Friday, February 24, 2017

The Monk

At last, the monk.

Each time I plunge into one of these sage abilities posts I feel self-conscious.  I'm know I'm writing about something that certainly applies to only my world, so that for the gentle reader these posts are merely academic.  Many have said some wonderful things, expressed their support, and I am grateful.  Yet this is still seems a voyage that I strike out upon alone.  I wrote many posts about the bard, struggling that out, with a lot of good advice and help from others.  Now I mean to do the same thing with the monk.

That is because I am even less clear about the structure underlying the monk than I was about the bard.  The monk is a functional mess.  It is a splatter mess of martial arts, religion, eastern mythology and game mechanics.  It is part cleric, part thief, part spellcaster, with an unclear agenda and a murky social status within the D&D game world.

For the most part, I've been able to ignore that.  Monks are hard to roll and are usually not taken when the rolls are sufficient.  Since the year 2000 my campaigns have included only three of them.  And only one is active right now.

So what is it?  What defines the monk?  Rather, how do we want to define it.  I'm just not sure.  I will interject here and say that the monk has always been my favorite character.  In terms of combat prowess, I think it holds its own.  But I'd like to give the class a motivation that doesn't depend upon any one culture's honor code or martial arts discipline.  Why?  Because that presses the monk into existing as a stereotype that has to fulfill a cliched game role.  I'd rather my players felt they could design their own monk, their way, without needing to be buddhists, ninjas or some other form of Oriental stock character.

Let's start with how the original player's handbook defined the class.  The monk wasn't allowed to gain strength benefits from the 15 or better strength the monk had to have, or armor class bonuses from the 15 or better minimum dexterity.  This was a way to limit the class.  The character started with a 10 AC that improved as levels were gained, so very slowly.  The character had 2d4 hit points, a little better than a cleric. We used to apply constitution benefits per hit die, so if the monk had a constitution of 15+1, the +1 was applied to each die 4.

The monk also got "open hand," which meant causing damage with the open palm, matching the kung fu martial art that was popular in the 1970s, the way of the open hand.  If the monk scored 5 or more higher on the attack die above what was needed to hit (against humanoid opponents), then the opponent was "stunned" for 1-6 rounds, effectively knocked unconscious.  As well, the monk got a +1/2 hit point bonus per level to damage caused with hand-to-hand weapons.

The monk also got a saving throw as a defense against missile weapons, had thieving abilities (except pick pockets), a very slight, steadily improving chance to not be surprised (-2%/level) and, starting with third level, a series of other abilities that included speak with animals, falling from various distances without taking damage, minor healing and, ultimately, the infamous "quivering palm" that would enable the monk to outright kill someone by touching them once reaching 13th level.

I remember the monk was pitifully weak back in the early 80s, something that had been noticed by others.  There was a Dragon magazine article about the monk that made some suggestions, some of which we adopted for my campaign at the time.  Specifically two: we raised the starting AC to 8, then had it progress at the same degree per level, just 2 better than the book stated; and we changed the hit dice to a d6, so the monk started with 2d6.  Those two changes smoothed out the character and made it work.

Yet here I am now, bent on restructuring the monk with sage abilities.

Part of the sage ability practice is to spread the original abilities of the class around to various fields and studies, then set it up that the character doesn't start with all of those.  Clerics, for example, don't necessarily start with the ability to turn undead.  Oh, every cleric gets a watered down version of the ability, but if you don't choose dweomercraft as a study, you can't turn the really big, dangerous things.  With the sage abilities I've defined, not all thieves have a special ability to sneak up on opponents and if you don't study backstabbing, you get a watered down version of that too.  If an assassin doesn't study murder, then its a watered down version of assassination.  And so on.

So what we want is a monk that doesn't necessarily have all the abilities that the monk character does in the original game.  In turn, IF the monk specializes in one of those abilities, then they will ultimately do it better than the book states.  The sage abilities do take away, but they also give more and more.  With high level, you more or less get lots and lots.

