Monday, November 30, 2015

Principles Underlying the Relevance in Comments

"This is the part that I think people underestimate.  If you're in the arena and you email me and say something to me, 'Look, I'm really questioning your research because you forgot the entire academic literature on intimacy and you should be thinking about that,' that's feedback.  If you say that, then I'm going to say, 'Wow, I should look into that.'
"If you're in the cheap seats, not contributing, not putting yourself out there, not risking anything, and just criticizing, I can't be open to your feedback, for this reason - and this is something creatives I don't think fully get: it hurts and it changes who we are.  When I hear people say, and its often creatives and leaders and organizations, 'Look, I don't give a shit what anyone thinks,' that is its own kind of hustle."

By 'hustle,' Ms. Brown doesn't mean getting going and getting it done.  She means lying to yourself and to others.  See the video.

I do care what people think.  That's why I'm writing this down.  And it does hurt - though admitting that is hard, because it often gets brutal on this blog - and I know I hurt other people as much or more than they hurt me, since I'm better at cutting with the knife and I'm in control of this space.  Yet it's true.  I get hurt here also.

I do know when I present anything odd or off the wall, when I rant, when I fly smack into the face of preconception, I am going to flush out the critics.  It isn't as bad as it used to be, as most of the hard core critics and trolls have given up on me - in part because I'm more than willing to delete their words, taking away their power, but also because, as JB said most approvingly, "The Work continues."

Hey, JB, sorry we've been butting heads lately.

JB is a good example of someone with his head in the game - but I wouldn't say he's getting his ass kicked.  He is getting the sort of meaningless criticism I discussed in the last post, however; I hunted around for an example and found this on JB's recent assassin post:

While this is overall a good effort, the death attack is extremely overpowered - there needs to be a save or something, because as - is the class is 'I win' after name level.  Also, I don't know how it works in B/X, but you'd never be able to use this kind of assassin against the PCs, particularly at high level - the rate that they'd get their death attack in means the PCs would be cut to ribbons.  
- Jack Phoenix 

I don't know if that hurts JB or if it changes him.  I'm more sensitive about these things and I want some sort of evidence that anything actually being said in the comment is true.  Apart from Phoenix's assertion - based on the DM willy nilly doing thing like throwing high level NPCs against players, apparently randomly - I can't make heads or tails of it.

Jack Phoenix is not in the game.  He has a google+ page.  He's human.  For most people, that's enough of a reason to respect his opinion.  But let's be clear.  Mr. Phoenix is in the cheap seats.

Why?  Well, not to cast aspersions on the man, but because there's very little evidence that I have of his contributing his time to the issue.  Time is the fundamental measure.  The above comment would have taken 60, perhaps 70 seconds to punch out, assuming hunting and pecking, whereas the post it is written on runs about six times longer, has a table and is part of a series that JB has been writing all month.  Contribution-wise, measuring only in time spent, JB has my attention.  Mr. Phoenix does not.

Moreover, JB's written over 1800 posts.  Where it comes to questioning the 'extreme overpowered' aspects of the assassin, I'm more inclined to believe that JB has throught this one through . . . whereas Mr. Phoenix has no posts whatsoever that I can access or use to consider his relevance to the discussion.

This would incline me to delete Mr. Phoenix's comment.  JB, I know, doesn't believe in such practices - and neither do 99.9% of those right now reading this post.

There is a good reason for that.  Most of you aren't getting your asses kicked, either.

Going on the point of the previous post, if you're putting out opinions that aren't being vetted by authorities who spend all their time considering opinions, then you're not really contributing to the conversation.  To date, neither am I.  Many readers have stepped forward and said that I've changed their games, that I've helped them DM better and that they're seeing the game in a new light and I really enjoy that - but I'm just a silly voice in the cheap seats where it comes to any force daily influencing role-playing.  I'm trying to shout as loud as I can.  I'm asking for some vetting and I want it to hurt . . . I want someone to tell me that I'm forgetting the entire academic literature on dungeons, characters and DMing.  Unfortunately for me, I don't think there is any such literature.  I think, rather, that there's a vacuum created by endless modules and splat books that consumes and renders meaningless anything written about role-playing.

A vacuum that encourages every rat bastard DM who imagines that a high level NPC shouldn't cut the PCs to ribbons.  After all, isn't that what a bunch of 13th level PCs are going to do to 5th level NPCs?

Truth be told, I can't even turn Mr. Phoenix's argument against him like that - because he doesn't say what level the PCs being cut to ribbons would be or what 'high level' means.  The comment is so vague that even in its own context it has no relevance.

Let me just add at this point that JB wrote a very long answer to Mr. Phoenix.  If I had written a long answer, I know it would have evolved from feelings of having my carefully designed post used by a commentor as a platform for an irrelevant, obviously prejudiced opinion.  That evolution would have involved me getting angry, since anger is my default, mostly because I'm easily hurt by prejudicial thinking about what I write - a part of me that I'm still working to change.

It really isn't that Mr. Phoenix is wrong to write what he did.  It is just one of millions of similar comments on role-playing that amount to the same sort of measurable contribution.  It isn't wrong that any of those comments were written either (though I don't want them on my blog).  What's wrong is that anyone should think any such comments are worth reading.

Yesterday, someone sent me an entire book to read.  A book that isn't published yet, soliciting my opinion because he values my opinion.  I haven't answered the email yet; I've been considering my answer.  The fellow is a reader of the blog so as he reads this right now his eyebrows are rising.

I value his contribution because, hey, this is an entire book.  I am always impressed and astounded when someone puts more than 5,000 words together on the same subject (because less than 5,000 is just another university paper), even when the writing is bad.  I don't know if that's the case here, as I haven't opened the book yet.  But I will.

First, I want to make a point on anyone's opinion - and a novel is an opinion, whatever people may imagine.  It doesn't count until it demonstrates a level of commitment and time.  It doesn't count until we've demonstrated ourselves to be persons of worth, through the steady, public contributions we choose to make.  And it doesn't count unless it disagrees vigorously with something that someone else is saying.  If it doesn't manage to do that last, whatever we've chosen to say is equivalent to handing in work copied out of someone else's book.

So if you're not getting your ass kicked . . . if you're not visible enough to be found by someone who knows enough to kick your ass and will DO so . . . and if you can't point to consequential evidence of your value as a contributor to the overall discussion, through published work I can go to and read right now . . . then your total achievement is humanity.  Congratulations.  You've joined the ranks of all the rest.

If, however, you ARE ready to get your ass kicked (as the novelist who bravely handed his unpublished book over to me) and you ARE willing to create the sort of consequential work that will prove your right to kick ass . . . then you should know that someone, somewhere, will like what you're doing and approve.  It doesn't matter if I like the man's novel.  Someone will.  Because the novel's existence shows the man cared enough to be vulnerable.  We humans, we like that.  We embrace people who strive and take risks.

There are five billion people on the internet.  There are more than enough out there that any written novel will appeal to enough people to validate that novel.  My validation is meaningless where the book's potential success is concerned.

People in the cheap seats rarely understand that.  Criticism really only matters before the work is done.  After the work is done - when this blog is finished, for example - it's too late.

The 'changing us' that Ms. Brown speaks of is the way that critics - particularly the cheap seat critics - undermine our confidence in getting the work done.  Creatives stop listening from self-defense.  Get the work done first, then face those bastards.  We can't, however, create in a vacuum, as Brown goes on to say:

"When you don't care at all what anyone thinks, you lose your capacity for connection.  When you're defined by what people think, you lose the courage to be vulnerable."


"If you're going to go in the arena and spend any time in there, especially if you've committed to creating in your life, you will get your ass kicked.  So you have to decide, at that moment, I think for all of us, if courage is a value that we hold, this is a consequence.  You can't avoid it.

"The third thing, which really set me free - and I think Steve my husband would say has really made me somewhat dangerous - is kind of a new philosophy about criticism, which is this:  if you're not in the arena, also getting your ass kicked, I'm not interested in your feedback."

See.  I'm not alone.

