Thursday 27 July 2023

Ride the Giants Development Blog, Part 2

The Speed of the Giants 

This matters not only in general gameplay but because the initial concept of the game was ‘a game in real time’; an adventure lasting two to three hours, with a gaming session lasting the same two to three hours. 

There would be some, but little, compression of time. The time-limit was meant to add impetus to the PCs choices and get them making decisions faster. It was also meant to add a bit of interest and challenge to the choices made. 


Estimating the Gait 

I began by asking people on Discord for advice on estimating the gait of the giants. That is, when one takes a step, how long is the step. 

If they stood up straight, the Giants are nearly 3,000 feet high. Hunched over as they are their heads are about 2,000 feet high. So I started with the step-length of an imaginary 3,000 foot high man. Using various mysterious means, including reverse-engineering an equation used by the police to derive height from step-length, the Discord homies came back with a step length of just under 1,300 feet per-step. 

That’s just under 400 metres per step or a little under a Kilometre per double-step. 


The Chronology of a Step 

Estimating the timing of each step is more difficult. Giants of this size are physically impossible anyway. Large long-legged animals have to take care of their steps as they can easily break their own legs with their weight. 

I essentially just ended up eyeballing it. Each step takes roughly a minute and a half. 90 seconds. 

10 to 15 seconds at the start for the weight to rise and the foot to accelerate, then 30 seconds in the air, then another 10 to 15 seconds landing time for the weight to fall, the foot to settle, and weight to be transferred through the hip to raise the other foot. 

I estimate the Giants are is moving roughly 14.4 feet per second. Which makes I think its total movement being just under 10 miles per hour. 

This sounds.. really not totally insane. Like a reasonable synthesis of the impossible and pseudo-realism. 

A good one-to-three rounds of slow-foot time for you to leap up and grab on. A big "whoosh" as you travel 400 meters in 30 seconds. Then the settle time at the end. 

So a human could run away from it, someone on horseback could run faster than it. It could be 'boarded', but with real difficulty as the foot is only slow and close to the ground for not that long. To match their speed a human would need to be jogging or running. To overtake you would need to run pretty fast or have a horse. 

And a continuous 10 mph walking speed sustained essentially forever, would be very hard to keep up with for a long period of time I think? 



Boarding the Giant 

If you were trying to ‘board’ a giants foot, you could probably catch up with it, via sprinting, or if you had a horse. The really dangerous part would be when the foot comes down. If the giant trod down onto something like the soil of a field, it might send up fountains of soil like an impact crater all around the foot. If the soil was wet or the water table was high, it might send up actual fountains or more likely, dangerous torrents of wet mud. 

In the area around the foot-fall it would be like an earthquake hit. The earth might crack open, or roll like waves. Horses might break their legs and men would fall to the ground. 

If you survive all that, you have about 15 seconds at the weight of the foot settles and transfers where it will be relatively still. 

All you need to do is get to the huge curved wall of the foot, I estimate it to be about a 100 foot climb, but you don’t need to make it immediately, just hang one, hang on hard

Because that foot is going to rise up into the air. Its lateral speed at its going to be about 15 miles an hour during the swing of the foot but its speed measured across the whole of its curve till it hits soil on the next step might be more like 20 miles per hour. 

Not insanely fast. But jarring as hell. Plus the angle of its motion is constantly curving and shifting. 


What Strait do they Cross? 

Depending on if or how much time we leave for organisation the actual giant-riding part of the game might range from one and a half hours to three hours. Lets assume two hours of actual giant-riding. 

Assuming ‘real time’ that means the Giants would travel about 20 miles. 

The idea of the game is that you only have the length of the game itself to solve the problem of the giants – by the end of the game they will have reached the Nightmare Continent and if you get off the giant after that you are DOOMED  

Looking for real-life places of roughly the right dimensions the first that comes to mind is the Dover strait. 

Between Dover and Calais is almost exactly 20 miles 

But nowhere near deep enough – its only 50 meters deep!


That’s only 164 feet! About up to the giants Knees! 

Well I suppose it’s acceptable – in their hunched over posture their knuckles will be grazing the ocean surface as they walk. It also gives the PCs a fair amount of time to get up over the knee. Though if they are still dicking about with that half-way through the mission is probably failed anyway. 



Climbing the Giants 

There are several problems; the linear nature of the directional choices on a larger scale, the curved, flowing and non-intuitive surface of the giant and the shifting position and orientation of the limbs. 


The Linear Nature of the Choices 

The main problem here is that the arrangement of the giants limbs is very much not like a dungeon. There are only a few routes and risks. Large parts are semi-visible from various points. 

Most of a limb-climb is just getting up that limb,  and to make the adventure interesting at all I would need to make actually falling off relatively rare. Instead I would have to produce something like the climbing in VotE; everyone can do it a bit and failure leads to ever more nightmarish fail-states without ever quite booting you off. 

Once a climb is begun, the route-choice is largely made and any tension or interest comes  more from how challenges are met than what they will be. 


