Saturday, January 28, 2023

Getting Started ...

The new book is taking a great deal of my time, draining it away from the wiki and this blog.  It being Saturday, I'll take some time to explain what's gone on this last week, which has flown by.  I'm 11 days into the book's writing, with 14 pages written ... dense pages, 8x11 in size and ten-point font.  Managing a page a day is comfortable and practical; the time commitment is some 2 to 4 hours each day.  This goes by in a state of flow; a finger snap and it's into my dinner time.  I feel like I've spent the last week being shot out of a cannon.

Ran D&D last night.  The players achieved their goal of plundering the lost Portuguese treasure ship that had escaped with the Portuguese Royal Family in 1580, when Portugal fell to Spain.  This ran over 1,000,000 gold pieces and experience.  Every person in the party went up a level, including the ranger that was 9th and is now 10th, and the druid that was 11th and now 12th.  The players chose not to plunder the whole ship.  Two near TPKs and a whole lot of nasty left, they settled for the first grab and decided they were done with the underwater adventure and ready to return to the above world.  That was the end of our last running.

Last night was all record-keeping and accounting.  Everyone wanted access to the market place (Las Palmas in the Canaries); they had their character stats and sage knowledge to update; they had all the usual questions to ask and plan-making to do.  Nothing was firmly decided, except their intention to return to Europe.  During the evening, the players themselves raised the discussion of "Is it worth it to spend a whole running doing bookkeeping."  The answer was overwhelmingly YES ... followed by admonitions for people who play such shallow games they don't think any approach is needed towards building up the character's livelihood and personal reach.  After all, if we're not going to build anything with the money, what the fuck difference does it make if we're 9th level or 10th?

Today, I'm working on descriptions and pricing for tree nuts.  Then it'll be crops for farming cloth fibres (cotton, hemp, jute, sisal, ramie, etc.) ... then vegetables and tubers.  I need to calculate the cost to hire farmhands and fruit pickers.  Then it's into livestock, with sections on horses, cattle, sheep, goats and pigs, followed by fowl, donkeys, mules, elephants and other various creatures.  Then fishes.  This is a long haul, and should take me much of February ... but once the animals are done I'll be in a position to work on complex foodstuffs, since I'll have prices for what's grown or raised on farms.

In the distance after that is cloth and clothing, then wood products, with the concommitant sections on vehicles and ships.  Then stone and building materials, construction rules, followed by chemical products like perfume, paint, lamp oil and what else.  Then, finally, after all that's done, I can sink myself into the horror that is metallurgy and metalwork.  That, then, would be the whole book.

This'll be well over 2,000 products.  The size, at the going rate, is going to be big.  I'm operating on a principle that the final product will cost 50 cents a page.  I'm considering the practicality of drawing a line at 200 pages and calling it "volume 1," if need be.  I really have no idea how big the work is going to be.  I only know that I don't want to hold back.  If I want to use 45 words to describe "gooseberries," then I will.  Many things, much more complex, will need many more words than that.  I want to give it all as much verbiage as it deserves.

One page a day.  I just need to keep myself in a good state of mind, to feel comfortable working and to feel assured that I'm not going to quit, as I have with so many projects.  Those failings haunt me ... as they haunt any writer.  Thankfully, much of the head-and-design work has been done.  Readers who have seen my pricing tables know exactly how big they are, and how many things they include.  Those tables are the crutch I need to hobble my way home.

Okay.  Post done.  To work.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Patreon Issues

Sometimes I feel so incompetent.

I've done all I can think of to repair the Patreon file posting ritual.  Last night I deleted the post and reproduced it from scratch.  The tier is published, Patreon says the post and the tier are live ... so if it still doesn't work, I'll have to abandon that as an option.

I'd like it if someone that's able could go to Patreon, see if it's possible to read the post there, and let me know.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Boggle OGL

Be sure and look at this post first.

Sat down in my dentist's chair this afternoon and my dentist, who has seen the menu and knows that I produce D&D content, asked, "So, is this Hasbro thing affecting you?"

I've written twice on the blog about it already and the response is all crickets.  Saying that, it's on my radar quite a bit.  It matters, to me, if not my reader, what's going on with this thing and how it's going to change the climate in which I publish material.  It's going to affect things I say, and what I hear, when I'm selling content at game cons this summer.  It's going to change the number of people playing D&D, the number of children playing D&D, and the way that D&D is played.  As Mercer and crowd go elsewhere, if they stick to that declaration, it's going to cut the WOTC's throat.  And so, while the reader wishes I'd just shut up, and move on, and not care, and concentrate on worldbuilding, here in the little universe of my head, it's a big blinking light that's in my face.

