I want to start this suggestion / discussion with a little example, before I make some suggestions which should be considered as modular, that means some or only one or all or none of it might be considered. Considering the numbers that might be mentioned here, please considered it as sketches, those numbers are highly up to debate.
Let’s imagine the following situation:
There is a Gundabad orc invasion in the east Shire in Buckland. Two players, allied with the Hobbits get that information from the reworked table of command, they can see that there is a region where Gundabad got conquest points in that said region.
Example player A: He has pledged to the Hobbits and has his base in Hobbington, but never visited the Bucklebury waypoint, so he has the standard fast travel cooldown after going there. That reacting Player A takes with him 20 Hobbit Sheriffs. He teleports there with his troops and now has to wait 30 min standard fast travel cool down.
Example player B: He has pledged to Durin’s Folk and travelled very far and made his base somewhere in the Mountains of the Wind. Because all Shire waypoints are unlocked from the beginning and if you are not an enemy of the Hobbits, you can always travel there. He never travelled to the Bucklebury waypoint so he has the standard fast travel cooldown of 30 min, too. That player B takes with him 20 Dwarven Warriors.
That is a situation which may happen quite easily on any server, it is a feasible releality. From the current mod mechanics it is totally possible. But if you look at it, it is quite immersion breaking. Both player want to save those poor hobbits in Buckland, but Player B arrives at the same time from the other end of the world (middle earth) and has a general advantage compared to the pure Hobbit player. He has the better troops and lives so far away from any predefined waypoint, that his base is way saver compared to a hobbit hole in Hobbington, just because of the fact, that his biome doesn’t have anything which might be dangerous and it is very hard for other players to find his base.
So what will I know suggest? The current system treads both players equally, but with some common sense I think most people could agree with me, that it would be a far bigger effort for an army of “Wind Dwarves” to march into to the Shire to defend it then some Hobbit Guards to react to that kind of invasion.
But how to fix it? Currently, I could travel as a neutral nearly completely naked through middlearth, I may only have to defend against bandits and avoid contact with Mordor Orcs and Wood Elves. I even wouldn’t need a lot of food, because hunger is nearly always not a real problem. Tolkien’s World is massive and huge, it invites to be explored and that mod does that job very good. In singleplayer as survival or especially on a survival multiplayer server.
Suggestion: Fast Travel Device and Supply
To keep that spirit but to enhance the immersion and maybe get a better balance I suggest that you need a condition to use the fast travel system:
You need some kind of “device”, let’s call it a travel backpack, which needs to be supplied, let’s say you have to fill it with food. There are all kind of food types in that mod, but in fact you only need a stack of one sort to fill your hunger. Let’s say that “travel backpack” counts the amount of food stored in it and calculate the saturation points it would provide.
If you now want to fast travel, the unlocking would be still the same, the availability of them stays the same, too (so no Mordorian entering Minas Tirith), but if you want to fast travel, the distance between your current location and the location is calculated. It would be in fact the length of the hypotenuse if you use a right triangle for the x and z coordinates. That calculated length would now be divided for a certain amount of needed saturation points to emulate what you would really need to get there and not just magically teleporting there. If you have enough food in your travel backpack, the needed amount will be subtracted from the content and the fast travel will be performed.
What would that mechanic do? First of all, fast travel isn’t anymore for free, you make a fast forward travel and have to be prepared for it. Secondly if you don’t have enough food, you can’t just travel back at the end of the world if your timer resets.
What might be other consequences of that? With that suggestion, short teleports are cheaper and easier. So if your faction for example live around a certain region/area your members can react or gether faster at a certain location in contrast if they would be scattered around middle earth. That might cause that certain areas get livelier, especially with a lot of fast travel waypoints near each other.
Another effect might be, that food might get more important.
Modular Suggestion A: Dynamic Fast Travel Cooldown Time
At the moment, standard fast travel cooldown is 30 min. But there is the mechanic, that the cooldown gets reduced if you have fast travel frequently to a certain waypoint and reduces the cooldown down to a minimum of 10 %.
If that is already possible, I think it might also possible to make the cooldown after “short” fast travel shorter, but higher after “long” fast travels. That would mimic a certain travel exhaustion, because in real life, driving your 20 to 40 min to your workplace is not as exhausting as a 10 h car drive.
A possible side effect would be, that areas with a lot of waypoints in close proximity might get livier as well, because it is not only cheaper to travel around that area, but it takes less time.