The Curved and Flowing Surface 

Lets Envisage the Giants Skin -What is this like? A curved, slightly-flexing, rocky surface. Even ‘smooth’ parts are like a rocky, and in fact most of the giants skin is deeply corrugated. 

If you look down at the skin around your knuckles. If you make a claw with your hand so the skin bunches up there, all those little triangles and oblongs of skin where the lines of compression meet and cross. Image that as a karstic landscape, but much more wrinkly – like a very old persons skin, and much deeper in its corrugations. 

Smooth parts – like  a cobblestone road, but with the cobbles jagged and not smoothed. 

Intermediate parts – like clambering over or up large boulders. 

Very Crinkly parts – like clambering over and through sharp man-sized or larger boulders

Which tilt and grind together or apart – big enough that the gaps make an ‘interior of sorts. 

So the smooth parts are actually very easy to fall off & quite dangerous while the rough parts where the limbs meet – the crinkly places of our own bodies, are relatively safe – even though they are moving and flexing, there are many holds and handholds and spaces where you can place yourself to avoid falling off (these might be dynamic holds though). 

But, maybe if I think about the actual shape and details of each part of the leg, arm and side, and think deeply about how each might move I could come up with some general ideas or abstract some rules which would help to form encounter spaces, or interesting encounter ideas? 


The Shifting Gravity 

The limb orientations are shifting regularly from near-vertical to sloped, from climb to overhang, or from climb to scramble. 

Will you wait for the position of the limb to change - it could shift from overhang to climb, or from climb to scramble and the potential danger of an opposing encounter might grow larger or smaller if you are willing, or able, or forced to, wait. 

So that idea of having to make up, lose or gain time feels appropriate. 

OR - you hear movement, or sense something above you, and if you wait you might be able to get a better look - but that will cost you time. 

TIMING – if this is ‘real-life’ timing then there could be a metronome or something. Or you could time the giants steps minute by minute. 

I don’t know if someone’s done this before but if each 90 seconds is a real-life round and an in-game round, a single step of the giant. Could it be made to work? You would have to roll fast! 



Climbing a map of the muscle groups 

Another possibility is - making some kind of map of the MUSCLE GROUPS of the limbs and making THAT a sub-map of each ascent. 

like you can LEAP from one muscle group to another to avoid an encounter.




These could be quite minor - the main danger is that they could drop you. They should also be 'rock beasts', cliff beasts really. (I didn’t put pigeons in as they suck.) 

Seagull-Griffons; micro-Griffons based on seagull heads and wings but with the bodies of racing dogs. That sounds sufficiently awful. 


Condor-Riding Snow Monkeys – they bathe in the hot springs atop the giants backs and form a symbiotic relationship with the semi-intelligent condors, travelling on their backs and performing tasks involving fine motor control – they can crack open bones with flints and actually they have learned to work in close co-operation with the condors, the monkeys can pull open flaps of skin, bare muscle, expose the joints of dead animals, brace cutting surfaces and put flesh under tensile strain so it cuts more easily. 

SUPER-TICKS – these feed upon the giants magmic blood. [The giants are tectonic inside so their ‘spots’ or pimples might be popping lava and their sweat might be steam or thick bubbling oils. A walking mountain has to be generating a pretty serious amount of heat. The giants back – hot, even steaming, would carry a moving column or a trailing flag of hot air above and behind it, a layer or a stream of cloud following each of them like a pennant in the atmosphere as that pillar of air rises, cools and probably condenses. The heat of the giants would make them of much more fecund than many other forms of similar mountain.] The blood does cool quite a bit in them but it’s still pretty hot and dangerous. Plus this is still a tick as big as a man or maybe horse. 

Animated magical kites that won't die - These were the creation of some ancient empire of magicians far away who wanted to study the giants – the kites were so well made they have a basic self-repair function and can weave the substance of cloud into solidity to act as canvas or waxed paper to sustain them – the kites are more like solid memes, or paper golems, semi-intelligent but not really alive, men can ride them but their actions may be very unpredictable – possibly they will obey commands in the language of the long-dead wizards. They might do slightly bonkers A.I. stuff based on garbled comprehension of their original instructions.  


  1. 'Image that as a karstic landscape, but much more wrinkly – like a very old persons skin, and much deeper in its corrugations.'

    Suddenly reminded of Eustace and Jill crossing the ruined city in The Silver Chair.

    A Griffon is, of course, a French type of hunting hound.

    I can picture reptiles being drawn to the hot spots of the Giant's skin - monitor lizards, perhaps. Alternately basking and hunting.

  2. you could handwave some of the instability and difficulty around the initial boarding with the giants have been treading this circuit for centuries and have compacted the ground and crushed all the big boulders or whatever

  3. FWIW, the science fiction novel "Enormity" by W.G. Marshall (IIRC) is about mile-high giants, and it is full of GREAT ideas for how weird & (mostly unintentionally) destructive they would be to everything around them.

  4. Would their paths not, at least in some areas, become canyons after a few passes? Could people try to skip the feet or even legs by preparing bridges or ropes?