Friday, July 16, 2010

Distance in Keep on the Borderlands- Scale, Movement, and WTF

Let me cut right to the chase.

From the Keep the the woods outside the Caves is about 52 spaces, or about 5200 yards, which is right about three miles.

With the rules given in the module, a party following the road (the fastest rate of travel) will take 17 hours to reach the outskirts of the wooded area I'm referring to. Given the eight hour travel days needed to prevent exhaustion, it will take the party more than two days to get where they are going.

According to the rules for outdoor travel in blue book Expert, a party with lightly encumbered members can travel 18 miles per day, meaning that the party travels 2.25 miles per hour, and should be able to reach said space in less than an hour and a half.

According to the rules in the Cyclopedia, a lightly encumbered party on a trail can actually travel 24 miles per day, meaning that they should be able to reach the area in about an hour.

...from two days to one hour... quite a disparity, isn't it?

I believe logistics and travel are an important part of old D&D, and I run my games as such. Forget to bring adequate food and water and you are in trouble. So, I need to do one of three routes:

1. I can run the module as-is, while telling my brain to stop thinking about the fact that the characters are moving fifteen feet per minute in the open wilderness; less than that if they venture into the woods or fens, or if they are actively "searching."

2. Increase the scale of the map such that the journey really will take two days, or

3. Use the more sensible travel rules and just live with the fact that the Caves of Chaos really are just a stone's throw from the Keep.

Get this: traversing the 200 yards of woods between the road and the caves will take an hour per the module, about 40 minutes using Expert or Cyclopedia sets. The disparity is much smaller even though the terrain is much more difficult. The module and the two rule sets use the same terrain modifier (2/3 normal movement) for traveling through the woods.

Anyone else ever brush up against this?


  1. I've never noticed this before. Hm. I think that I'd rescale the map. I just don't like the idea that the Cave of Chaos are a 18 minute run from the Keep. That's just a little too close for my liking.

  2. I ran it last about a year ago and I paused while coming across that. I think I ended up increasing the scale right there at the table, such that the Caves are two days away on foot (which actually still seems a trifle close for comfort really, but I guess that's the point), which seemed to work for everyone. If you keep things vague enough it works.

  3. Yep, I ran into this when I ran Keep on the Borderlands (twice) in the last year.

    However, I'm not much for logistics. I ignored both AND skipped anything that could've happened on the overland route...the guide they hired (a local that knew the territory) got 'em to the Caves and then I started with the description ("the fading light," the "bleached bones," etc.) and "What do ya' want to do?"

    But as far back as I can remember, I've always run B2 like this (i.e. skipping the wilderness), BECAUSE when I was a kid I had ONLY the Basic set when I first started playing...wilderness adventures (and travel) were not a part of the game until I had the Expert set (and long after the characters had grown beyond the low level Caves of Chaos). I find it works best when you stick to the point of the module: it's about teaching new players how to dungeon delve. Rations and light ARE important...inside the caves. Likewise, I have sometimes allowed players to begin with horses (there are stables in the Keep and how the hell did they traverse the Borderlands to get there in the 1st place?) even though a 1st level character can't afford the price of horses given in the Expert set. Consider those as "mount replacement" prices.

  4. I'm going to "handwave rescale" it. The Caves are a mere two days away; the Keep is literally the first line of defense against Chaos. I am not going to totally rescale in terms of yards/miles, however, because that would distort the intended size of the river, road, etc. (This was brought up in the Dragonsfoot discussion, which I otherwise found unhelpful... far too many "it's fine the way it is" posts for my liking.)

    Anyway, I'm running it in about three hours...

  5. Hope it went well!

    One post from that Dragonsfoot discussion that I found intriguing was the idea that one could play the Caves as a recent and bold intrusion by the monsters, and proceed with a siege situation. In fact I may do something like that one of these here days. I started the current crew with KotB almost a year ago, and it may be time for an anniversary adventure. :-)

  6. Jayson-It went fine, actually. I just said the Caves were two days away. Nobody really asked any questions about specific distances. I rolled no encounters for them, but I did feed them something about treasure in the fens (they have an NPC guide with them) so they have put that on their to-do list.

    JB- That siege idea is great... you know, a new tunnel entrance can always appear later, when they think they've got the Caves under control.

  7. Actually the siege idea was Jayson, not JB.
    : )

  8. Humping a 70lb load through a dense brush/briar filled piece of wilderness isn't much fun, even if you are following a deer run. I could see it taking some time to move through a mile of it. Add potential hostiles, well...

  9. @JB and Jayson- Sorry for the confusion, guys. That's what I get for blogging in the wee hours of the morning.

    @John- According to the module, the 15 ft/minute movement rate applies even to an unencumbered character on an actual trail over flat land in broad daylight... that's what I'm having trouble buying. The movement rates through the fens and woods seemed more reasonable. Anyway, I ended up rescaling the map and using the movement and encumbrance rules from the Cyclopedia, ignoring the rules in B2.