Thursday, October 13, 2011

Enough With The RPG Crap

Last night I somewhat lost it upon a comment made which included a link to a 3rd edition set of tables about the weather.  I retracted the comment after it had been up for about ten minutes, realizing that I had over-reacted.  It's only that what with the intensity with which I approach problem solving on this blog, I see it as downright insulting when some flimsy, little thought out solution is proposed.  I have written about this recently, both here and here - hell, one of those posts is only five weeks old ... but even consistent readers of this blog don't seem to get it.

When I ask for something 'simple,' I can see the gentle reader doesn't understand.  I want systems that work like pistols.  You pick the pistol up.  You point the pistol.  You press your finger against the trigger.  And a huge amount of energy is released, resulting in the desired effect.

There is nothing at all 'simple' about a pistol.  There are quite a number of details which come together in order to cause the effect with as much accuracy, as much effect - and as much safety for the user - as possible.  Pistols are, if you will excuse the term, extremely granular in their make-up.  To you or I, using a pistol is a matter of getting used to the pull and improving our aim.  To a gunsmith, it is much, much more.

What I find constantly proposed to me are ideas which are supposed to go BANG! but which in fact are a total failure at hitting the mark.  If I roll a table that says 'rain' and I say 'rain' to the players, and they have heard me say 'rain' fifteen times in just this running, the table is, to wit, a piece of crap.  If the table requires that I 'make up shit' in order to make the table appear really impressive, then the TABLE is a piece of crap.  I may be a marvelous creator, but I don't want a table that depends upon me being a marvelous creator.  I have a fuck of a lot of things to create to make a running happen, and it would be nice if some of the load could be taken on by a table that fucking works.

And this is what pisses me off about the later editions altogether.  Not because I'm a big edition guy - fuck, I change everything about the game!  It's barely AD&D anymore.  I obviously have no troubles with alterations to the original game.  You just won't catch me claiming any 'Old School' status ... all that's a lot of bullshit anyway.  No, really, I don't care about the fact of revamping, redesigning or reimagining the game of D&D.  I do it every damn day.  What I care about is that the revamp and the redesign was done by IDIOTS.  It is still being done by IDIOTS.  Idiots who think 'simple' means the pistol is two pieces of metal that are tied together with string and have a kind of L-shape.  They are missing the fucking point.  They are always missing the fucking point.  And people who wave these tables at me, thinking this is as good as it gets?  IDIOTS.

I am not looking for half measures.  I am not looking for pistols that sometimes work, or have some effect as clubs when they don't work, or which require I dance around and shout "I hit it! I hit it!" when nothing in fact actaully left the barrel of the gun.  In general, if you are the sort of IDIOT who thinks sending me some dumbfuck link to someone's dumbfuck half-measured jerk-assed effort at the subject is helpful, please, oh please get your head out of your ass.

When I want to make a table about the weather, I do NOT start with other people's tables from RPG.  Some of you IDIOTS may not know it, but in actual fact meterology is a science, and has had quite a terrific amount of effort gone into it to produce some rather elaborate descriptions of a wide variety of observable phenomena.  Meteorologists, it may amaze some of you to know, are actually aware that not all Rain is simply Rain.  They are in fact busy defining the multiple characteristics of rain, and more to the point they've gone to the bother of writing all that shit down.  Obviously, we can't expect paid employees of a game development company to bother reading about all those observations and characteristics, but since I'm not being paid I actually CAN.  And I DO.  As much as possible.  And when I read that there's some other complex, weird, unexpected detail in all that material, I don't go, "Well, that's just too complicated, I better just skip that" ... oh no!  No, what I think is, "That's fucking cool, how do I work that in?"

But I am alone in this.  Utterly, completely alone.  That is more than clear.  But I don't care.  Because this is the future of this hobby ... not your kindergarten tables and your L-shaped pieces of metal you point at each other shouting BANG BANG to compensate for the pieces of metal not actually doing anything.  Obviously, I don't expect the IDIOTS to get on board with this, but ...

If the rest of you people who most of the time have brains could just use them a tiny fraction more, and STOP sending me crap from the RPG universe, I would be a whole lot less annoyed.


Eric said...

I *thought* your complaint boiled down to "insufficiently granular."

"If I roll a table that says 'rain'" Hey, I did expressly say to disregard that stupid random weather table.

You've got a hard task: it's one thing to model and provide effects for the actual climate and weather conditions. However, to do this RIGHT, you need to also model the microclimate for each character between their clothes and their skin- that's the temperature and humidity they're actually dealing with. Exert yourself and you warm up, but then you sweat and it goes back down but your humidity goes up. If you don't take your hat off when resting after hiking in the snow, you can sweat enough to soak through some of your clothes, reducing their effectiveness.

Food matters too- a big slug of cold water or a popsicle is immensely restorative when overheated. If you haven't eaten in a day or two, you won't have the energy to move fast enough to stay warm sometimes.

Really, the hard problem here is physiological not meteorological.

(Reminds me of playing Battletech- your heat track is going to go up fast fighting hard in full plate in the sun....)

Alexis said...

That's a better argument, but I'm not sure it's a priority. While yes, these things you point out as issues are worth managing, at present the real task is defining more aspects to the weather than that it's 'hot' or 'cold.' As Tom pointed out yesterday - something I had already given consideration to - the Caliph's daughter is going to do better with the heat than Erinson. And in either case, how much heat is 'heat'? 21 degrees? 22? Shouldn't it not be a sharp dividing line?

