Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hamlets, Villages & Features

I have debated what to tackle next and whether or not the right thing to do would be to continue with the entirely random generation at this point or to dig down into how any of this would apply directly to my world.  I could get into how to generate a seacoast, which I've completely dismissed as an elemental part of the random generation ... and I could talk about the differences of one kind of village as opposed to another.

From the book The English, A Social History 1066-1945, I came across this nice distinction between population centres which were primarily agrarian and those that were primarily mercantalistic ... and the distinction was not one of size or population.  A village of 500 could easily have its primary workforce leave town in the morning for the fields, while a village of 300 could be entirely service-oriented, populated by no field workers at all but by artisans, lenders, carters and so on.

Thus, in the previous post, and indeed in the generation system altogether, we could say that an ordinary six mile hex might not have merely a collection of hamlets, but may actually have a village inclusive that would be larger than the village actually indicated during the generation phase.  The "village" that was rolled and indicated on the general map would then be a money feature and not a population feature.  That would be specifically a place where several guilds were established.

I admit that I hadn't considered this previously, and only came across it as I was reading on towns preparing for a post about them.  If this is the case, then, I may have to remake my mind about what would be in an ordinary hex, in terms of actual persons.  After all, if we can't bend with new knowledge, what's the point in reading anything.

Originally I meant to propose that an ordinary hex, such as that I described yesterday, would have 1 to 6 hamlets.  Now I think that, in order to truly fill out the hex, it should have up to three levels of inhabitants (newly considered), all of which would fall below the level of the manse, or land operated by the manor house.  It is more or less assumed that those groups of hexes that include towns, cities, onasteries, carter posts and so on are ALSO lands where manor houses are fairly common, with anywhere from 3 to 10 manor houses per six-mile hex.  A typical manor house, after all, included about 9 square miles of farmland, meadow, orchards and forest, with places of marshland and separated ground for defense (baileys and such), burial, walking gardens and so on.

But we're speaking here specifically of hexes over which there is no direct authority - lands too remote, too poor, or too upon the edge of the wilderness to encourage a rich landlord to build a manor and thus lord over the peasants.

The three stages I mentioned would be degrees of concentration - all would be primarily agrarian in industry.  There would be scattered cotter houses, such as occurred in large areas of Hungary, the Ukraine and Russia for a large part of its history - settled homes hundreds, perhaps thousands of yards apart, taking advantage of each little bend of a river or other access to water, with large families exploiting the immediate wilderness is relative isolation.  Transhumance groups may temporarily reside in such places during certain seasons of the year.

Then there would be the hamlets we spoke of yesterday, with family grouped together as bands, with joint kinship and a certain amount of interbreeding.  These would be under the authority of a headman and probably some sort religious leader.  There might be anywhere from 1 to 6 hamlets in a given hex, but these might be grouped together or they might be scattered, depending on the familial relationships.  Two groups of hamlets might indicate a continuous conflict, like the Hatfields and the McCoys.  Three groups might suggest a more tolerant view of outsiders.  A substantial proportion of these hamlets may not be directly agrarian at all, but may largely depend upon hunting, fishing, minor stock raising or large berry patches that occur naturally in the hex for sustenance.

Finally, there may, or may not, be a village, or possibly two, anywhere from 100 to 500 people in size, which would have no special political nor monetary power - it would simply be a very large clan.  These societies would be certainly agrarian, but the whole town would pick up and leave for the fields in the mornings and return to the fields at night.

For a party, the most important thing about such an area - these semi-civilized hexes we've been describing - would be their value as jumping off points for adventuring into the true wilderness areas beyond.  Consider the inconvenience of having always to travel back twenty, forty miles back to a real town or money-changing village.  What arrangements could be made, instead, with the communities out on the periphery?

An inn or tavern is out of the question.  The best roads would be beaten ground, hardpacked, with stones littered sparsely upon it to provide cohesion in the rains.  More often roads would be rutted farm roads, soft and subject to causing vehicles to become mired during wet seasons.   Not the sort of thing that one would want to ship food and drink over to keep a tavern supplied.  Nor would there be much coin in the area for the residents to pay for such things.

Still there might be barns, where the locals would be willing to look after the party's horses, where the party might sleep out of the rain in exchange for some skills or labor (money would not be of much use as payment), and where a supply of hay could be obtained.  There might also be a granary, as hay alone is not enough to keep a horse healthy, nor is it much good for people.  The party might eat better if there are storehouses of vegetables and grains for them to snack upon.  After all, as we say, the nearest market is 30 miles away.

Alternately, a nearby meadow might also serve to increase the health of the party's animals, since it would include clover and other nutrients not to be found in hay (I get really gritty with my party's horses, insisting that while they can let their horses crop from the side of the road, if they don't include some proper horsefeed - which can be expensive - their horses will not do well in the long run).  Meadows might also hold some potent herbs and plants that might save a poisoned party member's life ... if you wanted to stipulate that the meadow's indicated presence also indicates the presence of such medicinal plants.

Pure water could be obtained if there was a well present.  I continue to contemplate ways to bring parasitic infestations and diseases more firmly into my games, and if such were the case, there would definitely be an interest in a good, healthy well - if the party did not include someone who could purify water.  Arguably, however, a well could be more than pure.  Particular wells could always increase healing (without being magical), offer unique water varieties for the creation of potions and such, or even be the necessary cure for a specific kind of disease - an undiscovered future site of an as yet unconceived health spa.  Too, in high mountains, there might be a hot spring, and that too might offer cures, comfort or even an increased morale for hirelings (for having been brought to such an exquisite place).

There might be a nearby fishing pond, for the acquisition of free food.  The pond may yield anywhere from 2 to 10 lbs. of fish a day per competant angler, and be virtually inexhaustible for party or locals.  Of course, the locals might also object, and there might be restrictions or negotiations which the party might be forced to undertake.  Either way, the pond could prove a valuable resource, particularly if no other feature is present in the hex.  A game trail, where the hunting is good, would provide a similar resource for the party - with a good opportunity for 40-80 lbs. of meat being taken at one time on a roll of 1 in 6 - I think I'd increase the likelihood 3% per level of ranger.

Finally, there might be a guard post, specifically if there is a village, which would include 2-5 men of fairly relaxed attitude but still anxious to see that the local customs are observed.  This could cause some trouble for the party, not because these men would be difficult to kill, but because they could easily arouse the local population against the party in times of trouble.  Getting to know their names and what they might like would be a good idea.

This is obviously far too gritty for a lot of players - it just isn't as interesting as killing orcs or such.  For myself, getting this stuff organized only in the last month or so, it helps solve a long time issue that has been nagging at me since I began this game.  What services are available to the party?  What exactly do those services provide?  Where are they found, and how common are they?

However this may or may not work for you as a DM or as a player, think of what this could mean for solitary play, or ultimately as a base-line for how you'd construct a world in a computer simulation.  You're not just tramping around in empty bush.  You're coming across a trail, you're recognizing the signs and you're marking it as a good place to come back to if you need food next week.

I think that is solid value.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Battlemat Scale

I'm writing another post about scale because I firmly believe it is something that's difficult for people to grasp, particularly in this modern age.  We don't live on farms, we don't plow land, and when we travelwe either depend upon landmarks that do not convert to actual distance in our heads or we rely on measuring devices that do the work for us.

