Saturday, 26 December 2015

[off-topic] Payment for services rendered - Programmer

Something that's been nagging me for some time now, is the payment system in companies for services. a.k.a. employment, and how programmers and engineers have royally screwed ourselves, and I blame the hippies, oh and its related to the gaming industry ten-fold.

As an Artist, where are my royalties?

When an Artist creates art, which sells, again and again and again, they get paid for the copies. They own the original, that took them more time and effort to create the original than effort to reproduce.

When a write writes a book, and that book sells, they get royalties on each sale, as long as its being used, and money is changing hands, some of it goes to the person who deals with the ownership, chases the payments etc (the agent) and some goes to the original writer.

So when a programmer 'writes' code, and that code is used to make money, then provided the programmer is also the owner, they get money as long as someone buys the product.

But when a programmer works hard, more effort to create than to reproduce, (s)he gets an hourly wage if (s)he's lucky, and overtime if (s)he's not

I was having a hard time trying to think of any other worker that gets the short end of the stick in being the creator, yet earning none of the profits. Actors get royalties, Artists, Writers, Musicians, yes there is some flow, some screwed, some not, but the system is designed (if flawed) to give them royalties.

So why not programmers?

Because in the beginning, it was a labour of love. People don't care to demand hard cash for something they enjoy doing. Just enough to get by on. The whole concept of digital free, if it can be so easily reproduced, why should I pay for it? This infects the industry of all royalty systems, except in games, where the programmers are screwed. They get an hourly wage, no matter how poorly or how awesomely they work. Which might be why, as often as not, games are so badly done.. its no longer for the lolz, not for the beauty, not for the experience..

Imagine a group of artists, paid to draw millions of pictures, to make a movie, and they all have to 'create' each and every image, from scratch, but collaborate with other artists to make sure it comes together as a coherent whole at the end, to make an animated movie. How insane would that be? Disney Artists had sketches to work from, they copied a style, they drew the frames, but they didn't have to 'recreate' the model for each and every frame.

Worse is the trickle down effect on the industry.

When a big company can spurt out a $0.99 mobile game that has fabulous graphics and half decent game play, they can do so because 100,000 people are going to buy it. Now the customer has an expectation of what a 'mobile game' costs, so they expect their games at that quality and price.

But the little guy, to make the same game, has to spend months of his life, years even to make a game, flesh it out, draw the art, etc and he needs 25k a year to survive, but only 10,000 people see his game, and 80% of them get the free version, so he earns $2,000.

The expectation of the programmer has gone from being a god, someone who can control the amazing lights of the internet, and is in command of the very lifeblood of the future.. to a worker, a slave to the system, a cog. 

How the mighty have fallen..


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

[worldbuilding] Discovering old maps part 2

Having discovered my old maps and deciding to rework them, I continue on my path to create a new.. old world

Part One

The Canvas

To really get a feel for what I was doing, I gathered all my maps and looked over them, drew out sketches of things, very very general sketches.. making sure certain issues were dealt with..

The first was simple world physics. The Original Coyn World was far smaller, the sun would pass overhead which would mean very long days, very hot days.. or the sun would need to move so fast you could watch it shift shadows. So I needed to 'set' the sun to match the more current world maps which I worked on the physics for months before I got it all right.

So the sun rises and falls on the rim of the coyn, but now a new problem.. in the centre of the world is a spire (because remember, that this world was more directly a copy of Terry Pratchett's Discworld). So with only a 30. degree rise, the spire would blot out the sun on the other side of the world, making winter in some areas deadly.. while interesting.. was going to break too many maps..
Zoom in to see details.

So I adjusted the rules of the sun, 40. degree, sped it up slightly to ensure an earth approximate temperature, checked the maths, then started measuring the spire. (see the little image below.. it had to get shrunk..60%)

As you can see from the image, the spire shadow would (from the 16 different months) only cover half of the world in winters shadow.

Now, since I was going to use the zoomed in section, I needed to ensure that any nearby mountain ranges might not interfere with the suns rays.. there was.. you can see the mountain with the green sun lines to determine its midday ranges..

Next, I plotted out the suns direction to give me some workable lines. I no longer had the cad program I used before and I calculated the time it would take to make a new program to work the maths, would exceed the time I would take to simply draw lines on a map myself. So I drew the lines myself.
One Shadow Map

I'm not going to bore you with 16 variants of map, just one. What I did was work out the distances the sun was from the local hills, and the height of the sun at 9am, midday and 3pm, and "shifted" the mountain peaks lines in an art program and filled in the shadows with a darker colour.

Shadow Lines, Shadow Months & Sun Levels
Then I blended all images together to give me a colour coded map for the 4 months of summer, winter, spring and autumn so I could determine biomes. If an area got 2-3 hours of sun, mid-autumn, but remained in the shadow of the local mountains, its going to be a colder region, and will less likely to have temperate forests, so I'd colour those zones with a light green/blue, if it got sun all 18 hours of the day, all times of the year, its going to be a desert.

Rainfall Levels
Next I started adding Water. Simple google searches explain how water evaporates off the ocean, flows across the land, then when it hits mountains it becomes rain and produces forests and rivers and the like. So I mapped out the general flow of the clouds and map a map of that.

Forests in Green, Deserts in Yellow
Next I made sure my river beds on the original maps matched the flow of water coming from the mountains. I had made some mistakes, but mostly it was ok, so I matched the rivers to the shadows to the biomes and drew in the spots where forests could grow (not would.. just could).

Then I scanned all these, and overlayed them in the art program, and this gave me the 'concept' of where the forests 'would be' before humans started chopping them down and building places.

Not that its easy, but you might be able to see that my original 1991 maps have quite different forest lines to the new more legit maps
Lots of little trees, all those green dots.. (yes I'm using copics)

So far so good.


So my new map now has a very cool desert like terrain, not exactly Sahara, but more Australia/Arabia/Egypt, so that unlocks some opportunities. Also the larger expanses of plains on the east, could be used for some battles.. European style.. and now the central valleys are all cold.. snowy cold.. so I can also make some cool little Russian/Mongolian Taiga locations.

Plot-hooks

The Main draw card for this island, is the History. 12 gigantic Ziggurats from an ancient civilization of 9ft tall crocodile people, built of gold, (based on the 'cities of gold t.v. series when I was a kid). Heroes across the world catch boats here, travel through the cities, spend their money, and some return from the ziggurats with a gold brick the size of a dog, enough to retire the entire group, if they so wish.
My notes are sketchy as to what they contain, but I have some maps and a few pages of notes, so I just need to piece it together (and re-watch the t.v. series to see if it sparks any memories). the main point comes from one line at the top of the page:

"The Ziggurats are heavily guarded, not by living creatures, as they would have died eons ago, no but by traps, ingenious deadly traps, that are designed for 9ft tall priests, who know the correct path, to be able to traverse safely, at the right time, in the right season."

My notes only included traps that players came across, (I used to make everything up as I went). Chessboard battles, Illusionary chasms, a Cart-Voodoo puzzle and some giant cat statues that shoot lazers? So now I just need some ingenious traps to flesh out the rest of the rooms..

Lastly, because I never got around to finishing it, I'm putting the dead remains of one of my old roleplay groups, in a set of Crypts that guard ancient treasures that they collected

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Narrative Sharing, my two cents

Just Wanted to jump on the bandwagon of this wave on the interwebs.

You can look at the arguments across some of the forums, from here and here and here and here

TL;DR; If used sparingly, a narrative mechanic might work, but you gotta be a dang good GM to know how to use it.

Should Players have Narrative Control?