I want to talk about it, because it matters.

The talk online has shifted.  Camp #1 has gathered itself together to defend the Company, to warn us that we should take it exactly at it's word, that it really means the best for us and that they've never done us wrong.  This camp is steadily growing, since it comprises people who really don't want the world to change, and hopes like hell that it hasn't.  All they want is to go on playing their version, pretending the product is always going to be the same, and that when the company says they're not going ahead changes, between saying they are going ahead, this is all just a great big misunderstanding.

Camp #2 is nitpicking every word of the original OGL, the 1.1 version and the 2.0 version.  Lawyers from every quarter are weighing in and making statements that are as hedged as we can expect lawyers to make, between admitting that, in fact, none of this is actually law because none of it's been tested.  Personally, I wish that, (a) I had a multi-million dollar corporation that'd I built with the OGL, so that I had standing to take Hasbro to court right now, given that my dentist has heard of this mess ... a 50-year-old man who barely understands what D&D is.  He didn't at all, until he met me.

Camp #3, originally camp #1, is withering away.  These are the people rushing to youtube to tell everyone to cancel their subscriptions to Beyond, do it now, do it before the company eats your children, etc.  It was fun to try and cancel the company, but it's not happening.  Hasbro is going to have to do much, much worse.  Of course, Hollywood is a collection of lily-livered spineless twerps, meaning it wouldn't take much to make them run scared from a D&D film just now, if they gleaned a legitimate hint that the Net would cancel it.  That'd be a knife in Hasbro's back.

Recently, this is more D&D-based content I've heard on podcasts in many years, combined.  I find myself letting youtube pick the next video, hour after hour, as I edit business writing or make maps.  It's fascinating because most of what I'm hearing is either virtue signalling or cognitive dissonance, as each camp tries to make sense out of a company that's in it for profit, that doesn't actually know how to play the game, or why anyone plays it.  Sometimes, I feel the schaudenfreude very keenly (and it's nice!), and sometimes I wonder how people so dumb managed to get themselves law degrees.  If they even did.

One lawyer last night, for instance, stepped up bravely and said no one has any reason to use the OGL because the actual law already gives you everything the OGL provides.  And then, after that 20-second statement, he spent the next 35 minutes explaining how to protect yourself when using the OGL.

It's fascinating.

So, I'm sorry if my choice in subject is dull and leaves my dear reader without the will to comment.  As long as this wave is going to leave shit on my beach, I'm going to occasionally comment on it.

First Preview

On my Patreon page, I've posted two pages of the Streetvendor's Guide as it would approximately appear in book form.  The page size is 11 x 8.5.  I've finally settled on gill sans as a font.  This is proving neat, easy to read and comfortable to write in.  The numbers look quite normal.

These pages are only visible to those supporting me to the amount of $10 a month.  These are people, I assume, who want to contribute towards my continued success as a publisher, something I've meant to come back round to for some years now.  This work is a drastic expansion of the menu ... less pretty, but in effect including vastly more material.  I've been contributing a little more than one page a day to the project this last week, and have 10 pages at this time.  I'd like to keep up this pace for about six months ... I don't find it likely that I'll run out of material in less than 180 pages.  I have a lot.

Those who'd like to increase their contributions, or make a first contribution for $10, will find the two pages on my patreon.  I'm going to add three more on the 31st of January, and then five pages a month on the last day of each month, starting in February.

I have an artist on board, Kelly Schwartz, having negotiated work for the book throughout and the front and back covers.  Things are moving swimmingly.

Please communicate with me in the comments below if you have any questions.

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Ohio

There are drawbacks to having the real world as a background, that emerge in strange ways.  For instance, as I calculate the price of cacao, sugar and spices for the Streetvendor's Guide, I'm reminded that these goods existed only because it was necessary to force slave labour to do work that paid labour resisted.  Life on a tropical plantation hung by a thread, and only those who could not escape did that work ... and died doing it.  And for that reason, the inclusion of sugarcane in a fictional world is suspect.  We might imagine some sort of creature that's designed to cut cane without having being made to do so ... but that was the solution Roald Dahl tried in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Which hasn't aged well.

I've been faced with another similar, and somewhat deeper problem today.  DM's Escritoire has requested a map of the Columbus city area of Ohio ... and the first question that arises, before anything can be done about making the map, is who lives there.

