Saturday, November 21, 2015

Technology 8

This is the fourth 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 8 will have an average population density of 756 to 1587 per 20-mile hex.  This includes the following regions, shown on this table:

one error: South Fjords should be 'halfling'

This technology accounts for 4,192.6 hexes of my world, occupied by 4,554,747 humanoids.

I've created/updated a similar table for tech 5, tech 6 and tech 7, that includes the general location of the region and which race dominates there, for those who would like to go back and look.

Available Technologies

See tech 7.  Picking which developments apply to which technologies is a tricky issue.  As a guideline, I'm attempting to include just enough new technologies to make a different world - but I can tell that in the upper levels that is going to take a lot of brain sweat to see fundamental changes in the culture.  At these early levels, a change like iron working can have big, obvious consequences - but with something like scientific method, that's been applied for about 58 years in my world by only a few individuals, those consequences are harder to see.

Nonetheless, we'll go with these for tech 8:

Agriculture develops a range of plant textile crops: cotton, jute, hemp, ramie, sisal, flax, etc., kicking off a whole artisan culture in the making of cloth goods.

Swords.  I meant to mention on the tech 7 page that swords were exempt from the tech, not because the weapon couldn't be made, but rather to make it wait for developments in sword mastery/balance that would make the sword more effective than an axe.  Plus it is nice to give one tech level where axes are common and swords are not.  With tech 8, however, swords become common.

Monotheism.  Significant tech areas adopt these alternative religions to polytheism or meditation, particularly in the west.  Regions in Asia, however, steadfastly retain their preferred religious forms - but the foundation of those religions become increasingly identified with one figure (Buddha) or a small collection of figures, giving them primacy over lesser gods (Shiva, Kali, Garuda), spawning cults that largely worship a single entity in the pantheon.

Monarchy.  Leadership of regional entities becomes profoundly hereditary, along with a rise in oligarchy that establishes a strong heirarchy of status within the culture.  Whereas previously the leader or an important person may have been accessible on the street by an ordinary person, common persons are now deliberately excised from the process of authority.  Laws begin to reflect the status of the defendant/property owner.

Fortifications.  Masonry is now increasingly applied to defense of the region, much more so to defend the existing upper classes from commoners.  There is, however, no significant castle building.  A 'keep' will be little more than a gatehouse and compound surrounded by an imposing stone wall, good for defense against riots but hardly sufficient for times of war.

Harbour.  For towns upon the water, significant efforts will be made to build stone quays, boat shelters, lighthouses and waterfronts for storage of goods.  Larger ships, cogs, develop to carry bulk trade goods such as grains, oils, ore and livestock.  Marines, soldiers expressly trained for fighting aboard ship and being able to swim, are commonly encountered, as are the pirates they defend against.

Horseback Riding.  Combat is carried out upon horseback, with the stirrup, not because this has been developed but because significant numbers of equestrian trainers exist in the region.  Camels become instruments of war as do elephants - but the elephant howdah and consequent fortified defense of elephant combat must wait for a higher tech level.  At this level, elephants are driven at the enemy and hope for the best.

Cantrips.  While magic spell use has not be created, the ability to use cantrips is possessed by a sub-mage class, or mage apprentices, which I'll call 'sibyls' for want of a word that describes a conjurer of very low power that creates rather than prophesies.  A 'sibyl,' I know, is an oracle - and the substance of most cantrips has little or nothing to do with mental abilities or effects, but are mostly modifications to the environment.  Unfortunately, I can't come up with a word that corresponds more to that than to possesing powers of divination; and some cantrips are person-affecting, so . . . sibyl it is.

That's a lot - but I'm satisfied all these should exist at about the same level.

Lifestyle - Rural

I've already said a lot about lifestyle in the above.  The individualism of culture will be much more pronounced than at lower tech levels, so it would take a long time to establish what every part of the culture would be doing - so I'll try to stick to sweeping definitions for generalized parts of the culture, changing my previous framework for headings (that's going to happen continuously as I go forward).

