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Modes of Transport

Discussion in 'World Building' started by Tigerseye, Sep 26, 2020.

  1. Tigerseye

    Tigerseye Acolyte

    Hi everyone, there has been something on my mind for a while when world building and that is travel. My world is quite large and I have several destinations that my characters will have to travel to that are very far apart. To make matters a little more complicated, my characters are not human and are restricted by certain things.
    Magic comes as naturally to them as breathing but is also a necessity for their survival, there are only a few points in the world where the magic energy is high enough to support their civilization. If they are away from these points of magical energy for too long they will weaken and die. Travel between two settlements would, therefor, have an amount of risk attached and not be frequent. I really like this idea as I can have very culturally distinct groups in my world.
    However, that leads me to the question of how my characters might go about traveling to these different locations. I'm looking for something a little more interesting than the usual fantasy fallback of horse and cart, or simply walking. I don't want to go too advanced, nothing more technical than a basic steam engine, but as I mentioned above magic isn't always an option either. The terrain between these locations is also diverse, temperate forest, grasslands, mountains, deserts and rainforests to name a few. Some ideas I have come up with so far:
    A network of canals connecting some settlements
    A series of rails and trolleys that can be used in tunnels through mountains
    Use of natural sources, such as waterfalls, to power lifts etc.
    I've been toying with the idea of airships but I'm not sure where they would fit into my world.
    Are there any interesting means of transport that you have come across in other fantasy settings that could give me some ideas?
  2. Miles Lacey

    Miles Lacey Maester

    It all depends on whether those places where the magic is strongest is by the sea or not.

    If not they could fly by dragon. North Koreans often refer to the legend of the Chollima flying horse in their propaganda. The horse got its name because it could fly 1000 li (4000 kilometres) in a single day.

    If so they could travel by riding on a sea serpent. They could travel in an outrigger canoe (which is how Polynesians travelled vast distances by sea) or a sailing ship designed primarily for speed.

    An airship would be useless because their maximum speed was between 130 and 160 km/h.
  3. skip.knox

    skip.knox toujours gai, archie Moderator

    Another approach you might consider (I like your core idea) might be to have ley lines in your world. They could be as thin as you'd care to make them, and as difficult to follow. A traveler would be ok while on the line--like a vein of magic running across (or under, or above!) the world--but one couldn't always stick to the line. Gotta get food. Go around obstacles. So it would be a perilous race to get back. Or lose the trail and have to hunt to find it again. There might be guides you could hire that knew the route and could get you there safely.

    And other variations.
  4. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

    is there a large non-magical civilization? One that would have developed technology (steamboats, railways) to access cities, ports and mines of interest to them? If so, have your characters make use of such.
  5. WooHooMan

    WooHooMan Auror

    I'm not really sure how you could make the mode of transportation itself that interesting. It's just a means to an end, going from point A to point B.
    Normally, you make the technology to travel interesting because there are way it could not work or maybe there's a type of fuel it needs to make it work. Or it's some cool fantasy creature that needs to be tamed and then cared for to be used as travel.

    Anyways, my whole story takes place in one city and transportation is a big deal in the story. It's almost a main theme. So, there's a whole subculture and mythos and backstory to the public transportation in this fantasy city. And I ended-up finding all of this very cool and interesting and it really gave some life to my setting.

    I was kind of toying around with the idea of some characters utilizing a merkabah towards the end of the story. In some new age mysticism, the merkabah (coming from an old Hebrew word for "chariot") is kind of a geometric shape, like an aura/energy field, that surrounds a person and allows them to fly around. Like they pilot their own aura as a one-person helicopter kind of thing. And in my setting, that was some high level expert wizard mode of travel. I thought that was a cool idea that could make for an interesting climatic skill the main character pulls-off at the end of the story.

    I guess the lesson I've learned is that it isn't the mode of transportation itself that is interesting but more how the characters interact with it and how it fits into the setting.
  6. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Perhaps the mode doesn't matter as much as you imagine. What if they had designed some mcguffin to allow them to transport a small amount of that "magic" from the source to carry with them? A crystal, a lamp, a flask? I would think in a world so heavily reliant on magic, they'd have invented a way to travel, if only to satisfy the needs of trade.

