Saturday, March 30, 2019

Constitution Breakdown

As before, the challenge of producing this list was daunting.  There is far less rigor in measuring constitution than there is with charisma, but I've learned a great deal.  For one thing, I will have to rework the charisma breakdown, at some point.  Not to change the sense of it, but to flesh out some things that were overlooked.

I have to admit, I was fairly helpless with the following to produce a list that doesn't cater to the male gender.  This was a language problem.  I explored the possibility of delineating reproduction and fertility into the chart, but in very little time I realized how silly and frankly sexist the effort appeared.  I don't wish to account for the effects of constitution on fertility ~ but I'm more than ready to confess that I haven't given the matter sufficient consideration.  I believe that it belongs in a separate post, which can specifically address that subject matter.

On account of language, ALL the words that convey tremendous health become more and more masculine as the scale increases.  I struggled to select words that could be applied to both men and women.  It is not my intention to suggest that all constitution-rich persons are male.  Far from it.

A last point.  I don't think I'll be able to look at constitution the same way again.

With those caveats in order, I present my list.


The measure of a character’s physical fitness, health and fortitude. Together, these affect the character’s hit points and the chance of surviving against system shocks, both medical and otherwise, as well as the shock of being raised or resurrected from the dead. The stat is of considerable importance to all character classes, though it is not the primary attribute of any class.

The table shown indicates the adjustments to the character’s hit points, as affected by constitution. Where a penalty is called for, note that this can never reduce the number of constitution points gained from going up a level to a number less than 1, which is the minimum number of hit points a level can add.

Bonuses indicated in brackets apply only to assassins, fighters, paladins and rangers. All other classes gain a +2 bonus to their hit points from a 17 or 18 constitution.

The survival rolls columns show the percentage chance of the character surviving either being returned from the dead or system shock. Raised from the dead includes the spells raise dead, resurrection and death’s door. The constitution score describes the maximum number of times that a character can be returned from the dead.

System shock includes attacks that cause rapid aging, petrification, hits from natural lightning bolts and similar effects. Some diseases may produce the need for a system shock roll. Contrary to AD&D rules, polymorph and shape change spells and abilities do not require a system shock roll.

Further checks related to constitution include forced activity checks and malady checks.

Description of Values

The following attempts to capture some feeling for the amount of constitution possessed by characters, both from the character’s perspective and that of others.

In some ways, those with a high amount of constitution will present many of the characteristics, social interests and natures of those with less ability. A full representation of any degree of the ability stat must take into account that not every person of a particular amount of constitution will adhere to the framework presented. This is only a model upon which further assumptions can be made.

Delicate (3 pts.)
Ordinarily, those with a delicate constitution would choose to be housebound, as there are so few places they can visit safely. They are usually sickly members of a family, who are cared for by siblings and relatives. They will usually be very thin and gaunt in appearance, or have the appearance of malnutrition.

They often possess a serious, chronic and debilitating condition, as the character background generator would determine. Otherwise, their daily lives are fraught with difficulties. They are usually in some kind of pain; the swelling of joints and limbs, constantly aching muscles, severe migraine headaches and bowel troubles are all common, often daily experiences. They have a minimal appetite; they must eat soft, usually severely boiled food; meat is difficult, unless it is a very little fish. Small bits of alcohol are intolerable, causing stomach pains. Any flavoured food might result in vomiting. They lack a sexual appetite. When resting or sitting, they will spontaneously lapse into sleep. Often, they suffer from hand tremors. To rest and regain hit points, they must have a proper tent to sleep in. Most are bedridden.

The only class training they may receive will be as illusionists, the spells of which are thought-based and require little effort.

Frail (4 pts.)
Those with a frail constitution have more freedom to seek other safe spaces, particularly to escape a summer or winter season in exchange for a milder climate, by visiting relatives and friends abroad, where they will stay for weeks and even months at a time. Preferring to give themselves to mental activities, they help by keeping the family finances or acting as record keepers. Resting in bed or upon a chaise is often necessary.

Discomfort is a way of life. Because they use their hands quite a lot, they often suffer from arthritis and other similar aches. When used, all their joints will swell. They prefer soft foods, a little fish, no alcohol or narcotics, except to aid in pain relief. An unsettled stomach is usual. Sharp headaches will seize them, lasting an hour or two, and sometimes all day. Their bowels give them much trouble. They have little to no interest in sex. In body type, they are often thin and tremulous, though occasionally some will show signs of malnutrition.

Those levelled persons, who can only be illusionists, may opt for an occasional physically altering spell, but most are inclined to concentrate upon mental conjurations.

Weak (5 pts.)
Such persons that have a weak constitution are like to venture into the daylight for brief periods, if the outdoors can be softened for their needs. They dislike work but will stoically accept it, though it brings them discomfort and distress. They must rest a fair bit between activities, laying down or sitting.

They suffer aches and pains through the first half of the day, as they don’t sleep well, and whenever the weather is outside their comfort. Their diet will include a morsel of meat, mixed with assorted gentle foods. Heartburn and poor digestion do give them trouble. A headache is common, but sometimes they do get through a day without one. They have a small interest in sex. As they sometimes feel they could almost break free of their weakness, depression is a constant shadow. They are often irritable because of it. If not actually thin, in body type they will exhibit signs of loose flesh and a sallow color. 

As levelled persons, they are limited to the illusionist track; physical tricks are often chosen as spells, even if this does require some effort in throwing or body movement.

Faint (6 pts.)
While studious and interested in being a part of life, faint persons are often just too tired to sustain a long day of activity. As such, they often retire for periods in the morning and afternoon, turning in early during the evening. They will self-select the least physical tasks for themselves, letting stronger persons do the hard work. They often engage a personal servant, if they are able.

For two or three hours in the morning, they suffer from severe stiffness from poor sleep. They can eat a few ounces of meat and their diets comfortably include most fruits and vegetables. They will have bouts with indigestion but not every day. They may allow themselves a nice beer or even a small amount of strong ale, but only a few sips of the latter. They are hit quite hard by alcohol. They experience an ordinary sex drive but do not make active lovers. Headaches are unusual but can be harsh. They may be irritable. They can experience depression for two or three days at a time, but then all will be well for a week or so. They tend to be corpulent and fleshy, or somewhat too thin.

Such persons are able to be bards, clerics, druids, mages, illusionists and thieves, though always pursuing the lightest physical professions in those classes. For example, a thief will be a forger; a cleric will be a theologian; a bard is apt to be a writer.

Unfit (7 pts.)
Resilient enough to become part of social situations, unfit persons will often be the first to drop out of an activity. At the end of the day, they are the last to finish and the last to make it home. They sweat profusely from hard work, which they are at least able to do. They sleep a great deal. Taking the watch is very hard.

Upon awaking in the morning, they are slow to get on their boots and get dressed. They are slow eaters, though they eat a normal diet. And often they eat too much, sometimes as an excuse not to get started. They are slow to stretch out and get going. They drag their feet. They are invariably sore and often prone to complain about it. They will find any opportunity to nap. Weight is a chronic issue. They prefer ale to wine, which is a little strong, while harder liquors are unpleasant to their gut.

Classically, they’re familiar in their role as guards, as being unfit is the minimum constitution for a fighter. As clerics, they prefer the life of a friar. A thief will like easy work as a charlatan or some other poser. Bards may like non-physical clowning or acting. Spellcasters will prefer sedate occupations, such as a druid that enjoys long relaxed days studying the trees, or nights studying the sky.

Ill-conditioned (8 pts.)
Often able to blame their constitution on their corpulence, their large bones or being a “low energy” person, ill-conditioned persons are usually quite comfortable in their idle, leisurely lifestyles. Oh, they could perhaps take the time to get into shape, but they lack the willpower or the sensibility of it, or they simply don’t care. They’re used to themselves.

They do wake up very stiff, but it passes after an hour or so. They don’t sleep that well, but there’s always some time in the day they can catch up with a nap. They see nothing wrong with their extra weight. True enough, the body can let a person down occasionally, but that’s life. The thing is to appreciate the subtle pleasures of ale or wine equally; perhaps a rare spirit, but only rare, because it does upset the stomach.

Ill-conditioned is the minimum constitution for an assassin, who like other fighters will seek occupations where they’re able to hold their own without having to keep up with others, as private guards, muleskinners, horsemen and the like. Bards, whose stomachs require some attending but who can eat most things if cooked well, will tend to gastronomy. Most other character classes will seek comfortable ~ though not lazy ~ professions.

Sufficient (9 pts.)
Describes the usual manner of health for the period, being someone that is slightly less than sound in body and limb, yet able. Making up the stock of farmers, labourers and others who are beaten down by daily toil, blemishing their physical condition, these folk possess the constitution and hardiness to exert themselves at their tasks.

Most have a satisfying complexion, with a taste for strong drink and ale. They have energy at the end of the day to spend, with fit bodies that are nevertheless worn in places. They are sore much of the time, which disturbs their sleep. They feel fair upon waking, and stretch easily as they head out into their day. Each feels comfortable in their bodies, without much complaint.

Among the fighters and assassins, an occasional paladin can count a constitution of this type. bards, clerics, druids, illusionist, mages and thieves are all the common breed of their classes, with slightly less than average in ability and yet passable with regards to their fortitude.

Healthy (10 pts.)
Those characters with a healthy constitution have no daily complaints about the soundness of their bodies. They are fit and trim, in good shape, ready and able to take on life’s challenges. Healthy persons handle stress well, work well, are patient in their activities and are as full of vigour in the evenings as they are in the morning.