This isn't going to be a rant.  I'm not going to go after my critics.  I am going to try to explain what criticism is and what defines "getting your ass kicked."  Criticism first.  

At some point soon, don't know if I'm up to it today or not, I'll be tackling the tech 14 post.  That post has four 'technologies' or developments that I mean to add to those developments that have gone before:  Nationalism, Divine Right, Paper and the Printing Press.

As I have said before, the introduction of these is not to suggest that peoples living in tech levels 5-13 don't know what a printing press is or wouldn't recognize one if they see it.  It does mean, however, that printing presses aren't available on a daily, regular basis in any region that is tech 13 or less.  To understand this, the reader should consider that in the 1930s many parts of the United States didn't have electrical power.  It isn't that electricity didn't exist in the world - it did, and had for more than 50 years.  It's only that to have electricity requires infrastructure, that parts of America like Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma didn't have.  

It is somewhat like the way we still see theater today.  Virtually every small town has some kind of theater - but when we think of plays being launched for the very first time, we recognize that a new play being put up in Bloomington, Illinois, isn't anything like the sort of standard achieved in New York.  They make films in Macon, Georgia, but they're not the kind of films that get widespread distribution like those made in Hollywood.  The fact that I have to mention the state in regards to Bloomington and Macon, and not in New York and Hollywood, is a clue.

So let me be clear.  I'm saying, yes, some sizeable town in a tech 13 state will have a printing press in a back room somewhere, purchased and set up so that it can be made to reproduce work.  I'm also saying, however, that the content and amount of reproduction going on with that press has as much importance and social effect as an action flick made in Moscow, Idaho, with money raised by Moscow Idaho artists.  In terms of the world of film, none.  Not worth addressing.

Where social relevance is concerned, we are speaking about more than the presence of a given technology - we are speaking about its influence.  When critics bark that presence is enough, it's a clear sign that only half the thinking has been done.

The error is in supposing that any criticism that originates with the critic has merit.  We have a tendency to think that 'opinion' is all that's needed.  "In my opinion, based entirely on my feeling about the principles of technology, this doesn't make sense."  That's because the critic hasn't taken the time to consider examples from the real world where it does make sense and the critic hasn't approached the matter with a concrete, well-referenced example.

Examples are information.  They are matters that have been studied, examined, researched and vetted by other people, beyond those in the room.  Here's a qualifier: if the reader has just come up with an argument that the reader can't remember having read written somewhere by someone else, then that argument is shit.  Note I don't say probably shit.  I mean it is exactly shit.

Yes, I am saying that my entire tech system concept is shit - but don't get bogged down in that just now.  Put it on a shelf.  We'll get to that in a minute.

In a world where hundreds of thousands of people are paid to do nothing but think stuff up and teach it to others, we must accept a few things about ideas.  If we've had that idea, someone else has had it.  More than that, they've told others.  Others who are experts in the field.  Who were smart enough, long before you or I had the idea, to already define it as shit.  We are way, way, way behind the curve here.  It only sounds like a good idea to us because a) we've never heard it before and b) there's no one around to tell us it is shit.

But it is shit, believe it.  Because we haven't heard of it before.  And because we're not an expert in the field.  How much do I really know about printing presses and their distribution in Europe or the rest of the world?  Not that much.  Therefore, how accurate is my depiction of the presence of printing presses in given regions of my world - or the influence and effect of those presses?  Not at all.

Here is the thing, however.  Unless the critic here quotes an expert, or speaks directly about a source I haven't read - and can direct me to that source so that I can read it and form my own opinions - then the critic's opinion is exactly the same level of shit as my own.  Basically, then, I'm being asked to exchange my shit with the critics shit entirely on the argument that the critic thinks his or her shit is better.  Just because.

I'm never going to do that.  Why would I?  The critic isn't going to be building this system, isn't going to be running this system and won't be at the table with the players encounter this system.  The critic's only value to the framework is in pointing out something someone who's not talking shit has said about some particular aspect of the system.

Which, as is usual on the internet, isn't happening.

Here's a very important point about things we think up on our own, when we do that.  Assume it's shit.  Because it is.  This tech idea, for all the wonderful praise it is getting - and thank you - has absolutely no merit whatsoever until it proves itself in a game.  Which it hasn't had a chance to do.  In a few months it may be nothing but shit on the blog, ditched, ignored and not part of my world.  I am very self-aware regarding that likelihood.  I have tried things before that got loads of praise and went nowhere.

I'm not nearly as impressed with the system as others seem to be.

I'll tackle getting your ass kicked on another post.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Technology 13

This is the ninth in a series of posts intended to provide a technological framework for my world. The purpose of this framework is to create unique, regional settings for player interaction. A realistic simulation of the actual world is not a goal of this system and will not be given credence when approving comments.

Regions with a technology of 13 will have an average population density of 23,959 to 44,321 per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, shown on this table:

94 regions.  This technology accounts for 1,117.1 hexes of my world, occupied by 38,640,273 humans.  There are no non-humans.

I am struck by the coincidence that these last three tech levels, 11, 12 & 13, have all had accounted for approximately the same number of people: 34 million, 37 million and 38 million each.  This was not intentional.  It does suggest to me that the simple algorithm I'm using (each tech above 10 includes entities 1.85x more dense) is correct - or it is just wildly coincidental.  Most probably the latter, heh heh.

By now, the reader is probably sick to death of these tech posts.  This being the ninth one, I'm getting somewhat weary myself.  These are a lot of energy and I'm getting tired of thinking my way through the developments involved - but I do want to press through until the end.  I hope, sincerely, that I don't end up phoning in these last six levels.  All, I'm afraid, will be fine-tuning aspects of the tech 12 baseline (I think, anyway; I could be wrong once I give more thought to what's ahead).  Certainly 13 doesn't make any great changes to the status quo of church vs. aristocracy vs. capital . . . this being a formula that continues until the mid-20th century, when the church starts to feel itself crumbling.  We're in the midst of that crumbling now, with the sound and fury of toppling institutions giving them the temporary illusion that their pronouncements still matter in a world that begins to hate religion.  Of course, people will claim that Islam still has a lot of power, but that's nonsense; religion has power when it is seen as a positive force in people's lives.  When religion merely becomes the excuse used by governments to oppress people, that is the illusion to which I refuse.  For most Islamic fundamentalists, religion is merely the left hand you're supposed to watch so you don't see what the right hand is doing (it does a pretty good job of fooling stupid people).

But I digress.

Available Technologies

See tech 12.

Civil Service.  The need for the three sides of power requires a set of principles to govern liaisons among themselves - and this entity goes a long way to supplanting the government itself.  Whereas the aristocracy channels taxes towards their own ventures, tech 13 has an institution that directs taxes to the good of all.  This help support the various ventures of government, promotes the construction of larger engineering projects and empowers many educated common persons who now have a vocational path that is not oriented towards trade or religion.

Philosophy.  Apart from interest in metaphysics and ethics, philosophy strengthens the originating ideas and themes proposed in tales and literature into fundamental ideals for how persons should act and behave.  This in turn has strengthened the new civil service, so that the principles of promoting welfare and the general interest have inculcated themselves into the social conscience (it did not begin with Jefferson, the hack).  This philosophy, in turn, is made manifest by the spread of . . .

Drama.  Tales are greatly elaborated by thematic purpose, that serves to educate even the lowest element of the culture with propaganda and a call for intellectual action with regards to social problems.  The presence of drama, in turn, helps unite the people into a common heritage, something that hasn't coalesced into 'nationalism' as yet, but retains suggestion of that ideal.

Music.  The development of martial themes and emotional coloratura further heightens the social culture.  This, too, aids in giving people a common heritage, from the sort of complex music played for the upper classes to the elaborate affairs now planned by the lower.  With drama and music we introduce the bard class, incorporating magic with the music of minstrels from a lower tech level.

I plan to speak this evening with my players with regards to reducing the intelligence limits of both bards (from 15 to 13) and illusionists (from 15 to 12) this evening, to see if they have any objections.  After some initial discussion, I don't believe that lowering these stat requirements will vastly increase interest in either class - nor will they, in any way that I can see, alter the balance of power in the class itself.  Those intelligence numbers are completely arbitrary - and in the face of the tech system going so well (it is for me!), I'm ready to rethink those numbers.

