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Gail Gygax Announces Artist for Memorial Statue, Work to Begin Shortly

July 16, 2017

Guys, I finally scooped Tenkar’s Tampon (Ha! Ha ha!). Gail Gygax contacted me directly to make the announcement that she’s chosen an artist for the Gary Gygax Memorial Statue of Gary Gygax. I know you’re all dying to know about the next stage of development of this exciting tribute to the creator of roleplaying games, here’s what she sent:

Dear YDIS, I write you today not to talk about the exquisite firmness of your buttocks, which exceed in all meaningful ways the flabby and pockmarked bottom of Kent. After much deliberation and a search that literally scoured the globe, I have chosen an artist to create a likeness to celebrate Gary and his accomplishments for all eternity. I have chosen… Scrap Princess!

The reasons for choosing Scrap Princess I think you’ll agree are obvious. The amazing talent stands out head and shoulders above her contemporaries. When I asked her initial thoughts about the form a statue to Gary might take, after several weeks of work she returned to me with this masterpiece:

gary at play with the world

It’s gorgeous! And to think it only took 2 months for Scrap Princess to draft this masterpiece. But she wasn’t satisfied and she’s actually forwarded several other concepts for consideration:

gary's creativity

A new Michelangelo in Wisconsin! Also this:

the lord gary christ

Amazing Scrap Princess, simply amazing. And another Scrap Princess color original:

beautiful gary

Bravo! Scrap’s artistry really captures Gary’s love of life.

There’s so much to love here, it may take us awhile to select a finalist. I’m leaning toward the red & blue scribble, which I think is not only exquisite artwork but also dramatically showcases Scrap Princess’s style and true talent. I expect this statue will rival the antiquities of Renaissance Italy and launch an artistic revival that may heal our fractured world. Sincerely yours, GG

This is exiting! I’m glad Gail has made a choice that dips into the deep talent pool of the OSR to honor the origins of the hobby. Looking forward to work beginning soon.

37 Comments leave one →
  1. FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
    July 16, 2017 6:09 pm

    Crap Princess’s sketches actually translate quite well to sculpture work. Check out her Lucy Ball work:

    • Timotheus permalink
      July 17, 2017 9:30 am

      Looks more like Fonzie.

      • FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
        July 17, 2017 4:29 pm

        AYYYYY!

  2. Timotheus permalink
    July 17, 2017 9:32 am

    Indeed, Scrappy Doo-doo’s intricate line work will symbolize the weapon-vs-AC to hit mods like nothing has before.

    Great scoop. Hopefully you did not have to compromise your moral standards to get Gail to open up to you this way.

  3. Captain Kirks Dick Blood permalink
    July 17, 2017 8:35 pm

    I hope when you porked Gail you wrapped yer hog. The save vs The Herps is pretty dire.

  4. July 18, 2017 2:39 pm

    The blowSR hangs by a knife… if the GARY OF WONDROUS POWER doesn’t work we’re all screwed! Well, we can always hope that Gail magic jarred him into a crystal ashtray… now we just need to transfer him into a virtua-Gygax program to continue reviewing game books he didn’t look at…. “ZOUNDS! YOU’LL AMAZE IN A VERISIMILITUDE OF WONDERS BEHOLDING WHAT EMERGES FROM YOUR MOUTH AS YOU POUR THROUGH THIS BOLD EXCRETION FROM THE AUTHOR! THIS BOOK BOMB IS PRINTED ON PAPER!”

    • FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
      July 20, 2017 2:40 pm

      GENE WAS THERE!!!!! alright just like this!

  5. Let me tell you about my character permalink
    July 18, 2017 5:05 pm

    It is good to see such exciting progress being made. I am so glad that I contributed to this project.

  6. July 18, 2017 5:12 pm

    http://imgur.com/a/ICRqP

    we major

    • July 18, 2017 5:37 pm

      Haha you magnificent horseshit bastard, you’ve deprived a 16-year-girl about to be gifted a BMW the cherry on her cake.

      • July 18, 2017 6:28 pm

        It’s awful early in the birthday season to say “deprived” js

      • July 18, 2017 6:42 pm

        BY THE WAY after the predictable issues over the last few years based on me being involved, we’re getting married on August 4,unless I do a terrible thing between now and then, which obviously I would never do. We’re registered at both store.taylorswift.com and chick.com

      • Let me tell you about my character permalink
        July 18, 2017 8:16 pm

        You’re marrying Taylor Swift or the sixteen-year-old girl?

  7. July 18, 2017 9:09 pm

    But seriously, who is the best musician ever, and why is it Taylor Swift? Discuss

  8. Kent permalink
    July 19, 2017 10:30 am

    A woman always marries the first guy to pensively stroke her buttocks.

    • FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
      July 19, 2017 6:50 pm

      Back like a floater turd that just won’t flush! 😡

      • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist permalink
        July 19, 2017 8:00 pm

        You have a knack for capturing the essence of an individual, old chum. Perhaps you should be the artist to sculpt the Gary Gygax memorial.

