First, let me preface this with the following: Steven Marsh was even more of a freaking hero than normal. That man is the Patron Saint of Long-Suffering Editorial Work. Seriously, we need to get him canonized or something. I turned in a draft that could have been better, but the timeline just wouldn’t allow it. This is also the impetus of my new rule: If I don’t have at least two months of fine-tuning on a super-crunchy article I will not be submitting it. It was too much headache for the editorial staff and way too much pressure. I don’t mind a challenge, but when it spills over on others – that bothers me. Immensely.
That out of the way I really must say that this was half of an article (this article in particular – see the Designer’s Notes here) that I cut out to make its own thing. This was the first time I’d ever did this. I think in part, this was why it contributed to the somewhat-disaster that the first copy was. I ironed out a lot of those kinks, but some persisted like delaminations in a freshly forged knife. I’m not proud of that. I screwed up. That sucks. But every time you screw up, it’s not that you didn’t succeed that it’s important, but rather that you continue onward and remember what you did wrong so you don’t do it again. It’s cliche, but true. It doesn’t matter how many times you fail at doing something, only that you don’t actually give up doing it.
So research on this was a right royal pain. I’d been gifted with many books from folks on the internet (thanks everyone that sent me research material!) which set the backbone of the article. (Note: I love digital books, being able to scroll and search are heavensent. Especially when doing research.) I must have spent days of man-hours reading and taking notes. I had some very thorough helpers (thanks Travis Foster and S. A. Fisher!) as we checked and rechecked various numbers from the article vs. historical examples. In the end, I settled on a playable solution. Gameable assumptions. Something the GM (or player) could use in just about any low-tech setting. I know that’s not going to prove popular with some folks and I think it was the right call to make. A big example of this is the use of a draft horse vs. a large mule in Transportation by Beast section. Historically, mules and donkey’s seem to have been the go to beast for moving wares. I went with the draft horse for pure game-mechanical reasons: it’s the same cost as a large mule, has a higher move, and a high ST. (It’s also pretty common to see a horse vs. a mule in movies and such.) No player in his right mind is going to choose the mule over the horse. It’s just not going to happen.
I’m pretty proud of the optional rules for riding too. The amazing and talented Elizabeth Platt Hamblin is a copy editor for the medical research field and owns several of her own equines. While she’s not a gamer (that I know of), I trust her opinion quite a bit. I took a few liberties with mechanical effects, but I think it’s a good balance between real life and what we see in popular culture.
One thing that did make me nervous were the rules for foundering. I must have spent 8-10 hours on that box alone…
The original version had lots and lots of equations and every single reviewer said it made their eyes bleed. So I switched over to tables at more or less the last minute. As Lucius Fox said in Batman Begins…
Bruce Wayne: Am I meant to understand any of that?
Lucius Fox: Not at all, I just wanted you to know how hard it was.
What else? Oh, I wanted to cover a more realistic treatment for food for horses and oxen, but I just didn’t have the room and LTC3 covered them pretty decently. So, a couple of quick notes:
Horses: This varies according to the activity level of the equine. In general, active horses need about (Total Body Weight x 0.014) in hay and about (Total Body Weight x 0.006) in grain. This is usually broken into two discrete feedings (morning and night). Nonworking horses (those who are stabled, but still get regular exercise) need about (Total Body Weight x 0.016) in hay and about (Total Body Weight x 0.004) in grain. Sedentary horses (those who are stabled and not exercised) need about (Total Body Weight x 0.018) in hay and about (Total Body Weight x 0.002) in grain. Total water intake on a daily basis is about 7 gallons for a 1,500 lb. specimen. Adjust from there based on weight ratio. For example, a sedentary horse that weighs 1,200 lbs. would need about 21.6 lbs of hay and 2.4 lbs. of grain, as well as 5.6 gallons of water.
Oxen: Oxen need about (Total Body Weight x 0.012) in hay or grass and about (Total Body Weight x 0.006) in grain or corn silage. This is usually broken into two discrete feedings (morning and night). Total water intake on a daily basis is about 4 quarts per 100 lbs. of weight (twice that in hot or very dry climates). For example, an oxen that weighs 1,400 lbs. would need about 16.8 lbs of hay and 8.4 lbs. of grain, as well as 14 gallons of water
Humans: A human needs about 2,500 to 3,300 calories per day depending on activity level. A sedentary subject needs around 2,500, a “normal” activity level is about 2,700, and a “high” activity level is about 3,300. Food, as a very rough estimate has about 4.5 calories per gram which translates to about 1.25 lbs. of food per person, per day. (I ignored age, but that too has a part to play). Divide that by three to determine the weight of an average meal. This can change radically depending on exactly what is being eaten. Fat is 9 cal/g, alcohol is 7 cal/g, protein and carbohydrates are 4 cal/g, organic acids (often found in food preservatives), sugar alcohol/artificial sweeteners are about 2.4 cal/g, and fiber are about 2 cal/g. For example, a diet high in fat and carbohydrates is going to have about 10.8 calories per gram and thus be about 0.5 lbs. of required food. This can vary according to weight as well. In general, 150 lbs. is an “average” weight and food values can be increased based on the subject’s weight ratio to that score. Water is a bit easier. On average, most people need about a half a gallon of water per day (about double in very hot or dry climates). This can change according to temperature and weight. As a general rule of thumb figure the weight ratio from average and add another 10% increase for water for every 5 degrees above 80 F the current environment is. Diseases such as diabetes, gout, polycythemia, and so on can add another 10% to 30% as well. For example, a 250 lb. man who is highly active will need 3,300 calories per day. Since he’s got a “balanced” diet he needs around 1.62 lbs. of food per day and needs around 3.34 quarts of water per day.
All in all it took me about 60 hours to write, 70 hours to edit, 50 hours worth of research, and 110 hours of revision. There must have been another 20 hours or so of looking over the semi-final PDF as well. I’m pretty proud of this one. It’s out of my normal wheelhouse, but it was something I wanted to do.