Thursday, August 31, 2023


The comments on this blog are now off.  I apologise for the inconvenience, but it seems the best course of action.  If people wish to contact me and express their appreciation for anything I've written, they can do so at  If persons wish to start a subject, or address a matter on the authentic wiki, or talk about any project I'm doing in future, they can also send a message of that kind to my email, and I'll post your comment and my answer on Saturdays.

I appreciate your continued support in all things.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Hand Wringing and Pearl Clutching

Why is slavery in a role-playing game a bad idea?


Incorporating slavery as a theme or element in a role-playing game (RPG) can be a highly sensitive and controversial topic for a variety of reasons. Here are some of the key points to consider:

Historical Context: Slavery has been a tragic and deeply traumatic part of human history. It was marked by immense suffering, abuse, and violations of human rights. Many people find it offensive and disrespectful to trivialize or romanticize such a serious and painful topic in a game setting.

Emotional Impact: Slavery can evoke strong emotions in players, including anger, sadness, and discomfort. Role-playing games are often played for enjoyment and escapism, and incorporating such a heavy topic can disrupt the overall tone and atmosphere of the game, making it difficult for players to have a positive experience.

Ethical Concerns: Addressing slavery in a game can raise ethical questions about the portrayal of sensitive topics and the potential for perpetuating harmful stereotypes or misrepresentations. Games have the power to influence perceptions and attitudes, so it's important to handle such topics with care and sensitivity.

Trauma and Triggers: Many players may have personal connections to slavery due to their own cultural or family histories. Depicting slavery in a game can be triggering for these individuals, causing them distress and negatively impacting their experience.

Lack of Nuance: Games often have limited scope to explore complex historical and social issues like slavery in a nuanced manner. Reducing such a profound topic to game mechanics and storytelling elements might oversimplify the reality and significance of the historical events.

Potential for Misinterpretation: Players might not fully grasp the historical context and gravity of slavery, leading to misunderstandings or inappropriate reactions. This could further contribute to trivializing the topic or causing unintended offense.

Distracting from the Fantasy Setting: Many RPGs are set in fantasy worlds with their own lore, cultures, and conflicts. Introducing a real-world historical theme like slavery might feel out of place or disrupt the consistency of the game world.

Alternatives for Conflict: While conflict is a key element in many RPGs, there are numerous ways to create engaging and compelling stories without resorting to such a sensitive topic. Developing conflicts around other themes can allow for meaningful gameplay without the risk of offending or triggering players.

If game developers do choose to incorporate sensitive topics like slavery, it's important to approach them with extreme caution and respect. This might involve thorough research, consultation with experts, and providing proper context and content warnings to players. In many cases, however, it's advisable to consider other narrative elements that allow for engaging and thought-provoking gameplay without resorting to the use of such a contentious subject.

The above answer was not written by me, or by a traditional "politically correct" pundit.  Admit it, that's where you, dear reader, expected it to come from.  As you skipped to the bottom, you looked for the name of the writer, expecting you'd smile upon recognising the name of the writer.

Except that the source is chatGPT, in answer to my question.  And lest the reader think that chatGPT is way, way off the mark of what the "real world" thinks, I give you this link from reddit.

The program sounds like a PC pundit because it's been deliberately fashioned so as to respect "sensitive and controversial" subjects, since any insensitivity to human beings would be seen as a good reason for banning the program.  The creators wouldn't like that.

Thus, the first two paragraphs are very clear about the key arguments against any mention of things that are culturally "traumatic."  People were hurt; this is something that shouldn't happen any more.

But note the context established: role-playing games either "trivialize" or they "romanticise."  They're played for people to "enjoy" and "escape."  Things that are traumatic, therefore, have no place in an RPG.

YET, "games have the power to influence."  Do books and films not also have the power to influence?  Are not these things sometimes used to discuss slavery directly, even demonstrate the perpetration of slavery in dramatic terms?  Are we saying that these, too, should refrain from addressing the subject — because I'm pretty sure that's exactly what either chatGPT or the politically correct pundit would tell me, if I asked the question.  Without going down that road too far, let me just say that there's been a steadily growing effort — largely on the part of Google, since taking control of the internet — to shut down and close down any search for subject material that isn't considered defacto "approved."

This is not how scholarship is intended to work.  But that is how the internet views it.

Note the argument that a role-playing game simply hasn't the capacity to deal with slavery in a "nuanced" manner.  This, given the game's "power to influence perceptions and attitudes," clearly suggests that the only way that slavery can possibly be depicted through an RPG is to glory in it, to revel in the practice, to trot it out like a prize greyhound ready to run.  Games, the reader will take note, might oversimplify the reality.


Wow, is that word carrying a lot of water in this context.  Dear reader, no matter what you think, no matter your interpretation of what capacities you have as a DM, don't play with this stuff because it might go awry.  Oh crumpets and cakes, we simply can't have people oversimplifying slavery, not in this culture!  Oh lawd, close the gates and man the walls, someone in this culture might oversimplifying a brutal, traumatic part of human history.

Thank gawd we don't include such subjects in RPGs, or else that might happen somehow in human culture.

I play with a group of people who are fully capable of grasping the historical context of slavery, because they're educated.  Because the consistency of MY slave world is deeply invested in real-world historical themes, it's the absence of slavery that would seem out of place.  I approach my game with level of seriousness that yes, would make many people uncomfortable.  These people aren't welcome to come play ... specifically for the reason that they see an RPG merely in terms of "enjoy" and "escape."

What I want to "enjoy" is a group of people who don't live in fear to discuss the hard subjects; who don't allow their feelings to stand in the way of examining and considering matters of importance and far-reaching consequences.  I strive to "escape" the company of stupid people who use arguments like misinterpretation and distress engendered in their family's history as reasons NOT to engage in  sensitive topics.

I like sensitive subjects ... precisely because expecting players to adapt to subjects that stir an adult's consciousness provides a great deal of satisfaction.  As adults, we've already encountered these themes; they're part and parcel with things we already sweat about.  It provides much better content to mine where building conflict occurs.  Certainly better than a group of adults pretending they can get their blood up over kiddie themes like girding up a sword to go underground and fight stick figures.

As a final point ... why use chatGPT as a foil?  Straw man, anyone?

Because, if the reader understands how chatGPT works — it is a random program, designed to comb the net for a common response engendered by the source material of millions of websites, with no brain of its own — it's really the best foil.  It's better than one pundit.  It's the vast community's expression, the deadbrained amorphous blob arising from a mass of largely uneducated sources who have written something despite knowing next to nothing.  It's the burbling jabberwock, coming all over itself.  Though it can't be killed, it's already dead.  It can only be made more and more insensate with time, as it struggles to produce an answer to things that won't offend any body.

Which can only be, as always, no answer at all.

Monday, August 28, 2023

Cultural Shock

See here.

Felt the above was worth having a look at, since it's core to my personal ideology of game setting.  I was going to say something more slavery.  As yet, it's not even incorporated into the description of the setting's identity, though it's implied.  Slavery has been a part of human culture since the bronze age (that we have any evidence for, at least) ... but somehow the institution failed to possess the stigma that began to appear in the minds of Europeans just prior to my game's chronological date (1650).  For the Egyptians and Mesopotamians, for the Chinese, for the Greeks and Romans, even throughout the middle ages, slavery was a class ... one from which an individual could rise and obtain respect, with society acknowledging that the individual's past had no relevance with regards to the individual's present.  But that ceased to be so with the American experiment (and here, I refer to both continents of America, not the country of the United States alone).

So, in D&D, it's tricky.  Players exist with the stigma version in their heads.  It would therefore be sensible to abolish the whole practice, vine and roots together, arguing that it had never taken place in history at all.  Or maybe that it happened only long, long ago, and had been abolished around the Dark Ages or some such.