My first problem is this.  How to take the small pile of monk abilities that existed previously, divide them up logically, then add more abilities that aren't described.  Remember, we're not talking about random chance skills, like in 3e and later editions.  We're talking the monk can absolutely do these things, with no fail possible.  Those are more difficult abilities to come up with, because we don't want to break the game.

I have a mess of ideas on that front.  What I don't have is the organization.  I can imagine fields called the path of the stick (combat), the path of the reed (defense) or the path of enlightenment (meditation) or the path of knowledge (clarity) . . . but these seem trite.  Combat and defense are easy, but meditation and clarity are difficult if we don't want to drift into religion and telling players what to think.

I've spent a bunch of time reading Buddhist texts lately and I am convinced that the earlier steps of Buddhism form a rational philosophy, but the later steps of Buddhism proceed to go right up its own ass.  I can see more clearly why there is a discrepancy about whether or not Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. It is a philosophy . . . in the beginning.  But if you manage to convince yourself, the available option to start taking things totally on faith are right there waiting for you ~ making it no different than any other religion you must accept on faith.  It is all very disappointing after a degree . . . particularly as Buddhism has its blind, fundamental pundits just as Christianity or Islam does.

I had hoped for a path there for developing the monk, as I had stumbled across some very interesting things when I wrote my mantraism post last year.  Unfortunately, no.

So now I don't have a rational structure for the monk, not yet.  I'd like four clear, easy to define categories (fields) that would each offer a meaningful option to a player who chose to take a monk character.  Fighting, yes, with either an offensive or defensive option, along with a more religious (practical) set of skills, the meditation path, and finally a set of challenge-the-reality of the universe options, such as being able to fall without taking damage, a la Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.  If I can get these fields sorted, I'm sure I can conceive of the abilities that should fit within them.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Lurkers' Corner - The Well

The Juvenis Party has figured out that the well contains water that will enable them to walk through poisonous gas and continue onwards into the dungeon.

Did anyone guess?  How long did it take.  Were you following it and I just gave it away right now?  I admit, the idea is pretty old school, not really my usual thing.  I don't like puzzles, largely because people tend to overthink them and then we're going around in circles for ages.

I try to suspend overthinking by simply identifying it when it happens or jumping ahead to produce the experiment and demonstrate it has failed.

Whenever possible, I will try to emphasize the correct solution if a player mentions it in passing, as I did in this case.  I had an NPC repeat a specific question stated by the player, and that broke the deadlock.

Am I wrong to do this?  Say so if you feel I am.  I do so because it is often necessary to make the game move forward when the players begin to feel lost.

If you haven't seen it yet, there's a comic.

Comment Moderation

I do hope you're all enjoying the comic.  I enjoyed making it.  I have others I will be sharing.

I apologize, but I'm going to have to reestablish the comment moderation, at least for a while.  All it takes is one troll.


Monday, February 20, 2017

Don't Jog My Elbow

I think those who read this blog three years ago can agree that, on the whole, I've been a much kinder, more patient person than I used to be.  I've tried to resist the sort of ranting posts I used to write, I've gotten much better in handling trolls and I haven't had a flame war on this blog in a long, long time.

I do have my triggers, however.  We all do.  One of mine is what I'll call the new reader assumption, or NRA.  (what, that's an acronym for something else?)

The blog wants new readers, no doubt.  New readers are the bread and butter of every writer.  And it is a necessity that new readers should be welcomed, encouraged and coddled . . . as it is certain that most new readers will not have read the back-log before jumping in to comment.  All the worse when that backlog is really, really long.  A long back-log is bound to increase NRA.

It is even harder with my blog, as I tend to refer to myself with reckless abandon.  I try, rather lazily, to link to a concept I've introduced on another post, but I fail for the most part because it doesn't occur to me that the reader doesn't know exactly what I'm talking about.  That can be off-putting.

