Sunday, July 28, 2019

Goofy Game Gimmicks

A DM was recently telling me his woes about his players visiting towns and "not having any fun there."  He meant they they wouldn't buy drinks or food at a bar, even when they were encouraged to do so.  His plan was to provide a special incentive for them in the way of tokens that would be used for a lottery to see who would receive a game bonus ... but as I was listening, my own mind began to work out its own peculiar solution.

I don't suppose I'd ever put the things below into practice, but in some cases I do think it would create some absurd and funny situations.  Decide for yourselves if you'd ever implement these gimmicks.

My first thought was to suggest that if the actual players wanted to drink anything at the table ~ and of course half the experience of table-top is junk food and the like ~ then their characters would have to pay the cost in gold or silver.  The character, of course, would be buying ale and mead in the game world, but one game beer would allow the player to drink a comparable substitute: coke or mountain dew or what have you.  Specific comparisons could be imposed and prices arranged, so that if the player was fine with pop, then a purchase of ale would be sufficient.  But if the player wanted to drink something more posh, like an energy drink, oh, well, then obviously they're have to be a charge for brandy or some comparable addictive beverage.

Likewise, chips and cookies and whatever else at the game table would have to rely upon the character's purchase of staples, meats, vegetables, whatever seems a fair comparison.  And if the player doesn't want to spend character in-world money on their real world cheezies, they can do without, can't they?  We can fairly stipulate that players who won't have their characters pay for their drinks can have as much water as they like, for free ~ in both the game world and out of it.

Now, once I started thinking about this, a few other thoughts came to mind.  Obviously, the character would have to buy these vittles and drink in advance ... if it's not on the character's sheet to be marked off, well obviously the player can't drink it now, right?  This would certainly make the next trip to the town market a little more interesting.

Another matter that is bound to come up, for some tables, is the subject of tobacco.  I have players who regularly step out for a quick smoke whenever there's a break, so naturally it's only fair that the characters have also thought to buy some tobacco for this moment.  Of course, it would be a bit tense around the table if Jean and Jimmy weren't able to have a puff at all that night, because they had forgotten to pick up tobacco at the last village.  It might be a good time to have a wandering stranger passing by, calmly smoking, so the players can anxiously ask if the NPC can lend a bit from their pouch.  This, I think, would play out hilariously.

And, point in fact, we can carry this a little farther.  If you'll excuse the connection ~ and perhaps the lack of taste in mentioning the subject ~ it seems only fair that if the player goes to the bathroom during the session, we should assume the character does too.  Which brings up another point.  What if the character can't go to the bathroom, or smoke, or drink or eat, because there is a combat going on?  Wouldn't it be perfectly logical to demand that these things be put aside for the duration of the combat, to be happily imbibed afterwards, in the glow of a well-earned victory?  Wouldn't that put just a bit more inconvenience on Steve or Shiela, if they were uncomfortably shifting in their seats waiting for the battle to finally be done?

Though they could, reasonably enough, simply exit the battle for a few rounds (timed, of course), to deal with the situation.  That would be fair.

This does put me in mind of something, however.  If we're limiting the players actions by virtue of what the characters have the freedom to do, they why not insist that all players, for the course of every combat, remain standing?  Obviously, no one is performing a combat sitting down, are they?  Of course not.  Still, there's only so much that a party will stand for, isn't there?  Perhaps we can forego this little suggestion.

It did occur to me that rolling to hit could be made a bit more, erm, legitimate, if the player had to roll the die with something in their hand ... a weapon substitute, so to speak.  It doesn't have to be anything excessive.  A pencil, for instance, or any longish object that isn't going to put out a fellow player's eye.  I can see imposing this and then, unfortunately for the player, my having to remind them that they don't use their left hand to swing their sword (unless the character happens to be left-handed) ... which would necessitate throwing their attack die with their left hand, while their right gripped their pencil.  Hm.  That might be a bit cruel as well.

I do think there must be other parallels between character and player that could be imposed.  Many tables already use a simple premise that if the player's character isn't present for a given parley, that the player should keep silent.  This is essentially the same line of thought.  Whatever binds the character's actions could, in some manner, bind the player as well.

Which is not to say that we expect the players to settle into sleep, while one keeps watch.  We have to be reasonable on some points.

When we say "immersion," we don't mean we have to flood the apartment or anything.

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Shocking Events

Yesterday, while taking a shower in the evening, I began hearing some loud banging on the shower wall.  My shower shares the same wall as the outside corridor of the apartment ~ and my shower and bathroom is next to my front door.  As such, I came out of the shower soaking wet, asked my partner Tamara who was banging, and looked out the peephole of my front door.

At that point, the cops starting shouting.  I could see a woman cop, immediately in front of my door, gun drawn and held in both hands at a 70-degree angle from the floor; she was shouting, and her partner was shouting, for someone to get down on the floor.  I can see her clearly in my mind's eye as I write this.