This strains reality quite a lot, however.  It's easy enough to pretend that witches were never burned, that only applies to some tens of thousands of victims, spread over many centuries.  But at any time in human history there were millions of slaves; and their collective labour built the world.

Additionally, it's hard to vouchsafe that orcs, ogres, hobgoblins and such wouldn't enslave their enemies.  Or that there isn't a tremendous benefit in the gamespace of player characters working diligently to free slaves, or destroy slavery-based institutions.

Still, no doubt, most DMs would prefer it this way.  No slavery.  Clap hands, problem solved.

I am not one of them.

Reasons for this can be assigned to the usual things: I'm a white male, I was born nearly 59 years ago, I can't possibly understand what it was really like, or what the repercussions were.  But for those who take me for standing on the wrong side of the tracks in the real world, let me stress that this is not how I feel.  How I really feel about slavery, CRT and the 1619 project, and the insidious proliferation of racism that continues to be expressed from parent to child, I can't say it better than Tim Wise.  Watch all of it, and keep in mind that I agree with all of it, before you rise to condemn me for something I do in a D&D game.  Where no actual person gets hurt.

My best argument is the one that's made on the wiki page.  The 17th century was a very different world.  Very.  And better than the exploration of fantasy, better than pretending to be something we're not, better than waving make-believe wands to make magic, I feel the strongest experience players can have is to visit a real place that's very different from the place we are now.  Because a real place is a thousand times more effective at conveying to the player that he or she is doing something that other human beings used to do, and without condemnation, because once upon a time it was acceptable to do those things.

The cultural shock of this when the player realises what it means in the larger picture of their lives, as they comprehend the horrible past of human folk, having spent a little time wallowing in it ... is, I feel, instructive.  It sends a message that those people were not us.  Those people lacked awareness.  Those people were uncivilised.  Those people, our forebears, were monsters.  Not people to be put on pedestals.  Not people to be respected and worshipped.  Not good people doing the best they could in their time.  But people who were ignorant because the things they should have known hadn't been conceived of yet.

And what, we need to ask ourselves, would they have been like if they'd known what we know?  If they carried some of the empathy and morality we carry?  If they had not been monsters in a monster's world?

That, my dear readers, is what's answered by a player participating in that world.  That is where much of my fascination as a DM lies, as I want players puzzle out and resolve what they're willing to do, and what they're not willing to do, when faced with the power to do anything.  Not because I'm shaming them, and not because the general community behind dungeons and dragons would shame them ... but because, being free to act, they choose to decide for themselves.

Laudable?  I don't care.  I do care that in a society that praises free-will and personal experimentation, there's still a game where this is possible with human culture and history.  Even if it gets dirty and unpresentable.

At least, while I'm still running games.

Thursday, August 24, 2023

Digging in the Mind

In the spirit of the last post, allow me address a similar matter.  See, I go through periods of introspection, where I evaluate myself, my life, my choices and my ambitions.  I've been doing this since my teenage years, though the results is more piercing and carry a greater expectation, but the agenda is mostly the same: am I happy with what I'm doing; am I approaching the work, or my family, or my general well-being in the best manner that I can?  Is it time to make a change?  Why am I doing this, whatever "this" is, in this way?  Is there a better way?

I used to think everyone did this from time to time, but, to my surprise, no.  Yesterday's post came out of these reflections.  I found myself thinking about "not taking enough swings," because the phrase was used casually last Saturday on a site I read every day.  Sometimes I think I take too many swings, but of course, as I argued, that's wrong thinking.

It's night as I write this, but the post comes out of thinking I did last night before sleeping.  For about a week now, I've been acutely conscious of not being terribly happy ... a combination of the trip being something of a disappointment, and my feelings of being overwhelmed by work and tasks I want to accomplish.  Of wanting these writings, and my ideas, to be seen by more people.  Of wanting to feel that what I'm doing is relevant.  I think that's a question we run from, generally: "am I relevant."  Not in the sense of "important," and certainly not in the sense of greatness ... but really, as it applies both to being needed and in the way that we'd like to believe that our presence here makes some kind of difference.

I have readers tell me all the time that I am, and that I do.  Sometimes, people try very hard to convey that to me, I think because I have made a sufficient difference that they feel passionate about expressing that.  And it is appreciated.  But I have this absurd bent of mind that isn't as satisfied with "having" made a difference as I am with "going to," or "about to" make a difference.  This isn't a conscious choice.  It's the way I'm put together, for good or ill.

So I was thinking last night about what it is, exactly, that makes me want to spend so much of my day working on a book that seems too big to finish, or working on a wiki that, let's face it, can't be finished, or any of the other works that I do that sometimes challenge my confidence and my enthusiasm.  It's a given that I'm going to go on doing them, even if ultimately nothing else comes of the work ... but why is relevant.  I've always pitched in and worked at things, maps and writings and designs, but honestly it's been a long time since I've dug into why.

Asking myself why I like this, the simple answer is that because it gives me satisfaction.  But this is really just kicking the can down the road.  I see people giving this sort of answer all the time, explaining things in terms of the emotional gratification they feel, in broad terms, but it doesn't answer the question.  Why does it give satisfaction?  Why do I want to do it?  What specific concrete thing is it in the process that provides this satisfaction and sense of relevance?

It's so easy to put a label on things and go our merry way.  But we can't build upon a label.  We can sit down at our desk and say, "Okay, I'm going to satisfy myself ..."  Well, we can, but then we're not talking about being creative.  What we want to have in our pocket (heh heh) is the power to say, "I'm going to do this specific thing, because this specific thing is what satisfies me."  And without a lot of thought, and practice at introspection, it can take a lifetime to piece the answer to that question together.  Part of it demands that our threshold for what we'll take as an answer has to be very high, because otherwise we'll just quit.  We'll just shrug our shoulders and find the label that works and ... not grow.  And be dependent on things going well ... because its in despair that we realise that labels are useless.  When the satisfaction ceases, and we don't know why, because we never figured out where it came from.  Because we didn't take the time.  We may have asked the hard questions, but we never forced ourselves to get down into the mud and wrestle with those questions until we had a firm, real answer.  Instead, we took the bicarbonate that settled our questions and let us sleep.

I think what satisfies me is the size of things.  It's my nature to take a very small concept, something that would fit into a sentence ... like, an object ought to have a different price depending on where it's bought.  Or, suppose I dug up a bunch of recipes and made a menu.  Or, what would I say to a DM that already knew how to run a game?  And from these tiny beginnings, one step at a time, one choice at a time, I build these enormous castles or these beautiful objects.  A little bit at a time.  I have a vision in my head of how a thing might work, or what it might look like, and then I find, after working at it, that it winds up looking far more magnificent, and impossible to achieve, than it really was.

That's a really interesting transformation.  I look at the 1,416 pages on the wiki and while consciously I know that I've created every page from scratch, starting around 2014 — just nine years, starting with the first format wikispaces — and am overwhelmed by the sheer immensity of the project.  Such that if someone were to say, "Hey, could you start a wiki right now and make it this long, with this many words, could you do it?" and my answer would be, "No.  No I don't think so.  It would take too long."

And this reminds me to pay more attention to the Chinese proverb that it's better to want a thing than to have a thing.  Because it's not having the wiki that gives me satisfaction.  It's not even working that gives me satisfaction.  It's that I want the wiki to be larger, and knowing that I can make it larger ... because I have the power to do that.  It's knowing I can write the book, that this is something that isn't beyond me.  That there isn't a reason to feel overwhelmed by the size of these projects.  There's reason to put aside and forget that there's an end to be strived for.  If it's a project that can be finished, fine, there'll come an end to it ... but the end doesn't have to weigh upon my mind.  I know that given time and resources, I'll get there.  And I will when I get there.

