Wildlife woes

When I go running, I particularly like to run in the countryside, either on country lanes, or footpaths and bridleways.
I get to see the picturesque landscape, the rabbits, butterflies, sometimes a fox. I hear the birds singing, and sheep in the fields.
Preston Capes
Badby Woods

All very pleasant.

But there are some creatures out there that seem to have other ideas...

Near where I work, some of the local farmers keep bees. Almost any footpath I care to run along has a nearby beehive, with the resultant traffic of bees to and from the hive and plants around about it.

So I've been stung three times now by bees.

Each time it has been on the top of my head, when a bee has been caught in my hair. I have fine fluffy hair, easy for an insect to get tangled in. The second time it happened, I cut my hair really short to try to stop it happening again - it didn't help.
When I get stung on the head, there's nowhere for the venom to go (scalps are thin), so the swelling looks worse. I end up looking sort of like this:

 Or like this:

Now, I wear a bandana when I run, to keep the bees from getting trapped.

As well as bees, I've been stung a few times by a wasp. Just the one, over and over again, on my top lip. That was nasty, but not nearly as bad as the bee stings.

Moving on to vertebrates - but not exactly a wild animal: farm dogs.

There's a good 10 mile route through the countryside around my home, but it goes through a farm. This is a public road, which passes through a farm - its building are on either side of the road.
The farm appears to be run by a trio of dogs: I've never seen any people there. The first time I ran through there was with some mates - the dogs looked at us, but paid little attention.
Just before I ran through on my own, some weeks later, I met some cyclist going the other way, who warned me "There are some excited dogs up ahead."


For "excited", read "angry". These three farm dogs were pissed off with their territory being invaded once by whizzing sweaty men, and weren't going to let another sweaty man jog through. They herded me along - and the border collie bit me on the ankle.
(I'm told this is normal - if over-enthusiastic - herding behaviour for sheep dogs: to nip sheep on the ankles.)
Suffice to say, my personal best kilometer pace was set after passing through that farm.

Since then, I've learned that apparently dogs wag their tails differently when they're stressed and when they're happy - to the left when stressed, and to the right when happy.
Dogs know this, and they react with dominant / aggressive behaviour to dogs who appear stressed.
I theorise that being left-handed, when I instinctively wave left-handed to greet dogs - and being naturally nervous of them since I was bitten quite badly on the face by a dog as a child - I am encouraging dogs to be aggressive to me.

These days, I wave right-handed.
I also don't run through that farm.

On to avians - while running round a pond, I saw a lovely sight: some goslings being led along by their parents on the path ahead.
Of course, although I tried to give them plenty of room and go around, the parents had decided I was going to eat their offspring, and gave chase. Geese are quite big and scary when they're angry.

Worse than an angry goose waddling after me, was the buzzard attack this week.
Running along a normal stretch of road through a woodland, there was whoosh of something passing fast just above my head - a buzzard. As I ran on, I watched it fly over the road and into the trees on the other side, assuming I'd just been on its flight path by coincidence.
A few seconds later - BAM! I felt like someone had smacked me round the top of the head - a good cuffing blow that knocked my head forward and made me stagger. As I looked up and around to what had hit me, I saw my bandana flying to the ground on the verge in front of me, and the damn buzzard swooping up into the branches over my head.
A buzzard yesterday
It perched there, and keened at me: "Peeaw! Peeaw!" - I grabbed my hat and ran on, covering my head with my arms and muttering "All right, I'm going, I'm going!"
When I got back to work, one of my colleagues told me I was bleeding. Not too badly, on examination - as though I'd been badly scratched by a cat. The cuts didn't hurt so much as the impact. Still, I washed the cuts with alcohol from the solvents cupboard, to avoid bird flu or whatever nasties were on the hawk's talons.

As the attack had happened during my lunch break, I had to fill in the accident book and report it to the health and safety manager. "Wear a hat," he suggested.

I suspect the buzzard is nesting, or otherwise considers that patch of woods to its territory, and really just wanted me gone.
Suffice to say, that route is struck off my list of runs, too.