That's complicated.  In the real world, in the hundred years before my game takes place, 1650, the Iroquois had forced the Wyandot Hurons south into Ohio.  But a few centuries prior to that time, there'd been a peoples whose disappearance remains a mystery to this day.  This was the so-called Adena culture, that became progressively more advanced between 600 and 1200 AD, only to vanish.  By the time Europeans arrived, even the natives in the area could not explain the gigantic mounds the Adena built, or what happened to the Adena people.

Now, I've explained that in my game world (though I'll give more detail here), sometime about 6500 years ago, elvish tribes began to move south from Alaska until they settled in the area between the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  They called the land there Beleriand.  They made friends with the human natives and began to share their technology, which dated as far back as before the last ice age, between 25 and 21 thousand years ago.   My elves arrived on earth from another plane of existence 2-3 thousand years before that.  But I digress.

This means the elves that exist in my world would have known the Mound peoples of Ohio.  They would have a complete history of these people, would know who they were and why they scattered into the wilderness ... but then, would they have scattered?  Would that have been necessary?  And if it wasn't, wouldn't those mound peoples still exist when the Europeans came?

It's a fictional world, so of course I can say that's how it is.  I can say the Mound peoples did not die of the plague (if that's what it was) or the destruction of their land ... instead, for another 400 years, they grew and became even more civilised, so that there's a sort of Edgar R. Burroughs culture of natives in the heart of Ohio and stretching outwards into Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.  I could say the mounds have become great stone temples, that there are cities of a size to rival those of the Aztecs and Incas, with roads, great military might and ambassadors that have travelled all the way to Europe to speak with monarchs there.

But I could also say that the Mound peoples turned to evil and dark magic, that they were influenced by dark elvish envoys who sought to destroy the elvish Kingdom of Beleriand and that after an immense war that took place around 1200, hundreds of thousands of the Mound peoples were wiped out ... and that is why we know nothing about them.  And in the meantime, there are still drow elf shamans wandering the woods of Kentucky and Ohio, seeking to gather allies, to strengthen their will and to destroy the good elvish kingdoms upon the continent.

Either narrative would work pretty well.  In fact, a blend of both narratives could also work.  There still is a Mound culture, but it's been poisoned from within and Beleriand holds councils every season to decide if this is the year of the rooting out.  Of course, that year arrives when the player characters do.

In all this conjecture, however, I have a problem.  I have no legitimate name for these Mound peoples.  The name we use, Adena, was assigned by a white person whose property a mound was located.  There is an argument that "Adena" is a corruption of "Eden" ... and it's completely true that Victorian Englishmen were willing to slap a Biblical "Eden" label on just about every place with green grass.  It's not a native name.  We have no native name.

Moreover, any change of history, anywhere in the real world, is suspect from a political perspective, in this age where all peoples invest so much in their heritage and cultural background.  In making the people of Michigan's upper peninsula non-human, I risk offending thousands of Odawa and Ojibwe peoples.  If I invent a Mound people culture, giving it a name that I like, I risk offending Hurons and other peoples in Ohio and the other states mentioned.  None of this is an issue if I run a game world like Greyhawk ... but if I transform native Ohioan culture into something that's more Asian or European than legitimately North American, I'm easily in the dog house of dozens of politically-minded historians.

Which puzzles me, to be honest.  I'm not pretending to create actual, real history.  It's not like people are going to suddenly believe there were elves in Missouri in the 4th millennia B.C.  My creative ability just doesn't have that kind of reach.  I can hardly threaten anyone with my fiction, least of all a tribal culture getting government money in Michigan, Maine or Ohio.  Yet here we are.

But ... the first problem is making a map of Ohio and having a way to name things.  That's the real trouble here.  We have no proper name for the Mound peoples.  We could posit that they built some elaborate settlement where Columbus stands today, but what in hell did they call it?  Submuloc?  How bad a joke is that ... and yet it's not a bad, alien sounding name.  Suppose I do this with every midwest city and town, but in every case I replace u's with o's and reverse c's and b's.  That makes the town's name Socmolob.  Which is also not a bad, alien sounding name.

Oh, the troubles of creativity.

I was a fan of Burroughs as a kid.  Tarzan was always stumbling out of some jungle into a spectacular, implausible Oriental-like city, with spires covered with gold ... and there's a legitimate fantasy element there.  Putting such a place on the forested, rivered plain of Columbus sounds like a good idea ...