KNOWING is a tremendous thing.  Knowing that I can do these things separates me from tens of thousands who'd like to do them, but who spend so much time regressed in the certainty that their vision is defacto unattainable ... because it would take too long.  That's such a trap.  Truth be told, none of us know how long it'll take.  Look what I've done since 2015.  Not just the wiki, but all these blog posts, the menu, the time spent on maps, the time spent on a book I never published and the time spent on a book I'm publishing right now, along with other projects that will never see the light of day.  None of us know what we can do with the time we have ...

But we can know we'll do something.  Some small thing.  Something that takes a day.  Or an hour.  Followed by another something and another, until this tiny, tiny seed grows into the magnificent tree, and we find ourselves wondering, "How did that get there?"

Getting up this morning, after this thinking last night, I didn't feel (as I often do) tired and dragged out, and unable to face the monsterous task I'm still at.  Because I do know.  It's not a trite bit of help-yourself book nonsense I'm telling myself to soothe or placate my doubts.  I don't have any doubts.  If I work on the book, at whatever pace or manner I wish, it will be finished.  There's no other possibility.

And that is satisfying.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Hits and Misses

This seems counter-intuitive, and goes against the old adage that "if it ain't broke, don't fix it," but if it happens that you're consistently succeeding at all you do — say, in running your D&D game — that can be a sign of your failing to evolve and grow better at your game.  That you're playing it too safe, or consistently sticking to things you already know you can do well.  Which, you may not wish to hear, limits you.

There's another old saying, one that says that if you're not missing, you're not taking enough swings.  The relationship to baseball aside, the notion is that if you're actively putting yourself out there, if you're taking risks and trying new things, you have a greater chance of becoming something better than you are.

Where it comes to D&D and worldbuilding, we can get far too concerned about "success" and "failure," so much that it makes us blind to larger ideas.  Success is not really the point.  Worse, a period of success can lead to an increased sense of pressure and expectation upon us, in the sense that because we ran one really good session, ALL the sessions have to be unexpectedly good now.  Or we might think, even better!  Which is a trap of course.  We're never going to succeed in making every session better than the last ... and if we try to do that, it's only a matter of time before we fall and break our ego.

I don't think very much about whether or not I've "succeeded" in creating a strong game world or a good campaign.  I know those things are often in the mind of people who are certain they don't have either — and want them.  But something as esoteric as a setting or a good group can't be "possessed" in black and white terms ... especially since a group has its own motivations and reasons for showing up each game, much of which has nothing to do with us.

If we should wish for anything, it ought not to be success, but resiliency.  That is, the capacity to bounce back from adversity, to just keep going, to not worry if we're doing it right or wrong because doing it is the real benefit here.  The idea is somewhat behind those people who say they want to make mistakes, because they've learned from their mistakes and they want always to learn more.  Truth is, however, you don't actually have to make the mistake first.  Learning is always available, mistake or no.

But we've got to do it.  We've got to get up and get started, especially on those days when starting is the last thing we want to do.  Resiliancy results from knowing that we're going to miss, that sometimes we're going to miss most of the time, but that the misses don't matter.  Life is not baseball.  In life, we get about a million strikes and for that reason, we can miss and miss and miss, so long as we're conscious that it's the hit is still going to count when it happens.

That's the mystery behind the curtain that we've pulled closed behind every "genius," hiding their mistakes.  We make much of Isaac Newton inventing calculus in a few weeks time ... but we're ignorant of how many years he tried and failed to invent calculus before that.  We don't see the hundreds of pictures that Cezanne and Turner threw away or painted over.  We don't hear recordings of Stravinski's orchestra or Pink Floyd when the wrong notes were played or the symbiosis didn't happen.  We hear or see or get the "hit" ... all the misses fade into the background and just don't matter.

But of course, down here on the ground, as we are missing ourselves, we're hyperconscious of that fact.  The only thing we seem able to focus on it our missing all the time.  Which is why, when something works, we can fool ourselves into thinking we've got it all settled, that it's great, that it's all it ever needs to be ... despite the occasionally criticisms from those who don't like it, or those out here in the world urging us not to settle, not to just accept the mediocre as "enough," but to dig in and start swinging again.

We can't be afraid of missing.  We can't let missing become part of what we are.  It's part of the process of our striving for improvement.  A part we have to embrace, and let roll off our backs, knowing this is the path worth taking.  Moreover, by understanding new things, by trying new approaches, we open our minds to the fact that both exist — that there is a different way to do things.  That there are new things to do.  We know, because we've done them.  And we're ready to do more, when we find it or think it up ourselves.  Obtaining practice at that strategy trains our imagination and intuitiveness in ways that serve us well as creators and as people.

And so, get out and practice.  Get out and swing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Bronzing the Game

There's no question that paraphrasing history is something of a drug for me.   Since my post on the 18th, I've worked on the chalcolithic period and started the early bronze age, with supportive work on separate Egyptian and Mesopotamian pages.  There's no need to go look at those unless you have some knowledge of history and are interested in how I might have described it all.  Rest assured it's a lot of work ... but of course, it's nothing compared to what a complete history before 1650, the time of my game world, would require.

'Course, I could just stop with the early bronze age and chuck my present world, building a whole new one that took place in, say, the year 1224 BC.  Ramses II has just died, the Kassite Babylonian empire and the Hittites are on the skids, the Mitanni kingdom's in ruins, and the Hebrews are but scattered hill peoples.  It's a great time for a campaign, as bloodshed and chaos are reigning all over, while there's just enough government left to allow trade and some order in places.  It's not nearly as bad as history gets a hundred years later, after Egypt's completely collapsed.

Let's see, what would I need to consider?  Starting with character classes ... there'd still be the fighter of course.  Some kind of "priest class" is possible, as the gods have made their presence known by then (remembering, the gods are real).  The concept of "holiness" hasn't been invented, so the paladin's out; we might replace the ranger with a "hunter" class, stripping out any druidic elements, especially the ranger's perceived identification with animals.  That ditches the druid class too, obviously.

All the introspective religions haven't come into being yet so there goes the monk too.  We can keep thieves (I said "thieves," not rogues).  The assassin's arguable either way.  I'm absolutely not considering any of the nonsense junk classes introduced with the UA or anything after.  That leaves the mage and the illusionist.

I've argued the magic is a technology, something that has to have been developed over time, with various researchers building up the spell list one item at a time, just as player characters are encouraged by the books to invent their own spells.  Given that the early bronze age already lacks quite a lot of those classical scholarship traditions that haven't been invented yet, magic has to be awfully crude and limited.  It think it'd have to be an entirely rebuilt system, perhaps focused on making large-scale things happen at precise moments in time, according to astrological star charts or some such.  An "astrologer" class, if you will.  Imagine the astrologer and the rest of the party organising materials and acquiring a specific space for an astronomical event about to take place 7 months from now ... but if everything is set up just so, and the astronomer is able to "cast," then the effect is causing some sort of environmental change (a disaster, the transformation of desert into a land of milk and honey, whatever) or acquiring unnatural creatures as minions or some such.  Day to day, however, the astrologer's "magical" powers would be for the most part rather, um, weak.  So that most of the time, the astrologer is some kind of intellectual thief, stealing "intelligence" about the world from other people's minds.

How about weapons?  These are bronze, naturally.  The specific gravity of iron is 7.85, while for ancient bronze it's 8.76 ... so about 11% heavier for everything (obviously, I'll still be using encumbrance).  Bronze weapons ought to break or bend out of shape more frequently, so that a fair part of the game for fighters involves reforging or acquiring new weapons a lot of the time.  I'll make the heavier swords do slightly increased damage, adding a +1 to each hit (instead of 1-6, 1-8 and 2-8, it'll be 2-7, 2-9 and 3-9).  That's in addition to strength bonuses, which don't need adjustment.  A spear will cause the same damage and last about the same amount of time as the medieval game, so players will keep spears as back-up for those periods when they're looking for a good bronze blade.

