Friday, September 28, 2012


Yesterday I received word that my mother passed away at 12:30 in the afternoon in Calgary, after a long decline.  I had just seen her the night before, and she had not known I was there.

I know that some of you will wish to give condolences, but rest assured that I am tough, I am old, and that at last my mother is at peace.

This has been a long time coming, and know that I am at ease with myself and ready to move onto the next thing.  There is nothing to be done that is not being done, and such is the process of life.  We face this from time to time, and we are best if we do it with chin up.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Newness Of Google. All Praise Google.

It's marvelously funny that most of the time, when someone on the internet is accused of listening to only their own echoes, they answer most emphatically, "NO!  I meet lots of NEW people!  I have heard lots of NEW ideas!"

Yet where are the links?  Where are the examples?

Of late, the new fad is google+ - which google has been selling hard these last months, and towards which I am expected to run like a moth to a flame.  I am expected to rouse myself from this boring blog format and learn a NEW format, where I will meet marvelously NEW people and find marvelously NEW tools at my disposal.  The pitch is strong, it is pervasive and it is everywhere ... and so naturally there are a great many formerly bored people who have rushed into its arms with the commitment of a newlywed lover.  It is everything they could have wanted, and more.  On google+, there are discussions about D&D - for instance - that have simply never been able to exist on the web before!  Rich, exciting discussions that you are missing right now!  Rush, rush, rush to hear all the things you could never learn from bulletin boards and blogs, because google+ is THE SOLUTION to trolls and poor thought processes and boring old rehashed D&D.  My, what a wonderful world it is.

I am, unfortunately, a jaded old bastard ... and I am too lazy to crawl out of my slow-wittedness to let myself be manipulated by google's marketing department.  I just feel, somehow, that my efforts are better applied to the rather mundane habit of putting words in an order that conveys an idea, to be read by people prepared to puzzle the ideas out.

Don't get me wrong.  I like having a nice stage upon which to present the play.  I would much rather have the scope and width of a city theatre than an acre of grass at the local park - not that grass won't suffice to have the protagonist down the antagonist once again.  Blogger makes a nice stage.  It is a nice performance venue ... but the writing is the writing, regardless of where the writing is written.  Google+ only offers me another stage to write - it cannot write the words for me.  My part remains the same.

Oh, I might more easily banish others with google+'s wonderful tools for banishment.  So far, however, I haven't needed a tool to do that.  I have a mouse.  I have a finger with the power to click that mouse.  I have a will.  I "ignore" by habit.  It isn't something I need automated.  I don't doubt that some people need that sort of thing farmed out and managed outside themselves ... just as some people need lists of friends on a computer to be reminded of who they are.

We are quite the species; when we cannot master ourselves, and our needs, we develop tools to master those needs for us.  I think I should write a sci fi novel about a 40-year-old fellow who is the slave of his former, 30-year-old self, who dictated ten years ago who the older fellow's friends would always be, and who decided the sources to which the older fellow would listen.  Our elder hero is a sad, closed little man, diligently returning to those approved sites and friends that his younger "big brother" determined would be appropriate for him ... and though the younger fellow is long gone, never to be seen again, the enslavement is total and irrevocable.

That is how it is.  Comes a day when you DECIDE, "This is what I shall believe, and this is what all incarnations of me that shall come hereafter shall believe ... and so shall it be judged, and so shall it be written, from now until eternity, praise google+ and all the institutions of man that do aid me in knowing myself, now that I am certain who I am."

And so it was written, and so did the human embrace the bell jar that would suffocate him unto death.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Blogging Experience

For James and all those who cannot blog any more:

Monday, September 24, 2012

The Majesty of France

Tragedy tomorrow, content tonight.

As I have done before, when completing one of the map areas of my world, I love to finally post it.  This one is created sans roads ... roads are complicated and must be calculated after the map is created, as the shape of the map determines the travel times between market cities.  I will be working on this map over the next week, adding the market cities (only a couple are shown below) and then ultimately the roads after that.  Travel times, for those who don't know, are adjusted if the next hex is higher or lower in altitude, so that two hexes through the mountains are always farther than two hexes on flat land.

While the maps are helpful the campaign, ultimately the purpose of the maps was to establish a single baseline for mastering my economic system.  While Google Earth does give me a map of everywhere, it is a pain in the ass to measure distances on it, not being very friendly, and unfortunately there are no Google Earth maps from the year 1650.  Having my own maps means I can create my own roads, based on the shortest distance between two trading centres, or the least number of hexes/least amount of elevation change.  Working on something like Google Earth means having those routes defined by modern highways, which did not exist and in many cases could not exist even as tracks in 1650.

Thus, my consistent map system, reliably designed for one consistent trade system.

I really appreciate how nicely this shows the Central Massif, that patch of brown in the lower centre of the map, extending to the northeast in a series of hilly mountains.  At a later point I will add labels for those ... but this is a tremendous amount of detail for one person, and even to get the map to this stage pleases me.  There was a huge headache that I experienced when my old maps were frozen out by a computer that went awry, and thus these are designed in a new program with a new colorscheme.  Translating the old maps to the new is a very slow business, one that can take a long time to get the specific details just so.  There are more than 700 cities, towns and villages in France alone ... which makes this map only about 7 times more difficult to upgrade that some simple piece of crap like Greyhawk.  It's a pretty good, clear picture from the image, which surprises me.  Blogger must be taking steps to improve itself.

Let me know what you think, or I'm warning you, I'll have to squawk again about inattention from the internet to get comments.

(content raregly gets comments.  anyone noticed that?)

Anyway, just thinking about it, this is a long way forward from when I was working on Switzerland three years ago ... you can see Switzerland in the center right side of the page ... which can be compared with this set of maps here.  The reader can also compare with the earlier version of France back in February, which I posted here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

If There Was Ever A Stupid Idea...

It is nice to have laurels to rest upon.

I launched the idea of running an online campaign on a blog on February 18, 2009, just nine months after starting this blog in the first place, with the post, Stupid Ideas of Mine.  I did start such a campaign, at first on this blog, and then on a blog of its own - which has been more practical.  The first campaign limped along, and was joined by a second, then a third campaign ... these last two not having the necessary legs.  So it goes.

After the first campaign sputtered out, there was a long period in which I did not run online.  However, back in September 2011, I decided I would pick it up again.  Throughout that month, I gathered four new players, and together we started the new campaign on September 23.  It has been ongoing continuously for one year (less two days).

During that time we have had massive fights, played with complex magic, explored ruined ships, had an outdoor campaign, had an underground campaign, fought in a war and had brief dalliances with potential love.  It has been everything an ordinary campaign might be ... and despite the method, I think I've proved now that I can do EVERY kind of running with just text alone.  The players have proved that it is worth it to them to struggle and try to succeed, and get along as best they can.

It is strange to me that what makes credibility online with the community is not how well you can play, but how NICE you are.  That there is the fundamental flaw in the community itself - and for those long time players who can look back at the years between the 70s and now, it has ALWAYS been the flaw.  If you've been part of groups founded on campuses, inside gaming stores or at community centres, the one measure of the DM that simply does not rate mention is ability to play.  The jackass with the key to the gaming room is often a major representative ... the DM whose mother organizes the convention is another.  And lest we forget the player who's day job provides enough money to buy all the figures, all the table time and especially the booth where in convention after convention he or she sits and signs autographs.

Can he or she play?  Who the fuck knows.  Does it matter?  Clearly not.  You don't need to know jack shit about playing in order to design packaged content for gaming companies ... that much is obvious.  What you need is a connection, a completely bland personality and the ability to be NICE for year after year as you spout absolutely the same drivel over, and over, and over again.  You need to be able to write pandering, useless articles for the dragon magazine online with a marvelous plastic smile plastered Romney-like over your features.  You need to beam widely at paying audiences while you take money from the conventioneers because 90 years ago you scrawled something on graph-paper while you and the Great G burped Dr. Pepper together.  It is how well you genuflect, how miraculously devoid of substance are the panegyrics you write, how fantabulously sexy and immaterial are your Los Angeles connections, and how long you can keep this going without your nightly self-esteem-induced vomiting overwhelming you.  So long as you are likeable, for the Love Of The Game, no one will ask you whether you can play the fucking thing or not.

There was a stupid idea at the core of my question three years ago, but it wasn't whether or not it was possible, or fun, to run an online campaign with a blog.  It has been, it will continue to be, I see us going forward and I know that after a year the players are beginning to TRUST that the effort they make today will have a chance to materialize.  No, the stupid idea I had three and a half years ago was that it would buy me some sort of credibility; that readers might see that, despite my volatile and oh so acerbic bitterness, there was REAL substance behind the vitriol.  I deluded myself in thinking that with solid evidence that I could construct a campaign, design a complex world that had continuity, advance the characters through that world in a pure sandbox style, and carry it on for a long time, would wake people the fuck up and realize that I'm only acerbic when I am opposing the mind set that makes that value set impossible.