Modular Suggestion B: Catagorized Waypoints and Modifiers
Like descripted, we already have a certain mechanic which “stores” the frequency of visited waypoints. That means, the game mechanics can already detect a difference between different waypoints.
I think you can improve that and make different categories for waypoints:
Since a long time we have roads in that mod, but actually they are just decorative. I would suggest, that waypoints which are connected by a road get something like an internal argument to mark those “road waypoint”. The benefit would be, that you get a modifier to your supply cost and cooldown timer if you include Modular Suggestion A.
Simple example: To travel to the Minas Tirith waypoint, the supply costs are calculated in dependence of your current position (and as well the cooltime timer) and it is multiplied by, let’s say 0.75.
If you fast travel from your current position to MT would cost you an equivalent of 30 breads and would give you a 30 min fast travel cooldown, the cost would be reduced to roughly 23 breads and the timer would be 22.5 min.
You can expand that concept to the other “kinds” of waypoints:
The default modifier of 1 would be in work with all other predefined waypoints, which are not connected to a road.
Because of the fact, that custom waypoints can be made everywhere, even at the end of the world in the wilderness and to make “normal waypoints” more attractive to use, you get something like a modifier of 1.25 to your costs.
Sure, the problem might be if your custom waypoint is very near to a predefined road waypoint, it would take quite a lot more of ressources and gets you a higher cooldown timer, but I think to add a mechanic which might calculate or look for a predefined waypoint in a certain area around it might be a bigger task to implement then to just make that suggested generalization. It might force people to use the predefined waypoints more frequently.
And last, custom waypoints shared by your fellowship members get the hightest modifier, let’s say 1.5, because in fact you only have to unlocked the region where that waypoint is, but otherwise, you get that waypoint for free (besides your possible personal conditions to be part of that fellowship).
Sure, that modular suggestion is highly debatable, there could be a further mechanic which compares the relative position of those custom waypoints to the position of fixed ones, but it would be more complicate than just the suggested calculation.
Modular Suggestion C: Transported animals modifier
We could even expand the concept of the travel backpack and also consider your mounts. If you travel by horse, you have a higher mobility after you reached your destination. A horse itself might get you a modifier.
Let’s say it gives a benefit for a shorter cooldown time, but it will increase the supply costs because during a horse travel, in real life that horse would need food too. I won’t suggest something like special horse food, let’s have it as easy and plain as possible, if you are sitting on a horse, the amount of your supply costs just increases. The number of it I would say is a matter of discussion
Same would go for animals which you have on a ledge. They are already teleported with you, too, so I think the game mechanic can already detect those. That means, depending on the amount of the animals, the supply costs increase.
On the other hand, ponies and camels with their storage might serve as an additional “travel backpack” to store supply so you don’t need to carry all of your supplies in your personal inventory.
Modular Suggestion D: Hired Units Modifier
That might be actually a big one and I want to come back to the hypothetic situation of the introduction. The fast travel between Player A and B is no difference, it would change if the above mentioned suggestion would be in place.
But an important point is missing. Travelling alone or in a small group might be easier, but both player bring an army with them. For free. Moving a troop of units from Hobbington to Buckland should be way easier then a dwarven army from the Mountains of the Winds.
Somehow the game mechanic already know how many troops are following you. Maybe that can be included in the supply cost calculation with yet another modifier. Every unit increases that costs (because armies need to eat) and making it more difficult to travel long distance with a whole army through middle earth.
You could add, that travelling with an army might also increase the fast travel cooldown timer because if you compare long fast travel distances with the historical violent marches and before thinking about a timed debuff after fast travel, it might be easier to implement that you just can’t leave the area that quickly because you and your soldiers are exhausted.
If you have read until this point here, I like to thank you. That is all just a suggestion with some possible modular once to enhance it and it is up for criticism and debate.
The general idea is, that those change don’t take something away which we already have in that mod, but it might give players in waypoint rich areas with short and road connections an advantage above those who have their little known secret base kingdom at the end of the world and improve the general travelling in middle earth and just don’t make it a time / cooldown management.
That might cause, that areas like gondor with it many waypoints get more lively because people will use the fixed waypoints more frequently, but it is still possible to live as an hermit in the wilds, with all its advantage but with some costs to it.
So you might not just be the guardian of the shire, frequently being around there but living in a far far away kingdom, but you get to be something like a merchant or mercenary from a far far away place, which might come by frequently as well, but with more effort.
Again, thanks a lot for reading!