How loud is your campsite?

I was thinking about your typical party campsite the other day. We assume both as players and as GMs that a lot is happening during those hours camping that we do not normally play through. The fighters are practicing, repairing bits of armour, food is prepared and pots washed and so on.

It is easy for a typical PC to be ‘learning’ 15 to 20 skills each level and all of these will require a certain amount of practice time. I used to work in adult education and we would allocate about 20hrs for a student to grasp a basic skill. It is also generally bandied about that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill.

I imagine some campsites get quite tense with the characters trying to learn academic skills getting really hacked off with the fighters shouting, grunting and clashing weapons all evening. Combat practice is really hard to do quietly. I was at a fencing competition on Friday and there you have steel weapons but cloth armour or polycarbonate breastplates. The sound of the combat carried maybe 300meters or more. Imagine steel weapons against iron bound shields and steel breast plates. The typical ‘off guard’ or off duty party could probably be heard half a mile away on a still evening and that is without the swearing when the character fumbles a smithing roll whilst hammering out dents in his armour.

If your party, as I often do when playing, says they are going to make camp away from the road so they are not obvious you are in reality talking a very long way if they are going to carry  on the normal business of maintaining their skills and equipment. This doesn’t even take into account particularly keen ears of non-human races.

I think this is one of those things I have just taken for granted ever since I have been roleplaying back when I was 14 or so and that has just always been the way parties camp. In future I think unless other precautions are being taken you will be looking at an active zone nearly a mile in diameter when a full on PC party makes camp. No wonder orcs, trolls and goblins wander into camp so often!

3 Replies to “How loud is your campsite?”

  1. That is a very good point. I can’t say that any of us in any of our campaigns ever thought about that perspective. Traditionally what happens is that our party is in “quest mode” and they are not training or doing anything other than being as stealthy as possible, The time for learning is in the towns, not while tracking or avoiding the orc raiding party. Our campsites were meant for rest/heal/sleep. This is something I’ll toss out to the party the next time we game: What type of camp do you set? Training and Advancing? Repairs? Learning? Healing/rest?

    1. After I wrote that article, the same afternoon I cam across a guy with three gypsy caravans. each was pulled by a horse and each caravan had a spare horse tethered to the back. I saw them at 12:45 and they were making slow progress up a narrow road (I was part of the tailback of traffic behind them).

      I saw them again at 2.15 and they had made camp for the day. I talked to the chap and asked “Lunch break?” he said that it wasn’t. Six hours a day is all that two horses can manage as they need the rest of the day to rest and graze.

      I must admit I tend to gloss over ‘horse care’ and the party ride all day, camp and ride on the next day, day after day after day if they need to.

      RPG horses can carry fully armoured kights, spare swords, packs and assorted loot with out raising a sweat it seems.

  2. That’s pretty funny that you experienced that caravan in real life. We’ve mostly limited the travel time to 8 hours a day, no carriages in tow. 4 hours riding, 1 hour break for lunch, 4 hours riding, then set camp. That was at steady pace, level ground. If there were carriages, uneven terrain, no path, then we allowed the same travel time, but the distance was significantly reduced.

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