People would rather read nice people.

Even if the nice people are deadly dull.

Laws, chillins, write what you want, but there's no place in the world for bloggers who use words like 'bastard' ... no, chillins, no!  That's why we burned that miserable, self-absorbed film Ratatouille that depicted a child born out of wedlock, yes'm, yes'm!  Only use GOOD words, chillins ... else you're soul will never walk with Jesus!

Not that I think, for one second, that D&D is the only past-time to which this kind of ignorance applies.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Design Makes It Go

People read into things what they want to see.

The linked post was written more than a week ago, but I didn't stumble across it until last night.  Effectively, the fellow uses my blog - and me - as a foil for his own proclivities ... and frankly I don't mind.  That's how opinions are MEANT to be compared - mine to his, his to mine, his view on the game versus my view on the game.  Good for him.

I'm not represented accurately; I have no barnyard animal birthing tables, for instance.  But Andrej, aka James C., defends me on that count.  I think if there's anything I take umbrage at, its that the author deliberately avoids linking this blog while disparaging it.  Still, since he's disparaging things I wrote, in some cases, years ago, I take comfort in knowing I've had a long, nagging effect towards the back of his brain.

What is particular humorous is that I also received an email last night from a subscriber to my collection of pedantic campaign tools - and this I read mere minutes before reading Spawn of Endra's post.  Gary writes,

"I've used your Macroeconomics information to inform the setup of a 1st Edition game I've been running when time permits. I hadn't thought the players would notice much, which is all right with me; the players have their game and I have mine.

"I was surprised when the subject came up in another game I was playing in with one of my players: a question was asked of the DM regarding the value of giant eel meat, and how lucrative an ongoing trade for it and similar goods would be. The DM thinks about it and gives an off-the-cuff response (along with a die roll) for the value, and says he hadn't considered trade but would put some effort into it if we (the players) were interested. My player then says to the group that she can always tell when I am not running the game: there is no information for impromptu trade ventures at hand!

"I was not prepared for that, but it was very cool to discover that at least one of my players was cognizant of the work I'd put into setting up my game.  Her tone and the context of her ongoing conversation with the DM and other players indicated that she and my other players really appreciated the fact that I could pull that information out at a moment's notice, and they could make a decision as to whether they wanted to pursue the subject further."

As such, I cannot help taking Spawn's position for what it is - a resistance against possibility.  That's all.  I say on this blog, work hard on your world, design, design, design.  If you design, the rewards will make themselves evident.

Any call to work - whether it is physical or mental labor - will encounter RESISTANCE.  That's what work is, really ... overcoming constraints.  Spawn is fighting this battle out in his own head; there'd be no need to write about how wrong I am except that I'm not wrong.  I'm annoying and acerbic and intolerable but I'm not wrong.  I do not constantly redesign my game because I love design.  I redesign my game so that I will have the tools to RUN my game.  The more tools I have, the easier it is to run.  Note that:  Not HARDER, easier.  Designing and constructing a steam engine is hard, dirty, difficult work.  But once it's built, it makes everything run a hundred times smoother, a hundred times faster, a hundred times more productively.

Arguing that we already have a loom, and that its stupid to take the time to build a machine to run that loom when my own two hands do it ... well, that's a long held sentiment.  Not long held by anyone actually moving forward, but ... yes, long held.

I am sorry I am so acerbic.  Doubtlessly, I could be a kinder, more considerate, more sympathetic soul, with richer, sweeter words on the tips of my fingers.  Unfortunately, I am all boom and hiss, all grease and fire and boiling steam.  I'm a black factory of smoke and blaze and bloodied fingers, cut and shredded on rough, bloodless machinery.  I am the future, and I don't give a good goddamn for anyone who wants to stand in my way.

If you do, get ready to be run down.

Monday, September 17, 2012


I agree, there has been a lot of personal content on this blog.  I don't see that as exactly wrong, but I'm sure it drives a set number of readers away.  Then again, when I work to put content on this blog, and shake up the world with looking at the game of D&D a new way, the readership does not spectacularly change.  In fact, it falls off a bit.

I think what people are really looking for in a blog is a way to help them with their campaign.  Specifically, they want adventure ideas they can plug and play with their people come the end of the week.  With regards to this, I have always been selfish.  I don't share campaign ideas - not many - on this blog.  I keep them to myself, so I can run them in my campaign.  If I write my ideas out publically, how can I expect to surprise my players?  If I spend time make up new campaigns just to please the readers, what will I do when I run out?

Still, it's mostly an example of laziness.  History has all the campaign ideas you could ever possibly want; but you have to actually read it, and history - especially at the beginning, when you don't know anything - is boring.  It is. 

China and Japan are rattling sabres at each other just now, and most of the people who chance to hear about it (not in the forefront news yet here in Canada) will think mostly, "now what?"  The general attitude is bound to be that people just can't get along, anywhere, and isn't that just a shame.  Some will hear that the conflict over the Senkaku Islands is one about natural gas, and that will just convince them that states are petty and squabbling greedy children, run by fatcats.

I've heard about six different versions so far of how the islands got into Japanese hands, none of which actually mention the First Sino-Japanese War of 1894-95 ... in which Japan kicked the holy hell out of China using modern weapons.  The war really only ended because there were other states in the Yellow Sea that Japan didn't want to offend (not China) - and after the war, Japan forced a treaty that gave them most everything they could claim that hadn't already been claimed.

D&D Campaign:  the party encounters a countryside which is being plundered by an army using swords against defenders using farm tools.  The defenders are falling back, and appeal to the party to help them escape, preferably paying them a few potables and whatever jewelry that belonged to their mother to have the party simply fight the squad of twenty men hot on the refugees' trail.

The bigger picture with China was that the Japanese conquest was on the tail end of a long period of conquests by several European powers, acts of pure unmitigated bastardly colonialism by Britain, France, America, Russia and others.  This period was the after effects of floodgates that were opened by the First Opium War of 1839-42.  There was a collection of Brits (and others ) selling excessive quantities of opium to Chinese traders, in order to make piles of money they way  Colombian drug lords do.  Britain did not give two shits in a teacup about Chinese authority, and when the Chinese tried to interrupt their trade (with very complicated circumstances involving the complicity of a member of the royal navy), the Brits showed up with ships to open that trade up again.  The event inspired the first "Unequal treaty" imposed on China by Europeans - there would be many more.

D&D Campaign:  the party stumbles across a large city that has fallen under the control of a dozen different invaders who have broken into hundreds of factions, plundering and getting drunk, getting killed by others who again plunder the plunder, and all the while there is streetfighting and a state of scattered chaos.  There are no authorities, but there are things to steal, blocks to occupy, inter-street treaties to be made and blood to be spilled.

D&D Campaign:  the party must slip aboard a ship in harbor and destroy the cargo of intoxicants by any means that are practical, magic or otherwise, in order to assure that the product will never be sold to innocents.

D&D Campaign:  the party finds themselves aboard a perfectly innocent ship that is seized and held illegally by a petty despot claiming to be operating in the best interests of the crown - but if word can be gotten out to the despots superiors, that's to be the end of him!

The Opium Wars themselves had grown out of what was called "the Canton System," implemented in 1757, in order to restrict European traders to one port upon the coast of China, to have access to silks, porcelain and tea - this last a very valuable export.  The trade was controlled by a monopoly of Chinese merchants called the Cohong - and these 13 merchants would be the only ones authorized by the Chinese government to trade with the foreigners.  At this time, international trade had not reached considerable levels, though there was an increase in British and European shipping picking its way along the Chinese coasts.

There had always been Chinese trade with the West, particularly along the Silk Road ... and the new Mandarins at Canton were eager to buy western goods - which they could sell at considerable prices into the heart of China.  Furs and silver were highly prized.  But there was a resistance to foreign goods that undermined Chinese ethnocentrism ... which of course reduced the import of guns and artillery that China would ultimately need to preserve itself.

D&D Campaign:  the party gains access to one particular merchant in this mercantalist arrangement, so that the part becomes themselves intermediaries between outsiders and the buyers of goods.  Knowing this, the party is seized and forced to take assassins to the merchant's house - if the party agrees, the merchant will die.