Healthy people are predisposed to laughing easily, are talkative and find it easy to rest and relax when working. Their joints are loose and comfortable even after a day of hard labour. They have strong appetites and like to eat meat and vegetables rather than heavier fair. They have a fit body, toned and firm, with a healthy skin color.

Characters of level will be motivated in their actions and goals. They may apply themselves to the deliberate practice of their professions without being weighed down by fatigue or malnutrition, so that many rise to some amount of authority.

Sturdy (11 pts.)
Those who possess sturdy constitutions will be solidly built, athletic, often rugged and vigorous in their movements and their condition. Among their peers, they are often the most reliable, the one fellow in a group of common miners, farmers, sailors or other labouring groups who will go a step farther in getting the job done.

Feeling active most of the time, even upon the moment of waiting, sturdy folk are gregarious. They thrive upon the company of others, they enjoy a good stretch of the legs in the evening and often feel energized enough to perform even harder labour. Their muscles show a distinct definition, and rarely do they feel any strain upon them, even at the end of the day. They sleep deep at night and are never drowsy during the day. Often, when they work very hard, they experience a sense of euphoria. Before battle, they feel encouraged and brave.

In addition to other classes, monks must have at least a sturdy constitution. Such persons, whatever the class, are driven to achieve. The cleric that gives long sermons, the mage or illusionist able to work long into the night, the druid that makes long journeys into mountain fastnesses … each is a symbol of the common, hardest working member of their professions.

Hale and Hearty (12 pts.)
Persons that have hale and hearty constitutions are full of interest, possessing the inner spirit to push them forward. Their constitution leaves them unsatisfied. They want more. They thrive on newness, like others of higher constitution also sometimes do. They dislike inactivity, inertia and the repetition of everyday tasks. This grants them tenacious zeal that is applied to their intellect, their strength or their charisma.

A hale and hearty person enjoy vigorous exercise first thing in the morning, hurling themselves out of bed, anxious to take on the day. They are light and bouncy on their feet. Before battle, they are ready, keen to get started. Their appetite demands a diet of interesting things, spices, pates, caviar, confectionary … anything that is strange and different. Their aroused by perfumes. Copulation produces a state of euphoria. Their skin gives a healthy glow.

Characters with at least this much constitution will venture out as explorers, settlers, missionaries and the like. They have a fascination with foreign places and with travel. This makes them among the chosen to suppress colonies, lead embassies or military operations, sail the seven seas or venture into the deepest dungeons, confident that their adaptability and courage will win the day.

Tough (13 pts.)
Nearly impervious to the elements, largely untouched by pain, those with a tough constitution are hardwearing, long lasting souls. They can be onerous, when pressed by an unsympathetic wilderness or the merciless implacability of fate; but they’re never afraid, and never in doubt that they’ll bear the worst that’s to come.

Tough persons can sleep anywhere, in any conditions, and wake up ready to work or fight. When they breathe in fresh air, their lungs and bodies fill with the heartiness of it like a drug. They will grin and laugh with others in the face of disaster. Before a battle, they feel tingly and excited to face the enemy. They are spontaneous, ready to fell a huge tree one moment, or whirl into a dance if the cadence of a musician’s tune will let them. They are raucous, fun-loving and noble. When they are happy, their faces flare with a bright, cheery color.

As levelled classes, they like the most difficult work, the most dangerous tasks. They have the nature to carry others with them, to treat every bad moment as an opportunity for a joke. They will always give their whole selves to their calling ~ and as such, will often excel where others have failed.

Robust (14 pts.)
Even in their youth, those of a robust constitution have already gained the confidence of a much older person. They have little left to prove to themselves. They will do what is necessary; go where it is necessary to go. In personality, they are profoundly calm, certain, expressing a remarkable fortitude and patience that offers assuredness and respect with the need for words or boasting.

The robust character has no difficulty keeping awake for guard duty, being possessed of tenacity and grit. When passionate, they will pound on the table when emotive. They will speak economically, as though words were money spent. In listening to beautiful music, their bodies are so fine tuned that they are often possessed with frisson. When facing battle, they are pumped, their blood hot. They will shout warnings to the other side, backslapping their companions to urge them on.

This is the ranger’s minimum constitution. Levelled characters of this constitution, because their number is far greater than those with higher constitution, are the pillar upon which societies rest. Their patience shores up the army; their determination overcomes those trials that would starve the country or see it brought to ruin by disaster.

Stalwart (15 pts.)
Strongly built and high-powered persons with a 15 constitution display a vigour that belittles the appearance of most. Though they may not be strong, they will appear to be of such profound health that they will be perceived to be strong. Onlookers will suppose they are a champion, or a hero of some kind ~ while the character will stride like a panther: one moment sitting or reclining in place, the next, tearing apart all enemies without hesitation.

The stalwart character lives in the moment. Filled with irrepressible energy, they will prowl at all hours, waiting for their next opportunity to bring change. If an intellectual, they will rehearse their speeches; they will talk for hours about their newest designs; they will tirade against injustice. And if things become violent, they will explode with adrenaline and endorphins. They will stride forward to catcall the enemy, shouting, roaring, relishing the violence that is to come.

Such persons are hardly to be restrained as levelled characters. They seek action, sensation, thrills. Only their physical limitations, such as they are, force them to submit to a moment of peace.

Formidable (16 pts.)
Atop the world, these persons are blessed with the ability, the fitness and the qualities necessary to do or achieve anything. Possessed of a constant cheerfulness, despite their physique, their sinewy bodies and overwhelming health, they are possessed of a constant cheerfulness. They fear nothing. Every challenge is another opportunity for greatness.

They never feel doubt. They never have headaches, or a poor sleep. Their libido is very strong and, despite their looks, they produce a musk that is deeply compelling. They need no more than six hours of sleep a night. Before battle, they will bang their weapons against their armour, warming up for the coming fight, smiling and happy. They are tireless and nearly always ready to lift themselves up and begin again.

Redoubtable (17 pts.)
Tremendously intense, these capable persons inspire fear and respect amongst all that they meet. Others of lesser stature do not seek to measure themselves against such persons; it is understood, except by their peers, that the matter is settled. Driven by the will to master the very earth with their raw power, some of these redoubtable persons are almost incapable of speech, except in the face of competition.

Before a battle, they will be wild and magnificent, shouting with fury, slapping their weapons against their own fellows in their lust for battle. When the battle ends, it will take a long time for such persons to calm themselves, restoring the deep, quiet churning in their sinews, until they can “live” again. They are competitive and, when alone, often euphoric. Pain means little or nothing to them.

Awe-inspiring (18 pts.)
Though not actually capable of staggering their enemies with the reverential respect awarded to the gods, the awe-inspiring person will create a sense of astonishment and unrestrained admiration among onlookers. Splendid and impressive in raw physical appearance, even if they are twisted and ugly, others will stare open-mouthed at their countenance. They will often feel like gods; and depending on their wisdom, may allow themselves the virtues and vices of gods.

They have a stomach of iron, and live in a persistent haze of euphoria given to them by their own bodies. They can hardly feel pain. In the company of their desire, they are hypersexual and are often welcomed as physical partners, if not as objects of matrimony. In a battle, they are titans, roaring as they swing their weapons, fiery in nature and breathtaking in courage, resolve and fearlessness.

See Also,

The Free Rider Problem

Let's bring last night's post around to D&D and role-playing.

The title of the post refers to a social science phenomenon that occurs when those who benefit from resources don't pay for them, which results in an underdivision of those resources.  The obvious example would be the player that participates in your game, or that you're apt to meet at a game con, who sucks most of the benefit provided by the other players into his or her orbit, contributing very little.  Viewed in that light, the free-rider problem becomes evident.  How do you purport to stand for the free and egalitarian rights of all individuals, when some individuals are so obviously selfish and non-productive?  Worse, free-riders encourage the practice of free-riding, in that when a crowd watches others get away with it, without consequence, there is a sense that we might just as well free-ride also.

The free-rider problem has posed a problem for human group dynamics in an evolutionary sense, as detailed in this video featuring Jonathan Haidt:

As he explains (12:20), cooperating organisms interact with each other, producing value, or "wealth."  The free rider, on the other hand, gains wealth at the cooperator's expense, so that cooperators are depleted while free riders are able to proliferate.  As Haidt describes the problem, "Free riders doom cooperation, because cooperators will be suckers and so the gene for cooperation can evolve."

If this sounds familiar, don't be surprised.  Haidt does not state an internet connection but I'm sure he's aware of it, as the reader cannot help but be.  The internet adaptation has been the process of empowering free riders at the expense of cooperators, because it is far, far harder to cooperate on the internet than it is to exploit it.

Where the organization of control on the internet is at its weakest, the free rider syndrome is at its worst.  4Chan, Twitter, Reddit ... places where moderation is a minimum, or where the moderators just don't care about group dynamics or cooperation.  As such, the dialogue on these sources is all exploitation, as exploiters vye with each other for the resource of recognition and, I assume, some kind of pleasure.

Since the mid-1970s, Haidt explains, this selfishness model has driven theories about human cultural evolution that suggest we are all naturally self-motivated, interested exploiters and so on, and that group dynamics organize themselves around intergroup competition.  This sounds a great deal like the atmosphere we've all experienced on bulletin boards and at game tables ~ once again, particularly at game cons.