So in the interest of making area more accessible, I've gone looking for something to which people can relate.

But first I have to make a small pedantic point.

When people say a hex is "6 miles across," this can mean one of two things, which have consequences where it comes to area.  Hexagons are not squares.  Have a look at figure 1:

That's a mighty big difference - 8 square miles per hex.  That's big enough to lose a small town in .  So for the remainder of this post, and every post I ever write, when I say a hex is 20 miles or 6 miles or 5 feet in diameter, I am speaking of the hex on the left.

A six mile hex is pretty big ... but just to we get a sense of just HOW big, let's measure it in something that D&D players are familiar with.  Last night, I dragged out of storage the old vinyl battle mat I used to use when I played with miniatures, before moving to computer screens.  My battle mat looked something like this:

I did not use the really cool 3 dimensional add-ons ...
but nice work there.
Each hex was 1 inch in diameter, and for my uses each hex was 5 feet in diameter.  Counting hexes, the mat was 53 by 34 hexes ... which would represent in real life a total of 39,103 square feet.

This comes out to 0.9 acres per battle mat ... if that helps at all in measureing out the area upon which you usually have combats.  A typical strip of land that a peasant plowed equaled about 1 acre or less ... so if you can imagine cutting your battle mat in half the long way, and taping it together into a much longer rectangle, you'd have a general idea of what amount of land a peasant could expect to plow in the space of a day.

It was a long day.

What this means is that we can now use the battle mat as a unit of measure, rather than an acre.  Thus, it typically required 2.23 plowed battlemats to feed an ordinary person, while a typical family working upon a manor would control something like 8.35 battlemats.

Now, figures like that are highly disputed by the source material.  If you spend even a little time looking over how much land people plowed in the Middle Ages so as to produce how much food, you'll quickly get twenty different figures, none of which will agree on yields or calorie output or ... well ... anything.  Partly, that's because we have really poor information from the period, but mostly its because the information we do have comes from hundreds of different farms in different parts of Europe, all with different soils, sunlight, varieties of crop, etc.  There is no continuity in the numbers because there's little if no work that can ever be done to determine how much manure was used to produce what amount of crop in what periods of history.  If you ever meet someone who tells you they have the definitive numbers for crop output for Medieval farming, kick that moron in the balls.  It's less than they deserve.

So if I use numbers here, please understand that they are not meant to be the right numbers.  There are no 'right' numbers.  I don't really care about the age old debate here, I just want general figures upon which I can hang a generation scheme.  And as long as I'm at it, let's also acknowledge that almost every figure and description we have for farming from the Middle Ages comes from manor houses ... as they are the only people who ever kept records.  We don't know how many cotters and vagabond farmers there were in those times because a family living upon a free farm deep in the German forest for generations never learned to read, did not spend time making their own paper and never thought it was in any way important.  So when you are reading about the great Middle Ages, you might get the sense that everyone lived on manor farms.  Twasn't so.

If we want to look at one hex, just one empty, uninteresting 'civilized' hex as described on this post, as comes up when we are rolling for single civilized hexes among wilderness hexes, then we have to consider that there isn't a manor that's running the show.  The peripheral settlements of society would nominally be under a lord, who might have a tax collector that shows up once a year or so, but the amount of land the peasants are farming isn't dependent upon how much the lord allows them ... they are dependent upon how much they can reasonably plow, sow, weed and harvest in the season.  As it happens, that works out to about 10 battlemats per family.

Suppose we identify a hamlet as 20-80 people, or between 6-18 families, who plow the surrounding country to an amount of 45-180 battlemats per year.  These are groupings too small to be village, too small to amount to any industry, and too remote to support anything like an inn or a stable.  At best, they might manage a water well, which would be of variable quality.  Such hamlets would also need a certain amount of 'wilderness' to support their needs - game in the form of rabbits and birds, the occasional deer (whether or not they were legally allowed to take them), streams for fishing, and if possible wood for firewood and for building maintenance.  A large population will strip a hex bare ... so in addition to the locals, there might be a town or city a few hexes away that visited once a decade - in the form of a wood-gathering party - to cut out a certain toll.

The question is, how much of the hex would really be 'civilized,' and how much would effectively be the same wilderness we were talking about here.

Have a look at this:

The small yellow rectangles, those are the hamlets themselves.  The lighter green area is the usual part of the nearby country that is exploited for hunting, fishing, firewood and materials.  The dark green is 'waste' ... a general term used for land that isn't used.  That doesn't mean it couldn't be used, only that it isn't.  It's simply more land that the locals require.

There might be a few hermits that live in it; there are probably some persons fleeing the law, or prospecting, or illegally cutting trees or poaching animals they shouldn't.  For the most part, however, that part of the hex is empty.  Not quite empty enough to allow a ruin or a dungeon.  Over the last hundred years, woodsmen, hunters and young lovers have gone over every inch of it ... and probably some of the older people in the hamlets can point to every rock and tree and tell you a story about them.  But if your character happens to be leaning on a tree two miles south of one of the south hamlets, chances are no one is walking by today.  Or this week.  Sometime in the next month you might hear someone a quarter mile away picking their way along ... but I would tend to doubt it.

All in all, this six-mile hex includes 22,172 battlemats.  That's more than enough room for an entire army to fight its way through in one of your campaigns.  Of course that army would probably clear out every tree for firewood if they were forced to stay for a month ... but chances are, for some parts of your country, some army in the past thousand years has done exactly that ... in virtually every hex.  I've mentioned applying this system to Kosovo ... an area of land that remembers tribes long before the Romans, the republic and empire, the Avars, the Huns, the Magyars, a dozen other tribes and lots and lots of war parties moving through the same gap between Serbia and the Adriatic.  Over and over the woods have been cleared of game, and still by the 1600s the land is empty, terribly, awfully empty, in all but a few places.

Something to consider.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Book is Good! People Tell Me So

I have simply got to beg a little help.  I have now heard from others who have read my book and enjoyed it.  Please.  Don't just tell me in private.  Tell others!

Lulu requires a log-in to review the book on their site, so failing that, WRITE IT HERE.

Willing buyers want to know if the book is any good.  Tell them!  I'll take all the help I can get!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Wilderness Plotting

There are seven kinds of wilderness depicted in the image below:

Figure 22 - wilderness hex sides

The degree of wilderness is dependent upon the influence of civilized hexes upon that wilderness. If the wilderness is surrounded by civilized hexes, than we must assume the surrounding herders, farmers, landowners and so on must venture into the edges of the wilderness, hunting and such, and that the ‘wilderness’ is a much less wild that if it were completely surrounded by other wilderness hexes (and therefore, less affected by incursion.

So the image specifies the level of each wilderness hex according to how many civilized hexes touch upon it. Having organized the wilderness thusly, we have seven levels. We can give each level a name:

Figure 23 - wilderness types

This takes a fair amount of explanation, and so it is going to be all I talk about for the remainder of this post.

First, it has to be recognized that the previous generation applies only to humans, or "demi-humans."  For simplicity, for this post I shall refer to all character races, elves, dwarfs, etc., at "humans," and all non-character races as "humanoids."  It's not that I couldn't write out "demi-humans & humans" every time I refer to character races, its just that it's unnecessary.

