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Travel Times

The following travel times are based off of attached and linked data entries, and should give a good indication of how long it takes for an individual to get from Point A to Point B in most fantasy settings. All travel concepts are expressed in 'standard' units, such as the mile more commonly found in medieval times, rather than the more modern meter.

Gaming Notes

In Dungeons and Dragons 3rd Edition and the Open Game License, a 'round' was a period of time six seconds in length. The 4th Edition system of Dungeons and Dragons has moved to a seven second round.

On Foot

The average walking speed of a human being is, on average about 3 miles an hour; not incidentally, the length of a Roman league is about 3 miles, or the distance a Roman army could cover in an hour – thus, a league is an hour's march. A well-trained army on foot, then, can realistically cover about 36 miles a day, on a good day. Most people can cover a bit more ground if they have to, depending on what kind of shape they're in, and what kind of terrain they're covering.

Obviously, a scholar from a large city is not going to be able to travel 36 miles in a day, on foot, unless he walks considerable distances on a regular basis. Certain character traits, such a high Constitution, can alter a character's endurance times, as can certain Feats or abilities. Terrain also plays a considerable part in things. Consider the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run held in Colorado, where the 100 mile distance includes differences in elevation during its 100 mile course of over 20,000 feet. Karl Meltzer ran his fourth Hardrock in 27 hours and 7 minutes. Admittedly the foot-path on the Hardrock is well identified for the contestants, but one could imagine a mountain trail-blazer doing an equivalent to the Hardrock in some fantasy setting, with an unlit trail, over the course of two days.

Something of historical note: humans can run down any animal on earth in temperatures exceeding 100F. No other animal on the face of this planet can dissipate body heat as fast as a human being, with it's bipedal gate, sweat glands, and limited fur. Some anthropologists suggest that this is the reason we evolved our bipedal gate, is to hunt down game. The idea came from studies of the Kalahari bushmen in the 20th Century. Humans are biologically designed to cover large distances on foot, and to run. It's one reason humans consider the buttocks an important attractive feature, as they are a bipedal species without a tail, and the buttocks must serve as both tail, counter-balance, and primary propulsive muscles.

Humans under these operating conditions tend to consume large quantities of food and water – more so than most people would think. The average human on campaign consumes about 8lbs of food and water a day; super-competitors undergoing events such as those listed above can consume over 12,000 calories a day, requiring very high-energy foods and plenty of water (figure up to 16lbs a day of food and water for campaigners).

Dwarves, due to their considerable hardiness, could conceivably out-perform humans on endurance races, though this is unlikely to happen. Despite their short stature, dwarves are capable of competing with humans for endurance event records simply because of their tougher constitutions.

The Sand Orc is better adapted to desert conditions a human, but again, heat dissipation considerations limit him. Instead of watery sweat, he has a thicker and more oily sweat that protects him from dehydration, but also retains considerable heat. (This, incidentally, is the basis for the common misconception of orcs having ichor for blood or sweat.) Orcish constitutions allow them to operate with core temperatures approaching 120F, so despite their lack of normal sweat glands, they can still compete with humans for endurance competitions in the middle grounds, though humans far out-strip sand orcs in the further distances.

Foot Speeds

Men on foot have a number of different paces for going from Point A to Point B. The US Army's Expert Infantry Badge is earned at a 4mph pace with full combat load that includes a 35 pound ruck sack – conditions an adventurer would likely see. A 6mph pace with full combat loads is a tenable goal; combat speeds of 7mph are found in more elite combat units, such as the Israeli Paratroopers and the US Army Rangers.

World Foot Records

A number of world records (available from gives us a perspective for the professional limits, and we can scale back realistically from there. All of these speeds are unencumbered, meaning the individuals traveled as light as possible; they were also in excellent shape and condition, and regularly trained for these events.

400m: 44.6 seconds (20mph)
Mile: 3 minutes, 43 seconds (16mph)
8km (5 mile): 21 minutes (14mph)
10 mile: 44 minutes, 46 seconds (13mph)
30km (18.6mi): 1 hour, 29 minutes (12.5mph)
Marathon (26mi): 2 hours, 5 minutes (12.3mph)
100 mile record: 12 hours, 12 minutes, 19 seconds (8.2mph)
1 hour record: 13.05mi
24 hour record: 165.3mi (7mph)
Six day record: 644 miles at 107mi/day (4.5mph)

World Jump Records

Just for the halibut, here are some other 'on foot' world records for consideration in distance calculations:

Long Jump: 8.95m or 29.3ft
High Jump: 2.45m or 7.8ft

On the Hoof

Most horse races in the US are done from 905 to 2,414 meter tracks (the 4.5 furlong and the 1.5mi tracks, respectively– a furlong being 201 meters). The Kentucky Derby is run on a 2km (1.25mi) track, with most of the top times at just over two minutes (Monarchos in 2001 ran the Derby in just under two minutes). Other races exist, such as the Owhyhee 100 mile race, and the Eagle Extreme 25, 75, and 100 mile races.

