Novice running

Just recently, I've run a few sessions with mates who are keen to start running for fitness - and despite their being keen, it seems I'd overestimated their abilities.

I'm trying to go easy with them, and remember what it was like when I started running, but it seems like the three years of nearly daily running I've done have made me into some sort of superhero in comparison with someone who doesn't run at all... and that's clearly not right.

So I thought I'd better think back harder to my first few runs, and what it was like for me then, and how long it took for me to get to the fitness I'm at now - and look at recommendations for novice runners.

What I quickly saw in writing this post was how far I've come, and how crap I was to start with. I hope I can also take away lesson about training novices constructively, too.

Starting out
It was the week of my 40th birthday when I went out running for the first time since school. My basic fitness was the residue left behind from having cycled to work each day about a dozen years prior to that (about 10 miles each week day), and that immediately prior to my running, I'd been walking daily, for half an hour, each lunch time at work.
I was trying to build up my ankle strength after spraining it badly at a party, and trying to build up my stamina - better stamina puts less stress on my lungs, and stress on my lungs is what triggers my asthma.

So I wasn't in good shape, but I had an underlying ability to run when I started out.

Nevertheless, my first attempt to run the same distances as my daily walk was dreadful. I managed it in 25 minutes - just a few minutes less than I would if I were walking briskly. I couldn't run the whole distance in one go. I didn't run it at all the following day, but I did go out and walked it again.

For the first few weeks, I didn't manage to run the whole 30 minutes. I was walking for sections each time - but those sections were gradually getting shorter, and my speed was increasing.

I was running 3 or 4 or 5 miles nearly every day, and getting quite confident and comfortable with it within about six months.

Longer distances
What I really wanted to do though, was run for a long distance. I started to increase my weekend runs with a friend who ran for very long distances (this is the guy whose fault it was I started running at all, really - his first ever marathon was day 1 of a multiday ultramarathon in the Sahara).

With some encouragement, and plenty of short daily runs by myself, I ran till I got happy with 10 km. I increased my weekend distances gradually. Then one day I found I'd done 10 miles (16 km), and I still felt relatively fresh - so I decided to try for a half marathon distances: 13.1 miles (21 km).

This was about a year after I'd started running, though. I've heard of people starting out with a basic level of fitness and training to run a marathon in six weeks - but I certainly didn't even try to do that.

Since then, I've trained to run longer and longer, and I've got a couple of marathons and one ultramarathon under my belt - but my idea of a fun distance is really the half marathon, or on a really good day, the 30 km.

Starting from scratch
For novices, Runners' World magazine recommend that you start with a 2 mile goal - aiming to be running for 30 minutes non-stop at a slow relaxed pace.

It also plans this goal to be the end of 8 weeks of training.

So, while I pulled my mate along straight out the gate of his house for three minutes of running, up a hill, at what I thought was a relaxed pace, Runners' World suggests we should have started out with 1 minute running, then 2 minutes walking, repeated for the whole session.
This probably accounts for why, after about 2 km - 10 minutes of a good long distance pace (for an established runner), he flaked out and had to slow to a walk.
He managed  a few more bouts of running - a minute or two for the rest of the 30 minutes - but we walked for most of the rest of the distance.
When I compare that with what the experts say is good for a novice - and how I was when I started - I'm impressed he managed as well as he did.

Essentially, the training plan for novices should be based on starting walking twice as much as you run, every other day - with a walk of the same length on the other days - and building up gradually to run / walk in even amounts, finally culminating in running continuously for a whole 30 minutes.

Which is rather like what I did, without knowing it was right - it was just what I found comfortable.

Better training
So good news for my novice running mates - I know what we should be doing now! Keep it up for a month, and we should be running most of the sessions, with just a couple of 1 minute walks.

Keep it up for 2 months, and I should find these youngsters outpacing me, and pulling me along. Everyone wins.


Fantasy Settlements - part 1: Resources

Players have a habit of treating settlements like vending machines for equipment, so let's indulge that tendency, and look at what you can get from a given size of settlement.

D&D 3rd edition gave us 8 categories of settlement: Thorp, Hamlet, Village, Small town, Large town, Small city, Large city and Metropolis. I'll use those terms, as they're as good as any.

Normal life experiences tell us that less goods and services available in a three family thorp than are available in a village of 100 families, and that even more choice will be available in the city of several thousand families.

How can we reflect this in game?

Simple cash limit
The simplest method is to apply a cash limit to each settlement category - and this is what D&D 3 did. It's a reasonable enough method, and easy to implement.
But in actual play, a straight use of these rules can lead to odd situations: a rural thorp might have several swords available to buy, but no horses - or a large port town might have magical armour for sale, but no sailing boats.

Categorised cash limits 
It seems obvious to me that we need to have differing cash limits for different goods and services.
The GM can of course make ad hoc rulings to deal with this - but I'd like to at least make some guidelines.

First, I'll establish some categories:
Trade goods
General gear
Adventuring gear
Special substances and items
General tools
Specialist tools
Mounts and related gear
Arms and armour
General services
Expert services
...and lastly - Magical
 These reflect the categories for equipment given in the D&D rules, with only a few tweaks. They're good categories, generally.
All I've done is add "Magical" and split a couple of the D&D categories: "adventuring gear" is split into "general" and "adventuring" - because despite their equal costs, I imagine that in a normal settlement grappling hooks would be less common than flint and steel, and a portable ram would be less common than a tent.
Similarly, I've split "tools" into "General" and "Specialist", because I think it'd be harder to find a disguise kit than a healer's kit, and "Services" into "General" and "Expert" for the same sort of reasons.

That's too big a list to manage all at once, though - so, I'll gather up those categories into the following groups:
Trade and Magical include Trade goods and Magical goods (obviously)
General includes General gear, General services and General tools (again, obviously),  as well as Clothing, Mounts, and Transport
Specialist includes Adventuring gear, Special substances and Specialist tools (continuing our obviousness motif), Arms and armour, and Expert services

So what to do with these groups? Assign weight to them!
Trade goods should by default, use the standard  (or base) cash limit
General goods should be at 125% of the base cash limit
Specialist goods should be at 75% of the base limit
Magical goods should be 50% of the base limit
(Round off to the nearest 5 coins)
So for a Thorp in the D&D 3rd edition rules, the cash limits would be:
Trade 50gp
General goods 65gp
Specialist goods 35gp
Magical goods 25gp
Which means that the thorp might be able to sell you 5 cows, some masterwork artisans' tools, a flask of holy water or a single 1st level spell scroll - but it doesn't have a disguise kit, a stock of potions, or anyone who can put weaponised spikes on your armour.

So this option seems to do the job I wanted.

But we should retain flexibility - rules shouldn't be a straighjacket - so these cash limits for a given settlement should also be freely be adjusted up and down as the GM sees fit.
Let's say that we can adjust the cash limit of any category in a given settlement by 1/4 of the base limit.
This lets the GM set the availability of specialist goods higher or lower, as appropriate for the setting.

Local goods for local people
Of course, that list doesn't give us a chance to deal with any local bias - our port town example would still hold if we don't split water transport out from land transport and the like.
I think the best way to deal with this is to add both a "local" and "other" descriptor to the following categories:
Services (General or Expert)
Trade goods 
The GM should also be entitled to add the local and other descriptors to any other category as appropriate.
Local goods should get a 25% boost to their cash limit - it's easier to find them in the local shops and markets.

All the work you want
Of course, the flat cash limit works fine if you're not thinking too hard about it.
If there's no need to fiddle with the cash limits for a given town or village, or if there's no time, then the base limit can apply to everything.