After all, gnome illusionists must come from somewhere.  I know the gnomish territories in my world - Harnia is easily the most populated.

Here and there, I can see, there will have to be minor adjustments all over my previous system.  I'm resolved, however; I can't wait to start playing this system.  At present, I have both my parties in each campaign at the front door of a dungeon.  It is convenient that this is where they both are, just now, as I play with this new concept.


I think it is fair to combine both rural and urban together again.  Population density has risen to around 80-100 persons per square mile, so that even in a large region like the Punjab (290 hexes), a big town is not very far away.  The countryside's mindset will orient itself more and more towards the town, as much redevelopment and infrastructure will begin with appealing to the civil service for monetary investment.  This investment in turn will begin to lock town and country together into a single geopolitical framework, the forerunner of nationalism (see tech 14).

With theaters, music halls, the incorporation of ballrooms into palaces, a general flourishing of the arts generally (allowing another chosen profession for the talented and technical), life for many persons will become more interesting and comfortable than the dependence on tavern and drink that will define lower tech levels.  For many persons entering a town, there will be more interest in washing, changing clothes and attending one of the daily events in the city (a far cry from weekly or monthly festivals found elsewhere) than in simply sitting in a tavern for six hours.  Of course, for some people, the appeal of the latter option will never go away . . . but this too will begin to separate the culture into people that 'matter' and people who do not.

The civil service, in an effort to save time, will create endless fees and monetary penalties for infractions, enabling the wealthy to 'break the edicts' with little suffrage while the poor will find themselves hemmed in further - and even compelled to leave, as town life becomes more restrictive for those who are not part of a faction.  Once again, this will mean that towns and cities are cleaner, lacking slums and even a red light district entirely - the latter replaced by a theatre district, where it may still be possible to get horizontal refreshment, only now through an agent rather than direct bargaining.

My world of 1650 is pre-Industrial revolution, so there isn't the opportunity for labor that would exist in a late 18th-century world.  Artisanship takes a very long time to learn; the remarkable simplicity of industrial manufacture through steam, gas and ultimately electricity created the filthy city we identify with the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  A well-fashioned 17th century town, one where the population was well educated and managed, was nothing like we imagine medieval cities to be (an invention of Hollywood).

This situation may seem strange for players who never think of things like attending the theatre or taking a seat in the observer's gallery of the local parliament - but I feel that with encouragement and a clear understanding of when this is possible, players will find the potential to be interesting.  I feel it will greatly improve their vision of my world and the opportunities that lay before them.


It should be clear to the reader that I am spending less and less time on things apart from lifestyle - that is because matters like government and the military substantially affect the players only so much as the players are interested.  I've stuck largely to what the military might be doing and what things the government's structure should be watched for; more than this may be added at a later time without filling space right now.

So the only point I want to make now about the military is that they, too, are being funded by the civil service.  With the support of martial themes and greater controls on entry (and less loyalty to anything except the paymaster and the general philosophy of the military itself), the army TOO becomes a profession for the poor.  Under the control of a more stable government than aristocracy, the military's precision will make it a more dangerous weapons both towards other regions and towards the state itself.  This will change many local attitudes about the military's purpose, status and general import to foreign action.


I've digressed a lot through this post, so I think I'll call it quits.  I'd like to hear on the intelligence of bards and illusionist and on further considerations due to the civil service and the army.  I feel I've fallen a bit short on both those topics.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Technology 12

This is the eighth in a series of posts intended to provide a technological framework for my world. The purpose of this framework is to create unique, regional settings for player interaction. A realistic simulation of the actual world is not a goal of this system and will not be given credence when approving comments.

Regions with a technology of 12 will have an average population density of 12,851 to 23,958 per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, shown on this table:

141 regions.  This technology accounts for 2,178.3 hexes of my world, occupied by 37,731,822 humanoids.  Only 59,072 of these are non-human - half-orcs, from Sumi.

But then, I will probably adjust that, region by region, following the logic of the last post.  But that will have to wait.

Available Technologies

See tech 11.  I've been looking forward to tech 12, because it includes a tremendous social reconstruction compared to the previous tech, established by just three developments.  Let's get right into it.  Tech 12 technologies are as follows:

Guilds.  To end discord and bring about a measure of social change, professionals and artisans create a set of confraternities designed to end competion and stabilize the economy.  Guilds co-opt specific parts of towns or cities as their own, denying occupation by anyone not specifically approved.  In turn, efforts are made to consolidate processing to manage it, bringing about a healthier and more efficient environment, making less labor for the masses.  Through the fixing of employment and banning of unacceptable persons (while making wage slaves of the remainder, who will be blacklisted upon leaving their work), the guilds help drive out many persons who would support the town or city's vice-ridden entities.

Theology.  A unification between the clerical faction and the governing body produces a third state within the region, empowering clerics with a legal right to stand up to lords and the nobility on behalf of morality, religious practice and welfare, making their voice a powerful challenge to the corruption that exists at lower tech levels.  This also helps to greatly clear up the red-light district, as the clerics possess the power to shut down such dens on the principles of their virtue.  Slums become merely housing for the lowest strata of workers, relatively clean and primarily functional, with a minimum of corrupt officials and self-imposed thugs.  Residents can appeal to both religious leaders and the guild for safety, so that while living in poor circumstances the life is reasonably peaceful and safe.

Code of Laws.  Influenced by both the above factions, courts are cleaned up and a set of clearly written, established laws, free from corruption and balanced by more than one entity responsible for incarceration and pardon are put in place.  Clerics, able to cast spells that will determine intent and malevolence, as well as penetrating disguise, replace secular judges and produce a legal system that can establish guilt or innocence - along with potential threat to society - in a roomful of people at one time.  With the formation of an inquisition, whole areas of trouble will be imprisoned and a single cleric with a detect malevolence spell will turn slowly in a room full of cells and determine who should be properly held for trial and sentencing and who should be immediately let go.  The code, a guideline for behaviour, ensures that everyone within the region knows precisely what they will be judged upon.

On every level, these three developments allow for considerable corruption in themselves - but unlike the corruption found on tech levels 9 & 10, these are inwardly corrupt, where the majority of citizens are not challenged because their presence is necessary to the guild and where the majority of citizens are paid well enough to ensure the benefit of the religious orders.  Law courts are there to winnow out poor workers and those who would give their coin to the wrong entities - and this, in turn, remakes the social order into one based on moral contract, where 'freedom' is defined by not making trouble.

Added, however, is one more general technology, not included in Civ IV:

Druidism.  This will not go over well with those people who feel that all druids, absolutely, must be born to animals in the wild, raised by centaurs or otherwise the product of a totally natural culture - in turn learning everything they know about magic, ceremonies and whatever else one wants to include by, apparently, osmosis.  This is not my conception of the druid and certainly has no rationale anywhere except in the worst sort of present-day fantasy literature.  In old fairy tales, most wise men of the forest tended to begin their lives as a prince or some other well-educated soul, who chose to retreat to the forest.

I don't see druids wandering the back country of tech 11 and lesser regions (right down to tech 0, something I haven't begun to discuss) with the intention of changing the culture in those places.  There may be a 14th level druid wandering the backwoods of Siberia, the deserts of Arabia's Empty Quarter or the deep jungles of India, but I feel that this presence wouldn't impinge on any culture except that of the druid's origin - that origin being one advanced enough to give the druid the knowledge that druid would need.  For my world, that's a minimum of a tech 12 area.

Lifestyle - Rural

Throughout the region, every small village and large hamlet has built a church, large or small - and the leaders of these churches now act as a liaison between peasant and lord.  The monetary oppression against the poor is relieved considerably by this, but in its place is a moral oppression that has made the attitude of the individual more heterogeneous and fixed.  This has been complimented by the presence of more villages than has ever existed before (with up to 65 persons per square mile), so that municipal borders have broken up the large estates that existed on the tech 10 level.  Many of these villages were created by manors that expanded, that now have the numbers to elect of burghers, madhus, imams and a host of petty warlords who exist to challenge the overarching power of the lord, either through local guilds or religious orders.