Incidently, when I was looking online for a picture of a British buzzard, it appears that my attack isn't especially uncommon:
Notice the first picture, top left...

Running is a great way to get out and about and see the countryside and wildlife. I just worry that the wildlife doesn't want to see me.
It'll be badger attacks, next...


Fantasy settlements - part 2.5: Location, location, location!

People don't just throw a stick in the air and build a town where it lands - at least, those who do don't meet with enough long term success for your player party to encounter such a shambolic shanty.

What makes a good location?

A good location is one where the settlement can thrive. At its base level, the location provides something that other locations do not. That may be some physical resource, like water, or it might be a geographic resource, like a meeting of transport routes, or a social resource, like a holy site.

Here's a page where the topic is summarised nicely for high school level studies.

What can I add to that? Not a lot really - except some fantasy specific examples and possibilities.

Bridge point
The Twins - A Song of Ice and Fire
Osgiliath - The Lord of the Rings
Osgiliath by AbePapakhian (Deviantart)

Thandol Span / Dun Modr - Wetlands / Arathi Highlands, World of Warcraft

Nodal point
The Crossroads - Northern Barrens, World of Warcraft
Inter-dimensional and inter-planar portals - a town around the entrance to the Underworld

Dry point
Swamp Castle - Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Thousand Needles (post-Cataclysm) - mesas as islands in a now flooded valley, World of Warcraft

Atlantis (post sinking) - often depicted as an air bubble under the sea

Wet point
Ramkahen - Uldum, World of Warcraft

Ramkahen - Surrounded by desert


Stormwind - fortified prominence, World of Warcraft
Minas Tirith - The Lord of the Rings
Minas Tirith guarding the narrow point between the mountains - Encyclopdeia of Arda

Winterfell - hotsprings protect against the worst of winter, A Song of Ice and Fire

Blackrock Mountain - a safe solid haven in a land of fire, Burning Steppes, World of Warcraft 
Light's Hope - a holy haven in a diseased land, Eastern Plaguelands, World of Warcraft

Nordrassil - magical resource - The World Tree of Mount Hyjal, World of Warcraft
Keep on the Borderlands, OD&D - a town supporting adventurers flocking to newly discovered dungeons or crypts

The growth point of a settlement will tend to set the form of that settlement: Aspect and Resource based settlements will often have dispersed buildings; Bridge and Nodal point settlements are frequently linear (clustered along one of the strips), and other settlement types tend toward the nuclear (closely gathered around  the central point).

As successful small settlements expand, their original purpose may be lost - they'll begin to attract people for the protection that comes from large numbers and the opportunities of towns and cities. These larger settlements become nuclear around the original centre.

EDIT - some additional examples:
From the various forums where I trawled for comments, a wealth of additional suggestions have popped up.
  • To launch an offense - campaign headquarters may become permanent given a long enough conflict
  • Military base - town supporting a military base, perhaps a training ground rather than a strategic point. This becomes significant with standing armies, rather than the predominant medieval muster of knights and militia.
  • Religious - loads of examples. Probably fits the resource categor, under tourism. Pilgrims making devotional journeys to religiously significant sites were common in medieval times.
  • Accidental / catastrophe survivors - refugee camps become permanent over time
  • Victory / battle site - in the Excalibur movie, Camelot is founded on the site of a great victory
  • Slave city for massive monument - the pyramids' construction was supported by a massive city of workers
  • temples around the site of fissures that give off psychoactive fumes
  • mage schools around areas where the boundaries between the planes grow thin
  • mountaintop laboratories to catch the lighting
  • village of vassals to a nearby dragon
  • small settlements of people trying their luck at removing the sword from the stone
  • summer/wintering grounds in the path of prey migratory paths
  • boom towns/ghost towns - some enormously valuable resource has been discovered, and people are flocking to exploit it (boom), and the aftermath of the drying up of that resource (ghost town)
  • outcast/leper colonies
  • campsites for academic expeditions