Sure, about themselves, their characters, their decisions, for the most part. When players suddenly decide their law abiding paladin decides to slaughter innocent children, I gotta ask the player.. "hey buddy, that makes zero sense for your character, should we talk about whats happening?" So maybe not 100%.

When it comes to asking the now famous question: "Do I see a rock nearby?" or the other "is there a Botany book in this library" Now we're getting to some of the problem.. I'm thinking, probably yes, but, ... and I'll get to that..

When a player starts saying things like, " I wanna play an elf" and I say, "sorry, but the campaign is set too far from any reasonable expectation of an elf being within dragon-spitting distance, let alone born here, what is it you want to play?" we're not talking narrative, we're talking setting.. so thats another point.. kind of a yes.. but.

If a player ask, in my Pratchettesque fantasy setting, " I want to buy a glock.38" then I'm going to look at him quizzically and say, "you do realize this is a fantasy game right? no guns?" so that's a plain.. No.

Working backwards:

Setting, I hope it doesn't need to be explained in detail, no-one is really arguing that a player insists on breaking the setting, and that a GM need to allow it. strike it off the list.

Bending the setting, When a player wants to create his character that's not really permissible. Early GMs might capitulate because they don't know or haven't experienced how sometimes saying yes to make the player feel good, will break the world. My example of an Elf above, would suggest, somehow against all logic and reason, some Elven parents managed to sneak into territory hostile to elves, have a kid, raise him, all the while disguising themselves and their kid until adult-hood, enough that he can now become an adventurer with the group. This is when my players can use my Karma system, what would be Fate/Bennies/points that could make this 'background' ok, why? Does that break my world? no because its setting, we haven't started playing, its developing their own character, their background, in a way that is interesting to the player and the group.

Ok, struck from the list.. Now for in-game player narrative..

Looking at the Idea, Is there a Book about Botany in the library. To start most would agree, It is pre-destined or it is unknown.  In the case of the pre-destined book existing we have the concept of, the GM pre-thought the books existence or non-existence, and is in his notes. "the Library contains only roleplay manuals". But realistically, a book about botany not existing in a library, sounds quite far-fetched, so maybe the GM takes a moment and thinks.. hmm, well maybe..

So we're left with the Schrodinger cat conundrum, Does the Book exist or not? Like many before me have spoken, There seems two camps of thought..The Book has a chance of existing, because the world has a statistical chance of it existing, or the Book exists because of Narrative reasons.

With the chance of existing, the statistical value is based on factoids that the GM mostly knows, but maybe the players might also know if its a published adventure world, such as forgotten realms or Warhammer40k. In this case, most GMs who follow this style of GMing would roll a percentile dice of chance to see if the book exists. If it does, it does, the GM didn't decide that it existed, the plot didn't decide, The statistical chance determined that is was there all along, the percentile roll only determined that the player found it. Actually, the roll might determine that the player didn't find it, but its still actually there.. If a tree falls in the woods, does the GM hear it?

From the Narrative point of view, the Books existence is based on the flow of the story. If the player has an idea and the idea doesn't directly break the GMs current world view, he allows it, because the player has more narrative control.. and this seems to be the whole argument..

Did the book exist? or did it pop into existance because the player, and not the GM determined it needed to exist.. will this break the world?

Some game systems and Improv Theatre roleplay groups insist that this be the norm, if the GM didn't previously state that it was not so, then the players should be able to include it, sometimes for some kind of point/luck/benny/fate cost.. 

Now sure, if a group decides together that this should be the way they play.. go for it.. find out the dangers and benefits, play to their hearts contents, but don't for a second expect me to listen to your story with any level of immersion, its like kids explaining how cool it is to play a game with god-mode on, or how cool minecraft is in creative mode.. no.. its not cool.. I'm not going to say that to their sweet little cherub faces of course, but I know deep down that they've missed out on the very reason roleplay games work.. 

Experience, creativity, boundaries and obstacles.

Its fun to figure out a puzzle, we get the boundaries and the obstacles, we use creativity and when we solve it we are wiser for the experience. If we can suddenly change the boundaries, how will be ever be able to learn how to solve the original puzzle? we've changed the puzzle and we solve, probably an easier version, probably we've changed it to something we've already done before, because its easier, so we don't even learn anything new.. 

Lets look at the rock in the above example..

The Player stands in a stream and says "Oh I need a rock, is there one nearby?"

Every GM says, of course there's likely to be a rock in a stream, and lets them have one. I say.. Hang on.. what is the player asking? I have an idea.. I want to use a rock for something.. spell component or throw it or.. something.. In a movie, there will be a rock if there needs to be, because we like luck to favour the hero. If the plot determines that a rock will make the event too boring too easy, then there is no rock.. but that's a movie.. Its understood by the writer and director where the movie is going so they can balance this exactly as needed.. but a GM, on the fly? with a player who hasn't told the GM what the rock is for yet? how can he judge if that rock is going to make or break the plot.. so its easier to determine.. likely that rock exists in reality, the player wants one.. so let him have it.

I might think also.. wait, is that player always 'coming up with ideas at the last moment? and using his fate/benny/luck to change the plot? how will a person grow, if he expect life to always have things ready for him.. so maybe the rock will be there, but not accessible, not right this very combat round.. so he thinks, next time, next time I'll get a rock and be prepared, have one in my pocket.. like a good adventurer should.

That's sorta "yes, and" but I've created an obstacle to what they wanted, because they thought of it at the last second and wanted 'god' to 'shift' reality to accommodate, which I hate to do, but they are heroes and they should be lucky, because roleplay is a little cinematic.. but they have to use the luck.

Why is this acceptable to me? because dice are fickle, and narrative is not supposed to end because someone rolled a 1 at the wrong time, but I don't want to bend the rules, because then it never ends.. and when I've played games with GMs who rule bend to keep the narrative, I got bored almost instantly.. why bother to try so hard if the GM is just going to allow me to do my cool thing because it fit the narrative or as much it didn't break the narrative. So I included a mechanic, dice are fickle, monsters and NPCs might die because life is like that, but you are heroes, so if you make a choice and it results in poor dice rolls, you can use your luck to take back that roll, and live another day.. but learn from your mistakes, because you have a limited pool and once they run dry, you've out of luck.

For systems without some kind of saviour, I don't see an answer. fickle dice will kill a straight simulationist story, but player narrative will destroy players agency in the long run, and make a game boring. finding the right balance is hard.. which is why people will argue about it.


Saturday, 19 December 2015

Monopoly New House Rule

Just watched an interesting article about how Monopolies original concept was to teach you to hate the rise of the real-estate barons, I guess that's why everyone gets that negative feeling when playing..

Heres the link:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xeLPNVmzerg

But an Idea popped up from watching, specifically from the one point,

Choose your Direction, after you roll.

   In roll and move board games, players are at the mercy of the dice. Many games that use this mechanic (which many board games designers call the worst ever mechanic) don't give you any choice, you roll, you see what it results in, you follow the rules of that square, pass the dice.
   The Idea of player agency, player choice, which makes game more interesting, is in monopoly, which is probably why it did so well, vs snakes & ladders and other games of its time. You roll the dice, but then you have a choice, buy the property at the listed price or be the auctioneer on the property (Original rules had no listed price, you just went to auction automatically). Also, if the up coming properties were already taken, you engaged the players in conversation before rolling the dice, get them distracted about some other topic, roll casually, count out your position in your head and if you landed on someone elses property, pass the dice and encourage them to roll "quick game is a good game" as you moved your piece.. if they rolled quick enough, you escaped the rent.
   Paying attention, in a time when board games were more about an excuse to have conversation and get together, than to actually play, was more critical.