Shields are heavier but they give the same effect.  Armour is a combination of leather and bronze metal components at best, with "scale bronze" being the best possible armour (AC 5), the heaviest and the most durable.  Leather & bronze might give the same AC, but it would tend to more readily fall apart in battle.

Still plenty of opportunity for  mythical beasts and such; in fact, the whole lexicon can still be present, except that any non-human races would have to be really, really remote, so until the players actually explored into distant realms (and it's a long, long way to Scandinavia, Russia or Central Asia), I'd insist on human player characters only.  Later, if they actually went to a place with gnomes, elves, dwarves and such (and those races are in my world in 1224 BC) for anyone to actually start as one of those races.

That's how I'd play it, anyhow.

I think that as an imaginative DM, I'd be able to produce a very different experience for persons in Egypt versus Mesopotamia.  The former would be a patient, structured setting, filled with criminal activities but generally intellectual and problem solving.  Adventuring emphasis would be on exploring surrounding areas, encountering what was out there, trying to secure some valuable from them and establish a sharing of technology and trade.  Dungeons, I think, would be very few and far between, and highly driven by the discovery of some creature the players might let loose on the world for the very first time.  Say, for example, there's no such thing as a ghoul anywhere in Africa ... until the players unearth a bunch and fail to kill them all.  Imagine being responsible for unleashing ghouls on the world.

Mesopotamia would be a much looser campaign, with any sort of travel being fraught with danger from other human groups, from other city-states.  Brutality against the lower classes would be much more common, along with the presence of slaves, with the players being constantly threatened of this fate if they don't win this battle or convince this group of "true believers" that they're believers too.  Strong parties would organise gangs of supporters and set out to dominate others, in a world where being smart means very little if one isn't also pretty strong and untouchable.  It's great if you can get this small area under your heel; it helps keep you from being under the heel of other slightly larger areas.

I think, however, that players would feel compelled to leave all civilisation behind ... at least at first.  There's a vast wilderness in 1224 BC ... not so much full of treasure but certainly with food and equipment hard enough to come by that seizing both could be transformed into an experience-giving benefit.  Apart from killing Polyphemus with a spear in the eye, there's all his sheep to take as booty, which is enough meat to feed a whole tribe ... who, grateful, might grant the characters special status and therefore a small army of tribesfolk to play with.

Bits of artwork, too, like bead necklaces, figurines, pieces of blown glass, decorated pottery and such could also count as experience-giving treasure.  Remember, this is the bronze age; there are no coins, no yet, anywhere.  They haven't been invented yet.

I think that by balancing a certain historical accuracy, along with the players still maintaining their agency in deciding what to do and where to go, the bronze age could yet be a very captivating game experience.

If that's the way I wanted to go.

Saturday, August 19, 2023


I've made up my mind what to do with this blog.

As a strategy to produce a better conversation between myself and my readers, come the 31st of August, I'm turning off the post comments.

Instead, I'm asking readers to submit comments to my email,  Likewise for any questions the readers may wish to ask.  Meaningful comments and questions will be compiled and then posted as a group on Saturdays, starting one week today ... that is, before the comments are actually turned off.

You may comment on any post in the blog, or upon any page in the Authentic wiki.  If you ask me a question, I'll answer it.  If, at a later time, you wish to comment on someone else's comment, you may do that, through me.

I've seen other forums succeed at that format.  After much consideration, more than a month, I've come to the conclusion that given the comments section's decline these many years, it's probably best that it's removed.  If I don't expect answers, it will change the way I write posts, probably for the better.  Either way, I don't see any reason for the comments to remain in place as they are.  If people care enough about anything I've said, or their need to express themselves, they can do so as well in an email as they can do beneath a post.

I believe that the convenience of posting an instant comment, as opposed to something thoughtful, knowing it'll be printed days later, should encourage a better quality of comment.  And if it produces no comments at all, so be it.  Each Saturday that I receive no comments, I'll be posting a shortened version of this post on what to do if a reader wants to comment.  It may take years to begin to produce a dialogue, but I believe this is the right course of action.

For these 12 days, the comments shall remain active, for anyone who wishes to discuss this decision, and anything else in that time, in the usual way.

Friday, August 18, 2023

The First 196,000 Years

Now and then I feel a compulsion to write a "world history" of my game world, that of course is based on actual world history.  This makes the project dubious, to say the least.  Yet I enjoy dabbling in history.  And there are fantastical elements to be incorporated in the story of time that focus on elements like the invention and pursuit of magic, the influence of religion in a world where gods actually exist, the movement of non-human peoples who must have come from somewhere, and must have something that explains the nuts and bolts of their present-day, game world existent culture, the one that players bump into.

And so, from time to time, I go at it.  Much of it ends up being repeat work, as organising historical events is an enormous headache, no less so when the events are described briefly.  There's so much of it, and what there is overlaps and remains geographically tied together, that making sense of sweeping time periods for people who know nothing about history is a trial.

My latest impetus is that I've been addressing the neverending work of moving the old wiki's material to the new wiki ... which as I do it, requires editing in process.  When I first launched the Authentic wiki, I had the help of a number of well-meaning people who, unfortunately, simply moved the material as is from old to new.  That created a headache of hundreds of pages without proper links, and which were as page entries only half written and not well-written at that.  Which pages need attention are mixed hopelessly into the great pile ... and I'm not always interested in correcting the content found in them, even when I stumble across one that needs honest work.

Nonetheless, I've reshaped three pages on the old wiki that I'm glad were not simply copied, since it gave me an opportunity to purposefully rebuild them.  I think the content is clearer, more interesting to read and most important of all, easy to build upon.

These three pages cover the palaeolithic, mesolithic and neolithic periods of my game world's history.  Their value for the reader, and for my players, is the explanation of how non-human races came to find their way into a human world, what happened in broad strokes after they came here, and where geographically they came to settle by about 4,500 BC.  In the format given, it should be a quick, elementary read.

My challenge is to continue forward in time in the same straightforward manner.

Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Art Test

Received some artwork for the Streetvendor's Guide and it's precisely what I asked for; the artist, Kelly, did a brilliant job.

It's just that I'm not sure this is what I should have asked for.  See, I'm as used to the overhyped imagery of splatbooks as much as anyone, and feel that the words should do the speaking, not the art.  But have I played it down too far?

Here are two examples of illustration, set into the text.  Expectations are that the artwork throughout the work would reflect this style and lack of colour.  The question to be answered is, have I made a mistake and gone too far away from the splatbook's usual style?

Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Not Enough Game

D&D started as a wargame, in which the goal was for one's unit, represented by a paper chit, to defeat or destroy other units and claim victory.  Thus the payoff, or reward, was the visceral feeling of having "won."  As the playing board lacked any other features, and as the units had no "character" per se, the pursuit of strategy and survival represented the entire game.  It was called Chain Mail.

The introduction of character evolved from the tendency of the players to anthromophise their game chits, "rooting" for one to win, or do well, because it had displayed qualities of luck that caused viewers (including the players) to impart empathy to the chit.  I've experienced this sensation many times while playing wargames, feeling myself drawn to a particular unit that "somehow" (e.g., luck) kept surviving when it should have been long dead.  The mind impresses a vision of a small and desperate squad holding a position against all odds; despite being surrounded by the enemy, they somehow last turn after turn, even inflicting damage in kind.  And if the unit does die (though when is more common than if), one feels a solemn respect that, in consideration, makes no sense at all.  But the sentiment is very human.

