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Did research on map-building to get an idea of how to make a good fictional area, and get an idea of travel times. I consistently found it said that Towns are roughly a days walk apart, and villages only a few miles apart. The reason being that farmers would need to be able to walk to town, do business, and get home before sunset.

Is it realistic for travelers to regularly sleep outdoors, even if they likely pass through a town each day?

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  • $\begingroup$ I think I fixed it? $\endgroup$ – Tiberia 1313 May 12 '18 at 0:21
  • $\begingroup$ This has been flagged in the reopen queue, but I cannot vote to reopen it. It is purely a story-based question. Worse, if you avoid the writings of others and simply look at historical maps, you'll find that sometimes towns and cities were distanced as stated, and sometimes not. Often geography got in the way ... but whether or not it does for you is from the perspective of this Q entirely based on your story. People may not like the inhabitants, or their politics, or may be running from the law, etc, etc. So, I can't VTO. $\endgroup$ – JBH May 12 '18 at 2:04
  • $\begingroup$ I cleared out all the comments relating to the old version of this question. That said, I'm not entirely sure this should have been an edit; given the number of answers already given and the seeming magnitude of the change to the question, it might have been better to post an entirely new question instead, and to leave this question as it was. When editing, always strive to not invalidate existing answers; if editing the question into shape requires invalidating answers, it's almost always better to post a new question instead. $\endgroup$ – a CVn May 12 '18 at 10:06
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  1. Not enough money to pay for a tavern.
  2. Be of a group of Others (say, Roma) that is not liked by the majority of the populace.
  3. You like living in your caravan, going to town only for necessary supplies.
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    $\begingroup$ Along the same lines, why do I mostly camp when I'm bike touring, even though I could well afford to stay in hotels? $\endgroup$ – jamesqf May 11 '18 at 3:47
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Well, historically people didn't really camp outside unless they had too. It was risky, cold and uncomfortable. As you pointed out, with towns and villages about a day apart, there wasn't really a need.

That said, if you couldn't go into town for some reason:

  • Being a fugitive
  • Afraid of someone tracking you
  • Bringing down some curse / unwanted attention on innocent townsfolk

If you go off the beaten track, into uncharted territory, there may be more than a day's travel between villages.

In a fantasy land there may be other considerations which caused people to concentrate more, leading to bigger towns further apart. If there's a threat of invasion or attack, people are going to want walls and defences, not piddly villages.

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Money. Towns are expensive propositions prior to McDonald’s/Wal-Mart supply distribution magic. Hunting your own food would be way cheaper than paying for a restaurant. Bedding down in a tent is way cheaper than rented lodging. Even in modern era, on long drives back in college, I frequently packed food and slept in my pickup at truck stops.

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Reasons

  • Due to a steep ridge/impenetrable forest/mountain range/swampy river floodplain, two villages are more than one day apart.

  • The village sees a lot of raiders/pirates/Vikings, and is thus built off the main road and fortified. They won't open the gates and night for any reason. Its easier just to sleep on the road.

  • Due to excessive drinking and a rockin' hangover, you left the last town at like 2 pm, and you won't make it to the next town.

  • The last time you were in a town, you may have deflowered the mayor's daughter, and it might be wise to detour around this town.

  • This town is entirely populated by werewolves, and the moon will be full tonight.

  • This town is peopled by Big-Endian Blefuscuans, who crack their eggs on the big side. This is, of course, heresy, and you could not stoop to consort with such people. In fact, you would rather risk rain and robbery to sleep in the woods. On a more practical note, language wasn't very standardized in the Middle Ages, and it could be that this village speaks a rare dialect or a weird language, and you simply don't want to deal with communicating.

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I've heard the same thing here a bit as well, but there are a few extra considerations some people have mentioned and often don't seem to mention. From what I can gather, a village should be atmost 1 day away from another village, but that doesn't mean that the other village is in your direction of travel or that there will be a road of villages all 1 day away from each other all connecting all the major cities together.

