Monday, February 15, 2016

Unusual Item: Land Sailing

"Land Sailing" Hendrik Gerritsz Pot (1637)

I remember land sailing as an odd leisure activity done out salt flats or deserts of the American southwest sometime last century. I think it may also have been done in the 19th century as a failed form of transportation. Land sailing is a lot like the somewhat more familiar ice sailing, but on packed sand or salt instead of on ice. I recall Moorcock used ice schooners on the frozen seas of one of his Eternal Champion stories.

Much later I came across land sailing as an actual Early Modern activity in Neal Stephenson's epic trilogy, The Baroque Cycle. I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Stephenson's writing. I love the real period detail he provides, but I just can't get enthusiastic about any of his characters. But that's probably a post for another time.

Adventure Seeds

(1) Some sort of crazy chase on a Low Countries beach with people boarding enemy land ships and epic swords fights by the tiller arm. Here I am thinking of something like a James Bond chase. Unusual vehicles and spies. So the PCs against rival agents from the Spanish Netherlands or the Dutch Gehimebond. The chase is something I keep in the back of my head for a return trip to Flanders or the Dutch Republic.

(2) A race organized by courtiers or wealthy merchants. This can either be just a short diversion where the PCs do something unusual or it could be a more typical race scenario of the likes of any race event where there are rival pilots, betting, attempts to rig the race or sabotage the racers, and maybe even combat during the race. Pick any race you like to steal ideas e.g. the 1966 movie Grand Prix, Pod racing from the Phantom Menace, any of a half gajillion action TV series episodes, or even Speed Racer.

(3) For a more gonzo or alt-history take, I like the notion of a land ship expedition heading into the Arabian desert to find the lost city of Irem. You can combine elements of (1) and (2) by including a rival group of land sailors.

Here's another picture of racing land yachts. I especially like the two-master in the center.

"Land Yacht" Simon Stevins zeilwagen voor Prins Maurits (Sail wagon for Prince Maurice) 1649

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