However ... since the 1970s, various scholars have been re-examining human evolution and there is a growing sentiment rising that, in fact, cooperators do not act like individual units, but in fact bond with each other and then build frameworks that keep out free riders.  This is Richerson and Boyd's 2005 Tribal Instincts hypothesis (quoting from the video):
"Such environments favored the evolution of a suite of new social instincts suited to life in such groups, including a psychology which 'expects' life to be structured by moral norms and is designed to learn and internalize such norms; new emotions such as shame and guilt, which increase the chance that the norms are followed, and a psychology which 'expects' the social world to be divided into symbolically marked groups."

I found Haidt's lecture after making a comment to Tedankhamen, where I argued that dogpiling on Zak isn't "tribalism," it's human.  I was wrong about that.  And yes, I often go look things up after I make comments, to feel sure that I was right.  When I'm wrong, that becomes a post.

It is tribalism.  But that's not a bad thing, that's a good thing.  As a tribe, we're hyper-aware of free riders, who are their to exploit our efforts and our good times.  When we become aware that someone is a free-rider, because they are exposed to have the characteristics of free riders, and NOT the characteristics we expect, the social instinct it to ostracize that free rider immediately, without remorse, before it can make use of any more of our resources.

I put it to the reader, and in particular Tedankhamen, than we are not "rushing to take sides."  We're revealing something about ourselves as human beings.  Those "rushing" to dogpile on Zak and push him out of the community are those who believe there IS a community, who see the value and wealth of the community as being more important for the general welfare than risking any more resources falling into that hands of a free rider.  Those "rushing" to take Zak's side, or defend Zak's possible innocence, or otherwise find reasons why this might be a witch hunt, are those who don't care about the community except as a loose collection of competitors, where moral norms, shame, guilt and social responsibility aren't as important as MY freedom to act as I wish in a FREE zone of discussion.

Speaking as someone who was more ostracized by the community once than I am now, who is now often surprised to see people who "hated" me once now include me on their blog rolls (though of course, some never will), I'm going to say it clearly that the community as a whole is more important than I am.  That doesn't mean that I agree with the community, or its motivation, or its dogmatic appeal to the approval of the company.  But it does mean that I believe there is fundamental value in socially selecting the community to reward being able to follow the rules.  I believe that autodomestication of the general community population is necessary if the community is going to survive, and act as a force that influences further belief and activity in role-playing games, not only among ourselves but among those people who will come into the community in the future, even in the far-flung future, ten or twenty or fifty years from now.

We, including myself, who self-stated my desire to autodomesticate myself and my behaviour about three years ago, have an agenda to select those people in the future who will be allowed to participate in this community.  Sometimes, that selection is going to be "unfair."  Some of us, including myself, risk our ostracization by making the statements that we make, and standing up for the things we believe.  That is something that every opinionated person has to recognize ... and it is certainly a thing that many opinionated persons fail to respect, and justifiably fear, as they start flame war after flame war, or fail to be authentic, or fail to act in good conscience regarding the wellbeing of others.

I take my chances.  I know the risks.  But I also believe that posts like this one, where I state clearly what I believe, and why, and based on principles that we are all subject to, permits me the privilege of slipping off the chain occasionally.  I hate things.  I hate those things because I consider them disingenous, or exploitive, or deliberately supporting ignorant, damaging policies or ideologies that I think are hurting people's ability to find the best in themselves.  When I see those things, I react.  And I believe, as a writer, I can make it clear enough why I'm reacting, and why I'm angry, and why the reader should be angry too.

Free riders betray themselves when their anger is all "woe is me" and "I'm innocent" and "I just want another chance."  It raises the hackles of anyone who views community as more valuable than the individual's right to break the rules, and the distaste that follows doesn't need a trial.  It doesn't need an excuse.  It's visceral, just as I said.

When I'm angry at something, let's just take it for granted that I'm starting from a position of "Fuck Alexis and Fuck Alexis' needs."  I didn't give noisms crap a couple of weeks ago about "you do you" for my sake.  I'm not threatened by that shit.  And when I start out to kick the blighter in the balls, I'm definitely not innocent.  I'm an asshole. I'll be the first person to say so.  And I'm not asking for a chance to be heard.  I'll make my own chances, thank you.  I'm not angry for me.

I'm angry because that bullshit is toxic and destructive.  Me, I'm immune to it.  If I were only interested in my doing me, I wouldn't have looked up hive psychology and I wouldn't have spent time watching the video and half my morning writing this post.  But a lot of others aren't immune to it.  They don't have an argument against "you do you" and they don't have an argument for why they're justified in kicking Zak out of the gaming community.

But they do now.


Sorry.  I try.  I really try.  But it always comes back to this:

Friday, March 29, 2019

It's Visceral

"The thought occurred to me whether most of the folks so keen on 'banning' this person could stand up to the same scrutiny if applied to their sex life, and they have made one's 'sexual relationships' somehow the central part of the hobby of role playing games, are they really prepared for that?"
~comment by Branduan, related to a post on Blood of Prokopius

Forgive me, I feel the need to be political.

It is telling that this notion, that we are all guilty, has become an argument for those opposed to the #MeToo movement and as regards anything that ultimately holds a public person to account for their behaviour.  We're told, just as Zak S., the person in question here, is being vilified on account of details that came out in February 2019, you're not innocent, dear reader.  Why, you're probably just as much a rapist, a liar, a smug shithead, a toxic internet troll and a potential victim as Zak is.  And one day, you too will be caught!  Your name will be dragged in the mud.  And when that day comes, you'll be sorry you didn't stand up for Zak.  You'll be very sorry.

This has been a little pedantic, and the way I would explain it to a child ... but the concept is so bitterly infantile that it seems appropriate.  I've been in two internet conversations in the last month where someone directly attacked me with this argument ~ and of course, without acknowledgement that I might not be the cretinous liar and scumbag under discussed.  It is convenient for the argument that the maker can feel perfectly justified in calling anyone out, since clearly (they would argue) evidence isn't needed to find a person guilty.

Point in fact: Zak's guilt isn't relevant.  I recognize that it seems his guilt should be relevant, given that it would be a tragedy that he lost his reputation, his readership, his design associates and much of the future he had planned over a scheme directed at him by ... hm, how to put this so that it sounds like Zak is innocent ... a group of lying, nasty ex-lovers of his with an axe to grind, for lols.  [sorry, for my money, that sounds fucking ridiculous ~ but for the sake of argument, let that sit].

But it is not relevant because this isn't a court.  And Zak's popularity is not based on his innocence.  Zak invested his popularity whole hog in the very same women who are kneeing him in the balls, whether justifiably or not.  Zak put his head on the chopping block.  And Mandy hit it with her axe.

This doesn't seem to sink in with the apologists.  Frank Mentzer, another recent case, banked all of his credibility on his association with Gary Gygax, his ability to write game content and his friendly association with people in the RPG community.  And then he deliberately, whether or not innocently, went around pissing off people in that same community, swinging the entitlement he felt about the work he'd done, while failing to get a recent kickstarter off the ground and failing to pay people for work they'd done on his projects.

You just don't do that.  His reputation was built on people liking him.  His reputation was built on completing projects.  If you fuck up those two things, while letting yourself get dragged into a dumb bulletin board scrum, making wild threats against non-celebrities, it is going to bite you in the ass.

He didn't mind his business.  His guilt is irrelevant.  His actions suggest that people really shouldn't like him.  Being liked and not being liked are not subject to court cases, innocence before guilt or whether or not the haters are being "fair."

Here's a big fat shock for people who want to argue philosophy about the virtues of forgiveness and charity, or who want to warn us that the terrible Sword of Damocles hangs over all our heads.  We feel entitled to make up our minds about whomever we want, in any way we want.  We don't need a reason. We don't need to explain ourselves.  It isn't logical or rational.  It's visceral.

There are a lot of people on the internet that hate me.  I haven't used any women to make my blog; I haven't threatened people on bulletin boards.  I haven't tried to use my influence to get anyone banned from anything.  I don't have any influence.  Because I'm very much disliked by a great many people.  I don't feel they have a good reason to dislike me.  They don't know me.  They don't know how generous I can be or how quiet and peaceful I am.  Nevertheless, they feel very much, absolutely, that I deserve, truly deserve, the burning fire of their hatred, given that I occasionally crap on 5e or because I write mockingly about storytelling or heroes of theirs like Coleville.  I'm a nutjob.  I'm a fucking asshole.  I'm grouchy and self-centered.  I'm narcissistic.  I'm likely autistic.  I have mental health issues and I'm sociopathic. These are all words that have been used to describe me by people on twitter and elsewhere ... and that is the tip of the iceberg.

If hate is the only criteria, why am I still here, and not being haranged right now, while Zak and Frank are being burned in effigy?

I hitched my wagon to this blog, my work ethic and my philosophy.  I did not hitch my wagon to porn stars.  I did not film myself with porn stars as a means of achieving fame.  And I did not then give those same porn stars a reason to knock off my head.

I presented a philosophy that some readers could appreciate.  I don't exploit these readers.  I try to teach.  That's all.  If someone can somehow expose me to my readers as "not actually being a teacher," I'm in terrible, terrible trouble.

I can't imagine how my sex life would be relevant.  If my partner Tamara starting writing truly awful letters about me, I don't doubt that my readers would have reason to pause.