They shouted this at least five times, by which point I ran into the living room and got Tamara and myself down on the floor ~ and everyone reading this knows why.  But no shots rang out.  The neighbor kittycorner from us, and someone else at his apartment, were arrested.  There were five cops altogether and one of these had a dog.  So, drugs.

In case someone worries that I live in a slum, this
is the view out front of my apartment building.
All was peaceful and quiet not long after.  It's been a nice calm day.  And I am surprisingly not overly bothered by this.  Yet it does encourage me to communicate what's happened.  I am a writer.

In any case, I guess it isn't clear enough on this blog to simply say, look at my Patreon.  So let me spell out the blog issue a little more clearly.

I am still blogging, on the same subjects I always have.  And every day.  On a blog called "The Higher Path."  This blog costs $3 a month to view, through Patreon.

I have supported you, the reader, through a thousand hours of getting up in the morning and looking for something to read on the internet.  You know there's almost always something here, and almost always something that will get your minds thrumming on the subject of role-playing and game play.  I know many of you read me on game day, specifically because I do that.

Well, I'm still doing that.  But now, I must insist you support me also.

Please do.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Done, Not Finished


I am completed the principle writing of my book Fallow, formerly called the Fifth Man.

This doesn't mean I'm done.  But it does give me a tremendous certainty that it will be done, and soon, so much so that I'm putting together cover proposals.  I expect changes in the layout and text, but the image works just fine for me and I believe I'll go with that.  Only ... the image is 5000x1650 pixels, so the precise part of the image that will be used is still up in the air.

I have slightly more than 120,000 words to edit and pull together, to correct for continuity errors and to artistically enhance sections that don't meet the best possible criteria.  I have been doing this part of the task piecemeal for a year ... but now the book has to be melded into a unit.  For the first time, I feel I'm in a headspace to do that.

There have been great changes in my thinking in these last three weeks, since I last posted here ~ and these will affect my readers.  I'm going to considerably reduce the amount of posting that I will be doing on this blog, Tao of D&D, going forward from this time.  I have written more than 2,600 posts over 11 years, covering virtually every subject within role-playing games and D&D in particular.  I have not quite posted once per day, but I know from my stats that most readers do come here everyday, particularly weekday mornings ... so I know this will mean there isn't a thousand words waiting for you when you load up your work computer and want to put off starting your day.

It is only that I feel that much of the effort I have applied here has been in vain.  We talk about throwing things out into the void but ~ and this is the crux of it ~ I am throwing ideas and vision into this void that isn't to be found anywhere else on the internet.  I am not another DM preening on my amazing running ability.  I'm not another shill writing derivative reviews of company products.  I'm bored and done with flame wars and with pushing off those who are determined to treat the best game in the world as an ongoing exercise in Saturday night redundancy.  I'm not interested in being open to the same old dictates and the same old memes about what the game is "about" or why enough rules that empower players to predict results from strategies is "bad."  I cannot make any more headway with these people that I have already made.  If the arguments I've proposed thus far aren't enough to register a message, then ... so be it.

I will be continuing to write on this blog, and much the same material as I always have.  I'll just write less on the ol' Tao.  About the same as a typical D&D blogger.

But I am a writer.  I can't stop writing; it is my extraordinary pleasure.  So there's no reason why, just because I don't write here, that I should stop writing at the pace I enjoy.  And if the reader is interested in seeing that other writing, I won't deny the reader the pleasure of it.  Writing should be done for others and not only for oneself.

If the readers are interested in knowing where else I'll be writing, they should check out my patreon page.  The answers can be found there.

Later, gators.

Friday, July 5, 2019

Who's Doing the Appropriating Here?

Gawdammit.  I can't sleep.  Two days into a hiatus and now I have to break it to get this nonsense out of my head.

JB wrote a post about Appropriation on the 3rd; and Ozymandias wrote another yesterday ... and in his he quoted this benchmark on the subject by Lindsay Ellis.  Whereas I can't sleep because people are wrong on the internet.

Look, I get it.  Cultural appropriation is a relatively new bugaboo and people are scrambling around trying to define it according to what the appropriator of some other culture is doing ~ and this is particularly fed by anger surrounding sport teams like the Indians and the Redskins.  But ... this is a complete misreading of the social phenomenon, sorry.

Let me redefine the term for you, as a departure from definitions you're likely to hear.  Cultural appropriation happens when the people of that culture appropriate their OWN culture, draw a line around it, then argue politically that because its OURS, no one else is entitled to any part of it, nyeh!

For example, when white people decide that only white people are entitled to protection from the law, or the right to vote, or the freedom to live in what neighborhood they wish, or the right to bear arms, or any other right that white people casually decide that African, Oriental, Muslim, Hispanic or whatever people you choose to name are not entitled to that specific benefit.  Like when a Norwegian can arrive in America and expect to stay with their family in a hotel, while a Mexican is separated from their children and all other privileges of being treated as a human.