      • Captain Kirks Dick Blood permalink
        July 20, 2017 1:00 am

        those really look cut-off. Those turds are the hardest to clean up from.

      • FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
        July 20, 2017 2:46 pm

        Thanks BACLF! I appreciate the confidence but I’m still struggling to get my Dookie Drop Tables fanzine off the ground.

      • Let me tell you about my character permalink
        July 20, 2017 6:49 pm

        eat, pee, wash, rinse, repeat

      • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist permalink
        July 21, 2017 12:53 am

        I miss Blooey 😦

      • FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
        July 21, 2017 6:20 pm

        Better days now gone by 😦

        #DaOrcsFallDown

      • Timotheus permalink
        July 22, 2017 8:20 am

        Bloo rocking the Utilikilt! I bet that was right after a fresh install.

  9. July 20, 2017 7:20 am

    I heard Scrap is going to expand her pallete into macaroni and glitter for Zak Shithead’s next opus.

    • FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
      July 20, 2017 2:48 pm

      I heard Gail bought a Lexus with the money and now all that’s left is enough for a Fusilli Gary….

      • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist permalink
        July 21, 2017 12:54 am

        Needs more polearms.

      • Sykirobme permalink
        July 21, 2017 7:02 am

        Kent: “one in a million shot, doc…”

      • Sykirobme permalink
        July 21, 2017 7:03 am

        Gene: “Kent, I was already there…”

    • FEAR OF THE UNBLOWN permalink
      July 21, 2017 6:22 pm

      Well, I got one piece done….

  10. Timotheus permalink
    July 22, 2017 8:34 am

    You guys remember that dude we trolled a few years ago, TheConservativeDM? I thought he was actually a front and had forgotten about him. Well turns out he is now the High Priest to alt-right also-rans Jeffblow and Circumsova. Both of those losers go on about the One True Way to play D&D like a JMal suppository. Circum just linked to a ConservativeGM (who now calls himself the Alt-RightDM) post about good and evil in gaming/real life, which is in turn bitching about some other tool’s blog.

    https://gamingwhileconservative.wordpress.com/2017/07/18/the-angry-gm-is-a-fking-coward/

    ” Sloppy, sloppy thinking and blindness. You can’t turn on the news without seeing the forces of good (Christendom/Trump) in conflict with the forces of evil (Islam/The rest of Washington D.C.).”

    “The fact that we live in an age where scientism is rampant and people’s education has left them susceptible to the whispered seductions of the, “Well, that’s just like, your opinion, man,” crowd doesn’t negate two THOUSAND years of study and scholarship.”

    Worth a laugh to read. Still not sure this not trolling, given how over the top he was and is. Really reads like something Schiz would do (like the Stonefister take-down of Witchiepoo).

    • July 22, 2017 11:20 am

      #VaginaChallenge

    • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist permalink
      July 22, 2017 4:39 pm

      Ain’t nobody call me out tho. Musta been too impressed by my iron-clad reasoning.

      Nah, it’s the ‘sign up to comment’ bullshit.

      I like the bit about ‘scientism’- the whole anthropogenic climate change issue, well that and evolution by means of natural selection thing, is the hill that right-of-center intellectualism died on.

      Fuckin’ magnets, here’s the next GOP presidential candidate…

    • Fake Woke White Wolf permalink
      July 23, 2017 7:27 am

      The trouble with this alt-right fuckery is that it’s reified the sort of silly bullshit one once knew to call silly bullshit and ignore. Now EVERY idea, no matter how barking mad it seems, demands to be considered as something that might actually happen outside the tiny minds of fantasists.

  11. Captain Kirks Dick Blood permalink
    July 23, 2017 12:55 pm

    The above Bloodymage comments have taken me back to those Halcyon days of Bloomania.

    I’m still in mourning over the lost chance to attend BlooeyCon or whatever the name of the yearly gaming gathering he was planning for in Arizona. Even though he was in frequent home moving by then, he had faith he would be in that area for a long time, filling up his days during the year prepping for his con. Wheeling and dealing with hotels and convention centers (probably initially offering them a chance to partner with him for a nominal fee), arranging special guests (can’t remember the name, but he had actually gotten a VIP to commit), commissioning souvenirs and a mascot costume, and enticing us all by declaring his dog walker fiancé had stepped up to concoct a delicious devilled egg recipe to serve in the hospitality suite, likely to have been ground zero for gamer dork fun to bar none.

    Sure, I could go to any con to see mouth breathing, irregular goatee sporting, pot bellied RPG fuckfaces. But Blooeycon would have been a whole new level. Hell, even if it had been a failure, me and ol’ Blooey would have been at a table in a roomy but silent hall, him grinning that sweet Blooey grin as he decimated my party who dared face The Stink in Golanda. I’d have sat there eagerly, sucking on a Newcastle, and just basking in the Bloo glow.

