Stretching my mind over the weekend on things of my own choosing felt good, very good. Yesterday in particular I was a font of creativity, which I applied mostly to my long-ignored trade tables.
It has to be understood that given more than 1,400 items, all of which are calculated according to their materials and workmanship, its a long-term plan to upgrade the table even a little bit. Last weekend, while making up my mind to post everything about Conflict on the blog, I began with fixing the wood-price calculation section of the table ... and that has tripped massive reworking all over the place. So for the next month - while I have some vacation time and three separate long weekends (ah, July!) - this is what I'll be doing.
The reason for the changes to wood calculations came about because the party took half a session - their choice - to begin building up the infrastructure of their lands in eastern Transylvania. The date turned to January, 1653, and I had explained they had more than 2,000 g.p. taxes coming (the fief has 1,400 residents, and the income is based upon the gross GDP of not just the peasants, but the wealthier citizenry as well). That caused them to creak open their own pockets, and to start spending the tens of thousands of gold they've been accumulating over years of adventuring. To put it in hard currency terms, they did not balk at the 16,000 g.p. price tag I put on a 3-story half-timbered merchant house, 2,520 square feet not including the cellar. It would have been cheaper if they had bought one already built in town, but they wanted it in their fief, which meant a complete design from scratch. Like in Traveller, this tends to increase the price.
Trying to work out some personal features in the cost of certain elements in housing and other property developments pushed me to streamlining my wood calculations, which I am happy to say that I've done now. I do not know what people do where it comes to ordinary D&D ... I suppose most players in most worlds are not all that particular about the personal circumstances of their character's houses. It does not matter to them that there's a gable on the third floor, or how large the windows are, or that it is made of granite and not limestone ... or even that the timbers in the mess hall are cedar and not oak.
I was talking this over yesterday with my wife and she admitted that she finds it hard to picture the various elements of her fiefdom, or the central courtyard and gatehouse that serve as the fief's Manor. I can appreciate that. I am creative as a matter of course, and for me cobblestone roads and the trees being dead and barren at the time of my world right now are ordinary things I always have in mind. I don't have trouble at all imagining her fiefdom. I see the mountains in the distance to the east, the frozen stream and the dusting of snow on the wild hay that has grown along its banks, the stubble fields stretching towards the open forest in the south and the hills that form a ridge that swings from the Manor towards the west and then north.
What is needed for people without my imagination is a kind of Sims format for D&D. I don't have any talent in this direction, but it amazes me that in ten years no one has simply sat down and programmed the thing into existence. After all, the actual people are not needed. What is needed would be the design features allowing the DM or the players to work out exactly how a given space should look. Not a top-down, sterile concept, but something in perspective that would give a tactile, visual sense of the surroundings.
A tool like that would be immeasurably useful ... if it was as simple and direct to use as the Sims design system is. And maybe I don't know for how much I'm asking. It would still be convenient to quickly build up a setting for a particular evening, or a series of settings, which I could show visually to the players, right down to the light sources on the walls. And it would be convenient to the players, who were not blessed with draftsman skills, to design their house or their castle three dimensionally and present it to me for pricing.
I can't ask for said design scheme to fit my pricing system, and therefore calculate prices out automatically like the Sims does. That would be very useful to other people, I think, but my prices change from town to town and - inconveniently - with every overhaul of the trade system, like the one I'm doing now. Still, to be able to count the number of lights, chairs, fireplaces, doors, beds - and of course defensive fortification additions - and so on would be just fucking A.
Seems to me this should have been done ten years ago. Seems to me that the real advances in D&D are there to be made, but the community is wasting its time with one more rewrite of a module printed in 1981.
I wonder if the game is ever going to climb out of the Dark Ages.