The lands around the Violet City

34 Long-distance Gritty Realism I: Time

That picture? It’s one of the maps for the Ultraviolet Grasslands, a fun long-distance expedition adventure I’m making over on Patreon. It has functions. Including: (1) money for my art, (2) structure to help me complete an rpg project, (3) communication with and input from supporters. You could support it, too. Should. Not could. One thing I ran into very quickly was scale.

How to long-distance in dungeons and dragons?

The UV Grasslands are big. They’re mind-boggling and weird, sure, but first of all they are big. Vast and fucking empty. You know, like steppes are. And it’s that emptiness that kills heroes, because that emptiness means there’s no wishing well to drink from and no turnip farm to plunder.

Have you ever tried to run a hexcrawl from Jaca to Santiago de Compostella with 6-mile hexes? It’s like 80 of the bastards! Go on, try it. Roll for encounters in every hex. I bet you’ll be bored, and so will your players. So how do you make the grasslands feel big, while not making crossing them boring? Glad you ask.

Time: weeks and weeks and weeks

Use the week as the basic unit of activity. This will drive home how far things are. Don’t worry about details like miles and leagues.

Also, use the gritty realism variant (5E DMG, p. 267). Use it. It is your friend. A long rest, that really heals up the heroes, should take a week. A short rest? A day.

If you want, you can tally extra days until they hit a week, but honestly, you can handwave extra days until you get into starvation / exhaustion territory.

This gives you a tracker like this:

  • Weeks: [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]    [ ] [ ] [ ] [ ]
  • Days: ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( ) ( )  <optional>

What this means:

  • Traveling between locations takes about a week.
  • Heroes check their supplies once a week.
  • Check for random encounters once or twice a week.
  • Hunting and foraging takes about a week.
  • Symptoms of dysentery last about a week (so, make disease checks once a week only).
  • Long rest takes about a week.
  • Check living expenses and crap like that once a week.

Next post: supplies

In the novelty hostile survival kit, your hero finds a week’s supply of tinned meat, travel ale, disinfectant schnapps, novelty items, rough newspapers, socks, gum and prophylactics (10 cash).

I’m going to make three more posts to cover long-distance adventuring: supplies, inventory and misfortune. There may be more, later. I’m also going to expound on how awesome usage dice (risk dice) are. Read more about them in the Black Hack and their related risk dice in Macchiato Monsters. David Black and Éric Nieudan are two awesome guys. Tell them how awesome they are.

Technique

Pencil, sennelier watercolor, faber castell pens on Sketchman.co.kr watercolor 200g/m2 paper. Labels and detailing in photoshop. I have really mixed feelings about these watercolors, as I find it very hard to get vibrant reds or blues. The green and yellow pigments are fine, but that right end of the spectrum just really disappoints every time.

Some more plugging

Remember me talking about Patreon? Check it out. Or, you know, commission some art.

2 thoughts on “34 Long-distance Gritty Realism I: Time

  1. I see this and I think this must be the map of the astral space between some distant worlds in my home campaign. It is wonderful.

    • It could be 😉 I’ve wanted to disconnect ttrpg maps from hexes and grids for a long time, but I’d never gotten around to making the rules that would require!

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