OK, so I mentioned the idea last post about thinking about getting to and from work in your fantasy and how that differs for the common folk and adventurers. If you look at that idea and say “on a horse”, you’ve screwed it up. Now, you can start with “on a horse”, but then you have to think about a number of things: If people are riding horses to and from work in a major city, where do they “park” them? Where do they park them at home? Are there that many stables in major cities? How do they feed all these horses? Do the wagons filled with hay, straw (for bedding) and oats wander the streets? Do the clean up wagons collect the horse manure at night? Can simply craftsmen afford to own horses (I mean the feeding and housing, not buying a cheap one)?
OK - So I can’t just say you’re doing it wrong and not offer the way to do it right. Honestly, this has been an issue with me from the first time I started mapping out the city of Rhum (about 35 years ago). I had residential neighborhoods in one part of the city and industrial stuff in another. Now I have shifted things around (before publication) and I have sort of surrounded the more industrial area with residential neighborhoods, so the workers don’t have to walk more than 10-20 minutes to get to work. I think that’s pretty reasonable. That covers the factory workers, and yes, I have factories in my fantasy world. Maybe not what you are thinking, but breweries, brick makers, ceramics factories where some guys set up the clay, some throw the items and others fire them in the kilns. Most of the other craftsmen live very close to their shops - often above them.
But I also had an issue with the Farmers’ Market. The farmers don’t live in the city, so how do they maintain their farms, get to and work in the market, and get home at night before the gates close? I had to think about that one a lot! I surrounded the city with some smaller farms, so that farmers could still get into the city and back home every day. I started altering who was in the market - not the farmer himself, but instead his wife or daughter. I also had to start thinking about the concept that farmers in fantasy worlds aren’t selling watermelons all year long, just at the end of summer. So some of the Farmers’ Market stalls are empty on certain days. This also led me to start thinking about things like: pickled vegetables, fruit preserves, apple cider and other things farmers would sell to get people through the winter; the fact that there probably was no fresh milk in cities without refrigeration; and how do farmers make all of their money at one time of the year (after harvest) and yet survive the rest of the year hopefully avoiding bandits.
OK - That’s not so bad for the common folks, but how does this affect the adventuring party? A couple of minor points: I now know that near the city are small farms, while away from the city are the huge plantations. For Rhum, I knew this was barley and other cereal plantations, but before thinking it through I did not think that the plantations could afford to be at a distance, while the small farmers could not. In thinking about the adventurers “getting to work”, I had to make sure that I had established roads that go from one city to the next. I had that. I had to think about what happens when a slow moving caravan is blocking the road, either for another slow moving caravan or for the fast moving adventurers. OK, I came up with the proper etiquette for that. I had to figure out how long it takes to get from one city to the next. Ok, maybe I didn’t have to do this, but wasting game session time trying to figure out stuff like this is not where I want to be, so I made up a chart for my world.
What else? hundreds of things! Do your roads have signs that direct travelers to the next city or town on the roads? How good are the roads? Who maintains the roads? Are there tolls? How bad are the bandits in different sections? Why are there bandits in the different sections? What’s wrong with those governments or are those just lawless parts of the world? Where do people eat and sleep along the way? Are there inns or campgrounds? How safe are these? How expensive are these? How do the inns get their food and supplies? Does it come in on caravans or from locals, and does that make a difference? probably makes a big difference in pricing. What do people ride? Horse is not specific enough. Mules, Donkeys, Horses, Ponies, something far more fantastic? If someone is riding a carnivorous steed, can the inns help them? What happens if someone is using a flying steed? Are there laws about flying over certain places - I’m thinking mainly city walls here? What different breeds of horses are there and what are they used for? Are the adventurers riding war horses, riding horses or draft horses and what is the difference in traveling? Should they be riding one type of horse and trailing their battle steed? What do they haul their stuff in? Do they wear armor in the saddle while traveling? Where are they getting their water from and does it cause them any issues? Can they let their horse munch on grass along the way or does that upset the locals?
Ok, we’re starting to beat a dead horse here, yeah pun intended even though it wasn’t a very good one. You can have one of two attitudes towards that list of questions: 1) No one cares about the mundane stuff or 2) You know I hadn’t thought about some of that stuff before, but there’s something in there that sparks an idea for me. Maybe it was the idea of a carnivorous steed causing trouble at an inn or a water elemental causing trouble at an important watering hole, but there are adventures mixed in with the mundane stuff. Every time I think through the mundane stuff, I come up with the foundations of adventures, and I think good GMs do the same. Otherwise you may as well be playing some MMO.