Still, every now and then an NRA pops up and I . . . well, I have to clamp down on my first response.

Let me explain what an NRA is.

It is a visitor to the Sistine Chapel having a look around while Michaelangelo is part way through and muttering, "You know what would be great here?  Something about God giving life to Man.  I bet you could get great ideas about that from my cousin Guiseppe."

It is a theatre manager looking over the first three pages of Shakespeare's as yet untitled Romeo and Juliet and saying, "Wow, this is great stuff ~ I can't wait for when Romeo gets it on with Bianca.  What a great set up you've written here!"

It is an architect showing up at the offices of Washington Roebling seven months into the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge to explain how important it is that the bridge be built four blocks to the north.  It HAS to be.

It is a kid showing up for his first day at work and taking it upon himself to spontaneously reorganize the store room, to make it better.

It is a reader who thinks they have the problems of my world solved because once they played a trade-based game in the 1980s.

It is giving an opinion without asking questions.  It is formulating without investigating.  It is a kind of arrogance, one that supposes that now that I am here, everything will be easy.

I struggle with this.  When I started on the internet, I used to do this.  Let's face it, the internet encourages this sort of behavior.  I'm glad that I've left it behind.  It is a terrible habit to fall into, particularly as it is almost impossible to correct from the designer's point of view.

Robert Heinlein had a great phrase for this.  It's the title of this post.  Sometimes, it's all we can say without screaming the fellow out of our presence.

They mean well, after all.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


I should write something.

Of late, I've been hacking at a number of different projects, none of which are getting done.  I've left off the bard sage abilities, catching my breath on those; I'm digging a bit at Iceland but not going at it full bore; I've been working out the sea distance trade routes for the islands of Britain but those are a huge bitch (many, many trade towns) and it is going slowly; I've left off the writing of pages about weapons and armor on the wiki [finished the armor at least] ~ and, I've been working on my book.

This last has been the priority and as of a few days ago, I solved a HUGE problem with a late in the book climax that has been bugging me for a year.  Swear to gawd.  A year.  More about that in a moment.

I want to explain, first, that not finishing things does not need to be a crippling disease.  One of the reasons why the various features about my world or my writing gets done is because I haven't "quit," I've taken a rest.  I read around the 'net and I seem to find that people believe that if they don't start a project, work on a project, then finish a project, all in one grand push that lasts for weeks, then they've failed and they quit working on the project forever.

That just doesn't make sense.  We have to pace ourselves.  We have to expect, ahead of time, that we're going to put down the project that we're working on, deliberately, with the expectation that we'll pick them up in a few months or even a year from now.  Some projects take years.  The trick isn't to bury ourselves in a succeed-or-die mindset, but to prepare the project in a way that it CAN be put down, when we're ready to rest.

Rest is vitally important.  Rest gives us time to think about what we've done so far, to appreciate the work we've done, to address issues that are making the project difficult or ~ after a fair time has past ~ to re-evaluate the structure and intended function of the project.  What will it accomplish?  Is it the best we can do?  Are we going about it in the most efficient way possible?

I will be honest.  Those first few days of returning to a new project are difficult.  The immensity of the project, the feeling that it can't be finished, the sense of not really remembering what was going on when we were working on it before, these things can be daunting and it can overwhelm us.  My present book has been like that, but more about that in a moment.

The trick is to go at it slowly, in bits and pieces.  If all we can take is ten minutes of the project we put down last summer, then ten minutes it is.  Maybe tomorrow, or Friday, we can look at it again.  Maybe for twenty minutes.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of looking over what we've done ~ and remember that we DID that.  WE did.  We need to remind ourselves of our accomplishments.

After a few rough goes, a few tries, a glimmer will arise about the project; a memory of what we liked when we first started at it.  Soon, there will be a little leap in our hearts, a little excitement . . . and soon enough, we'll find ourselves working away at the project again, vigorously, wanting to work on it with the same intensity that we did all those months ago.  And the work will fly forward again, doubling in size . . . and we'll recall that experience when we apply ourselves to some other project we put down a long time ago.

