Sunday, December 29, 2019

Learning & Practice

While I struggle with the disparate notions and ideas suggested by travel, there's a distantly related subject I'd like to discuss. Back in October, Carl Olson was writing about four-hour blocks of time, discussing what we might do with that time or how it might be managed in game terms. And I found myself this last week thinking about players ambling along, "discovering" things, with the notion that they might also be giving themselves more time to occupy themselves with things that mattered. The most obvious being, a bard sitting to write a song or scratch out poetry.

But of course, not every character is a bard, so what do the other characters do with their free time when the bard is creating? Well, we're told the fighter is sharpening weapons and practicing with them, the cleric is praying, the monk is meditating, the druid is passively walking in the woods and feeding squirrels and presumedly, the thief is sleeping and dreaming of money.

None of these things, however, advance the actual character's experience in the game. Fighters don't have to practice with their weapons, do they? I mean, we assume they do, and that this somehow equates to the process of going up a level, with experience numbers passing a certain goal post being seen as a "tipping point" for where all that practice and weapon sharpening raises the fighter from 3rd to 4th level. But then again, suppose a fighter doesn't practice? Suppose a cleric doesn't pray and suppose a druid doesn't care about squirrels?
Some will jump ahead of me here and imagine that I'm proposing a fighter has to say, "I practice" on a regular basis or else they'll drop a level in experience, or fail to level, but NO, that's not of any interest to me. I don't like rules that penalize the players for not role-playing, or that take away skills the players already have ... at least, not for arbitrary nonsense like having to declare their actions. I'd rather go on assuming that fighters practice and druids walk with squirrels. Instead, however, I'd like to bring the Gentle Reader's attention around to a proposal that might be seen as positive.

Why can't the fighter pray, or the cleric feed squirrels, or the druid practice with weapons? Are there benefits from such actions? And can those benefits be rendered in game terms?

Continued on the blog, the Higher Path, available through my Patreon. Please support me with a $3 donation and gain the complete series of estate posts related to the post above, as these have all been written.

Thursday, December 26, 2019


With regards to travel in the world, one difficulty I've given myself is something I'm calling, "discovery."  This is the uncovering of knowledge and opportunity in a given hex that the party has entered, which might include anything.  For example, the party might discover an abandoned wagon that could be fixed and made serviceable, or that the local lord had a peasant girl recently executed on pretext, to cover up an affair.  It might mean that a recent disaster has left the area with very little food for the winter, or that a local artist has begun to produce unexpectedly good works.  It might be anything that would interest the party, or make them laugh, or cause them to take an action, or encourage them to hurry on their way before becoming involved.  And the number of things it might include could be, well, infinite.

The idea is rational and would provide texture to the campaign.  The process of rule-making, however, that is another matter.  I have only poor ideas of how one might bring the thing about ... and I must say that thinking on it hasn't been encouraging.

I don't think it is a new idea.  We see people creating tables that give "adventure ideas" all the time.  I think such tables are a stale form of game design.  They almost always include incidents that won't work very well, and of course there's no point in building it into a table, since most of the results shouldn't be repeated in a campaign.  Once the players have saved a town from bandits, it's not an adventure we want to run again.

At the same time, I haven't any specific method except some kind of list, that could be dredged up and then shuffled, with each line being rubbed out once it's employed in the campaign.  Some things could be reused ~ such as learning that the village has an oversupply of something, that the players could pick up for cheap.  Likewise, there might be an opportunity for players to unload something they have for a decent price.  Too, meeting a sage of some kind, with unusual knowledge about a specific sage study, would be repeatable.  The objects would change, the knowledge would vary, but the situation has legs and could be of service again and again.

I can see two conditions that would organize what could be discovered.  The first would be the form of route the players were taking through the hex.  A highly civilized environment would introduce one set of discoveries, while a stark wilderness area would offer another.  Between the two could be a blend of both, shading from urban to rural in shape and design.

Secondly, I think the speed with which the party moved through an area would change what was found.  I see a table that would ask parties if they wished to move along the road at a normal pace, or in a hurry, to get where they were going ... or if they wished to amble along, to see what there was to see.  The latter would increase the chance of finding or seeing unexpected things, while those moving along as quickly as possible would simply miss what there was to find.  The party could then choose which speed of travel best suited them.  The onus of producing discoveries to be found would be placed on the DM, if the party wished to slow down and enjoy the journey.

Obviously, a few dozen ideas scratched out on paper couldn't be sufficient.  Discoveries would have to fit the locale, they would have to fit a set of principles, they would have to be meaningful to the party and they would have to emerge in a random but pleasant manner, one that the players could control in a sense and which they would want to appear.  The former technique of the DM rolling an encounter die, only to produce groans from a party, should die an ugly death [heh heh].

This is my thinking so far on the subject, more or less.  I have notions in my head as to what could be discovered, and why the players would enjoy the discovery ... but a formal structure for the creation and ordering of discoveries is as yet beyond me.  It is a thinking problem.  And so I will need to think.

Friday, December 20, 2019

Distance and Time

Over the past years, going back decades, I have tried to produce various versions of the table shown, here provided by dungeonbot.  And while the effort here is at least somewhat gritty, I must admit that numbers alone are simply not adequate.  Somehow, the structure proposed, exactly the sort I've made myself over and over again, fails to capture any meaningful nuance of what happens when players move from one part of the world to another.  And this is a problem, as any quick search of "make D&D travel more interesting" on youtube will show.  There are no satisfying answers to this question that I've found.  All the pundits that I've found advise the DM to do things that will probably work only once, without addressing the fundamental problem of a game world: it is too big to effectively fill if the party is going to travel distances requiring more than a week.

I have always tried to solve the problem of space with descriptive paragraphs intended to capture a mood.  For example, with the Juvenis campaign, I described the party's approach to their first adventure thusly:
It is not a long walk around the south edge of the lake, and now that it looks like the brewing storm has melted away and given to clear ~ if somewhat crisp ~ skies, you make fair time. Those who have been playing with the clothing insulation calculator will notice they have to take off some of their clothing to avoid taking damage today, as it is hot climbing over deadfall and not tripping over roots.
There is a lot of snow on the ground around the lake, in trenches and low places, but these are easily avoided. The lake, however, is completely clear of ice. The party rounds a hill on the west side of the lake and begins across a flat boggy meadow plain that slowly tilts upwards as they go northwest, into the wind. Occasionally you have to cover your noses with a hand to warm the skin, but it is not cold enough to cause much distress.

In light of such efforts, it may seem incongruous to insert some number to determine how far the party actually gets, but of course that information (whether we state it or not) is relevant to the matter of investigating into a wilderness.  As any one who has done some serious back country hiking will tell you, hours matter.  You can't spend too many of them on the way out, or you will find yourself in trouble before you can get back.  And every pound you hoist on your back will slow you down and bring fatigue ... whereas not enough equipment can mean a very unpleasant night, even if the weather doesn't turn bad.  Time is a critical factor in any travel ... and however poetical the passage above sounds, I'm deliberately glossing over how much time the trip takes because, factually, I don't actually have an answer.

Oh, sure, I can pull up a number for distance/time like shown on the table above ~ but is that number really accurate?  Or is it just a flat number that is automatically applied to every wilderness, as though wildernesses are all alike?  Obviously, they're not ... and such numbers never take into sincere account matters like the party's knowledge of the area, the knowledge of wilderness spaces, how much is carried and how believable it is that a mage can keep up with a ranger over such country.  I have hiked with people who were not up to it; not everyone is and such resolve does not exist in everyone.