But one rule that was lost to time, was the agency of choice. When you rolled. you could choose which direction you wanted to move, except backwards past go (see there was a reason there was an arrow) you could only pass go in one direction to get paid.

Thinking about it, how many lost opportunities are there for games where this kind of mechanic could be employed. What you gain in not going forward to a bad square and going backward to a safer square, you give up in faster income, also teaching players that sometimes going backwards in life can be the better choice.

What other dice choice mechanics could we be using? 

Roll two dice, and move either the value of one dice or the other.. choice in your possible results.
How about moving one die forward and the other backward, takes longer to move around the board, but give you choice.
Two dice, move either the result or either of the individual dice, or reverse for the same. Now you have six possible choices, throw in the +/- variant and you have eight possible locations to choose from..

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

[Worldbuilding] Discovering Old Maps Part 1.

Have you ever packed up all your stuff, moved, and then forgotten to unpack one box, stuck in storage, back room or shed or some place, then you open it years later and say "oh wow, I forgot I had all this?" Tag that emotion..

The Discovery


I left my mums place when I was 19, packed a lot of things in boxes to move, but my new place was big enough to expand into. I wrote a lot of notes into old books. At the start of a new year, around  February / March, Diaries become cheaper, so I picked up what was $20 hard cover, leather bound business diaries for maybe $2.

In these I would write my game rules, notes, adventures, everything. I even have old receipts and budgets for my lifestyle..

When I moved from that place, I had to go home for 6 months to sort out my finances, so most of my stuff, unable to fit into my small room, had to get put in boxes.

Digital Version of my world and how I made it
When I moved from there to my next place, I had the room, but I sorta maybe forgot about the older stuff, I maybe felt like my old notes were not as good as my newer notes, I was more grown up.

Also I had decided to make things digital, I could map things in the Civilisation game, sort out what was where and structure things more systematically.. so why would I ever use all my old maps again?

So they stayed in their boxes and I made all new maps.

Fast forward >> I GMd for several years, made a whole new version of my rules, shelved the old version, and with it, made all new maps >> Then I left Australia, travelled Europe to understand more of what makes roleplay interesting and returned to start the whole next version of my rules to match the growing and changing landscape that is the roleplay community >>

So 2013, I move into a new place, and take all my boxes stored in my mothers roof and put them on my shelves.. but I'm studying so hard, I have no time to actually check them

The Orginal (Upper Right) Albius, Drawn 1991
And now its 2015, a month ago I opened up a few boxes and started to sift through.. Cue tagged emotion.. WOW!

What to do with it all? a lot of it was almost useless.. maps we never got around to using, places that had no names.. is it worth it to bother to use a map because I made it 25 years ago?

Is it any different to making a new one?

Well I decided to stick to my original plans.. History is written by those who survive, so whose to say that the world map I had was 'legit' It could be a map that someone could have drawn based on theory and conjecture, rather than the actual world map.. that allowed for some 'adjustments for reality'

Then also, we had stories about characters from ages ago.. players who played in our games and I could ask them to recall their events and write them in this blog or put some together as 'histories' all manner of creative ideas can come from it.

The Lands of Albius, Drawn June 2015
So, I decided.. since my blog has been a bit sparse of late, that I would document the 're-creation' of my game world, using original maps, updated maps, notes, structures of ideas and things from 1989-1996, prior to the Civ Maps, and use them as my "original world" series.

My endevour, to 'match' enough of the maps and map notes together to make one cohesive world, without breaking any of the history, (but maybe breaking a tiny bit of continuity, but creatively) and document the process.

Link to be Added:

Friday, 13 November 2015

Veterans Day in your world

After seeing so many of the 11/11/11:11 posts, I was reminded of an old TV-show that had rigged up a trap to go off and shoot anyone trying to access a treasure chest. It was such a moment in my childhood that I never forgot, So I was going to write about that..

But then I saw a photo-shoot of returned, healed veterans, missing arms, legs, both, faces from burns.. and for a moment I thought.. no-one in a fantasy world would be coming back like that, they'd either die.. or get miracle cures / limited wish back to full health.. but I asked myself again..

What would happen to veterans in our fantasy worlds

Our lives are affected by events around us, what we see, how other people explain what they see, and the cumulative effect it has upon us.

So When roleplay characters have events around them, their lives will be affected as much.. yet I get the feeling that maybe some GMs forget to add that to their games and worlds.

How Often have you had NPCs in taverns talk about the last great war, how it affected them, what they did, their stories. More interestingly, how did the non-worldly events change things. Magic can be both napalm and airstrikes, tactical strikes and reconnaissance, so would a medieval war be like we think of a medieval war? or would it be more on par with WWI & II, even some of the skirmishes being played out now.

What of Healing? If a cleric or three exist on the battlefield, wouldn't they be the no.1 target for all strikes? Mass heals, miracle cures, Resurrection for the top brass or greatest heroes? Surely the local kings would be half decent warriors, and would go into battle daily, with the knowledge that no matter what, they'll be alive again the next day.

I don't know about many systems, but my Clerics gain XP for healing, based on the wound and how much healing took place. After a week of constant, regular healing, plus surgery, they'd gain a level or maybe two, sure the diminishing returns would take out some of the smaller HP heals, but any mid level Cleric/Priest with a minor in healing, is going to get more than half a dozen levels from just being on call.. 

and if they were running M.A.S.H. I'd have some epic level doctors by the end of the campaign.

What of the wounded? the dying? ok guys, rush them all into this 10x10m room, and I'll mass heal everyone to stop bleeding and close severe wounds.. then the junior clerics can take over and do some extra healing on the severely wounded, and within a few days the entire platoon would be back on their feet, right as rain.

Only the dead would be the limiter, so get those clerics in some arrow resistant armour, out on the battlefield, and heal them before they die, not much, just enough to survive the trip back to hospital.

Wars would go on for much longer. Soldiers would gain enough XP to level up, by the end of a campaign, you'd have an army of 3rd or 4th levels.. that's a scary thought.. maybe that's why they go fighting, for massive XP boosts.

Sieges might be the same, except a few mages that summon up food would counter the main problem, and the sight buff spells would take care of sappers and other tricks from the enemy..

Again Mages, they could do all the fighting, summon up creatures, back him up with a cleric to cover the possible backlash and damage.. (Magic the Gathering?)

begs the Question.. why hire, train and pay an army, if a few mages and clerics would do.

Would War even exist in such a fantasy world? could it still exist? The enemy declares war on your kingdom, so you send over an assassin, kills the opposition king, then maybe a bard, disguised using voice and illusion spells, pretends he's king for a bit, strikes up a treaty, then retires, to allow his 'friend' (you) to rule his lands too.

But the question in the beginning is, if wars are changed, people arn't coming back missing parts, burnt faces, and the greater populace doesn't see this, how will they be affected.. how will they think about wars.. just some crazy game played by kings? go off, have a good fight, don't get killed and you'll be right? return all levelled up? ready to be a hero?

Doesn't feel ok to talk about it in such glib terms, but I think that's the survival mechanism kicking in, so would a medieval person feel the same way about it, not having yearly reminders?

Friday, 2 October 2015

Devils Advocate to RPG-think

An interesting read at the ConTessa blog, about worldbuilding and how 'trope-heavy' RPG worlds are broken:
and
Got me thinking about how this is a very simulationist way of thinking (I use the term only because I have yet to find/invent something better), but I wanted to address the many points, and posting heavy text blocks in someone elses blog seems.. excessive.. or even rude.
So I'm going to play:

Devils Advocate to RPG-think

I won't assume you've read the article, instead I'll sum up the points and address them from the narrative perspective. 