This is how things get done.  Not all in one try, but in many tries.  In spurts and gobs, just like you won't manage all the orgasms you'll have in a lifetime in one afternoon.

I'm sorry.  I couldn't get that metaphor out of my mind once it got in there.

Just now, the Fifth Man is like that.  A year ago, you wonderful readers helped me in a very troubled time and I promised you a book.  And there is a book coming . . . in spurts and gobs.  I've been reworking the language of the preview I sent out in late April of 2016 ~ which now seems like a long time ago.  The writing, well, the writing has needed some work, but on the whole I am pleased with the structure and the characterization.  Mostly, I've been working on the beginning again because it helps to keep the whole book in my mind, not just what's left to make.

I wish I could think of a way to reassure those who supported me, that I'm not going to disappear or declare that the book is off.  I'll pay everyone back first, before I do that.  Since it is easier to just write the book, that's what I'm doing.  I don't hate this thing, not yet (though it always gets there, I'm afraid; that's the business).  I'm happy with it.  I'm going to be very happy when it is done.

I'd like to find some way of proving that it is being written that doesn't include actually putting up the content somewhere.  That would make me feel better; would make me feel that people who supported me were comforted in the knowledge that support wasn't in vain.  I continue to think about how that might be managed.

Good.  Post written.  On to some other project.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Iceland, Step II

Having gone through the 19 centers of Iceland, twice [once in English and once in the Icelandic version of Wikipedia] ~ and finding one more center shown on a different map of my source material (1952 Colliers Encyclopedia), that being Neskaupstadur, I have the following information in hand:

With regards to the five places at the bottom, I have definite information that these places were founded after 1650, so in my world they don't exist.  Having them on the list is still important, however, as the balance of their presence is subtracted from the total in order to determine the population for the remainder.

I have 10 places where I have a vague knowledge of when they were founded.  Traditionally, Reykjavik was the first place in Iceland that was founded, and traditionally that year is 874.  Who knows when it was actually founded or even if it was first; but for D&D purposes, I like using the myth over what may or may not be fact.  A similar example occurs everywhere, so that is policy.

Of these 10, I have six that are described as appearing in the Landnamsold (linking the Icelandic page), which describes the first settlements in Iceland.  Here is a pretty map:

By Abraham Ortelius, cartographer, titled Islandia, circa 1590
Those places listed as being founded in 880, 930 or 950 are, at best, guesses. Those that were described as being founded in the 9th century (about as accurate as it gets), I listed as the first round number after Reykjavik.  Hafnarfjordur (or Boots, as it was called), was described as late in the Landnamsold period.  Seydisfjordur was described as "10th century."  But I don't have to be supremely accurate here; I just want an approximation.

Most places have the same name today as they did long ago, with very few exceptions.  That is also probably not quite true ~ but since I am working with English and not Icelandic (which must have variations), I don't care about too much nuance.  Again, we're just looking for an approximation.

I've divided the place names into the four traditioning Farthings of Iceland, the old name for the provinces.  The next step is to look up their latitude, longitude and elevation, so the places can be plotted on a map, and the map adjusted for the elevation of the hex that the place name will occupy.  I'll be looking that information up on a glorious site called

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Iceland & Greenland

The poll is closed:

There was a late surge for Southeast Asia and there is a clear interest in my mapping the far east in general.  That won't be overlooked ~ though for the time being, obviously, I'm going to be working on the North Atlantic.

Before I feel I can potentially move onto Canada, I want to clean up all the lands surrounding Iceland and Greenland.  I did complete the Fritz Josef lands a long time ago (I call it Humutya and I know precisely what lives there).  I've never tackled Svalbard, however.  That is mostly just plotting the coastline.