So, in fact, the number is pretty nigh useless, if we really want to grasp the matter of travelling.  And if we want to make players feel the travelling that they ask their characters to do.

This is my headspace at the moment, where I am thinking the problem of travel through from end to end.  It is the reason why I find myself reaching to make the combat round shorter, because that is the one change I can make that doesn't call for a drastic restructure of the entire combat system.  The adjustment to a shorter time span for the round may seem rushed ~ but it aligns with actual walking speed, which is the more important matter here.  And while I don't want to get absurdly gritty with the travel system I'm considering, I must admit, ANY system I design must align with what other systems I've previously built.  At this time, I may be unready to incorporate how well your dinner is settling on your stomach with how far you can walk or ride today, the rational approach at this time is to make room for that becoming a thing at some point.  There is NO point in my building a deepened travel system that doesn't account for all the directions that travel system might eventually go.  Otherwise, I'm only creating headaches for myself further down the road.  Who knows what I might wish to add in 10 years?

[incidentally, my daughter has been playtesting the nutrition rules with her campaign for a couple of months now, and says her party loves them; most reassuring]

I haven't put something on the wiki yet because, even scratching the surface, I'm waist-deep in a river that just looks to get deeper.  Starting out with the question of how far can a person walk given the number of action points (AP) they have, I realized that the difference between the road and the wilderness isn't enough.  One road is very not like another, so that I found myself settling in to make categories for every sort of route the party is likely to travel, short of untracked wilderness.  It made sense to tag the route-type to a 20-mile hex's infrastructure, which then brought up the subject of crossing rivers, whether by ford, ferry or transshipment, depending on the width and depth of the obstruction.  Obviously, the existence of these would be tagged by the infrastructure also ... and having resolved upon that, I found myself thinking about tolls and costs for such things, leading to the table below.

table may be subject to change before appearing
on the wiki.
The various sorts of routes, eight in all, would be progressively more difficult to walk, include less drainage, have more bends and deviations around topography, more tight places, a greater likelihood of being washed out or flooded, etcetera ... reducing the straight-line distance between two points and the time it would take to get there.  But though I had originally intended to include the road's effect on foot travel based on the encumbrance of the traveller, I realized I only have encumbrance numbers for walking ... because until now, I've not applied encumbrance to how loaded down an animal is, considering both that which is carried by the animal and that which can be pulled by the animal.

And this is a problem also, because while a horse, say, can carry a rider a greater distance in a shorter amount of time, a horse becomes tired after six hours of being ridden.  This means that some of the distance the animal travels will be while it is led ... and that speed will depend on how much the rider chooses to carry while leading the animal.  Which, in turn, makes it very difficult to produce a simple table.

And, of course, the categorization of various route surfaces is child's play to the possible types of wilderness to be crossed in absence of a road.  And I would also like to take into account such things as weather, orientation, pathfinding, supplies, the discovery of resources such as fresh water, matters relating to camping and how much free time a day a character can find while all these other things are going on.  After all, not every minute is spent in travelling.

All of that is pretty gritty ~ and for some, definitely not the way they'd want to go with their world.  But I think most of that resistance results from the fear of whatever work might be involved in calculating out the specific details.  Which is why, as I'm doing the work, I will have an eye for how to save it where it comes to calculations.

However, I think in the long term, the greater win will be in having a more definite idea of the space being crossed, and explored, if the method of exploration isn't limited to merely distance versus time.  There needs to be a clear understanding of what that distance is, and just exactly why this amount of time passes when crossing it, all of this being wrapped up in a deeper understanding of what it means when the party decides to leave the trail and see where that takes them.


I had meant to post this on my closed blog ... but as long as I've posted it here, it can stand.  Further content about travel, an encumbrance table for animals drawing or carrying loads, and more as I create it, can be had by donating $3 to my Patreon account.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Enough Classes

On my closed blog, The Higher Path [available through Patreon], I addressed how the general discussion of D&D on the internet fails to intrinsically address the game's design flaws.  More often than not, the rush to give opinions about subject material such as rangers and alignment is apt to produce a lot of tribal flag-waving, without effort to draw conclusions.  We either use, or do not use, alignment, and we're ready as a community to argue endlessly about it ... but useful, concrete evidence of alignment's use or non-use remains absent from the discussion.  This is true of virtually every discussion related to D&D, and roleplaying in general.

Consider alignment as a convenient example, as the lines are already drawn in that conflict.  My personal take is that alignment is not necessary.  It is irrelevant to me what it adds to the game; but it was plainly clear, from those early days when I tried alignment, what it detracted from the game.  On the whole, we spent far more time discussing and debating the specifics of the rule than we spent using it.  Players automatically moved to circumvent the rule, universally.  Game time was lost in discord and argument.  Preparation time was wasted attempting to define alignment ~ and no matter what definition was offered, players would view the results with resentment.  Consensus was not possible.

And so, no matter what alignment added, the price was too high.  So I ditched it.  Players, I said, could do what they wanted, within the game's limits.  Immediately, consensus.  Resentment evaporated.  Game time progressed towards more fruitful discussions.  There were no longer any restrictions on attitude and character that required circumventions.  Debates on character evil/good evaporated.  New players entering the game, expecting to find alignment, adapted almost immediately the absence of the rule.

Those who argue for the value of alignment, or any other rule, never seem to address the behaviour of the players to that rule.  Never mind if there ought to be some penalty for some behaviour ... if the penalty compromises the pleasure and momentum of the game, we are penalizing the wrong thing.  We ought to have learned that lesson from social experiments like Prohibition and the War on Drugs, both of which have been exhaustive, non-productive, disastrous failures of policy and intention, based on the premise that there "ought to be some penalty" for this sort of behaviour, as imposed by people who do not partake.

As another example, consider the ever-present motivation that has existed, since very early in the game's history, to expand the number of classes that players can play.  In every case that I've seen, there are two arguments that are always made to justify the existence of the new class:
1) that, logically, persons of this profession are defined differently in an historical or literary sense, such as sorcerors, warlocks and witches.
2) the presence of the profession is commensurate with the underlying culture and motif of D&D, particularly in literature that is filled with such things as chevaliers and barbarians.

This is followed by some elaboration of how the character class would be interesting to play, and how it offers a new experience for the player.  However, what is not included is any discussion of how this might usefully change the game milieu, or generally advance the players' participation beyond the limitations of the new class's most obvious application.  A "fighter" covers a vast multiplicity of individual behaviours, essentially every form of possible application of combat and military training used to solve problems ~ whereas a barbarian is essentially a stereotype of one sort of combatant, with limited knowledge and cultural expectations built in.  "Magic user" defines any person that uses magic, obviously; subdivisions don't add to the game's structure or player behaviour, except to flagrantly subdivide the magical schematic in order to specialize the field to where, hopefully, emasculated forms of the original will have less power complimented by further stereotypical applications to character behaviour.

Is this really the point of the game?  To transform general freedoms of action in order to stipulate what sort of player actions "appropriately" fit a descriminate, prejudiced perception of what's expected of a player ... all the while selling the notion that more choice is more freedom.  There is no freedom in choice once the choice is made.

