Worldbuilding Basics #4 – Land Travel

Now that we’ve drank some wine and discussed distances, I think it’s time to talk about the various forms of land travel on which your journey may depend.  Is that a cheesewheel in your rucksack by the way?  I’ve got some bread in the back.”

Nag’s Shanks. Let’s put this one to bed; ain’t no such thing. If someone tells you to travel on Nag’s Shanks, they mean you should walk. If I had a copper coin for every fool that came into my stables wanting to see a Nag’s Shanks, I’d be a rich man. Beware this ruse as it’s known as different things throughout the realm; Nag’s legs or, more often, Shanks’ Pony.

Walking. Ah, the bane of my business. Thank the gods it’s so slow! On a good day, expect to trek about three miles in an hour, depending on your terrain and what you’re carrying. I’d always play it safe and bank on around fifteen miles on a good day. Naturally, that would take in time for rests, food, and setting up a camp, if required. You do know how to setup a campfire, don’t you?

Running. I ain’t seen nothing funnier than someone setting off on a run thinking he’s going to be in the next town in no time at all. Expect to do about six miles per hour for a healthy chap (like yer’ self) and drop that further if you’ve got some backpack or holdall to weigh you down. Either way, you’ll probably be wishing you’d never set off after an hour or so. Remember what I said about walking?

Ox-Cart. Sometimes, when I look in the eyes of an ox pulling a cart, I imagine it’s begging to be set free. A cart pulled by two of these sad creatures can actually be slower than walking, but that’s usually because of the huge weight that they’re often dragging along. Oxen require very little maintenance and are tough beasts but don’t expect to be doing more than around two miles an hour with a fully laden cart. Of course, a kind owner would install more oxen when pulling heavier weights but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll travel any faster.

Wagon Trains / Caravans. It ain’t much faster than walking, truth be told; around four miles per hour. More often than not, when you travel in a caravan, you’re either paying for comfort, or for practicality, not for speed. The other bonus is that horses are hardier beasts than men and will often travel for longer in a day. On some of the more established trade runs , you may manage around twenty-five miles, but you’ll probably be eating on the go unless the horses need to be grazed and watered.

Camel. Don’t see too many of those around here, they prefer the sandier climates. However, these animals can move, don’t let anyone tell you different. At an average pace, a camel can reach around seven miles per hour for much of the day, with the endurance to put in a sprint that can cover twenty miles in a single hour. They can go even faster, if required, but only for shorter distances. If you ever know of anyone willing to sell one, send them my way.

Donkeys, Mules and Hinnies. As with oxen, these are often bred for carrying and, as such, are usually laden down with goods. However, it isn’t unheard of for one of these diminutive creatures to be treated with a little more respect and have nothing other than their owner to carry. In this state, these tough animals will walk around at four miles per hour, trot around eight miles per hour, and break into a gallop of around twenty miles per hour. Obviously, those figures need to be reduced if there are goods to be carried.

Horse. Now, you’re talking to a stable-hand and I’d not normally lower myself to speak of a horse in such a broad term; there are so many breeds of horse that I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t pass on all the details (and the prices if you’re interested), but I see that’s probably for another time. When out travelling on a horse, you can expect to walk at around four miles per hour, trot at ten miles an hour, and gallop at anything between thirty and forty miles an hour. A lot of this depends on the fitness of the horse and the terrain so, on average, I’d expect to cover around thirty miles in a single day.

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