Saturday, October 10, 2009

An Internal Debate: To Horse Or Not To Horse

By which I mean that I am debating whether or not to have any kind of riding animals present in Under the Dying Sun.  There is a lot to recommend having none.  When the only way to travel in on your own two feet, even small distances become daunting.  And that, in turn, really emphasizes the ideas of isolated communities and the dangers of travel.  A village 15 miles away would take at least two days to reach, meaning that you would have to spend at least one night out in the wilds. A village 30 miles away might as well be on the moon--no one is going to travel that far without a damned good reason.  A set-up like this not only gives you excellent fodder for making every community unique and mysterious, but also explains why people would choose to live in whatever hell-hole they live in.  Sure it sucks, but where can you go?

On the other hand, when I imagine deserty settings, Lawrence of Arabia...

...and uncounted Westerns... out in my mind and it's hard to have those images without horses or an equivalent. Something is lost when the fierce tribesmen amble out of the desert or when the gang of outlaws has to run into town.  Plus, in a fantasy desert setting, you can have giant flightless riding birds or lizards or insects. 

And those things are just cool.

So...still debating this one.


  1. Maybe have mounts just be incredibly food intensive. In the middle ages horses were not for the everyman because they couldn't be put to work (the work collar not being invented) making them pure luxury. They took alot of grooming, massive amounts of food and water...all so you could have the luxury of moving slightly faster. What were you going to do that you needed to get there twice as fast for that kind of constant resources?

    The only answer was warfare and knights. The same logic can be applied to mounts, maybe make the mounts meat eating, a mount that eats ALOT of meat gets damn expensive, ergo they exist..but they aren't common.

  2. > A village 15 miles away would take at least two days to reach,

    That means there would be a village 7.5 mi away. I believe, historically villages formed a days walk from each other. On other hand, in order to have mounts and keep that isolation increase the distance so nearby villages are 2 days ride away. The Wild West was pretty darn empty. Or it could be that flightless bird mounts can sprint real good, over the long haul they aren't that much faster than walking.

    Humans are awesome long distance runners. (the best in the whole animal kingdom. Early man hunted by chasing prey to death.) I've always been fascinated by how cultures without significant beasts of burden. Meso-Americans and Australian Bush people are two I know about. If you go mountless I'd suggest reading a bit about how they did things.

  3. I found that by making mounts available, the party justs zips around the open terrain of my 5 mile hexmap. If mounts are available, making the sandbox bigger scale-wise may be a consideration.

  4. Keep in mind that mounts aren't autos and they are a good addition to the game. Throw in prestige mounts and a new PC money sink for the game is present.

    15 miles isn't that far either, that's a 5-8 hours walk until terrain gets nasty. Of course toss in a 1 in 6 chance of a horrible monster and it's a long long way.

  5. 15 miles isn't that far either, that's a 5-8 hours walk until terrain gets nasty.

    I don't think that there is anything other than nasty terrain in this setting. :)

  6. You need to think about domestic uses as well unless you want everyone to be nomads roaming a post-apocalyptic landscape. Do people pull their own ploughs or do they use giant ants?

    If you go nomadic, carrying capacity is your friend (no heavy armour or lots of gear unless you go slow). Look at how the Mongol hordes, Apache Indians or Bedouin trbes deal with these issues.

  7. In my "dying earth" setting, the horse has gone extinct three times. It's been brought back by means of the flesh vats, but only the sorcerers can grow them and only the wealthy can afford them. The horses that are there have often been improved upon by the vat wizards -- things like carnivorism, bulletproof hide, steel hooves, and flamethrower breath. A horse that can survive in the wilderness would be extremely dangerous.

    For those less fortunate there are riding lizards, but they are stubborn and vicious, and not as comfortable to ride as horses and don't have the same top speed as a vat-grown horse.

    The ancients have also left behind mechanical horses. These automatons will take their rider to any location on their charts (even if the destination has long ago been reduced to a radioactive crater).