The same is true of the Faeroes Islands, which lie between Scotland and Iceland.  There's just one town on those; there are a mess of islands to create, but it's fairly simple once the lines are drawn.  After the Faeroes, there are two little islands ~ Bear and Jan Mayan ~ that I'll have to plot and figure out where they are.

These are things I can do before or after Iceland, it makes no difference.  I'll probably insist on working these out, however, before I apply myself to the Greenland Coast.  That is going to be a bitch.  I did get some of the west side done just for giggles a while ago, but it is a long, long coast that stretches over about five sheets.

What to do about Greenland, that's the question.  The occupants in 1650 were the Thule Culture, that settled into Greenland after migrating from the area around Alaska.  By then, the Norse were all gone, driven out by the Little Ice Age.  The Thule were a very primitive hunting culture, perfectly suited for the environment but . . . well, dull.  I'm not much interested in letting them have all of Greenland ~ and I have a rule about my world design that big, empty areas ought to be occupied by non-humans.  So here is what I imagine.

We begin with 13,000 years ago, when the svirfneblin of the Dovrefjell (Norway) reached a point of cultural cohesion following breakthroughs in subterranean food cultivation.  After 3,000 years, these spawned the surface gnomish people, who migrated outwards across the northern forests of Europe.  These encountered halfling cultures who moved north out of Britain and Denmark ahead of the spread of human culture; the halflings and gnomes, both relatively passive as races, quickly made pacts of friendship.  Since the gnomes preferred forests and the halflings dells and pastures, there was room for both peoples.

But humans continues to spread and their population increased in Scandinavia.  Steadily, the gnome and halfling populations were isolated and the surface lands fell to human tribes.  This diminished the surface hunting lands for the subterranean Svirfneblin, who themselves began to migrate westward and north to the lands of Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland.

Iceland proved to be unpleasant to the cold-loving Svirfneblin, being highly volcanic; but Greenland was excellent.  They began to create a new stone-and-ice dwelling culture that reached its height around 100 BCE.

The culture was in long decline, growing extremely passive until the arrival of the Norse in the 9th century.  The warm weather had driven the Svirfneblin further underground, where they were able to find enough heat to sustain their subterranean agrarian culture.  The Norse, who had developed friendships with the gnomes, proved to be more tolerant of the Svirfneblin than their forebears had been; trade was developed between the surface and the subterranean, which lasted for six hundred years until the change in the weather broke the Norse culture.

The increase in cold, however, has resulted in the Svirfneblin occupying many of the surface villages of the Norse.  They drove the Thule (who are not human) from their hunting/fishing grounds and in the last 150 years the Svirfneblin population in Greenland has tripled.

Now, Iceland.

The first step to mapping the island is to research the individual towns, gathered from this map:

I count 19 settlements: Akranes, Akureyri, Bildudalur, Blonduos, Egilsstadir, Hafnarfjordur, Hofn, Isafjordur, Keflavik, Kopasker, Oddi, Olafsfjordur, Olafsvik, Raufarhofn, Reykjavik, Seydisfjordur, Siglufjordur, Vik and Vopnafjordur.  These have to be individually looked up on the web, wikipedia most likely, but elsewhere if wikipedia has no record.  We also want to look at any provinces or regions included, since we'll be figuring out how it is divided politically for the final map.

We're looking for when it was founded, what disasters or troubles it may have suffered and who owns/runs it.  Iceland is simple for this last: Denmark owns the whole island, and will for a long time.  In the bigger sense, however, we want a "feel" for Iceland.  This is one of the best parts.  Having researched the place, I begin to feel like I've been there.  Like, if I went in actual fact, I would be ready for what I found.  I get a real kick out of meeting people from the places where they come from, only to describe their country to them, accurately.  Most people who travel a great distance are surprised if someone has even heard of the place they're from.  I'd enjoy meeting someone from Hofn in the next six months, after working on this map.

So, I'll get started researching Iceland.  Won't take long.  Why don't you give it a try.  Just go through Wikipedia one name at a time.  You might find some very interesting plot ideas.