That only encourages boredom with narrower character concepts, promoting increased flipping of player from character class to character class, sabotaging the game's appeal towards masterfully building something unique and personal over the length of the campaign.  Instead, we give you something unique at the Start, and then tell YOU that your job is to live up to IT.  Character classes as shackles.  Gawd.  What a concept.

This conclusion will have been lost on some, so let's be clear.  When I want to run a character in your game, am I defined by what I do, or am I defined by what I want?  Is my personality based on the assigned conditions of my character class, or is it based on my ongoing, session-to-session actions?  The way the game has gone for more classes, it sounds to me like I'm supposed to believe the former.  That I am a sorceror because my character sheet says I am one.  But I think I am a mage, who uses magic to solve problems in ways that I invent, not in the way that my character class invents.  And I think that the way I act, and what I do, ought to be up to ME, and not what the class description says, or what the DM says.  And I feel that the game's design ought to stop putting me in cultural boxes and just get the hell out of my way.

I don't get excited by my character's class.  I like that it offers me certain tools, that I can work with ... but what I choose to "be" will be my choice, and not the game's.  So thank you, just let me pick some spells or a weapon, because that's what I need.  I don't need stereotypes.  I need points to jump off from.

The essentials of this game are that the DM is going to describe what I see, and then I'm going to cope with that.  There are shackles enough, thank you.  I can only run so fast and hit so often.  I am only as exceptional as the dice and my experience allows.  I am only as clever as my brain lets me be.  I don't need rules on my behaviour, my beliefs, my morality, my literary responsibilities or additional boundaries on what my character class "stands for."  The genius of the original fighter was that it didn't stand for anything.  It's a shame that this lesson was not extended to all the other classes.  If it had been, we'd have enjoyed less stupid fights at the game table for ridding the game of all that, too.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Mazes and Monsters: a Breakdown

Mazes and Monsters is a 1982 made-for-TV morality play that warns viewers against the dangers of participating in role-playing games, suggesting that the game form appeals to those with deep neurotic impulses. Directed by Steven Hilliard Stern, a group of college students indulge in the game called Mazes and Monsters, until one of their number, Robbie Wheeling, becomes unable to separate fantasy and reality, filling his head with voices and sending him off on a confusing quest related to the unsolved disappearance of his brother, years ago.

Heavy-handedly, the film attempts to identify the playing of role-playing games as a partial cause of Robbie's mental illness, though it is clearly established that his behaviour is part of a pre-existing pattern prior to the film. Additionally, it is equally established that Robbie's parents are self-motivated and unwilling to properly manage these earlier patterns, ending in Robbie being thrust irresponsibly into the same circumstances and stress-related environment that previously caused his earlier, unexplained break-down.

Continued on the blog, the Higher Path, available through my Patreon. Please support me with a $3 donation and gain the complete series of estate posts related to the post above, as these have all been written.

Monday, November 25, 2019

New Sage Ability

The content below is a copy of the wiki post, which is part of bard sage abilities connected to being a ceramics maker and designer.  In my game, not all bards are musicians.  Publishing this, I'm going to write a further deconstruction of the content on my other blog, The Higher Path, available through my Patreon.

CERAMIC ORNAMENT (sage ability)

The skill enables the amateur ceramic glazer to transform a pre-existing modelled article of clay pottery, stoneware or porcelain into a warm, idiosyncratic object that has the potential to be immediately adored by a character for the sake of its dilettante quirkiness and modest imperfections.


Unless the glazer also possesses sufficient skill to make the ceramic to be transformed, the object must be obtained from a potter of at least amateur ability, prior to the object being fired. The glazer then makes the flux, decides if the object requires an underglaze or overglaze, as well as other considerations that may apply, and these together are fixed to the object in order to create an ornamental piece. This may be any aesthetic object made of ceramic, such as a cup, pitcher, bowl, plate, spoon, urn and so on. The object is limited in size to the hand span of a typical human, or seven inches in diameter.

A minimum of tools is required to mix the flux and apply it ~ a small putty knife, brush, half a dozen pots for mixing the flux, a hand fan for drying, with other materials to be named. The image may be of any conceived variety, including geometric patterns or even just the effect of a rich or desirable color that catches the light. Application of the design will be 2-5 hours, with each turn in the kiln taking a full day, to fire and dry the piece. A kiln worker can be hired if the character does not own a kiln, or does not know how to operate one. The cost of materials and kiln varies depending upon where the work is being made.

Most probably, the glazer will need to make several attempts at the object. A success upon the first try is 5%, +5% cumulatively per attempt thereafter. Thus, a glazer would have a 25% chance of success on their fifth try. If the glazer is not operating the kiln, another attempt can be made while the first object is fired; or several attempts can be made and fired all at once. Success cannot be determined until after the ornament has been fired.

Objects made after the first success will continue to increase in likelihood (so that some efforts may yet fail), but after a measure of 100% has been reached, the glazer may continue to turn out like objects, each requiring no more than two hours per ornament.

Appreciation & Benefits

Once the ornament can be regarded as a success, the glazer should then share the piece around for others to view. Of those who see it, 1 in 20 will regard it as something special enough to want it for their own. The actual value will not be high ~ approximately three times the typical cost of the original ceramic. The glazer may charge for the ornament or give it away ~ but none of the benefits for generosity listed below will accrue to the maker of the ornament.

The character (NPC or Player) who then possesses the ornament will quickly begin to adore and appreciate it as something sentimental, so long as it is not broken or otherwise ruined. Once a week has passed, the pleasure of using or handling the object for a minute a day will convey a sense of well-being that will affect the character’s good spirits, particularly with respect to others. Whatever act of selfless acts the character might perform, in the way of spells, work done, kindness provided and so on, gains a 10% bonus. Acts must be truly selfless for the bonus to take effect.

A healing spell would heal 10% more hit points, work would be performed 10% faster, an effort to save a person by carrying them from danger would increase the encumbrance capacity of the ornament’s owner by 10% and so on. Risking all to defend a helpless friend would add 10% to the d20 roll. Further examples may be included here once they have presented themselves in play.

A single character only has enough personal love and adoration for one such object, sadly.


If two persons or more, viewing the object while still in the possession of the glazer, both roll a 1 on a d20, it should be noted that the object cannot be shared. However, the first person to renounce the object out of generosity for their peer, will gain a +20% bonus to all selfless acts that day (while the new owner would receive no benefits for another week). No other immediate benefits would be gained by the generous character after the day had ended (count sunset as the end of each day, with the new day beginning immediately thereafter).

However, should the ornament ever come back to the generous character, as a legacy of the owner who has passed on or has retired their character from the campaign, the ornament then becomes a keepsake. As a keepsake, the piece will now benefit its new owner in the ways described above, AND the new owner will also gain a +1 to the ability stat matching the primary attribute of the previous owner. For example, if the previous owner was a cleric, the new owner’s keepsake would increase the new owner’s wisdom by one point ~ so long as they used or handled the object pointedly that day.

Once the object is broken, all benefits are lost. There are no negative penalties for a broken ornament.

See Glaze

Thursday, November 21, 2019

My Daughter Shows Me Her D&D

Here is a video in which my daughter explains how she's transferred my wiki content to books that she uses to run her campaign.  I find it exciting to hear my own passion being reflected in her voice ... sometimes, it is great to be a father.

Speaking of the wiki, I've added new content today and one post several days ago.  And I've updated this page on the wiki, which you should read first to understand some of the other new content.