    Ah, what might have been, Sigh!!!

    • Bigby's Affirmative Consent Lubed Fist permalink
      July 23, 2017 7:30 pm

      My favorite detail was his call for armed security guards… you never know when Al Qaeda is going to launch an attack on a gaming convention in East Cuckhollow, Arizona.

  12. info permalink
    July 23, 2017 6:46 pm

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  13. info permalink
    July 23, 2017 6:50 pm

    The Tao of D&D
    A Blog With Too Many Words

    Sunday, July 23, 2017
    The Secondary Importance of Setting
    Of late, in my process of examining games, I have been seeing a lot of “worldbuilding” content directed at video gamers or story writing. Here is a fairly typical article; here is a fairly typical video. The goals of this content are direct: to explain that “worldbuilding” is important, that the way the “world” is conveyed matters, then to give a series of personally adored examples in which the details of said content is fondly discussed.

    What this content does not do is explain how any of this is done.

    “Worldbuilding” is a big, exciting word that sounds like it is something crucial to the narrative process, so important that videos describing worldbuilding spend a lot of time explaining how good exposition is made or how good characterization is accomplished or choreographical techniques as an attempt to hammer down a term that did not exist in the creator’s standard lexicon ten years ago. This is a recent amateur word that has lately developed as a cultural fad but is extraordinarily lacking in two regards.

    First of all, in telling a story, I do not have to create an entire world. This was demonstrated definitively in the mid-20th century by a series of minimalist masters such as Edward Albee, Eugene Ionesco and Harold Pinter, who used universally understood paradigms to discuss human behaviour at its core. There was no need to build a “world” ~ the world already existed. The attempt was to express it and explain it.

    Secondly, a perfectly good word for the concept already exists, and has for thousands of years. The word is “setting.”

    For fan boys, who are astounded at the immensity of setting for various science fiction, fantasy, meta-fiction or anime, this does not seem to be a word with enough scope, enough verve, enough dimension to satisfy the awe and stunned inadequacy they feel when experiencing settings of such creativity: and as such, they have invented their own word, a word that can bear the weight of their empathy and fetish.

    Sadly, their own writing falls flat when attempting to explain how this building of worlds occurs. Take this address:
    “To begin your world, simply think of a blank canvas, ready for you to paint your picture upon. I find it useful to first think of one location which interests me. What does the terrain look like? Is it a mountain, riverbank, beach, valley, forest, desert or open plains? What type of people live there? In the mountain perhaps they are a mining town filled with many burly men. Or perhaps in a forest paradise with beautiful, slender people. Now we think of the culture and building style. What type of houses do they have? Wooden? Stone? Are they made with fine craftsmanship or do they look like they have been thrown together by novices?”

    This is it. Having started, you’re on your way to a lot of other questions that do not, in any way, suggest what the answers should be if you’ve chosen a mountainous forest paradise with slender people living in wooden houses they’ve only recently constructed. But then, that isn’t much to start on. The problem with asking a would-be storyteller to answer a lot of random questions about who rules the place, how they communicate or what do they farm, is that we either get a hodgepodge of disconnected, unbelievable traits and cultural points of interest, or we get something very much like what the creator has experienced all their life: a typical farm, a typical city, a typical military structure or a typical dystopian fantasy. None of which has any real insight, since this is a story that is going to be driven by its setting and not by its plot or its characters.

    Consider this similar quote from another source:

    “The first step to writing a setting is to brainstorm and make lists of various aspects of a setting. Take about fifteen minutes and make a list similar to the following (time, place, environment):

    late at night … in a haunted house … dark, damp, creepy and old.
    in the future … at Cape Canaveral … heading for Mars.
    in 1620, the Colonies … stepping off the Mayflower … cold, forested, rocky beach.
    present day … waking up high in a tree … flat plains covered with snow.
    evening … deserted street in New York … foggy, rainy and cool.
    early morning … at home, in your bed … the house is empty.
    “After brainstorming your list, choose the ideas you want to develop and write four settings (each one must be set in a different place and time). After you have written your first four drafts, choose the one that is your favorite, then edit and revise the draft completely. If time remains, have a friend edit the draft and have him or her make suggestions.”

    Awful. But more or less the same advice that can be found in a typical youtube video. And the language of this later example is almost forgiveable, as it comes from a book called, Adventures in Writing, Grades 6-12. It doesn’t pretend that its not giving the most simplistic advice imaginable for impressionable young minds who, for the most part, are too simple to have read real books by the time they’re in Junior High School.

    (This book would have sickened me in Grade 8, about the time I was reading Wampeters, Foma and Granfalloons by Kurt Vonnegut and If the War Goes On… by Hermann Hesse ~ books in which the choice of writing by writers figures prominently).

    Okay, let’s have a look at something more relevant to the actual problem. This is from Interactive Storytelling for Video Games, by Josiah Lebowitz and Chris Klug. Lebowitz is a professor at the University of Hawaii and Klug might be Gerry Christopher Klug, a game designer and theatrical designer; I’m not certain about that.

