good to have a general grasp of what’s possible and potential consequences when setting Obs and dealing with failures.

I’ve had failures involve having horses lamed and the rider being forced to walk the rest of the way. The failure consequence there is the loss of a horse! That’s a light consequence compared to your horse founder and collapse on top of you, leaving you helpless as the Orcs catch up, but it’s perfectly good.