Bard Sage Abilities

Plus more:

Friday, November 15, 2019


There is a post that proceeds the post script below, discussing the relationship between Starship Troopers and D&D, destiny and adventure design.  As well as a deconstruction of the book. but that post is included on my other for-pay blog, The Higher Path.

However, I wish to make the post script public, because I like to push the things I love ~ and I haven't found anyone yet on the internet ready to do that for this book.

Post Script,

I am well aware of the criticism of this book. It is plain from the linked resource that many readers, particularly critics, have brought a great deal of baggage about the military, politics and quite a lot of other things not included in a literal reading of the novel ~ and who have then argued that a literal reading of the novel is itself an unacceptable social and political reaction to the book. I consider all of this sentiment to be a load of dingo's kidneys. There are no statements of fascism in the book at all, except to those without any understanding of fascism. There are no statements of "rah rah military" in the book, except from those who plainly have no understanding, or no ability to understand, that the military is not a garden party, and that we do not make weapons nor teach the use of weapons so they can be held prettily in parades on Remembrance Day.

If anyone wishes to discuss the book with me, I would be delighted. However, if it is the reader's purpose to deride or criticise the message of the book, I had better see exact quotes from the novel, with specific page numbers or chapters, and context, or else I intend to delete your comment. Prior to writing this post, I read half a dozen criticisms of the book and not one of them gave a single quote from the novel. This is appalling. But then, it is also what I came to expect from some English and Poly Sci professors in university.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Scattered Enthusiasts

At my job, where I work in a downtown vegetarian kitchen for good wages (comparatively), several of my coworkers have a passing familiarity with D&D.  The assistant kitchen manager played when she was 17; another fellow started in a supposed campaign as a player just two weeks ago (and already says it isn't going to meet again); one of the lead hands has played a lot but not for some years now; and finally there's a fellow who is greatly interested, but has never been able to actually play.

They've all been there for much longer than me.  They know about my interests and this blog (though I do not think any of them have actually read it).  They know about my Patreon and that it is based on teaching people how to DM and how to worldbuild.  I told the restaurant Chef straight out at my job interview, because I wanted him to understand why I only needed to work 26 hours a week to manage my finances (Patreon covers the remainder).  And though the Chef was responsible for everyone else knowing about me, he himself doesn't understand the game in the least.  He asked me on Sunday how my "dungeons and dragons party" went, as I'm eternally booked off for Saturday nights.

It's surprising to find so many interested persons in one venue ~ but even more surprising to find such a telling cross-section of the game's participants.  I find myself in strange waters; I can talk as much as I like about D&D and there are always at least two people in the room ready to listen and absorb anything I have to say.  None of them have the least comprehension of anyone online.  They've never watched Critical Role, they have no idea who Colville is, they read no blogs and watch no youtube videos about the game ... and in fact, with the exception of the fellow in the failed campaign, they're doubtful they'll ever play.  Oh, they want to play.  But with job and relationship constraints, and those of their friends, they see life as an insurmountable barrier.  Most restaurant workers between 55 and 70 hours a week.  Most do that because they want between 45 and 90 days off the job as a vacation, next summer or next winter, depending on their passions.  Some do it because they want to live in actual houses, like real people.

This disconnection reminds me of my experiences at game cons, selling my books.  The influence of the company, the usual discourse about editions or coming events, even the chatter about modules, doesn't exist.  People talk about characters, the campaigns they were in, the people they played with.  No one says a word about some old dull bit of company fluffery.  And when I blatantly make statements about what D&D "ought" to offer players, as I'm directly asked for my opinion, the answer I get is, "That's cool.  That sounds awesome."

If ever I wanted confirmation about my game approach, I couldn't ask for better.  I look around at some of my online competitors and I pass the time thinking, how would they fare in this crowd?  What would they talk about?  No doubt, they'd be counted as "cool" and "awesome" as well ~ the audience is ready, and listening, and anxious to hear whatever's thrown on the table.  For DMs who have about their abilities or their relevance, they should catch a taste of what I'm having ... no matter what meat is thrown to the hungry, they'll gobble it up and ask for more.

And yet sadly, what am I do to for these people?  I can't fold them into my offline campaign ~ they're never all off work at the same time and as I said, they work a lot.  I don't have time to start and usefully run a meaningful campaign; even as I start to get my physical bearings after picking up a blue collar job at my age, I'm already to committed to writing blog posts, working on my book, furthering a game design that I haven't touched in months, running my existing campaigns more often or at all, getting more books off the ground and giving passionate, relaxed time to my partner Tamara, who has herself suffered with my being gone and then coming home and laying about the house talking about how much I hurt.  Running a legitimate campaign, even once a month, costs in time to prep and time to think ~ and as a small business owner anxious to improve my tiny micro-celebrity throughout more of the internet, I haven't the time.  I can't rescue these people and let them see what a D&D campaign really looks like.

I could, and probably will eventually, cobble something together in an couple of hours and run them in one session, should time and space ever allow that.  As long as I'm not overly concerned with the bigger picture of a campaign, I don't need to worry about the bells and whistles I've added to character design.  You're on a beach and there are large crabs, two feet wide, rising out of the water ~ thousands of them.  Run random crabs, fight, find shelter, defend the shelter, escape deeper into the shelter, fight something else, kill one last crab and come out into the sun to discover the wave has passed the party by and there are no crabs in sight.  They'd have a blast.  Any simple dungeon scenario would provide the same experience.  Set them up in a town bar amidst a riot.  Sporadic fighting, a chance to share strategies, a chance to laugh at an absurd situation, moments of near death, survival, triumph at having survived ... them's good gaming.

A stroll in the park for me, but something they'd remember a long time.

I hope one of them stumbles across the blog.  They only have to google my name and they know I've been blogging for more than ten years.  But humans, I find, don't rub salt in a wound.  Why torture yourself with something you haven't time to explore?  What good does that do anyone?

I would try to give them that, if the subject arose.  I hate for anyone not to be able to enjoy this game, even in small bits.  I'd be straight with them about what I could do.  It hurts to hear people talk about something they can't actually do, for whatever reason ~ because of time or because someone they do find isn't ready to commit to the promises they've made.  Telling people you're going to run a campaign, then folding the campaign after just one session ... fuck, that's evil.  No other word for it.

If the reader would like to hear from me more often, I write more regularly on another blog, The Higher Path, that is available through my Patreon account (link above).  $3, the price of a cost of coffee once a month, gets you access.  If you like, give a little bit more, and help me reduce my hours working at mindless labour to 24 or 22 hours a week.  I'd appreciate it.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

A First Month Behind Me

As you read this, you have me today weighing 234 lbs.  Just a month ago, I could describe my weight at 262 lbs.  Today, I have enough money to pay my rent and cover my bills, buy enough food for my partner Tamara and I, and live fairly comfortably.  Were I to rely upon the wages earned at my day-to-day job, I could not say this.  It is possible only because of the care and concern of 57 patrons, who consider my writing, my philosophy and my diligence in educating others in role-playing to be a sufficient reason to offer support.

I know most of my supporters personally, through the blog's comments, through the online campaign, through facebook and the like.  When I could, I've tried to be here to answer questions, offer direct advice, even speak face-to-face in some cases.  So when I say, thank you, please believe me when I say, "thank-you," I have your faces, your expressions, your smiles and your approving glances in my mind, as well as your names and your words.

