Monday, May 7, 2018

The Failed Plan

Back in December I had a plan.  I was working on the development-infrastructure system, which has been floating around the blog now for two years, in the hopes of building a demonstration that would more clearly reflect what the system could offer in terms of world design.

My plan was to create five versions of the county of Rogaland, the provincial unit of Denmark & Norway in which the online players are adventuring.  In my world, I had determined that the actual development of Rogaland was 9 ~ which is hard to explain, since most readers here don't have enough experience in history to compare the number, or even the link, to anything in their experience.  Worse, the link calls it "technology 9" rather than "development 9," which I adopted after it was determined that readers bristled at my use of the word technology in this manner.  And that was fair.  We don't have to go into it.

For clarity's sake, a development of 9 would be a fairly backward culture for the 17th century.  Most of the things that were present in the rest of the world would be rarely seen and treated with some disdain, just as many people in backward parts of the United States continue to treat books as a bad idea, unless it's the Bible.  Most concepts, such as things we'd identify with the Enlightenment, would be alien. The people of Stavanger in the 17th century were barely out of the 10th; though Christian in name, most of this was a sort of "folk Christianity."  The idea of established churches and priests, the habit of reading and writing, and the widespread use of metals was something of a new thing.  These things were common in other parts of the world, but not in a backward, far to the north fish port like Stavanger.

To bring this home, I had planned to design a map and description of Stavanger as a development-9 region.  But I also had a plan to design Stavanger as a development-8 region, as a development-7 region, as a development-6 region and as a development-5 region.  I hoped that by remaking the same province over and over, I would show how each development level would create a markedly different cultural and structural setting, which could then be made to apply as a background for role-playing and adventure.

My ambitious plan was to make these five versions all ready, and then post them one after another on five successive days.

In December, I was putting the plan in place.  I had worked out the kinks for development 5, 6 and 7, and was working on 8 ... but I was finding the challenge fairly steep.  As each layer was built, it complicated the project, as each earlier layer had to be updated in turn.  Fishing at dev-5, for example, would work differently for dev-6, and differently again for dev-7.  With each new layer, the differences multiplied in number, as it became more and more difficult to keep the big picture clear in my head.

But, no worries, I thought.  The restaurant where I work was going to do a remodelling in late February.  I would have three weeks of time all to myself.  Until then, I would just gather information and when the break came, I'd use the time to bring it all together.  I was champing at the bit to put the information up; I was leaking bits and pieces and the new year came on.  I anticipated wildly the week when I would start putting up those posts.

And then ... just before the break, wikispaces, my wiki host, announced that it was ending its website.  And although I had until July, supposedly, to move the wiki, my unease about the certainty of that resource suddenly became my only concern.  As a result, I burned those three weeks, and six others besides, moving more than 1,100 pages, with more than 5,000 links that had to be changed.  Not only did I not work on the development project ... I put so much distance between putting down the project and picking it up again that I now feel staggered at the idea of producing five versions of Rogaland all in a single week.

I felt bitter, and angry ~ and yet I kept my silence about the plan in the hopes that I might still put it up as I had originally planned, perhaps in July or August.  But truth be told, I would rather spend that time working on the Fifth Man.

I haven't talked about the Fifth Man in a while.  The note on the sidebar remains, quietly stabbing me in the side every day, though I haven't updated it since June of last year.  Speaking of things that distance has made difficult to access; but I think about the book nearly every day.  In my mind, I have solved some troublesome aspects that would have weakened the latter third of the book.  I think, to be honest, that it will be a better book for the distance I have gained on it.

My plan is to pick up the book sometime this week.  It will be slow progress to start.  I need to familiarize myself again with several passages; I hope I can keep the continuity straight. I have had to admit that only eight of the podcasts have proven workable for this first season. I am sorry Vlad, and sorry Archon ... I think the conversations were good, but having to do the interviews over the Skype phone, and not through the computer, did not make a good sound quality.  A better technician might be able to save them.  I'm inadequate.  I just don't know enough about Audacity or sound.

So, once the podcasts are done, and there's a lull before I start the second season (which will be coming), I'm going to work on my book, and not on making some grand splash with the development system.

I will, I think, continue to make five versions of Rogaland.  But I'm going to release them without a schedule, when I feel ready to move on.  And if, doing it that way, it turns out that I reach a point where I can't finish, that's too bad.  The book really is more important.  I owe it to a lot of people besides myself ~ and to tell the truth, my soul will be better off when it is behind me.

The post, One Block at a Time, gives most of the information I need to work up a dev-5 version of Rogaland.  I'm not going to work on arranging those details in the right order tonight; I have to go crash soon so I can work in the morning.

