View Full Version : Distance questions

08-13-2012, 02:02 AM
Hello forum,

It has been a while since I have been on the forum, mostly because 1) I lost my PC and couldn't use any software 2) lost my login info because of it and 3) studying and finding resources to learn. But I've recently managed to get some free time in to work on my map. I decided I wouldn't worry about everything else yet while I learn about it and finished the outline of my map and am trying to figure out distance. *For peoples unaware of the reasons of my creation; it is for a novel* :)

I managed to create a mile scale on my map based on 100 miles per the distanced given on the scale and using it, roughly, from the longest tip to the furthest top of the country, I counted around 8,700 miles (map cuts off at the top. I wanted a big map) with the days to cross at 120 days (according to an online calculator). I needed a distance between some already set things that would, at least, require 5-7 days of walking with rest (at least around 5 hours of rest), eating (maybe about 2 hours) and then rest/sleep at sundown and continuing as soon as the sun rises, so that's what I based the calculations on.

I did this on a straight line calculation though, not counting in obstacles like mountains, rivers, towns, 'events' and lakes. I figured I would first pick the average time it takes to get through a mile, at least through the character's view, and decided that the party travels at least 1 mile every 45 minutes or so if they are not taking a rest during the day or sleeping during the night.

My questions? 1) I am not sure my calculations are correct and can't seem to find anything to reference to or help me 2) What is a good way to figure out the time it takes to get around such things? I'm having difficulty with it. :(

Notes: Since it is a novel, I was trying to get distance to be rather long, for story purposes, but I think I failed. lol


I hope I made sense in this post. If I didn't or there is something you guys need to know, please say so and I'll clear up my post or add it. :)

08-13-2012, 05:56 PM
Someone can walk about 40 - 50 miles per day flat out but thats putting in a really good pace and they would have to be used to it. A more normal person would do about 20 miles over a hard track and probably about the ole D&D 12 miles on a rough track or over hard natural terrain. That assumes good weather and good ground. As soon as either change it can drop dramatically. Over a bog I would think even 5 miles would be good going.

Also, sticking with roads, if a person was on a mission or quest then it could be up to more like the 20 mile figure and they may rest less. If doing a messaging relay then the ancient marathon would have been done in about 3 hrs which is something like 10 miles per hour so theoretically with multiple trained runners you could do 100 miles per day. Each one has no rest during the run.

Then if they were burdened with a pack then it would drop again and in armor like plate mail I wonder how they might move at all but maybe they could do 5 miles. An Elf or a Dwarf may do more due to fantastic racial traits.

I think we have had some more posts about this but its been a while since I have seen them. But do search.

08-14-2012, 01:16 AM
That's one of the problems. I can't seem to find anything to research on. I've googled all that I thought could bring something up relevant to it, but it failed. I'm not sure what to start to read. :(

08-14-2012, 01:44 AM
Try a search for "roman legion marching distance" for an example of what a well-trained military unit can do. I'd have to go check the library to be sure, but I think the typical marching day included breaking camp, march, and setting up camp (which usually included basic fortifications). And Roman legions could still pull 25miles in a day with a full 50 pound set of gear. Forced marches would, of course, go farther. Most other military groups since then weren't quite as efficient.

08-14-2012, 02:21 AM
Ah, thanks for the suggestion! :D

I found a few sites that said they were required to march about 20-24 miles a day, which I'm assuming includes working around mountains, rivers, lakes etc etc. If the pace was slow *for a non-army movement*, leisurely taken I mean, then I would expect about 10-15 miles a day. It certainly helps pinpoint a distance set for armies/troops! :)

Is there something I can look into to estimate or help figure out how to consider obstacles in the way? I tried "terrain" into my googling but I got articles unrelated to what I needed. :lol:

I would hate it if I made my characters walk through mountains, rivers etc etc in days and be across the map in less then 100 days. :laughs

08-15-2012, 03:19 AM
Most games just apply a modifier based on terrain type (1/2 movement in forests, 1/4 movement in mountains, etc.) with modifiers often stacking. A good mountain pass will greatly reduce the effort required to travel through mountains and good roads effectively allow for full-rate travel on all but the worst terrain. Similarly, a bridge over a river negates the penalties associated with such, and a ford can be almost as good. Roads may travel a long distance out of the way to to get to low-cost travel options.

One of the problems of PCs in high-magic games is that they will often have things at their disposal that negate severe barrier penalties (the D&D Fly spell is the worst one in my experience).

