Saturday, 1 February 2014

Reikland versus reality

I managed to pick up a copy of Death on the Reik last week in decent condition for a very reasonable price, but with one downside. As seems to be common, it was missing the A3 Reikland / Castle Wittgenstein map, which is obviously not ideal.

On the plus side it did make me think rather more about how Reikland should look than I otherwise would have (and perhaps more than is healthy!). It also made me more conscious of an insightful post I read on G+ recently about how geek fans (that'll be me) sometimes loose sight of theme because of over-emphasis on facts. You'll see what I mean in a minute...

Back to the maps - there are lots of useful Reikland maps on the internet, and Gitzman's Gallery collects some of the best ones together. There's a wide variation in what they portray, which is fair enough for a pseudo-16th century setting, but the detail which is bothering me is how densely populated they should be.

Exactly where point A is in relation to point B is fairly irrelevant to the characters on the ground, but what is relevant is if you leave (for example) Bögenhafen on the road to Altdorf and travel for most of the day, how many settlements do you pass? As it gets later do you press on in reasonable expectation of getting to the next town or village?

Going by the map in Shadows Over Bögenhafen (Hogshead version) there are 3 coaching inns and a village between Bögenhafen and Heiligen on the outskirts of Altdorf. The detailed map in Gitzman's Gallery (which I believe is by Andy Law, who knows his WFRP) has 4 coaching inns, two villages and a town on the same route.

This may seem like I'm being pedantic, but hopefully that's not it. The Warhammer Old World, and especially the Empire, is fun because its a bit more modern than the usual fantasy setting, and can give rise to themes that wouldn't work in a more traditional medieval setting. To support the scheming nobles and growing merchant class that we all all know and love you need a certain scale and level of advancement to the place. But that same scale and modernity act against the lonely wildness of parts of the Empire, with beastmen (and worse) lurking in every stretch of forest.

Even the more densely populated maps have plenty of wildness for such things to roam, but I think I rather prefer the "points of light" approach of the older maps, where every settlement of any size in Reikland (Harke, population: 25) can be listed on two sides of A4.

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