I would also like to thank those who have lent a hand in the past, in other ways.  Who have given me the advice I needed, or said the words I needed to hear in my difficult times.  I do not understand, when I hear some people make a distinction between "online" and "the real world."  This is nonsense, borne of an inability to recognize that we do not need to be physically with people to recognize that all these people we know are alive and struggling with their own problems.  They have come home from their jobs and they have strained their strength to the maximum ~ and yet, whether in person or through a convenient media, they have taken the time to give an empathic moment of support, to give of themselves, to remember that I am here, and to speak kindly and warmly to me when I have strained myself.

This is what Patreon has done for me.  Patreon has made it possible for me to live a life as a small, common artist, to express myself as an artist will, without having to sacrifice myself or my singular pleasures for the sake of a world that would have us all in harness, all the time.  That is why I am saying thanks today.  Thank you.  Your dollars are paying for the roof over my head.  Your dollars are paying for the meat and bread on my dinner plate.  And you, with your comments, with your words of support, make me feel cherished and ~ embarrassing as it may be to admit it ~ even loved.

This is why I keep finding reasons to ask, what else can I do?  What else can I provide?  I had a really wonderful year in 2019.  I was able to write freely for many days at a time, because while managing my affairs and finding support where I was able, my Patreon followers were always there, always by my side ... and always reading me.

I feel confident that if there were something else I could do, you would tell me.  October was a strain.  Getting my body back in shape for kitchen work, I have every one of you to thank for my not having to work 40 hours a week.  I frankly don't think I could have managed it.  But I didn't have to.  Four days, and not five, were enough ~ are enough.  My friends, you are saving my body as well as my mind.  Thank you.

November, I expect, will be better.  Trimming down a lot, it's not so hard to stand on my feet all day.  Every muscle in my body is strengthening, tightening ... and as the end of the day comes, I'm less needful to collapse and nap my evenings away, rather than writing on my blog or actually producing new, interesting game designs.  I expect that as my body continues to tone, I'll find my energy with each week.  And that energy is something I want to put towards all the things my readers are used to seeing from me.

You've gotten me through this rough time.  Now, so long as I don't injure myself [fingers crossed], I should be able to get back on my hobby horse and rock for all I'm worth.

And with a cheerful demeanour, because I feel cherished, I can't resist using a couple pictures to express my day.  These are not from my place of work; I have no intention directly posting anything from behind the curtain of my job.  But yet the message is clear.  Kitchen work is messy, and full of fire and sharp objects.  Food, however, is wonderful ~ and an art all its own.  It is why I've frequently drifted back to that industry when I couldn't find work writing or otherwise using my brain.  At least, it brings pleasure to people.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Why I Am NOT Going to See the Joker Movie

Featuring a full post.

It starts here.
Let me preface by saying that this post is not about the new, 2019 movie, Joker.  I have not seen the Joker movie and I don't know anything about the film.  This post is specifically about the character the Joker, that has been with us for some time, and which was transformed specifically from an ordinary criminal clown into something darker by Alan Moore's story, The Killing Joke.

Let me also preface by saying that I am a white male, and that I was, once, a young white male.

Of late, I've been harried on twitter and elsewhere for my decision not to see the new movie, usually with the argument that I cannot "have an opinion without giving it a chance."  My position is that almost certainly, nothing about the basic character of the Joker is changed in the new film ~ and this, in my opinion, is borne out of the excitement and anticipation I heard from fans prior to the film's release, and the excitement and satisfaction of those exact same fans who saw the film.  Clearly, these fans, prior to seeing the film, wanted to see more of the character they already knew, and clearly, they came away from the film having seen more of the character they already knew.  I do not need to see a hammer fall to know that it will when I let go.  Therefore, I do not need to see the Joker film to decide how I feel about the character, the Joker.

Unlike those who are most vocal about the character, I was alive and well and 25 years old when Tim Burton's version of Batman came out with Jack Nicholson playing the part.  I experienced the fan-boy gushing about the "new darkness" of the character then, with all the hype and tribalism that created, in which my generation happily ditched the campy Cesare Romero character in favor of this exciting, bold, vicious, madcap insane version.  It was blatantly clear in 1989 that this love-affair was pursued by a particular kind of white male, who gushed exhaustively about the character's free use of violence as a form of expression.

I did see the film and I considered it a vapid mess.  It drove the coffin nail in the lid with regards to Tim Burton and me, beginning a long, unpleasant series of multiple experiences being in rooms with white males expounding the genius of a character that randomly and "cleverly" kills people for no particular reason except as a form of personal expression.  It doesn't matter if they die, it doesn't matter who dies, all that matters is that they die in a way that's interesting.  This baton was thereafter taken up by a host of serial killer movies that spawned throughout the 1990s, including Silence of the Lambs, Seven, Natural Born Killers, Citizen X, Kiss the Girls and Copycat.  The genre began to falter after 2000, as the plots grew weaker and more esoteric, culminating in 2007's Zodiac, a serial killer film that hardly shows any serial killing.

With the passing years, Nicholson's version of the character grew less and less popular with the new generation, so that these conversations about the brilliant, wonderous magnificence of the Joker diminished ... and I might have been happy except that Christopher Nolan picked a very capable actor to play his Joker in The Dark Knight, where again the character was darkened with a sharpie sufficiently enough to inspire a whole new generation of specifically oriented young white men to again take up the Joker's cause celebre.  Once again, I was told the new film would be "terrifying" and "brooding," just as I had been told about Burton's vision ... and once again, seeing the film, I found it a ghastly mess of plot holes, irrelevant philosophy, prattling bullshit and insipid dialogue and writing.  None of that mattered, however, because the Joker was alive and well and deeply beloved again.

So, again, I found myself in the same round of endless crappy discussions in rooms with white males about how murder and irrational behaviour is really an exciting art form of a sort, or at least transformatively a form of release and structured anger against the establishment.  I hadn't realized it at the time, but there were certain comparisons to be made with those white men who did not realize that Fight Club was a morality play against fighting, and not an invitation to stupidly fight in small darkly lit basements.  I did not make that comparison in 2008.  I had not yet been woke.  I remember my principle thought at the time was that if we could simply castrate all the dumbfuck white men who loved the Joker's character, we could fix many problems of the world within a generation.

It was clear after 2008 that the Joker's popularity was gathering speed.  Unlike Burton's introduction, Nolan's version had the benefit of youtube and social media.  Nicholson was rebranded "camp," reducing that depiction to the level of Cesare Romero, and I did get some satisfaction from the world deciding, at last, that the 1989 film was actually shit, along with the three films that followed.  I had said so from the beginning, and mostly using the exact same phrases that are often used today.  Apparently, I was ahead of my time.  Sadly, I'll have to wait until 2038 before the social version of today's media turns on Nolan and acknowledges that that movie was shit, too.

Is the reader, no doubt in love with the Joker, good and ramped up now?  Well good.  Buckle up.  This is just the beginning.