So we've created the human infrastructure ... what about the non-human?  How deep into the wilderness do you need to go before you encounter a goblin village, as described in the monster manual?  Do you have goblin villages, or does every goblin in your world live underground?  If that's the case, how far from your established civilization does 'underground' have to be?  A mile?  Six miles?  Twenty?  Perhaps in your imagination ALL humanoid habitations have to be deep underground and virtually impossible to find.  Perhaps they're just a few miles in country, and they're treated as 'just folks.'

It's easy to imagine a village on the edge of so-called 'goblin lands,' but what is to stop a group of 80 or so goblins forming a tribe, building a small fortified village and peaceably raising goats?  And if there's just a dead-on hatred for goblins that exists in your world, how is it that bandits can form such groupings and get away with it, but goblins can't?  Unless the local constabulary wants to mount up and go clean out the goblins (and the bandits) from the forest, they're going to persevere ... and even if the constabulary CAN do that, do they really have the time to do it every year?  Look at the map above.  That solid green patch above is the size of Rhode Island ... an army could waste a lot of time wandering about it trying to find the goblin village that's there.

I don't propose to argue that every hex surrounding by wilderness hexes automatically has a goblin village.  That's why the features on the table are described in a sweeping manner: "combined humanoid tribes and monster groups."  That's goblins with dire wolves.  It's also a single giant with a pet owlbear.  Granted, that's not two "groups" ... but like I said, sweeping.  Don't get bogged down in details.  What's intended is that the main power and force of the wilderness in that particular hex is under one authority.  Competing humanoids and monsters assumes that the humanoids there haven't quite cleared the wilderness for their own use.  Indifferent would suggest both humanoids and monsters exist in such small numbers that they're not fighting.

That's why I wanted to create a green area where neither humans nor humanoids dominated.  Backcountry is a sort of buffer-territory.  There are dangerous animals and monsters, yes ... but nothing organized.  The intelligent monsters are able to back themselves into territories that experience less incursion.  The really tame areas of wilderness are those that are beset on all sides by humans.

So where it reads "signs," the wilderness is at least travelled over enough that people have hammered boards to trees pointing out which way the paths lead, or where the forester's house is.  "Forester support" would be a place in the forest where you could expect to go if you were seriously injured, or if you wanted to trade the fur from the giant beaver you'd just killed or some such.  "Druidic support" would mean a friendly druid who might be willing to cast a spell or two, offer up a spot of herbal tea, help you out of a jam if your friend's been poisoned.  Such people might be around in the more travelled places, even if there's no other civilization present.

The reverse would then be true of the humanoids.  The outliers of the humanoid culture would be roaming the hinterland, far from their infrastructure (which might be no more than aforementioned village, but that would be something).  Humanoid hunters and patrol parties would be searching the boondocks for game ... and they'd be settled in the wild areas, which wouldn't be so 'wild' for them.  The words are for the human perspective ... but it's really a scale that swings both ways.

I want to get across that the wilderness hexes, even though we've defined them as "not civilized," wouldn't be empty of civilizing effects.  The white hexes I'd rather define as farms, orchards, cropped meadows and so on ... but open grasslands could exist on the range where there were no actual humans.  That wouldn't keep a lone herder from using them, it would just be dangerous enough you couldn't call it civilized.

So where you're sitting down to create your encounter table (and I hate the damn things), you've got to get out of the idea that 'wilderness' is something you step into like through a curtain, with the cleared hexes behind you and perfectly virgin territory in front.  It's a bleed from one to the other ... and though they may touch one another (where a single hex might be surrounded by five, and not six wilderness), that exact relationship is going to be special.  Very special indeed.  Too special to just say, "Well, you've just stepped into a green hex ... let me roll on my heterogeneous encounter table."

Look at those wilderness hexes surrounding the town at the bottom of the map ... now compare them with the forest hexes surrounding the city on the right hand side.  They're very different from a landslide.  When you get right down to the nap of that difference, you start to see how you're going to describe the party moving into one set of woods as compared to the other.  You're going to see how complex the relationships can be ... and how that will help you run your world.

Bottomless Pits

As all the drama dies away, and as content reasserts itself on the blog, I find myself in one of those instrospective moments where I've gained a little perspective.  I'm compressing my thoughts into figures and explanations for generation, and a moment of insight arrives on cue, as it usually does.

Why am I doing this?

I don't mean, what is the purpose of the generation; I'm working on my world as I always do, deliberating on the best way to fill those hexes, granular up the experience and just generally to make the world something the party can identify with an control.  No, I mean, why am I explaining it to anyone else?

I have a blog, obviously.  So I'm not just filling up hexes, I'm filling a blog, too.

Once upon a time, for ages before there were computers, it was enough to simply create the formula.  It would never have occurred to me to concentrate on making the formula palateable for anyone else's consumption.  I simply would have sat in my room, made the tables, applied the tables, reworked the tables, marked the continued failure of the tables and finally shelved the tables until the time came I had a new idea.  All this happened - hundreds of times - without anyone seeing what I did, not even my players.  After all, I don't sit down and explain to my players the system that creates the prices, or show them the character generator that gives them their new backgrounds.  Oh, I talked about it; gave a few examples; showed them the format; but when they ceased to be interested, as players always do, I was never upset.  You don't expect the players to care ... you just expect them to play.

And so it was for almost three decades.

These days, I can't conceive of a new rule without having to blog about it.  And since most of the rules I conceive of now tend to be complex and three-dimensional, in that generations tend to spawn other generations that produce still other generations, that complexity is getting harder and harder to capture in a bottle ... or rather, in a two dimensional table.  More and more, to get a handle on it requires a spreadsheet that can access other spreadsheets.  And its more explanation than is easy to put on a blog page.

So?  Why bother to blog.  Isn't it enough that it suits my world?

I am reminded that one of the reasons I began to blog was because my daughter was anxious that I sketch out the structures upon which I build my world.  When she first expressed this, I hadn't even stumbled across blogs.  She was only sixteen, she had never run in my world - she was playing the game only with her friends, then - but she knew the work I'd always done on my game and she didn't want it to be lost.  When I came across blogs, this seemed like a good method to describe things; throw up a picture or two, or just describe in words what I was doing.

That is getting harder and harder.  Bouncing against the hex generation last week, breaking down every tiny thought into an image, I did it for no reason except the blog.  I would NEVER have bothered to save an image of my every action previously.  No other person, or person's reaction, would have been in my head.  I wouldn't have found myself thinking, "Hm, got to justify the placement of those rivers.  Got to explain why rivers or landscapes produce patterns like they do."  I've spent 40 years studying maps, and countless hours pouring over river patterns and geological explanations for river flow - I don't need to explain this stuff for myself.  I know when I turn a river this way or that way on a map what I'm doing, and what effect it's causing.  Why, oh why, should I pause and explain it to anyone else.  Isn't it up to them to do the work?

This sounds like I'm going to quit blogging, like that's what I'm leading up to.  That would be inaccurate.  I don't intend to quit, and I don't intend to stop doing what I'm doing.  But I have to examine why I'm doing it, because that's the sort of contemplative person I am.  I like to have a reason.  I like to know.  It's not enough that I do it.  There's a reason why and until I know the reason, I'm not done yet.