Clan leaders who have done well in resource management, who built larger houses, will acquire land, establish family names and allow inheritance of their offspring to continue their superior status.  Labor for these premiere families will take precedence over clan leadership, reducing many of the rural population to the status of wage slaves.  Those who distinguish themselves as trouble makers will be shut out and will become villeins or criminals (poachers, brigands, thieves, etc).

Inns will pop up along roads, attached to hamlets and villages within a mile or two of a major trade route.  Even tiny villages of a hundred persons will have a tavern, all of which will take coin in payment.  Coins are everywhere, now - for though no mint exists in the region, enough movement of money from outside has put a coin in everyone's pocket.  Virtually every rural denizen will seek ways to raise a bit extra of some product or accumulate some tiny amount of resource to collect a copper or two that will enable them a drink at the pub or pick up something useful that will make their homes more comfortable.

Rural homes will have pottery dishes, a real chair, a small instrument like a recorder, drum or box-lute for entertainment.  Beds will include feathers as well as straw.  The value of these will be a few dozen coppers, given that the pottery will be chipped, the chair well-worn and so on.

On the roads, caravans of wagons are starting to appear, bound for the largest cities, hauling primarily bulk goods (particularly food).

Lifestyle - Urban

Money will be everywhere and people will be moving about busily.  With the appearance of town walls and earthworks, the main center of town will be squeezed together and in some places passing through the narrow streets and lanes will be difficult.  Towns (3,000 to 9,999 humanoids) of this tech level will lack boulevards, as they have been built haphazardly by the people and not by administrative decisions (a higher tech level).  As such, congested is the order of the day for places where the artisans gather.

So far, guilds have not sprouted into being (also a higher tech level).  As such, competition is common but not fierce.  New goods are wanted so new makers, smiths and suppliers are free to begin in business as best they can.

On the edge of the town's center will be a number of inns and taverns, typically one of each for every 500 persons.  In cities (10,000+ humanoids), these will become defined by status, employment, ethnic background or whether they cater to outsiders/rural persons.  Persons will be asked to leave/denied lodging if they enter the wrong establishment.

In non-market towns, players will be able to find goods (when available) at the stockyards, the mason, the innkeeper, the chandler's and the carpenter's.  This includes the town market as well, shown below (random example):

In market towns, the selection is potentially anything.

I won't offer a breakdown of goods to be found in a typical home.  I'd like to write a long post about that sometime, but it's been in my head for years and I'm still not sure how I'd structure it.  But then, this tech thing has been in my head for years, too; everything gets addressed eventually.

Surrounding the town or city is an area of intensive agriculture.  Even at that, however, cities are beginning to challenge the potential for the surrounding hinterland - or indeed, the whole region - to supply it with enough food.  Thus the appearance of the cog and caravan, both noted above.

Despite being crowded, towns and cities are still relatively clean; most artisans continue to separate the unpleasant parts of their refining (animal slaughtering, oil distilling and the like) on the edge of town, so that the center is primarily employed for buying and selling of the finished goods.  Obviously, this will change.


I don't want to say much about this, except to emphasize that it should not be a force that the players will have to reckon with.  At lower tech levels, it is probable that if a fight occurs, it will concern only a portion of the population that the players might annoy.  Now, however, we see the creation of a town guard, whose sole purpose is to keep fights from happening.  In the rural areas, fear of the leading families will cause most persons to tattle on players doing bad things in the country.

As such, there is now pressure on the players to behave themselves when under observation.  Problems, like starting bar fights, will probably be solved with summary executions (law courts and reasonable defense of self would be a higher tech level).  In many ways, therefore, a tech 8 town is more dangerous than a tech 12 town, as the players will probably not be given any chance to explain themselves.  This should be expressed very clearly to the players, outlining their character's ability to feel the 'mood' the region has towards strangers who don't play nice.