    “Defining features of open-ended storytelling include expansive worlds that the player is free to explore for most of the game and an extremely large number of optional quests and activities he or she can take part in. Because of how much time and attention are spent developing the setting and optional content, the main plot is often deemphasized, with most open-ended stories having relatively short and simple main plots featuring generic player-created heroes. Some games, such as Grand Theft Auto IV, go against this trend, offering deeper plots and well-defined heroes, though doing so sacrifices a considerable amount of the player control and freedom found in other less plot-focused games like Fable II and The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind. Which of these approaches is best is a matter that’s frequently debated . . . but as a general rule, the more freedom that is given to the player, the less emphasis can be placed on creating a deep, structured, and emotional main plot, and vice versa.”

    I want to unpack that specifically in terms of the setting, which is clearly not as important as videos and articles would have us believe. The real concern is player engagement and player agency; and the reader will find a similar point of view if searching for discussions of setting with relation to theater or film. “Setting” is the backdrop in which the action takes place. The backdrop must be believable; it must be serviceable; it must not detract from the experience and it should be addressed with care and alacrity. But it is NOT the most important element of the story telling experience and it is not what makes a work great.

    We have drifted into a mindset where, having been fed great graphics through a heightened sense of film mechanics and technology, we’re prone to deluding ourselves with giving these things more substance than they actually possess. We’re also prone to convincing ourselves, with special words to describe the setting, into believing that “everything” falls under the purview of the “world” we’ve created for our characters … when in fact that world isn’t actually very important to the plot or the characters.

    Rather than preaching examples of how an immense and awesome setting has made some movies remarkable and worthy (which they are because plot and character were given the attention they deserved), we ought to consider how an immense and awesome setting has absolutely failed to support an appallingly bad plot or character arc. Jupiter Ascending comes to mind, as does John Carter, the 2011 Conan the Barbarian abortion, Warcraft, Tomorrowland, 47 Ronin and the greatly disappointing and forgettable 9, which created a multi-layered setting of magnificent proportions, only to face-plant spectacularly as the characterization turned out to be wholly uninspiring.

    The world you make for your RPG game, your video game or your novel/play should be good, yes; but the time you spend on it will greatly undermine the time you ought to be spending on your characters, their motivation and the goals they are seeking. A setting won’t save you if those things aren’t in place . . . which is part of the reason why so many DMs can sustain themselves in long-running campaigns that are built on setting design that is absolutely shit of the first order.
    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Sunday, July 23, 2017 No comments:
    Labels: Narrative, Worldbuilding
    Friday, July 21, 2017
    Guge Again
    Better?

    Territories to the south and west were previously made as
    part of India. Territories to the east, in pink, have yet to be
    designed. Some details showing will be adjusted later.

    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Friday, July 21, 2017 1 comment:
    Labels: Maps
    Thursday, July 20, 2017
    Cover Updated Officially
    Here’s a chore that I finally have behind me.

    This is the official cover of the book, now. I could not cut the paperback to a lower price; the publishing service would not let me.

    It is available on e-book for $11.95, however. That I could do.

    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Thursday, July 20, 2017 2 comments:
    Labels: Pete’s Garage
    Wednesday, July 19, 2017
    Adjusting Map Colors
    How would a new map-color scheme look?

    First, my feeling is that everything for regions that are well documented are fine: the main problem is for hexes for which I have no elevation information. Take the Svalbard map I posted just recently; there are only four hexes there with known elevations; the rest of the hexes are a mix between “glaciers” and “rocky tundra.” This creates a mix of two map forms, between “elevation” and “terrain” that makes for a mess.

    So, to begin, I think I need to incorporate an elevation guess that will serve the map’s use, even if that elevation is basically inaccurate. Not that it really matters anyway, I’ve just said in the last post that I’ve removed an entire sacred river from the India map, so what the hell?

    The elevation of an unknown hex can be guessed according to what we know of the general terrain. Are the known hexes the valleys? Or are they the high places, which applies to a lot of desert regions, where the flat bottom land is hot and higher elevations are cooler. It helps if we know the country, both geographically and geologically. Svalbard is much like Greenland; mountainous and glaciated. So we can set the surrounding hexes as all generally higher than the highest elevation hex we know about, 1804 feet. So let’s say the rest of Svalbard is above 2000 feet. I have an elevation hex color for this: it is a tan brown, but not the same as shown in the map above. So let’s make every hex that isn’t known that color.

    Okay, but what about glaciers? We’d like to keep that information, as it adds to our general knowledge of the terrain. For that, I’m adding another layer to the map, a glacial overlay, so that it makes Svalbard now look like this:

    On the whole, a grittier, more detailed experience. Because we don’t have to make the whole hex the color of the glacier, now the glacier covers the inland or bleeds right to the coast, depicting in places a line of coast where the tundra color shows. The glacier on Nordaustlandet can be a little larger than the hexes, since we can bleed it outwards however we want.