I suppose that's what makes me the way I am.  There IS a reason.  Most people, I'm certain, convince themselves that maybe there isn't ... which justifies not searching for it.  Like the majority of people not supporting gun legislation not because they wouldn't like guns to be controlled, but because they're certain the legislation won't work.  More to the point, it will be expensive and it won't work.  That's a belief, not a fact.  And people believe that they probably do stuff just 'cause, and that spending a lot of time thinking about it won't turn up an answer.  So they don't think.  They don't reconsider, or seek explanations.  They assume there aren't any.

There is a way to do everything.  And there is a reason for doing it.  Not knowing that reason or way has jack to do with the existence of either.

People wonder why I've called this blog the "Tao" of D&D.  And some have asked that if I had no intention of speaking about Taoism, why did I name the blog as I did?  My conception of Tao is that it is a path.  I don't propose to know what Tao is.  No Taoist does.  The path itself is the process.  I don't claim that there is "a way" to play D&D ... I only claim that I am "on the way."  I'm examining the intricacies of what the game offers or suggests.

That offering or suggestion cannot be found in the rule books.  It cannot be found in the words of this blog, either.  All I can do is say, "Here is a Hex.  Here is a means to filling that Hex.  Apply thyself."

Whether I am sketching tables or offering image patterns, or I am ripping into to some poor soul along the way for failing to live up to the principle, it is no different.  All that is written here is "content."  It is foolish to argue that there are "content" posts on this blog and "drama" posts.  Every word written here addresses some angle of the game, whether its the flat and mundane placement of roads on a map or the slapping around of some dumb soul bent on decrying the usefulness of putting roads on a map.  It is not enough to make propositions.  If propositions mean anything, they or worth defending.

Why write my world out?  Because I think these are ideas worth defending.  I think that there's value in them, not just for me, but for others.  Admittedly, I sometimes wonder what value.  Often I fear that I am going right up my own ass.  I feel a bit like it now, as it happens.  This post is beginning to bend back on itself in ways I did not intend.

I enjoy being read.  I enjoy hearing that I've influenced other people and their worlds.  I enjoy feedback for my ideas and I enjoy tossing out those ideas, even if it requires I get pedantic and excessively detailed.  Someone else is enjoying that, I'm sure.  I can't do that sort of thing constantly; I don't have the time.  And often I find myself at a loss for what to do next.  Or that I haven't got the time to properly detail out the next step.  Or that I just get so far down the road before I realize I need to rest and reconsider.  Half the time the new shit I'm doing is so new I have, at best, a vague idea of where I'm going.

Experience tells me, however, that I am going somewhere, and not in a rectal direction.  I'm on a road to knowledge; I'm challenging myself to do more than just HAVE that knowledge, but to share it too.  It's difficult.  Blogs are like terrible, awful voids.  You throw shit into them and you listen for something to hit bottom.

Some things never do.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Scale on the Ground

I thought I would talk about scale for a bit, since I have always been annoyed at pre-made maps like those you find in every module where in a circle a hundred miles across there is one towns.  Even Minaria, from which I've repeatedly shown Hothiar on this blog, is 40+ hexes and yet there are only four towns.  Obviously, that's for a game, but too often D&D representations fit that motif.

The above shot is from a valley in India, Madhya Pradesh province, a region called Shivpuri.  This is a part of a valley about 20 miles wide and 70 miles long ... but the actual image itself is about three miles wide and five miles deep.  That's all.  You're looking at an area that's 15 square miles ... less than half the area of one of the small hexes I only just finished generating on the previous generation post.

Look at the population centers.  I'll highlight them for you:

There are TEN.

I did not cherry pick an area with lots of villages ... in fact, what I tried to do was find an area without any large cities, as well ... there's one just off the right of the map, about four miles.  Everywhere in the Shivpuri valley looks like this.  It the 17th century, it was famous for its dense forests ... which it still has, in the high country surrounding the forementioned valley.

The point I want to make is for the reader to look at the space.  Naturally, it's filled with fields, there are ten villages on the map (the nearest probably has a population of about 400).  But suppose that there were only ONE village shown.  How much of the remaining shot would need to be cultivated?

Answer:  not much.  Rice in particular doesn't cover a lot of ground for the number of people it feeds, but there are grain fields shown, too.  If you had one village for a hex six miles across, that would be a mighty empty hex.  There'd be plenty of room for a party to move through it and never encounter a single human being, even if there was a village just three miles away.

We have a tendency to view the world from motor vehicles, and thus to envision three miles as a negligible distance.  In actual fact, from the perspective of a wilderness explorer, its a considerable amount of ground to walk over.  Remove any roads that might happen to be in the hex and you make travel more difficult, and thus it takes even more time to poke around every heap of rocks and along every river bank.

In a hex 20 miles across, even if there were a sizeable city in it, a large party people hunting all day could fail to find a herd of elephants, much less something small like a raiding party of half a dozen trolls.  We just fail to recognize how big the world is, even on a tiny scale.

Suppose I gave you a task, as a party member, to find the rakshasa hiding in the image shown above.  He's in one of the villages; we don't know if he's posing as a holy person or if he's a recluse, or he's got the village by the throat and they're terrified to give him away.  Go ahead, find him.

Just don't expect to do it by noon.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

More Plotting

This Post Is Completed Now

Continuing on from this post:

In the interest of making this a little clearer, let me present more graphics in relations to the individual group orientations:

Figure 14 - group IV possibilities

That should be better than the former explanation on the last post. Note that roadsteads and other symbols have been added, the exact nature of which would depend on how the actual group fit into the total plan (as I will show in a moment).
(a) manor without village. This would be the abode of a reclusive family, perhaps one that had holdings and has now lost them, or possibly the abode of a mage, illusionist or druid, high class levels without men-at-arms (though a different symbol would be appropriate for a druid).
(b) quarry/sawpits/meadow. This is substantially the same hex we encountered before, except that now there’s an isolated hex in the group. Here the rural industry may be a bit more widespread, but this is still the least civilized of this type of hex.
(c) easement/pass/watersplash. An easement is a private road or way which would be accessible only to approved groups, such as the local military, nobility or religious group. Travel along an easement by other persons would be treated very severely as trespassing. Alternately, this group could be a mountain pass (free travel, but difficult), with the civilized hexes on either side representing steep but maintained slopes. In the lowland I’ve chosen to make, it might be a ‘watersplash,’ which is a term for a road or throughway that is in part, or seasonally, submerged, often just by a few inches. This is a real thing – the reader may find a description in wikipedia.
(d) large village with keep. A small church/temple would also be found here (the Christian cross was a convenient symbol, but you may make your own). Depending upon where the village may occur, its reason for existence may change … but there should be two or three separate routes leading away, however many may seem practical.
(e) manor house and village. Like the former village, except that now there would be a noble representative rather than a council of elders in charge of local affairs. A single roadstead would certainly lead away from the village, though there may be others, depending as always on where this particular village is located.
(f) aquifer or fishing pond. In desert climates, this would be an unoccupied oasis. In most temperate climes, some sort of fishing lake resulting from a spring or possibly a large meadowland full of rich grazing land, treated as a local public resource.
The three manor hexes would probably all be patrolled; if an easement were selected, then that too would be patrolled heavily. The remaining groups would be well travelled or populated, but by communal persons rather than militants.
Let’s add these to the main map, remember that these apply to those map places marked 8 & 9 (see last post, World Plotting:
Figure 15 - group IV added