In fact, as I go along, I'll include the links.

Oh, and forgive me.  Please reconsider supporting me on Patreon.  If you can't help me out this month, perhaps you might consider giving me a hand in April.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Where in the World Should I Go?

Having finished Britain, I have no particular concerns about where I should map next ~ so I thought it wouldn't hurt to ask.  In the sidebar, the Gentle Reader will find a poll, asking what part of the world I could build.  The only necessity is that a new map connect to a part of the world that I have already made.

If I work on Iceland (and the Faeroe Islands), then Greenland, I will be in a position to start working on Canada sometime in the future, starting with Newfoundland.  That, no doubt, will appeal to Americans, who might want me to start working along the eastern seaboard.  Be warned, however, that the amount of coastline and research needed for that seaboard is immense, so that there wouldn't be much payoff for a long time, perhaps a couple of years.  After all, it took me 18 months to put Britain together (I do get distracted).

I had started working around the west coast of Africa already, getting as far as Senegal.  I'd probably keep going at least as far as Ghana, though of course the dream would be not to stop until I'd gotten all the way around the horn, then connect it up with Arabia on the east coast.  Reversing this by going down the east coast would ultimately have the same end goal ~ but it is also a fairly unpopulated part of the world, as as I learned with Mauritania, west Mali and Senegal, it is fairly dull mapping.

I did Burma and that was interesting, so it would follow that I would work my way through the rest of Indochina, then ultimately down into Indonesia.  That's a LOT of coastline, I know I'm not going to enjoy that.  Coastline is the hardest detail to add . . . but it would be interesting to add Indonesia to the trade system, since there are a lot of odd and rare products that originate there.

Interior China is a big hole in the world map I posted last autumn.  It would be nice to fill that hole, but I know that researching China is going to be a big pain ~ not because it is more work per area covered, but because the one source I'm working from is from 1952, before pinyin changed all the Ch's to Q's.  Since Chinese names are so similar, it is going to be hard trying to piece together the city dot on the old map I have with the name in the present day . . . and as far as I can tell, modern linguists are intentionally trying to make this very difficult.

But I'll give it a try if the vote goes that way.

I do ask two things.  First, that if the kind reader votes, that you might tell me why you picked the area you did in the comments below.  It would help if I knew what your interest is, as encouragement to go at least that far in my designing.

Secondly, if you ARE willing to ask me to pick a place and work on it, I would ask that you donate one, two or three dollars monthly on my Patreon.  I haven't mentioned Patreon in months, but it is still a part of my income that I depend upon.  It won't hurt much to give the price of a cup of coffee, but a dozen or so readers contributing will make a big difference to ME.  If you could be so kind.

Thursday, February 2, 2017


The cheap dresser in our room suffered an injury a few days ago.  But that is no problem, as it makes a nice home for Himije.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Drawing Board

Take this phrase in reference to creating a world for a role-playing game:

"Working without an empirical framework feels like 'cheating' . . ."

In response, let me quote my encyclopedia about empiricism:

"The doctrine that all knowledge of fact is derived from experience.  Experience is made up of the following elements and the relations between them: 1) sensations; 2) memories; 3) willfully created images; 4) emotions and feelings; 5) acts of will; and 6) thoughts, judgments and beliefs (including expectations) about the first five.  Empiricist philosophers defend their doctrine by successively examining all alleged types of factual knowledge and, for each of these types, either reducing it by analysis to terms of experience, or else rejecting it as not really knowledge after all, but only an ungrounded belief.
A classic example of empiricim is Hume's analysis of the concept of causality, published in 1739.  It had been believed, for instance, that when one touches a hot stove and suffers a burn, one can observe two relations between the touching of the stove and the pain of the burn; first, the touching precedes the pain in time, and second, the touching causes (produces) the pain.  But Hume analyzed the concept of cause and found that it was composed of two parts: 1) the time relationship between the touching of the stove and the subsequent pain; and 2) the expectation that pain will follow such an act, since in the past a similar contact has always been followed by a similar pain 
This analysis involves both reduction and rejection.  What we actually do experience, when we say that we know causality, is reduced in the above manner to sequence and expectation.  But if anyone clings to the belief that there is something more to causality, such as a "necessary force" or "power" whereby a cause inevitably "produces" its effect, this belief is flatly rejected on the ground that a close scrutiny of experience reveals no such force, and that therefore the quoted terms have no meaning."