But here's the thing:  tomorrow, Tamara and I will have been together for 17 years.  It's our anniversary.  We're rather overmuch in love with each other.  Of all the things in the world I have to worry about, being stabbed in the back by my love is not one of them.  I suppose that's very difficult to imagine for a lot of people to imagine ... that two people can be so much in love, that their lives can be so tightly wound together, where the pain one feels is immediate felt, and healed, by the other.  If my "sexual relationship" became a huge thing online, Tamara and I would sit down, turn on a mic and spend quite awhile talking about it, until others would understand exactly where we were with that.

That won't work for #MeToo "victims" like Zak.

Guess why.

Swimming Movement and Endurance

Every refining of a particular rule opens up so many other things, it becomes like playing whack-a-mole.  Working on constitution pressed me to finally establish some forced march rules, very much simplified from concepts I proposed last year.  And that in turn means having to upgrade the endurance for swimming, so that I'm dragged making tables for that too.  It all gets in the way of my posting here, so I end up having to steal from the wiki to create something here so I can get back to design.

Swimming in the 17th century was a rare ability. Most characters able to swim will gain the ability through the character background generator, through their abilities or because their fathers were fishermen, sailors, boatmen, explorers, shipwrights or buccaneers. Some characters, particularly druids and fighter classes specializing in waterborne adventuring, will be able to swim through their sage abilities.

Swimming is not possible while more than more than 5% encumbered - clothing and magic armor (which still has weight) must be considered in all calculations. More than 5% encumbrance will drag creatures below the water surface, making it impossible to breathe.

The table shown indicates the speed that the character can manage, depending on their strength and how much energy is used. "Sprinting" is swimming all out, as hard as the character can. "Sustained" describes the speed moved as the character keeps pace and breathes normally. Finally, an "exhausted" swimmer would be one that is pushing past their comfort level, so that they are moving slower and saving whatever effort they have left.

As an example, a character with a 14 strength that chooses to sprint, will swim a distance of 8½ combat hexes per round (faster than walking but not as fast as running). This would be 17 total hexes, about slightly over the length of a swimming pool every 24 seconds.

The total base distance, shown in feet, describes the approximate distance the character will be able to swim before they must make a constitution check due to fatigue. Characters that are sprinting or swimming in a sustained manner will get tired. This is determined by the total number of hexes that have been swum, as indicated by the second table.

The three columns under sprinting, sustained and exhausted shows the number of hexes that can be crossed before the character is unable to swim at that speed, according to their constitution. Note that characters with a three constitution do not have the fortitude to swim at all. Those with a four constitution can manage no more than a very short exhausted swim, for a distance of no more than five feet. And finally, characters with a five constitution cannot sprint.

Once a character has sprinted as far as they are able, they must adopt a sustained pace. They cannot sprint again until they have rested for five minutes, or 25 rounds. Having rested, they may sprint again, but only for one half the distance as before. Afterwards, they must rest for at least twice as long. This continues until the character is no longer able to sprint.

Once a character has swum at a sustained pace as long as they are able, they are no longer able to swim at that pace, nor are they able to sprint, for the remainder of that day (until they have had a full night's rest). This is also true if they have both sprinted and kept a sustained pace for the total time of both combined, as shown on the table. From then on, the character can only swim while exhausted.

For example, a character with a 12 constitution sprints for 11 rounds, then gets out and rests. They then sprint again, for 5 rounds (fractions are ignored), for a total of 16 rounds. The same character then swims at a sustained pace for 29 more rounds. This makes a total of 45 rounds ... the base total of both sprinting and sustained rounds. Thereafter, the character is limited to swimming while exhausted.

Once the character has crossed the total number of hexes they can swim while exhausted, they must make a constitution check. A successful check will let the character swim for an additional 25 rounds, whereupon another check must be made.

Failing this check will indicate that the humanoid's lung capacity/heart/muscles have given out, whereupon the character will slip helplessly below the surface of the water, unable to continue swimming.

Humanoids that are naked and greased may increase their sprinting speeds and endurance (potential distance) by 10%. Transformations that provide fins, flippers or webbed-fingers can increase all speeds and endurance by 30%. Gills or water breathing can increase maximum distances by 100%.

Swimming distances should be adjusted where currents and river flow affect freedom of movement. This will depend on the speed of the current.

Swimming speed will also be affected by wind speed. Reduce both speed and endurance by 20% in a gentle breeze (force 3), then 25% more for each point of force above that: moderate (45%), fresh (70%), and strong breeze (95%). No meaningful swimming can be performed in heavier conditions, which will make the swimmer helpless among the buffeting waves.

Treading Water does not allow any travel but will suspend a constitution check for 1 round per point of constitution.

See Also
Player Characters
Sea Life
Swimming Combat

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Further Coursework

30 classes.  And more than seven months of thinking to put them together.  I could stop here.  There's content left, starting with how intuition creates the necessary leap that enables subject proficiency over competency ... and then an exploration, somehow, of the pathway between proficiency and expertise, which I admit right now I don't see clearly.

Like all my serial posts, I learn just as much as the reader does.  Before starting this, I hadn't considered anything from Dreyfuss before, I hadn't read any of Zittouns works, I couldn't point to knowledge about ruptures and reconstruction ... seven months ago I was ignorant of a great deal that I can see perfectly clearly now.  That is how research is supposed to work.  Have a goal, investigate the goal, then order it in our thoughts until it makes sense.

If I took those thirty classes and re-examined the material from my present perspective, I'm sure I'd have a lot more to say and a lot of other directions to research.  I could put together a pretty hefty tome, I figure.  Most likely bigger than How to Run.  Worth the effort, I think.

I've been thinking on other courses.  RPG 203 would have to be the History of Role-playing Games.  I'm definitely not up for that, not now.  I'd have to read the more popular books on the subject ... and then put the material together in a way that explored what choices were made in changing the game, and why.  And ultimately, ask which were the right ones.  I'm not up for it, and not anytime soon.  There's a lot of prejudice in the material, mostly from thousands of people who each know a tiny slice of the truth.  Getting ahead of them, from a place where I am far less informed than they are, would be a vicious uphill climb.  Not one that I think I'd like, either.

RPG 205 is Game Theory and Role-playing Games.  I'm up for that.  I've got half the work done, lying around, from a series of posts I wrote in 2017.  I'd go back to the beginning, start again from pure game theory and then re-examine each point I made, with an eye to supporting it with outside material.  That's certainly worth considering.

RPG 207 stumps me a little.  It should probably be something along the lines of Social Culture and Role-playing Games, discussing group dynamics, passion, reasons for interest, personal evolution and practical applications of RPGs, from childhood and up through late adolescence into adulthood.  Collaborating with an anthropologist or a sociologist would be key, I think.  It would need someone ready and able to do the field work; I'm can't trust any field work that's ever been done and I'm not the sort to do it myself.

From there, it's in depth stuff.  RPG 300 (and possibly RPG 301) could be a full term course on  Worldbuilding ~ theory, practice, fundamentals of design, functionalism and ultimately redesigning for participant behavior.  That's a tall order, but certainly one that's wanted.

RPG 302 is, naturally, Narrative Development ~ taking the principles of the 29th class and expanding them forward, concentrating heavily on examples and decontruction of same, understanding the fundamentals.   I think I could manage that, with a minimum of unpleasantness, and it would likely do a great deal for my writing.

And RPG 304 would be Drama and Role-playing Games ~ following the proposals made in the 28th class.

From there, I'm sketchy.  Writing a course on worldbuilding would undoubtedly create another 300-level course, and probably a 400 level.  I can't say for sure what other courses might be inspired ... but then, seven months ago I knew a lot less than I do now.

I can hear the mouths watering as the reader considers this.  That, to me, is a point by itself.  These 30 courses that I've written demonstrate that such work would be more than a bunch of unsupported advice, which is all we generally see when anyone proposes creating a text on worldbuilding or creating a narrative.  We've all read material such as this page:
"Mapping And Plot
"Sketch a rough outline of the world. Not anything detailed, but just the basics - what countries or kingdoms there are, obvious geographical features, such as oceans and major mountain ranges, etc. Fill in only the capitols of each kingdom, and maybe a major city or two.
"If you plan to choose a starting area for your players, even the above information is unnecessary. Skip the broad outlines and settle on the place where your party's adventure will start. Either way, this area will need the most detail. If you do choose to start with a rough map, and the players hail from different areas, add a few details to those places as well.
"If your players need more information to flesh out their backgrounds than you've provided, consider a bit of collaborative world-building. Your bard wants to be from a small island nation? Throw one in that empty patch of ocean off the coast. The party's fighter trained at a monastery in the mountains? Sure. There are now three different monasteries in that small range to the north; which one is he from?"

Johnn Four is a regular reader here, so I want to be gentle.  The text means well, but we need more than a rough outline of a world.  The players will not be intrigued by obvious geographical features, the existence of capitols or a city.  Telling us to settle on a place to start is an invitation to our frustration.  Which place?  What does it need?  And why?  What's a good place to start.  If we say "any place," how does that remotely help me?  Don't tell me the place needs more detail.  Tell me which details it needs. Specifically.  Give me a list.  Don't make it a few items, but do focus on the two or three hundred critical things.  We're all for giving the bard a background because its wanted, but don't forget this means at some point, we have to make a small island nation out of whole cloth.  The same goes for the monastery; and I presume some religion and/or philosophy it follows.  Do I simply let the player invent that?  What part of the monastery's background, in the world that I have to run, am I allowed to dictate over the player's expectations?  Help me out here.