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Updating the Generator

With the decision to change from the Character Background Generator "splatbook" to the Streetvendor's Guide, I find myself wanting to update the wiki version of the Generator rather than leave the work I've done these late months languish.  I'm not concerned that doing so will lessen the value of the book, should it come to be published — without a doubt, when I sell the hardcover book, it'll be to people who've never heard of me.

In any case, this means that I'm temporarily putting down the work I've been doing on facilities and hexes.  I'll get back to that, I promise.  I'm just interested in doing this for now, is all.

I'm of a very different mindset than what I see from creators all around me, who covetously protect their material as they were taught to do in the days before the internet.  I'm not concerned about people "stealing my stuff," first because most dealers refuse to see the value in it and also because they're unable to go on churning out new information on the same lines without me.  I'm the goose that lays the eggs, and even a robber must keep coming back to the source for more product.

Secondly, I'm convinced that we're moving continously into an age where the maker is of more value and importance than the product.  The product's ascendence came about in the 17th century, as the middlemen of the new economic age inserted themselves between the creator and the audience as a means of filling their own pockets.  The internet obliterates their necessity — though gawd knows they're the last to know it — because I can talk directly to the audience any time I want, by sitting down and typing.  Therefore the thing that's for sale isn't the product, it's me.

At the same time, the more product I create, the more valuable I become.  It stands to reason that the well-thinking game wizard should realise that whatever they may feel about me personally, I'm producing work on a scale hitherto unseen in the annals of D&D.  I look over the OGL-produced work of the last 20 years, surrounding the lamentations that such work is in danger of being "stolen" by the company, and feel the same as I have for years on this blog.  Take it, dump in the garbage and move on.  Because personally I feel that none of it amounted to very much.  I've looked over hundreds and hundreds of pages these last two decades and found just about nothing to expand my game world or my interest in DMing.  Certainly it wasn't a source to which I went in order to write How to Run or initiate the Wiki.   I don't go to it now for inspiration ... and those that do rarely write anything that I find insightful.

Dismissive as that might be, it's how I feel.  If I felt anything since the development of 3e was worth stealing from, I'd have certainly stolen it.  I do have parts of 3e in my system.  I have nothing, absolutely nothing, from the dreck that's been proposed since then.

I have two concerns.  First, that I earn the support I receive ... and by this, I mean that my supporters feel assured that I am earning it.  That means finding ways to serve the subject material that continuously push the envelope, drawing greater attention to those aspects that are constantly swept to the corner by those whose goal it is to emulate a company who doesn't care about them.

Second, that I'm available for discussion.  I know I'm intimidating; and I know that I'm rarely willing to make concessions to the efforts others make to approach me, just because they've essayed to do that.  But trust me when I say that it's more important to me and you become a better and wiser DM than that you feel better about yourself for what you are right now.  I live in the future.  What I am today means not a damn thing compared to what I'll be tomorrow ... and right or wrong, it's my intent to hold you to that same standard.

As difficult as that is, I promise that in the long run you'll thank me for it.

Please enjoy the changes I'm making to the Background Generator and rest assured that I'm also working on the Streetvendor's Guide.

Making Maps

I've had six persons take advantage of the mapmaking proposal I pitched on the 1st.  Each is just the beginning of an island of maps to follow, in Michigan, Maine, London, Obukhiv, Marseille and Munich.  Here's the lowly stubs for each that I created:








I encourage others to get involved.  If you can't think of your own place, feel free to add a connection to any of the above, on the north, south, east or west as you please.  Multiple persons using their influence upon a given place can quickly expand it outwards and give real scope.  If you're already pledging $10 to me every month on Patreon, you might just as well make me work for it.

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Streetvendor's Introduction II

I'll remind the reader that the following is a first draft, produced in parts over the last 24 hours.  It's not the final language that would occur in the Streetvendor's Guide; it's not necessarily the best language, politically, that should be used.  The below tries to address those issues that ARE going to arise throughout the book, and the sort of condemnations that are likely to arise as well.  Perhaps it's better not to address those condemnations at all; undoubtedly, it's better to address them in a language that's softer than the one included.  But writing is something like taking a car out for a spin.  We put it on the road to see where the problems lie, by driving it around and learning what's what.  All writing is editing.  Therefore, let's have no one assume that because I've written it here, in this manner, that that's how the subject is going to be addressed in the actual published work.