Firstly, you still need the resources available to form the town in the first place. Otherwise, it would be heavily dependent on trade, but that's for the next point. You would need a source of fresh water and land to grow food as well as wood/stone to be able to build buildings. If a place doesn't fulfill these conditions, chances are a village won't form. If a location isn't able to provide food and shelter, chances are people won't settle down there.

Now if you don't have your necessary resources, the only way to get them, is by trading. To build a village dependent on trading means you have one of two things. Either a very valuable good, e.g. Gold, which other people really want and hence they will be willing to trade or invest in the village to gain access to the resource. The next option is there is very large amounts of traffic that have to travel a far distance, and hence you can rely on a constant flow of incoming an outgoing people/traders to keep your village well supplied and stocked up.

So if you have 2 villages that are both in ideal locations, but say there is a mountain, desert or forest between them, it is plausible that there would be no village/town between them, because the location between them would be very hard to settle and not provide much benefits to those who do.

Also if your villages are on the frontier, or the kingdom is currently expanding and settling new villages, its plausible for them to be spread out and placed in perfect locations, rather than only 1 day away. This way, the earlier settlers get better resources, and later on, once they are more developed the areas between will be settled and safer travel paths will be opened up.

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I realize this isn't a very sustainable answer, but you could incorporate foul weather to slow down your characters. Heavy snows during winter could slow travel to a crawl while the plot forces the characters to press onward. Less direly, maybe the location experiences mud season, which stops most efficient forms of travel and leads to an interesting atmosphere.

A weird work-around could be a lack of horses. After they were sold to a war effort or died of a species specific disease, the animals that used to aid in travel have vanished. Now towns are further apart due to slower means of travel.

Other than that, having a lot of terrain that doesn't make good farmland (large woodlands, rocky hills, marshes, arid ground) could justify towns being much farther apart that would be ideal for travelers.

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also i would consider this a topological reason even more. I would say potentially a straight line (according to what useless map/guide you are using) to your destination would be mostly best. Use the euclidean algorithim to determine distance between points a to c, vs going from point a to b to c and you will see to preserve expenditures in moving large parties, or maximizing time will hardly ever place you in civilizations much.

Now previoulsy we only considered speed times as a constant. They fluctuate dependent upon terrain type and most unpredictably weather variations. So to say its one day away (which actually means traveling 5 mph with cart) takes 8 hrs for the farmer simply living their life. But being an adventurer you could easily (and out of necessity) scale this distance traveled by some amount (say a factor of 1.4 to 2.5, dependent on what is allowed in your story) which puts you into no village. Then your mode of transportation becomes faulty or obstacles are found that were not considered.

Also one presumes story lines are linear and not multi-focal in action. You have to travel 200 miles to get to a destination and part of the band departs. The other portion has to go to a neighboring location 5 miles nearby. Both destinations are not habitable. The main camp is built between the two to maximize communication and collection of resources.

Actually one should ask "what do towns have to offer that make you need them?", or "Do these towns have open border policies?" what are the functions of towns in your story? Also what constitutes a town? 10 people or 1000 people? Does the function of the town allow for commerce or is the town simply a logging/mining/educational/ceremonial community.

Finally just a note, I don't believe that all towns/villages would have been only a day away from one another. That seems unlikely. Maybe there are certain areas where the majority of villages are but not all. I agree with the previous post about the requirements to provide long term solutions to construction needs, and habitation needs.

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Terrain. Towns would be a day apart in areas that are good at supporting towns. However, once you get into terrain that doesn't make good farmland things change.

You're not going to find the towns a day apart in desert, swamp or mountain terrain.

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In the UK there are old paths called drover roads that were used used to bring cattle from more rural areas to central market towns. As the point was to sell the animals the drovers were entrusted with not only looking after the animals but also to ensure they didn't lose weight, thus they planned routes based around good grazing and averaged around 18km a day on journeys that averaged 200-300 kms. The animals themselves would sometimes travel more than 1,000 km from their point of origin as they would be sold on to other drovers who would walk them elsewhere.

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