It is not far from someone saying, if you have a barbecue and a neighbor says he wants crab meat, well hell, ditch your guests and get that crab meat for him!  He wants it.

There has to be a better approach to worldbuilding than this.  An ordered, rational, logistic approach, where the work ~ however much there is of it ~ offers clear cut paths to effectiveness, so that as I start on that long laborous road I know I'm not wasting my time.  I can't learn things from vague, sweeping gestures.  I can't see how "adding a few details" produces solid, positive results from my players during the course of my campaign.

Academic course work is not about suggestions or tips.  It is teaching, the process whereby we invest others with knowledge, competences and values.  This dictates that there must be a right and a wrong; a correct way, based upon a tried and true curriculum, based on accepted theories and established methods.  When the course is done, it must be a fact that the student, if they have done their coursework and followed along, will know how to worldbuild when the course ends.  Q.E.D.

I'm not there yet.  I'd need to do my research first.  But I feel from the coursework I've provided so far in the creation of this course, RPG 201: Practice and Method in Role-playing Games, a sense of confidence that the correct material does exist and can be applied across all the proposed courses outlined above.

There's a lot of work to do.

30th Class: Worldbuilding and Life

Finally, with this class we're going to discuss the third "insolvable" problem of role-playing: "How do we create a world that is believable and interesting enough that our players will care about it?"

First, we must identify why we consider the problem insolvable.  In a word, time.  There is not enough of it to contain the imagination of a human being, who is comfortable living in a real world that includes within it concepts of space, people, technology, history, culture, social structure, commerce and other piddling details like climate, random events and physical laws.  It is not enough that we have physical laws ~ we demand a set of physical that enable an element of fancy and imagination, permitting the existence of impractical things like dragons, magic, intelligent mutated beings and laser pistols.

As humans, we're fully capable of conceptualizing all of these things, even making them so real in our thoughts that we may convince ourselves that gnomes really do live in the garden, that there really is a cloaked alien ship watching Earth's culture from an orbit just beyond the moon's and that a boogeyman really is sitting in my closet right now.  Human imagination is compelling, far reaching and quite capable of mastering reality and making it submit.  But worldbuilding is not merely imagination.

Worldbuilding is fixing imagination so that the people at my game table, Geri, Sam, Matt, Michelle and Jordan, all understand exactly what I'm describing, to the point where their imaginations fall into alignment with mine.

Moreover, it is one thing to ensure that we agree on what a boogeyman looks like, what his motivations likely are, what powers he possesses and what things we must do to preserve ourselves from him ... it is another thing entirely to master the details of hundreds upon hundreds of different fictional beings, then to design homes for them, then to collect the homes into jurisdictions and assign personalities and motivations to each of those jurisdictions, until we had a composite arrangement that was large enough to fill a world and indeed a whole universe.  If human beings measured their lifespans in centuries instead of decades, we might each embark comfortably on the notion that we will "create an imaginary world" quite comfortably, even as a mental exercise without any purpose except to amuse ourselves.  Unfortunately, we're playing together this Friday, so we're a little pressed for time.  No one is prepared to wait for our first efforts to manifest by 2063.

As such, we don't build worlds.  We build facades, which come in two forms.

The first is the top-down approach, also called outside-in.  This is intended to create a general overview of the setting, determining its broad characteristics.  Using this perspective, we divide the land from the sea, giving the world form.  We scatter the land with greenery, deserts, mountains, rivers and so on, establishing where it is livable and where nothing will grow.  We divide the land generally into nations, or peoples, perceiving in our minds whom these peoples will trade with and war with; and we scatter towns and cities over the nations according to our whim.  We then populate both the fruitful areas and the barren areas with beasts and monsters.  In our process of doing this, we feel like gods.  We look at our creations and we sigh with the magnificence of order that we have brought forth with paper and ink.

But where it comes to running any part of that world, as a DM presenting the game to players, we might just as well not have a map at all.  The broad strokes delineating space for seas, and borders between lands, and towns within borders, have told us nothing that we did not already know would be there.  The existence of war or trade are a certainty.  Towns are a certainty.  Regions and seas and all the topographical features we can splash about are all certainties.  As a player in the world, I expect the kingdom I'm in, whatever title the entity is called, will be run by someone, it will employ an army and a police force, it will have laws, it will make room for merchants to sell things, it will regulate the population's behaviour and it will act in the same old way that large political entities must.  A map and a god that makes the map provide me nothing I do not already know about the world, though the map may look impressive and represent work the DM is prepared to perform, that I am not.  For that reason I bestow my awe, as I look upon the great wall map that has been presented.  But then I sit at the table and the map is merely an affectation.  I do not care how far I am from the Kingdom of Grengramore.  I care how far I am from the treant that is angrily rattling its branches.

The second form is the bottom-up, or the inside-out.  Now we build a small part of the world, with detailed local geography, customs, an immediate social structure for my benefit, the specifics of the who is the boss of whom and perhaps the source of wealth.  Every building is described and its location dictated, the monsters and people are carefully placed, each relevant person in the area has been given their personality and I am introduced to their names, one by one.  I can see from the locally drawn map that the tavern door is six graph squares, or 30 feet, from the town well, which in turn is 7 squares from the front steps of the church, or temple.  Each tree is drawn in.  It is a very tactile, defined space, providing me with all the details I need to know as a player.

We presume that because it is detailed, that it is alive.  It isn't.  The presence of the butcher and the taverner, the churchman's daughter and the gentleman farmer are as bland and lifeless to me as are entire fictional kingdoms and vast seas.  Nothing in this detailed set-piece is a surprise.  I know going in that someone must be in authority here, and that something must be the cause of the area's wealth, and that someone pours drinks and that someone else attends to the spiritual needs of the people.  These "people" are nothing more than empty masks, moving about in a charade that is designed to service my presence as a player and nothing more.  It is a set-piece.  Each creature in it waits in repose, motionless, until I walk into the shop, until I ask for a room.  The more detail that is given, the less compelling it becomes.

Instinctively, we've convinced ourselves that if we make a semblance of a kingdom, or the semblance of a culture, or the semblance of a person, then the realness of the person will follow in its wake.  This is cargo cult thinking.  We have performed the ritual of worldbuilding.  We know this is what's expected of us as DMs, in some regard at least.  And having performed the ritual, we wait.  We wait for our creation to shudder into life.  But all we've done is to build a barren monstrosity.

Intuitively, we need to understand that we cannot bring to life something we don't understand.  Lines on a map are not oceans and images of mountains are not mountains.  We need to know something about the formation of these things, and how one part differs from another, before we are able to present any part of it to the players.  We need to know how a kingdom works.  We need to know more about the taverner's life than his propensity to serve drinks.  A village is not just a collection of buildings, depicted as being such and such a distance apart.  People are not merely heart, brain and limbs.  To run people, we must understand people.  We must have the experience with people in order to give them the spark that will make them alive.

It is not the drink-serving that defines the bartender, but what led him to a life of serving drinks.  It is not the location of the tavern that matters, but the dependency the village has upon it.  The shape and the size of the village are less important than the sense of hope or transformation that is taking place while the players are there.  I don't care who runs the place; I care where it is running.  The borders and the history of the kingdom mean far, far less than the kingdom's health and future.  Where is everybody going?  What wonderful or horrible consequence is prayed for or feared, that consumes the population?

Nor is it enough that I understand kingdoms or people.  My players must understand them also.  My players must be on board.  We discussed the importance of the players taking part in the presentation of the game; they must likewise invest themselves in the world.  They must show interest.  As the world jostles forward into the future, the players must strive to find their seats, they must have the opportunity to say what future they want to see.  They must be able to take a part in creating that future.  They cannot just sit in the car, as though we were on a midway ride.  They must have the power to get out of the car, then rebuild the car, then create their own track to put their rebuilt car upon.  The world we build must be maleable enough for that.

But still ... time.  It is always time.  It takes less time to build a straw plane than one that will fly.  It takes less time to make a person out of straw than it takes to read books and investigate the whole human race, from its biology to its prejudices to its purposes.  And it is often easy to fool people who have done no reading themselves that a straw man is every bit as good as a real one.

Worldbuilding is not insolvable.  It is, however, mind-bogglingly complex and research-driven.  The estimate of how much time it will take alone is enough to daunt pride, crush hope, diminish resolve and explode expectations of success.

Class, listen to me carefully as I say this.  So what?  So it isn't easy.  We shouldn't expect things to be easy.  Success and triumph, the sort that will define what we are and why we feel pride at all, are things that cost ... but the payoff gives us the power to look others in the eye with amusement, when we hear them complain about effort and time and difficulty.  It is, in truth, none of those things.  It is effort that rewards us, and time spent fruitfully that gives us delight, and difficulty that intrigues and brings the satisfaction of success.  It is all upside, when the question is considered, what were we going to do with all that time, anyway?

Until our next class, people.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Dexterity Issues

Last night I think I cracked the code on breaking down the constitution stat. There's still a lot of work there, so I have nothing to show today.  Still, the goal is to apply the same construction to all the ability stats, with time, so for a moment I wanted to talk about dexterity.

Dexterity is an odd stat.  While it belongs, and it's physical like constitution and strength, dexterity has a strange quality in that it is potential ability in so many aspects.  We teach people how to manipulate objects and play sports, or how to play musical instruments.  To some degree we do these things on our own, but real facility at something requires training.  Children's games build on this, as so many of them are designed to challenge our dexterity by training our hand-eye coordination.  No adult invented dodgeball.  It is a game that grows out of the much-less-pleasant dodgerock, adapted by cruel educators to teach both dexterity skills and the realities of social abuse.