Steadily, this emotional tone suggested first the notion that a given unit would naturally continue onto the next battle — and having been a "winner," it should be somehow stronger and more capable in the next fight.  The fights themselves were transformed into affairs that had their own personalities, until it was conceived that the fights were taking place against a fantasy background, based upon the idea of romantic knights pursuing evil creatures in the dark and dispatching them, in the manner of Beowulf, St. George, Lancelot and other themes to be found in the stories of King Arthur and The Faerie Queen.  Thus established the notion of a "dungeon," into which characters entered to kill monsters ... but as the game was invented by Americans, so that "honour" and "renown" ceased to be adequate for the victory, treasure was installed as a meaningful payoff.

Various alterations to this theme produced a game in which acquisition was the goal; specifically, acquisition of experience, treasure and ultimate prowess and empowerment.  This would establish a pattern of "characters" — essentially player-manipulated chits, though the chit and its manipulation now took place in the imagination of the "dungeon master" and the player — killing monsters to get treasure to buy objects that made it easier to kill monsters, so that bigger monsters could be killed, with bigger hauls of treasure that could buy even more fabulous monsters, with more fabulous treasures and so on.

Though despite the clear establishment of a game that definitely aroused the imaginations of the contestants, and appealed to a wide age range of gamers who were willing to shell out quite a lot of money each, the result was rather ... repetitive.  This was understood almost at once, within a year of the game's initial basic launch.  Yet it was conceived that with additional monsters, additional powers, additional character-based collection of powers, additional things to buy at the market and more elaborate arrangements of underground rooms and monster collections, the repetitiveness could be forestalled indefinitely.

Yet these things merely exacerbated the market's dependency on "new" things, without in fact addressing the repetitive aspect of the game's design.  It was seen, generally, that all games are "repetitive."  Chess, checkers, cribbage, poker, bridge, boardgames and even outdoor games and sports have a repetitive aspect, so this element in role-playing games was viewed in the same light as any other game ... overlooking the fact that the games listed above, and most other games besides, are easy to play, and don't require enormous prep work, understanding of the rules and time to gain experience and proficiency.  Other games involve a single cash layout, or may be borrowed, require very little time before play can start and enable the player to develop a fair skillfulness after 20 to 40 hours.  D&D and other role-playing games have multiple price points, encourage continuous outlay of funds, requires considerable time spent familiarising oneself with the rules and often more than an hour of game time just to start playing.  And many DMs who try to run the game find that they're ineffective or still struggling after years of play.  All for a game that's still repetitive and from which most players drop out after 18 to 30 months.

I can still sit down to play a game of cribbage right now, though I haven't actually played the game since the 1990s, without needing the rules re-explained.  Any player who hasn't participated in a D&D game for the last 25 years will not only find that they've forgotten nearly everything they might have once known, that many of the rules have been changed and vast numbers of things have been added in pursuit of the "newness" that counteracts the game's repetitiveness.

Some pushback to be felt among players who tire of the amount of time spent includes simplifying the rules, reducing the amount of time "wasted" on character creation, reduction of "excessive" combat (the original game, that brought about the game's popularity, possessed only combat), shortcuts to rule management and emphasis on non-game elements like "character" and "story."

The rise of these latter elements stress "game" elements such as objective, in which the player attempts to achieve something; interactivity, or engagement with the game world; player agency, in which the player influences or shapes the game's narrative; cooperativeness, in which players strive to achieve prepared goals; and aesthetic, those elements of the game that appeal to the player's emotional connection with the game experience.  The payoff, then, is having achieved these things to one's satisfaction.

Game elements not enhanced or even addressed by character and story include rules, what's allowed and what isn't; mechanics, those specific actions or alternatives available to the players; feedback, hard evidence of the player's game progress; challenge, concrete difficulties that must be surpassed to achieve the objective; skill and mastery, which describes the player's learning of the game and grown more masterful of it; and strategy, in which choices dictate the possibility of achieving the outcome.

Take note of how exception of the latter category makes the game's objective more easily obtainable, since advancing characterisation and story requires no specific actions, no evidence of progress and difficulties that can be handwaved, without the player needing to be skilled, capable of planning or subject to consequences.  With much of the game stripped away, either by ignoring multiple game elements, or by drastically simplifying rules and fixed character skills and stats, the result becomes something that's, quote, "easy to play" ... which is exactly the drawback that D&D has had since the beginning, that makes it different from other successful games.

Unfortunately, it's still repetitive.  And while chess, checkers, bridge, cribbage, poker, bridge, boardgames, outdoor games and sports offer inescapable competition between participants, scaled-down simplified D&D offers none of this.  What's left is a repetitive, easy to play game that's yet drowning in game elements like monsters, feats, characters, races, special rules, equipment and magic, so that the DM still has to remember vast amounts of information and still has to manage a game group in a manner that keeps the experience as fresh and lively as possible, while ensuring their agency to be whatever they want to be without restriction or measurement.


Returning to the original concept of the game that firmly placed acquisition as the game's objective.  Initially, it was acquisition of survival as a chit on a combat game board, and later it became the acquisition of materials and character empowerment.  These things are not the fault, as I see it.  The fault was that, having established the dungeon as the place to get materials and empowerment, the game CEASED to evolve, stopping there.  Materials and empowerment were specifically tailored to manage dungeon play, and nothing else, because nothing else was meaningfully addressed as a long term ideal for game play.  It was imagined that eventually player characters would become powerful enough to establish themselves as rulers over part of the game's setting, but what they would do as rulers was never properly addressed or described, while none of the community's on-the-side game development considered player fiefdoms or castles as merely places to store stuff while the players went back to the dungeon for more.

Essentially, what D&D lacks, and which it needs desperately, are other challenges against which players may apply their wealth, their gear, their intuition, their strategy and their empowered selves against.  Then, when that had achieved the goal of plundering a dungeon, there would be other entirely different goals, ones that couldn't be solved by more fabulous equipment and stronger abilities, but which would challenge the players in a totally different manner.  If the game could be drastically enhanced in this way, it would cease to be repetitive — and participants who, at the beginning, fell in love with the game, would have less reason to quit.

Unfortunately, such would require more rules and more mechanics — and not merely of the sort where we're able to churn out the same motif, but different, as with monsters, spells, magic items and feats.  No, to support advanced game application would require the establishment of boundaries, limitations and a structured framework, with puzzle solving and resource management of a completely different manner.   In many ways, we're speaking of a completely new and additional, yet compatible game, within which the players would be able to develop new personal skills (rather than selecting character skills) and mastery over these new mechanics and strategies.  Done well, this would allow players to engage with the game very differently, increasing the level at which players are absorbed and connected to a game that they've long loved, but with which they've grow increasingly tired of due to its dissatisfying repetitiveness.

Unfortunately, this would make the overall game more difficult to learn.  It would mean even greater preparatory time in many cases.  It would defy the simplicity of producing commercial material on a standardised template, as the expections of the players would be that much higher.

But I don't think it would necessarily take longer to learn.  DMs could cut their teeth upon the game's original dungeon format, until gathering the necessary acumen to elevate to the advanced game.  Once sufficient numbers of advanced DMs and gamers had come into existence, it would be easier for these to lend a hand up to others, especially as they gathered insight into how to step up from the "lower" game.  Then, after the usual two year period at which DM's quit, because there seems little point to just starting just another adventure in a dungeon, they might recognise that they're ready to move onto the next thing.

