Last week, I heroically went on an adventure in the wild borderlands that lie close to home on the borderlands…
Well, sort of. In fact, I went on a day trip to Dartmoor (one of the UK’s beautiful national parks). Dartmoor is a wonderful, wild place but the weather can be challenging (and can change rapidly).
Warning: excessive verisimilitude ahead. If you are not into realism in your games, this is not the post for you!
In any event, this (inevitably) got me thinking about gaming and adventuring. We only planned to be out for the day, but I have two boys aged 9 and 12. Each of the boys and my wife took a light backpack to carry their food, drink and extra layers incase the weather got crappy. As the leader of the party, I felt I should bring along some additional supplies and equipment.
Now, I don’t have the biggest backpack in the world (I own a Maxpedition Falcon II which is a 25 litre pack) but it’s a decent-sized bag. I was surprised at how quickly it got full. It certainly made me think about how much stuff the average adventurer carries around.
And to put me and the pack in context, I’m not a heroic adventurer, but I am a relatively fit 42-year-old. I can run six miles in 50 minutes, or 3 miles in 21 minutes and often walk and/or run 15-20 kilometres a day (because we have a young dog that is wildly irritating if not exercised to the point of exhaustion). And that reminds me, if you haven’t considered taking up running let me convince you to have a go). I’m not exactly a physical wreck.
But, to make things worse, I’m pretty sure the Maxpedition Falcon II counts as a masterwork backpack as it’s well organised and very well designed to spread the load.
In any event, the major items I carried in my pack included:
- A decent first aid kit
- A main meal (a MRE which gave me 1,300 calories; if I’d been out all day being jolly active I would in theory need two or three of these) plus mess kit.
- One litre of water.
- Additional snacks.
- A pouch containing a compass, map and other miscellaneous items (fog can come on very quickly on Dartmoor and it’s easy to get lost).
- An emergency bivvy (shelter).
- A small travel towel (boys + stream normally equals hilarious disaster).
- A 50 ft. length of paracord (I was so not going to need this, but I was going on an adventure and I felt duty bound to put it in my pack; I think the wife thought I was mad).
Surprisingly, the pack wasn’t that heavy and the weight wasn’t particularly a problem; it was the bulk. I couldn’t realistically fit any more in and the pack was pretty cumbersome. I couldn’t imagine carrying 50 lbs. on my back for any extended period of time. I certainly couldn’t imagine fighting while carrying that much gear. (I did experiment running up a hill wearing the pack and while I got to the top the extra weight proved rather detrimental to my performance).
Shockingly, I wasn’t carrying any spare clothes, weapons, a spellbook, iron spikes or any other accoutrements of adventure. However, my pack was basically full. It makes me look at some of my character’s character sheets and laugh. I’d blithely write down, “Seven days of rations,” “20 iron spikes” or some-such. Hilarious. Imagine the size of the pack I’d need to carry it all!
Just consider how much food I need for a week of adventure. Even if I switched out the MREs (I’d need 21) for Liferaft Survival Biscuits (one pack a day gives 2,500 calories) I’d still need seven (and I suspect not having ever eaten them I’d be jolly sick of them somewhere around day two as having read their description they look pretty bland).
It’s incredible how much bulk I’d need to carry as an adventurer. I guess that’s why bags of holding, handy haversacks and the like are so sought after (that and pretty much everyone hates tracking encumbrance!) In Old School games, this certainly highlights why adventurers need henchmen, hirelings and donkeys—not to actually go on the adventure itself but instead to carry everything the brave heroes need to actually adventure! Personally, I quite like this level of detail and realism in the game, but it’s pretty evident you could take this too far.
What Do You Think?
Is this too much for you? Does it get in the way or is this kind of thing vital to your exploration-style game? Have you had a similar read-world experience that made you look at a facet of gaming differently? Let me know what you think in the comments below!