    Because I have made these maps myself, and on a publisher program, I can adjust it as I need. People ask me all the time if I shouldn’t just use google earth as my map; but I can’t change the features and images on google earth, like I can on my own maps. The map above only took me about 45 minutes work, most of that taken up with experimenting, as I’d never made any of my maps like this before.

    Consider this earlier version of the Jotunheim map, the large sea area of land east of Svalbard, consisting of Franz Josef Land (the Dandemoth Islands) and northern Novaya Zemyla:

    Again, I have almost no information for this, so most of the hexes are depicted as white and therefore uninteresting. Arguably, they’re utterly empty and I know they’re mostly glaciated and barren tundra, but still it would be nicer if the map looked more like this:

    Definitely an improvement, yes? We get a much better sense of the landscape of the top of Biyetia on the right of the map (depicted as 500 ft.-1000 ft. in elevation) though of course I have no real numbers for that part of the world. Jotunheim (Novaya Zemlya) really jumps out. I’ve taken a little time to give the Dandemoth islands names, though I did this a couple of years ago without telling anyone. The islands have a “political” name as well, Humutya. But I’m not explaining that, at least not until there’s no chance of running it.

    I’m also emboldening the labels, so they’re easier to read and making subtle color changes elsewhere, with the borders of the hexes for example and the color of the sea and topographic names.

    But what about a part of the world with more land than sea? Going east along the same latitude, the next map I’ve made and posted in the past is the lands surrounding the Kara Sea, which I’ve posted on the blog before. Here’s what it looked like:

    Because we’re swinging around the arctic pole, the previous map of Jotunheim is turned 60 degrees, so that it swings to the left and up. The reader can see the top of Biyetia in the middle left.

    This map certainly has its appeal, though again it lacks a lot of information. It has more, however, than the previous two, so I was able to give it more feeling. I changed the color of the white hexes to darker hexes to create the Byranga Mountains, so that gives the land some shape.

    Not much, though. It is still mostly white, and we don’t have any sense at all of the swamp lands that are encompassed by all that empty white hex-space. As such, I’ve chosen to tackle the problem of what the elevation of those unknown hexes is based on the existing mountains, the presence of many rivers, what hexes we do have information for and the coast, too. To this, I’ve added the same icy overlay that I created for Svalbard, and one thing more: an overlay for muskeg swamp, for areas of undrained flatland, as this is what most of the North Siberian Lowland is (see the bottom right of the map). All this work (a couple hours) produces this effect:

    I was astounded at how well this came out. The terrain pops right out and grabs the imagination; the overlay truly enhances the effect and giving guessed elevations to hexes certainly increases the potential for what passage through this country would be like. That’s always what I’m going for.

    I will have to explore this more to get a better sense for what the color scheme for Tibet will have to be; I can see that lightening the color scheme for the high country is necessary . . . but I’ll need to consider what I want to do with that before diving in.

    Oh, let me add that the google drive has been updated with the maps above, for those who have paid their $20 on my Patreon account.
    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Wednesday, July 19, 2017 2 comments:
    Labels: Mapmaking
    Tuesday, July 18, 2017
    Guge
    Obscure places you’ve never heard of. And while some readers may have, I am impressed that I never have, since I been reading geographical content all my life ~ a long life, at that. But I’ve never seen this before a day ago:

    This is Tsaparang, the ruined capital of the ancient kingdom of Guge (10-17th century AD), 278 km south-southwest of Senggezangbo, or rather Shiquanhe, er, Ger, that is, Gar Dzong, Gar Town or just Gar. Sigh. Here’s a video about the place; seems like a pretty crappy documentary that prattles a lot and looks at stuff, without really knowing anything. These bore me, so I didn’t watch it.

    Here is my map of Guge. Prepare to be underwhelmed:

    Confusing, ain’t it? I agree. A large part is due to the color scheme I planned for 12,000 foot elevations and over. It was fine when I did India, when only the edge of the Himalayas rose to that level (looked good, in fact); but with all of the map being dark umber and purple, it is hard to read if you’re not actually looking at in on Publisher. Plus the grey regional borders disappear when applied to this map’s color scheme. Not that orange borders wouldn’t look horribly garish and unappealing.

    Frankly, I’ve been having different problems with map coloring recently, as I’m working on odd places that don’t fall into the usual climate/elevation ranges. More and more, I’ve begun to realize I need to spend a lot of time redoing old maps in order to bring them into a level of consistency that is beginning to fall apart as the overall map increases in size. This is a monumental task; there’s little wonder I’m not anxious to apply myself, since it will only end in my having the same maps I already possess, just a little cleaner and somewhat better labeled.

    I am right now thinking the very manner I remake the map has to incorporate a few new coloring techniques, that I’m not using at all right now ~ but which I think I learned from making those comics.