    If you want something traditional, portals could work too. Perhaps each of these "sites" have one.

    Another option could be "roads"; not unlike the ley lines suggested above, lined with "magic stones" that expand the range of the sites,
  7. I like this: think about when we travel--- if we can't survive there naturally, then we take what we need with us. we can't survive in water long, so we bring "land.. in the form of a boat, and safe drinking water, and food etc etc.. with us. If they need magic like air, then they would take it with them somehow-- maybe something fun like an old divers suit with magic tanks attached.
  8. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Exactly. The first image that came to my head was a lantern, but instead of light, it spreads magic in a small AOE (perhaps 30'). It would mean it is portable, in case you need to leave in a hurry. Perhaps this is an "emergency" source. Though now that I think about it more, a magic tent could work too, with extradimensional spaces inside, so the entire village can be inside, protected within the area of magic.

    I also see way stations, arranged around magic "nodes"; where they can regenerate their lamps and tents and whatever else. I have a magic-rich world that relies on obelisks to spread magic and increase the range of spells, maybe something like this could be used for the waystations.
    Last edited: Sep 28, 2020
  9. Tigerseye

    Tigerseye Acolyte

    Thanks for all of your suggestions, they have given me some things to think about.
    Unfortunately 'portable' magic doesn't work with my magic system and I may have overemphasized how lack of magic effects these beings. Leaving the area of magical influence strips them of their powers (on which they heavily rely) and makes them physically weaker. Without magic they will die eventually but this is a long slow process, like wasting away, which can take years. It is, therefore, feasible for them to walk between locations, but it leaves them vulnerable and is not something they undertake lightly.

    Ley lines is something I have considered before and it works well with my magic system. My characters spend some time as fugitives so the idea that they may have to balance faster, more convenient travel with avoiding capture is something that appeals to me. The idea of fantasy beasts as transport is something else I will consider.

    Humans also exist in my world but are very primitive and view these beings as gods. Humans are treated like particularly intelligent pets or beasts of burden, so having humans build and maintain transport routes is also a possibility.

    I understand that the journey is more important than the method of transport, but my characters have a lot of ground to cover and having them spend months walking from place to place felt a little too dull to me. Also, as I mentioned before, I have several distinct cultures in this world and I like the idea that they would approach the issue of travel with different solutions.
  10. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    How big is your world that the characters have to spend MONTHS going from one place in the story to the next? Generally a story is set in a relatively small area of the world; large enough to be interesting, but small enough to avoid the tedium of long spans of boredom.

    You mention the process of dying could take years, then I just wonder how far apart are these "spots" of magic that allow them to survive? Even if they are weeks between them, they'd still close enough that they could walk from one to the other with a minimal chance of permanent harmful effects. A person could travel 4,000 miles in about 6 months, traveling 2 mph for 12 hours a day. That's the approximate width of the United States. It seems like the process is slow enough that it wouldn't really have a huge effect on them as a whole.

    Perhaps they could "teleport" between these sites; could be a good reason why the Humans believe them to be gods. It would also permit you to omit the months of tedious travel between sites if they just teleport to the nearest one, and journey forth from there.

    The whole thing reminds of the Ogier from The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan. They were druidic in flavor, but they HAD to return to a stedding here and there (every few years) lest they die. This limitation did little in the scheme of the story.


    One option for actually writing it, if it is necessary to show the scale of the world for whatever reason, there is no reason not to just jump right to the action, and give flashbacks or hints of important events that happened during those "tedious months of travel".
  11. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    Only if you don't consider magic... no reason you can't have an airship that employs magic to increase it's speed to something more useful. It also really depends on the setting... if the terrain is prohibitive to carts/wagons (lots of canyons, high elevation, geographic limitations) then perhaps they'd be more useful/faster than a horse or walking. I use them in a post-apocalyptic fantasy setting to good effect.
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