Thursday, July 21, 2011

Seasonal Considerations

There was a friendly discussion about seasonal prices for my equipment tables in the comments for Innkeeper, and I thought I'd describe my position on it.

Up front, it seems like a good thing to set the availability of items according to the four seasons, but in truth this couldn't work.  To begin with, there are parts of the world that don't experience four seasons ... and there's the consideration of crops grown in the southern hemisphere.  Truth is, no simple general solution exists.  Even where it comes to northern crops, hay does not come off the fields at the same time as oats, or as wheat does.  Apples are not picked at the same time as raspberries, the sheep are not slaughtered at the same time as the cattle and so on.

No, the reality is that every single 'natural' item would have to have a seasonal date from which the availability was calculated, individually determined and measured upon the calendar.  As the date passed, availability would soar, then taper off through several months, depending on the product, and then disappear altogether (though of course not in every case).  Ale would boom in the fall, last throughout the winter and be gone as the days warmed up and what was left went bad (if it wasn't deliberately consumed!)

I see in my head how the algorithm could be dropped into the present system.  The size of the calculating file would balloon and it would be a lot of research to work out the important dates for every item (some would have more than one), but yes, without question, I could do it.

I'm not going to do it.  Not any time soon, anyway.  I'm not convinced there's a benefit to justify the work, though there might be if there was a higher cause to be served ... an MMO based from the system, say.  But not enough for just D&D.  I can't see that, not yet.

But I appreciate the thought people have put into it.


Eric said...

"every single 'natural' item would have to have a seasonal date from which the availability was calculated"

But won't that change with climate? That would be one advantage of breaking things down by season- you can assign different season start times to each hex.

"every single 'natural' item would have to have a seasonal date from which the availability was calculated"

This would work best for crops, less so for livestock, and doesn't make much sense for ore and wood- the last items, I imagine, are collected throughout the year as weather permits and when one isn't busy harvesting time-sensitive crops.

Alexis said...


The only things that would have to be made 'seasonal' would be crops and raw materials. Their price would then affect all the services thereafter. Livestock are slaughtered traditionally only a specific times of the year in the feudal period; wood freezes and cannot be cut in the winter, and cut only at certain times of the year as forests were tended and only clear-cut for habitation. Some open pit mines in some parts of the world cannot be worked due to heavy rains in the wet season. Deep miners cannot transport their ore out of the wilderness when there's 8 feet of snow. Some gums, resins and aromatic woods cannot be harvested in the dry season or the core plant dies. Flowers for perfume can only be grown for a limited period. Rivers freeze and cannot be fished. Wild animals that deliver horn, ivory or bone are hunted only when they are not going to rut and raise next years supply.

In the modern period we may freely destroy the resource to get all we can out of it, but in the medieval period this was not done.

Alexis said...

Actually, stupid of me.

The winter would also isolate parts of the world completely, so that nothing whatsoever would travel on certain roads at all. So as far as that goes, right, one season would affect everything else. But it wouldn't just be transport considerations.

Eric said...

"In the modern period we may freely destroy the resource to get all we can out of it, but in the medieval period this was not done." Point definitely taken. It was certainly much harder to do without industrial quantities of tools and demand- but Europe lost a lot of forest between 1250 and 1500.

"parts of the world that don't experience four seasons"

Just say that winter is (or fall and winter are) one day long in those locations?

"crops grown in the southern hemisphere"

Variable season start dates, again?

If there was a mechanism to specify whether a particular crop was "late season", so it would use the prior seasons' settings until halfway through the new season, that'd break down the year into eight 6-7 week chunks.

No reason that couldn't be an integer from 0 to 1, either... basically "percentage of season that must pass before this becomes available."

Kaspar said...

I have been thinking about the same thing. I am jotting down some preliminary notes of my trade network generator (accompanying piece to my random map generator I’m working on). I was thinking of making it run in monthly turns- prices would be recalculated to account for changing supply and demand. Thing is, by that system, the price of grain would fluctuate wildly between fall and spring. Real merchants of course can plan more than a month in advance. So I wonder, have much should the price fluctuate between seasons?

Joseph Browning said...

Specie is also seasonal if there are large trade networks. Such has how coin would be dear in Portugal when the boats would arrive from the new world. If I'm remembering correctly, the Genoese made quite a bit of money just moving coins around from plentiful to to scare regions.

The consumables used by an industry would also have a seasonal effect if the main good input to the industry was seasonal.