Criminal behaviour in the hinterland survives through quiet, secret patronage.  As the state has chosen one religion as the face of the region, various cults and other religions struggle to maintain their practices or to carry forth a religious war against the populace.  Guilds of one town pay mercenaries to circumvent the practices of other similar guilds in other towns or to secure resources in their favour (so competition continues, just on a wider scale).  Lords maintain brigands to put down agitators.  The church maintains spies to weed out non-believers.  It is supposed that any stranger that is met off a major highway is likely one of these persons.

However, the region is highly stable where it comes to open crime.  Roadhouses - inns and taverns without an accompanying town - can be found on every major road, meaning that lodging can be found easily by anyone.  Opportunities for supplying the guilds with raw materials abound and most villages will welcome any strong character that proves their sincerity.  Foreigners are treated fairly well, for they bring in money and can be expected to mind their own business, for the most part.  The player characters, of course, rarely mind their own business - but then that mindset makes room for many adventures beginning with the players being persecuted for being nosey.

What influence would druids have?  They might provide refuge for the victims of all this morality and oppression in the hinterland, but they may not.  A druid dwelling in such a backcountry may very well ignore refugees moving there, concerned mostly with what the refugees do rather than why they've arrived.  Perhaps the druid's motive would be to just keep them moving, perhaps frightening them with animals or bad weather or whatever might be in the druid's power.  The higher the druid, I should think, the less likely they'd be to have anyone enter an area under their protection.  Lower level druids might dabble a bit in culture - acting as medicants or teachers - but I think the higher orders would have learned their lessons about dealing with people.

Lifestyle - Urban

I've already made it clear that towns and cities at this tech are cleaner, less overtly corrupt and possessing of less vice and immediate threat.  I'll add that areas of the town where congestion would have been common in the past have been knocked down and avenues built, as well as squares and a re-institution of public greenspace (for sitting parks rather than herding animals, as in much less civilized regions).  With open space, advancement of general literature, town criers, thoughtful cases brought before law courts and a host of other public interests, discussion between the citizenry has become the order of the day.  Sports events take the place of vice, as do religious festivals and the occasional performance.  These latter do not take place in theatres, however - that is left for a higher tech level.

Taverns are open, comfortable spaces, supported by storytellers, jugglers, jesters and itinerant musicians.  Politeness towards the staff is expected and policed.  Brawls and brawlers are treated with great disdain, so that those who start such fights will not find the patrons willing to 'join in.'  Business is banned from discussion in taverns but political debate is encouraged.  Those who wish to communicate regarding business dealings must do so upon the open street, in daylight hours, for it is presumed that there's never any reason to hide one's motives in this regard.

Of course, this means subversive business discussions take place at someone's private residence (inns in my world do not offer private rooms at this tech level or any up to this point).

There's probably more, but this gives a good idea of the atmosphere.

Government & Military

There is a new militia in the town, wearing the garb of the local religion.  These exist to keep the peace, enforce edicts, challenge the power of any other military force where 'corruption' may be taking hold and on the whole to keep peace and order.  These troops will join with the state military in times of war.

Guilds, too, strengthen the town watch in a manner that produces dozens of private constabularies whose area of control extends along streets, lanes and processing areas controlled by the guilds.  At the borders between these areas there is sometimes conflict between one watch and another.  Various large taverns and inns - sometimes agreeing to joint constabularies - also employ a private watch.  Each private watch may number from as few as one person to four score, depending on the size of area to be controlled.  Most of these watchmen are quite unreasonable when dealing with citizenry during the daytime; at night they can be downright rude.

No armed force - not the religious, the watch, the town guards or the military - has the right to kill any person that has committed a crime, even trespassing or treason.  These persons are, by rule of law, meant to be brought before a judge.  However, 'resisting arrest' and 'self-defense' become a thing, as a way of getting around such edicts.


In some ways, this sort of environment gets harder to run for a lot of DMs.  There's very little wiggle-room for the typical irrational D&D party.  However, it is hard to argue that a huge city of several hundred thousand persons could last very long without this sort of ordinance-driven restrictive culture.  It is one reason why many DMs simply deny that any adventure can take place in a town, since such adventures are lean on treasure and high on trouble.

Lean on treasure is only proper.  Ultimately, a long campaign could yield a profoundly rich haul - particularly if the players are wise enough that they could get themselves put in charge of a whole palace that they then cleaned out - calmly and 'legally' - over a couple of game weeks.  With the local guard and the local guildmaster giving them a hand while they did it.  That would be hilarious and could net a hundred thousand gold pieces or so . . . but most players wouldn't know where to begin with an adventure like that.

In the meantime, such regions of my world (and higher tech ones) will likely be places where parties will go because the markets there have the best, cheapest stuff.  But adventuring?  Probably not.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


In answer to the problem discussed on this post, I think I may have a solution.

Let's start with the original map of Harnia:

The idea is to divide the region above into parts, recognizing that the population of gnomes in the entity is much higher than it would have had were it human.  This is to manage problems of tech levels for non-humans, all of which are relegated to empty parts of the real world where territory size is large precisely because those areas are empty.  Since those territories are not empty in my game world, it follows that some of them should include parts with smaller borders.

The first step is to determine where those smaller borders should be.  I believe this should be based upon what rivers exist.  Because my maps features rivers in the center of each hex, rather than each edge, the map can be drawn along hex boundaries/ridges that separate the valleys from each other politically.  Then we can make a few adjustments:
  • any valley without a town can be added to the next valley, preferably the one that causes the different territories to keep the most globular shape possible
  • ensuring roads cross as few borders as possible.
  • assigning towns on the ridges to empty valleys, when possible.
  • retaining previously created boundaries, even where those boundaries cross rivers.

Here's Harnia, so divided, below:

This gives us 7 sections.  1 to 5 are sections of Harn, while 6 & 7 are the two sections of Seraphina.  The small tail of the valley of the Garl river, in Seraphina, is given over to Section 6 because - while part of the river flows through Harn/Section 3, it then flows through Section 6 again.  And it makes the two regions more globular in shape, whereas awarding that one hex to Section 7 would give the section a straggly tail.

We have two examples where more than one center is in a given section: the city of Harn includes the town of Taladuin ('n' is cut off) in Section 4, while both Durrin and Bodumis of Section 6 are in the same hex.  All other five sections have only one town.

Well, right off, Bortrun is a market (as is Harn) and therefore deservedly should be seen as a separate province.  I already divided it economically in the Spring of 2015, so it makes sense now to divide it politically as well.

This leaves four sections in Harn.  We want to retain previously existing boundaries, so Seraphina is another issue.  We have two choices for what to do with Harn's four sections:

Option 1. We can roll a d4 to determine how many there are, then randomly join them together.  If we do this and we roll a '1', then all four sections become a single province, or thane.  On a '4', we get four separate thane.

On a '2', we can roll further dice to determine which thanes join with which.  Sections 1 & 4 or 3 & 2 are out, since we want to keep that globular necessity - but 4 could join with 2, leaving 3 & 1 together; or 4 could join with 3, leaving 2 & 1 together.

On a '3', we just have to roll odd man out.  That might even be 3, as 1, 2 & 4 are reasonably globular without it.

Option 2. Give preference to the most populous section and combine less populous sections together.  This contributes to offering the best possible tech level for preferred sections while relegating other areas to hinterland status.

This can be based on the comparative population of the different towns (which will be the deciding factor on how many people are in each section.  See this table below:

Sorry, this is a table I use so often, I forget that it lacks headings.  The first column next to Haraduin is the year the town was founded, 787.  Haraduin's population is 2,158.  It is at latitude 52.47 N and at longitude 44.22 E.  It is at an elevation of 620 feet.