Further clarity about the Joker's character was made possible by 2016's Suicide Squad, in which Jared Leto's character is presented with such bold, pornographic delight as to spectactularly outline with crystal clarity the innate fascination with the character of young white males.  In particular, the flame war that ensued surrounding that character.  I won't go into it.  We were all there.  Most importantly, the flame war demonstrated that the Joker was not merely a character, and not merely a series of artistic versions spawning back to the 1940s (literally, April 25th, 1940).  The original was a psychopath with a warped sense of humor, who became Romero's goofy prankster as the comics industry was "cleaned up" post-war.  By 2016, the Joker had grown into a form of political identification ... and one that could easily inspire direct violence and irrational stupidity on a deepened scale.  Not only did Holmes want to be the joker; there were thousands of voices on the internet ready to defend Holmes' right to want that.  We were through the looking glass.

So I began to pick the matter apart from this new perspective, not having any real answers to provide.  I already did not like the character ~ so anything I was going to say would undoubtedly be biased ~ as surely, the Joker-loving reader considers me to be now.  And yet, what is a Joker-lover except biased?

I am not being bombarded with demands that I see the new film, Western Stars, despite my not liking Bruce Springsteen, either (who is also hallowed by a particular kind of white male).

True enlightenment came about a year ago, when I was working at a retail store as a writer and client manager.  One of the co-workers there learned of Todd Phillips' coming film and at once proceeded to orgasm all over himself about the choice of Joaquin Phoenix as the character.  Phoenix has a peculiar reputation and it was assumed that he, in particular, would really be able to relate to the Joker character.  This was encouraged by this teaser trailer released in 2018, that my co-worker played repeatedly on his desktop without headphones.  The English version seems to have been scoured from the net, but it was alive and well last year.

Nothing about this teaser suggested I had any interest in watching the film.

Because my co-worker was willing to argue, and being a young white male, we had about a dozen back and forths about the Joker, what the Joker stood for, who liked him, why, what the best sort of movie about the Joker would be and so on.  My co-worker was, yes, a white male, 33 years old, but somewhat less than grown-up because of his age, having spent his life mostly in jobs that enabled him to play at being an I.T. guy.  He had most of the characteristics of this sort of person.

I began to organize a theory.  The Joker, I reasoned, appeals to white men because, as a whole, white men feel dissatisfied by the present political state of the world.  They are told day and night that they have a certain "entitlement" on account of being white, which they don't personally feel as they look around at their minimum-wage, heavy labor jobs in which they have no actual power and for which they receive no appreciation or attention.  They do not realize that their expectation of power and attention is, itself, a function of the entitlement they feel.  If they weren't white, they wouldn't expect these things, or get mad when they don't manifest.  But they cannot understand this.  They just know they're unhappy and that they hate what they see as a constant, rancorous persecution of their innocent existence.

And, in fact, it is innocent.  They did not choose to be white and they did not choose to be entitled.  It was foistered on them without their complicit approval.  But innocence in birth and status does not translate to social responsibility and educated awareness.  Their innocence is not the crime, but their insistence of being innocent, their declarative shouting that they have a right to be innocent, the facile resistance they have towards having anything but innocence, determines ultimately that they really aren't any more and that they're using this bullshit innocence as a shield, protecting them from waking the fuck up and realizing they are still responsible for the sins of their parents.

In the Joker, these white men see something they can identify with: a character who resists the system, but not for political reasons, not for class reasons, not for the sake of money or authoritative power ... but purely for the priviledged right to resist, in part because that resistance doesn't have to be justified or explained or defended.  White men want to be angry and to fight back, but they don't want to talk about it, because talking only leads to arguments they cannot produce logic against.  The Joker doesn't argue.  He doesn't explain.  He doesn't have "reasons."  He is pure rebellion, in the can.  He is the angry white man's poster boy.

For non-white men and for women, the Joker is way, way too close to the toxic, randomly encountered white male asshole who decides today is the day to gang together to mock a woman, push a black man down a hill, paint 'slut' across a woman's doorway, torch a Semite's car or pour a milkshake over an Oriental's girlfriend, while grinning and strutting like a cock on the walk ... much like the post Burtonesque Joker tries to look in every fucking scene of every movie I've seen.  When combined with cruelty and violence, laughter and fun-times are cruel faces stuck on top of cruel intentions.  This was made more than clear decades ago by Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.

In the short run, white men can really warm themselves to the character ~ but in the long run, the Joker is a really lousy poster boy.  There's no real pay-off to emulating or behaving along the Joker's example.  As much as white men might identify with him, most are smart enough to know they can't randomly and creatively kill strangers.  Most white men aren't really this character.  They know where the line is.  They go and see the Joker and gush about him vicariously.  Not realistically.

Still, that installs an awareness of how impotent white men who bow to the system are.  That's fine for a guy like me, who finds other reasons to feel empowered, but for a lone white male who can't find a better icon that the fucking Joker, this is a bleak, scrubby, salt-sown field.  Not one damn thing is going to grow here except an inability to take effective action and a pervasive sense of being unfairly judged.

Sooner or later, that's going to result in violence: violence against others or violence against self.  And this is not good for anyone's soul.

But I am not going to take a political stand on this issue, or promote censorship or tell anyone else to see the newest film.  At the same time, however, I am not going to be told that I cannot make up my mind about something toxic just because I haven't swallowed this shit.  I've swallowed enough already, to know what the fuck it is.

Monday, October 21, 2019

An Answer to Lance

This is an answer to Lance in the previous post, who wrote:
It's just that you would probably get more readers if you weren't so abrasive.
But then again, sometimes people need to be called out on their stupidity/childishness before they can change. I wouldn't have stopped fudging or using the screen if it weren't for your blog specifically. I had been reading his blog and others long before I discovered you, but none of those other blogs fundamentally changed how I run games.

This is why I'm not "nice."  I've heard from the beginning of this blog that I would get more readers if I wasn't so abrasive ... but what kind of readers?  For what purpose?  Is my goal to get readers in order to entertain them with interesting stuff that they can conveniently forget later on?  Or is my goal to remind readers, and those who won't read, but find it difficult to ignore me because I'm always there on the blog rolls of people who do read, that SOMEONE on the internet does not buy the bullshit.  And that someone isn't going away, he isn't cowed by criticism ... and worst of all, he is obviously not stupid.

Whatever my detractors might say about my former vitriol (and it IS much reduced from five years ago), they can't say that I don't understand the game, that I don't think about what I'm saying or that I can't write.  This means, they have to detract me for being, yes you guessed it, "abrasive."  As though this alone is a crime.

And why do they want me to be less abrasive?  Is it for the benefit of my message?  No, they get the message anyway.  They wouldn't know I was abrasive if they weren't here, reading me.  No, they want me to be less abrasive because that would make THEM more comfortable.  But Lance ... I don't want you to be comfortable.  I want you to be uncomfortable, for the reason you just gave.  So that you will change.  Hopefully, for the better.

I read the Alexandrian's post about fudging.  Justin's is friendlier and more polite, and his points are just, and many of them are points I had considered making in the future.  But none of the points are particularly pursued, are they?  He skirts the edge of the subject.  He gives the surface reasons for why people fudge, but he doesn't actually come out wholly against fudging, does he?  He actually supports it, in some degree.  And he certainly doesn't call out anyone for being a bad DM, or selfishly glomming onto power; these things are there, but they're not specifically called out.  He doesn't want to offend anyone.  It's a problem of mechanics, or misunderstandings, or treasuring the wrong aspects of play, or the result of a mistake.  And he's not wrong.