D&D Campaign:  the party encounters a merchant from the concealed kingdom that is NOT one of the accepted merchants ... and this merchant wants to buy weapons, all the party can provide.  There's a great deal of money to be made - he will pay twice the value of any weapon the party provides; will the party turn all that easy money down?  To tempt them further, offer to have the party meet the lord of the land where the trade will take place, and hear from his own mouth that the party will not be arrested (then DON'T arrest the party once they agree ... let them make a bundle!)

One such city that had existed before the Canton system on the coast of China was Macau, which had been settled by the Portuguese in 1535.  The Portuguese rented the peninsula, paying an annual tribute and importing 5,000 slaves to enable their small number to properly manage the area.  More than 20,000 Chinese would also settle there, so that Macau became East Asia's first peaceful multi-cultural city.

On June 24, 1622, the Dutch would try unsuccessfully to seize Macau.  There had been three raids previously, but this was an all-out assault.  The Dutch had learned that Macau was not well-defended; they moved to seize the city upon gaining this information with a fleet of 8 ships.  Once they had gained Macau they planned to force the Chinese to trade with them.

From Wikipedia:

"On June 8th the fleet sailed into Cam Ranh Bay or firewood and water, where it incorporated four Dutch ships encountered off the coast of Indochina and detached a ship with dispatches for William Janszoon, admiral of the Anglo-Dutch Fleet of Defence blockading Manila. So when the fleet set sail again from Cam Ranh Bay two days later, the fleet was composed of eleven ships. A few days later, the fleet encountered a Siamese war junk carrying 28 Siamese and 20 Japanese people. The Japanese asked to join the Dutch expedition, and their request was granted. The landing force now amounted to about six hundred, with some Japanese, Malays, and Bandanese among the numbers."

Read the rest of the entry here, and ask yourself if you really need me to come up with adventures for you.

Friday, September 14, 2012

My State Right Now

My mother is dying.  I know that is a shock to read, when you expect to see ordinary game notes, but I can tell you from experience about these things that the more often you say it clearly and directly, the closer you come to being able to cope with it.  It helps to remember we all lose our mothers.  Some early, some later, but the plan your mother had from the beginning was that you would out-live her.  Sooner or later you come to the point where you transition from having a mother to remembering that you once had a mother; for me, it has been a long expection of something that was expected to happen years and years ago.

My mother was born in a Regina hospital in Saskatchewan, in June of 1935, while a labor riot was brewing in the empty lot next door.  Some 2,000 protesters had arrived in Regina the day before my mother was born - they had been marching onto Ottawa from Vancouver to protest the government's treatment of the unemployed, and over the next two weeks anger gathered as negotiations panned out.  When my mother was a bit more than two weeks old, on July 1st, police rushed the crowd and hand-to-hand fighting broke out.  I know from my grandparents that my mother was still in the hospital at the time, as she had not been a strong baby.  Eventually the police would start firing into the crowd of unemployed - according to the police, no one was killed except one police officer.  There were 39 injuries.

I don't know why that it's important that I know that.  There's something in it, I think, that goes towards my deeper instincts as a Canadian and as a child raised by this woman from Saskatchewan.  Her father Martin was a union employee, a truck mechanic who worked for the city of Regina.  He drank, heavily; he was an alcoholic, and later I learned he'd hit my mother often when she was a girl.  My memory of him was that he was a right bastard to the day he died, a stiff-necked eastern European version of Archie Bunker, without any of the likeable characteristics.  I resent every day I was forced to  be in his company; but my mother backed him 100% in that blood-is-thicker-than-water family mindset that causes so much suffering in the world.  I never saw Martin give her anything but pain ... but I never saw him hit her, either.  I guess she'd gotten to big for that.  He died about twenty years ago.

My mother escaped her home to work in a mental institution in Weyburn for two years before meeting my father as a blind date.  My father was going to the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, though he'd been born in Alberta (there were no engineering schools in Alberta at the time worth speaking of) and he was friends with a fellow named Jerry Enich.  Enich was from Saskatchewan, and he and my father were there working for the summer of '57 when Jerry and his girlfriend supplied the extra date for my father.  My mother and father did not get along.  They hated each other from the start, so they told me.  Naturally, they could not stop thinking about each other.  My father asked her to come down to Colorado after Christmas that year and she finally went. They married on Valentine's Day, 1958.

They had two children before me, my brother and my sister.  My mother's pregnancy with my sister was touch-and-go; she had her first heart operation, an artery graft, and the doctors told my Mother that because of her heart, another pregnancy would kill her.  This was 1962.  Things went along as they do, however, and without birth control and without the social option of abortion, when my Mother got pregnant around Christmas 1963 there was nothing to be done about it.  I was born September 15 of '64, which happens to be tomorrow ... these things come around.  I did not kill her coming out, so that was a good thing.

I'm not going to talk right now about the day-to-day things - they don't matter much right now, and they don't come to a point where I would grow up seeing eye to eye with my mother.  I would say that it's because there's too much Saskatchewan in her; you have to be truly Canadian, and truly urban to understand exactly what that means.  An American might say there's too much Kansas, but its not the same thing, since its without the religious overtones.

I want to talk about how she got where she is right now.  In 1977 my mother had her first major heart surgery.  It was open heart, difficult for 1977, and high tech stuff.  They replaced her natural heart valve with one that was mechanical, to enable her heart chambers to properly open and close, in the way that yours and mine do without trouble.  When they did the procedure, it had an expected lifespan of 3 to 5 years.  There was nothing, they told my mother and father, that they could do about it after that.  When the valve gave out, my mother would die.

I did not learn any of this, of course, until I was 31, sitting at my parent's kitchen table and finally getting the whole story.  I remembered at 13 my mother being in the hospital a long time.  I remembered my mother coming home and having to walk and walk to build up her strength; she did not like to go outside, so she would walk in a loop around the main floor of the house, kitchen to dining room to living room to hallway to kitchen, forty times an evening.  I used to walk with her.  She had to give up sodium (all salt) and she was on blood thinners and other pills that severely limited what she could do and how much life she could take big bites of.

She did not die.  That valve kept clicking along for 18 years; it finally gave out in 1995, and she was back in the hospital again.  Technology had moved on and now they could do something about the valve that had quit on her.  They replaced it with something newer and shinier ... only there was a major issue.  There had been several procedures on her heart by that time, and now there was not enough muscle tissue in the area around the new valve to attach it.  The very clever doctors solved that problem; they created a sort of 'purse' ... they tightened the muscle tissues around the valve like a drawstring on a pair of sweat pants, so that the valve would sit itself into place.  It wasn't actually 'attached' - and as the doctors explained, there was always the chance that it would 'pop out' of place.  If that happened, it would leave her with a big hole in her heart and she would simply collapse and die, within 30 seconds my parents were told.

So they hung on and time passed.  By seven years later, my mother's heart had adopted the new valve and had actually grown around it.  Being able to look inside her chest, they could tell there wasn't any danger that it would pop out, not any more.

It is now 17 years since her second valve was put in place, and it is still operating fine.  But my mother is 77, and her body has long been run down by pills and endless co-existing conditions, all of them chronic, that stage by stage she has gotten weaker these last ten years.

She has also gotten miserable, abusive, sullen, mean and  ... it must be said ... unloving.  We three children, my brother and my sister and I, none of whom speaks at all to each other, have all thrown ourselves into this emotional morass and all of us have been rebuffed to the point where to keep our sanity, we've pulled back.  I have even heard from my mother's six grandchildren, all torn up and all helpless to know what to feel about this inevitable decline.

Life isn't always a television movie.  Some people go down heartlessly; I would like to think my mother has been a fighter these past fifty years, but unfortunately she has spent more time crying "why me" than she has gamely taking on the challenge.  That has been my father's job, and he has done it with the cold calculation of a machine.  When I think of myself as someone who works like a machine, that is from my father.

So I'm writing about this because this is how I cope with life.  This is my gyroscope.  When things finally fall apart, and I go through the long dark tunnel that is bound to start very soon, on the other side I'll find my balance again by reading this post.  That all of you are out there reading too is really a matter of indifference; but one of the strengths I have found since first publishing back in the late 80s is that I am never alone, because some poor bastard reading this is going through exactly what I'm going through.

I wouldn't have made it if some other bastard had once written about it for me to read.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

NTME - Microeconomics

In reference to the "binary environment" I've been using, with reference to a last-post comment from Lukas, aka Oddbit, to establish this little micro-economy, I want to stress that the whole point of the binary code was simply to translate Civilization IV (C4) to D&D.  I definitely do not suggest calculating everything in D&D into binary.  Once the translation has been made, and you know that a given tile produces a given amount of food, screw C4 in your head and just retain the important number.

The only importance to the binary code is that when a tile is improved, it increases exponentially, as I've described already.