1. Magic Shops: The Premise

So, the idea is, that in each and every town is a supposed magic shop full of ingredients and components, spell books and scrolls, potions and the like. The likelyhood of this happening is next to zero, so why does every fantasy RPG do it?

Lets set up some understandings. to be an RPG world, you can't have just one set of heroes. Its not a 'these are the only heroes there are' story, because if it was, the entire premise of anyone having magical potions available for heroes is preposterous. Every single potion, scroll or magical weapon would be unique items, made by unique people, for unique reasons.

Ye Olde Madgick Shop
So then we are left with two possibilities: The world has a fair number of heroes, or the world is filled with heroes.

With a filled with heroes concept, then its obvious that every town or village should have a magic shop. They become the 7-11 of the fantasy world. This in itself should require the simulationist GM to need to label the bottles 'McDonalds Healing Potion" or "Healthy Meal" with 1 potion, 1 ration and 1 charm (one use) resist all.

The 'fair number of heroes' premise, would be something more akin to a car salesman. you're not going to make sales often, but when you do, you pay all your bills for the year.

Personally I like this idea.. little old man, alchemist, retires, has a little shop front, makes salves for the locals, in case they scratch their knee, but need to dance that evening. but once in a while, he breaks out the expensive stuff for the heroes that pass through, the gold they dump on him, buys the next 2-3 sets of ingredients to brew them up again, pay off any debts/tabs built up since the last time, plus some change to buy Christmas gifts for the next 10 years.

For Narrative GMs:
Players are not really taking note of the reasons for the magic shop to exist. There doesn't need to be a magic shop in every single town, it just so happens, there is in every town the players happen to go in.


2. Thieves Guilds: The Premise.
 
Suprisingly (or not) finding images of a Theives Guild was hard
Mostly just in game images. Art by Isriana

Here, the idea is that, since earth has very little proof of guilds of thieves existing, therefore, they didn't exist. This suggests that they were just good at what they're supposed to do. Remain hidden from public. The Mafia always seemed like a thieves guild to me.
Moreover, the concept is that any kind of 'guild for one class' would have far reaching effects upon the world at large, heirachy, dues to the city council, power play, etc.

Now, the effect would be far more prominent if we have a filled heroes world because almost every hero would belong to a guild, and there would be some kind of guild in-fighting.

A fair heroes world, would be more likely to have singular guild halls, with affiliations to other guilds. Asian fighting schools had this, students could travel to a nearby town and talk to the dojo master about his own master, and if they were friends.. he could stay for the night, maybe even train somewhat.

For Narrative GMs
Unless your plot involves or revolves around the interplay between guilds, there is no reason for the players to see any. Ignore this and include them as you will.

3. Temples for each god: The premise
 
City of Churches You'd need a city just to fit one of every church - Art by Chao Yuan Xu
For each Cleric/Paladin/Priest to access their spells, they need to pray to their god in a specific temple? I was not aware of the rule myself, but even if we disclude(yes, the taking out of an included item) the requirement, pretty much most villages have a local temple to the local pantheon.

I'm not really at all sure why this is considered strange. All across Europe I saw temples and churches to multiple religions, if the town was big enough. Cities would have hundreds of them. Not one temple would turn away a person who wanted to pray, regardless of religion.

Now, sure, maybe some gods hate other gods, so praying in a rival gods temple might be considered rude or worse. But surely the gods wouldn't require their followers only worship in a temple. They'd lose half their followers (I was mid adventure, but my god didn't answer me, so we called off the quest)

For Narrative GMs
Again, your players are traveling to places where your god has sway, unless the plot requires that your cleric has limited access in these lands, creating a power sink for the group, to make the next scene more dangerous (and the players have to think more with a low/no powered cleric).

Conclusion
Worldbuilding, can be in many ways, the opposite to Plot building. Maybe instead of Narrartive vs Simulation, it should be called world-built or plot-driven styles of play.

For Narrative/Plot driven play, there is no need to care if your world 'works' or not, the shop keeper is surly because the story works best that way, not because he had a bad argument with his wife the night before, about the lack of flowers for her anniversary.

But for World Builders, these things are critical. You can't have magic shops, thieves and fighters guilds and player specific temples in every town, you need to map out the influences of each of these forces, and how they came about in the world, to ensure that they are robust. 

More to come on this train of thought.   

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Humans, meet the Octopodi

Based on the recent set or articles about Octopodes, This article seems to me more realistic amongst the myriad of link-bait "Octopuses are Aliens". I had a thought.. and so I wrote this:

They Came from the Stars

In a time, long forgotten, as records have been destroyed since. The Inhabitants of Earth watched as the creatures came in a vessel. A giant strange vessel. Rock Like, A Smooth outerworld rock, one shaped by the crashing of the waves upon its surface, outwerworld waves upon an outerworld rock. 
Shev and Marsh looked upon this strange shape in the sky with wonder, as it descended.

Gathering fish for the future family, they slowed as the shape began to land. They quickly retreated to their homes, watching from the entranceways.

The Ship descended, steam like vents burst forth from the underside, then with a great thud, it landed.

Dust and Steam mixed in the air, settling quickly upon the surface of the outerworld craft, Shev pushed Marsh to go, have a closer look.. dared him to enter this hostile place and see what is what.

Shev moved cautiously, slowly, conscious of the slight pain as he grabbed rocks too tightly,He moved along the path that led up to this, outerworld phenomenon. 

A Crack, a Boom, and a strange shape opened in the craft. It separated from the craft, like a limb. Then the creatures emerged. They did not move like shev, they seemed to glide, but in a strange jalting manner.. but their legs.. Shev was in shock, awe, confusion.. the number of legs.. it was wrong.. all wrong.. how could a creature exist with this many legs, and the way it used them.. and on the ends of the legs.. little.. things? suckers? tongues? It was grotesque.

There were eight of them.

Shev quickly ran back to Marsh and explained what he saw.. Marsh was hiding, her arms wrapped around her head, scared. When he began to explain about the legs, and how there were eight of them, Marsh yelped and spilt ink on the floor. What would happen to them, would these 'things' eat them?

Shev told Marsh to gather their things, they would leave, but first Shev wanted to see what the Aliens would do, to get a better explanation of them for the place they went to, to explain to an elder, what these beings looked like.

Eight.. he kept thinking this strange number, Eight.. 

He crawled again out of the innerworld, poking his head into the outerworld, mindful to take a breath of air. 

His own tribe of two, made sense.. Sometimes there were three or in extreme cases four, but eight.. no-one travelled in packs of eight, 

Yet these creatures, Two Older, and Six younger,  some yellow topped with long strands of golden seaweed, some brown topped with fuzzy coral on their faces. They were constructing a home, an entrance and gaps to see, for eight! In this outerworld.. they were staying.. 

Shev took note, to explain to the elders: They walk upright with two legs, and two legs to grasp tools. It was Alien! 

Shev quickly grabbed at the rocks with his eight arms, and slithered his way through to the innerworld as quickly as possible. Marsh and Shev would leave tonight.

They Packed their things and moved.. far away.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

New Places, New Cities, Getting Lost

If you haven't travelled to a new city, or better yet, a new country, even better.. a new culture new language, everything so different its just alien.. you won't know how it feels for your heroes, and you won't be able to express their feelings, nor would your GM be able to explain it to you

Experiencing the Wonder and Fear of being lost

As I stepped off the plane, to the familiar surrounds of the airport, the customs control, scowling faces, suspicion, fear of being arrested, the baggage handling, the lack of trollys, the guards ready to pounce on me, strip search my bags for suspicious sets of jeans, and the slew of taxi drivers trying to tear me away from the throng and overcharge me to go in circles.. I felt the pangs of excitement, as I was back.. in Russia.