The city of Harn is so much larger than the other centers in the Harn Zone that it dwarfs them.  Haraduin, Taladuin, Tarrum and Vallin are just big villages.  If one of them were much bigger, say Bortrun's size (13,788), then they might deserve their own section - but they aren't, so it makes some sense to put Harn's section by itself while putting the other three together.

It could look like this:

I've made a few adjustments, giving the south central ridge to the West March but keeping the north ridge to Harn, being nearest to the big city.  I've also taken the lowest hex from the Bortrun section, given that it is closer to Taladuin, on the same plain that Harn and Taladuin occupy.  Bortrun is 400 feet higher up the valley, inconvenient for cartage.  And it makes Bortrun much smaller.

Seraphina is a less interesting issue.  Using Option 2, the two regions both exist, as Seraphis is a large village of 2,185 whereas Bodumis and Durrin are, together, only 960.  This would give section 6 a total population of 20,133 and section 7 a population of  45,824.  Unfortunately, even if I give the whole ridge to the small villages, section 7 still covers 13.4 hexes (note the hex where it only controls the left bank of the river), giving it a density of 3,419.  This is only good enough for tech 10.  With the ridge being part of Seraphis, it's a density of 2,975, or tech 9. 

What about the other three new provinces?
  • The West March has 40,736 people and covers 24 hexes, for a density of 1,697 = tech 9
  • Bortrun has 71,230 people and covers 4 hexes, for a density of 17,807 = tech 12
  • Harn has 252,892 people and covers 14 hexes, for a density of 18,063 = tech 12

So, at the end of all this, frustration.

It occurs to me, as well, that if I give that ridge to Seraphis, then that would make section 7 the same tech as section 6.  I might just as well leave all of Seraphina as one thane.  Seems that should be a determining rule, too, in whether or not an entity is subdivided. 

I have made the tech level for part of the territory higher, but not sufficient to obtain that golden 15 intelligence necessary for the illusionist to exist in the territory.


When I think of it, that 15 intelligence requirement for the illusionist always did seem ridiculously high . . .

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The High End of Backward

One of the features I truly like about this tech system I'm writing is that it isn't based on a European metric.  This means the trials and benefits of civilization can potentially exist anywhere that a smaller bordered region is heavily populated - say, India, Burma or Arabia, despite the usual thinking of these places being backwards.  The key is in the size of the territory - a smaller territory will almost certainly mean a higher density, for someone at some time in history felt that this tiny region was as large as it needed to be.

This lets me paint such areas as 'islands' of technological development in an otherwise less established outland.  For an example I haven't published yet, the territory of Agra - where the Taj Mahal has been more or less completed in my world, with some minor work still ongoing - has a tech level of 17.  It only occupies 4.4 hexes.  This, however, makes the region perfectly suited for a highly civilized Indian campaign.  Nearby Hindustan, 14 million people and 187 hexes, has a tech level of 14 . . . which I find quite acceptable, even enjoying the fact that a significant portion of India is far more advanced than parts of Spain, France or Germany recognized for their technical contributions.

That's because the system I'm developing isn't based on military glory or technological supremacy, but upon culture and interpersonal associations.  Hindustan in the 17th century was absolutely unconquerable by the West; most of the people did read and write, were well-versed in their social responsibilities and completely content with their roles.  It would be more comfortable for you or I to dwell in 17th century Delhi than in 17th century Florence, also a tech 14 region.

High Tech
Naturally, there's a certain preconception that would have to be overcome with players, steadfastly seeing everything not quintessentially American or British as perceptually appalling.  That's comes from our perception of India having been based on a 19th & 20th century colony of England, where laws were passed that denied the population control and 'immoral' behaviour that had kept India stable for centuries.  Admittedly, part of that population control did include a number of massacres, that I remember reading extensively on when I was researching the kingdom to make my map.  But hey, massacres happened in Europe too, remember?

It isn't like any of the world at this time was peaceful and light.  Heck, absolute monarchy wasn't intellectually challenged until 1690.

Technology 11

This is the seventh in a series of posts intended to provide a technological framework for my world. The purpose of this framework is to create unique, regional settings for player interaction. A realistic simulation of the actual world is not a goal of this system and will not be given credence when approving comments.

Regions with a technology of 11 will have an average population density of 7,001 to 12,950 per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, shown on this table:

151 regions.  This technology accounts for 3,517 hexes of my world, occupied by 34,756,621 humanoids.  Only 1,484,873 of these are non-human.

Available Technologies

See tech 10.  One thing about finishing these tech levels, I find myself wanting to get started on the next one, as I'm no more sure about what the next change is going to be than the reader is.  I'm very pleased that each level seems to a) be very different from the previous level; and b) relate directly to changes that ought to be made to troubles/problems created with the earlier technology.  That's a continuity I didn't plan for but seems to present itself at each stage as I go forward.

Tech 11 technologies are as follows:

Mathematics & Engineering.  I feel both deserve to be considered one and the same for the world at this tech level.  Fortifications proliferate, particularly in rural parts of the region, as nobles seek to solidify their power.  Fresh water is piped into the city from outside, deeper wells are dug (both for water and for the purpose of mining in the outer districts), while quays and wharves expand the capacity of ports to service shipping.  Temples and palaces reach impressive proportions, as do libraries, law courts, market squares and mills.  Dams and bridges are a distinctive feature of the rural and urban landscape.

Calendar.  Farms will grow more interested in growing crops that will produce wealth (particularly fibres) rather than food, beginning to challenge the self-sustainability of the region.  Taxes are now leveled on a yearly basis and rents paid monthly, while work among the lower classes in urban areas is regulated by clocks that chime from clock towers.

Optics.  Developments in naval tactics allow for signalling between ships and widespread use of telescopes for communication, along with improvements in cartography.  The region's shipbuilders will make three-masted ships able to cross the Atlantic, Pacific or Indian oceans.  Whaling is carried out by many ships.  The accuracy of firing siege engines is higher than at lower tech levels.

Literature.  With the widespread building of libraries and entrenched education of the young, at least 10% of the population is able to read the plethora of books that are bought and owned in the region.  The audience is caught up in a tradition of folk stories and morality tales, encouraging a large portion of the population to see corrupted persons as undeserving and malevolent.  Ideas of chivalry, love, the repudiation of villainy and the pursuit of goodness present themselves as enemies to the corruption in cities, challenging the status quo.

Assassination.  Whereas I mentioned in tech 10 that assassination had become a profession, it isn't until this tech that it becomes a 'power'; characters need an intelligence of 11 to become assassins.

Lifestyle - Rural

The countryside of this tech is defined by large estates that have gobbled up the small manor farms that once existed.  Since the size of these estates is greatly increased, often with areas up to half a hex in size, the environs are not so closely managed as smaller estates would be.  Thus the outlying edges of their domains tend to be loosely managed, making travel easy for players so long as they avoid the most carefully watched fields or estate works.

Upon the environs, family clans, sometimes operating as brigands, will join together in protective allegiances, paying their rents and subtly growing crops or gathering the land's resources to sell to the many villages or towns nearby.  This is often overlooked without much concern, since the lord, too, is making a great deal of money and the small pickings of these groups can be too much trouble to roust out.

When brigandage happens, the dwellers in one lord's land will often travel a great distance to be sure and strike in land controlled by someone else; sometimes, booty will be divided with the lord's agents, so that the lord will overlook their activities and even provide them with a degree of protection (not playing the lord's hand, of course).  These arrangements will sometimes grow to be generational.

In areas nearer to the lord's personal domain, villages carry forward a small industrial existence.  Gangs of up to a hundred will work a field together, mine the hills, build infrastructure, drain swamps, clear forests, beachcomb or whatever labor is needed.  There are always a half dozen overseers for these activities, present and very aware.  Laborers under the control of the lord do not work alone or in small numbers.

Adventurers abound, spurred by the tales of knights, ladies, magic and the protection of the innocent.  Many of these tend to be dreamers rather than practical souls - some on the scale of Don Quixote - but a few will be experienced.  Their presence, however, tends to make the population, even the lords themselves if they are directly approached, interested in an adventurer's tales or what an adventurer's quest may be.  Many will be helpful, so long as their own power isn't challenged.