Beyond what's included here and in the previous post, there are other matters the introduction needs to include: the use of coins, the calculation of item weight, the durability of food and so on all need description ... but at present, I feel that getting into the items themselves will help me write a better introduction to these things at this time.  The knowledge is in my head, but it needs to be "tripped" into the open, since I haven't thought deeply about these things in a couple of years.

And so, to continue:

Research

With so many diverse things to know, the only practical means of learning all that’s needed is through the internet. Yet while wikipedia is a good source for discovering what things are, it generally skirts over the particulars of how things work. Corporate sites related to a given manufacture are far more reliable for providing a “recipe” for the various materials and substances that are folded together to make a given product.

These, however, naturally focus on things as they are made today. A fantasy goods list has special needs, since it must describe techniques and processes as they were performed once upon a time, at least as practically as such things can be learned. For this, searching through books written in the 19th century can be tremendously useful, since the details included there gives a closer perspective of what it might have been like in the 17th century or earlier.

Sometimes, alas, we must accept modern techniques as the only ones available to know. In most ways, we’ll never know for certain how many things long ago were actually done. We have a good source in historians who try to live as people once did, who observe and experiment with ideas that people in the 12th, 14th or 16th centuries must have. Such information is invaluable to the making of a book like this.

Effort shall be made to record frequently especially useful sources for goods and services contained in these pages, but it’s impractical and unnecessary to source every item. In some cases, as with clothespins or pottery jars, it’s so easy to type in a word and find a source instantly. With other things, such as the intrinsic details of a 16th century Indiaman, a single meaningful source simply doesn’t exist. The best that can be found are cursory facts that amount to nothing useful for a role-playing campaign. Thus, in many cases, hard material must be invented, with effort to keep details within the realm of believability.

Some things that did exist before the 17th century won’t be found in these pages, because those things don’t properly fit within the traditional fantasy milieu. Most notable among these things are cannon, arqubuses, flintlocks and other like weapons. Information about such things must be found elsewhere.

Unfortunately, much of what’s included is distinctly European in origin. This comes from the language in which the book is written, and that of the author, which limits the availability of sources somewhat. Moreover, Europe is a temperate northern continent, whose materials written on paper more than a century ago are still available for the modern reader and historian to interpret.

Much of this material exists because of its preservation by the forward-thinking Umayyad and Almoravid caliphates through the 12th century. Unfortunately, later Islamic cultures had a tendency to destroy written materials of Ancient and Medieval times through religious zealotry. Thus great detail about what people wore, or made, or traded, has been regrettably eradicated.

The Indian Subcontinent and Southeast Asia possessed rich and varied cultures that would be dearly sourced for objects, were that possible. The tropical climate is rather unsuitable to the survival of written records ... so once again, we know very little about those cultures, except what has apparently survived into the modern day. China, too, has had a long respectability with regards to the written word and the traditions of history. Unfortunately, most of what I’d like to know is written in a language I cannot understand, protected within a present-day culture that resists personal investigation with historians who might enlighten my limited European sensibilities.

When possible, objects and items from these other cultures will be included. But if it seems their number is greatly outweighed by objects that would be found in Britain alone, that’s only because generally available knowledge is had of the latter, and not the former.

Measurements

This book uses imperial measurements. Yes, this is less convenient for the modern user, but it should be understood that the metric system was a product of scientific enlightenment—and the substance and nature of a believable Medieval fantasy realm should not have “light” as its watchword. A fantasy is dark, it’s full of monsters, it’s dangerous and it’s mostly devoid of common sense. Those small pockets of reason that exist in the game world are yet subject to the ignorance and the great unwashed.

That it puts players at pain to puzzle out the difficulties of a measurement system goes towards reminding them what life must have been like in that age. Moreover, since numerous measurements—beyond pounds, quarts and acres—are sure to be unfamiliar to the player, we stand to learn more about our history and to appreciate our present all the more.

Methodology

Prices in this book are calculated using an in-house trading model that stretches throughout the Old World. The elaboration of this game model is outside this book’s sphere, but searching the author’s name and “trade” upon the internet will lead the reader to understand how the model works and what purpose it’s meant to serve. Within this book, it means only that the numbers for items are not produced ad hoc, but in fact follow a series of mathematical principles pertaining to actual production of raw materials throughout the world.

The initial price of any object comes from the raw material from which it’s made. If an object is made of several raw materials, then the physical weights of each material used are added together to make a composite whole. For example, a stone axe is made of 5.14 lbs. granite and a hardwood oaken handle weighs 1.25 lbs. The price of the whole axe, then, is the combined price of both these raw materials is added together. This price is then augmented by the weaponsmith’s labour, a method that’s outlined in Appendix I: Pricing Items.