An important thing to remember about overland travel is that season and weather are critically important for travel rates. Springtime thaws, rains, and floods can make any but the most well-maintained roads virtually impassable. Winter snows can block mountain passes for all but a few months out of the year. Huge herds of ruminants on open plains can block travels for days here and there. For worlds with the classic evil humanoid monsters, whole areas may be virtually impassable due to patrols and bad attitudes (regular humans can work just as well here).

A critical idea is that any choke point on trade routes is likely to have a number of greedy fellows squatting on them. Many of these choke points are likely to have cities based on trade in them and the owners of those cities are often willing to help the PCs travel faster by relieving them of all that heavy coin that they're carrying. Policies vary from place to place and a a city (or merely an unscrupulous vendor) may sell tokens that purport to offer free passage through the realm but really just mark the party as easily exploitable.

There are always a huge number of options to slow down travel. An amusing one is providing the party with a nice camp site that has a pleasant cave or other shelter. One party member finds a trinket and keeps it. That trinket belongs to something like a leprechaun or other sprite that is greatly unamused, but limits its revenge to little things like quick-fraying saddle attachments, damaging tether lines to let the horses get away, adding unpleasant herbs to the party's food and an endless array of little nuisances that slow things way, way down.

Horses. There's a set of slowdowns without end.

Anyhow, enough rambling.

08-15-2012, 08:44 AM
Strangely I was doing a little research on how far a horse can realistically travel in one day and after much google-fu it seems to depend very much on the type of horse, conditioning (i.e. is it used for long distance travel all the time, rather than been standing in a field for months, or only used for racing, etc..) and condition (i.e. is it well fed and watered), as well as how heavy a load and the terrain involved.

..anyway this is the list of distances (in miles per day) I've come up with from a variety of sources that I shall be using personally:

On Roads / trails
Level or rolling terrain: 40
Hilly terrain: 30
Mountainous terrain: 20

Off-Road (or unkempt trails etc)
Level/rolling grasslands: 30
Hilly grasslands: 25
Level/rolling forest/thick scrub: 20
Very hilly forest/thick scrub: 15

Un-blazed Mountain passes: 10
Marshland: 10

An average quality horse, of a breed suitable for riding, conditioned for overland travel and in good condition.
Roads and trails are in good condition and up kept by whatever local authority deals with them.
Weather is good to fair, and travelers are riding for around ten hours a day.

Halve these distances for a horse pulling a cart or for a very heavily laden horse (e.g. a fully armoured knight who insists on wearing his armour all day rather than having it stowed on a second baggage horse as would be normal!).

Add half again for specially trained horses and riders who are prepared to push hard (rangers, scouts and messangers, etc...) though do bear in mind that horses cannot be pushed like this for more than a few days at a time. You can add a bit more again to this distance if the breed of horse is exceptionally suitable for this sort of thing, but I’d say 2 to 2.5 times the base is the absolute maximum without some sort of magical assistance!

Poor weather such as heavy rain or wind should reduce distances by about one quarter, and very poor conditions like heavy snow or gale force winds, etc.. should reduce distances by at least half if not more.

Finding a place to ford a small river or swimming your horse across a larger river should knock a couple of miles off the day’s journey, other unique obstacles might have a similar reduction. (as a guide remember a horse walks at around 4 miles per hour (compared to a human average of around 2.5 - 3mph) so if the obstacle takes half an hour to deal with thats a couple of miles lost.

Out of interest
The Tevis cup is a 100-mile-in-one-day competition which goes over some quite rugged and mountainous trail terrain in the western states of USA... but they do it on very special arab horses, with little or no baggage and even the winning times are usually around 17 hours! link (http://www.teviscup.org/)

08-15-2012, 09:33 AM
Great stuff, fifty. I've copied your post to the Reference section as a new thread so it is more easily findable. Have some rep!

08-15-2012, 09:37 AM
This is some good information. The question has been discussed a few times but I like your direct and to the point breakdown. I'm of the opinion that this should be saved for future reference. Now, just where to store it.

edit: Nice Ravells, you ninja'd me but at least we we are on the same page :)

08-15-2012, 09:40 AM
lol, GMTA!!

08-16-2012, 09:11 PM
Wow! Very helpful information shared here! I can't find the right words to express how much it helped me! But I am very much appreciative! :)

Thanks so much guys! I'll rep everyone (might have to spread first for some) for the great help! :)


Oh, and I couldn't find any of the other threads. So this was far more helpful than I can describe. xD