    I’ll make another confession. My India/Tibetan rivers are, well, wrong. Have been since the beginning; I based them on the elevation numbers I had and did not try to draw them from real maps. That’s been true from the beginning of my map-making; for India, things went really sideways. Good luck finding the Sutlej River, where the city above is located. The valley of the Sutlej wound up being largely redirected east into the Ganges or north into the top of the Indus Valley, before it enters Ladakh.

    At least I will know if someone tries to steal my maps, hm?

    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Tuesday, July 18, 2017 1 comment:
    Labels: Mapmaking, Maps
    Structural Bias
    In a conversation I’ve just had with Maxwell, I equated the DM’s game designer problem of creating rules ~ concrete, objective and publicly visible ~ to the rules and structure of video game code. This, I think, is apt. A great part of the difficulty in RPGs moving forward these past forty years has come from an inability to agree on the code, which in turn disallows for our moving forward on things that really matter, like the process of the game itself.

    Recently in an email, I made a point about initiating an adventure and the structure of that initiation which I think is worth repeating in a blog post. I began by explaining that when I first began to play D&D, I saw that the biggest problem I was having as both a player and as a DM was the notion that the DM was always right. This idea gained strength pretty quickly. I did not hear the term ‘fiat’ until many years later, though that is certainly correct in its description: a ‘fiat’ is generally considered a very bad thing in the real world.

    As such, I saw that my chief axiom as a DM would be to take myself, as much as was possible, “out of the loop,” letting the dice decide as many conflicts as possible while pushing myself to create situations that were logically based on what had gone before and not upon a personal, arbitrary desire to see something happen. However, though I argued the importance of this with many DMs in the early 1980s, I always felt I was the only one who applied this thinking to my world; and today, I still find myself in contention with those who think there are times when it is “okay” to DM fiat a problem. This is clearly evidence of broken philosophical thinking at the ground level of the participant and user of the game’s structure.

    Imagine someone asking on a football web forum, “When is it okay for the New England Patriots to cheat?”

    [makes me want to go try it, actually]

    When I say “take myself out of the loop,” I don’t mean that every part of the game I’m running has to be structured in advance. That would be impossible, particularly for the size and complexity of campaign I’m running. To prepare and script every option a player might pursue would take far too much time for even a single adventure. While this might mean that I am compelled to run a given room exactly as it was written, thereby removing my immediate judgement from the equation, it also means I have to create very simple, very limited systems for my players to move through. It means the scripts for anything that anyone says have to be simple as well, or else I’ll be writing scripts ten years from now. Everything that the players might do has to be accounted for, and the players would be barred from doing anything that wasn’t already created.

    Basically, a video game.

    My concept of the loop came in 1980; at that time, narrative video games were astoundingly primitive. Consider, this was the level of video game when I started playing D&D:

    I could see at the time that the “control every variable” option was going to produce a spectacularly bad game. Even now, with the progression of video games, I’m still bored with games that seek to produce a narrative experience, right up to and including a game like the Witcher, Mass Effect or Assassin’s Creed. I don’t want to be someone else dealing with their problems, I want to be me, dealing with my problem ~ and I want total freedom of choice to decide what my problem is.

    A better methodology for running an adventure, I believed, could be found in the narrative rules that novel-writing compels, something I was also tinkering with in 1980, as those were my formative years as a writer. At the time, I could not have described it, but I’ve studied deconstruction a great deal now and I believe I have a good handle on the basic principles. In a novel, everything that exists must apply somehow to the development of characters and setting, which in turn serves to drive the plot and create the conflict, which then must be resolved with the instruments, ideas and motivations that have already been instilled in the characters. When Frodo is imagined to be dead in Lord of the Rings, we cannot simply have aliens land in a ship and then destroy the ring with an extraterrestrial blaster. In the same vein, what Samwise does next has to make sense. He cannot behave in a manner that would make the reader think the author had suddenly decided Sam should no longer act like Sam. We know that is not how humans behave in a situation (or, at least, we think we know that). Humans behave according to how they have behaved in the past. We stubbornly cling to that notion.

    Doing this in an RPG, this setting up of the adventure, should follow the same principles. Each object found, each discourse, each motivation of the non-player participants, should match up with the final goal. However ~ and this is incredibly important ~ RPGs are not novels. Nothing can be fixed. There’s no certainty that the players will pick up the object or pursue the motivation. If they don’t, the DM must, this being the axiom, resist the desire to push into the loop and compel the players to pursue the unwanted set-up. The set-up must be abandoned and a new set-up created, one that hopefully the players will pursue. If they do, then the movement in the set-up’s direction will produce a conflict and an end result, so long as the players remain interested.

    This means that my world is a series of narrative set-ups, sometimes without result. If the players don’t like an idea, I kill it in my mind, or figure out another potential clue that might make the previous set-up more enticing (which sometimes works but more often does not, discouraging this tactic). This requires that I place no sympathetic (or sentimental) attachment to a given set-up . . . but why should that be difficult. Artists abandon ideas all the time! If the necktie scene works better without the necktie, the playwright dumps the necktie and writes the scene. Those who fail to recognize that any part of a work can be abandoned for the sake of the whole work will in turn fail to achieve a higher degree of skill and self-awareness.