Because the growing of food is on the decline, periods of extensive famine can severely hurt the poorer districts in the region (and the towns and cities).  Indifferent lords do not share food when it is scarce, so that it can happen that hundreds or thousands can die of starvation in bad years.

Lifestyle - Urban

Towns and cities both become defensive strongholds, sometimes on a grand scale.  Cities may show signs of having to expand their walls to include more residents - which will have the effect of disallowing much of the corrupted town from gaining access into the more 'civilized' portion of the city.  This inner district may only be accessible by writ and it may even be necessary to be met at the gate by an indentured servant or agent before entrance will be allowed.

Private gardens surrounded by walls become common, with many palaces owned by merchants and lords being also being fortified.  Lower districts will be squalid and the residents treated with disdain; the law has become so oppressive that mass executions intended to end rebellion are seen as a necessary measure to keep the peace.  Press gangs roam the streets looking for vulnerable persons, particularly drunks or anyone too poor to find a place for the night, being paid fees for every head they can find.  As such, many of the vice-directed professions will hand over clients, deadbeats or troublesome persons to the press gangs for a piece of this fee, rather than commit murder.  Some places in the red light district (now several streets) do a booming business in subtly removing a person's defenses in order to make them sailors, soldiers or wage slaves.  Of course, in some parts of the world, complete slavery is a common thing.

Outside the walls (and often inside), every available space is dedicated to the growing of food.  The 'suburbs,' then, feature scattered dwellings growing vegetables, fruits and tubers, all of which provide the best potential food mass per acre.  This is delivered to the gates, where carters collect it to take inside to the urban dwellers daily.  Travel in and out of the town is rare, as the guards will often turn away people, regardless of their ability to pay the exorbitant fees to enter.

Government & Military

In most ways this is unchanged from tech 10, except for an increased interest in naval maneuvers, where the region meets the sea.  Sappers and artillerists are a bigger feature of the standing army.  The rural lords have an greater power with the monarch, being that they control so much more territory individually, while urban lords tend to look more inwardly with regards to their problems.  There is a certain resistance in the latter to turn over wealth, though of course the greater number of men are collected from the towns and cities.


I know that it is probably getting difficult remembering the individual tech levels, as they tend to blur together.  Allow me to quickly run over them again:

Tech 5.  Nomadic, living in tents.  Villages are impermanent, with a steadily changing population, in fords and established exchange points.

Tech 6.  Agricultural, with villages wholly dedicated to farming.  No artisans, leadership is clan and tribal based.  Some mining.

Tech 7.  Towns feature workshops for simple manufactures, with less emphasis on farming.  Councils gather to make decisions while religion remains a personal choice.

Tech 8.  A widening of the gap between rich and poor, money is common, inns and taverns as well, with caravans.  Towns and the military are run by autocratic rule, with little law or restraint.

Tech 9.  Writing and law helps make towns more open, though the rural districts are increasingly oppressed.  Artisans and the religious become the most visible urban influences.

Tech 10.  Feudalism shuts down the rural countryside completely, while towns grow corrupt and full of filth, disease and dangerous vice.

Hope that helps.

In The Gap

"There are two opposing armies drawn up on the field, but there's a heavy fog.  They can't see each other.  Oh, they want to of course, very much.  You are in the gap between them.  You can just see us.  You can just see them.  Your mission is to get near enough to see them to signal their position to us, so giving us the advantage - but if in signaling their position to us you signal our position to them, it is they who will gain a very considerable advantage.  That's where you are, Quiller.  In the gap."

The Quiller Memorandum, 1966

The principle success in any mission that involves intrigue is the lack of certainty surrounding what to do.  If the players in an adventure thriller are certain they know what the next step should be, then the adventure isn't thrilling at all.  The thrill is in stumbling around in the dark, trying to do the right thing, never knowing for certain if they're going to avoid doing the wrong thing.

How does the reader, as a DM, learn how to make this possible?

See the right sort of movies.  Read the right sort of books.  Multiple times.  Try to learn something.


I wrote this last night, before I went to bed, and now I am regretting it.  That sounds horribly pretentious and lazy - not to mention confrontational.  I believe that I wrote it this way because of an earlier argument I'd had with a very young hipster who feels that No Country For Old Men is the greatest movie ever made.

I was reaching for the premise that some works cannot be fully grasped in one go - and that very often what we think we're seeing is only the veneer of the plot that hides the importance of what's happening between characters.  The Quiller Memorandum (video here) has always been this for me because the story itself is very simple and - as people have described it to me - painfully slow.  Like endlessly waiting for the other shoe to drop, only to find that it never does.  That is because the plot is immaterial to the purpose of the film.  It is really a study more than a story; an in-depth examination of the way people in dangerous situations must expose themselves, being vulnerable, before anything can be discovered - with the expectation that they will lose everything.

I think good role-playing is that.  The recognition that keeping safe is not the key; and at the same time, approaching the issue cautiously, rationally and with every expectation that failure will probably mean an unfair or undeserved demise.

I know I cannot properly convey that feeling, as it comes from my gut while I watch or read something that is meant to challenge my preconception.  I sense the realization rather than find myself forming it in words.  A hard confession for a writer to make.

Anyway, it came out badly last night as I tried to punch that sentiment rather than hand it over gently.  I apologize.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Technology 10

This is the sixth in a series of posts intended to provide a technological framework for my world. The purpose of this framework is to create unique, regional settings for player interaction. A realistic simulation of the actual world is not a goal of this system and will not be given credence when approving comments.

Regions with a technology of 10 will have an average population density of 3,334 to 7,000 per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, shown on this table:

152 regions, scattered through every part of my world.  This technology accounts for 3,860.3 hexes of my world, occupied by 18,800,751 humanoids.  Only 1,409,396 of these are non-human.

Available Technologies

See tech 9.  I don't have much to say at this point, so let's get right into it.

Feudalism.  Because all my world takes place in 1650, many of the lower techs have had a sort of land tenure, but with this tech the peasantry are fully enslaved to the land.  Rural land is now wholly ruled over by manors - even remote areas in the territory are owned by someone.  No person, anywhere, can set up in the wilderness without eventually butting up against an authority.  At the same time, titles among the nobility are now fixed and rigorously managed - so that the monarch or the oligarchy has the power to strip a person of their privilege and their land if fealty is not properly given.  At lower tech levels, this would have to be done through a civil war; at tech level 10, a given lord would willingly let themselves be deposed, knowing they'd receive no support.  Of course, disputes over heredity, like the War of the Roses, are still possible.  In rural areas and for war, the long bow becomes a terror weapon, largely wielded by peasants.  

Construction.  Roads throughout the region improve and are maintained continuously.  Arenas for sport or games appear in many cities.  Towns and cities have built walls, separating the inner city (trading, upper classes) from the exposed suburbs.  Private walls can be found around homes and gardens, along with specific neighborhoods, to segregate some populations (particularly foreigners).  Siege engines are placed on walls and used in wars and elephants become platforms for missile warfare.  Griffs are trained and raised in cots.  Public buildings and temples are recognizably more ornate and profound than lower tech levels and palaces are popular.  Manor houses grow large but castles are reserved for a higher tech level.

Machinery.  The primary influence is the industrialization of the rural, as manors begin building much bigger mills that are run on water and wind-power (those of tech 9 would be largely manual and small).  Artisans are supported by lords and can be found in hamlets associated with manors, churning out materials for the lord's benefit and accumulation of wealth.  Crossbows, requiring less practice to use, are the preferred missile weapon for urban infantry.

Compass.  The two-masted brigantine can be found as the preferred ship, a square-sail and lateen sail together, while deep water travel defines both the merchant and military fleets.  Ports are full of foreigners, who are more respected there than inland.

Currency.  Coins are minted locally.  Usury is a common practice but is usually available only to those with credit.  Bonds, partnerships, promissary notes, monopolies, the transfer of debt and foreign investment are common features of the economy.  Markets cease to be haphazard collections of peddlers and sellers and traders become a class unto themselves.  It requires a license to sell goods openly; players are permitted only to sell their goods to traders at a pre-set price.

