Travel Time for Long Distances

So I’m on a bit of international travel at the moment, which saw me taking an unusually tortuous route to cover the distance between Minneapolis and Penang, Malaysia. That’s 8,850 miles as the crow flies (tired, cranky, dehydrated crow), and rather longer by the route I took.

  • Minneapolis to LA – 1524 miles
  • LA to Tokyo – 5489 miles
  • Tokyo to Singapore – 3300 miles
  • Singapore to Penang – 375 miles

Total Distance Covered: 10,688 miles

Note that’s a 20% increase in distance covered. My total travel time for this trip, including layovers and highly stressful delays due to weather and booking, was . . . hmm. 

  • I left the house at 4:45am Minneapolis time on Friday.
  • I arrived at the hotel in Malaysia at about 10:30am Singapore time on Sunday, which is 9:30pm Minneapolis time on Saturday.

Total travel time: 29 hours, more or less

It seemed like longer than that. Average speed was thus roughly 300mph to cover the crow-flies distance over the real-world time elapsed. That’s roughly half what you’d calculate looking at a crow-flies distance divided by the typical quoted speed of a large jet, which varies from 550-650mph.

In short, it takes twice as long to get where you want to go than you’d think. That’s gameable information right there, obtained at the cost of no small amount of exhaustion and irritation. It turns out I wrote about this before,  so yay for consistency.

It would have been worse except for some excellent work by a travel agent and Japan Airlines, and if Delta had their way, I’d still be in LAX.

Jet Lag

One of the tougher bits of such long distance travel is jet lag. Being on the go for so long, with poor or zero sleep (in my case, I think I slept perhaps 4-5 hours). 

Upon arrival, you’re tired. A lot of that is oxygen deprivation, dehydration (not helped if you’re quaffing booze the entire trip), and sleep deprivation. 

All of these are fixable. If you drink water like the proverbial fish while you’re in the air – probably something like 1.5 ml of water per hour per kg of body weight. So for a 10-hour flight for someone of 80kg, you want to down 1.2L of water, minimum. Honestly, that doesn’t even sound like enough by a factor of 2.

Another big factor seems to be humidity level. The humidity of the outside air at 40,000 feet is something like 1%. Passengers are rather substantially more comfortable at 15-25%. New planes (A350, B787) will attempt to manage this better. 

But once you get there, well, you tend to be tired when you arrive, and often you find yourself doing email at 2-4am, because you just can’t fall asleep. Or you can fall asleep, but you can’t stay there. 

That means that you’re just off kilter. All day. And at some point, your body just gives up the ghost on focus.

HT Rolls are a Real Thing

At that point, the sensation is like having your head being stuffed with cotton. Or being drunk but without the pleasant sensations of getting that way in the first place. It’s hard to think, your coordination goes down, and your judgement and perception are impaired. Oh, perhaps your visual and sensory acuity is fine (but perhaps not), but your processing power is far lower.

For me, at least, it’s not a creeping thing. I find it the closest real-world analogy to the game-mechanical equivalent of failing a HT roll or a Saving Throw. One moment, I’m fine. The next, I’m at -5 to CON, DEX, INT, WIS, and maybe even CHA (or -2 to IQ, DX, and HT in GURPS). 

This is modeled best by an affliction or condition. You (or at least I) must eat right, force myself on to the right circadian rhythm, and also exercise. I’m not sure why exactly the exercise helps, but it does. 

But boy you can feel it when you fail a roll. It might also be well represented by Long-Term Fatigue from After the End 1 and 2.

Parting Shot

Things have been busy over here. Work has been long and constant, and my HT roll seems to be failed beween 5pm and 7pm each night – which is either right as work ends, or before. Which sucks. So I missed the Sunday Review and Reloading Press (though I will probably throw down a retroactive Reloading Press later today).

But travel? It can be hard, especially if you’re stressed out at the same time. It’s nearly always slower than you think it will be, especially over long distances, and the disruption to sleep cycles when you invert your day/night rhythm abruptly (over the course of a day or two) is a tangible thing. 

I’ll try and get back to some more regular posting, but they don’t send me over here for vacation, so I’m still pretty busy. Expect some level of disruption for the next two weeks, but I should be able to do more fun stuff on the weekend.

In my article from the Violent Resolution series dealing with movement, I noted that in D&D, the standard 30′ move (or even the 60′ dash) is, all things considered, quite slow. It represents six seconds of movement, so is either 5′ per second, or 10′.

That’s 3.4 and 6.8mph, respectively. Or a decent walk and a moderate, but not fast, jog. Usain Bolt, my go-to reference for insane speed, can run 400m in just over 45 seconds. That’s an average of 29 feet (one standard action) per second. So at the high end, in about 8 combat rounds, a PC can cover quite a bit of distance.

