I’m not too familiar with the map, and I know this sort of thing is usually glossed over in Conan, but if it became important, say, in a race against time, how long would you say it would take to travel along the river from Valadelad to the coast?
EDIT: Follow-up question: Other than the obvious Freebooters and Red Brotherhood, what kind of dangerous encounters would you place on such a journey?
I ran short campaign that included seafaring and as part of the preparation work I researched with the help of a friend who is avid yachtsman the details around the ancient and medieval ships as a basis for those campaign important elements. It was quite interesting research as it turned out that there is no easy answer (if you look for something plausible that is), as the speed of the sailing ships depends on numerous factors - size, masts, sails, rigging, construction, load, water currents, wind direction and in which part of the world and how close to a landmass (and type of ) you are. This quickly became overwhelming and I settled to more abstract way of judging the speed using averages from various sources such as wikipedia and specialized forums. If I had to compare ships from different times (like Spanish, Medieval, Ancient times it would be crazy).
So depends on the ship your players will be using, the distance they can cover per day varies, but it can be something like:
Carrack with ~top speed of 8 knots and average of 4 knots can traverse from 70 to 90 miles a day.
Galleon is bigger with more sails and you can go with higher speeds of 4 to 9 knots per hour which even further increases the distance.
Smaller ships with less sails and width are slower. Those speeds are in good conditions. In windless sea, or if the wind is against you and you have to go zig-zag and fight the water currents, the speeds can topple down to 1-2 knots maybe.
With those speeds you can go from Valadelad to Kush or Black kingdoms for less than two weeks time. I would involve Sailing checks and obstacles on the way:
- Environmental challenges such as sea storms and windless days where only the water current is your propeller
- Pirates as you said
- Sea monsters that can occur if they venture into the open ocean and not following the standard trade routes near the shoreline (which is easy to navigate but dangerous because of the aforementioned freebooters)
- Issues with the crew - mutiny, food supplies went bad etc, that will make things interesting
- Islands that don’t exist on their maps where the crew can go and hope to solve some imminent problem related to the bullet above. Maybe meet Kutallu Or some cannibal tribes and etc.
OK, I want to resume my campaign. Damn it.
I’m going to answer my own question, in case someone has the same questions about overland travel and comes across this.
Conan’s tales contain few hard-and-fast references to actual overland distances. However, I did come across a secondary source claiming that the road from Velitrium on the banks of the Thunder River, to the fort on the bank of the Black River, is 19 miles long. The rules indicate overland travel should be about 30 miles per day, meaning if characters only rest 8 hours in a day they are travelling less than 2 miles per hour on average, so that seems perfectly reasonable. Since the distance from Valadelad to the coast is roughly the same distance between the Thunder and Black rivers near Velitrium, maybe a bit longer, so a party following the river by foot should arrive at the sea less than halfway through the second day.
However, that is as the crow flies, and rivers and roads never go in a straight line. To account for terrain that must be circumvented, events on the road, etc., you can fudge these travel times as befits the timeline you’d like for your narrative. If the Player Characters are racing cross-country, there should naturally be measures they may take to quicken their pace, as well as setbacks they may suffer.