    Okay, but what is a “set-up”? How does it work? I’d like to give an example, but I can only hope the gentle reader has read the book [hell, if you haven’t, you’re damaged in some way and should not be DMing adventures]. I’ll try Around the World in 80 Days.

    The set-up is simple. The story is told primarily from the point of view of Passepartout, who has just acquired employment with an extraordinarily precise master, Phileas Fogg. The set-up is that a bet is made, one that requires Fogg to act in a manner that seems very unlike Fogg; Passepartout is taken along on a journey which, at the beginning, he does not really conceive in scope. Passepartout does not believe his master’s simple statement that they are going around the world; he doesn’t know Fogg well; he thinks his master must be joking. By the time it is clear it is not a joke, Passepartout is already far away from home and well in the midst of the adventure.

    Consider: Passepartout could have refused to get on the train out of England. He could have refused to cross the Channel. He could have refused to leave France, where he was from. He could have stopped anywhere along the way ~ but this would have meant unemployment for the manservant and at every step, the prospect of keeping pace with Fogg seems more enticing that being unemployed anywhere along the way. That is a set-up that works. The players have free will; but the choice right in front of them has to seem much more interesting than any choice they can make on their own.

    That is how I lead players “by the nose.” Not by railroading them, not by controlling them, not by denying them agency, but by creating a set-up that is more interesting, more enticing, than the set-up they imagine themselves creating. Once they are in the adventure, everything else follows logically. Like in Verne’s book, once Fogg, a wealthy Britisher, appears to be moving quickly through Egypt, the detective Fix assumes Fogg must be a bankrobber that he has been told to be on the look-out for. Fix follows Fogg and is in turn embroiled in the adventure. Events in India then create the opportunity to rescue Aouda, Fix’s machinations lead to Fogg’s being stranded in Hong Kong, the trip through the United States leads to the encounter on the train and so on ~ all of which are perfectly predictable to me as a DM, as I know the players, once on the adventure, will move through India and Hong Kong and Nebraska. I can set the events of the adventure well up in advance without the party feeling railroaded, as they know they chose to take each step as it was given. That is precisely why, although they have agency, they can be predicted in their behaviour.

    I believe that this connection between setting up a narrative in a book and setting up the premise for an adventure has been utterly and entirely missed by the game-making community. I feel that calls for necessary solutions to narrative, such as that called for Noah Wardrip-Friun, have already been created and structured for centuries by writers and artists, but that these things are being ignored because most game systems and formats do not have the flexibility to ditch set-ups that are not wanted or desired by gamers. Not like an RPG can do.

    If we don’t like a book, we can stop reading it. If we don’t like a video game, we can stop playing it. But if you don’t like an RPG, that RPG can be changed and changed until you do like it ~ unless the person in charge steadfastly and stubbornly refuses to change. And that there is the problem. That is the structural bias we have to overcome.

    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Tuesday, July 18, 2017 2 comments:
    Labels: Books, Game Design, Game Theory, Narratology
    Play, Flow & Blow
    Okay, let’s move to a subject that readers will comment upon.

    Ryan Wright [a different Wright from Will Wright that I wrote about a week ago] is a game narratologist producing talks on youtube, one of which I was directed to see by Ryan Wright. Braid is a 2008 platform and puzzle videogame, which Wright discusses in detail through the video. I’ve never played the game and so I don’t venture to have an opinion about it, though the premise seems a very clever one to me and I can certainly how it was a move forward for designer Jonathan Blow. I’ll be looking at Blow’s work, so I may come back with something about his ideas later.

    Near the beginning of his lecture (6:30), Wright talks about interpretive systems and heuristics. I talked about heuristics in a post last year, followed by another post and another. At the time, I concentrated on decision-making and rationalizing the motivation of players as a means to revisioning momentary gut instinct as “story-telling,” but the effort did not make much of an impact.

    Wright’s lecture is to discuss the points of view of two philosophers, Johan Huizinga and Hans-Georg Gadamer as relating to play; I won’t recount the bones of the lecture: suffice to say that Gadamer ends up laying the groundwork for the opinions of Bogost that I deconstructed at length earlier.

    However, I’ll quote from Gadamer just as Wright does in the lecture:
    “The movement of playing has no goal that brings it to an end; rather, it renews itsetl in constant repetition. The movement backward and forward is obviously so central to the definition of play, that it makes no difference who or what performs this movement.
    “Play clearly represents an order in which the to-and-fro motion of play follows of itself. It is part of play that the movement is not only without goal or purpose, but also without effort. It happens, as it were, by itself.
    “… all playing is a being-played. The attraction of a game, the fascination it exerts, consists precisely in the fact that the game masters the players … The real subject of the game … is not the player, but instead the game itself. What holds the player in its spell, draws him into play, and keeps him there is the game itself … [as such] play is really limited to presenting itself.”