True enough, I'm always postulating such things as though they might happen, when it's highly probable they won't.  But they might have.  IF the goal of Gygax and others in the beginning had reached higher in the game's formative years, they might have realised — though clearly they lacked the necessary vision — to understand that what they'd wrought wasn't actually enough game.  But the fooferaw convinced them that they HAD done it, that they'd thought of everything, that what they had was the sum total of the game's potential, and thus they fell into the trap that would have them, and hundreds of game leaders after them, perpetually polishing a turd to be as bright as it could possibly be.  Today, nearly all of what's written about or designed for D&D has been trying to improve or make it look better, without it actually becoming better.  So much effort has been put into enhancing the appearance of the thing, while ignoring its fundamental flaws and lack of quality across the board, in every edition, that it's been lost to the vast majority of adherents that D&D, and other games like it, just AREN'T as good as they pretend to be.  And let's admit: the underlying problems are substantial.  Because the game, as a game, is substandard.

I continue to believe that additional applications to player character development are legion.  Cast aside the dungeon, and the characters' host of skills are applicable to any pursuit the players choose to undertake.  A practical minded, experienced DM ought to be able to manage a party attempting to do any of those things — which we can see in the structural mechanics of media and video game sources with which we're all familiar.  Players ought to be able to find their missing adoptive daughter; settle personal struggles with fellow gang members; grow as leaders and build relationships with followers and others; piece together the history or culture of the game world; uncover mysteries such as the disappearance of fellow characters; navigate through, or take over, an existing civil war; respond to massive breaches in space time and reality; face moral dilemmas; make moral judgments about others; and do all of it without ever once needing to get a McGuffin from a dungeon, or wholly rely upon their magical abilities to solve every problem or overcome every obstacle.  Players can find themselves face-to-face with real world situations that mere empowerment, wealth and special tools can't fix in a heartbeat.  Where they have to fix the problem by thinking about it, and acting with dispatch, courage, risk, compassion and pragmatism, as the case calls for.

We're already building hundreds upon hundreds of video games where every conceivable form of human interaction or struggle is being given RULES and MECHANICS.  Why can't these same rules and mechanics be imposed in a D&D setting, with a little imagination and practical methodology?  It's not like clunky video games, which rely upon pre-programming a finite set of interactions, can do something the human mind can't do, an instrument that can instantly produce a spontaneous interaction, within a second or two, as needed?

There is far, far, far more game available in D&D than we give the potential structure of the game credit for ... but first, we need to understand how, and why, we continue to cling to an outdated, clumsy, badly designed, unevolved piece of junk.  And for the sake of what?  Nostalgia?  'Cause that's what we played when we were kids?  Because we already have the books?  Because design is takes a lot of time, despite the billions of hours that are shoved into video games that still don't produce a human experience like D&D can?  Piffle.

There are none so blind as those who will not see.

Monday, August 14, 2023

From a Commoner to a Soldier

Monday and my shoulder's back at the wheel ... but over the weekend I worked to provide continuity to a series of posts that have only now been sorted out on the Authentic wiki.

Starting with the "commoner," this is my take on the ordinary worker in society, whose training and knowledge is minimal and mostly confined to one set of tasks: farmers, herders, sailors, the like.  My rules regarding hit points per die explains the origin of the commoner's hit points, which are essentially the same for any animal or humanoid of the same approximate weight.  As the commoner has no training whatsoever in the art of fighting, a 150 lb. farmer with 1 hit die has the same number of hit points as a 150 lb. goat, also with 1 hit die.  I find this appropos.

Because a commoner ought to be able to learn how to fight, I built a set of rules as a "sage ability" called "harden commoner."  This explains the simple procedure for how a player character (or anyone with the ability) can turn a simple commoner into a semi-effective asset in a fight, should that be the plan.  Here I'm thinking of the scene in 1960's The Magnificent Seven, in which experienced gunfighters educate the local peasants on shooting and setting traps, in order to help defend their own village.  But it's important to understand this brief training wouldn't make these peasants "soldiers" ... but it also means they cease to be untrained commoners, also.

I made up a word for such persons, calling them "comrades" ... and updated this description also to reflect the rules under harden commoner.  Those rules, the reader should notice, are quite gritty.  There's room for six measures of "comrade," depending on how much training they've received.  For example, if the players have only one week to train a group of peasants, then it's possible for some of them to learn how to hold and use a shield in combat.  With another week, those who failed the first time to use a shield may yet learn, while others could have their constitution increased 1 point, reduce their non-proficiency penalty with real weapons, and properly wear a helmet in combat.  Recruits in training do sometimes trip and fall because they have trouble with these.

Before I defend the increase in constitution (which I know I have to), I want to express first how realistic I find the procedure described.  It's time sensitive.  The changeover from commoner to comrade isn't instantaneous, nor is it black and white.  Each stage makes an individual a little less a commoner and a little more a comrade, until the process is complete.  As I say, gritty.  But also the sort of thing that lends real interest for the player's immersion in the combat.  If Tomas, say, can actually use a machete (hereditary weapon) and a shield in the fight, while none of his fellows succeeded in getting that far, it gives reason for the players to recognise that Tomas is not Sotero, and not Miguel.  They're people ... and that encourages the players to INVEST in them, even if they're non-player characters.  These elements really matter in keying the players into the game world's romanticism.

Okay, about constitution.  With respect to AD&D, and early D&D rules, the player characters ability stats were sacrosanct.  Nothing short of a wish or like powerful magic could change them, and even at that such power was not absolute.  Gygax understood, as did others, that if the players could simply all change their ability stats to 18, much of the game's verisimilitude would be lost ... and the whole point of rolling up a character made redundant.  Fixed ability stats forced players to adhere to this in game play, if nothing else, and the player's liking or not liking of it be damned.  Under extreme circumstances, stats could be lowered or raised; or they could be affected by the character's age; but most of the time, what the die said when we rolled our character, that's what we lived with.

But ... I argue that before an ordinary NPC becomes a levelled NPC, something must have taken place.  It stands to reason that if we start with an individual who is not in fit condition, is not used to physical hardship, and we train that person, something must happen to their ability stats.  We are not born with wisdom, we learn it.  I'd argue the same with intelligence, but we don't need to get into that mire now.  The stats that a levelled player character upon their entry into the campaign is supposed to be those people at the height of their physical and mental potential, following their training.  A commoner certainly isn't that.  So, yes, with two weeks hard work, I believe that they could get trim enough to increase their unhealthy constitution to a healthier one.

During my vacation, though I ate well, I lost 8 lbs. in 19 days.  By the 5th day, I could feel that a change was taking place.  By the middle of the second week, my body had unquestionably hardened, and my endurance for the effort each day had increased.  I wasn't getting tireder, I was getting stronger.  And I'm pleased to find that I'm at 238 right now.  I'd rather be at 225, but this is a really good mass for me just now.  Tamara is certainly enjoying it.

Okay, so ... we have our comrade.  With time and further training, we may assume he has all the characteristics associated with a comrade.  But suppose we want to go farther?  What's the next stage up?  Well, from peasant-turned-combatant, the next stage is combatant-turned-soldier.  So I reworked the page on how to train a comrade to be a soldier.

I perceived this to be more intense, and more long-lasting.  In modern warfare, we train an ordinary person (usually one who's experience team sports, physical exercise and a better diet than our medieval counterpart) into a soldier in 6 weeks.  This involves a great deal of scientific expertise in the effort, hundreds of years of practice, the use of guns and not swords, and worldly persons who can comprehend difficult esoteric matters of conflict.  A medieval or renaissance recruit lacks much of this "prep" and therefore, I'm stretching the time to four months.  I have no evidence to tell me whether this is too much or too little, because none exists.  Which means, conveniently, that anyone with a different opinion is no more right, nor less right, than I am.

Training a soldier is also presented as a gritty procedure.  Once again, soldiers with one month of training still have more skills that a comrade (or a chance for them), while yet not being a full soldier.  This means there is a quantifiable measure for how useful it is to empty a local school of its half-trained recruits, should that be necessary.