There would be other adjustments to magic, based on sage abilities, but as those are not well defined at this point, I reserve the right to let these go for the present.  I'm definitely feeling a stronger pressure to do something about at least getting a total outline of all sage abilities (they are taking far longer to define one by one than I would have ever dreamed).

Lifestyle - Rural

This is fairly well defined already by the existence of calcified feudalism.  Players travelling through rural areas would encounter haywards, reeves, wardens and a host of residents that would make harassment of strangers common.  On the other hand, the lowest peasants would tend to be more forgiving of outlaws and less likely to turn players over to the authorities.

Even a well-built road might turn out to be private, so players should recognize that the manor lords may not be forgiving - at all - of interlopers who would be seen as thieves, saboteurs, agitators or some other threat to the established money-making machine the lord has set upon upon the domain.  Any movement off road, therefore, should be pursued carefully, exactly the same way one might case a house.  For those who know the land well, it is easy to discover tracks or signs that someone has been moving through even a forested rural area who shouldn't be there.  Of course, a ranger might cover the party's tracks . . .

Lifestyle - Urban

The restrictions on rural life has turned towns and cities into places where refugees would desire to go - so these have built walls to keep such riff raff out.  Fees to enter the town walls are designed to deny entrance to those without wealth, though they cannot be so high that it restricts trade.  Still, any rural dweller able to steal or accumulate enough to enter a town immediately sets out to remain there, creating a considerable unemployed population.  This is made worse by the intense competition that now exists between various artisans (a guild still has not been established) as different groups fight to obtain a monopoly over various products.

Workshops and artisans have begun to take over large parts of the inner city, moving their processing inside the walls to avoid fees for entering the towns, creating considerable amounts of filth.  Now a significant part of the people are employed in the management of this filth: gong farmers, haulers, rat catchers, collectors of the dead, gravediggers and so on.  Clean water becomes a premium, regularly hauled into the city.  Disease is rampant.  Slums are everywhere

Those unable to get work turn to desperate activities.  Seasonal workers are indigent and threatening at times, beggars are supported by gangs, assassination becomes a profession (but not a class, not yet), as does widespread prostitution, gambling, fencing of goods and forgery of paper, permitting movement around the city or past the walls.  These activities are taken over by corrupt authorities, who protect their existence rather than taking steps to end it.


The oligarchy has formed themselves into a legitimate body with which the monarchy must now share power.  The nobility is above the law of the lower classes, but every strata of society has their own set of values and rules that they must follow.  Oppression and exploitation of the lower classes is the norm.

The nobles in particular will be remote in their activities, preferring to do everything through agents, who in turn will seek to recruit anyone who will further the nobles' power.  Foreigners are popular recruits, as they are expendable and unknown entities.  Hiring mercenaries to commit oppressive acts against enemies of the upper classes is normal.  The party, if they establish themselves for more than a few weeks, are certain to be approached - after all, if the party does something nasty, the noble involved is untouched, the agents are protected by the nobles and everyone hates foreigners anyway.

Players can make good money if they don't mind beating up or killing innocents or agitators.


The state, now organized, is getting interested in using the military to affect the actions of foreign territories or acquire power in foreign theatres (recognizing that we're defining another province in the same empire or kingdom as 'foreign').  Obviously, these warmongers would prefer to attack lower tech levels, but population is a consideration and often a tech 9 or 8 region can be much larger and more populace than one of tech 10.

On the other hand, a tech 11 to 13 region might be much smaller and vulnerable . . . but as there are many tech 10 regions that are interested now in foreign policy (along with all the other techs above 10), the higher tech lands tend to play these off against each other.  There are so many 'players' in the game that interest in maintaining a level of stability in order to achieve long-term goals has become the order of the day.  Figuring out what these alliances are and how to exploit them forms a potential campaign full of intrigue for higher level players, if this is what interests them.


This is a very dirty tech level.  Many of the techs above this one include 'reforms' to control some of the problems that are occurring, though others will of course make things worse.  The trick in developing higher tech levels from here, I can see, are founded more upon the problems created by the technologies rather than the solutions.  Disease, for example, or the rattling of sabres.

I've been thinking about the cost of entering a town or city - I've always felt that a gold piece was just too small an amount (particularly since the party can easily afford it).  I wonder if it shouldn't be an amount so onerous that no one in the world would willingly pay the money.

One way to control it for the players might be to limit the cost upon things like being a resident of the territory or town (show papers), writs of free travel (show papers), "Do you intend to wear that armor or carry those weapons inside the walls" (that's gonna cost you), "Do you have a spellbook to declare?" (oo, expensive) and so on.

Perhaps I could build a system that enabled a low-level, unarmed, familiar person to pay 1 s.p. to enter while charging the party 40 g.p. per person.  Sounds like fun.

Monday, November 23, 2015


I just want to pause and take stock of the tech levels so far.

Early in this process, I had a faction of respondents who suggested that I should subdivide those first tech 5 regions into multiple technologies - to reflect that a single region, especially one as large as the Lungos Nad example I gave, should be more than one technology.  By now, with hundreds of regions now accounted for, ranging in tech levels from 5 to 9, I wonder if it can be seen now why I wouldn't want to subdivide this issue still further into sub-regions (and presumably, sub-sub-regions . . . oh, where would it end?)

I have about 33 remaining technologies to spread among the remaining 9 tech levels - though I can improve that by updating various lower technologies (separating 'agriculture' from 'irrigated agriculture', for example) and adding in things associated with magic - say, the creation of magic items.

I've been thinking about the relationship between tech levels and the percentage of leveled persons, as well.  While there are 619 regions with a tech level between 10 and 14, there are only 96 of 15 and above - and I like the idea that most of the residents of those higher tech levels would be actually leveled.  There are only 10 entities with an 18 technology, and all of those are free cities in either Germany or Italy, being 1/10th of a hex in size with 99,000 or more in population.  Why not make a completely leveled population as a distinctive feature of those places?

That would certainly give the players pause before entering such places, putting them somewhat on edge.  And on edge is where I like my players to live.

As technologies climb, it only follows that the level of civilization would become less comfortable for adventuring.  Population and densities climb, there are more potential enemies around, loaded up with weapons and magic . . . it is only natural that if the players start something, there are going to be plenty of personages around to put the hammer down.

In many ways, I can see the players preferring to retreat to the lower tech levels, where they can reasonably count on being the toughest fish in the pond, free to operate as they like without a lot of intrigue, accountability or social mores.  Then again, some players like that sort of thing - and since my world is a buffet, the fish can swim into whatever troubles personally suit them.

All I want is a much clearer glass to demonstrate what's going on where, so that the players can fine-tune their own experience to the sort of environment in which they'd like to play - with the freedom to drift from one end of the scale to the other without my having to do it for them.  It really makes a mess when the world shifts radically from one extreme to the other, attempting to keep every kind of campaign in the same space.

Letting the players do that, taking up their stuff and moving when it suits them, gives them greater power to create a narrative that works their way.  Me, I'm happy to manage whatever campaign they like.

This is perhaps a major reason why I don't get bored with 'one' campaign after ten years - because I'm not running a heterogeneous world.  I'm running a multi-world, with as many variations all in one place as a score of DMs running a very fixed and narrow concept-driven campaign.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Technology 9

This is the fifth in a series of posts intended to provide a technological framework for my world.  The purpose of this framework is to create unique, regional settings for player interaction.  A realistic simulation of the actual world is not a goal of this system and will not be given credence when approving comments.

Regions with a technology of 9 will have an average population density of 1,588 to 3,333 per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, shown on this table:

This technology accounts for 4,882.6 hexes of my world, occupied by 11,629,904 humanoids.

Available Technologies

See tech 8.  I can see from the tech tree I'm working from that already the total number of technologies before the deadline (too technical to exist in my world) are running out.  The developments from here on must become more refined - but the goal remains to retain the distinctiveness of these cultures (above) from those with more or less technology.