His post is something like the old commercial that told us that this egg is your brain; and that this egg in this pan is your brain on drugs.  The commercial was very memorable, it still is, though it is more than 30 years old.  It spawned hundreds of comedian's jokes and parodies, it is instantly recognizeable as a commercial and it's been picked by TV Guide as one of the top 100 television advertisements of all time.  It's cute, it's direct, it's doesn't offend anyone on television with images of people suffering from drug use or the deaths resulting from using drugs.

Does it work?  I can't find anyone who says so.  And that is the problem.

I did not grow up in the internet world, I grew up in the one of that commercial.  Justin, who is a way smarter businessman than me, charges $1 per post if you want to read his post a month before it comes out on his blog ... I would never, ever think of that.  Justin is cooler, he's way more popular and he's connected with the role-playing culture like I never will be.  But his writing is bland paste.  There is not one person in the comments that unreservedly agrees with his position ~ and he makes no attempt whatsoever to suggest his opinion is more than just another asshole in the room.  He doesn't believe what he's saying to the point where he is willing to fight for the principle he's arguing.  It is all just air to him.  One word strung after the one before.  He won't mention the subject again for months ~ and when he does, he won't have anything new to say.

I'm angry because fudging is fucking wrong.  It isn't just a little bit wrong, it isn't acceptable in "some" circumstances, it doesn't serve as a useful technique sometimes, it is absolutely and unequivocably wrong.  And those who practice it do so because they a) Can't see that it's wrong because they have willfully deluded themselves and b) They don't care that it is fucking wrong because they have willfully deluded themselves.  Every argument for fudging is a textbook case in moral deficiency.

I'm not gray on this issue.  I'm not hesitant on this issue.  I don't give a fuck if this inconveniences what liars and self-promoted autocrats want to believe, or think they have a right to believe, because this isn't about finding reasons for why lying to people who trust you is "sometimes" okay.  A liar is a liar.  If a DM will lie about a die roll, they will lie about anything.

And I know that you know this Lance. Your own comments say so.  But I feel I must stress that in some things, abrasion is the right fucking response.  In some things, especially with things where people brazenly argue their privilege to be entitled, judgemental assholes, it is time to stop qualifying your statements and start punching them in the face.

If I'm going to be honest, that's what I think is an appropriate response.  IF your DM deliberately lies to you, because he thinks he has that privilege, punch him right in the face.  Because that's what it takes with some people.

And ... because this is the internet, where rhetoric is far too often taken as exact intention, I'll say that no, I don't want anyone punching anyone in the face.  But I want to express that at some point, mere argument won't work.  It simply won't.

Friday, October 18, 2019


From a DM defending fudging in an answer I received from Quora.
If I am focused on the story, I don’t want to kill off characters. They build up contacts, gather information and drive the story forward. Replacing them will disrupt the story. I am ok with a character death for a stupid action or a story reason, then I accept the disruption. But in most cases, I want to build on what is already there instead of introducing new characters on a regular basis.

Remember, here we are talking about a game.  But obviously not the player's game.  The DM here blatantly exposes his bias, his will to control the game, his personal entitlement where the story, the contacts and its possible disruption are concerned.  Note the language.  The DM is "ok."  The DM is "focused."  The DM is very clear on what he wants and what he will accept.  The players' opinions are not mentioned.  The players' acceptance is not solicited.  It is all "Me me, me me me."

Yet if the reader will take a look at the whole answer from the writer, it is plain the writer believes they have given this considerable thought and that they have the right perspective on the matter.  And this is the effect that total power has:  the delusional aspect that, having total power, and being determined to use if for what's "right," gives superior knowledge of rightness and utter blindness to what is plainly a selfish perspective.

This is why we don't fudge.

Monday, October 14, 2019

What to Do When You Do

Let's say for the sake of discussion that as a group of characters, you've decided to settle down near the town of Odda, the example from the last post.  Let's say the party isn't concerned about its distance from Bergen because they have a light schooner and can make the journey in near a day.  Let's say the party has just had a recent adventure in the town and has just gathered a few henchmen, and now they'd like to have a general meeting point for the main party and the secondary party, for further adventures in the area.  Let's say the mountains and tundra to the east provide lots of opportunities for just that.

And let's say the party has already explored the area, so we can freely give them the map shown on the left, indicating type-6 and type-7 hexes surrounding Odda.  Most of them are forest-based but one is in high country with less trees.  We count a hammer in every hex and 30 food (as opposed to "30F" which should now be understood to mean something completely different), amounting to a total of 1350pd (45pd per food), with a rural population of some 210.  Odda has a population of 862, so the small region is food-abundant, able to export food outside as the production is more than Odda's needs.

There are four coins in the area and we can postulate 15 active support persons per coin, supporting families that number three times that on average, or 60 persons per coin.  These are probably all based out of Odda ... so we can postulate that Odda's population of 862 includes 240 bourgoise and 49 of the aforementioned food-producers.  Most of the labor operating in other hexes would be based in Odda as well ~ earlier we described these as 5 persons per hammer, and each of them has three times as many dependents, so this accounts for another 20x8, or 160 persons, a quarter of which are not at home a lot of the time.  All told, 449 persons.

I said during the mapping coins post that the coins accounted for everyone related to making money and controlling money, so what about the other 413 persons in Stavanger?  We can't call them government or officials or guards ... these are accounted for already.  They're not farmers or foragers (all the food is accounted for), they're not scouring the countryside for valuables.  Who are they?

A small number, perhaps 2-3%, about 16 to 24, fall into two categories: they live on charity or they have enough money that they do not need employment.  This includes beggars, of which there would be only two or three that would be tolerated, the local cleric, his second and their one servant, and those who are living on investments, sinecures or are simply rich.  If the player characters settled in the area and simply hung around, they would fit into this third category.

The remainder are dependents whose principle wage earners are elsewhere ~ perhaps working aboard ship in the North Sea, or working aboard a trawler outside of Stavanger, or working some small mine or trap line further afield than those near Odda.  A few might be in the Norwegian army; one of the houses may have ten servants and seven members and be owned by a noted minister in Copenhagen.  Each of these would send money home to support their dependent family, who use the money to buy food in Odda.  That accounts for all the extra people.

There, now we have a good, solid concept of the town, how it makes its money, where the food comes from and who is doing what.  These are things the PCs can know without harm ... and we can even give them numbers as this only contributes to their "feel" for the place.

We were talking about settling down.  I'd like to run through some of the ways the players might do that.  Let's do it in point form.

Continued on the blog, the Higher Path, available through my Patreon. Please support me with a $3 donation and gain the complete series of estate posts related to the post above, as these have all been written.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Locations and Towns

Featuring the full post.

Like rivers, my 20-mile scale maps indicate various villages, towns and cities within a country, which get special status because they were important enough to be included on 1:4,000,000 scale maps provided by Rand & McNally mapmakers in the 1950s.  This is as good an arbitrary measure as any, because it is not my arbitrary measure and R&M knew more about why to indicate some locations and not others than I could ever hope to know.

These locations get a special status with regards to my population numbers, my infrastructure and my geopolitical boundaries because they were so included ... even if they happen to be immediately adjacent to another town of equal or even larger size.  For example, Flekkefjord in Agder [Vest-Adger in modern times] is only 20 miles from Lyngdal, which appear to have been about the same size in the 1950s; but Flekkefjord has a much longer history and so it got chosen and Lyngdal didn't.