Finally, a page for "soldier-at-arms" had to be written to reflect the training.  This did exist on the old wiki, but it's better fleshed out now.  When a player hires a soldier, they understand what they're getting; they understand where that soldier came from, and what he or she had to do to become a soldier.  All this grit gives the player a much better sense of what they can order a soldier to do, and more to the point, what soldiers won't do because they're not dungeon-fodder for the players.  They've seen things; taken part in actual wars; had comrades and friends die.  They may not be levelled, but that doesn't mean they're not going to speak up when the players make a plan, or wait to be expended.  Players aren't "officers."  If they turn on a soldier, and kill one for not obeying orders, that's murder, not justice.  And everyone present will see it that way.  Players need to learn that when they hire someone for their ability, they must also respect that ability.  Or risk consequences for their actions they never intended.

Anyway ...

The next step, and I don't cherish it, is to finally settle in and describe the process by which a soldier, or any person, is transformed from being an ordinary person without skills into a levelled person who has them, and can cast spells and perform other unimaginable feats besides.  It's going to be a long, long effort.

And I'm not starting today.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Cooking an Egg

Whatever one may hope for, there's a difficulty in writing thoroughly on the subject, "How to Play D&D," that manifests on various levels.  And no, it's not that there is more than one edition.  Were there only one edition, the core problems are the same.

On the one hand, we can write a book for those who have never played the game before, which is usually done.  The standard model is to (a) increase the reader's excitement to play the game by stressing its uniqueness and creative components; and (b) make a passing effort to explain each component of play, including those that have only come into vogue in the last fifteen years of a 50-year-old game; and (c) fail utterly to present a gestalt of these elements, as it's impossible to comprehend this without actually playing ... and after multiple sessions.

D&D and other RPGs defy deconstruction in this manner.  As a game, it requires practical experience.  Using another field as an example, chef training is done in a kitchen environment, where the participants perform actions that produce visual results that cannot be explained in a text.  One cannot write a textbook that fully explains cooking.  It must be understood in a hands-on manner.

D&D is the same.  I cannot explain nor tell a non-player how to play without confusing them utterly ... or, as in the case of many early D&D basic manuals, screwing up their perception of game play for the rest of their lives by presenting an "example of play."  Such examples cannot possibly capture the whole conception of the game that's possible, but they can seriously bias unknowing persons who — like good monkeys — pick over the one example exhaustively, falling into the trap of believing that ALL game play has to conform to the one example they have.  In the long run, the example of play does more harm than good.

It is as though that once we're given the example of how to cook an egg, it's assumed we're ready to cook everything else.  "Ah!" we exclaim, and rush forward to fry everything in a pan, waiting for it to turn white — only to wonder why it won't.  Only, this doesn't happen because we've had other people cook all kinds of food for us before we reach the age of 7, so that we start out well versed in food coming in a great many forms.  D&D, not so much.

The practice of playing and learning D&D happens mostly in isolation ... either with us isolated as individuals, or else isolated in small groups possessing tight, specific value systems.  Generally, if we play with only one group early on, with a limited number of players in that group, then the conformity imposed by play within that group reduces our game experience.  It befalls on us to seek out other groups and other forms of play, and other games, to provide ourselves with a useful education that can be applied to our role-playing.  If, however, our knowledge of games is limited, and our experience with different groups is equally limited, than our vision of play will be limited also.  And for the most part, once we become used to a restrictive routine of play, however tedious it might be, we're obstructed or frustrated in pursuing other directions.  In fact, we may be driven to decry other forms of play as foolish or absurd, specifically because they are not our forms of play.

This general attitude thwarts the other alternative to writing a book about how to play D&D: one for those who already have played, who already understand the gestalt, who understand the game's components, and are already excited to play.  This being that my philosophy of play, the experiential composite of all that I've learned in my years of D&D, cannot be appreciated because it does not conform to your style.  Recently, I read this post written by a DM who had invested himself into a 5th edition campaign, only to find many months later that it wasn't his cup of tea.  His takeaway?

"I don't want rules. I don't want confusion. I don't want to have to think about it much. I just want to play with my friends, tell a good story and have a good time, and roll some dice."


I have zero experiential overlap with this individual.  Games have rules ... and the rolling of dice assumes its done according to those rules.  The dynamic of role-playing requires that a group of people sit around a table and think.  It's the nature of humanity that when multiple people share ideas, confusion results.  Telling a story is not a game, it's a performance to which others listen passively.

Translated, it might read,

"I cooked the breakfast cereal, and it did not turn white."

Thus, in deciding to write a book on how to play D&D, we must acknowledge first that our audience is skewed, and often hopelessly.  We can hope to write a book for noobs, thinking that we're going to introduce people to "our version" of the game, but without also giving them extensive practical experience in cooking the game, our efforts can only produce oblique attitudes dependent on how the work is interpreted within the narrow framework of the reader.  If we were able to establish ourselves within an institution of learning, and if we were able to systematically introduce persons to the game through text and practical experience, and if we sustained that experience through the eyes of multiple instructors who together perceived a single, unified, effective means of turning individuals into good dungeon masters and players, we might ultimately turn out generations of players who might, through better play and perception of the game, obliterate those weaker, crippled game philosophies that exist presently.  But all that takes money.  It takes organisation.  It takes effort to locate individuals who can be brought up to the level of instructors in their understanding of the game and its potential.

If I had, say, $40,000,000, I might make the attempt.  I might establish a "school" in a central location, perhaps Wisconsin, since the state already has a halo effect resulting from the game's past history.  Though, for myself, even though I've seen quite a lot of Wisconsin now, and found the people there very friendly and open, as well as having a friend there, I still feel no urge to live in America.  Perhaps I could start a school in Sault St. Marie.  The location could be an abandoned elementary school (I saw many of these), with effort given to a small part at first while some of the interior space could be rebuilt into modest dorm rooms.

I could then offer an absurd wage to "come and learn how to be a professor" to a half-dozen individuals ... say, $6,000 a month for six months.  This coin would be an incentive for my students to learn, especially if they understood that successfully reproducing my practical methods might land them a teaching position in the long term.  "Students" could be obtained by establishing a "tuition" of, say, $700 a month, with room and board included ... so that individuals could come play for the cost of rent, while having time to work in the area at jobs, with the benefit of playing D&D with the "professors" whenever they made themselves available.  Students failing to attend at least 20 hours of games would be ousted; students who resisted the game's philosophy would be ousted ("failed"); and further dismissal could be imposed on the usual human weaknesses related to vice, emotional abuse and so on.  Though I'd be getting no government assistance for my "school," there'd have to be considerable legal matters to address to assure that if someone needed to be let go, there'd be grounds to do so.

Then, see what happens.

But write a book on how to play D&D, even for my own aggrandisement, whether or not it had an effect on the general culture?  Thank you, no.  I find it far more practical to address small issues, one at a time, for those ready to listen, and let the gestalt eventually overwhelm the listener until their increased experience points produces a change in their thinking.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Nutrition & the Preparation of Food

For those who are interested, I've completed the rewrite of "Nutrition & the Preparation of Food" for the Authentic Wiki, removing it at last from the old wiki.  This makes it the 11th longest page on the wiki.

Wednesday, August 9, 2023


Tamara and I have completed our trip across Canada and parts of America, and are now safe at home.  The last day and a half, from Winnipeg to Calgary, went ordinarily, though we were quite tired and ready to be done.

My take on the trip is varied, apart from things I've said.  I'm certainly glad we went, despite not finding what we sought.  But after 19 days of continuous travelling, it's difficult at this time to be objective.  Mostly, it's just the old saw of home being the best place of all.  This is especially true in our case, since we're home four days ahead of our original plans, simply because we'd had enough vacationing and wanted to stop.

