World Builder’s Treatise – Part 2
One of the most important tools that I use is the map. Having a map allows me to do many things that are extremely beneficial in both the writing of fiction and for running tabletop games. Some of these include army logistics, travel times, and population control, all of which I find extremely useful and at times, indispensable.
Part 2 – Of Maps and Mountains
Now, I find that when writing fiction, it’s not really neccesary to actually publish the map for your world. There are many authors who didn’t have extremely detailed maps for their worlds. Then again, there are some who did, and very elaborately at that.
Now, I’m not going to argue either way as to which is better. There are many reasons to not make maps, and then again, there are many reasons to make maps. Personally, I prefer to go with the making of maps as I tend to be a bit obsessive with keeping my worlds as realistic and believable as possible.
Distance in Fantasy Worlds
I find that one of the most important things that I need to know when building worlds is distance. For me, it’s important to know just how far away city A is from city B. This helps me to figure out just how long it takes characters to get from one point to another or how long it’ll take the army of the big bad to get to the good guys.
When writing, I tend to use the league. True, no one uses it now except perhaps fantasy writers and game developers. In the modern world, measurements such as miles or kilometers are much more prevalent. The problem is, if you tell me that something is X miles away, or Y kilometers away, chances are, unless I’m from the same part of the world as you, I won’t have a really good idea about how far that actually is.
In some places, just saying, “Oh, it’s just a mile or so that way” gives a very good idea about how far something is. Other parts of the world are more used to saying, “Oh, it’s just and hour or so that way” and everyone will be able to picture the distance. This is one of the reasons that I use leagues, as a more culture neutral sort of measurement. But, that’s not the main reason that I use leagues for measurement.
The main reason I use leagues, is that a league is roughly equivalent to how far an average, healthy, and physically fit adult human can walk in an hour at an average brisk pace. Although I’m hardly “physically fit”, it does give me a better idea in terms of distance. I can imagine myself walking for an hour, or I can go outside and actually walk if the mood so takes me, and I can get an idea of distance. This unit is based on Roman measurements used for their legions on the march. Now, measurements do vary, but a league is roughly equal to 3 miles, give or take. If you want to be more precise, one league is 3.4523 miles or 5.556 kilometers but for the sake of quick and dirty measurements, I’ll stick with 3 for now.
This is useful for me, because if I know that City X is 172 leagues from City Y, then I can easily calculate how long it would take a character to get there. On average, a person can walk six to eight hours in a day on even terrain. Roman legions walked around four to six hours in a day, with the rest of the time being spent fortifying their position and resting. An individual however, should be able to do eight hours without too much trouble. I get a rough formula then of:
172 leagues / 8 leagues per day = 21.5 days
So I now know that, considering the terrain is roughly the same all throughout, my character could make it from City X to City Y in a little over three weeks, barring any interference. This prevents any problems with, “Hey, how did
Issues like this however, can always be solved with magic. It’s a simple matter to say that a powerful wizard transported them through mystical passes that are known only to the wise. But this has always seemed to me to be a cheap way out, especially if no mention was made of it beforehand.
Travel time will never however (hey, a rhyme!), be without effect from the terrain. Walking through a forest will obviously slow someone down, and travel on plains will be a lot faster than through swamps. This is another reason why I make maps, as if I know where all the different geological features are, then I can plot my characters’ path and figure out how long it will take them.
Which brings me nicely to my next point, terrain.