I’ve made a few notes on the map showing changes I’ve made to the roadsteads – as I don’t want to be accused of trying to pull a fast one. There were six rolls to make – I rolled two villages with keeps, one village with a manor, an easement (which, because it was on the edge of the map, I chose not to make a splashway), a rural industry (which I made sawpits) and a manor without village. The southwest is beginning to look pretty isolated … that one road at the bottom left probably ought to wind its way up past the mine to whatever is in the hex ‘11’ above it … but I prefer to roll that hex to see what it is first.
One thing, though. We could probably run another river through that line of green which includes the easement, rolling it across hex ‘12’ and down to the roadless village, then into the main river group. We know 12 is going to be the single hex on this map which will have no green whatsoever, being completely civilized – a large town, perhaps a city. It would make some sense if there were a bridge across the river at this point, which would justify the city’s existence. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Let’s move onto the next set of groups, Type III:

Figure 16 - group III possibilities

The natural assumption would be that as things get more 'civilized,' they also get denser ... but much of the choice land is seized by the more powerful, the local nobility, the religious establishment, the military or the merchants' guilds.  Three of these possibilities above are 'power grabs' for the upper classes.

(a) castle with estate or small town.  I recommend a fifty/fifty roll for either.  An estate would still include a fairly large number of residents ... but scattered into several tiny villages or hamlets, where they could be better managed by the reeve or hayward.  Towns would have a population of 1,000 to 3,000.  Later on I'll get to what is or isn't in those towns, along with villages and so on, but for now we can satisfy ourselves with the placement of such.  Both towns or estates would have four roads leading out to other hexes (unless this is impractical).

(b) secular or religious lands with freeholder settlements.  That is, tenants with wealth but without title, owning large pieces of land either as benefices they've earned from the church or as grants from the king or local nobility.  There would be one road that leads out from the group (not necessarily in the direction indicated.

(c) carter post, caravansary, barracks, guard tower.  One has to go with their best judgement.  Carter posts are way stations along significant trade routes, where horses or supplies may be provided (a trader's version of a military depot) by a given merchant or merchant's guild.  Caravansaries are temporary, often seasonal tent cities that choose optimal places with a water supply and access.  Barracks would indicate an military post.  Guard towers would be military depots.  Where evident, the hex group would represent a crossroads.

(d) monastery.  Here the tongue of wilderness is advantageous to the seclusion of monks, who manage the surrounding land or oversea hamlets  that do so.  The encircling road exists insofar as it is needed.

Overall, the roads themselves have to be adjusted so that they cross the least number of hexes and yet show at least some presence commensurate with the die rolls.  Feel free to fudge a little here and there, so that a road may pass - possibly - through only two hexes of a monastery group.

We can now roll and put the group III results into those hexes marked '10' on our main map:

Figure 17 - group III added 

This seemed so straightforward I haven’t put any additional notes on the map. I rolled four rolls and go no castles, either estates nor towns. I did get a carter post, a monastery and two hexes side-by-side owned with freeholders. Given that the monastery is on the other side of the river, I’d probably call these secularists, ex-military soldiers perhaps or simply families in long standing whose ancestors founded the nearby town.

This leaves us with six undetermined senior hexes. Let’s put the next two groups together and define them:

Figure 18 - groups I & II possibilities

Here we see the options get much fewer. Either we have a large town or city (hex “12”) or a choice of castle & medium sized town and royal lands (hex “11”). A medium sized town would have 2-5 thousand people; a large town, 6-10 thousand. A city, 11 thousand or more.

Royal lands are territories set aside that are groomed, and thus civilized, in that the majority of dangerous animals have been cleared away, but what remains is a convenient game reserve for the pleasure of the royalty. Naturally, a palace would be located at or near the game reserve – but only 1 in 128 senior hexes, by this system, would be royal land of this kind.

Still, we’ll roll and see what results we get. There are five possible chances:

Figure 19 - last groups added

Here I’ve gone through and finalized all the roadsteads. Please take note of the some important details here. You will feel a tendency to want to connect and complete roads from every town and village to every other one. Take note where the deliberately lacking infrastructure creates an obstacles to the city, even though the city was indicated formerly to have roads coming out in every direction. Remember, an indicated lack of infrastructure takes precedence over infrastructure that is indicated later.

Thus, the towns don’t all have roads that reach out in every direction. They have as many roads as they should have, given the lack of infrastructure rule … and they can all reach out off the map, though at a later point you may need to remove some of those roads once you’ve expanded your generation.

At once point I complete a roadstead through the mine hex … this is because the roadstead was designated … and so at the end, all roadsteads must go somewhere. Rather than blip them out of existence, extend them the shortest distance to something (to the mine, if nowhere else). Now and then these two rules may not fit each other. Use your best judgement.

So yes, some towns have only single access roads. That is because I chose a difficult terrain, that of swamp. Mountains and hills could be justified to have roads reaching one another. In any case, remember that where there are no roads, there are always cart-tracks, unpaved but still servicing traffic. That is, where no river gets in the way.

No, we’re really not done.

There are still the crossover hexes to fill in. If there is a road, don’t fill in the hex with wilderness; if there are four or more hexes surrounding the crossover that are not wilderness, the crossover isn’t either. If there are four or more hexes that are wilderness, fill that in. And if it is equal three and three, roll:

Figure 20 - crossover hex resolution

Most important, do not change over hexes that are NOT crossover hexes. It can get confusing, and you can find yourself changing over hexes that have already been determined to be settled – even some which will wind up being in the middle of a dense forest. These are important locations, so don’t simply wipe them out.

Here’s my map, with crossover hexes resolved, and with the senior hex markers removed:

Figure 21 - hexes finalized

I have deliberately left the hexes at the edge of the map that would have been crossover hexes undetermined (and removed the hex edges to emphasize this). I have also added a four pointed star where the royal lands are.

If seven population centres seem a little high, I’d like to point out that at 37 senior hexes (what we started with) at 18 miles across, this is an area comparable with Connecticut and Rhode Island put together; or a fifth of England; or slightly smaller than Belgium. Since there is no coastline, and it being swampland, this is unlike most areas of Europe – it corresponds to certain parts of southern China or central India, where there are few – if any – river ports.

Well, there is more, but this is a good place to stop for now.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

World Plotting

The following method is not completed.  I want to emphasize this.  I have been designing this in my head for only a few weeks, and its only been nine or ten days since I had the necessary epiphany to make this work.  However, so far it is going very well ... and I am one step beyond where this post will end, and it is still looking great.

Meanwhile, since this post as designed is getting pretty long, I am going to get it up and then start writing the next one.  All that you are about to read was invented as I wrote it.  It can always at a later time be upgraded, but so far I'm extremely happy with the result.

Let’s say you want to be able to generate a wilderness, or the part of a world, but you don’t want to muck about with any foolish mathematics. You just want to be able to roll dice and get results. Very well. That is what this system, and this post, is designed to allow.

For explanation purposes, let’s start with a fairly large area – something 7 hexes across.  That would look like this:
Figure 1 - blank hexes

Nice and simple. So what we want to do is produce an infrastructure number for these hexes ... but as long as that number can actually be quite simple, let’s just roll a d12 for every hex. The higher the number, the greater the infrastructure. What that infrastructure’s designation is, for the moment, can be left aside. Here are my numbers, rolled entirely at random:

Figure 2 - infrastructure numbers

In all probability, you wouldn’t really want these to be wholly random. You might want to apply modifiers for areas where you had already put deserts, mountains, cities, etc ... but for the sake of demonstration, let’s suppose you’re conjuring up an environment from nothing.