I stress as well that this is Dungeons and Dragons, and not C4, and that the involvement of characters (and NPCs, if you like) can change things which cannot be changed in C4.  For instance ...

On the weekend, as my offline campaign got going again after a three-month hiatus, we were discussing the importation of elements of C4, should they not previously exist.  Obviously, if a hill tile has no copper, nothing short of a wish (or some very powerful, creative magic) could manufacture a copper vein ... but cattle, sheep, pigs and horses are not nearly so difficult to find and import.  "What if," asked my player's 10th level druid, "I wish to stock my forest with deer?"

Well, the answer to that is go ahead!  I had mentioned this last week in passing, but given that the player has a 10th level druid, its extremely practical that he could encourage deer from the surrounding environs to gather themselves together in the tile he has control over, using speak with animals and his marvelous charisma.  How long would this take?  Well, not overnight.  But if word should get around that he can offer the deer a safe habitat, and that he should promise to limit his culling of the deer to the old and infirm, its reasonable that deer - knowing they will be hunted everywhere they go - should eventually gather in his particular presence.  The same could be said of beaver, or any animal not previously conceived of in C4.

The same is equally true of any character importing domestic animals onto a tile already containing farms and such.  Farms obviously do not occupy every square inch of a tile, and so long as we're not talking whole herds of cattle, then a few dozen cattle could cheerfully live in the same tile as the village itself (more convenient than an adjoining farm).

Even ONE COW would add to the village's total food supply.  The microeconomy previously discussed can be adjusted right down to the last calorie and gold coin, remember!  Thus, if one medieval cow yields 8,000 oz. of food (and there's the influence of my macroeconomic table, that I've employed for years now) - and it does - then those 8,000 oz. translate into (give or take) 380,000 calories.

From that, naturally, we can work out how many cattle make up a C4 cattle tile, which is five food in C4 and therefore 3.1 billion calories (calculating by the binary method).  Before you divide one by the other and come up with a bit more than 8,000 cows, remember that an ordinary cattle farm only culls one sixth of its herd per year:  so the total number is really just shy of 50,000 cows.  At 2 acres per cow, that's 152 square miles ... which means, for our system, where a 20 mile diameter hex is about 306 square miles, that cow-tile is going to bleed into its neighbors all over the place.  Which is fine.  There's nothing wrong with assuming they drift in part through more parts of your hex than one tile.  'Course, that does limit the number of cows per hex to ... let's see ... around 97,920.

I would rather make that concession - that they tend to wander - to cows and livestock than rebuild a system that seems to be working fine so far.

The first point I want to make is that a little research online can turn up all kinds of things.  The land itself may not have a textile mill (C4 doesn't have them), but the party can obviously obtain sheep, create a mill (water or wind), and start churning out cloth according to the dictates of that industry.  It doesn't matter how many sheep either.  What's important is that we know how much the mill will cost, and how much a sheep will cost, and how much wool a sheep will produce.  We know how much cloth can be made from that wool in a year and that satisfies the time standard.

Everything is researchable on the net - if the party so desires.  The point is that players can CREATE their own worlds, their own environments, plugging in whatever they want to manage into an economic system that enables them to make, well, anything.

The second point is this:  the party does not need to control the territory to build in it.  It is, at last, a breaking free of the age-old bullshit that players must wait until they're name level to own property and make money from it.  Allow me an example from the online party.

Recently, I gave them the deed to a tiny island in the Aegean, near Naxos.  This deed is of ownership, not nobility ... and the problem becomes one of how does the party develop this land, and what are they permitted to do?

In the first case, there are people living there - never mind how many, the party doesn't know yet, so I don't want to say.  In the second case, those people are already under the authority of the local Doge ... Naxos is controlled by Venice.  The three islands the party controls are the territory of Koufonisia:

Before the party gets too excited, I want to let them know this isn't the final version of the map - in fact, Koufonisia may not be all in the actual hex indicated above.  This is primarily just a quick mockup for the purpose of describing this system.

Take note of the dashed lines on the enlarged hex on the right.  These would be the 'tiles' as they correspond to C4.  The 'village' in D&D need not be in the centre of the hex.  That's completely irrelevant in D&D, where the world is not neat and square.  The entirety of Koufonisia (which I've drawn in roughly, and which in fact has one more uninhabited island) takes up one tile.  The final version may take up two, in different hexes.

The south part of Naxos makes a tile, the two parts of Ios make two tiles ... and three of the tiles in this hex have no designated land at all.

Still, we know from C4 how to guage the total produce of this hex.  Each of the four inhabited tiles produces 100m calories of food (one C4 food) and 7,500 g.p. (two C4 coins).  Again, let me pause and remind my party that one coin = 2,500 g.p. was a designation based on the D&D ideal ... not my world's, lest you get too excited.

The coin comes from a number of sources ... travellers from abroad who tie up at the docks, odd and strange resources like murex and octopus, found sunken ships, etc.

How much of this would the party be entitled to?  Certainly not taxes, since they are not the nobles here - the Doge on Naxos is.  The party actually fits into that "privileged class" I spoke of back here.  Being rent collectors, it is probable they are entitled to 1/4th of all the coin collected by the privileged class - a nice tidy sum of 1,875 g.p. a year, for doing nothing but sitting on their butts.  That need not be calculate by the year, either ... we can always calculate it by the month (156 g.p.) or even the week (36 g.p.).

Can the party change their fortune here?  Of course!  They're as entitled to buy a fishing boat as anyone, paying someone to fish in their stead if they like, drawing in that extra amount of wealth.  My macrosystem lets me calculate the price of the fishing boat they want to buy - which would have to be purchased in Naxos, probably.  The gentle reader, for your world, can charge your party whatever you want.

Beyond that, it is up to the party to calculate if there's something else they'd like to do with their land ... and some means by which they'd like to encourage the other persons on the island to do the same - though they probably won't, being Greeks.

And I will have to roll a die to see if there's something special in the tile, like crab, clams or a fishing bank.  Always remembering that the Doge of Naxos, and probably the Bey of Ios (which is under Turkish control) would be vigorously working that tile, and might not like interlopers.

Suddenly the party is fighting shipboard battles with the Ottoman Empire ... over fish.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

NTME - Military Units

This is probably the first of perhaps several attempts to hammer down the creation of the military in D&D using the NTME system I've been describing.  I think we want to limit the discussion here to those military units which would be available between 1100 and 1700, discounting gunpowder units.  Anyone able to follow this so far is free to go work on aspects of pre-Medieval or post-gunpowder units at their discretion.  For me, I'm satisfied to keep within this narrower framework.

The list of units would then include (with hammer costs):  macemen (70), knights (90), pikemen (60), longbowmen (50), crossbowmen (60), catapults (50), war elephants (60), galleons (80) and caravals (60).

I don't suggest that any D&D system be hammered into anything as simplistic as the above grouping.  I would personally continue to insist that men-at-arms be considered as something to be bought and paid for personally on an individual basis.  To me, the only value in assigning a "hammer" value to such men is to measure how long it would take to raise such a body of men and train them to act as a unit.  However, there's no sense in trying to find a workable measure until we can first determine how many men a particular Civilization IV (C4) unit actually includes.  Is it a battalion?  A regiment?  Does one praetorian, from earlier in the game, describe a cohort or a legion?

The tendency would be to go big - but I resist that because the map of C4 represents one hell of a lot of area.  One praetorian = one legion makes sense since the map is continental in size.  It does not make sense if we are talking about hexes or tiles that are only 5 to 20 miles across.

Since my world takes place in 1650 Earth - without common use of gunpowder - I would seek to compare the creation of a general military unit with 17th century measures.  The best army of the early 17th century was unquestionably the Swedish Army ... and it could be termed the best organized as well, though they learned much from the Dutch.  Prior to the rise of Gustavus Adolphus and the onset of the 30 years war, infantry companies in the Swedish army numbered about 300 men (I've seen figures of anywhere from 100 to 600, but let's go with a compromise figure).  It seems to me that a company of men would be expensive for a single village, but not beyond reason ... particularly if that single village had grown into a town of 7,500 or 16,000 residents.  With 60 hammers to accumulate in making a pikeman unit, it would take a long time for a 1,500 person village - but arguably that ten year period could be seen as the establishment of a tough, consistent local tradition, such as many similar-sized towns in Switzerland developed in the 13th and 14th centuries.

The fact that 1/5th of the village population may be part of that pikeman unit does not discount that they are also farmers and tradespersons.  Unless the unit is truly at war elsewhere, both the military unit and the people themselves can be considered part of the same resource.

