Realistic Fantasy Travel

As promised, here are my notes from the MileHiCon panel that ended up just being about horses rather than realistic fantasy travel in general. I have notes on three different areas: horses (ubiquitous in almost all forms of fantasy, since people need a way to get places that’s not walking, and horses are easy), boats (specifically tall ship-style boats), and trains (for your steampunk and related needs).

These are mostly stats, kind of as a way to be like “Here’s how these things work, and if you’re having them work differently you’d better have a dang good reason.” The biggest issue, we all agreed in the panel, was that people tend to treat horses like cars, i.e., something that can keep going and going as needed as opposed to living animals that have thresholds and needs. (There was also a large side tangent about whether or not horses needed to be treated as characters, with half the panel saying yes, horses are characters and the other half saying it depended on the story and the horse.)

(I am in the depends on the context camp.)

Anyway! Here are your horse stats. This is your average horse that is not specifically trained for long-distance trips in most cases.

Horses:

  • Can travel between 25 and 100 miles a day, based on fitness levels/training
  • But if traveling for weeks you want to do 20-30 miles a day so you don’t wear the horse out (walk or trot)
  • A horse that is not used to endurance travel is not going to be able to do it
  • Harder terrain obviously diminishes the distance that can be traveled
  • Can only gallop for about 2 miles (canter for up to 5)
  • Should stop being ridden at age 20-25
  • Many horses cannot carry two people (need big, strong, calm horse)
  • Most horses have a max carrying weight of about 250 lbs (rider(s) + gear)
  • Takes about 2 years to competently learn to ride a horse, assuming one lesson a week
  • Takes an average horse about 5 hours to go 20 miles (horses walk about 4-5 miles an hour)

Now, on to boats. Now, you may be asking, why did I do research on other modes of transportation when the panel was specifically about horses in fantasy? Well, because I thought we were focusing on the “realistic travel” part of the description and not the horse part. So I thought it would be worth it to be prepared to talk about other transportation if they came up, and I picked boats and trains since those seem to be the next most popular modes that come up regularly.

Not to say there are not other modes of fantasy travel, because there absolutely are. I was trying to avoid more fantastic modes, however, since I’m not going to be able to tell you the average airborne velocity of a dragon or anything like that.

My stats for boats are, as I said above, for tall ships. Think 2-4 mast ships that are generally ocean-going.

Boats:

  • A tall ship travels about 7 miles per hour (6 knots)
  • Older ships may be more like 4 mph
  • Wind direction is important (tail wind vs head wind)
  • A sailing ship is going to average somewhere between 60 and 100 miles a day (also depends on if sailing overnight or not)

I got progressively lazier from this point on.

Trains:

  • Depending on year, in 1804 they ran about 10 mph, in 1850 they ran up to 75 mph (in England)

Trains, of course, can now run up to a couple hundred mph, but I was focused on steam-powered locomotives, since that seems to be the most applicable.

And, finally:

Walking:

  • A person can walk 20-30 miles per day (if trained)

(More 10-15 miles if untrained, and then you also need to think about things like footwear and other things that may make things harder.)

Thoughts, squiders? Favorite form of fantasy travel, realistic or not? Thoughts on horses, cuz why not?

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