As I haven't delved into anything serious in nearly three weeks, I feel like an overcharged battery, ready to let loose on a long list of things.  I don't know precisely what I'm going to do next, though the Streetvendor's Guide will take priority.  Then it's certainly getting myself prepped for video podcasts, as I see this being a necessary step forward in drawing attention to my work.  Following that, some flotsam and jetsam here and there.  Last night, in a hotel room in Swift Current, I did some test work applying ChatGPT as a search engine for the Authentic wiki, and found it somewhat useful in suggesting possible sage studies and abilities.  It's really in how the system is used.

But for now, rest.  Just rest.

Monday, August 7, 2023

Stroads, across Ontario to Manitoba

Continuing from the last post, on Saturday we left Pembroke, Ontario (west of Ottawa) and travelled as far as Blind River ... where exactly a week before, we'd done out laundry in the laundromat there.  I had a chat with the owner as it was again our laundry day, made easier because I was familiar with the place.  This was the 3rd day of our journey home, and not much progress was made ... we've both gotten progressively more tired, and as an older couple we're not up to travelling 12 hours a day.  Eight or nine is about our limit.

We've cast off all interest in stopping for any reason, and this has helped us get to Winnipeg, today.  It helped enormously that it's the August long weekend, so that much of the construction that held us up on our way out east was "on vacation" yesterday and today.  Yesterday we had trouble finding a hotel at the end of the day, however, which drove us to drive later than usual, until reaching Thunder Bay.  It's always possible to find a room in a good-sized city.

We're treating ourselves to a prestige hotel room tonight.  There's just a day and a half left between us and Calgary ... and yet we're considering staying a second night in Winnipeg, just to rest before pushing home.  This is, after all, our 17th straight day of driving.

It's been something of a vision quest for me.  Travelling this way is today is very different from earlier trips I once took in the 1970s and 80s, with my parents and on my own.  Cruelly, we've encountered an identical culture across the country.  It's all too often that I've felt, looking at the streets and houses, that I'm still in Calgary.  This is particularly true of the "stroads" that are absolutely everywhere.  These are often criticised for the inconvenience and dangers they offer pedestrians, making neighbourhoods "unwalkable," but I'd like to add a point or two of my own.

Some 40 years ago, the creation of a "gasoline alley" began to appear in most mid-sized towns, where a service road was built alongside a highway featuring gas stations, fast-food joints and other shops, surrounded by pads of concrete.  From our travels, most of these side routes have disappeared, to be replaced by four or six-lane stroads where such businesses, supported by the addition of large box stores, line both sides of the street.  If a traveller needs to visit a supermarket, or buy a new pair of pants, or get some part of the car fixed or looked at, it's now necessary to wade into the time-wasting "car seas" these areas create.

From a driver's point of view, the problem is too much access from parking lots to street, with persons wishing to make both right and left turns from every driveway.  The frustration that comes from waiting to merge drives many drivers to shoot out in a mad rush to avoid having to wait ... usually forcing some other driver to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident.  This snarls and backs traffic all over the stroad's area — which is maddening.

Time and again, Tamara and I have been dragged into such areas by following Google Maps, which makes no distinction between one important road and another.  Thus, just wanting to get from one highway to another, we've been plunged into enough of these areas to hesitate entering any sizable city for any reason, if we can help it.  It's faster to divert five miles our of our way, along country roads, that get enmeshed in these institutional traffic jams.

They are a blight.  They've chewed up dozens of towns that, once upon a time, an outsider might have visited ... but now there's nothing to see, and nothing to do there, that one cannot do ten minutes from one's own house, anywhere in the country.  It's wrecked my interest in urban travel.  The truly best parts of our journey has been those driving through great isolated backcountry areas, because there's still nature to see.

And this hurts me, I think.  I have fond memories of my first trips to Toronto, Vancouver and Winnipeg, when these places were so different from home.  But now these places are just cookie-cutter versions of Calgary.  I have no reason to go there.  And I don't think I'll ever take a trip like this again.  Something has died, and in ways I feel this trip has been my opportunity to view and identify the body.

Friday, August 4, 2023

New Hampshire to Maine, then to New Brunswick, then to ...

We left Gorham, New Hampshire, Tuesday morning, driving east into Maine.  From there we drifted down along country roads, though paved, out of the mountains and into Lewiston, then Brunswick.  At the place where I put a supposed trading post in the essay, "Bumper Cars" (and I stood on the spot), is a Shell station.  We gassed up, then headed east until taking a road to the Maine coast ... where Tamara and I met Sterling, regular commentor on this blog.

The details are private, of course, but Sterling is a hail fellow, well met, and we spent an enjoyable afternoon with each other, speaking about D&D, Traveller, sailing, his house, cooking and more.  As the house is "nearly" in the country (on the very end of the settlement in which he lives), we accepted dinner and Tamara and I met Sterling's family.  A good time was had by all.

I must say that these meetings are tremendously heartening for me.  I think there's much to be said for these sorts of meetings, to prove that voices on the internet ARE people, especially those we disagree with.  That's not to say that "meeting" someone would automatically mend rifts and conflicts in what we believe; there are many readers I would never like to meet.  With those people, however, who have consistently supported me, consistently challenged me, consistently stood up as a voice to me, I now believe that were we to know one another in person, we would certainly be friends.  It's not an illusion.  With some people, what they say online is really what they believe in reality.

It's just a damn shame we're so far away from one another.

I hope that I have a chance to meet with other readers.  I have met with two and it has been an honour.

After leaving Sterling on the 2nd, we found shelter at a quaint little Irish motel in Rockland, the room of which was one of the nicest we've encountered.  Somewhere during this journey, however, I lost interest in taking pictures.  Somehow, as I begin living my life, I forget about recording it.  That's partly because in the end, recording it in words seems better to me.  My memory doesn't require a picture.  It only asks for the time and a brief description, and I'm there.  In any case, by the time we settled in, I was too spent to write a blog post.

From Rockland, we left Maine and roamed into New Brunswick.  We restored our provisions in Saint John, took some time to witness the tides and settled in for the night.  In the worst room of our entire trip.

Let's see ... the chair in the room was broken.  The bathtub was dangerously slippery.  There was no desk, and I felt too tired to write, again.  The beds hadn't been replaced in at least 15 years and we could feel the springs as we laid down.  But as we'd slept on springs before, we shrugged it off.  The room wasn't expensive.  

To get in, the door had to be forced.  I had to get the manager to show me how, and to be honest I never got the knack of it.  Then, later, deciding to get something from the car, I found that I couldn't open the door to get out.  At all.  I pulled, Tamara pulled, but to no avail.  I was about to call the manager to come over and let us out, when I instead I remembered we had a card from another hotel a week before.  I used the card to break out of our room.  Twice.

When we laid down to sleep, it was then we discovered that while we could feel the springs, the beds had no give at all.  It's a combination I've never encountered.  Tamara, who weighs less than me, padded the bed covers with blankets we'd brought along and made out okay.  I was thankful that we'd brought a yoga mat with us; I laid this under the bedsheets, atop the mattress and slept on that.  A bit narrow, but at least it had some padding.

We did not sleep well.

The next morning (that was yesterday, Thursday the 4th), we started off towards Nova Scotia.  But then we began to talk about what we'd seen, and what we wanted to see ... and none of it seemed terribly important any more.  We'd originally meant to go to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, and even Newfoundland ... but ... by yesterday morning, we'd stopped caring about that.  We talked about home, and being home, and going home.  And decided we wanted those things more.

So, just shy of Moncton, we turned around and headed west.  Yesterday, we left New Brunswick and reached La Pocatiere in Quebec.  Again, I wanted to write, but after getting our stuff out of the car in a driving rain, I didn't relish it.

Today, we've gone further west.  I'm writing from an hour west of Ottawa, in a nice hotel with a pool, which I'm going to try in about ten minutes.  We're happy and anxious to return to our lives.