My buddies and me are getting real well known
Yeah, the bad guys know us and they leave us alone
I get around
Get around round round I get around
From town to town
A classic part of old school campaigns, and Rifts® is no exception, is travel. Old school D&D players often use hex maps and I was initially inclined to do so for Rifts® Laramie. However, since I sat down to write encounter charts, the next big project, I’ve had second thoughts. What are the important issues with travel on Rifts Earth and how should we handle them in-game.
Referencing Zak S. of Playing D&D with Porn Stars seems to be a habit but again it is appropriate. What can I say, the man makes you think about what you want and how to get it. We can, for Rifts® paraphrase Zak and say your characters know more about Rifts Earth than Kevin Siembieda and your GM combined. His point is the characters in the setting know the choices about travelling between two places such as time, danger, and even the amount of knowledge available about that route. As a result the key information in getting between two places is not a map directly but two or more ways of getting there. A map for a game where travel is more about getting interesting places than mapping a large unknown area might be better represented by a network graph than a hex map.
Getting back to Rifts: Laramie let’s take an example. The party is seeking to meet The Great Dream Snake of Yellowstone whose existence is unconfirmed. Perhaps the party has contracted with the Lone Star produced reality program, Demon Hunters. The most recent sighting is at Devil’s Tower to the north and slight east of Laramie. In broad terms there are two general ways to get there: well traveled routes and cross country. In this case the well traveled route would be the remains of the pre-rifts railroads. You would travel south east from Laramie to Cheyenne then in a zig-zagging line north towards Gillette and finish up with an eastern route until you’re almost directly south of the site. A short overland trip of about 20 miles finishes the trip. Using Google Maps on roughly parallel highways (which are just as reasonable but the railroad give the flavor I’m after) this is about 350 miles. A straight line is about 240 miles. The well traveled path isn’t a road so we can assume the same 20 miles a day for riders.
Based on distance and movement rate clearly we want to go overland. The trip is 12 versus 18 days give or take. Why isn’t the other route well traveled (beyond Devil’s Tower having a lot of magic and a place that is generally avoided). Well, the number and risk of encounters is different. Also, your ability to arrive unseen or avoid being detected by someone hunting you is different. What if we developed a table that looked like this:
|Point A||Point B||Route||Days||Encounter Table||Encounter Rate||Stealth||Hiding|
|Laramie||Cheyenne||Trail||2||Eastern Wyoming Traveled||3d6||10%||15%|
|Laramie||Devil’s Tower||Overland||12||Eastern Wyoming Wilderness||2d6||40%||60%|
|Laramie||Casper||Trail||4||Eastern Wyoming Traveled||3d6||5%||5%|
|Cheyenne||Devil’s Tower||Trail||16||Eastern Wyoming Traveled||3d6||10%||15%|
|Casper||Devil’s Tower||Trail||13||Eastern Wyoming Traveled||3d6||5%|
The encounter rate is how many and what type of dice to roll each day. For every 1 roll once on the encounter table. Stealth is the odds of arriving at the destination unknown while hiding is the chance each day of avoiding pursuers or someone searching for the party.
Now the encounter rate, their danger, and how much delay they might cause is a factor. We can just let the party know the contents of the table as well as the encounter charts because the characters would know this. Also, if they are being chased they know the odds of being found.
A chart like this shouldn’t be hard to draw up. Major points would need one line for each pair on wilderness travel, but route travel would only need to be covered for the nearest points. For Wyoming I might use Laramie, Cheyenne, Casper, Jackson (as a proxy for the Teton region), Rock Springs, Medicine Wheel, and Devil’s Tower. I can fill in later as needed or approximate points along those routes.
This avoids the need to hex map everything while giving the players an easy way to understand their choices. If they need to get to Devil’s Tower within 14 days to stop the summoning of The Eight Demons of the True Diseases or they are heading there to take a rift to the Happy Hunting Grounds while being pursued by a group of traditionalists out to stop their entry overland might be worth the risks. If they just need to take some shots of them searching for a Great Dream Snake but don’t even need to see it before it leaves (think of what you get in an episode of Ghost Hunters) but want to get the film back to make a buck a leisurely, possibly full of delays, but relatively safe trip up the old Union Pacific roadbed probably fits their needs better.