Provided the king provides the instruments (mace, pike, bow, etc.), then I don't see much to be made of one type of unit as opposed to another.  Perhaps the reader would prefer that it took less time to create a longbow company than a mace company - I see the real difficulty in obtaining actual elephants for the war elephant troop.  Unless it was done in India, this would be an expensive proposition.

Regarding the caraval or the galleon - how many of each would be built with 60 or 80 hammers?  The caraval holds no military units according to C4, but we can ignore that ... but can we really expect to put 600 men (2 units) on one caraval?  We might get 900 men on one galleon, if it were part of the Spanish Armada - but even so, this seems tight.

We can fiddle or fudge or fustigate as long as we want on this, suggesting there should be three ships or that they can only carry one company or that it can carry so many military or non-military units, but what is really needed is figures.  We can easily set the weight of an individual soldier plus the soldier's equipment at 300 pounds - and this give us a value of 135 tons.  Therefore, the total amount of ship tonnage (and we don't need to make a distinction between caraval or galleon), regardless of the type or number of ship, is therefore 80 hammers to produce 135 total deadweight tonnage.  We can make that a rounder number, say 90 hammers to make 135 tons.  Beyond that, the party or ruler can determine what kind of ships to build.

Hm.  Having worked through that, I'm somewhat pleased.  D&D determines the cost of the equipment, including ships; the hammer system determines how many men can be gathered together into a unit, or how many ships can be built, in a given time frame.  Obviously, if it takes 60 hammers to make a unit of 300 pikemen, 1 hammer will make 5 pikemen; if it takes 90 hammers to make 135 tons of shipping, then 2 hammers will make 3 tons.  Which would also mean that you can work out how big in number of ships is your fishing fleet from the previous post.

Something I've only alluded to a couple of times is that you don't have to build things to 100% capacity in order to take advantage of the return.  One fishing boat will still catch fish.  You don't have to build the whole fleet in order to take advantage of the crabs offshore.  Since everything has been translated into flat numbers, the crabs that will increase from 300m calories to 1,500m calories with 30 hammers of fishing boats will still increase even if you create 1 hammer of fishing boats (40 million calories per hammer, to be exact).  The video game requires all in, but D&D does not.  One hammer's worth of farm, one hammer's worth of military, one hammer's worth of fishing boat, these are all completely doable without having to spend every hammer you have for ten years to make one tile fully productive.

The system is far more flexible than that.

I suppose I'll want to start getting into how flexible with my next post.  Anybody bored yet?

Monday, September 10, 2012

NTME - Workers

The next topic would seem to be the improvement of land, or tiles.  Grassland needs farms, forests need sawmills, hills need mines and fishing grounds need boats.  How is it done?

We cannot hope to cram every feature from Civilization IV, or C4, into the D&D system.  The video game solves the problem by creation a worker (or a fishing boat to a much lesser degree) which then improves the tile endlessly, limited only by how much time it takes before it can move on to the next task.  There is no practical reflection of the "worker" in D&D, nor should there be.  Every villager is a worker.  The "worker" in the video game is merely a tool to abstractly represent the villagers at work, and we don't have to include the tool in this system.

The solution is simply to translate the improvements succeeded by the worker into hammers ... recognizing that unlike the worker's inexaustibility in Civ IV, the improvements will cost new effort every year.

In C4, to build a worker it requires 60 hammers.  Conversely, to build 8 farms on the surrounding 8 tiles, it will require 40 turns (we can dispense with movement costs).  If we include serfdom into the calculations (workers build 50% faster), I think it is 3 turns per farm, which would mean 24 turns.

A village with one hammer would then require 60 turns to create a worker, and another 24 turns for that worker to make all the improvements.  Therefore, we can simply argue that a village with 1 hammer would take 84 turns to make all improvements (sans worker).  2 hammers, then, could take 42 turns and 3 hammers 28 turns.  To improve 1 tile, then, should take 1 hammer 10.5 turns ... but lets be generous and say that 1 hammer produces 1/10th the work necessary to one farm - or, in effect, 1 hammer does the work of 1/2 of a worker's turn in C4.  The cost of a "turn" is therefore 2 hammers.

Therefore, if a road needs 2 turns, that requires 4 hammers - 4 years maximum, or less time if the village has more resources (the "road" would be a trading class road, and would reach from the village into one of the adjoining tiles - or one tile to another).  A farm would require 10 hammers.  Cutting down a forest would require 6 hammers.

Notably, to take advantage of fishing grounds would cost what it is in the video game: 30 hammers.

Now, I would tend to agree that the masters of a territory are entitled to the bonus in hammers that comes from cutting down a forest.  The video game calls this, I think, 20 hammers for the quick game.  I'm not certain, it may be 30 hammers for the epic game ... I'd have to check it.  In either case, it represents a rapid outpouring of work, drawing labor (presumably) from all around, enabling a player to rapidly develop multiple tiles around his or her village.  Almost certainly the destruction of a forest would be the first step in developing an area ... if there is a forest, naturally.

The question will arise among players: if I don't have enough hammers, and I'm ready to go elsewhere and pay for more, can I have them?

The answer must be NO.  You must conceive that everyone, everywhere in the world is already making maximum use of their hammers to make the stuff that they desire for their territories.  In C4, it would be the equivalent of asking the Romans to lend you, the English, a few hammers to help you build the Granary you want.  It just doesn't happen.  Additionally, even if the party were to bring in hundreds of laborers whom they seized or paid from elsewhere, this would NOT increase the number of hammers, since having a lot of workers doesn't increase the necessary resources or skills.  Arguably, a thousand strangers could cause many skilled workers to seek lives elsewhere.  On the other hand, however, a thousand new "settlers" could tip the balance into upgrading your village to where it could work three tiles instead of two - that could increase your available hammers.  And there is the slavery rule ... use up your population to finish things that are important to you.  I can't quite give numbers on how many population you would consume to make a granary - I rarely play the slavery option when I play C4, so I'm not overly familiar with it.  A conscientious game designer should be able to work it out.

I don't have the kind of players who would use it anyway.

Other civics increase hammers, however, as do some city improvements.  Culture, if it is included, could still widen the available environs and permit forest destruction.  I would tend to keep with the C4 rule that destroying forests outside your control does not bring extra hammers ... the important thing is the industry created by the village being near all that activity.  If the activity were far away (out of cultural influence) I do not think the village would benefit.

So you have your party taking over a piece of completely untouched land, say 8 forest tiles, two of them with hills, and no development whatsoever.  If it is a forest on plains, each tile has two hammers ... but if it is a forest on grassland, it is only one hammer per tile.

This would mean that the starting party has 2 hammers altogether, counting the village and the one tile the village can work.  To chop down the forest and bring those extra hammers to work would take three years.  It would be nice if the party didn't have to wait even one year - though technically, there's nothing to stop a party from all declaring that they are three years older and so start spending their gotten hammers.

Imagine:  say the forest produces 6 hammers per year in the time that it is being cut down (we don't have to strictly adhere to C4's rules - we can reckon everything in 1 year periods).  The players could then use those 6 hammers, plus their usual 2, of those gained hammers to finish chopping down the first forest the NEXT year, plus 2/3rds of another one ... which would yield 27 hammers.  During the third year, the party could finish the 2nd forest (with the 2 hammers they usually receive), plus 4 more forest tiles ... with three hammers left over to cut down half of a 5th.  For the 4th year, then, the party would start with 99 hammers.  There'd only be 1 and a half forests left, and the remaining country would be moved over into farms (with all those hammers, it would be easy).  Of course, there wouldn't be many hammers left over once the bonanza finished.  An environmental approach is slower, but more beneficial in the long run.

If it seems that the time frame is completely unreasonable for a party who adventures and runs around every day killing things, you're right.  The party would have to accept that encounters were something that happened only every few months, enabling them to enjoy the expansion of their kingdom.  As a DM, if you make your party understand that it can take months to, say, create an army to attack the lands next door, you might be able to have that time pass for them without their becoming resentful.  Campaigns, too, take a long time, since armies move so very slowly.  In any case, now then have a reason to conquer - taking over someone else's lands and how their hammers are spent becomes an interesting matter.

However, now I'm at the point where I have to discuss the creation of units - something to which I haven't been looking forward.  At least I'll have a little longer to piece it all together.

NTME - Update

Before moving on, let's recap.

One of the things I like about blogging is that it is possible to write out and examine the creation process as it is ongoing ... so if some of what I write now doesn't quite fit with what I wrote last week, it is because I am moving forward in the process.

Proposed:  we can translate the measures in Civilization IV, or C4, into D&D.