Now, horses are different than humans, in that they cannot be continually ridden during their travel times – they must be walked at a dismount on occasion or slowed to a jog (trot in horse-speak). Despite this, horses can cover considerably longer distances than humans on foot, at greater speeds as well. The SeraOnline group's statistical data indicated riding speeds (at a trot) of between 8 and 9 mph for their 50 mile endurance rances – distances covered in only six hours on good terrain!

Such a ride would be split up such that it would not be one contiguous ride. One can figure a little over ten miles per stretch of movement, and then a cool-down and imbibement period, before moving on. The ten miles per stretch would include stopping at every water crossing, and periodic stops to let the horse drink water.

A good standard would be 50 miles a day for an endurance horse, which would include eight hours of rest each night, breaks throughout the day, and plenty of food and water.

A good horse would consume 25 gallons of water a day during such a ride, assuming temperate conditions; more would be consumed in arid or hot conditions. A general rule of thumb (thanks, Dawn) is for a horse to consume 10% of its weight each day – most of that in roughage like grass and hay. The more athletic the horse, the more protein and energy-rich food it needs in that 10%, such as oats and even fats. Figure on a hard rider needing about 10lbs of oats a day for a normal riding horse of 1,000lbs.

Destriers and other heavy work-horses that can weigh as much as 2,000lbs obviously need even more food and water than that. Whether destrier or riding horse, figure on a remount with as much weight in grain as the rider, assuming available water, for any character to sustain a cross-country movement without way-stations or inns along the way.

Another way to sustain endurance events is to have remounts; essentially another horse with no rider and minimal weight. When the horse being ridden begins to tire, the rider can switch to the other more-rested horse, and continue on; this allows his own tired horse to recuperate somewhat, without having a heavy rider on its back.

Remounts can also be used to carry supplies, as can donkeys (also known as asses or burros), and mules. Horses used strictly for supply loads are traditionally not rider-broken, and carry less weight than horses broken to riders; such horses usually carry only about 150lbs of supplies. Donkeys can carry about 75lbs comfortably, but their speed is significantly less than that of a horse, yet their endurance is actually greater than a horse. Mules – hybrids of donkeys and horses – can carry 175lbs of supplies without difficulty. This information comes courtesy of the Bureau of Public Secrets, and includes a detailed packing list for campers (and adventurers).

The most important consideration in using any sort of mount, is the human factor. Even riders who do the 100 mile circuit as often as they can, can barely walk after performing one of these endurance races, despite it being broken up into four 25 mile heats. Peoples born in the saddle are obviously more accustomed to the saddle, but even a knight who spends quite a bit of time traveling by horseback would be in no condition to walk away from a 100 mile race.

Centaurs have less endurance characteristics than horses, yet their considerably higher intelligence allows them to pace themselves better for endurance events. For centaurs without additional loads or riders, one can figure about the same travel speeds as horses.

It is important to note that swamps more than knee-deep to a horse are considered impassable.

World Horse Records

World record horse-racing events on mountainous terrain include (but are not limited to):

25 miles: 2 hours, 30 minutes (10mph)
50 miles: 5 hours, 53 minutes (8.5mph)
75 miles: 10 hours, 22 minutes (7mph)
100 miles: 9 hours, 45 minutes (10mph)

The differences in the 75 mile and 100 mile times and speeds can be attributed to breaking up the competitions into heats. The 100 mile ride, for example, is broken up into two days, with 25 miles per heat.

Statistics taken from the 2006 Ride Results of the Pacific Northwest Endurance Rides home page, and backed up with special thanks to Dawn Engle.

By Sea

Most people cannot swim – or if they claim to, can (at best!) keep themselves afloat in calm waters. Swimming takes a lot out of a person, and shorter swims are more common; it's much more rare to find an individual that can swim for more than 50m before having to stop and tread water – and that's with a bathing suit on, not full clothes, weapons, or even armor, as often happens in a campaign.

For those people unfamiliar with swimming, 'freestyle' is the kind typically used by lifeguards to get to drowning victims as quickly as possible; it's the fastest unassisted swim system for humans.

Calculations or considerations for characters in a swimming environment have to factor in the speed of the water, and its temperature. Colder water will sap the energy of a man faster than warmer water will.

Swim Records

The following are world records to keep things in perspective (courtesy of USA Swimming dot org):

50m Freestyle: 21 seconds (or 5mph)
100m Freestyle: 46 seconds (5mph)
400m Freestlye: 3 minutes, 34 seconds (4mph)
1500m Freestlye: 14 minutes, 10 seconds (4mph)
5 mile: 2 hours, 14 minutes (2mph)
10 mile: 4 hours, 6 minutes (2mph)
15 mile: 6 hours, 19 minutes (2mph)
20 mile: 11 hours, 25 minutes (2mph)
Marathon: 12 hours, 4 minutes (2mph)

By Sail

Discussions on sailing speeds can vary dramatically, depending on the vessel's designs, materials, and even how long it's been since it's hull was cleaned of barnacles. Critical to the discussion of sailing speeds is the term 'knot', with a knot being about 1.15 miles and hour. It is recommended that anyone unfamiliar with sailing in general consult the Wikipedia quick-reference concerning sailing.

