Saturday, September 12, 2020

Wildfires and Wilderness Adventures

We have some smoke blowing in north from California, east over the mountains, and even a little generated locally, and as usual any change in visibility brings me back to thoughts on wilderness adventuring [1][2][3].

Two days ago it wasn't too bad, large buildings about six miles away were visible as grey outlines in the haze, and objects two miles away were fairly visible.  Yesterday things were much worse, with buildings two miles away pretty much indistinguishable from the trees, and the trees mostly visible as shadows only where they grow along the top of a ridgeline, and they are lit from behind.  Today visibility is absolutely garbage, maybe a mile tops, and the light has a strong yellow tint to it (it was very orange when I woke up but had faded by the time I was done with morning chores).  Haven't seen the mountains about sixty miles away since last weekend, but even the little smoke that was there before the bulk of it blew in on monday made it easier to see the depth between the various ridgelines, which I did not expect.

As for fires themselves as a wilderness hazard, several of the fires in Washington are between 100,000 and 170,000 acres.  At 640 acres per square mile, and about 30 square miles per six-mile hex, that's between 5 and 9 6-mile hexes each.  This is, conveniently, right around the size I've been thinking about for "rooms" in the wilderness-as-dungeon.  I could definitely see throwing some pine barrens into a wilderness sandbox and having them catch fire occasionally (and then smoke up big parts of the map).  I have never had a player complain about having too many things to light on fire in the play environment.

In conclusion: pine forests are to wilderness adventures as big red barrels are to first-person shooters.  Also, maybe not the best places to build domains.


  1. Knowing my players, they’ll probably be the ones staring fires.

    1. I could definitely see mine doing so too d: One of my favorite parts of DMing is giving my players things that they can get themselves into trouble with, sitting back, and watching the unintended consequences pile up.