However, I am going to post a map of Rogaland that I made five months ago.  It is a "6-mile hex map," built out of my more commonly posted maps of the world.  The link shows the older version of this map; I tried some new ideas in design, to make something that would have a deeper, visceral impact:

I think the reader might appreciate this somewhat.  The notion is that the unshaded map would be the county of Rogaland as it existed in the year 892, just twenty years after Stavanger, the only village, was founded.  Stavanger is a village, the only settlement in the region, with a population of 553.  In 892, there is only one economy: fish.  If the reader looks carefully, three small fish symbols can be seen on the map; these are the places where fish congregate, what I called "fishing grounds" in the One Block at a Time post.

The white names on the map ~ Erfjord, Skuden, Orre and so on ~ are not villages, they are clan names. It has bothered me for some time that there is no proper, elegant way to label hexes on a hex map; unlike a squared map, a grid with letters and numbers like "G4" isn't possible.  But the idea of naming hexes after the primary clans appeals to me.  Clans become towns and the name remains.

What I like about the above mapping system is that it gives me the precise edges of treeline and occupied land, however small the latter might be.  I'm not bound by the shape of the hexes. The trees can pour up into valleys between the mountains, which are variously upland heath (pale green) or rocky tundra (grey).  The distances ~ one hex = 6.667 miles ~ are isolating enough that it is easy enough to imagine various clans coming into conflict over raw hunting ground.

The total population is a mere 1,349.  Those clans are not very large.

Remember what one of the blocks I included in the One Block at a Time post: grazing land, that was wilderness and possessed inconsistent hunting.  And 1 in 6 grazing lands, I wrote, would contain a barbaric village.

Every hex on here without a clan name is a grazing land.  And many of those may be occupied by kobalds, froglings, fur-covered gnolls ... perhaps even a clan of trolls.  Who knows?


Pandred said...

I like this so much. I'll miss the old hex generation scheme's nitty gritty 2 mile hexes, but this is obviously superior in so many ways.

Even on the map for...was it Kosovo that you posted so long ago? With the same bread/hammers/coin symbols. It's so clean, so easy to riff off of. So nice to fit more nuanced references like the fish or any number of other nonsense.

It's things like this that I read for. so awesome.

Are Braaten said...

As a Rogaland native I find this project quite interesting, and will try to follow it. A question about the map then: is the green part of the map lowlands? If yes then the eastern part of Boknafjorden is mislabled, as its pretty mountainous/hilly, including mountains that plunge a thousand metres into the sea.

The area here has some interesting history - it was the last hold-out from national unification in the 9th century, in part due to its location on the main trade route to Europe.

Drain said...

The plan may have failed, but this map is a great success. Looks really good, Alexis, outstanding job.

Alexis Smolensk said...

Ars Braaten,

It is amazing that you're there. You're the first person I've heard from who has a direct connection to the area. And because of that, I owe you an apology.

I can tell you about many inaccuracies about the map. The lakes are too few and the wrong shape, there are far too few islands in the water, the elevations are inaccurate throughout ... because they are based on the elevations of villages and not natural features. I believe Stavanger is slightly off the proper location as well.

When I started this project, I realized very quickly that making any of these maps accurate to the real world would be an impossible task, and a will o' wisp I could easily chase for the rest of my life without success. So I decided that I could not be making a world map of THE world, but of MY world. The lines of the Boknafjorden in my world were not made by geology, but by my hand ... and as such, it cannot be mislabeled. My world is not remotely an accurate simulation.

I steal from the real world; I steal history and sometimes a geographical feature. I steal the resources and the anthropology, I steal the climate and the vegetation ... but I lay it out in my own, inaccurate fashion, using random tables to determine the hexes and not Google Earth. It isn't practical to do otherwise.

I apologize to everyone who can see plainly that the maps do not reflect their own backyards. They couldn't. I've never been to Norway, or anywhere in Europe, Africa or Asia. I run these places and I have never walked down a Stavanger road. I have had people get genuinely mad with me for that. I have a vision of what I think Rogaland would look like, or smell like, and that vision can't hope to be close to the real.

But it doesn't have to be. Because only the names are the same. My actual world is quite different.

Are Braaten said...

You're absolutely right Alexis, it is impossible to recreate a completely accurate version of the world, and even if one could, it would probably be unplayable.

I've been considering running a campaign set in Rogaland, so I'm very interested in seeing what you're doing with the region. For me, a combination of the regions histocal traits (important privateer harbors, town-countryside conflicts, timber trade, pious commoners, tribal highlanders, the dangerous sea and hostile mountains) as well as the various interesting folklore. Which, when combined with a fantasy setting would make for a hard-scrabble area. On the coastal plain of Jæren, and the arable valleys inland and salong the fjords, life is suitable for humans, but not very. The farmland is barely usable for grain due to climatic challenges, the soil is rocky and pastures need to be guarded against monstrous threats. Survival hinges on a decent harves, the fish in the sea, hunting and foraging, and the vital timber trade. Add in some monstrous threats, a drastic reduction in the easily harvested oak forests, human conflict, "black sea" and the eternal swede, and I have plenty of stuff to work with.