In separating a 12 dexterity from a 13, it is much harder to do that from a visual standpoint.  A more nimble person might seem properly more lean as their dexterity increases, but we have plenty of celebrity examples to show that's not necessarily true.  Large, bulky persons find tremendous comic potential in being both gigantic and profoundly agile.

The truth is, the difference between a 12 and a 13 is in their potential to shine once introduced to a skill.  The 12 dexterity might barely survive in double-A baseball, while a 13 will do all right.  A 14 will drift back and forth between double-A and triple-A, while a 15 might imaginably dream about playing in "the show" for as much as a week, if the Boston Red Sox suffer a lot of injuries.  All these players would look similar, with like body-types, reach, stance, even the way the walked.  But they wouldn't be the same.

So how to measure it?  Probably, by defining different qualities related to those things that can be taught.  What dexterity do you need to snatch a baseball out of the air one handed, or target a football while in mid fall, with a tackle's arms around your waist?  Or, in D&D terms, what is the minimum dexterity for using a bow?  Throwing a dagger?  Jumping 10 feet?  What level of dexterity do you need to so that you don't need to make a check in order to climb a ship's rigging?  In a storm?  When there's ice on the ropes?

The reader should know I hate random checks to see if someone who can jump 12 feet might manage to jump 15 just this once, because that's the difference between ledges.  I loved track and committed to it throughout high school, but long jump just wasn't my thing.  I could jump 12 feet 1 inch, or 12 feet 4 inches, or 12 feet 5 inches.  Three more feet might as well have been the moon.  It wasn't because I didn't have the potential.  Long jump requires training to get past what we can do with physical force and will.  There's a way of jumping off, of hitting your last step perfectly, of throwing your lower body forward as you swing your body in the air, of "running" while flying.  It is a spectacular ballet. It doesn't happen naturally.  The coach tried hard to communicate it to me, but I just couldn't figure it out.

Without that connection, having failed that training, I'm not going to suddenly be able to jump three more feet because the die says 20.  It is one of the silliest notions of 3rd edition mechanics, as it insists we ignore everything about reality.

I'm not fond of measuring anything with a list of stuff that a person can and can't do, as it is never a complete list and the more things added to it, the more arbitrary the list becomes.  I'll need to do a proper amount of research to learn if there are any measures on agility that already exist ~ people ARE researching this stuff, we don't have to make it up out of whole cloth.  For the present, I'm puzzling it out, asking questions and identifying the problem.  That's the first step.

The Big Picture

As a writer and a role-player, I am a believer in numbers.  I believe that numbers are the reason why D&D became a phenomenon at all.  Whatever some might say about the actual role-playing, or the spirit of adventure and so on, none of it would have gotten off the ground without the six basic ability stats.  Ozymandias recently wrote a post about the fundamentals of D&D.  For me, the fundamentals are in the game's design, and the understanding of that design.  The six ability stats, and their conjuration, is the one single eureka moment in role-playing.  We don't give enough thought to how much the game hinges on these numbers.

It has bugged me for years that in the strictest of game terms, where so much of the game relies upon self-image and understanding clearly what that image is, that we have never been able to identify clearly what it means to have a "12" constitution as opposed to a "13" constitution.

We know how to make the numbers dance.  The 13 gives us a very slight edge on the 12 where it comes to checks and rolls ... but honestly, if the two persons were standing side by side, how do we see that this one is a 12 and this one is a 13?

There are only 16 variations in body type, after all, between characters that can barely function with a 3 constitution and those who are the very peak of condition with an 18.  That's not very many.  You would notice if your body were suddenly given a spectacular one point boost in resilience, health, fortitude and endurance.  You would really notice.  You'd be out right now, running and bicycling ... and probably high as blazes, since that boost in constitution would mean an unholy blast of both endorphins and adrenaline.

Yet ... we're supposed to ignore all that.  Who has posted their personal list of subdivisions, hm?  I've never seen one.  Apparently, we think it's impossible, or that it just doesn't matter.  The only third reason I can think of is that people just haven't thought about it.  That seems ... hard to believe.

Louis XIII, King of France from 1601 to 1643;
my game world takes place in 1650.
I had a commenter today who disputed my interpretations of charisma points, which is exactly what I expected.  There's no question my interpretations were weird.  I had a bunch of pages open, I was researching the hell out of charisma, trying to fine-tune the descriptions for each point of gain through a careful use of the thesaurus.  At each point along the pathway, I considered the next logical advancement.  The complete Quasimodo of a charisma is improved by pity, then sympathy, which leads to tolerant indifference.  If I could think of a sliver between sympathy and tolerant indifference, I would have used it.  The next step up the ladder is occasional notice ... the plain girl, the schoolteacher, to whom everyone is polite but no one wants to marry.  From there, I could see a pattern of attention for the individual following a path of social class.

Common people will marry and associate with common people, but the middle class doesn't and neither does the gentry.  Once your charismatic enough to gain the attention of the middle class, you fall out of the orbit of the common; increase further and the gentry get interested in you.  Then, finally, the real players take notice: those with real power and those with titles.  With each group, it is the same progression ... from inattention to some attention to complete attention.  And as you rise above the class, they see you as less and less attainable.

Of course, we in the 21st century, have been taught by films to believe that everyone is attainable.  Fat, ugly men in television sit-coms are constantly married to women with model bodies. Men in their 70s have affairs with beautiful women in their 30s.  It is a fantasy.  Viewed coldly, it is a ridiculous fantasy ~ which we justify by supposing it can be made to work with money.  And the ditzes from Orange County encourage that mockery.

My world, however, takes place in the 17th century, not the 21st.  There's no film, no "entertainment industry," there's a profoundly calcified social strata at play and most people live and die within 10 miles of where they're born.  Masques were worn by attractive women who moved in the upper circles; attractive men gathered in tight cliques and ~ like the Karate Kid ~ acting like complete assholes towards everyone who did not measure up to their evaluation.  Beautiful milk maids were the stuff of fairy tales ... in other words, so completely and absolutely unlikely that these stories became told over and over as fantasies for people who were tittilated by an amazingly attractive woman living in a fireplace.  We've deluded ourselves, in this century, with the belief that the fairy tales had a hint of truth in them ... but of course, we never apply that "hint of truth" to the magic that's cast or the "happily ever after" that neatly wraps up the story.  We're perfectly ready to be jaded about that nonsense.

So as I envisioned characters getting more and more attractive and personable, I thought about how uncomfortable that would be for common folk.  This fabulous popular and attractive fellow of 15 charisma walks into a workman's bar in the evening; the workers have had a hard day's labor behind him, but this fair fellow is on a first name basis with the mayor, he's a bon vivant around town and he has a fine position as the master of the dockyard, which he obtained through being very likeable.  What is the worker going to say around this fellow?  Can the workers be themselves, while this fellow is here?  Can they cut up and tell rude jokes, and bitch about the leaders of the guild, with this fellow in the room?  Of course not.  So they all get very quiet.  And polite.  Oh, of course, the fair fellow is pleasant, even generous.  And it is very kind of him to take notice of us common folk for a bit.  But he makes us nervous.  And he reminds us we are never going to look like he looks, or talk like he does, or have what he has.

That is only going to get worse as the charisma increases.

For myself, I ended up there without intending to do so.  I simply saw no other way around it.

But I was going to take a moment and talk about those who commented about the subjectivity of charisma.  I was asked, is the charismatic person still charismatic if they're in a culture that is not their own?  Surely, charisma only applies to one's own people ... what with different customs and attitudes, charisma must diminish when it shifts elsewhere.

I honestly don't know where that comes from.  We have endless stories of explorers entering lands on all the continents being embraced and beloved by complete strangers in utterly odd parts of the world.  It wasn't at all uncommon for a European to make friends in Japan, among the Hurons and in the deepest parts of Africa ... the charismatic individual simply cast their own habits aside and adopted the habits of the natives.  "Going native," like Gordon of Khartoum or Lawrence of Arabia, goes back beyond Alexander the Great, who fell in love with Persian customs and married a Persian woman, after conquering the country.  We know his fellow Greeks thought this very, very strange.  Dio and Plutarch both write extensively about Alexander's beauty, charisma, communication skills ... and about the obsession he developed for prostration (look it up), which was very NOT Greek.

Charisma has far more power than merely to manipulate.  Charisma is an adaptation.  It allows the individual to become our best friend, by embodying all the characteristics we want to see in a best friend.  The high charisma individual moves through the crowd, mutating instantly from person to person, so that each person feels special, each individual feels like they really know the fair fellow.  But the fair fellow is, in truth, unknowable.  He isn't just one person.  He is hundreds of people, at once.

He could win over the common folk in the bar, if he wanted to.  He could don their clothes, he could go down into the mines with them or work in their fields, and soon he would be adopted as one of their own.  Because he is just so darn likeable.  But honestly, why would he?

One in a thousand might find that interesting.  Thomas More did, and so did Francis of Assisi.  Victor Hugo had that strain in him and so did Leo Tolstoy.  But most beautiful, capable, charming people despise the meek and the common people.  The meek and the common have nothing they want, while they can perform the same mastery of language and likeability with princes and kings.  Why would they wallow in the muck with the pigs?  Why would they enter the bar at all, except to see what it was before getting back in their coach and going to their more interesting, diverting lives?