But, all those little fears, they were familiar little jokes to myself, reminders of what actual fears I had the very first time I flew out of, and into Moscow.

Sure, our Heroes travel through dangerous forests, biting sands, caverns filled with lava, creatures of unimaginable horror, its hard to truly understand this feeling (unless you have the chance) so as GMs its a bit hard to describe them, beyond the movies and books we've seen (in our minds)

But Medieval Cities? that's do-able.

Let me take you on a ride, through a memory of mine. 


I have arrived at the small coach house, to my left, a building, tavern like. I can see some revelers dining outside. I could join them, but the parchment with a map, and an address, suggests I go further into the keeps grounds

( want to see: https://www.google.com.au/maps/@59.4393671,24.740173,3a,75y,138.69h,90.66t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sLpCm64CA09Bgi55VZIKFpQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!6m1!1e1?hl=en )

I travel east, along the cobblestone roads, To my right, peeking between the trees, a giant wall of stone, what seems like a mile above, small buildings, stone-works, defences. I am indeed at the keep of Tall Inn.
Further along, the battlements present themselves. High walls, protecting the city within. My heart shudders, its enormous. I hope I'll get through the gates, I'd hate to be turned away from such a glorious place.

I pass a large Hostel, A Tavern, Bakery, Iron worker, Book maker, Theatre for children, each place strange and exotic to me. Goods displayed in the windows, on shelves. Something I have not seen in my own city, at least not like this. Its like a little 'vignette' rather than shop shelves.


The Cafes are exquisite, Little places for one, maybe two people to eat. The Taverns not much different, three people can sit at the bar, not more.. how can they stay in business I muse to myself.

Rounding the corner, Street sellers are setting up stands, selling beer, Kvas (a dark sweet & salty brew) Trinkets, Markets can be heard now as I walk the street.

I am a little lost in thought.. my map shows that I must go left, but there is no left. I ask the beer seller and she looks at me dumbfounded.. I speak a strange language, and she doesn't seem to understand that I am lost. She offers me beer..

So I walk onwards, Passing a fountain, a Tavern again, devoted to only those who like the bards who sing within, a shop selling weapons (yet it is not a blacksmith). Building after Building, each, wonderous to look at, different, stone with flat faces, marble, right here on the street. I have walked too far by the time I stop myself and have to return to the start to get my bearings.

My bags are heavy, but I must get to the Border Guards Building first, else I will be arrested.
You can climb the tower, and walk the battlements for a small price, Worth it if you're a fan of all things medieval.


It takes me an hour, but eventually I get there.. I'm not too late. I go to enter, but am told to wait outside the building. The guard won't let me in yet.. probably it is full. I wait.. and wait. and eventually I am let in. The rooms are not full, they are mostly empty, I go to the window, I ask questions, I get answers, I get questions and give answers. Eventually they stamp my parchment and I am admitted entrance to their lands... in two weeks.

Returning to the street, I may now find a tavern to stay at, or a hostel.

Or Maybe I need a new Hat.

Eight years later, I have traveled this route almost 20 times, Its no longer a strange and exotic place, its my third home, my favourite home. I return here as often as I can. I have friends here, a small life here, but no work, and probably no possibility of work.

The Walk from the Coach House to the Border guards is repeated, but now, I walk down Nunne street, turn left onto Lai, and arrive quickly. I ignore the guard, he wants a bribe from strangers. I enter the building, submit my papers, answer maybe one question. The woman I speak to has become my friend over the years, she smiles when she sees me, I have a quick chat, but not so much to be overtly friendly. I tell her, sorry, but this is my last trip. I return home, and likely to never return. I am sad, so is she. I thank her for the years of help with my parchments. 

My route is not as exciting as it once was, sure, I remember the first time, getting lost, being confused, but also being full of wonder at how different it all is, this medieval city of Tall Inn.

Ok, so I jazzed it up, Medieval Style.. and hope to be doing more of my travels like this in the future. My Point is that as GMs sometime we gloss over things that for characters should be drawn out. Its hard to 'create' entire cities worth of feelings, and players as often as not, want to just get their healing potions, upgrade their weapons and armour and get back to the dungeon. So mixing it up with a bit of 'lost in the city' might not be your style..

but maybe it is..

 

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

The Coyn World


Here's my World

In my teen years (a few decades back) I "created" a roleplay world that was based on Terry Pratchetts discworld, but to differentiate, I made it a coin, (*with the eternal questions will it land heads or tails*). I decided recently to publish this world, so I thought it best to get the world 'right' with some Q&A, So I felt best to ask here, What have I not considered on a broad strokes level:

World Information:

At the centre of the world is a flat torus gravity plane which is surrounded by a km of lava, this explains the shape of the world in its earliest existance. The centre of the coin is now a large-ish continent, as over time islands have broken away and float 'around' in the seas (their bulk would be underwater, floating at the gravity centre, but their peaks on either side are islands).

The Edge, water drifts off, but then seperates into a mist, which rises up into the dome of air on both sides, becomes clouds, rains etc.

The Sun, is half the size of the planet and is still for the most part (spinning on its own axis) while the planet wobbles and spins, giving the effect that the sun rises and sets each day and moves around the planet on one edge.

Due to the distance of the sun, air particles, clouds, etc, the centre of the world gets the least warmth year round, while the edge will have summer & winter, as a result rainfall near the centre freezes, and a large spire of ice pokes up, no more than a few km.

The Land masses nearest the edge are largely uninhabitable, as they range from +80c to -200c summer to Winter (*but could be inhabited by ice or fire creatures*), but 1000km in, the range seems to be +50 to -50, I figured rainfall would likely flatten this range. I managed to make a simulation in a computer years ago to check this and make sure the +40 - -40 range was the majority of the planet, but it was simple and temp based only, no water included. 