If the players won't listen, well, dogpile them with two or three hundred guards and kill their characters.

Admittedly, the guards shouldn't be treated as that bright.  And there will be a lot of things the guards won't bother to protect (the fields surrounding town, entry into the town, carrying weapons, hiring, buying land, etcetera), which can all be done without having to pay any tithes, tolls, fees or the like.  These things, too, are for a higher tech level.  Taxes exist, but these are usually obtained through pressure against the largest families and houses in the region.  The only tax the player character is likely to pay would be to have all goods seized following the character's summary execution.


Along with the aforementioned marines and guards, we also have a small standing army, employed by the monarch (by whatever title is locally used).  This army exists for the monarch's personal use and is usually paid for by the monarch's resources (being a big landowner and probably an investor in a number of resource-oriented ventures).

However, this military carries the stamp of the state and as such its actions will be largely supported by the population.  When soldiers walk through the streets, the populace will melt back and struggle to be invisible.

As I saw, swords will supplant axes; daggers can be added to that.  Archery continues to hold its importance but now that accounts for perhaps a fifth of a troop's number.  Horses and cavalry will be at least half of any force (since the army and guard are still largely private in form), while ground troops will be those who cannot afford horses.  In effect, many soldiers will forsake training with a bow in favor of training with a horse and sword.  Lances will be popular.

Leather armor will be improved by studs, rings, small plates or whatever the reader likes that explains the apparent non-existence of 'studded leather armor.'  I'm content, personally, the pure leather covering can be and has been strengthened through many means that definitely fell short of scale and chain mail - so it, what ever it is, settles the AC 7 category satisfactorily.

A word or two about cantrips, I suppose.  Even with my changes, cantrips are not especially effective in combat.  Moreover, because the mage is a higher tech, it should be imagined that a single individual may possess one cantrip, possibly two - but no more, since a fundamental school of thaumaturgy doesn't exist in the region.  People, therefore, have learned what they might have a minor skill in picking up.  This is reflected in my character background generator, but that's not actually important just now.  For combat/military/encounters with the average enemy purposes, presume that 1 in 20 unusual persons (skilled, wealthy, stats averaging above 70) may possess a single random cantrip and that 1 in 20 of those might possess two.  Further magic use should be reserved for when actual mages appear.


I could write a lot more about this level of tech.  I've been working on this post three hours already, however.  I need to view this series in terms of giving a reasonable overview of the culture, not a detailed point by point account of the whole culture.  Though that would certainly be interesting to research and interesting to read, I think.

The quibbling seems to have settled down; I hope that is due to the clarification that this system is not meant to be a perfect representation of anything.  It's meant to help run the game.  Matt said it well the other day.  I'm not interested in 'realism,' I'm interested in results.  The detail is here so we're not wallowing around looking for an explanation for what the peasants and guards are trying to accomplish when talking to the party (get coins, defeat threats).  This does arm the players, for now they know what to expect when entering a pub or considering starting a fight there.  The world becomes less of a silly free-for-all where the players must make their own stupid entertainment and more of a mystery/thriller where every action has import and every success is contingent on skill and practice.

I think that most people who play don't believe there's room for skill in gaming because that would require a world where it was possible to fuck up.  Many players, I know, want to be consequence free in their play; or they have adapted mentally to the game where the only consequence - death - doesn't matter because every character they run is just another actor playing another interchangeable Dr. Who.

If my campaign has run for this long without becoming dull, it's because not fucking up is a huge element of the player's sense of purpose, ambition and motivation for victory - one that can't be dismissed so long as I provide endless possible ways that they can both fuck up and predictably avoid fucking up - allowing their skill at the game to supersede an innane quest for random fantasizing.

No comments:

Post a Comment

If you wish to leave a comment on this blog, contact with a direct message. Comments, agreed upon by reader and author, are published every Saturday.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.