Some items, such as metal that originates with mined ore, which must then be founded, then wrought, then alloyed with other metals, then worked by a smith, goes through numerous iterations and increases in price before becoming available in a market. The more iterations, the more costly something becomes. Perfectly ordinary objects can then be embellished with added engraving, embroidery, dyeing and ornamentation, increasing the price still further.

Further, while most objects have an ordinary value, the worth of an object is improved if it’s made to be of higher quality. Quality is measured in to five stages above “ordinary”: fine, highly crafted, excellent, brilliant and masterwork. And still beyond this, if an object is unique, a masterwork and also culturally significant to a wide audience, the object possesses a “halo effect,” increasing it’s asking price still further. Some objects are so expensive, and impractical to move, that they are owned by the state and can never be sold.

Rather than attempt to provide details for the quality of every object herein, Appendix I also gives information on how to calculate a higher price for objects in game—so that if the player asks for a “fine quality” sword, rather than an everyday sword, a price can be assigned. Furthermore, if the character asks for the sword to be engraved, fitted with gems, with a handle wrapped in silver filigree, then this can also be calculated using the instructions found under Appendix I.

Thus any sort of object can be “built” from the guidelines provided in this book, even things not conceived by its author. This is important, as I believe that players should be allowed to purchase anything that should reasonably exist in the game world, and the DM should be able to produce a rational price for that thing, without needing to draw a number out of thin air.

Monday, January 16, 2023

Streetvendor's Introduction

Before I take my newfound health and apply myself to the bailey hamlet — at last — I've written a new introduction to the proposed Streetvendor's Guide, using language that I developed working on the character generator and the recent facilities pages.  I think overall I'm getting better with explaining things more simply.  This is part one of two; I'll post the remaining introduction tomorrow.  Please note the total absence of any desire to embellish the material.

Introduction

This book sets out to accomplish two goals. First, to provide the most extensive price list possible for every ordinary good or service that a player character might buy in a fantasy role-playing game. Second, to provide detailed characteristics for each thing, including notes for how the nature of such things affect the function it has within a role-playing game.

Our constraints are that the object or service must be non-magical. It must be a thing that actually exists, or did exist, in the real world. And it must be a thing that was in general use no later than the mid-17th century, in keeping with the temporal culture of the FRPG. Hence, things that were invented in 1675, or which in 1640 were so advanced as to never be found in a market place, cannot be included in our list.

The Intended User

This tome wasn’t created for those who are concerned with role-playing for the sake of pretense or the desire to look “cool.” The material contained herein is written for those whose appreciation of role-playing games derives from their desire to know things, and who wish to insert details into their game world meant to increase the “grittiness” of that world.

"Grit” describes a world that’s intended to be substantial and practical in scope, as opposed to an experience that’s cinematic. The information found in these pages seeks to achieve a personal, sensory interaction with those things a character can buy, leading to the ownership of those material things with affection, esteem and even sensory tangibility.

Thus, the objects contribute to the manner in which the game world exists. Just as a hill or a river helps define the setting’s landscape, the etching on a sword, the fabric that makes a shirt, a bit of pottery or the grain in a loaf of bread creates a sense of place and culture. These details stress an essential notion of role-playing’s attraction and potential: that the character I play is a person, with tastes, desires, ideals and blood that rushes through his veins. From that premise, it matters what becomes of my character; it matters what he obtains while he achieves, in a more factual way than merely pretending to be something.

Organisation

The goods included in this tome are organised in two manners. First, raw materials are grouped together according to the form of labour required to bring those things to the game’s market. This includes farming, vegetable-and-fruit growing, specialty crops, stock raising, fishing, woodcutting and mining. Secondly, manufactured items and services provided are listed according to vendor, who acts as liaison between the buyer and the host of artisans, apprentices and professionals whose remarkable skills bring forth equally remarkable materials to buy. The vendor has the best possible access to those persons whom the characters may one day wish to hire, should they imagine someday running their own winery, perfumery or apothecaries’ shop.

There are thousands of objects for sale. Some are far more interesting than others and deserve more space than can possibly be provided. Others are so ineffectual in scope that a few words serves to give an instant impression. In every case, an effort is made to provide the reader with a jumping-off point, should they wish to investigate further into an object’s origin or manufacture.