In case anyone asks... I grabbed a standard world-building list, and decided to answer the questions.
  • How big is your world?
 Huge, Massively Huge, like all the planets in our solar system, mashed together, and squished down into a flat coin. At first this was for laughs.. later I adjusted it so the maths would work with a flat gravity. To get a Z-coordinate gravity matching earth on a flat disk, the X and Y coordinates are practically null, but for the spire and the other celestial objects, it does need to exist. This meant that in all my early simulations, I had 'dirt' floating off into space, but later when I added the moons and such, I added the X/Y and the dirt didn't float off.. instead it kept sticking onto it some more.. getting bigger and bigger. I tweaked and tweaked until I had a nice balance, but its currently 127.89K miles
  • Where is it in relationship to the sun (or suns)?
The Suns, drift around the planet. The Planet being the greater size, has the greater pull of gravity, so the three smaller suns drift around it. Due to the Z-axis gravity, the main sun rises and sets in the same location (like a yo-yo) but slightly offset, the Coyn itself also turns against the sun, one revolution of the sun takes 15.89 months, making an annoying anomoly for calendar makers. 
There are Three Suns. The first is a ball of Hot Plasma, similar to our sun, but half the size, and twice as close. It bakes the terrain nearest to it, and everything beyond 40% of distance doesn't get enough sun to be too warm, creating a 'band' of land thats quite inhabitable on the Coyn.
The Second Sun, is a Cold Fusion Sun, it has a very low effect upon the world, draining the heat, but producing an unnatural frost wave as it passed around the world. It rises and sets weekly, but as it passes the sun itself, it creates a radiation wave between the two which charges the sun (or seems to) These happen 3 times a year.
The Third Sun, is invisible to the naked eye, special lenses are needed (or ability of certain races to see certain spectrum of light) This Sun radiates energy to the world, in early times, it was not understood why, certain times of the year would feel energised and radiated.
  • Does it have a moon, multiple moons, or no moons?
There are two moons. One is close enough to benefit from the atmosphere that surrounds the coyn, making it a livable place, weather, climate all of its own. Magic users from millennia ago worked out how to teleport there, and their children live there today. The Other is further away, light is rarely reflected from its surface to the Coyn, but when it does, there are often events attributed to it.
  • What is the climate like on the planet?
The Outer Rim, rises in heat of its summer to over 100.c, and in Winter down to -100.c Yet, only 20km in, behind some mountains, are areas that are livable by humanoids, usually lizard folk. Further in are standard earth like conditions, Hot countries, think Africa, Australia, then the closer you get to the centre, the more European, Americas it becomes, further still, the climate shifts into colder tundra and snow covered forests, beyond this are dangerous places. Due to the central Ice Spire, there is a period of winter called Deep Winter, in which certain ice based creatures rise up from the shadows and cause havok. 
  • What is the geography of the planet?
There are Several major continents (Europe/Asia), More than a few Large Island Continents (Australia, Greenland) and hundreds of archipelago islands in between, Interestingly enough, there are terrains unlike and unable to be like anything on earth: sub-sea islands, where Air bubbles surround the land, (Trapped Giant Sleeping Air Elementals), Tidal Plains, because of the movement of the Suns and Moons, can be grassy steppes for several months, even years, then slowly the land is reclaimed by the sea, to be metres deep in ocean for months or years. Stone Structures are built when possible, with Floating Boat cities Moored to them for the years between. 
  • Are plate tectonics a factor on the planet?
Yes, but in some strange unknown pattern. Unlike Earths floating Plates on a ball of Magma. The Coyn has Magma Vents that seem to act like lumbricant between mechanical like cogs, Spinning Wheels of Stone, that grind against each other, some exist only on the surface, some only beneath, others go through the core, and are on both sides.
  • What is the ecology of the planet?
Standard Earth Like Ecology, except that Magic exists in all things, sometimes producing more extreme variants of rock, plants and animals.
  • What kind of wildlife is there?
The Coyn was the first world, its Laws of Physics are bent from the magical pressures, allowing all manner of creatures to exist. As such, all creatures that exist in any elsewhere, have the ability to exist here too. In the time of the great Cataclysm, creatures, clones and copies were trans- and tele- ported to the Coyn. So if it exists elsewhere, it exists here too.
  • Why are their monsters?  Where did they come from?
The First Race were made of rock, the creator created a flat surface of rock, like a desk, then created beings of rock, and animated them with cosmic powers beyond our understanding. For what original reason, is unknown.. maybe he was bored. After a great time, he moved on to other worlds.. The Cataclysm moved all manner of life to the Coyn, and rich with all varieties of rock, soil, metal and such, these new things prospered. 
  • What intelligent races are there?  What is their relationship to each other?
Every existing race of other worlds exists on the Coyn. Many of them quickly banded together to form new colonies, cities, cultures, but just as many worked together to form new, hybrid cultures. The results of this are an innumeral number of possible intelligent races, and a billion times more relationships
  • What is the history and mythology of the races?
The Initial Focus was on one sub continent, there, 87 races grew their villages into cities and began to populate the world around them. Within this place alone, are 9 distinct creation myths, there were more, but as the cultures met one another, integrated, some myths blended together and became one or new myths (similar to the Romans using Greek myths) 
  • Are there any god(s) (real or imagined)?  What impact does that have on the intelligent races?  If the god(s) are real what direct impact do they have on the planet?
Gods, in the strict sense, do not exist, instead there are beings, that feed off belief, through this belief, they form their own existence. So anyone who believes in a god, will cause the god to exist, and what they believe about the god, will cause the god to exist as the believers think. These 'beings' are thought to come from the Turtle backed world universe.
Indeed, since all worlds had their own beliefs, their own gods.. etc, when the inhabitants of worlds came here, there are many 'beings' that quickly fed off this belief and quickly became the gods that people believed in. So any and all gods from all universes (fictional or otherwise) came to be.
Most Intelligent races have some set of beliefs, their own god or gods, thus they build temples, have wars, festivals in the name of their god.
Because the gods are real, they answer to their following. Most gods do not know that their existance is directly related to their followers, but they are aware that the more followers they have, the more powerful they seem to become. So it is in their best interests to 'spread the word'. Yet some gods seem to be powerful without a following, sometimes uttering the name of a god will cause instant death, so there are gods who think they are gods.
A few, very few gods, know they are not, and secretly slowly, gain followers in indirect ways. Ensuring a large based of power in times of need.

Humanoids, knowing that they have a god on their side, but also that the opponent has a god too, don't like to throw their lives away, unless they have proof (sometimes from the god themselves) that heaven exists. Many gods believe in reincarnation, as its easier to maintain your believers afterlives that way.
  • Weather?
The same as earth, with noticable exceptions in some places.
Deep Winter has no direct sunlight. The Sun shines slightly through the great Ice Spire, which fused with magic, allows night creatures to travel through the shadows.
Spire Spring & Spire Autumn are when the sun reflects off the spire, creating a hotter period of time (maximum of 6 hours) in the region, but also fused with warmth magic. Children are often conceived in Spire Spring, and Cutting down a tree in Spire Autumn can create magical wood.

Violet Summer, is when the 3rd Sun coincides with Summer, it happens in a region once every 12 years. Any wars happening may spontanously break into festivals, hatred becomes love, vice versa is Violent Winter, when happily married couples divorce overnight, luckily this happens only once every 36 years, both only last a few nights of the respective seasons.. when is unknown
  • What are the countries and how do they relate to each other?
Too many to talk about here, In my Sub Continent were 87 countries, but we started with 100. The events put in place will result in the loss of 10 more, some are best friends, some allies, some uneasy allies, some enemies, some racial enemies, but alliances, some racial friends, but deep in wars. 95 people from my office played 95 different 'races' over the course of 7 months to create this back-history, 5 of which had to restart after unlucky beginnings.

The Major Situations:
Central South: The High Elves, Wood Elves and Sea Elves formed an uneasy Alliance with the Swamp Elves and Dark Elves to take down the Humans, Hillsfolk and Dark Dwarves, because they allied with the Necromancers and the Death Worshippers.
South East: The Humans and Elves have formed an Alliance, but are in a losing battle against three main enemies. The Undead, The Goblinoids and the Dark Elves (whom happen to be the Dark Elves of the Central South)
Central: The Desert dwelling races of Humans are the only thing between allout war between the Triad Kingdoms (three Princely brothers who independently control their own kingdoms, and use the competition between the three countries to ensure low prices & costs to run said kingdoms) and the Lizardmen who live in the desert and the surrounding grasslands.
  • Is there magic?  How does it work?  Who can use it?
Magic exists in all things.. it bends the rules, temporarily so things can work 'magically' then things go back to normal. this temporary could be as little as a microsecond or as long as the lifespan of a tree. Anyone can use it, its just a matter of true understanding, which no-one has anymore (a major mage war wiped out a grand library and reduced the knowledge of magic from 40% to 10%)
As often as not, not knowing the rules of magic works as well as knowing. Someone famous said belief was more powerful.
  • What kind of technology is available?  Who has access to it?  If there is magic how does that impact the technology?
Again, depends on where you're looking. each race, city, culture, region has its own technology level. The Dark Elves of the south have managed to forge Iron into Steel only recently, so a lot of their current tech is bronze age/Iron Age..  While a small outpost of stoners have been forging Titanium and Aluminium for decades. Some Dwarven races still use Harder rocks to mine softer rocks, while others use steam powered engines to grind out massive tunnel structures.
  • Warfare?  Trade?
Yes, and Yes.. often at the same time (kings can't go halting the import of fresh veal, for his queen, just because the forest folks king is the enemy)
  • Languages?
Every group has its own race, sometimes similar groups met each other early enough after the cataclysm to form larger groups, but after hundreds of years, two races of the same people, with different influences have diversified their languages enough that they are no-longer able to communicate. (Scottish vs American)

Final Note
I made DungeonWorld twenty years ago with a major goal, any other GM can plop their own world into any unpopulated part of my world, without any hassles. With time, and enough GMs we'd have a large diversified world, so any and all story-plots could exist with any variant system. With the right tools and the right structures, it would even help the GMs by including (randomly, but dependant on factors) the smaller parts of information that no human has the time to manually add.

