Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Conditions of Roads

One of the things I thought interesting about the default 4e assumption in its points of light approach, is that things were better. This isn't necessarily something unique mind you. Even in it's glory publishing days, the Forgotten Realms hailed a things were better approach but usually that only came through in the spells, magic items, and sizes of the empires.

But the first 4e module noted how in need the roads were. When reading King of the North, the importance of roads reminded me of that with the following dialog;

"Pity you can't keep the Elabon Way repaired up to the way it used to be," van said, "but I suppose I should be greateful there's any road at all."

Gerin shrugged. "I haven't the masons to keep it the way it was, or the artisans to build the deep strong bed that holds up to traffic and weather both. Cobbles and gravel keep it open in the rain and mud, even if they are hard on a man's insides and a horse's hooves."

"To say nothing of the wheels," Van added as they jounced over a couple of particularly large, particularly rough cobbles. "Good thing we have psare axle poles and some extra spokes in case we break' em."

"This isn't even a particularly bad stretch," Gerin said. "Those places farther south where Balamug wrecked the roadway, those are the ones that haven't been the same since in spite of all the effort I've had the peasants put into them." (p.121 paperback edition.)

Those little bits right there give the reader an insight into the setting. It has nothing to do with fight. It has nothing to do with magic. It has nothing to do with potential raiders on the side or the road, choke points or ambush spots. It's just that the roads aren't as good as they could be due to the scarcity of resrouces, in this case, trained manpower to handle the delicate tasks of the road.

Living in and about Chicago my whole life, let me tell you, it's not just some fantasy concern either. The rain, heavy traffic, and the snow, have lead many an auto parts dealer to riches when replacing ruined tires, rims, and cars that have shattered vulnerable parts thanks to massive holes in the street, and this is an age where we have the technology, just apparently, not the funds or the brains to know when the roads are in such dire need of repair.

The next time the players are heading out as caravan guards, give 'em a little jostle and let 'em know that there's more to the road than bandit attacks.