The ceiling on sailing speed is about 50 knots, and as of October 2006, has yet to be broken in any record currently held by humans. The world endurance record for sailing was an average of almost 18 knots (20.6mph), set by the Orange II, an advanced catamaran design that covered 831 miles in 24 hours, and circled the earth in only 50 and a half days.

Most sailing vessels in earlier human history were happy with much more meager speeds. Because the speed of a ship varies considerably with currents, sail design, hull design, and even what types or rigging and equipment are used, determining distances and speeds traveled can be difficult.

Most fantasy settings involve a traditional list of European-style ships: longships, galleys, cogs, and carracks. Arabian- and Indian-style settings would include ships such as the dhow and the baghlah. Oriental settings have a variety of junks, which are often described from one another by their dynasties, with each dynasty using a larger and stronger form of war-junk. Polynesian- and Indonesian-style settings might use catamarans and trimarans.

In addition to the wide variety of vessels that take to the seas, each vessel can be modified so that it differs from its peers in differing ways. Thus, trying to describe transport times aboard sailing vessels is akin to describing transport times aboard automobiles – there are too many variables, even though one can have generic information readily available.

More Gaeleth-specific sailing information is available in the ships section. There, for instance, the cruising speed of a light galleon can be found – though some would say that a light galleon is nothing more than a carrack. The confusion of names and naming systems leads only to a few generalities:

Only extremely advanced or magically-aided sailing vessels could achieve speeds comparable to that of a horse at a gallop, and due to winds and currents, average sailing speeds would approximate to that of a horse at a trot – yet the wood and sails and wind of the ship had far more endurance than that of a horse. Throughout all the Age of Sails on earth, one could expect a ship to travel no more than 200 miles in a day, tops*, with 100 miles a day far more typical.

*Special thanks to Keith A. Pickering and his analysis of the Columbus expedition.

An analysis of the merfolk in the Monstrous Manual leads one to conclude that the merfolk can swim relatively fast, and their endurance is a bit higher than that of most humans – and presumably their elite endurance competitors can perform even more ably. It should not be difficult for a merman to cover a hundred miles in a day, swimming. Again, current speeds and water temperature play into effect, and cooler waters can actually allow for longer distances to be traveled due to its heat dissipation ability.

On the Wing

Calculations of flight times are critical in some Fantasy environments, from figuring how fast a familiar can fly for help, to calculating how far a dragon ranges in a day. On occasion, player's use gliders or even flying machines to get around or make a great escape.

From May Thatcher Cooke's “Speed of Bird Flight”, 1933, we get some interesting information on bird flight speeds and their average speeds. Ducks and geese, for instance, average about 40mph on longer flights, while the Peregrine falcon averages over 60mph – and hits prey at an estimated 150mph during a dive. Cook writes of a duck hawk that was timed over a 400 yard field in California at a staggering 180mph during a dive. The USGS site's 'Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center' has more recent flight speeds, lists hawks in the general range of 25mph, ducks and geese at 40mph. Songbirds typically move at around 30mph.

Endurance of those times is different. The Canada Goose – probably one of the better examples of flight time and endurance, manages about 125 miles a day. The article mentions a Lesser Yellowleg making 316 miles a day, traveling 1,900 miles in six days!

This means calculating the daily distances possible for various birds and even fantasy creatures can be done on a rough basis when considering wind conditions. Wind analysis required familiarization with the Beaufort Scale of wind speeds, and are depicted here as light (6mph), moderate (15mph), and strong (27mph). For a tail wind, one would simply add the wind speed to the bird's flight speed; thus a hawk could travel 50mph with a favorable strong wind at its back, or sustain 25mph for considerably greater flight times. Heading into the wind requires subtraction.

Flight Speeds

Most flight times for Fantasy creatures or items are usually listed as numbers only – 30ft per round, for example. Because of this, the flight times can be calculated as below:

A 4E 'Ancient Red Dragon' has an overland flight speed of 15 – meaning the dragon travels 15 squares in a combat round, with each square five feet in length. If a round is seven seconds in length, then such a dragon travels 15 * 5 = 75ft / 7sec (75ft/rd), translating to 7 * 60 * 60 = 25,200ft / 1h or 25,200ft / 5,280ft = 4.8mph. This is a rather leisurely movement speed in an of itself – but the gaming system implies that this movement rate is what the dragon can sustain in the midst of combat; in other words, this is the speed a dragon would fly whilst fighting another dragon or breathing fire on surrounding villages.

Using the 4E rule of 'taking a double move', the flight speed doubles to 150ft/rd, and the dragon's speed becomes closer to 15mph – a more realistic flight and ranging. Assuming a 10h flight time, such an 'ancient red dragon' would have a range of 73 miles from its roost (assuming 5h out and 5h back).

gaeleth/travel_times.txt · Last modified: 2017/08/27 21:56 (external edit)