If you have an interest to have your world live beyond your own GMing lifespan, let me know, you can 'find' a spot and plug in your concepts.. vague where vague is needed, specific when you want it, and the engine will 'fill in the blanks' until you override it with your own realities. 

Monday, 14 September 2015

The Lit Streets Issue

I might come back and edit this, but for now:

Why would Fantasy Medieval Streets be unlit?

Or Trapped Fairies? - Art by Aimee Stewart
In a fantasy city, that includes some kind of magic using group of skilled or talented people, there would exist an early understanding of creating fire, through magic. Most, if not all decent systems of magic have a ways and means of casting a spell, so that it can become permanent.

So, given these two premises, there is no reason to not have street lamps, with permanent cast flames
or light sources. With a metal cage around it, to protect, both the flame and the user, maybe the inclusion of glass, some little engineering to provide reflection, flow of air (if need be) The idea is pretty much a stable concept, if not in every city, at least the higher ranking streets of the capital (or the main castle).

This is the concept that a lot of Games designers forget to think about when inventing spells, powers, magical artefacts and the like. The effect it has on society.

These little things are what makes a world real, alive, rich and interesting.

So you've probably gotten here from a link to this, where I brief on the subject or go further into how, this is not supposed to spoil the game, not supposed to have any negative effect, far from it, its the requirement of its inclusion. Without considering Lit Street Issues, you're just building a dull boring, unplanned, unthought-out generic world.



Tuesday, 8 September 2015

In a world of Heroes

So your local king is a real douche, you live suppressed in a world of pain and misery, In Earths History, you worship a god that gives you hope that, if you don't give up, and keep trying, at least you'll live in paradise when you die. In a fantasy setting, you can actually call upon that god to come down and smite the king.. or at least have some heroes sent over to do it for you.

Why would an Evil dictator exist?

I've asked this question to myself often enough, Things are the way they are in our world because of so many small significant, as a whole, things. Bad people get away with bad things because good people don't band together to fight, and fighting isn't good, or the status quo is not so bad, so lets just cope with this small disturbance, and hey at least it gives us something to complain about.

But, in a world of heroes, magical items, spells, powers, gods, kings are going to need a few thousand defences if they want to be bastards.

Lets take a simple example.. Krona the Barbarian, His Local Chief decides to raises the tributes for the year, and his village is unable to pay, so as an example, the Chief sends over thugs to rough up the village, killing Krona's mum. Krona utters an oath of revenge, which a god hears, and now she's god a slight amount of protection.  She heads out into the wilderness, fighting goblins, bears, bugbears, owl bears (lots of bears in this wilderness) even a random polar bear (encounter chart, rolled a 00) and makes all their bones into some sweet bear-bone-scale armour. Gets it blessed by a sacred temple, enchanted by a witch, finds a sacred blade in a Crypt, and returns to her lands.

She finds the a-hole that slaughtered her mum, and kills him. In the process, having to slaughter all the guards and champions that protect the chief, reducing the defences against standard local armies, triggering invasions, reacting to those invasions by having to slaughter the next chief, etc etc..

Can you see where this is going? No Chief, King, Duke, Lords in any kingdom is truly safe.. heroes are going to rise up, greater power levels than the local guards & even kings champions.

The only people capable of stopping great heroes, are other great heroes.. 

Which is probably why the kings of the land are constantly sending heroes out on missions.. the poor quality ones will die, while the survivors are rewarded by the king, given ceremonies, befriended, and are now part of his 'entourage' & 'protection' from other heroes.

Why bother with armies then?

 So, I've got this big bad-ass 18th Level Sorcerer buddy Symion, and his 17th level Necromancer cousin Nevvar, and their 19th level Assassin Andy, and they hang out in my palace. My neighbour kingdom is a bit peeved because some villages cut down some trees.. should I send 25,000 troops to attack them? knowing full well that they'll send their 20,000 against me? are they as well trained as mine? how much does this army cost me? 25,000 well train soldiers + conscript the villagers, rations, etc.. wow, I'm going to have to spend over 100,000 gold.. 

oh wait.. Maybe my friends can help? Andy pops over to the kingdom and just assassinates the king, Symion casts spells to charm the commanders of the army, Nevvar quells any uprising with hoards of Skeletons.. we declare to the populace that they are now part of our kingdom.. and viola.. problem solved..  100k gold enough for them? maybe.
Andy and his mates

Follow that through and yes, every kingdom is going to have some powerful heroes on the payroll.. AND armies, just in case.. but I bet that this becomes very much a cold war.. no-one wants to attack anyone because they all have enough information (scrying, teleporting, messages, clacks towers) about the odds, and the WMDs "Warlocks, Mages and Demonologists" will keep everyone just a little bit scared to 'push their buttons'

Will border controls, passports, customs become standard between countries? Will wars even exist? or will they all start representing modern life? 

I ran a campaign once, the world was 'skinned' with fantasy races, Russians were Dwarves, French were Elves, Arabs were Dark Elves, players started at 8th level, couldn't do much below 8th.. and it just turned into a spy game.. sure there were some goblins in the caves, but it was more interesting to travel over to the Dwarven Steppes (Russia) and ride the Minecarts(Metro) between Lybyanka (Spy Central) and Kransaya Plochad (The Palatial City) dressed as Dwarves(Russians), trying to get information about the movement of Troops into the Southern Duergar(militant) lands of UnChrome(Ukraine), and spread dis-information about their own funded Duergar as they pretended to the world, they were Snerfnebblin(United Dwarves).

Now, be careful, I'm not trying to include the 'boring' parts of history, nor make the whole scenario into a real time simulation. Its just the whole 'lit streets' issue, making sure the world build includes the realities that would happen as a result of the differences in realities. You don't add in 'diseases' so players can sit at home in bed for three weeks.. you build them in as cash/time sinks, to build suspense, to make them feel like the world is more complex, to take the edge off their skills when going into the next combat.. 

Online Fantasy Kingdoms Map,
Helped players make decisions, raid villagers, etc
In my board game "Fantasy Kingdoms" you need to maintain a fairly decent happiness of your people, if the value drops too low, they'll convert to independants, electing the local highest level paladin as protector, or if you attempt force to keep them, you need a force ratio high enough to block any uprisings, at least until you get that happiness back up again.. Kings have a hard time maintaining a level of popularity lest the locals allow (or hire) outside influence, while maintaining the political level of the game.

Its a hard thing to try to make your Fantasy world more real, but if you want your players to really appreciate your game world, you want to do it. Everyone shrugs their shoulders, rolls their eyes and just goes and hacks apart the local Ogre, when the village has a component shop, a blacksmith selling magic swords and a healing sage who sells potions, but give the players a witch who only has what she uses herself (herbs for poultices, cures & agricultural needs) The Smith bangs out nails, horseshoes and the occasional pot, and the Towns sage grows weed & smokes it to calm his nerves, the players will pay more attention, and really appreciate the sword of "Carbannog"

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

FATAL Critical Failures!