Please don't think that any list like this I put together is mere manure slung at a wall.  I am not merely invested in doing such things right, I'm working from a very large pile of sources, the sort that most role-players wouldn't think of reading.  Though I urge you to read them.  They're difficult and complex, and full of references that it takes decades to feel certain about, but the depth of information is amazing.

I'm reading a book now, called War and Society in Renaissance Europe, 1450-1620, by J.R. Hale.  I'll give a taste:
"There was probably no single year throughout the period in which there was neither war nor occurrences that looked and felt remarkably like tit.  There were a number of unstable frontiers ~ Scotland/England, Spain/Portugal, France/Spain, French/Imperial Burgundy, Christian/Turkish Hungary ~ which were zones of constant raids and counter-raids, where no one worked unarmed and no garrison force could do what it liked best to do, namely, pawn its arms and make love to taverner's daughters.  The practice of reprisal, whereby a shipowner was empowered by government to recover by violence the value of goods lost by piracy or unlawful sequestration in port, grew into privateering, or piracy-by-licence that made marines, guns and convoys as necessary in peace as in open war.  Moreover, as frontiers, after surveys by land commissioners and the construction of strong-points, did become more stable, especially in the later sixteenth century, their place as zones whence military escalation was always possible was taken by 'those who are called to be the rulers of states should have glory, expansion and enrichment as their principal aims.'  But he did not see expansion as leading to enrichment, though he hoped that wars of conquest might at least recover theri costs.  No government, no privte theorist saw profit as a tenable aim of war; enrichment was to be achieved by a more methodical development of a country's own economical potential and the nurturing of favorable balance of exports against imports.  This process could be benefitted by war, but only to the extent that a foreign war calmed, by diverting, civil passions and gave governments the excuse to pack off the unproductive elements in society ~ rogues, vagabonds and paupers ~ to be slaughtered."

What does any of that have to do with charisma?  To begin with, the above is real.  It isn't dragons, it isn't wizards sending people off to recover quest McGuffins, it's the hardcore business of managing power in huge, massive chunks, with unfathomable consequences hinging on wrong decisions.  The mastery of those decisions ~ what keeps the subordinates from killing off the kings pulling the triggers on the wars and legal justifications and pushback, is charisma.  It isn't strength, it's intelligence to some degree, it's certainly wisdom ... but it is most of all the other stats employed by people who are capable of being liked enough to get a law passed without being murdered in their bed.

In the 16th and 17th centuries, this above was the game.  And for those with the charm to get in the door to take some small part, the halls of power offered something the local bar just didn't offer.  When making a system that defined what charisma was, and how it was applied, I didn't limit my framework to whether or not the girl at the bar looked nice.  I went all in.

I do wish that people would really get it into their heads how vast role-playing is ... all from a set of numbers and rules to play with them.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Charisma Breakdown

This ... took awhile.

Again, I plan to post it here and also on my wiki, under the heading of charisma. It is a breakdown of each point of charisma that a character might possess, from 3-18, in detail as you can see. I imagine some really, really won't like it. Others will quibble the exact divisions. The highest four categories, from 15 to 18, are going to surprise. I'm tempted to explain it; but I think I'll wait to see if someone asks me about it in the comments first. There's a lot here.

Measuring charisma is an effort to quantify the effects the ability stat has upon the reactions of others, their spontaneous treatment of the individual and their overall generosity to award the individual with opportunities and status. Low charisma individuals are met with revulsion and distaste, treated with disdain and usually ostracized or left out of social gatherings and organizations. High charisma individuals are met with liking and interest, are treated as desirable and often rise to positions of authority and trust within organizations.

The increase in charisma from ugly to bewitching compounds benefits that each amount of charisma above that level also enjoys (except where it is superseded by a more rewarding benefit). Creatures are capable of being particularly cruel to individuals of low charisma, whatever they might do; while often awarding those of high charisma more than they really deserve, as they often do little to earn it. 

The descriptions below only partly describe player characters. For such persons as those detailed here, it will often take years of commitment to rise through the ranks and be discovered for their charisma. Those with very high charismas, above 14, will be much less common than the dice might imaginably dictate. Some may be born with a 16 or more charisma, but a harsh life, accidents, poor health, disease and other consequences may severely diminish their potential. Only those charismatic who are born at least partly to privilege will remain so long enough to enjoy it. Players, of course, fall into this category. They, too, are unusual, even those whose fathers and mothers were common (though the character background generator adjusts their backgrounds with their charisma).

In large degree, it is suggested that a DM recognize that an extraordinarily beautiful and pleasant person moving about a late medieval or early modern world casually, as a cleric, bard, paladin or druid, would likely be seen as something of a freak. The list below is intended to effect that depiction.

Ugly (3 pts.)
Reactions to such persons will often be a mixture of repugnance and horror, as ugly persons are generally misshapen, frightful and even ghastly in appearance. Unusual color, a rank odour and outward signs that are suggestive of disease (even if no disease is present) is repellent and produces a strong aversion.

Treatment is harsh, as the ugly character tends to be manic, aggressive, needy and often unable to make themselves clearly understood, often due to the shape of their mouths and their lack of confidence, others will treat them with contempt, disrespect, abuse and verbal derision. Mockery is a common response.

Generosity is utterly lacking for such persons; it is extremely rare that they are given a place or means to make a living, unless it is in some role that is wretched or very unpleasant. They are often the victim of some person who cruelly exploits their dreadful condition. Otherwise, they are often too ugly to even beg, and are thus reduced to scavenging for food. Some are taken in and taught to be assassins ~ the only character class such persons can aspire to be, as no other profession would be moved to train them.

Ill-favoured (4 pts.)
Reactions are often a strong dislike and disinclination to interact with such persons, as the ill-favoured often appear to be physically damaged, demented or mutilated in appearance. Often deathly pale, possessed of straggling hair, off-set eyes or a strong odour, the response is usually abhorrence. However, there is a softening of the appearance occasionally, that will move another person to a sense of pity for the poor creature.

Treatment is inflexible, as the ill-favoured character cannot help their boorish mannerisms, their odd-pitched speech and their corrupt use of language; they are shuffled from place to place, living by handout, forced to feel ashamed for themselves and friendless. But there is little hate; merely callous disregard. As ever, only assassins would train such a person to level status.

Generosity permits very little. They may knock on a door in very poor times. Some will let them find shelter in an airy stable or behind a stoop. No employment would be given; only beggary is available. As before, such persons drift into the orbit of assassins, who look for persons like this with the other necessary characteristics to become heartless killers.

Base (5 pts.)
Reactions possess a hesitation to shun the person, but still to push them along so as to relieve themselves of the person’s unwanted presence. The base individual is vulgar in appearance, unclean, a whiff of odour, while disagreeable in face and posture. While distaste is rare, others will be sharply displeased or dismayed at the individual’s presence, urging them to move on and mind their business elsewhere. This is often said with some sympathy, supported by some small bit of charity … a copper coin or a direction to a proprietor to get the base person a bit of bread.

Treatment includes distaste and an urge to cross the street rather than meet the individual, but not everyone feels that way. There is daily humour at the expense of the person, but it is jovial, not cruel. Others treat the person as “a part” of their community, though from habit rather than warmth.

Generosity allows for open beggary, which even allows the person to be treated with momentary kindness. No other place would be given, except for a modest permission to allow them a permanent shelter, though an unpleasant one. Even now, only assassins would train the person to have a level.

Homely (6 pts.)
Reactions may be a sniff of the air and a moderate displeasure; the homely person’s face and body is off-putting, being bent over, gangly and somewhat lopsided. They will have a cheerful smile, however and are seen to be only unfortunate; if met, they’re rarely acknowledged, and even more rarely noticed. Others will usually given them little to no attention.

Treatment would consist of benign disinterest. Others would pass on the street with a slight nod, if giving any notice at all. Still, no one challenges their presence in the community. Folk sell them goods, exchange with the person, give a tacit approval and speak well of the person, somewhat.

Generosity provides a form of necessary work, as a gong collector, rat catcher, gravedigger or similar occupation, too mean for an ordinary folk. Some will be levelled; a fighter that’s gone to war; a ranger acting as a gamekeeper; an independent friar; a small-time thief or assassin; perhaps a very private monk, mage or illusionist, in this latter case most likely from far away and without any ties. Most would know nothing of their levelled ability, as they will use their skills infrequently, not wishing to bring attention and perhaps frighten others, who would see them as a threat.

Plain (7 pts.)
Reactions are lukewarm and indifferent, with a tacit approval that the individual belongs as part of the scene. A mild greeting is normal. Often passed over but usually acknowledged. Plain individuals lack any sort of distinctive feature, with a modest mix of eyes, nose and mouth, suggesting rural habits, honest intents and an artless lack of pretension. They are nodded to or quietly acknowledged as they pass.

Treatment is cooperative, sometimes helpful; persons are likely to remain alone all their lives, but might become a helpmate to a commonplace person or act as a servant in a household. They will be gruff, impatient and bitter. Most know their name; others will listen to their opinions but will put little store by them; occasionally, to gain support, another might ask a plain person to give their opinion.

Generosity includes, as said, with opportunities to be a servant. Most often, they work for family. As mages and illusionists, they may set up a tiny, unobtrusive shop, that will receive few customers. Some are morticians. A cleric will be an unpleasant deacon, managing a few pupils. A fighter will be a private guard for a single employer ~ and never part of a larger entity, where they would not get along with others. A ranger is most likely to act alone in some capacity, as hunters or private wardens. Assassins or thieves would roam as solitary criminals. Most common plain persons would have mediocre, painstaking work to do, with little to look forward to day-to-day.