The city population in C4 progresses as 1, 2, 3, 4, etc.  I propose that this could be translated into binary as 1, 11, 111, 1111, etc. ... and that these binary numbers translated into a 10 based system would progress as 1, 3, 7, 15, etc., for use in multiplying the population.  We know instinctively that a size 13 city in C4 is not merely 13 times the size of the village it starts as - the math here is simply designed to reflect that.

The base population of a village is 500 people.  Thus, the size of a town's population would progress as 500, 1500, 3500, 7500, etc.

There would still be tiles, as per C4, and the number of these that could be worked would be equal to the standard C4 city growth - that is, a village of size (1) in C4, with 500 people, could work 1 tile as well as the village itself.  A village of size (2), with 1,500 people, could work 2 tiles.  and so on.


To feed people, using again the 1947 estimate regarding the feeding of people during the Berlin Airlift of 1700 calories per day per person, we estimate that 500 people would require 100 million calories (its a bit more, but round numbers are too convenient).  This is written as 100m.

Thus, a village with 1,500 people requires 300m calories.  A town with 3,500 people requires 700m calories.  And so on.

A 'food' in C4 is therefore set to be equal to 100m calories.  A tile which produces 2 food in the C4 system is again viewed as producing 11 in binary numbers, 3 in ten-based numbers, and therefore 300m calories.

Two different tiles that each produce 1 food would together produce 200m calories.  Each tile is calculated in binary numbers individually, and then added together.  An unimproved grassland therefore produces 300m calories; an unimproved flood plain, 700m calories.

The number of surplus calories available to a village therefore increases the population at the following rate:  a total surplus of food equal to 100m will increase the center's size one degree over a period of 33 years (33 divided by total food surplus/100m).  This is exactly as true with a center whose initial population is 10,000 as it is of a center whose population is 500.  Nevermind that this would cause a large city to starve - this happens in C4 also.


All improvements, increases and so on are measured in years ... thus even the smallest improvement requires at least one year to implement.


The actual number of g.p. in D&D as represented by 'coins' in C4 is entirely a matter of the DM's discretion.  However, if strict D&D is to be played, then the value of each C4 coin is estimated to be 2,500 g.p.

Coins, like food, progress according to the binary number structure already described.  Thus, 2 coins from a given tile would equal 7,500 g.p.

All coins are perceived to be moving through the economy more than once - specifically, the velocity of money in the village is given as 3.  This means that if the center's economy includes 10,000 g.p., then total GNP (simplistic!) would be rated as 30,000 g.p.  It is further concluded that one third of this would filter into the hands of the three levels of society: the noble class, the middle class and the serf class.  Each level of society would therefore have the entire center's coin to play with.

Players gaining coin from the system do not spend that coin as per rules to be found in C4, but instead as per rules to be found in D&D - except (and this is a change) where rules in D&D are lacking in describing how town improvements ought to be priced and therefore paid.


The number of hammers are treated as static numbers and not as binary equivalents.  Therefore, 1 hammer in C4 = 1 hammer in D&D.  Since that which is built with hammers is also static, in that the cost of an obelisk does not increase due to the size of center in which the obelisk is built, the cost of an obelisk (or any other town improvement) is a flat rate.  Obviously, larger centers have access to more hammers and therefore build town improvements faster.

Town improvements cannot be built without hammers.  Coin cannot stand in as a replacement for hammers.  Hammers represent labor and material resources, so if they don't exist, there is nothing for the coin to buy.

Town improvements require coin IN ADDITION TO the number of hammers.  Therefore, while it requires a set number of hammers to create a town improvement, it will also require a set amount of coin.  The amount of coin per improvement in this system has yet to be calculated.

Town improvements have similar effects to centers as they have in the game of C4.  This effect needs to be determined on an item-by-item basis, as well as the amount of coin required, and I shall endeavor to do so at a later time.

Going Forward:

I think this covers the highlights.  If anything considerable is missing from the above, please let me know.  I shall move on from here in the next post.

Friday, September 7, 2012

NTME - Hammers

This brings us to the subject of 'hammers,' and how they fit into the D&D system described thus far.  What are they?

Yesterday, I suggested strongly that I wouldn't confuse the issue of creating buildings and features in your world using the Civilization IV (C4) money system.  There might be a temptation to calculate the number of hammers as per the number of coins (the video game allows this calculation) and thus confuse the two things as though they are interchangeable.  They are - in C4.  If you want to retain the widest possible variety in D&D, however, they shouldn't be.

Hammers are the production measure of the game, whereby buildings and mobile units are built within the C4 game.  In D&D, they would be a combination of manpower, resources and engineering skill ... and this is why coin does not equal hammers in the D&D system I propose.  A building needs BOTH.

The coin, in order to pay the cost of building, in labor and materials ... and the hammers to determine how long it will take, given the resources of your community.

Any community, with enough time and money, no matter how small the community, should be able to build a stonehenge-like structure within its environs.  The test isn't limited by the possibility ... it is limited by the willingness of a small community with 2 hammers available to it to spend 40 years on the project - assuming the master of the village doesn't die, causing the villagers to simply quit and possibly steal the object's components for other projects.

I would propose, then, that most of the structures in C4 could be duplicated in D&D.  There's no limitation in terms of how many Hagia Sophia's could be built - except again, in D&D there are other relevant forces at work that do not exist in C4.  The church, for example, not permitting such a structure, or vandals seeking to destroy it, or even the gods having a say.  But that is for the DM to decide.  The game is built on drama, and if someone wants to build something big, that should be both possible and a temptation for enemies.

The easiest way to limit this would be to invoke some rule that says the longer an object takes to build, the more resistance there is created against its construction.  But let us leave off this digression, for the present, and get back to the details of hammers and how they work.

Because the number of hammers you have are necessarily measured against large numbers in the game (the Hagia Sophia requires 300 hammers), it isn't practical to measure such things in the binary number system proposed in previous posts.  (300 1s in as a binary number is 2.03704 x 10 to the 90th power).  Therefore, I suggest retaining the linear measure used in C4 ... so that an equivalent building to the Hagia Sophia would still cost 300 hammers.  (as to the subject of the Hagia Sophia speeding up your workers, that's a problem we'll leave until we discuss workers).

So if we look again at the image I posted earlier today (and I'll post it again for convenience),

We can consider the number of hammers available in this area.  Each forest here offers 1 hammer; the cows offer 2 hammers.  The village itself offers 1 also.  At a size of (1), and assuming the cows are not yet exploited, Bibracte offers a pool of 3 hammers for the construction of civic improvements within the town.

What civic improvements are available depends upon the tech level at which you think your world should operate.  If Roman, then structures like castles, cathedrals and grocers are probably out of the question.  On the other hand, forges, markets and harbors are perfectly in line.  Realistically, you can ignore earth-like comparisons and just mix and match however you like, using or discarding technologies like cards in your deck.  So long as the players have a list when they set out to make decisions, they'll be fine with your choices.

It won't do, however, to think of the construction of a single granary or forge as a "civic improvement" worthy of increasing your food supply or the number of your hammers (as such civic improvements allow in the game).  It must be conceived that the whole village is reshaped by the 'granary' or 'forge' improvement, effectively redesigning its streets, constructing means to bring in the necessary materials, plus the difficulties of finding and encouraging the settlement of the necessary skilled workers.  The cost in coin for such an adventure may be reasonable - it may even be paid by simply surrendering a certain amount of taxes, since most of the actual construction could be built by the new metalworker's guild forming in your town.  (Perhaps I'm wrong - perhaps you could resort to C4 for the actual cost, recognizing that it, too, could not be considered a binary number).  In any case, the 'hammer-time' would be long and arduous ... shortening the C4 turn rate to a year (I had previously supposed two years, but I am rethinking that also), it could still take 40 years for your 3 hammer village to grow an entire metalworker's guild.

Am I really suggesting that kind of time frame?  Absolutely.  The gentle reader may consider that anathema to the player's desires to have everything and right now, but if you adopt a wizard-speed option to the growth of your player's village, you're going to have trouble fitting that into the simultaneous growth (or static existence) of the rest of your world.  Besides, imposing deeply distressing problems like excessive time periods encourages innovation.  Remember, forests can be destroyed for hammers; mines can be founded; there's still the chance of some kind of cultural expansion; and the question must be addressed: can hammers be imported?

The answer must be YES ... but not by means of mere coin.  Encouragement of a stable labor market based on skilled labor requires more than remuneration.  What about conquest?  What about slave labor?  Just how desperate is your party to get that forge built in the next three years?

Really, each building needs an examination for what the actual D&D effects. Granaries couldn't operate as they do in C4 ... but they could preserve food against things that might happen in D&D but which wouldn't happen in C4: drought, for instance, or fire, or locusts, or the party destroying their own fields before the barbarians arrive.  The hammers could simply be a measure of the time it would take to build a truly comprehensive storage system, capable of storing as much grain as all the fields produce (and getting grain from other areas who come to you to use up part of your granary).