I fully acknowledge that there is a strong sentiment to relate game design to the empiricism of the "real world" ~ the effort to do so is all over the internet, not only with relation to RPGs but with dozens of other passions as well.  And I can personally empathize with that sense of "cheating" . . . otherwise, I would not be plotting cities on a map using latitude and longitude as a guide.  I like that the placement of things on my maps, or in my trade system, or related to any system I create, reflects the real world.

But we have to face it; no matter how impressive my maps may happen to be, or how extensive my trade system may be, none of it is ever going to get recognition from anyone who is "empirically respected" in the real world.  I really don't have to worry about cheating anyone.  Reality has as much to do with game design as "necessary force" has to do with empiricism.  Reality is a bugbear.

My maps are useless empirically.  My trade system has no relation whatsoever to the actual movement of goods and services.  If I make an adjustment anywhere in that system, no one suffers.  Hell, for the most part, the player can't begin to imagine the processes that lead to a given substance having a given price . . . so I can't even take pleasure that the small audience I have will understand what I'm doing.  Empirically, I'm a total failure.  I have to be.  Nothing about what I'm doing can actually be applied to anything except to what I'm doing.

It makes a game.  That is all.  And I have to keep my focus on that truth continually, or it won't even accomplish that much.  That is the mistake that many would-be game designers keep making.  The sense that they're "cheating" someone ensures that they are also cheating themselves and their players.

We have to keep focused on what we're actually doing.  We're not writing a thesis on the practical use of weapons and their comparison; we're not building a model that will prove the superiority of one weapon over another.  We're not providing a framework that will enable a medieval simulationist to run a Tudor farm for five months . . . hell, if we were, we better get the hell out of numbers and graphs and go buy a damn farm in England.  Monopoly is not an accurate representation of real estate metrics in Atlantic City, New Jersey, during the 1920s.  Chess is not an accurate representation of political and religious influence in war during the Persian/Sassanian era of the 6th and 7th centuries.  Game design is not, not I say, an academic pursuit.

And to this, let me add that I've been at this game design thing a long, long fucking time.  I can afford to get a little interested in a reflection of accuracy (at best, a semblance, nothing better!) because I've smashed dozens of would-be systems in the past, all of them because they sucked as game systems.  I have my eye firmly on the principal importance of everything that I make: that a player can understand it, a player can use it and a player can feel the importance of its use.  When something doesn't work, I don't hesitate to smash it, no matter how much work went into it . . . because that's how design works.

We go back and back and back to the drawing board.  And we remember that games are about variables and constraints, decisions and payoffs.  It is not about proving or demonstrating that a pole-axe is a better weapon than a battle axe.  We want to get close to reality, but in the long run, reality is the first head on the chopping block.  It has to be.

Let me explain it another way.  Those designers who have put together massively detailed and complicated games, researched extensively and exhaustively, did not start with those games.  They started with tools like playing cards and game boards; they learned game theory first, they got good at it, and then they went on to try new and different things.  They had critics, they had powerful voices ready to correct them when they were wrong, they had a passion that needed servicing and they had the wherewithal to go back to that drawing board a hundred times if need be.  THEN, after all that, they decided to start researching a game they felt like creating.

I could add that they didn't spend half their lives reinventing the wheel.  More to the point, they learned their business first, then dared to subvert it.  Try to keep that in mind as you apply yourself to your business.