Commonplace (8 pts.)
Reactions will tend to be welcoming, if muted. While not noticed as an important person by any means, commonplace persons will be granted the same initial reception as anyone else. In appearance, they’re merely people. It will be noticed by such persons, perhaps because they come closer than those with less charisma, that there are “average folks” who are friendly and gentry who tend to overlook such persons. Commonplace persons will generally find love with others of their charisma and social standing.

Treatment is an everyday acceptance, as the individual will most likely have an extended family, responsibilities, a plot of land, a secondary skill, and compatriots of about the same level of charisma. Most others in their immediate orbit will treat them with belonging. Outsiders, particularly the gentry, will treat them with some level of disdain, as poor folks.

Generosity dictates their lives will revolve around work, seasonal events, births, deaths and little opportunity past their mundane lives. However, this offers a comfort, as well as knowledge that although their lives are dull, they are sound and productive. Most levels conform to their kind, performing what skills they have for the benefit of their kin. Clerics alone stand out; with this level of charisma, they are accepted as minor priests and functionaries inside the church system, though rarely do they ever become important and never do they preach to a wide congregation.

Neighbourly (9 pts.)
Reactions will be a strong salutation, followed by several interested questions before personable matters are dropped in favour of other things. A neighbour is rugged, fine to look at, with a gentle charm. No strong bond is evident, but even with strangers there’s a sense by appearance, expression and stance that this is at least a fellow countryman, individual or person of similar breeding to the norm. Some consideration is paid by the gentry to a neighbour; but a stranger among the gentry will give no notice. A neighbour might find love among others with a point more in charisma and a social standing slightly higher.

Treatment is a low-born respect, as they have excelled somewhat among their commonplace peers. They’re given the best tables at the worker’s tavern, they are respected by guards and by officials. Their weddings are usually publicly celebrated; and at festivals they are often chosen first to compete in games. To the gentry, they are treated as peaceable, but rarely are their names remembered.

Generosity permits these lower middle class persons are upstanding members of their guilds, town watchmen and minor officials. Some are farmer leaders and foremen; most are not, and at best lower level authority is all a few are offered. They do lead healthy lives, however, and can usually trace their family half a dozen generations, at least, into the past.

Friendly (10 pts.)
Reactions to such persons will be a strong hail, with others going out of their way in public places to make sure a greeting occurs. A friendly fellow smiles, is easy to talk to, will laugh at a joke and is open to what others want to talk about. They will be more sympathetic, causing others to express their like and appreciation often. Friendly persons find committed love among others up to a 12 charisma, with a fair status above their own. They may dabble in relationships with persons up to 14.

Treatment is kindness, as they pass on the street. Well spoken of, they are friendly with guards and officials, Gentry are apt to notice them and converse for a moment or two.

Generosity enables them to become relatively successful, giving them strong houses, yards, comforts for their children and contact with family in other parts. They are more in low-level positions of authority, particularly in guilds; a reeve or hayward might be friendly, as well as a head guard, a local apothecary, a kindly minister or a willing scout and guide.

Affable (11 pts.)
Reactions by others, upon greetings, will include genuine concern for the affable person’s situation, while others will certainly beg the person’s good wishes. Folk will gather as they appear at a tavern or in the market place, to share stories. These persons may find committed love from anyone, and are often courted.

Treatment often includes others that laugh at their jokes and see them as important residents in the community, or as interesting persons that are passing through. Buying a drink for an affable person is a common request.

Generosity enables them to set up independent workshops or become senior members of guilds, while they are often approached with duties for the village or local quarter. They will often agree to become toastmasters or to head a small welcoming committee. Levelled persons are celebrated for their skills and are often encouraged to send their children to distant places for training.

Warm-hearted (12 pts.)
Reactions will be to approach the individual with concerns for the person’s welfare and situation, most likely offering a good meal upon greeting if known to the area, in an attempt to share company with the person. Others will be anxious to share news, tell the latest gossip and positively remark on the warm-hearted person’s appearance and anything new they might see.

Treatment encourages these people to sit and converse, which they will do while their friends will assume their workload. Warm-hearted people provide emotional sustenance and encouragement to others, who treat them as special benefactors.

Generosity will make allowances, so that in times of hardship they are given welfare and support, both for them and their families. They are rarely evicted; someone will find a way to create work for them or pay their rent. If necessary, they will be given light duties to perform on behalf of the town. In general, however, they rise to be important leaders of guilds, associations and collectives. Many will use their personalities to ensure receiving training when they are quite young.

Social (13 pts.)
Reactions will be for strangers to notice the person as they move up the street and to introduce themselves politely, even if they are strangers. Those of 8 or less charisma will hang back, intimidated. If known to the area, invitations to important events will often occur, with promises that a special table will be arranged, or a space at the head table. The gentry will view the individual as one of their own.

Treatment insists they have a special set of gifts that enable them to liaison between different customs and circles, as they are welcomed often even by those with which they share little in common. They are listened to fervently, their words are considered to be truth and rarely are they successfully questioned in public.

Generosity encourages them to set aside labour entirely and be organizers, courtiers, hosts, social reformers, political leaders and others like voices. They are very busy. They move behind doors where those with less charisma would hardly be allowed. They exist in large enough numbers that they make up the majority of the cultural hoi polloi. Those lacking skills may still move in these corridors, though less well ~ somehow, on charm, they get by.

Chivalrous (14 pts.)
Reactions of all persons, except the gentry, will be somewhat intimidated, but nevertheless very welcoming. There will be a distinct use of genuflection (show deference) from those of 10 or less charisma, while others will hail and engage in short, polite conversations. Invitations, when they occur, will occasionally arise from the middle classes and the gentry, but the lower classes will be satisfied to gaze on the person from afar. Shopkeepers will rush to please.

Treatment of these persons is a mixture of homage and appreciation for their contributions. These are especially celebrated entities whose capabilities outweigh the gentry around them. They move about in carriages, with retainers and hangers-on, with others who appeal to them for moments of their time.

Generosity enables them to become captains of the guard, respected courtiers, persons in charge of the finances and running of the area; though of course, subordinate to aristocrats with titles. Those without special knowledge or wisdom are given duties that fit their limited skills.

Fair (15 pts.)
Reactions of the non-gentry will be muted and deeply respectful, accepting company if it is given but never seeking to impose. The gentry will, if given the opportunity, seek to adopt the person, bringing them around to the house, introducing them to children of marriageable age, encouraging the person to begin in business or some other respectable activity. The gentry will, in fact, be something of a pest in this regard.

Treatment begins to reflect the relative rarity of these persons. As persons of consequence, they do not have to work so hard as their lesser peers to be heard in the halls of power. Even if they are not especially bright, they are usually found a place, as they are a pleasure to be near, for persons of great stature.

Generosity allows many who do not have skills to marry into the upper echelons. Some may obtain power through less savoury means, as gigolos and courtesans ~ but most exploit their skills while around them, they are celebrated for their personalities alone.

Beautiful (16 pts.)
Reactions will be strong and highly appreciative. Most persons, even the gentry, will tend to give space and respectfully give acknowledgement. All persons, from the shopkeeper up to and including the gentry, will show varying levels of making room, giving attention or otherwise dashing about as they serve and attend to the person. The single exception will be persons with legitimate power and title, who will view the person as a person to know and to engage with.

Treatment demonstrates that these are likely the most beautiful persons that ordinary people will ever see in person. Even at that, they are rarely viewed directly; most of the time, they will protect their appearance with privacy, not because they are truly threatened, as they usually surrounded, but rather because their beauty disturbs persons.

Generosity ensures that most of them are directly connected with court or with persons of power and title. Generally, they will escape the provinces for the comparatively comfortable life to be had in capitals. They may be enlightened persons of consequence, or they may surrender that to become manipulators behind the scenes, moving less attractive persons as puppets.

Graceful (17 pts.)
Reactions will be distant; most persons, except those with power and title, will consider themselves inadequate to hold discourse with the person. Less attractive persons will be pushed out of the person’s presence; an aura of space will expand around the person should they go anywhere. Those with power and title will suggest paths towards marriage or political power.

Treatment is hushed and reverential. It will be difficult to speak directly to lesser persons, who will describe themselves as unworthy. The degree of intimidation others feel will be very high.

Generosity will lead them to become lords and ladies through marriage, or by gifts bestowed upon them. Paladins will be profound, unusually prized members of court, as their appearance is startling and tends to strike even courtiers with astonishment.

Bewitching (18 pts.)
Reactions will be something like fear. It will be generally held belief that a person cannot be so charismatic without having some special powers, to charm, beguile or fascinate persons out of all safety. In some quarters among the gentry, there will be an unspoken, strong resentment, that may be problematic in the right circumstances. Lower establishments will refuse to serve, considering themselves unworthy. An ordinary life is possible only through disguise.

Treatment is exceptional and mystifying. Such persons are probably never ordinarily seen by even gentry; their incongruous presence is eerie and unnatural. Even kings and queens are made humble by their appearance and their personalities. Because of this, persons of this appearance are vulnerable. They will often wear a mask or covering of some type, to minimize their outward effect.

Generosity of their charisma enables them to become master manipulators behind the scenes. A few become usurpers. Each is an entity onto themselves, defying categorization.