Broad strokes: a 1-2 is pure wilderness; a 12, fully settled. We’ll say the hexes are 18 miles across, but they could be as wide as the reader likes.

For the next stage, we want to create interior hexes inside those we’ve already established, retaining our rolled numbers. We want to create seven “junior” hexes for each “senior” hexes ... which will look like this:

Figure 3 - add junior hexes

Now, there are several steps we’re going to take, so for the time being I would like if we could ignore those hexes which overlap from one senior hex to another:

Figure 4 - ignore 'crossover' hexes

Good, now we’re going to begin base-filling these hexes. To begin with, any hex that is marked with a 1 or a 2 is fully wilderness ... so all seven hexes are uncivilized. To add some color to the proceedings, we’ll say this whole region is basically a forest country, so we’ll start by shading in all those wilderness hexes dark green. We can also remove those numbers. This is going to give us an image like this:

Figure 5 - group VIII added - full wilderness
see this post

Now, I have to admit going forward that I am balancing this slightly towards more wilderness than not; how you weight your particular elements is up to you, but I think wilderness plays a little better than civilization for most, and this generation is balanced to reflect that. Slightly balanced, I emphasize.

But let’s look at those hexes where we rolled a '3.' The senior hexes will have 1 junior hex that is civilized, and junior hexes that are not. The two possible patterns that can occur are these:

Figure 6 - group VII possibilities

The chances of each type of pattern, or “group,” is shown above. The chances of that one wilderness hex being on the edge is six times as common as being in the center (the right group can be rotated in six directions). Now, I realize the reader can see that it’s a roll of 7 which hex is civilized ... but the pattern IS important in this, so I’m deliberately making the effort to show how having the hex on the outside, where it might contact another civilized junior hex in another senior hex is a big difference from the hex which is guaranteed to be isolated on the left.
Let’s roll dice to see which orientation each of the senior hexes have for the 3’s we rolled earlier. There are only two ... but by chance, I did get one that was encircled by wild:

Figure 7 - Group VII added

Now we can move to the next sort of group – that covering the hexes above numbered 4 & 5. Once again, here are the sorts of patterns, with their relative occurrence:

Figure 8 - Group VI possibilities

The reader can see the far right pattern (d) can only be rotated in three different directions, which the others can be rotated in six. Once again, yes, I realize the reader can simply roll which two hexes are civilized ... but what’s important here is that you see how each pattern can be made to stand for a different inherent social relationship. The two hexes (a) and (b) are similar and clearly more social, while the hexes on the right are less so.

Also, I recognize the reader does not have a 21-sided dice ... but you all are clever, I’m sure you can work out something for yourselves.

Once again, let’s add these second group patterns to 4s and 5s on the main hex map. There are five of these:

Figure 9 - Group VI added

By now, some readers will be able to work out what I mean to do with those ‘crossover’ hexes that earlier I said to ignore. Loosely, we could say where four or more of the hexes surrounding those are wilderness, they too will become wilderness, and that where the encircling hexes are even, that its a 50/50 roll either way. For the moment, however, until we’ve filled out the entire arrangement, let’s continue to leave those as they are. There are other details we may want to consider.

Another point that needs to be made; some will wonder why not just randomly roll every hex to see if they should be wilderness or not. What is nice about this system is that it introduces ‘clumpiness.’ There are fairly substantial wilderness areas built up as well as substantial civilized areas. A single die roll system for each individual junior hex will create a far too heterogenerous pattern. Try it. I suspect, though, if you’ve done a lot of generation, especially for Traveller, you already know what you’ll get.

Now, before moving forward, I want to point out a couple of interesting things that are also determined by the results. In the above Figure 9, the reader may notice I chanced to roll group VI (a) once and group VI (b) twice. These indicate certain infrastructure features, which have been added to the generated map:

Figure 10 - first infrastructure features

All right, we can move forward to the next groups patterns now, for hexes numbered 6 & 7:

Figure 11 - group V possibilities

This is going to get a little harder to conceptualize. Types (a), (b) and (d) will all make six patterns, rotating them each in six directions. (c) however can only be turned in three directions; and (f) only two (if you turn it 120 degrees its the same). On the other hand, (e) can be turned TWELVE different orientations ... as it can be a mirror image of itself, and both it and its mirror can each be turned in six directions. Trust me. Play around with them, you’ll find I’m right. Altogether there are 35 orientations for all six types.

We can talk infrastructure, also. Type (a), where three hexes are together, indicates a tiny village, 100-300 people. (b), (c), (d) and (e) all have lines of hexes, so all four indicate a road of some sort. For no reason at all, except that we ARE randomly generating details, let’s say that any hex that comes up (b) is a primitive river way ... a ford or, if the river is too large for a ford, a hand ferry.
Let’s say that any hex that comes up (c) is a toll gate. Unlike (b) or (d), (c) would afford the shortest distance civilized travel between two opposite hexes ... so its a logical choke point for a guardhouse and small post also, so let’s add that.

Because (d) is on the outside of the hex, let’s say that it represents virgin industries – sawpits along the edge of the forest, a quarry perhaps (especially in unforested lands) or high country meadows.

Finally, because (e) has two hexes side by side with an isolated hex added, we can treat as merely a roadstead (since its a combination of formerly compiled hexes).

Now, with these we can replace senior hexes 6 and 7 ... there are six of those, five of them all in one line from the top to the middle of the map. I rolled the number 27 twice, so two of the new hexes are exactly the same:
Figure 12 - group V added

I’ve deliberately not hooked up the roads, since I want the reader to understand the relationships between the senior hexes. We have a loose collection of roads, the exact line of which we don’t actually know. We must remember that these roads can pass through wilderness hexes – but it’s too soon to determine whether or not they will.

I’ve chosen to make it a quarry and a ferry – though a table could be created for either feature, if one wanted to get more gritty. We can certainly see how the tollgate figures into the separated islands of civilization. The road that I’ve dipped up could just as easily dip down into the number 11 senior hex below ... but that depends on the orientation of that hex.

The river is tricky. You may already have a base map you want to work off of that already has the rivers laid out – in which case, you might say the road crosses a minor tributary, or perhaps its a rope bridge over a gorge. Your imagination is the only limitation.

The course of the river is more troublesome. You have to decide whether the river is the lowest part of the map (in which case the wilderness is all swampy and wet) or that it flows down from the highest part (so that the wilderness areas are hills and mountains. If you choose lowland, then there should be one large river that links up all the wildernesses ... since for an area like this, 140 miles across, the land would be almost all flat and part of one drainage basin. The lowest areas will be the most vegetated.

If you choose highlands with valleys, then the rivers should all flow outward and away from the wildernesses, and the lowest areas will be the spreading fields of your most civilized – and least vegetated – areas. So you see, its really important which you choose.