Note that’s roughly 10s for a 300′ dash, too – an average time for a 300′ run is on the order of 12 to 15 seconds, or 2-3 combat rounds. So 100-150′ per round (compared with Usain’s insane 180′ per round).

All in all, it should be possible to make four actions of this type per combat round, six if you’re really good.

I was wondering how to represent this, and then I hit my old standby: HP can represent being weary as well as being hit by an axe.

What if you could burn HP to take extra move actions past the two you get by dashing?

The Dash Likes

So, here’s the basic premise. If you want to move more than your allowed dash action, go ahead. Peak human speed is on the order of 25-30mph (again, Bolt hits nearly 28mph), which is about 40 feet per second, or 240 feet in a combat round.

That’s a maximum of 8 move actions. 

How about a horse? Tops out at about 60-65 fps (44mph), which basically means six moves at 60′.

Not sure what a cheetah’s base speed would be, but she maxes out at about 600′ in a combat round (about 70mph)

Here’s my concept, quickly. Want to make a movement action (call it a sprint) beyond your basic dash? Go ahead. Make a CON save, at a base DC 10, +3 for every extra move increment beyond the first. So 6 moves in one combat round is DC 19.

If you fail, you take damage. How much? Not sure. I’m thinking 1d4 or something. Enough to worry a mage, but not a fighter, and definitely not a barbarian. Critical fails on the CON save double damage to 2d4, and critical successes might even restore HP? Maybe you get the next interval of sprinting without rolling if you keep moving.

So not a lot, but then, running flat out for six second should not kill you. And you can recover with a short rest. That works well with the HP as exhaustion/using up your reserves concept.


% Success
Con Bonus
Sprint distance CON DC -1 0 1 2 3 4 5
90′ 10 50% 55% 60% 65% 70% 75% 80%
120′ 12 40% 45% 50% 55% 60% 65% 70%
150′ 14 30% 35% 40% 45% 50% 55% 60%
180′ 16 20% 25% 30% 35% 40% 45% 50%
210′ 18 10% 15% 20% 25% 30% 35% 40%
240′ 20 0% 5% 10% 15% 20% 25% 30%

The red lines are not accessible without a special Feat. The sprint distance is for a human with a base rate of 30′. A horse with 60′ base starts at a 180′ move, and tops at 360′ without a feat. 

An Easy Target

The premise of this one is that you’re doing nothing else but running, lest it become much too powerful an option, especially for higher level characters for whom 1d4 HP is less than chicken feed. You only get to use sprinting if you’ve used all of your actions on movement (so you’re dashing), so this precludes attacking.

Maybe we could work a cheesy attack in there as a bonus action or something. I dunno. I really think this should just be “Run, Forrest! Run!”

Attacks against anyone moving faster than their dash are advantaged. Sprinting past someone should definitely provoke an attack of opportunity (probably from friends, too. Kidding. Mostly.)

You also lose any DEX bonus to AC while sprinting. Running in a straight line full tilt is not conducive to a spry (dare I say it) savvy defense.

Parting Shot

The difference between the various CON scores just isn’t that much, and so even CON 20 isn’t going to be crazy abusable. In fact, it might be too harsh, since:

4 minute mile: 132′ per combat round (40 rounds)
2.5-hour marathon: 92 feet per combat round (1500 rounds)

I’m tempted to make the damage even lower, perhaps only a point? Or maybe even

Feat: Sprinter

You are experienced and trained in making the most of a combat sprint. You gain the following benefits:

  • You have resistance against the damage inflicted by failing a CON save while sprinting
  • Out of combat, when not on difficult terrain, you roll every two minutes at 3x your normal interval, every minute at 4x, 30s (five rounds) at 5x, and every 15s (three rounds) at 6x and faster.
  • You may sprint up to 8x your base rate instead of up to 6x.
So there you go. You can now burn HP to run really fast. Fleeing has a cost, and fleeing and then turning around to fight will leave you in a worse place than standing and fighting, especially if you’re low level (where 1d4 damage is a big deal). At high level, you can go for a while, fast, without burning too many resources. A fighter with 100 HP and CON 16 can run at 10mph (a 6min mile) and pass his CON check 60% of the time – he’ll take 1-4 damage once every 2.5 rounds (15s). So he can run for about 1-4 miles at that pace. If he has the Sprinter feat, he’ll go much farther than that. He’s rolling every minute instead of every round, and taking half damage, so 20-80 miles! Very heroic – he’s an ultramarathoner.
D&D isn’t a reality simulator and I’m not trying to make it one. But humans can move a lot faster than D&D allows for if they don’t have much else going on. A proper full-on system would account for encumbrance (add the armor AC bonus to the DC? Some fraction of carried weight? +1 to DC per STR lbs carried?) and other things.
But the concept of spending HP to move farther was too interesting for me to ignore.