How Long it Takes to Walk Somewhere - The Art of World Building
Mar 252019

Depending on the level of prosperity and technology in our world, most people will only have walking as an option. This is one reason people traveled less on Earth long ago. A trip can be arduous and fraught with peril from thieves and other bandits. Add to that the nefarious creatures in fantasy worlds and people will often stay put. Generally, in a world with poor medicine like in most fantasy settings, those walking are more likely to be between the ages of ten and forty. Those younger or older than this tend to suffer more from long walks. Their fitness level and our world’s standards of health impact this. On Earth, few people lived past forty long ago, a problem that modern medicine has reduced. Now people are generally healthier, but if our invented society is based on a medieval one, our inhabitants might be somewhat frail by forty.

When traveling by foot, most people will walk the entire way—only trained warriors or messengers will run any meaningful distance. The ability to run for long distances requires conditioning and practice and is therefore not for the average person unless they happen to love doing it.

Armor, weapons, and supplies will encumber warriors, slowing them and reducing endurance so that they cannot travel as far in a day. A messenger might be less encumbered, but that depends on their location. If traveling in fairly safe lands, they need fewer protections and might carry less. A messenger for the royalty might receive free room and board, and need few supplies. Molesting one might be a capital offense so that they have little to fear. By contrast, in a dangerous wilderness or sovereign power, death from other species or animals (even plants) can happen at any time.

Most of our humanoid species will be close enough in height to humans for there to be no measurable difference. Those much smaller or taller have a shorter or longer gait. This can mean more or fewer steps to accomplish the same journey. This could, in turn, have them tired upon completion. They might also take more or fewer hours to complete the trip. We can alter them to compensate if desired. For example, perhaps our short species has better endurance and travels for more hours without fatigue, reaching a destination in more hours but still making it.

While carrying minimal supplies, the average human can reliably walk twelve miles a day, day after day, without needing to rest or be exhausted. A Roman legion could do fourteen to twenty miles per day. Someone could conceivably do over twenty miles in a day but be exhausted. A marathon of over twenty miles can be done in a few hours, but those people must train for it and must recover for days afterward. In other words, we can fudge travel times in our world based on story needs, but we should first understand a baseline.

Caravans are a special case wherein the entire group moves at the speed of the slowest traveler, unless that person can be placed in a wagon or on a steed. This often means that the slowest mover is an animal, so first we’ll need to decide which ones are in the caravan and how encumbered they are, as this may reduce speed.


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