I confess, I spent about two months trying to come up with a simple randomizer to determine the location and direction of rivers WITHOUT elevations, without much success ... I am glad my world uses them. Since your world probably has no elevation numbers for hexes, I suggest you go with your instincts. Feel free to generate the various hexes and then just fit in the rivers wherever they seem “best.” Below I’ll show two images, where the rivers have been “sketched” for a set of wilderness and for a set of wilderness highlands. The highlands are on the right:

Figure 13 - river course options

Two very different vistas.  And of course I could have drawn the rivers in a number of different patterns.  At some point, I may sit down and crack out a complicated formula for river placement ... but some things the human imagination can just do faster and easier.  What's important here is that we've provided substance for your imagination to hinge on in order to provide one very simple, direct effect.  You choose the rivers, the rest of the hex generation then supports that choice.

Note that, like the map says, it is necessary to change the ferry to a ford, since the river is too short to be deep enough to allow water vehicles. All the water coming from these highlands would probably be fairly fast-moving ... a ford would be welcome, just as a ferry would be in the swampy lands of the left.

I could go with either of these, but since the mountains/hills are the more common arrangement, let’s continue with the rivers on the left.

We’ve finished all the predominantly wilderness hexes. The remainder have more civilization that wilderness.  And so here we can stop.  As I said, I have the next part ready ... and I'll continue to work forward on this to see where it takes me.

Monday, March 18, 2013

New Greece Maps


I should be able to print the quarters of the map on the Wiki in 300 dpi ... though that is going to mean changing the organization of the wiki's map content.  Each map will be a meg in size.

Quarters should look like this:

For more than a month I've been working to get my Greek map posts remade and polished.  Here they are, complete with full infrastructure details.


Vegetation & Infrastructure

Political: Yellow (Ottoman), Orange (Naples),
Purple (Venice), Green (Ragusa)
I'll be quartering these and detailing them further in my Wiki.  That will probably take a couple of days.  You can find a key for the vegetation map three quarters down the page here.

If you open them in a new window, you should be able to get the large enough to get a good look.  I've left the hatch marks so that when I add these to the wiki, the reader can see where the cuts are.

Sunday, March 17, 2013


So now I am thinking about hate.

Someone spent hours duplicating this site and getting it on blogger - same title, same fonts, same layout and so on, as close as they could manage.  They created a duplicate nick to my own and even included images of my person ripped from my youtube vlog, photoshopped to fit their purpose.  They did their best to paint me as a sobbing, petulant moron.  It was mocking hate, pure and simple.

Once I found out about it, it took blogger an hour to take it down.  Which is lovely.  Thank you blogger.

The main theme of this hatred was, once again, that I had dared to write 10,000 words about something.  The post has been up for less than two weeks, but it is already the 6th most popular post I have ever written.  So why is it making people angry?

Several of the commenters on this blog have already put forth their opinions, and there were a couple of flame wars about it last week ... which were no doubt responsible for the slander that I stumbled across last night.  The strongest consensus seems to be that in some way I am "trying to push one right way" of playing.  But I don't think that's really it.  That's a convenient meme, but it doesn't ring true.  If you turn to a channel where a fellow is making furniture - someone who's name you don't know - you don't start shouting at the TV that there's no right way.  The same goes for cooking, or auto mechanics, or really anything.  You wouldn't go up to a coach at a baseball diamond teaching kids and start shouting about what does he know, the kids should just be allowed to play however they feel.

No, this is a convenient explanation, but I don't think it is the explanation.  Which, of course, will no doubt beg the argument, "You're trying to say there's only one explanation for things!  How dare you set yourself up as god?"


Let's call it a hypothesis.

The truth, I believe, is to be found in the level of insistence that the game is "fun" and that it isn't complicated.  Not the question of whether those things are true (about which I've written) ... but rather, the degree of emotional import attached to the matter.

I've been a recent, momentary casualty of an emotional response ... in fact, a hatred that I can only view as hysterical.  How else does one describe taking such the effort to attack a stranger?

I wouldn't say that one example proves hysteria.  But many of us have seen YDIS.  We've seen flamewars.  We've read the comments and statements describing persecution, as trolls scream in all caps, increasing in their level of incomprehensibility.  The net's been around two decades.  We have plenty of experience.

Why hysteria, then?  About this in particular.  Why does it need to be repeated as though it were dogma.  Why does most every blog dedicate a post, or posts, to the insistence that the game is about fun.  Isn't that fairly obvious?  Isn't that the reason we began playing, because we preferred it to other fun things?  What is really being argued here?

I suspect its fear.  Hysteria always descends from fear.  Most other things do, too, since biology demands a flight or fight response to every sort of doubt or unknown.  Hysteria is just an unusually strong reaction.  Whatever people are saying, when matters cease to be polite, there's anger and there's fear.

So what am I afraid of?  I'm as guilty as anyone.  I shout, rail, rant, scream, humiliate and flame toe-to-toe ... I'm not immune to my biology.  What am I afraid of?

I think, like any nerd, it has to come back to elementary school gym.  I mean, it was elementary school everything, but specifically it was gym.  Gym was the dangerous place.  In the classroom, there was no physical contact.  In the hall, you could use your experience and eyes to watch out for yourself.  You avoided hallways where the more retarded, stronger apes clustered.  You could time your interactions with them to coincide with the presence of bigger, watchful teachers.

Gym, however, was the place where you were forced to interact physically with the apes.  I was naturally short and light in those days, and hopelessly clumsy.  I'm a lot bigger now (still clumsy), but in those days I was vulnerable.  Worse, like any nerd, I was a target.  For a lot of the apes, not doing well in school, humiliated by questions they couldn't answer, homework they couldn't do, any person who was not scholastically challenged was a target.  The smarter you were, the bigger the target.  Moreover, this did not limit itself to dodgeball.  Me and my equally small friends were, regularly, subjected to punches, pile ons, broken bones and concussions.  I remember being run over by a fellow twice my size during a game of basketball, his open hand pushing my chest so that I hit the floor and slid into one of the wooden benches.  I blacked out, woke up in the principle's office (this was 1976; there was no nurse's office in my school).

Hm.  Haven't thought about that in ages.

Naturally, this set up an us-and-them relationship.  And we knew perfectly well what this relationship was based upon.  Intelligence.  Whoever had more, won where it counted to us - books, knowledge, right and wrong, etc.  Whoever had less, if they had size and speed, won where it counted to them - sports and physical abuse.

So we abused them mentally, and they abused us physically.  This builds up a pattern of behavior, until you find yourself abusing people not just because they happen to be jocks; there are all kinds of stupid people in the world.  It seems, as you get older, they creep in from everywhere.  You find yourself abusing them because they're stupid - that just seems to be the way.  It's a habit.  If you give into that habit ... if you're smart, and you practice, you get good at it.

The fellow (I'd be very surprised to learn it wasn't a 'fellow') who created his little mockery of me isn't stupid.  But he's so misdirected as a person he might as well be.

I sit here and basically I wage the same war I did when I was nine.  This is unacceptable to many.  This says, I never grew up.  Still screaming on the playground at 48?  Pathetic.

Well, it would be if I hadn't noticed all around me that there are people shooting guns at one another, physically abusing one another, entering wars, committing rape, imprisoning innocents, persecuting races and so on and so forth.  I would be terribly, terribly ashamed except that I've noticed that this seems largely to be the behavior of extraordinarily stupid people.  I mean, I was pretty appalled at nine when a fellow beat up my friend Andrew for no good reason ... but that is nothing when I consider my country was involved in a war commenced for purely selfish reasons.