Accuracy

Sad as it is to say, this is not a document for actually constructing objects or for processing raw materials into manufactured goods. Throughout the work, ratios are applied to explain, for example, how much milk it takes to make cheese, or how much wood or coal is needed to make a pound of wrought iron. When such ratios occur, they are strictly general in scope. They don’t take into account specific recipes, elevation above sea level, the purity of the source material or hundreds of other practical aspects that certainly exist.

The details contained herein are for game purposes. They go as far as we deemed useful for actual play. Room is offered for the individual gamer wishing to go further, increasing an exact detail to its physical limits, if that’s what’s desired. We wish the reader to go there with specifics, if the inclination is there. For ourselves, some restraint was needed as there are so many things here for us to pursue.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Switching Horses in Mid-Stream

After some consideration, I've decided to temporarily shelve the Character Generation book I've been working on, between other work.  That project has suffered from numerous setbacks, not the least of which has been a growing resistance to "get into it."  That's undoubtedly a very bad attitude on my part ... and yet I've often considered my ability to procrastinate as a sort of gift.  Who knows?  If I'd really dug in, I might be in a position to actually publish the thing in time to get screwed by the new OGL.

That is, of course, the reason why I'm stepping back.  I've taken steps for it not to rely on D&D rule-making to manage it's content, but just now I think it'd be best to see what stability gets achieved in the coming months.  I understand Disney is pissed at Hasbro.  That's not an atmosphere into which I want to publish material that might break some copyright law.

So ... let's talk about the poster I never made.


Fundamentally, three problems arose.  While the written material was unquestionably interesting, I had no practical solution to the artistic question that arose.  IF I included all the content I meant to include, even IF I'd found an artist there'd be no place to put the art.  We considered some kind of clever background that would have suited the overall feel, but without an artist to do the work, or discuss it with, we were at odds on how to continue.

Secondly, the size I'd selected, 48 inches by 36, could be printed, but we could locate no company that would take an object of that size as a print-on-demand product.  My books are sold through Lulu as print-on-demand.  This means that when someone buys a book of mine, I get paid and Lulu gets paid.  I never see the book, the reader receives a mint copy and I'm not stuck with hundreds of books I'm trying to sell.  When I want to do a game con, I buy a bunch of personal copies at a reduced rate, as I'm only paying Lulu, and then I do my best to get rid of them all at the table.

This solves all my problems with the mail and packaging.  I love it.  And the idea of having to make a pile of physical posters, to try to sell them online personally, was in no way fiscally practical.

Finally, I hated being bound by the poster's limitation of space.  I had more than enough content to fill a huge poster ... in fact, I have vastly more than the poster could handle.  And so I began to think about creating a splatbook instead:  The Streetvendor's Guide to Worldbuilding ... a compendium of normal, practical information on goods and services for use in fantasy role-playing games.

The idea would be to amass a content that would do more than include a list of things to buy.  It would explain what the things were, explain where the materials came from, and provide numbers and details on buying the raw materials as well as the finished products.  In addition, an effort would be made to have the details be reasonably accurate, so that the book would serve as a jumping off point to any subject the reader might care to investigate further.

A work like this would be very, very different from the material normally ejected by game companies, who are more interested in churning out magic items and servicing the rule of cool.  I have no interest in doing this.  I think it matters to know the real facts about things, such as how much a horse eats, or how long it takes to groom one; or how long does it take to make an arrow, and what woods work best; or how is perfume made; or how is a wagon put together; or what is the best cloth to wear in what sort of weather; or anything else regarding the great mass of human knowledge and how it affects the everyday D&D game.

I recognise the company doesn't care about such things.  I recognise that most players don't, either.  But I think it's a truly great opportunity to introduce Dungeon Masters to the actual, empirical world they might be interested in running, if only they knew anything about it.

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Heart's Fine

While I've been sleeping in the land of the dead, I understand a thing blew up on the WOTC website.  This link on JB's website (good catch, JB) is the most credible discussion of the material, if you're interested.  The announcement affects less than 1/100th of 1% of people who play or make D&D, but of course that's a reason for pundits to scream into the wind about things they know next to nothing about.  I have nothing to add to the discussion that I haven't already said on JB's blog.

However, if the reader might allow me a non-content post, I'd like to engage with Ryan Dancey on another matter for a moment.  I've cheerfully trashed Dancey in the past.  His appearance in the video linked above suggests he's more likeable than I would have guessed; and clearly he had far, far less control over the company than my original reading suggested.  I was led to understand that he was fired; Dancey tells that he chose to leave, after it being suggested he had no place to go in the company.  I don't know which is true.  It doesn't matter.