For a blog I'm doing research for (will edit link in here after I post it) I was researching other games systems, ones that did things poorly or horribly, and what they did that I should avoid for my own. During the process, I encountered some interesting (and shocking.. NSFW.. I mean for the average non roleplayer its Extremely NSFW in which writing I found my self cringing and re-writing this blog) roleplay systems, amongst the complaints from standard systems, Often people would cy...

At Least its not F.A.T.A.L!

Oh, and Gang Rape was the
plot for character
team building / formation.
For those not in the know.. FATAL is a system, created by Byron Hall, who probably didn't do a lot of market research into making RPGs, but did a lot of research into medieval environments, much of which seems to be D&D, medieval movies from the 80s, maybe some shlock horror, the Rutger Huer Movie "Flesh & Blood", typical teenage basement dwelling humour.

Whats not surprising is the amount of flak he got for daring to publish his ideas (well, a PDF at any rate). As it stand FATAL is listed as the worst, for all time so far, worst RPG system ever..

So of course I had to download it.

I downloaded the first version : Fantasy Adventure To Adult Lechery

The title gives away main reason why people hate it.

This the 2nd version cover..
The More safe for work version
Its a Great big overly detailed, and I mean comparative to Rolemaster or GURPS overly detailed, list of so many things a Gamesmaster should consider (and then discard what doesn't match their system) when designing their own system, Its just that FATAL included ALL of them.. 900 pages of rules and rules and rules..

Now, there are some glaring problems with it.. Layout, Design, 900 pages, tables of tables.. It could be salvageable, if it had some kind of underlying something to it worth salvaging. The book goes into great detail about diseases, phobias, psychological traits, aspects of dealing with life as a medieval peasant. Occupations, Skills and Equipment.. all before telling me how to play the Friggin game.

And Oh, My Gawd is it overdone.. 4 lines to explain what water is, another 4 for milk!.. If players need a Thesaurus of common terms, maybe you have the wrong kind of players..

So I'm not going to go any further, (as much fun as it could be) into picking apart a bad system, Discussing how, splitting it into Standard rules, Gamesmasters rules and the Adult material could have helped, nor how the Structure or format needed to be more player friendly..no, others have done before me. I'll focus instead on what a lot of people have focused on.. poorly.. the Adult Lechery.

If you read the reviews and counter reviews of the author, you'll come across how the bulk of people focus on the fact that your character can have an [here it is... no.1 reason for its ranking ] anal circumference, because, if and when you get raped, you need to know how much pain you're going to be in.

In comparison to the size of this blog.. that one line represents the percentage of filth in the book. But for 900+ pages, thats still 20 odd pages of filth.. and another 100 pages of dubious material.. And for typical human reasons, its the only thing anyone will ever remember of it.

So Why Write about this filth?

Normally I might read up on hundreds of pages of articles, double check my references, make sure what I'm writing about has plausible credibility to it.. I do the same for my own system. I might never point out some things I read, because its not what I like to share with others..

Yet like a car accident, We imagine how it might have been us.. and I looked back at my earlier works and wondered... would I have been so unlucky if I published in 1998?

Total 100% accurate of how players
Act in game, but real life?
Then, while travelling by train across south Russia these last few days, I had some pdfs in my tablet I could read, and one of them was Critical Failures. .. About a DM who has the power to send his a group of players, who are behaving like the worst players you could get, to the fantasy world they're playing in, when their behavior gets them into trouble, time and time again...

I didn't feel like I was reading something that someone had made up, I know people that behave that way.. I don't roleplay with them, and probably never would, but I remember being 12 and sorta maybe acting that way. So I could identify easily with who they were

The writing of Critical Failures is poor, language badly chosen, some serious flaws in the style, but heck, its better than mine half the time, and at least the guy wrote it and made it available for download.

But the funniest part for me, I didn't feel like they were playing D&D, even though that's the parody the author went for. No, I felt that they were playing FATAL.. and Byron Hall was the DM, and the RPG Net were the players... and then I took a look back at the RPG environment of the 80s and 90s and felt sorry for the Author of FATAL.. because it looks like that's what he's gone and done.. Made the RPG for the audience that has since, grown up, while the Author had not.

In the 80s all manner of things, with 20/20 hindsight, seems racist, sexist, misogynist immature and just plain wrong. RPGs were not immune, depending on the system & Gamesmaster, Characters would typically devolve into murder hobos, ultra powerful bad guys, or all manner of worse. Half of today's memes are based on 80s RPG fail.

So FATALs Author seems to be a GM whose inclusiveness went over board.  instead of putting down his foot and saying.. "hey guys,too much.. this is never going to be popular on the market.." no, instead the author thought that all roleplayers were like his group.. raping and pillaging across his game world.. so he added more rules to match all the consequences..

I got out of the standard roleplay scene when this seemed to be happening around me. Players were joining the brand new Vampire games, where killing and raping innocents became part of the norm. The teenage angst of lack of control in the real world bleeds into the control they need to exert in the roleplay world, lashing out at anything that offends them, and with power, allows them to avoid or beat back any social problems that may arise.

Lessons to be learnt

It asks the question, Why do we roleplay? Is its the Escapism? to get away from this world that we lack the skills and control needed to be successful and the desire to be so? To go to a place (even if its in our minds) to be able to be skilled, powerful and in control?

Is this an immature desire? I've had maybe a few handfuls of 'adults' in my life try to tell me that roleplaying is a childish thing, and that I should grow up. Now that I'm 40, a dad, I've researched what games are, what play is, what is a roleplay game, and how roleplay has a very critical aspect of learning about it. Gamification is mired in roleplay, Schools actually teach us to role play scenarios out, in order to solve problems.

"Train A is headed from the West at 20km an hour, Train B from the East at 30km an hour, they start 100km apart, at what point do they crash?"

Albiet, your not playing a Train, but the puzzle is set in a way that allows the student to visualize the problem in real terms, which is one of the cores of what a roleplay game is.

The Concept of Games & Play has been coming up in my discoveries over the last few years, and I'm quite seriously considering my PhD in this field. How much of the desire to roleplay is the desire to escape our own mundane vs the playground of the mind to learn?

Conclusion

My Own system went through stages, Complex, Simplified, Improvements, Mess, Restructuring. If I had published at any stage prior, I'd expect to be ripped to shreds by the RPG community for attempting to publish anything less than a half decent set of rules.

The current 'popular' RPG seems to be rules lite, narrativity styled RPGs, possibly due to the influx of females to the gaming industry over the last 20 years, So attempting to bring a new system, more complex than most, is bound for failure, let alone adding sexuality (No, mum, not that kind of roleplay), obfuscated layout, and adult themes (plus, claiming its all historically accurate).

Yet I have a complex system, So I guess I have empathy for this guy.. he thought that his differentiation, that 'thing' which would make his game interesting, is the first person to publish a game which dealt with the smut & puerile humour that many games devolve into. To cater to those teenagers and their angst at a lack of sexual experience. Not realising, that is the worst kind of roleplay, and the community as a whole would rather pretend it never existed, than admit that yes, once, they too tried to 'get it on' with a barmaid, and the teenage GM asked to roll for penetration.


Post Script

Further topics on this to come:

* Will Roleplaying games of the future be boring, or will Roleplay become obsolete, if we get too politically correct?

* How to Use failed roleplay systems, and identifying failure within successful systems, to build a better system. (Building a better mousetrap?)

* What IS roleplay, and what IS a roleplay Game? Does a conversation about a vorpal sword working on a Jabberwickerbasket count?


p.p.s. I Always thought it would be fun to run a roleplay group of evil (i.e. bastard) characters, while several other roleplay groups of good guys were hunting them...