So far, I haven't calculated how to use hammers to make military units or even settlers (though I'm close on the latter, and it is quite different from C4).  I'm still working out workers.  I will probably address that problem, and the problem of tile improvements, before even considering culture or - dare I say it - health.

Meanwhile, surely it must be evident by now that the "end game," if applying some of these ideas as I've been talking about, is anything but an END.  The formula exists here to do more than give impetus to conquest, it defines precisely how conquest could benefit the players - and how they would account for every village and every city over which they eventually came into power.  The possibilities are spectacular, since whole kingdoms could be regulated, to move hammers and people and grain from here to here, how much it would cost, and potentially how anger of the citizens could eventually cause a revolt (if you've played C4, you can guess some of the principles behind how that could happen).

I'm really onto something here.  Next, I'll tackle workers and tile improvements.

NTME - City Growth

I want to pause before working on hammers, which are tricky, and examine whether or not the city growth model I've proposed would work to make a large city.  After messing around with trying to get a screen shot off my Civilization IV (C4)  game, I admit I don't seem to have the know-how ... so I'm going to steal this image below:

For the purpose of this post, we're going to ignore the growth of culture (which honestly would be different for D&D anyway).  What, then, is the total food surrounding the village of Bibracte?

Well, I count 4 floodplains, 3 forests and 1 cow (on a grassland).  The forests are all upon grasslands, so each offers (2) food (remember, the brackets are for C4 numbers, not translated for my D&D idea); the floodplains each offer (3) food; and the cows add a point to the grassland, making that worth (3).  Bibracte itself produces (2) food.  This is a total, in C4 terms, of (23) food.

Translating this into calories for D&D, the floodplains and cows offer 700 million calories each, while the forests and Bibracte offer 300 million calories each.  This is a total of 4.7 billion calories, or enough for 23,500 persons.

Ah, but if the cows and the floodplains are improved, the use of the binary system greatly increases the food supply.  Each floodplain counting as (4) in C4, once improved with a "farm," jumps to 1.5 billion calories.  The cows jump to (5) in C4, or 3.1 billion calories.  Even if the forests are left unimproved, this is 10.3 billion calories, or enough for 51,500 persons.

But of course, in order to work all eight tiles, Bibracte must have a population of (8) ... which in the system I'm employing, would mean a population of 127,500 - more than Bibracte can feed.  As the reader can see, the system doesn't *quite* work out the way C4 does.  More's the pity.

The breaking point comes when Bibracte has a population of (5), or 15,500, and can work all the floodplain tiles and the cows as well.  At this point, Bibracte is overflowing with food ... it is only when it moves up to size (7) that food becomes an issue.  There's also the matter of ways to improve the forest tiles, tearing them down, and (D&D assumes the civil service technology) irrigate farms on the grassland.  Such farms would produce 700 million calories each, however ... only enough for an additional 4,500 people.  There are other possible increases (biology) which would really bounce up the food production everywhere.  It's questionable where you would want to limit your technological world - and isn't that a new concept in playing an end game in D&D?

C4 solves these issues by having the city expand its boundaries, so that it can take advantage of the floodplains on the other side of the river - and clearly the D&D comparison will need some kind of commensurate system that allows this. So there will need to be culture rules if cities are expected to get BIG.

There are other ways to think about the D&D's possible influence, however.  Can you create "deer" by stocking the nearby woods like a game reserve?  Food, as well, could simply shipped in from elsewhere, so that a city without the tiles could still get bigger and bigger by fostering colony cities that all have great abundances.  The rules of C4 need not apply ... there are workarounds.

Okay, hammers next.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

NTME - Coin

Let me start by saying that while elements of what I'm proposing here resemble the framework in Civilization IV (which I'll call C4 from here on), I am not saying that it is an option for an economic system.  There are a number of problems with it - fundamentally, far too much of the game is geared towards the creation of new technologies, whereas D&D is a static technological bubble.  Other problems include elements of culture, politics, religious effect on the economy and the military units/buildings as well.  How large is a 'granary'?  How do you calculate in D&D game terms the phrase, "stores 50% of food after growth"?  No, I don't see basing a D&D economy on C4.  Still, some things I can see working ... but that for another day.

I have a ground up economy that I have no intention of abandoning ... but for the moment, for those many readers who simply want something they can apply to their worlds, I'm examining a methodology for making such an application accessible.

Very well. 

When you start a village in C4, you're automatically supplied with 8 coin in addition to the 1 coin the village adds, plus whatever you receive from your hinterland.  Obviously, in D&D there is no palace at the center of the village, so this must be discounted in determining its wealth.  We can therefore regard only the village itself and its the hinterland.

Rather than thinking of it in video game terms as money that is created, let us instead view our one coin as money as it exists in a 'closed' system.

In my macro-system, I have methods for determining what the per capita income of any given region would be, dependent on where in the world the players are, but since this is inconvenient for a blog discussion, let's fall back on standard D&D ... the dreaded, sadly thought out taxation rate of 7 s.p. per person.  We can extrapolate from this a tax rate of near 7% (which would be moderate for the medieval period, but what the hey, you can change the numbers anyway that works for you) in order to suppose a general income of every person of 100 s.p. per year.  Given our previous post's description of a village with 500 persons, we could thus say the actual coin in our closed system is equal to 50,000 s.p., or 2,500 g.p. per coin in straight AD&D parlance.  Thus, if the village produces (1) coin (in C4 terms), and the hinterland produces (1) coin, the total amount of money in our D&D village is twice the above, or 5,000 g.p.

Again, as before, if we have a location that produces (2) coin, such as an undeveloped gold mine, that's worth three times the value of (1) coin (see the previous post).  A (1)-size village next to an undeveloped gold mine, or field if you like, would have a closed system monetary availability of 10,000 g.p.  Imagine what a developed gold mine would produce (two to the fifth power times 2,500 = 80,000).

Don't get the impression that doubling the size of the village would double the available coin ... the coins are static just as the food is static.  The number of people in the centre determines how much of the hinterland can be utilized, but it doesn't increase the production of the hinterland.  Go that way and you'll quickly get into troubles with your system.

Let's imagine a village, however, with a simple plain, just as in the last example.  That's two coin, or a money supply of 5,000 g.p.  To this, we can now add the idea of velocity, which is the number of times money changes hands in the system, in order to give an impression of the effective money supply.

Now, any modern framework for the velocity of money is going to hardly reflect a medieval system.  Money just did not change hands 20 times a year, as one of the stats in the velocity link above describes.  I think we can make the following suppositions, however, regarding the movement of money in our system - not because they accurately reflect a real money system, but because they are PLAYABLE, a word I can't stress enough to impress the endless gits who cannot understand that in a game, all reality must be modified in order to achieve the desired purpose.

1)  Let us assume that all money that departs the "closed" system for other locations ultimately feeds back into the same system.  This isn't true, obviously ... most systems either bleed or accumulate wealth.  But for game purposes, we can presume its static.  Who does it hurt if it isn't?

2)  All money in the system ultimately flows into the coffers of the master/mistress of the realm ONE TIME.  Thus, in the system we are describing, if your players were master of the village in question, the money they would receive per year would be 5,000 g.p.  Some of this would be in taxes, but some of it would be in fees, tolls, gifts, surplus sold goods, inheritances, seized land, etc.  This makes a nice, healthy way to empower your players when they are trying to determine how much money they make from their land, as they can decide to forego money in favor of something else like more food or "hammers" - which we shall manage later on.

3)  All money ultimately flows ONE TIME into the privileged class ... and in this case, that means any skilled guildsperson, the clergy, the local miller, passing bards and players, people who successfully gamble, prostitutes (which may not sound privileged to you, except that they're immoral, not unsuccessful), the army and guards protecting the manor, etc.  Some of this would be money flowing up and eventually to the ruler, and some would be flowing down in wages, gifts, stolen goods, etc.  This privileged class has to divide up this money between them.

4)  All money ultimately flows ONE TIME into the whole lower class.  Because of the number of people in the lower classes, this allows each very little indeed ... but for the purpose of our economy, we can suppose that they get a third of the pie (or all of the pie, one third of the time).

Given this, the velocity of our money is 3.  The total GNP is thus 15,000 g.p. yearly.  This is not a very meaningful statistic in your D&D world (the players will only care about how much money they get), but it's there for you if you have a way to apply it.

