Monday, 20. September 2010
I got to spend some time out in the woods this weekend away from everything. It’s been a long time since I’ve actually got to do this, so it brought back a few details that I already knew but were quite important for gaming in wilderness environments. This can be taken and used to an extent in cities as well, but you really don’t understand how much ambient background noise there is until you get away from it.
For starters, sound travels a long way. Small actions such as leaves being crunched or sticks breaking are essentially a horn for anything approaching. Even quieter sounds such as a bird flapping its wings can be heard from a fair distance in some cases. Without a little bit of noise discipline, you won’t see anything that doesn’t want to be heard. Likewise it’s fairly easy to track via sound in a quiet environment… you’re far more likely to hear something long before you see it, particularly since most critters blend into the background. In describing things in most cases sounds from far off are likely to be heard or the scents.
In addition do that, unnatural sounds travel even further and are very recognizable. Noisy metal such as clips, hasps and other adornments can easily be heard from across a field if its truly quiet out. Likewise for those of us who prefer modern fabrics… most of them are extremely noisy if rubbed against each other. On top of that, the sound doesn’t fit in at all (likewise with the metal.) It’s very easy to write off the occasional stick breaking or brush moving because there is a lot of life out there. Anyone that’s not prepared to attempt to be silent is going to make a lot of noise simply because they’re not used to it.
Just a little bit of background noise mutes quieter sounds immediately. As soon as the wind starts blowing a little it becomes an entirely different ballgame. All of the movement of the trees and grasses become a dull roar, in addition to the wind further scattering the sound. This is still considerably quieter than a city might be, but it’s enough to break your long distance hearing entirely. This can be used for characters sneaking easily, but can also be a major problem for those who are used to hearing their opponents.
Lastly, there is a lot out there that makes noise. Birds, insects, rodents and all are a lot noisier than you might think. Sounds of movement in trees and brush is really sporadic, and as long as your noises are limited to bursts resumed by silence it’s pretty easy to pass off as something that’s supposed to be there. This means sneaking up on anything (say a campfire to see whats going on.) takes a lot longer than you might think. Any movement has to be slow and deliberate, and try to avoid any major give aways that something is out there.
So, there is my RPG application from my little trip. Hopefully this is something useful to think about in any sort of quiet area versus the standard background noise that most of us think is “quiet” (but isn’t) in cities.