Last time I re-arranged the map, made myself some notes about general lines of sight [GLOS] (hey, I am still happy that I stumbled about that one!). Now it is time to have a look at how quick / how far the PC are going to travel. Chthonian Highways offers you a special little problem here: the characters are supposed to ride in mad-max-style, and that means vehicles. In my hexcrawl-to-come, that means off-road driving. No OSR rules book or well-meaning-fantasy hexcrawl tips will help you here. In fact, the AlphaKit of Chthonian Highways will neither, as it is the Alpha Test Kit and not the complete rules (and not meant to cover such details). But don´t worry, I have my own half-baked ideas I am going to share with you folks. FROM HERE THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! IF YOU KNOW ME IN PERSON BETTER KEEP YOUR NOSE OUT OF THIS!
So, what have I done? I tried to find some helpful articles in the internet about off-road driving. I found a lot of advice, but in regard to speed it just said “as slow as possible, as fast as it is necessary”. The reason for this: you don´t want to damage your vehicle and this is a concept every post-apocalyptic driver should embrace. After all, a broken axle or torn up oil pan is twice as bad if there will be NOBODY to haul your gas guzzling metal baby to the next repair shop. On the other hand, Chthonian Highways is at least a bit cinematic and cinema wants to see heroes go fast at times. I decided to handle it as follows:
Unless the characters are going through actual mountains or similar rough terrain they should be able to make 30 miles per hour without much problems, assuming they are having off-road vehicles (which I will for the rest of this article). That is the minimum in rather flat off-road terrain for me, where the things you need to worry about are ditches, rocks, large muddy “puddles” whose depth you cannot gauge and so on. If the characters pass an Easy (CL:10) Drive skill check they will be able to make 40 miles per hour. These are six or eight hexes on my game map and it boils down to 10 to 15 minutes per hex. …if the characters just keep driving, do not stop for spotting or pause for a better view over their surrounding and so on. If the characters want to go faster they can of course just decided to do. In that case it will be 50 miles per hour and a normal (CL:15) Drive skill check. A failed check means a point of Strain for the vehicle. Those checks will be called for every hour of traveling. Troubles can lead to actual Damage if the character was going fast and Strain if he or she was going slow. In regard to hills I plan to increase the difficulties mentioned above by +5 but stick to the rules.
And of course, I plan to have some travel based “random encounters” for them. Those encounters might just come in the form of obstacles and certain terrain or changes of weather instead of attacks by roaming creatures or bandits. After all, most creatures won´t chase a jeep or buggy roaring by. Well, at least the average critters one thinks about. A hex with surprisingly rough terrain could ask for a separate check and may result in the traverse time (the time to traverse it) being doubled. But I am not really sure about that right now.
Building a convoy
I am going to hand my players semi-premade characters for this test game, and so I can simply pick the vehicles I want them to have. Let´s see what I need: there will be three players, perhaps even four or five. No matter how many they are, I want to add two NPC to the party so that they have guards that they can leave with the vehicles when they have to. Last but not least they are meant to rescue three other people of their community. So, I need off-road vehicles for 8 to 10 passengers (drivers included). A quick look at the sample vehicles in the CH Alphakit told me that a “Sav Bus” would fit the bill, but the idea of having a mad-max-minibus did not felt right for this. I wanted to have a little convoy, and something that had a little more “kewl” attached to it. I thereby ended up with a Sandbug and a Rover as my “core convoy”. These can transport 8 people in total (3 players + 2 useful-NPC +3 NPC-to-be-rescued = 8) and will add an Enduro off-road bike for every further player (and player character) that would like to join the fray. Now, to the extras. The rover would come equipped with a winch, heavy duty bumpers (house rule; +2 to ramming damage; -2 damage from front ramming); tire shields and a search light mounted to the side. The buggy would come with improved steering, riding bars and a weapon mount with a crossbow. In addition, a modified cup holder will hold two molotov cocktails. Vehicles shall be named and my players deserve to do so, but I found out that they are sometimes drawing blanks when they have to come up with something right out of the blue. But, that is what random name tables are for, and I Iike to test my own products. So I took my own table with 99 names for roadwarrior vehicles, rolled the dice four times and ended up with the following names: Boomer +++ Bubba +++ Piper´s Call +++ Three-Point-Five. None of my two vehicles “looked” like a car that would go from zero to sixty in 3.5 and the two names starting with “B” made for a nice pair, so I discarded “Piper´s Call” and “Three-Point-Five”. From now on the rover will be called “Bubba” and the buggy would be called “Boomer”. I guess my players will like that.
While I am add it, I might as well define the vehicles of the enemies. My plans for the “backstory” say that their clan has visited the settlement of the characters as traders first. About a week later they have send out a raiding party to capture a group of goat herders outside of the settlement. Only a young boy managed to hide and escape. I decided to assign a scav bus, two quads and a modified rover (with the rear compartment turned into a holding cell and featuring riding bars). The PC will know the scav bus from trading with the group prior to the attack, and they will know that the engine seemed slightly damaged. About the rover and the quads they are going to learn from the young boy (I will write more about that later). It is important that the characters don´t grow afraid of the opposition, thereby it is nice to “tell” them that they can outrun the scav bus any day. IF it comes to a combat-with-vehicles the two quads and the enemies rover will make things interesting enough. But this shall be all for now, I will think about the rest on a later day.