Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday on Anthony's site I made the point that he had done good work, and I stand by that. However, today I want to argue where the work is flawed, because ... well, that's the way things are discussed in the adult world. Solutions are advanced, and solutions are shot full of holes. And then better solutions result.
The Emerson quote above it meant to convey certain central issues I have with Anthony's calculation of attrition * topography * climate * season * road * situation * provisions + base damage. The very purpose of creating a road is so that travellers upon that road need not experience the topography. I put it to the reader that walking upon a road through a set of hills is in no way different than walking upon a road through an open plain. Particularly if the road in question has been built in such a manner as to reduce the grade of the road, as the Romans did with the various Vias that extended throughout the empire. Now there are roads and there are roads, but if we are speaking of an engineered project that lays stone in a fashion so to make travel easier, then the various travellers making their way through the malarial swamps of western Italy along those roads are not affected in their comfort in the least. That was kind of the point!
Moreover, I'd like to point out that roads through mountains and hills tend to follow along the valleys, where the rivers generally provide easier grades. Yes, the possibility of a mountain pass adding to the difficulty is a possibility, but roads can lead through a hundred miles or more of mountainous terrain without ever going over a pass. So it's ridiculous to assume a mountain road is automatically in some way made more difficult. I live right next to a group of craggy mountains - the Rockies - that were very dangerous to traverse when there were no roads. But since there are roads now, and since the Canada Highway goes right through the Rockies, the Selkirk Range and the Coastal mountains having only to climb and descend three passes over a journey of 800 miles, I can assure you that while riding a bike from Calgary to Vancouver involves a lot of up and down, it isn't a terribly hazardous trip. In fact, it's pretty damn cozy. Given good weather, I don't think you could argue taking damage over the journey.
"Road" should definitely negate "Topography."
All right, let's look at the next pairing: climate vs. season.
To begin with, "season" is a misnomer. Many parts of the globe don't have seasons in the temperate sense, with some parts of the world having only two, and some parts having three. Moreover, what is the distinction between the 'winter' that I experience up here in Alberta and the 'winter' that others experience in, say, Oklahoma. Here, we are living in a world where the trees still haven't come into leaf, whereas Oklahoma's trees did months ago. So am I still living in Spring? Winter? In parts of Europe, on May 1st they celebrate the first day of Summer. That was ten days ago. Is it Summer here?
No, of course not. Seasons are completely nominal words which are applied generally in different parts of the world to different phenomena, and do not reflect any sort of measurable condition. Sometimes, we here in Alberta experience a warm, pleasant spring and the leaves come out on the trees in late March and early April. And sometimes we have years like this one. Doesn't mean a thing. So toss out the 'season' modifier entirely. It is simply worthless as a measure.
Now, climate. An absurdly generalized thing which, like spring, hardly describes the day to day experience of living with weather. Some parts of the world have a 'climate': the northern coast of South America, for instance, where it is 90 degrees every day, without exception, for six months at a time. Venezuela, Guyana and Suriname sit on the Carribbean where it meets the Atlantic and the weather is always sultry with humidity.
Alberta, I can say from experience, is not like that. And while in the winter the December temperature can drop to -35 C with a windchill of -20 C, the December temperature can also climb to +9 C with a warm, marvelous wind that makes you want to walk home from work. These are both part of the same 'climate' ... and since either can occur at any time throughout the winter here, it is again completely ridiculous to label the country as "cold" and apply a modifier as though the temperature never changes. Temperature, wind, humidity and precipitation DO CHANGE, and wildly, throughout the temperate region ... and therefore, designations like "cold" or "warm" are absolutely and without exception utterly useless as a general reflection of any particular day of walking in the wilderness. You can get lucky, and have several nice days in a row, and you can get unlucky, and probably die on a road within 24 hours. This sort of Darwinism happens here, regularly. When the authorities here close a road, and they're ignored, it doesn't take long for this country to kill you.
So again, throw out the 'climate' modifier and put one there that makes sense.
Now, a few notes about topography.
Leaving aside for the moment that not all mountains are the same, and that not all swamps are the same, let's instead talk about the differences between the topographies themselves. For example, let's compare the differences between my walking through the forests of western Alberta, and the mountains of western Alberta.
Oh, look. It's forest, either way.
If you shoot off across a bit of wild terrain in the forests up north and west of Calgary, you will find yourself walking through a lot of deadfall, peat bog and brush, and crossing narrow, six to eight foot deep cold water streams without any fords. And if you shoot off across a bit of wild terrain in the mountains straight west of those forests, you will find yourself walking over a lot of deadfall, and crossing three to four foot deep cold water streams with plenty of fords.
Yes, in fact, the mountains are easier to trek in many parts because A) there are fewer streams; B) the streams tend to have rocks that provide a means across; and C) there are no peat bogs and no brush. Of course, when you actually climb up into the mountains, to the high places, there are cliffs and pressure rapids and rock falls, but isn't it up to the party to say whether they want to travel in the river bottoms or in the high mountains? Shouldn't there be different modifiers for either?
Incidentally, it isn't that hard to walk through the mountain country around here - though it is considered some of the roughest mountain country in North America - but it is slow going. That is, if you're stupid and you hurry, yes, you'll hurt yourself. But if you're patient and methodical, you have nothing to worry about. The pine trees tend to drop a lot of needles, and the needles - plus the lack of sunlight - destroys all the undergrowth. So you can walk hundreds of meters just as though you are waltzing through a park. But then you have to drop down through some deadfalls and a few angular slopes to get back into said 'parkland.'
I'm being specific about this instance to point out that you cannot designate 'forests' as any particular modifier as opposed to 'mountains.' The Alps are higher and craggier than the Rockies, but the valleys are full of meadows and deciduous forest, and therefore provide a completely different sort of walking experience. The high mountains of Afghanistan are full of cliffs, but there's no vegetation at all - so it isn't comparable with the Rocky Mountains in the least ... though of course, Afghanistan rises 6,000 feet higher. You can't call them low mountains. Moreover, the kind of brush and bracken in the thicker parts of the Smoky Mountains of Virginia and Kentucky make for much harder travel than many parts of the Rockies, even though they're lower. It isn't the mountains that make that country hard to traverse, its the forests ... so do you designate them as "low mountains" or as "forest."
Rather than using these rather generalized and difficult to apply modifiers, can't something more practical be used that would describe, say, the actual difficulty of traversing the terrain? Such as, "impassable"; "difficult"; "with obstacles"; "easy-going"? Assuming, of course, that the topography needs to be represented at all?
My point in my last post was that, if the amount of damage per day is increasing automatically, wouldn't a particular terrain that was hard to move through simply increase the damage by virtue of it taking more time? If I take 2 damage per day moving at 2 miles per day to cross a hex, then the hex would cause 20 damage. If I take 2 damage per day, but I can cross the hex in 3 days, then the hex only causes 6 damage.
If this were so, why then oh why would I need to add another modifier to the hex? Obviously, the difficulty of passage is accounted for in the time it takes to cross the bloody region ... and therefore it does NOT need to be accounted for again.
If there is any adage that applies in creating any sort of table like this, it is Keep It Simple, Stupid. Throw out modifiers that wouldn't apply. Throw out duplicate modifiers. Simplify the modifiers that remain. Make the system better.