[An annoying thing about Flekkefjord came to my attention just two days ago.  I plotted the town along with hundreds of others in 2010; but as it turns out, I have it about 35 miles east of where the town actually is.  I most likely misread the latitude when I plotted the town, and am only learning this now.  This messes with a lot of details having to do with maps I posted just a week ago, as well as my infrastructure numbers ... but I just know I'm going to obsessively fix the error, even going to the point of reposting maps and adjusting those numbers, just because.  Damn it.]

I wrote on Wednesday that benefits do arise from towns ... and that references those specific towns that do appear on a 20-mile scale map.  Sometimes, they do.  Rarely.

Because the infrastructure calculation originates with these towns, they are bound to benefit from the distribution of more important hex types, which in turn are already accounted for.  It wouldn't make sense to give a settlement, just because it is a settlement, an extra benefit.  Therefore, I don't.  Usually.

But ... a population center is going to have a minimum level of coin associated with its existence; and occasionally a pre-assigned population center turns out to be in a type-5 or type-6 hex, because the population of that center is very small and it is somewhat remote.  Odda, in Hordaland, is an example (shown here in 6-mile hexes).  None of the surrounding hexes are especially settled; the land is rough and somewhat obscure, with Odda enjoying the benefit of having a lake on one side of its location and the Sorfjorden on the other.  The vision of the town is so pretty I feel I have to include a picture:

Most of the time, a pre-determined location like Odda winds up being on a body of water of some kind and I don't need to adjust its benefits by adding a coin.  Odda's one coin originates with its location on the coast and lake (no, it does not get two, it is still in a type-6 hex).  All of the non-wilderness hexes exist because Odda was noted on a map in 1952.

Now and then, however, I get a location that isn't ~ technically ~ located on a body of water or a river.  Voss, or Vossevangen, is about 40 miles north of Odda.  While it is located on a small body of water, the Vangsvatnet, this wasn't large enough to be noted on the 20-mile scale map ~ and like I said with the last post, you can't walk fifty feet in Norway without a risk of getting wet.  We have to draw the line somewhere on what is a sufficiently sized body of water to count as a coin benefit.  And yet Voss is clearly an important location regardless ... so the coin it doesn't get from water and wouldn't get from being in a more important hex, we grant because it is one of those Rand & McNally locations.

That's a lot of explanation for a very simple thing.  But as I thought about it, I saw so many angles for how I could be misunderstood, particularly in readers thinking that every important location ought to be granted a bonus coin, so that Odda should have two and not one ... the only rational approach was to explain it very carefully.

There is another point I'd like to make about towns that won't take quite as long.  The groups mechanic does create a number of type-1 to 4 hexes that don't have population centers at all, because they cluster around larger settlements like Stavanger and Bergen.  And because the benefit for hex type grants these 6-mile hexes with coins, my answer has been to posit that a town does exist in that hex.

Take this area around Bergen, for instance.  Bergen is the only pre-determined location for the area, but the distribution of hexes creates quite a number of type-2 to 7 hexes scattered over the islands and coastland.  The coast is so complicated that my eyes tend to cross when I look at this too intently.  There are five hexes, apart from Bergen, that have a coin benefit from being a type-1 to 4.  In those hexes, I've searched on google maps and turned up actual place names to act as the "designated location" in those hexes: Knarvik, Hosanger, Bruvik, Salhus and Glaevaer, all real places.

In game terms, these are real towns, indistinguishable from any pre-determined town that would be in a comparable hex.  Salhus, for example, would be larger than either Odda or Voss, with a great deal of industry and commerce, as indicated by its four coins.  But it is shown here as a brown circle rather than a black, as a reference to it being a satellite town of Bergen and not an original town showing on the 20-mile scale map.

The last benefits come from trade references ~ but before I get into that difficult subject, I'd like to bring some of this conversation back around to the players, and how they might address the problem of picking a hex to play in and establish themselves and their "estate."  We can talk about references, and about the scaled effects of multiple benefits, afterwards.

I've included the full length of this post from the blog, the Higher Path, to give the reader a sense of what they're missing.  It's only a $3 donation through my Patreon per month to consistently see posts of this quality.

Saturday, October 5, 2019

Mapping Coins

I've written about this before, so I won't dwell, but I wanted to comment on the ground work the Kleivaland post provides for game play. The space is defined; the characters arrive looking for something, or on the way to their quest. The farmer offers vittles, the hunters can serve as guides; they tell some frightening urban-legend type stories about whatever the party might be interested in. It sets the scene for a tense encounter once the hex is crossed or more thoroughly explored. It gives the players a tactile place to return, perhaps so that they don't need to make their way fully back to town.

Intricate design allows an improvement in the game's texture; that is the reason to go gritty. It is the reason why there are not just two or three hex types, but many ~ which in turn are modified by the presence of hills, water, climate, proximity to civilization and so on.

Following up on yesterday's post, we have to talk about rivers and the presence of coins ... which I must admit has been the most elusive part of this design. For this, we'll need a hex that borders on a river ~ I'd like to pick a type-6 hex, simply to talk about an expansion beyond our concept of the type-7 already discussed.

This is a forest hex in Agder, on the Lygne river as shown. The hex receives 1F and 1H from the temperate forest, with 2F from being a type-6 hex. It also receives 1 coin symbol (1C) from being located on the Lygne river.

Should we expand the hex out into two mile hexes and build hexes, most likely we would produce a growing settlement producing a considerable amount of food, running along the river (not everything has to be random!), with some hunting as the forest will support one or two camps. In all, the hex produces enough for 21 single farms, 7x the previous type-7 hex. We can easily imagine there would be some small hamlet of 15-20 buildings here.

Continued on the blog, the Higher Path, available through my Patreon. Please support me with a $3 donation and gain the complete series of estate posts related to the post above, as these have all been written.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Core Benefits

The next element I should clear up is how the type-7 hex in this post gets rated with 1 food and 1 hammer.  Opening with a caveat, this is a system with several versions that I've posted on the Tao of D&D, because I keep tweaking and adjusting it.  Please always know that a concept isn't the final word until it appears on the wiki ... and is then edited and changed on the wiki.  As long as I'm still talking about something on the blog, I'm still in "design mode."  The blog is the workshop; the wiki is the storefront.

Let's call food, hammers and coins "benefits."  6-mile hexes are assigned a symbol for each for a number of reasons: 1) the natural vegetation; 2) the hex type; 3) the presence of a significant river; 4) the established presence of a settlement, prior to mapping the 6-mile hex from its 20-mile hex predecessor; and 5) the presence of a trade reference, as part of my trade tables.  I'll need to explain these things before we can continue.

This image on the right describes a simple set of vegetations from which we can derive benefits.  The regions themselves, whether or not exploited, represent both a food source and a source for minerals and other raw materials; the assignment of hammers and food for these vegetations takes this into account.

Tundra, at the top, adds 1 hammer symbol per 6-mile hex (indicating the collection of minerals and other raw materials).  Boreal and Temperate forests add 1 hammer and 1 food.  Tropical forests are considered impractical sources for locating raw materials without clear cutting or development, so they only add 1 food.

Grassland provides the best possible benefit, granting 2 food symbols (as discussed in the previous post), as plentiful forage can be found in both plant life and large game.  There is not enough of the former in a Chaparral environment, reducing the benefit to 1 food.  Deserts provide no vegetation benefits.

Continued on the blog, the Higher Path, available through my Patreon. Please support me with a $3 donation and gain the complete series of estate posts related to the post above, as these have all been written.