Let me say this very clearly: in no way should you try to use C4 for pricing items.  Seriously, just don't do it.  If someone wants to build a mill, or buy an army, or otherwise take advantage of their coin, buy it in the normal, D&D manner.  If you haven't got a price for something, you might examine C4 for a guideline, but I wouldn't recommend it.  In this case, we're only using C4 to determine the general amount of money, and NOT to provide you an equipment list.  You can try it if you want, but I think you'll find very quickly that C4 is more interested in how you exchange your cash for research than for actual things, and that the actual things in the video game aren't designed for D&D practicality.

There will be more.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Never Too Much Economics - Food

Let's participate in an exploratory exercise in order to produce a coherent, convenient micro-economic framework for your world.  You may or may not know that I have a macro-economic system that I use ... let's leave that by the by, however, and steal from another system entirely, one that is familiar:  Civilization IV.

(sorry, I'm not familiar with Civ V; I heard it was shit and never bought the game - so you're stuck with me talking about IV)

Typically, you start Civilization with a village that produces food, hammers and coin.  This village is, in the game, recognized in size to be equal to 1 ... and this 1 requires two food to feed it.  Luckily, it is also assumed that your new village controls one square of hinterland, and this provides you with surplus food (as well as hammers and coin), and so your village can grow and get bigger.  When it grows to size 2, it requires four food to feed it, but that's okay because now you control even more hinterland - and so on.

Since, in the game, you are a thriving city by size 4, we must assume that the food required (and thus produced) increases at a geometric rate.  The game doesn't care about this, of course - but let's care ourselves, because we want to understand this progression in terms of D&D.

Let's set a size of 1 as equal to a village, and let's say that village has 500 people.  Further, in keeping with the geometric progression of increased numbers, let's translate "two food" as equal to '11' food ... understanding that the 11 is a binary number.  This means that the first digit represents 2 to the first power (2) and that the second digit is equal to the power of zero (1).  Thus, the "2" in Civilization = binary 11, or can be translated as a  "3" in the ten-based system we're familiar with.

I hope this is clear, and that I haven't lost half the audience.  If you're not familiar with binary numbers, you might want to start here, read for a bit and then come back.

Therefore, our village of 500 requires 3 food to survive.  Using the minimal survival quotient (and I'll use that defined by the U.S. Army to feed Berlin during the Airlift in 1948, since it's hard to argue) of 1,700 calories per person per day, our village requires 310,250,000 calories per year.  We can thus define each food required as being equal to 100 million calories (letting our medieval villager starve a little).  Just to emphasize - we're not talking the "2 food" referenced in Civ IV, but its translation into our calculations, which means 3 food.  When I refer to Civ IV numbers from here on, I'll note them in () ... thus, 2 food would be described as (2), which equals in binary 11, or 3 in my system.  Clear yet?

Now, in Civ IV, a prime piece of land, a plain, also produces (2) food ... and if you add a farm, it produces (3) food.  For us, the latter equals 7 food, or by our reckoning, 700,000,000 calories.  Thus, our village positioned next to a nice hinterland plain has the potential to produce 1 billion calories altogether - enough to feed 1,666 people.  This is a good thing, since a laborer really needs much more than 1,700 calories a day - 3,000 to 4,000 calories is more the requirement for hard labor ... but then, the laborer only needs that during the heaviest working periods, and obviously the children and the old don't need that much.  Still, a billion calories is enough for our village of 500 to eat very hearty ... and its enough to draw other people to our village, where the food is plentiful.

According to Civ IV, it would take 11 turns for our village to grow to size (2) ... which in our ten-based system would be equal to 3 x 500 people (isn't it nice when the math works out).  For the city to grow in Civ IV from size (1) to size (2), I'm guessing it requires an accumulation of 33 additional food (I've never been quite clear about the exact number needed for each city size).

These 11 turns, depending on the time of the game, can be anywhere from 220 years to 11 years ... I think for my world, we want a renaissance speed.  I'm afraid I can't remember what epic is around 1650 ... I haven't played epic for awhile, and I don't have the game in front of me as I write this.  If someone wants to jump on me, they should ... but in the meantime I'm going to call a "turn" two years.

Thus, our village is gaining, on average, 53 new citizens per year.

If, then, your party enters into an area like this as landholders, and they have a village with a set size which they wish to grow, what they need is to accumulate enough food to increase their village's growth.  This could be done by building a farm where there was no previous farm, or introducing fishing boats into a village where there were no previous fishing boats ... or simply plundering food from outside their immediate system equal to the necessary calories required to raise the size of their village.  Naturally, they could also seize persons as slaves/followers, and here you now have a system to determine how much food those slaves/followers could produce in another section of hinterland, using the Civ IV measures for how much food areas like desert, oasis, forests, plains, sea coasts and so forth produce.  This will enable you to measure your entire food production right down to the last calorie, if need be, while gauging your micro-economy's growth in a rational, predictable manner.

More to the point, you can introduce a randomness to this (and I might in a few posts, there are other things I want to cover first) that will break down the calorie producing capacity of regions.  Rather than using one food = 100 million, you could say 1 food = 10 million, and then designate a plain as producing 6 to 36 food rather than (2) as it is listed in Civ IV.  That is really up to your interest in playing with the odds.

I'll be tackling coin next ... but I would encourage discussion of the above, since it will give me an idea of what problems I need to work out regarding how coin would work.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

An Update of Purpose

"If you can stand back and see that the other individual is an individual like me, who might have interests and values and feelings like mind, then you can make a bond."

Iain McGilchrist, speaking upon the human
 brain's capacity for empathy.

I've debated all weekend about addressing this subject, but now and then I'm driven to examine not only the world around me, and how it influences the various activities I pursue, but also myself.  Why do I behave in the way that I do; why do I write as I do; why do I take positions against other people; and why is it that so often those positions are spiteful, irreverent or abusive?

There have always been people who have said about me and my writings, "I like this or that, but the way he chose to say/write that particular thing really annoyed me, and I don't care about him."  The solution, it would seem to most people, is that I should write more kindly and sympathetically, in order to make the kind of connection that Iain McGilchrist above is talking about.  Others would have more empathy for my position if they viewed my position as similar to theirs, couched in feelings and values like the ones they possess.

If I must disagree with them, then I should do so empathically - concerned about their reactions to whatever I am saying, so that they are more likely to absorb what I am saying.

Here is the thing, however.  When I view the statement from McGilchrist above, I find myself immediately leaping to the conclusion that the average person I'm about to meet on the street is NOT an individual like me, and the he or she will NOT have interests and values and feelings like mine, and that we will NOT make a bond.  I have this conclusion not because I'm unreasonable or close-minded, but because for the last 17,520 days of experience, I so rarely meet anyone like me that the default position is to presume that any person I hear from almost certainly has nothing like my perspective of the world.

What's interesting about this is that anyone who HAS my perspective of the world is equally certain to have come to the same conclusions about the people THEY meet, so that they are as sick and tired of running up against the same sad, uninformed, uneducated, unreasonable and flat-minded people that I run against all the time.  Moreover, IF they ever hope to meet anyone of like-mind, they will without question be just as abusive and cold and emotionally cruel as I am ... in which case I will immediately recognize them as a kindred spirit, just as they will immediately recognize me as a kindred spirit.  This is the way it has always happened in the past, with those people whom I do share any affinity.  It never seems to bother this particular kind of person how abusive I am on the subject of stupidity or incapacity ... and I am never bothered by others who are abusive in like manner.  In fact, I have most often leapt to my feet in joy the moment I hear someone of this nature railing or ranting on screen or in lectures, or online as the case may be.  It is such a rare event, it is always a religious experience in that it brings out of me a need to cry, "SING IT BROTHER!" ... or SISTER as the case may be.

I have not been disappointed in the internet's ability to waft people occasionally in my path who - to some degree - share some of the viewpoints I possess.  It is a shame there are not more people who feel about D&D (or other subjects) as I do, but as this was to be expected from the beginning, I cannot say I'm terribly disappointed.  I have placed myself out there in public events and experiences in the past, so I have a good idea of the ratio of people like me as compared to people with whom I share no empathy.

Because I am clear about this reality, and the likelihood of my ever being "liked" for being the way I am, excepting the possibility of by chance producing something which will make me irrationally popular, in the manner that certain other historically unlikeable people have chanced to be popular, it should be surmised by the gentle reader that the purpose of this blog, and the content within, does not derive from a need to be popular.  Therefore, threats of unpopularity as a reason to change the content of this blog were in the past ignored, and will continue to be ignored.  The tree that is barked up is made of other wood than pandering to the crowd.  The wood here is grown to build factories, not temples, for engineers and not worshippers.

We have no comfy chairs and no hot chocolate.  There's only cold machinery here, and be careful where you step - a moving part is likely to rip your arm off.