I never got into Battletech, but a heat track is a good idea. And maybe some day I'll implement it. When I have a more exact idea of where the starting point is for 'heat.'

Something I've tried to do a dozen times is to establish fixed effects for the temperature range from -70 to +140 (the full range of Earth's climate). All attempts ultimately failed due to their own weight. The pistol was complicated enough, only it required three men and a mule to pull the trigger. It's an accounting issue - nothing wrong with the system itself, it just takes too long in the game to account for it day by day.

Some kind of controlled computer simulation might help manage that ...

But I digress. In any case, it isn't just temperature. It's what happens to the surface of things when a drizzle produces rime. It's making a system to give reliable, but fluctuating wind speeds (something unbelievably hard) that mesh with the other climate factors. It's managing all the factors together to produce a good game.

Eric said...


Rime and freezing rain and ice storms in particular will take even more temperature modeling- they're "edge cases" right around freezing (and unpleasant, possibly dangerous, and great for gaming.)

You'll definitely need a computer to manage a weather system of the detail you want.

Can characters buy this piece of fancy new technology?

Once you get this done, you'll be able to run some FANTASTIC waterborne adventures....

JDJarvis said...

Maybe the problem is disassociation with the weather. Modern westerners live in comfort compared to people of other ages (and places). Our homes are heated and cooled as are our vehicles, most of us work and in equally comfortable environments.

How do you explain to someone what it's like to sit huddled around a tiny fire on a snowy mountainside, smudging your food more than cooking it, listening to the wind miles away drawing closer knowing it's going to go from bitterly cold to painful in a few moments?

Someone has to be able to understand that and describe it to someone else to make it fit and be meaningful in an RPG session.

Sharon Kerr-Bullian said...

I understand your point on this one. I get lambasted by my husband all the time for working the details to death. I don't choose to throw as much time at the problem as you do, I'd rather get on with playing, in most cases, but there are a few pet projects I'm working on that are a lot of fun for me.

Ultimately my tables won't be quite as critical to the player. Unless the players are as horse crazy as me, they really won't care that their horse is homozygous for dun and cream and will always have a dun and cream dilute baby (unless they find out that a region might pay high prices for this color because it's rare). They likewise won't care that their horse is a carrier of overo and shouldn't be bred to other overos unless they want a dead foal 25 or 50% of the time (which can cause problems if you agree to put your horse up to stud. People don't like getting dead foals, and will want either a refund, or free re-breeding of their mare). They might care that their horse is over at the knee, which makes him prone to stumbling, and downhill to boot, meaning he's too heavy on his forehand to jump effectively, and even more likely to break a front leg in a gallop. They might not care, but I care very much for these details, because I'm passionate about the subject.

Your passion for statistics is absolutely staggering. The necessary complexity to represent reality in your tables is more than a little awe-inspiring for me. I'm not a patient person at all, and I really love that you're sharing a lot of your tables, because I love high levels of reality in my gaming. I may not use your tables exactly, but they certainly provide a more than adequate jumping off point to try develop something similar, but on a different subject.

scottsz said...

Below are some links which might help. The idea is simple: use all the existing and currently running forecast data maps running across our Earth as your data base.

If you can correlate certain areas of your world to certain cities/regions of Earth, then you can let scientific entities like the National Weather Service do the crunching of data. You just establish how 'real time' you want Earth and your world to be in synchronization. Your world will always lag behind such notetaking, but this is useful: You'll have notes on what the weather will be in your game world, making predictive spells or instincts more robust in game.

In terms of time spent, your best research will be finding the closest correspondences in the globe to areas of your game world and just... watch the weather forecasts for the raw data. Using the real stuff will get you temperature, pressure, cloud cover, etc.
Prognostic Chart
Climate Prediction Center
Weather Models

Alexis said...


Others may not appreciate that sort of thing, but I seriously thought that whole paragraph about horses was really, really cool!

I am intimately connected to someone who trains horses for a living, and she would also think it was fantastic.

Kenwolf said...

i think you might have your work cut out for you in bringing the effects of weather into your game as detailed as you would like it to be. once you start getting very specific about how the weather is affecting people, then you also will have to figure out how it is gonna be affecting all their belongings also.

from the short time that i have been following your blog i see that your not one to half ass things at all. you ether try to do it right or not at all.

i will agree with you that i think you are alone in this kind of detail and how you do your game. i have never read anyone that gets into the detail that you do.

do you ever think that you might at some point make your game too complex ? from what i read it sounds like your game is very complex, does it play as complex as it sounds in your blog posts ?

i do disagree with you tho in how you think the future of the game is going. i think it is how you think the game should go. i don't see a lot of people that agree with you on that direction tho.

Alexis said...


Maybe you haven't seen my online campaign ... doesn't move with complexity at all, just moves. Gun analogy, remember?

Problem with people like you, Kenwolf, is you think that 'majority' means jack shit in designing anything.

The game is going this way because I, and people like me, are going to drag all you simpletons with us.

And you won't even know.

Kenwolf said...

no i haven't read your online campaign i will have to take a look at it.

i am interested in the other people that think like you tho in how they think the game is going your way. do they have a blog or web page or anything that i could read their thoughts ? i don't know of any other person that shares your vision. could you point me in the right direction ?

Problem with people like you, Kenwolf, is you think that 'majority' means jack shit in designing anything.

i never said that. in all the places i post i have never said that. i said i didn't agree with the way you think the game is headed.