I'm adding these for tech 9:

Metal Casting.  This brings in a considerable number of changes, particularly for war.  Suddenly there are many different weapons: flails, maces, hammers, pole arms, sabres and various designed weapons for fighting more effectively from horseback.  And metal armor!  I'm limiting the options st this tech level to scale and chain mail, arguing that more elaborate armor requires better training, schooling (and possibly guilds, which don't exist at this level).

Skirmishers.  The tech sees a lot of raiding by horseback, as archers on horseback (using a shorter, more easily managed bow) proves superior to the disorganized cavalry of this and lower tech levels.  Of course, such tactics are more limited in woodland areas - though there is a general improvement in military tactics, as soldiers are trained to act as a unit despite minimal communication.

Writing.  Since the whole world occurs in the same time period, the 'alphabet' technology can be skipped - particularly as I have only one language in my world, common (decision of the gods and my inability to adequately create the illusion of alternate languages in game play).  Writing brings a great host of changes, with developments in social reform and the law, the codification of religion, writs for property and privilege, the development of spellbooks enabling magic to be taught and spread through the region, a call for tutoring and schooling and opportunities to learn more about the outside world.  All these things together help to make the region a safer, less threatening place to outsiders that tech 8 presented - but of course it also makes the individuals in the population more equipped to be personally threatening.

Priesthood & Magic.  Schooling produces a significant number of persons able to cast spells.  I had considered limiting this tech level to only first level spells, but after some thought I think it would be better to leave this alone; however, I think the number of higher level casters would be diminished enough that players would have access to obtain only the use of 1st level spells and cantrips from non-player churches or magi - identify, remove curse, cure light wounds and so on.  With each increase in tech levels, then this availability would be increased by one level.

Lifestyle - Rural

With the presence of schooling being limited to the urban areas, the rural areas would acquire their reputation for being full of ignorant, easily dismissed persons.  Everything about this technology level serves to oppress the countryside: with the fixing of property lines where agriculture goes on, we have the appearance of 'no trespassing' signs everywhere.  Whole forests are sectioned off and made private reserves for hunting.  Poaching becomes a severely punished crime.

The wealthy landowners now have personal militias that are armed and armored in ways the peasants cannot compete against, so oppression of peasant privilege and freedoms commences.  Peasants are still free to travel, sell their land, sell their goods in town - but now they must pay rents.  And sorry to say, jus primae noctis is in full swing (despite certainty by modern historians - typical - that it never existed).

Still, for the most part, peasants simply keep their heads down and live their lives as their tech 8 cousins do; upward mobility is gone, the local tavern is strictly watched by spies of the landowners (who no longer appear in these establishments) and homes are well cared for, with a few more luxuries: metal jugs, glass decanters, a small fireplace with pots (cooking is done indoors now) and communal smokehouses, mills, reliable wells and even the occasional artisan who would rather dwell in the country than the city.

Lifestyle - Urban

With the advancement of writing and law, the personal armies of town leaders and the monarchy are gone, replaced by guardsmen and militia who receive their wages solely by taxation of the wealthy.  Pressure is put on the regional leaders by the oligarchic coalition to maintain order (good for business) over personal privilege.  Moreover, because it is impossible to tell who on the street may be a personal friend of which important person, a practice has developed to treat everyone somewhat politely - just in case.

The children are gone off the street.  There are still apprentices and helpers in shops, but now town children are given moderate tutoring and with it they work as messengers, serving boys, cabin boys, mineworkers and endless other tasks that keep them busy.  Contrariwise, beggers - safe now from summary execution - are common.  They are regularly rousted out of some parts of the town but they inevitably congregate in areas where they can annoy vendors, foreigners and 'happy' persons emerging from one of the taverns.  For game purposes, it's presumed the players know how to deal with these persons (without having to role-play it every time), but it should be noted that they are there to serve as witnesses to crimes committed, easy victims if a little human blood is needed and so on.

With property taxes and some town planning, bad neighborhoods have been torn down and various streets widened into avenues, making these towns less congested.  With a rise in awareness of the outside world, there is a greater interest in luxuries and oddities, along with curiousity, so that foreigners tend to be treated as interesting persons rather than threats.

All about the towns will be seen two-story, even three-story buildings, warehouses, public kitchens, armories, areas inside the city where processing is done (including slaughtering) and signs for potential disease in various aspects like the filling of graveyards on the edge of town, cremations, the haulage of gong and so on (populations are rising), for even if the town itself has a population of only 6,000, the number of visitors on a particular day may double that number during the afternoon.  Bathing in some parts of the world is done en masse in rivers or ponds near the town or city.

Religious signs, practices, peoples, temples, preaching and pressure by strangers to convert or repent are uncomfortably common for those used to lower tech levels.  The local population is indifferent, even approving, though most will not take any part in this themselves.  Some towns are now religious centers where this behaviour is exacerbated by thousands of pilgrims.

Competition is becoming vicious, with some persons actually sabotaging others - though the law prohibits this.  As vigilantism has declined, disputes are settled in law courts, usually one large building in a town or several such in a city.  Theft and secretive murder is common.  Family disputes are still settled outside the law.


I've already covered a lot of this above, but just a word or two about players in this maelstrom; generally, the players should be informed that any action they take in a town or city is likely to be witnessed, reported and consequently dealt with very seriously.  While summary execution by mob or soldiers is a tech 8 thing, the law courts are quick to apply severe tortures, removal of limbs or yet execution for anyone without friends in the neighborhood caught behaving badly.

More and more, as tech levels rise, players should view the region (particularly the town) as a place where they should choose their fights, seek information, get involved in intrigue and behave very carefully.  Unless acting with the support of the local authorities (or some group that can ensure the party's well-being), going at things without much planning or thought is bound to get them in very hot water.

Thus, before adventuring in a town, get to know the government first, get to know what's allowed, get some friends, establish residence and then move forward towards a conclusion.

It is recognized that this will make tech 9 and above towns somewhat less appealing to many adventurers - but at the same time, people in these towns know things and have resources that more borderland territories do not.


Given the technology described above, with all sorts of weapons and armor, the military of a tech 9 area will act quite close to what D&D usually assumes.  Above tech 9, I hope to introduce military practices that D&D normally doesn't account for - stuff from my sage abilities plans.  I'll just have to see how that goes.

I should add that levels will be more common among people, since many have gone off into the world and come back, from sailing journeys, wars, errands for business and the monarchy, far flung caravan trips to buy luxuries and so on.  Players shouldn't presume that their opponents are mere weapons fodder.  A 'typical' guard may well be 5th or 6th level.


This tech level, I think, is what most people usually assume a D&D world is like (with a few exceptions that will be introduced with higher tech levels).  Personally, I think the steady development in techs is progressing nicely.  I really like that all the weapons come into play at this point and that the people in towns are now a lot smarter and self-aware.

Regarding the levels thing.  I feel I need to point out that experience isn't a limited resource.  When a character acquires experience, whether through combat or injury, there's no depletion of the amount of experience still out there in the world.  Therefore, a whole town of 3,000 persons all attaining 1st level is really just a matter of sustained training, enthusiasm, resource management and time.  There is absolutely no legitimate reason why any town with the will couldn't simply organize themselves accordingly and manage the feat.

This is why we shouldn't assume that just because an individual has the lowly position of 'guard' that they're an easy kill.  That guard could easily have gone aboard ship as a 13-year-old cabin boy, become a full sailor by 18, become a marine by 21, fought in a dozen ship-to-ship skirmishes, been marooned on an island, survived four years alone, been rescued by a merchant ship, returned home and now seeks an occupation he can do, with enormous patience acquired from being alone with his own company, with no ambition to do anything but serve the merchant that saved his life.  And now the merchant owns a small tinsmithing shop in a minor town with a 13th level guard relaxing in the corner most of the day.

Presuming that every person with a great amount of experience will automatically be a braggart, a bully, an ambitious megalomaniac or a social climber is failing to understand the profound differences in one human being from another.  If we want our worlds to possess character enough to interest players, we must invest that world with characters unique enough to surprise players.

Okay.  Going to take a break for a few days before going on to tech 10.