Thursday, November 19, 2015

A Digression For the Sake of My Sanity

Many things were said today about the tech system I'm writing, some of it critical.  The criticism seems, in my limited ability to read English in a mind-reading fashion, to suggest that my tech system is unrealistic, imperfect, inflexible and - because it provides no room for DM fiat - incapable to representing various cultures in my universe, notably the Mayans.  Who, as it would happen, don't exist in humans in my world and wouldn't exist at all if my world were 'realistically presented,' since in 1650 the Spaniards had wiped them out.

It is worth noting that if I didn't run a game based on the real world, but upon places wholly from my imagination, all this criticism would look pretty stupid.

I don't think I've made any secret of the fact that this is MY world, not THE world - and that should be pretty clear, since the denizens in my example of a tech 5 culture are hobgoblins and that the name, 'Lungos Nad,' is 100% made up.  But never mind.  Please tell me again about the importance of deviating from the results I've obtained from an algorithm in favor of results I'm apparently expected to pull out of my ass.

I did describe Gilkask's existence as unexplained, once the mining of coal could no longer justify its existence.  In no way, however, does this challenge the validity of the algorithm that was meant to determine the tech of the region - except in the imaginations of people who are so short of imagination that they are limited to the equation, a higher population must equal higher tech.  No other explanation can be considered.  Period.  And my failure to accept that, well, that's because I'm ashamed to deviate, within two days of experimentation, of the algorithm I've proposed. 


None of this ranting accomplishes anything.  The thing about various gamers with a grudge to bear, they don't listen.  They don't change their minds.  They're so certain that the issue is that they haven't been perfectly understood in the argument that they're making, they'll just make the same argument all over again in different words.  If only I understood exactly what they're trying to tell me, I would agree immediately.  Because it is so obvious.  To them.

I'm looking at the words above and wondering why I don't just delete them and move onto the next point.  No, no, they can stay.  It's all part of what I'm trying to do here.

I did pretty well with explaining it to JB.  I am not concerned here that the tech levels are realistic or rational.  I am concerned with how the party will experience the adventure when moving through an area of this tech level.  That is it.  The value of the setting exists only in how it serves the party.  There is NO value in the setting presenting a simulation, if that in turn waters down the impact of "Nope, there is no technology here" in favor of the words, "Oh yes, there is one person in town who can get you what you want."

If the party can still get what they want from the place, the tech level is meaningless.  There might just as well not be a tech level.

It baffles me that this isn't obvious.

It suggests to me that many DMs out there are making worlds for their own sake, and NOT for the benefit of players running in those worlds.

That is a very sad revelation.

This is why a totally inflexible structure is the only one that makes sense: because the only culture that matters where it comes to my game is Player Culture.  I can't be concerned with what the hobgoblins or Mayans were 'really like' - I'm concerned that the players are going to be met with a very difficult situation, where the very, very best tech that's available in this huge region is that described under tech 5.  Because it's a long, hard crawl across that land before they finally stumble into a village with tended cattle and plowed fields.  Because that will ensure the players really understand, "Wow, what a dead little backwater that Lungos Nad was!"

Forgive this last attempt at an explanation.  I'm going to start killing comments based primarily around "what if you did this with the algorithm" made by people who actually don't understand what I'm doing with the one I'm using.

On the other hand, kimbo, if you're listening, you are my GOD today.


  1. I'm really enjoying your tech posts. Thanks for sharing them.

  2. ^Seconded. I'm heavily in favor of standardized, impartial system that the players can think logically about and actually plan for with a reasonable amount of accuracy...based on the information they've gathered, of course.

    I'm looking forward to more of these tech posts, as it has me thinking about my own world quite differently, and will probably steal it.

    Just thinking about what you've already posted, and making rough estimates about the rest, makes any gaming world seem a lot more interesting

  3. I appreciate those tech posts a lot, but I must say that the "Never Compromise" post has been an enlightenment.

    Never compromise. Stay true to what you said, what you thought, what you decided that things were. The Structure is paramount, so that Players' expectations are met, respected, and the world's structure, logic, imprint itself naturally.

  4. Alexis, I've just read kimbo's post, and it never ceases to amaze me how such a simple solution can not be discerned by the people immediately involved in examining the issue. Sort of like the old story about NASA engineers developing a pen to write in space while their Russian counterparts used a pencil (not a true story, but illustrative).

    I am awed by the scope of your project, and really enjoy watching as you process your world into a coherent setting. It does serve as inspiration, even as I look at my own attempts and realize how far I have to go.

  5. Another thought, prompted by kimbo's, would be to remove or scale down the cities to match the population requirements: "Regions with a technology of 6 will have a population density of 172 to 359 per 20-mile hex." If I did this I would also remove any references that aren't supported by the tech level.

    Along with the prior posters, I'm really liking this series! I doubt I'll use the system wholesale, but it will definitely inform my thinking going foward.

  6. There's a parallel here with "not fudging dice rolls." In the long run, that, too, is in service to the players.
    : )

    [just got home (to Seattle) and found The Dungeon's Front Door waiting for me...only gotten through the intro and first chapter, but enjoying it to this point]

  7. No, fudging the rolls serves the person doing the fudging. The fudger then deludes his or her self that it is for the players, whereas in fact the only person involved in the process is the fudger - who does the fudging without consulting the players, deceiving them and pretending that if the players knew, they'd be good with it.

    Try this - in the next combat you have, announce, "I am going to be fudging rolls with this combat. Who is good with that?"

  8. Oh, gawddamn, I read your comment backwards, JB. My apologies. I guess I'm on a hair trigger.


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