It is the white people appropriating whiteness, and calling that right of appropriation a matter of "cultural integrity" or "purity" or whatever other bullshit we care to name, as a justification for selfish, brutal, racist or otherwise crap behaviour.

And this is no different when a Native Canadian tells me I can't write a fiction novel with a Native Canadian in it, because I'm not Native Canadian, or when I'm told I can't possibly understand what it means to be a mother because I'm not a woman, or when a transsexual tells me I can't understand what it mean to be non-binary because I am, in fact, binary.  The appropriation is by the culture weaponizing that culture as a means to silence free speech and free access to the total human experience.

Every other argument is an extension of that weaponization, that pretends to decide that there is a "line" between neutral something and offensive something.  The line is obvious: you step over it when it's my motivation to control you ... and if no motivation to control you exists, then you're free to do as you like.

At least, until someone figures out a way to weaponize something you've been doing for decades, but is now suddenly offensive and unacceptable.

I am the first to argue, do no harm.  Blackface is mockery, pure and simple, and anything that is mockery or much like it is harm, and I'm opposed to that.  My writing a positive non-white character, or a woman for that matter, into a story as a protagonist is not mockery and I won't be held accountable for it.

And I am the first to argue that another person's notion of behaviour is deserving of respect, as long as it does no harm.  I won't defend the ritual mutilation of children supported by religion nor the abuse of animals ~ I don't give a shit how old the religion is or how deep the bias is.

Above all, I will not be silenced or coerced into silence by the guilt of someone weaponizing their culture as a means to stop me from enjoying the benefits of their culture.

That's a line I won't accept.


Sorry for this.  The post was writing itself again and again in my head, not letting me sleep, when I should at least have been trying to figure out the expositional patterns of chapter 26.  Hopefully, I can reobtain my focus on things that actually matter.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019


I'm going to stop posting on the blog now.

No one should be concerned.  I'm anxious to stop dividing my attention between the book and most anything else, so I'm going to shelve posts for a time.  I am close to finishing the last rewrite of the book, to be followed by a period of editing and ~ I hope ~ workshopping the book with other people.

At this time, I ask that readers do not stop supporting me, especially now of all possible times.  I'm extremely anxious about my Patreon.

I've been five years at this brutal coffin I'm building and the last thing I have on it is perspective.  I want badly to finish it, to live up to my commitments to people online, to restore my dignity and to have the content live up to the admiration of at least a few people.

For that, I have to put down everything else.

I'll still be available on facebook or email, for anyone who wants to talk or find out how I'm doing.  You won't be interrupting me; probably, it will distract me long enough to rouse me out of some fit of depressed dementia I've driven myself into.  I always appreciate hearing from others.

I just won't be eliciting attention by writing posts here, is all.

Thank you.

Monday, July 1, 2019

New Hex Generator

If perchance you've seen the new link I added for "Groups" on the wiki, I've completed an updated (and simplified) version of my very old hex generator (which I think I first committed in 2011).  The new generator can be downloaded at this link.

The images below have been randomly generated, but the generation is primarily for distribution, not content.

These would be the placement of 6-mile hexes
Under the "Input Infrastructure" tab on the excel file, you'll see the single point of inquiry, asking the user to insert a number.  It may be any number, but all numbers 448 and above produce the same results.

This will result in a group of designated "hex types" ~ in the example shown, two type-3, one type-4, one type-5 and three type-7.  The user is assumed to make note of these on a hex map matching the arrangement shown, in the positions designated.  In this example, the two type-3 hexes would be placed in the 1st (hex D) and 2nd (hex C) positions.  The type-4 would be placed in the 3rd position, the type-5 would be placed in the 4th position and the type-7 hexes would be placed in the 5th, 6th and 7th positions.

We would then go to the tab on the document named "type-3" ~ which, as we've already written down the positions of the hexes, we can now calculate as often as we wish.  We can quickly generate content for the two type-3 hexes:

By moving to the type-4 tab, we can generate this image:

And the type-5:

Then finally, the three type-7:

With these images generated, we don't even need a hex map.  We can simply put the images together into a single graphic (tightened up):

Of course, there are some holes:

What do we do about those?  Well, it's perfectly simple.  Just take the six adjacent hexes as a guideline and roll a random d6 to determine the center hex.  Doing this for each "hole" neatly fills in the map.

Final distribution of 2-mile hexes

And there you have it.  Not a satisfactory map, obviously, but a good template to work from, giving you interrelationships between the two manors at the bottom of the map, placement of roads, a river or two connecting farm and tilled lands together, etcetera.  Incidentally, there is a description for every one of these results that can be found on the linked hex generator.

Increase the number to produce a more civilized countryside; reduce the number to increase the amount of wilderland.  We used 47, which is a bit of a backwater.

I can see a way to expand the data above into "build hexes," but I'm pretty sure it is a lot of steadfast, painstaking work.  Hmf.  Sounds like fun.