That said, I'd like to address the following statements made by Dancey in the Roll for Combat podcast:

"You've made a few changes to some rules because you think the combat system should be more detailed or you want to have a new magic system, or you want to have a bunch of special ideas for how characters are created, or whatever ... people have been making fantasy heartbreakers forever, and we call them heartbreakers because people spend their time and energy and money making them, and then they don’t succeed, because if I have the choice between playing Dungeons and Dragons, and a game that’s just like Dungeons and Dragons except it changes this one thing that you don’t like, most people will just play Dungeons and Dragons, because of the network externality … it won’t work, because it’s not Dungeons and Dragons, and it doesn’t have the critical mass of all the people using it.  Like the value is not in the product, the value is in the brand and in the network.  The product is irrelevant."


This is a monstrous statement, made especially egregious in the slavering hero worship displayed by the podcast's hosts, who clearly had no idea what was being said.  It reveals more than Dancey's personal contempt for the creators of non-official game content; it describes a reliance upon "trademark" as the ultimate be-all-and-end-all that reaches Ayn Randian proportions (and no, I'm not going to fucking explain that).

My partner Tamara worked in a hospital in Flint for ten years before we met.  During that time it was common for doctors to refer to certain patients in the wards as "CTD."  I've used this acronym with doctors here in Canada since learning it from Tamara, receiving a blank response every time.  Yet what the acronym means is familiar to every person whose ever worked in a hospital environment.  It stands for "circling the drain."

"Heartbreaker," for Dancey, is a similar call-out.  It's a neat little way he has to casually put everyone who can't possibly affect D&D's bottom line into a box labled "loser," by another name.  The key word phrase in the above is: "... and then they don't succeed."  Succeed at what?  Replacing D&D?  Well, I suppose there are some people who want that ... but this isn't the context he uses when he describes people working on these "heartbreakers."  He clearly seems to think that the goal in making these systems and metrics and whatever is to replace D&D ... and that augmenting D&D is a waste of time, because "it won't work" due to the mass of people who already play the game the way the company has written it.

My gameworld has not broken my heart because my game world doesn't exist according to Dancey's incredibly ignorant, narrow-minded precepts.  I do not care if D&D continues to exist or not; I have no expectations that anything I write might replace D&D as a game system.  But even if I did ... when compared to other human pursuits and goals, D&D is a spectacularly small market endeavour.  If I were a chemist, having spent 40 years working on a single isotope of, say, rhodium, I'd have no reason to expect that any multinational chemistry-based corporation would know my name.  But I have good reason to believe that Monte Cook and Ryan Dancey has heard of and seen this site ... and one strong basis for that is that the creator of the company's OGL is on a fucking youtube podcast created by two dorks with 13.4K subscribers.  D&D is a small, small, small, small market.

Yet in Dancey's imagination, if you're not doing under the company's brand name, you're breaking your own heart, you loser, because you'll never succeed ... mwah hah ha ha!

"We call them heartbreakers ..."

Could you ask for a more elitist, smug, self-righteous position than that?  I gaze upon the warm, positive smile on Dancey's face and I am reminded of a phrase,

"Meet it is I set it down that one may smile, and smile, and be a villain."


Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Climbing from the Cellar

Playing a little catch-up.  Haven't heard from Discord on the Michigan map, but maybe he's been sick like me.  Granted, the development of two 20-mile hexes isn't that impressive.  It's only a start.  It has to be expanded, bit by bit, like the original stub that was Kronstadt once upon a time.

The offer is still open to any of my $10 patrons, though I'm resisting putting the offer on patreon itself for the time being.  I believe I'll limit those patrons to one "start" per person.  I just can't keep up with having a single patron hopping around the globe, having me do tiny parts of Africa, India, South America and so on.  After creating a stub somewhere, I have no problem building on it; the work's been done for the next section over just as it has for the starting parts.  Once I've investigated into Michigan, Maine or someplace else, it's easy to keep going from there.

I may try to work a bit on the Crimean map today, but writing three paragraphs has me bursting into a sweat ... which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  Trust me when I say that the time I've spent on my back the last three days has been used to design the bailey and fishing hamlets, and various facilities, in my head, though I haven't had the strength to write down anything.  I've even had to ask for time off work.  Happy to say I turned the corner last night, though I'm weak as a kitten today.

Until tomorrow.