As near as I can tell, stupidity is the worst bane this planet has.  The principle cure for stupidity is education.  Education trounces stupidity as clearly as rock smashes scissors.  But something else I've noticed all this time is that stupid people are habitually resistant to education.  In fact, so resistant that I had to choose my metaphor carefully.  Education can enfold stupidity like a paper folding rock ... but most times, it's really necessary to smash.

Now and then, if I get some smart listeners, I can get down with scissors cutting paper.  But most stupid people have to be smashed.

What am I afraid of?  That the stupid people will win.

Now, I'm going to make an assumption here.  I'm going to posit that anyone who screams that "too many words" is a bad thing is ... well ... stupid.  This probably won't seem obvious to a stupid person.  But, well, that's basically just because they're stupid.  A smart person will read the text and notice that if you take out some of the "too many words," the concepts being discussed seem to make less sense.  It's only when words don't make any sense anyway that they seem disposable.  And words only don't make sense to stupid people.

So what are the stupid people afraid of?

The obvious answer would seem to be that they're afraid that smart people will win.  But no, you'd be wrong.  Even a stupid person knows the smart people already have.  That's what is so galling.  You know, deep down, that you are stupid.  You know this because, deep down, you don't really understand what is being said.  You're reading this long winded crap and you're bored or bothered or generally unable to access it to your hard drive and you know how annoying that is.  It's the same feeling you had when the teacher asked that question about the Vietnam War and you sat there feeling inadequate.  You looked down at your fists, your arms ... you knew you were able to throw a football a thousand miles, that on the field you were a god and that girls feel on their knees and worshipped you in large numbers ... but here you are in this stupid fucking boring classroom with this wimpy fucking teacher who couldn't pick up a football, much less throw it, waiting for an answer you don't have while everyone stares at you.  Everyone.  Staring at you.  Knowing that you're not a god, not here.  Not in this fucking place.

What happens when the whole world gets like that?  What happens when you're getting older and you can't prove what a god you are anywhere?  What happens when that shitty feeling you had in your classroom is the feeling you have at your job, every day, all day?  What then?

And what happens when these fucking smart fuckers start fucking around with the game you really like to play?  What if someone reads all this fucking smart stuff and starts rubbing in your face?  What if they start talking about it, all the time, and what if they ask you what you think?

What the fuck are you going to do then?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Flexibility & the One Direction

Ozzie Pippenger wrote a couple days ago:

"Do you leave it entirely up to your players to work out when they have a conflict? What if some of the players insist on doing something the rest have no interest in? Do you ever run extra games or one on one adventures for independent goals? I know my players can have trouble with this. Sometimes two or three of them are working well together, feeding off each other's energy, and making the game much more interesting. Sometimes though, a single player dominates the game and the others slowly stop paying attention."

Of course it happens.  I actually have several examples from my online game.  Delfig the Bard decided to go back to Dachau to face his demons, while the rest of the party went on.  Franz and the party went loggerheads 14 months ago.  And even just last week, the present party couldn't decide about killing sheep, going back to the ship or heading out further.

Now, regarding my failure in the 10,000 word post on how to play a character to include something about inter-party conflict, that wasn't an error.  This is not something I expect a party to resolve.  It is, therefore, not relevant to the act of a player playing a character.  It is relevant to the question, how do you control your players in a game ... and this I did mean to address in the book I'm writing, An Advanced Guide to Managing Roleplaying Games.  I tell you, if that crew thinks 10,000 words is pretentious, wait until they get a load of my book.

I don't want to rehash the points of the book, but I will say this.  People at the table disagree.  They are entitled to disagree.  They are expected to be patient and reasonable.  You will note that in general, I don't dip my hand in when the party wants to wrangle out a choice of action.  I didn't intervene with Franz until he started getting combattish ... and later J.B., who played Franz, would agree with my decision.  The man has character coming out the yin-yang.

Overall in my gaming, this hasn't been a problem.  I believe that is because where I see a single player dominating other players in the game, I don't see that as a "gaming" problem.  I see that as a "This person is being a bad person."  Whereupon, I say to this person, "What the fuck, man, you're not the only one playing here."  And if that particular fellow (its always a fellow - I've never seen a girl player act this way) doesn't get himself straightened out in terms of his self-importance, then he's asked to get the fuck out the door.

I have played with people who were incredible dicks.  And I have had DMs tell me, "Well, Bill's really a nice guy ... it's only when he's playing that he acts like this."  Really.  I mean ... really.  Because from where I'm sitting, Bill pretty much looks like an ass, period.

I know, Ozzie, that you're not saying this about any of your players.  I'm just presenting this as the extreme.  In general, I've always had the sort of players who recognize, logistically, that they're going to have to play together towards the same goal if they want to play as much as possible.

Still, I can remember times when I left one player, who wanted to play a solo game while four other people sat at the table waiting for him (again, its always a guy), stewing in his juices.  Once I let a guy sit for THREE hours while I ran the other four who wanted to play together, while he just got more and more pissed because I wasn't prepared to put the adventure on hold for his little joy time.  I would never have done this normally ... except this was the first night the guy had ever played in my world.  Yessiree folks, he joined an active party, then tried to usurp the campaign for his own ends.

That wasn't the end of it, either.  If you'll forgive me, I'll include a war story about this fellow that I won't be adding to the book.

It's the first night of his appearance.  He rolls a thief.  The party encounters a camped gnoll patrol in gnoll territory, stumbling out of the forest and surprising them.  As the battle starts, the thief - we'll call him Dave - breaks apart from the party.  Good move, a little 1st level thief against huge gnolls is a bad idea, and the rest of the party was 4th and 5th level.

But where does Dave go?  While the party handles the 18 gnolls, Dave makes a big circle and sneaks into a gnoll tent, to rob it.  Oh, lovely.  Way to build bridges, buddy.  The party goes on fighting.  The gnolls are losing, so some of them break off ... and one running away, free and clear, runs right into Dave, arms full of loot.

Now, the next bit was funny.  Dave starts shouting for help.  The party, perfectly aware of what he was doing, refuses.  Dave starts arguing with me that the party can't possibly refuse because they don't KNOW he was robbing the gnolls.  I answered that the party clearly knew he hadn't done anything to help them, and anyway, they'd only met him a couple days before, right?

Well, the gnoll had been hit a couple of times and Dave had been able to kill it on his own.  But he didn't get to keep all the loot, as the party found it while he was fighting.

And then ... then ... while the party strikes out on their continued way south, to get out of gnoll territory, what does Dave want to do?  He wants to go off on his own, into the trees, and find his own way.


So he sat on his ass.  I gave him several chances, but he stubbornly refused to just rejoin with the party.  Then, after three hours with me not running him, he left in a huff.  We were all really sorry to see him go.

D&D is a group activity.  Explain this to your players.  If they can't work out a way to play together, then the least flexible ones are willing to get up and leave.  I'd rather play with two flexible people than with four that can't get along.  With two, I can add a third and a fourth in good time.  I'm at the point now where I run eight, sometimes nine or ten people.  And they all want to do the same things, not because I tell them, but because they know if they want to play, they will organize themselves into a program where everyone can do so.

They all like each other, you see.  So if someone were a selfish pain, that someone wouldn't be liked.  And if not liked, I wouldn't have to be the one to say get out.