Saturday, July 9, 2011

Fishmonger's Shop

Let me begin this one by first pointing out that the market in question is two hundred miles from the nearest sea, and further than that from the fish sources of the Baltic, the North Sea and the Atlantic.  So naturally fish prices are bound to be high.  Even at that, herring is cheap, as is the freshwater trout.

Of course someone is going to leap in and shout that walruses and narwhal are even farther away, so why are these things not even more expensive?  I shall tell you honestly ... I am really not certain.  One of the things I try not to do is to fuck around with the numbers the system generates.  I input the data; I apply a consistent formula to the data and that gives me the cost per ounce.  In this case, the data is world production & the number of references I have to that material.  I don't decide the data.  Now and then, I'll admit, the system does seem to spit out some odd numbers, but since the system WORKS, I accept that whatever the cost is, that is the cost.  I have pointed out to the gentle reader in the past that the numbers may not suit the reader's world.  I continue to stand on that argument.  One thing I'm not going to do is to change a massive, complex system for the sake of someone out there who thinks the number for a particular item is a little high.  That would be ridiculous.

In this case, I would guess it is because the ivory described above is raw and unworked.  Compare it to the cost of the carved walrus tusk on the Carver's table.  Since most of us have rarely had the opportunity to buy "sea ivory" straight off the boat, our perceptions of how much it is worth are probably worthless.

A bigger issue, no doubt, is the subject of ice on the list.  This came to me only this morning, while researching fishmongers to figure something new that could be added to the table.  The manufacture of ice is really only the rational application of heat in order to create a depressure system that will freeze water.  It isn't nearly as complicated as Doc Brown's machine.  The reader can see a description of the first ice-making machine on this youtube video here, starting at 4:11 into the file.  (By the way, I strongly suggest you watch the whole episode, and then the whole series, and after that you dig up "The Day The Universe Changed" ... but that's just my opinion).

Of course, the ice machine depicted above was invented in the 19th century, but that's a mere bagatelle.  Arguably, with the research for magic, etcetera, etcetera.  Zzarchov at this point will feel the need to remind me that magic doesn't work like science, and that in fact ice isn't 'created' by magic, it is invoked or teleported or some such from the Plane of Ice, and so on - my respect sir - and I probably don't have him spot down there, since I never know exactly what his argument is going to be for anything I might propose upon the scientific line.

Yesterday Zzarchov wrote the following list of things he tries to run: "... heavy things fall faster, there are only 4 elements, glass repels electricity (lightning) and witches often do weigh the same as waterfowl."

Once again, with all due respect to my creative counterpart, I really honestly hate this kind of D&D.  I feel I must explain why.  It is because I have no idea how the world works.  I don't know as a player what incorrect myths Zzarchov has chosen to incorporate into the campaign and which incorrect myths he has not ... and so I am bound by his ad hoc decisions which are and which are not so.  And therefore every time I concoct a plan, I cannot rely upon what I know about the world, I must rely upon Zzarchov's judgment.  I can't say strongly enough how much I despise that.

Zzarchov will no doubt deny that this is so, but since I can demonstrate in the real world that Aristotle is wrong in about two seconds (the end of this video and the beginning of this one), I am wondering why this theory of Aristotle (things falling at different rates) is accepted as 'truth' but not that one (things floating that shouldn't).  And since I have never encountered a DM who conveniently provides a 100% complete list of what's true and what isn't, and since every DM I've ever met who ran a world with these concepts made shit up on the fly whenever it was convenient to restrain my character from doing something, I must rely upon my experience (and not upon Aristotle's say-so) when I say that a world run this way is run to stop me from taking unforseen actions.

So I prefer to have my ice made in a scientific manner, so that my players can recognize how it comes into existence and, if they wish, extrapolate from the ice machine into anything else of their choosing ... it and the world around it running according to scientific laws - albeit the appearance of anachronistic technology for the medieval age.  Magic can produce ice too ... and I see no reason why the magician can't sell ice to the fishmonger also.  For my purposes the machine has the benefit of pegging the price.

The question should be, how much does an ice machine cost?


Anthony said...

"I say that a world run this way is run to stop me from taking unforseen actions."

It is all fiat in the end, despite your best intentions.

How many people intrinsically know that objects fall at the same speed despite differences in mass? I've played with a number of high school drop outs who don't. Sure, I can pretty objectively prove the science behind it, but are we going to get into an argument and have a Wiki or Google battle over it? It's still fiat in someone's eye.

Or maybe I have a degree in engineering and know that period lamp oil isn't flammable at room temperature and understand the actual mechanics of how to utilize oil in an incendiary weapon. How many other people know this? Back to Google and Wiki again? More fiat in someone's eye?

I say strive to follow the actual physics as best as you can. Yet, in the end, it is still fiat either in reality or perspective. Holding the objective high ground just makes you look foolish.

Alexis said...

I understand the egalitarian point you're making Anthony. Thing is, every young child quickly learns the difference between a parent saying something can't be done for such and such a reason -

... and something that can't be done "because."

Anthony said...

Ok, let me provide a concrete example.

You say there are no firearms in Alexis's world. For a game set in 1650, it now looks like you are just 'making up shit', to me at least.

Firearms were a major component of social development. I'm sure you can see where this is going before I even get to the next sentence, so I'll just do the tl;dr version. Firearms and their dominance of warfare means it is easier to quickly raise armies with less training as compared to earlier periods. Professional armies begin to decline, conscript armies begin to rise. This whole thread runs right through the development of nationalism, etc etc.

So now your world doesn't match my conception of what 1650 should be on a much larger scale than just "I want to play a guy with a rapier and pistol."

So in the end, this clashes with what I know and expect from a game world that is Earth 1650 + D&D. I'm sure there are many more examples of this out there if I were at your table.

Granted, it's is better than randomly saying heavier objects fall faster than lighter ones. But it is the same problem and is just a matter of degree.

Alexis said...

Anthony, you have a tendency to ignore arguments when you feel they don't need acknowledgement. I have answered the firearms question under the Apothecaries' shop.

But I think it will not mean anything to you.

I cannot understand why you read this blog if so little of it gives you satisfaction.

Zzarchov said...

I read that again and it seemed to have higher levels of snark when I read it out loud than in my head. I do not intend for there to be any such derision.

Merely an explanation for why I run things that way. While everything I typed I stand by I realize I may have been going on the wrong tack. This seems to be more important upon second read of your post.

"And since I have never encountered a DM who conveniently provides a 100% complete list of what's true and what isn't"

I always either provide that list, or defer to the players had I not mentioned something and they base a plan around a contradictory fact. While in some ways this is handing control to the players, in my mind its accepting responsibility for my faults as a GM and improving upon it.

This is for both big and small things. If I forgot to mention to someone that heavier things fall faster (and they assume they don't), should it ever matter between the two options then standard real world physics are correct. This is for both large and small facts. If a player enters a room and asks for a detailed description and I don't mention the big chandelier I view the player as well within his rights to bitch if I have his opponent swing from it. I guess the chandelier must have been taken down for repair and I scratch them out of my GM notes.

Thus making "shit up on the fly whenever it was convenient to restrain [your] character" is not something I would ever inflict on someone. I find it lazy and dodging responsibility as a GM. If glass repels electricity the time to mention it is before the player uses his last lightning bolt on an enemy behind a window, causing it to bounce back and kill himself.

Alexis said...

Thank you Zzarchov. I apologize for my own snarkiness. It is reassuring to hear your philosophy on the matter and to find that it is not a straightjacket perpetrated upon the players. It is a shame that my experience has led me to false conclusions.

Anthony said...

I didn't read the comment section of the post you referred and didn't see your comment. Reading it now, it doesn't have much to do with my comment above. So I guess you are right, it doesn't mean much to me.

Hey, I'm only trying to engage in conversation and fulfill your call for criticism.

You have a tendency to wither under it though.

Anthony said...

My only other thought is that we are incapable of communication, because it seems (on my end at least) that we are often on totally different wavelengths and I feel the point of our comments are often lost on each other.

Alexis said...

My tendency to 'wither' is an effort to not engage with someone who hasn't made an argument, but who seems bent on nitpicking details. This is what I have seen you do for months, Anthony. Nitpick. Here and elsewhere.

I don't feel "we are on totally different wavelengths." I feel that I carefully prepare detail and hard work, which I then present on my blog, and that you feel a personal need to find fault with 1% of it because it doesn't fit your personal framework.

Did I lose you?

Butch said...

Back to fish (for a moment)...

I believe almost all fish, especially fish sold 200 miles from the nearest sea, would be dried and salted. Check out Mark Kurlansky's "Salt: A World History"... an interesting tour through European history through the prism of the making and trading of "the only rock we eat."

Alexis said...

Yes Butch, I know.

Let me think if there's any way that fresh fish could be transported inland in a D&D campaign, particularly in winter when three quarters of Europe is covered in ice and snow. Wait ... wait, I know I have an answer -

Nope, lost it.