    Wright then goes on to make an excellent point about the relationship between the re-presentation of play (representation) is the manner in which art is created ~ but I’ll go in a different direction, specifically in reference to RPGs (Wright is, remember, lecturing about a video game).

    This condition of being lost in a game is the same as any circumstance in which our own conception of time is suspended because we are entirely focused on what we’re doing. I get this sense every time that I set myself to write, whether it is a book or a blog post; I am focused completely on the task and to a large extent I “tunnel” with regards to my attention; people around me speak to one another or at me, and I fail to respond for long periods because I have to be roused out of this state.

    In psychology, this is termed to be “flow”, a concept which, according to Wikipedia and Mihaly Csitszentmihalyi, has been widely referenced in a variety of fields ~ so it isn’t surprising that it comes up in games and in art, such as playing RPGs and having five hours go up in smoke in what seems like a subjective forty minutes, or my writing this blog post for eighty-five minutes and it feeling like ten. I want to take a moment and list the seven flow conditions that Owen Schaffer proposed on the subject; things that cause flow: knowing what to do, knowing how to do it, knowing how well you’re doing, knowing where to go (if navigation is involved), high-perceived challenges, high-perceived skills and freedom from distraction.

    Now, apply those to the game you’re playing. Do you know what you’re doing as a DM? Do you know how to do it? Are you mindful during the game of how well you’re doing? Are you aware of how high the challenge is that you’re overcoming? Are you aware of what skills you’re applying as you run? Are you free from distraction as your game progresses?

    This blog has as its mandate the desire to give you tools so you know what to do as a DM, in the sense that you have a concept of what makes a good game and what the players want ~ in effect, the function of your game. I struggle to tell you how to do it ~ how to build the game’s structure. I tell you to be conscious of your players and of yourself, to measure yourself, in effect to develop situational awareness, which I spoke at length about in my book How to Run. I’ve spoken about controlling the space where the game is played, both to give a sense of place and atmosphere, but also to create a zone that is free from distractions. I’ve encouraged DMs to boot players that are distractions because it limits the capacity of the game to be good.

    From those points, I hope that the individual reading the blog and the book will come to recognize the high-level of challenge and skill necessary to play this game well ~ and to recognize that one RPG campaign CAN be measured against other campaigns because there does exist such a thing as skill and difficulty involved in the playing process.

    Gadamer’s position that ‘play’ is ‘flow’ is fairly self-evident ~ but it deserves examination, particularly since many of us fail to get that sense of flow often in our games when we play. We’re angry with ourselves and distracted by our sense of mental clumsiness and neuroses about what the players are thinking as we’re trying to sound interesting and encouraging of their involvement. We’re not able to express in clear terms what we’re doing or how we’re doing it. The game’s construct itself seems hopelessly confused and people are reaching for readily applicable solutions like “less rules” or “more role-play” because these things are at least comprehensible. The actual requirement of making the game ring like a bell, or rather flow, seems impossible at times. That is, until we experience it.

    That is the key measure. We’ve all played enough games, particularly of the video nature, that have induced flow, going back to when we were very tiny children. We know what flow is, which means we know what “right” is . . . all we lack is the skill to put right into words. We reach for non-descriptives like “fun” or “serious” because we’re conveniently forgetting that there are technical, scientific terms for what are brains are doing and why. Hell, I’m only on this track now because Wright told me to watch this video.

    Okay, let’s put flow and Gadamer’s definition of play on the back-burner for the moment. There’s another point I want to make that comes out of Ryan Wright’s lecture.

    Starting at (20:00),
    “Jonathan Blow, the game’s designer, gave a talk titled Truth in Game Design at GDC Europe in 2011, where he discusses his design process and he makes the claim in that talk that much of Braid’s design wasn’t something he believed he invented, but rather was something he discovered.
    ” ‘… it was very clearly the case that more ideas came out of the design process, and ended up in the final game, than I put into it as a designer. The process of designing the gameplay for this game was more like discovering things that already exist than it was like creating something new and arbitrary. And another way to say that is that there is an extent to which this game designed itself.’
    “What we can take from this is that in a Gadamerian sense, the designer that works like this is actually creating the game by playing with its rules in his mind. Blow approached the game less with rabid inventiveness and more with the mind of a tinkerer. He played with a set of premises and selected ideas from that set of premises that manifested in its possibility space.”

    This was a terrific Archimedian moment for me ~ but just in case the gentle reader does not see what I see in the above, let me point out the more obvious first and then go where this took me.

    Blow is finding, simply, that the material structure of the video game he’s making is similar in function to any RPG (as it was traditionally played, without the role-playing narratology). I give you a world, the world has a set of premises and you tinker with the world to determine what your possibilities are. Okay, simple enough, any good RPGer will see that immediately.

    But look at Blow’s basic problem, not stated by Wright in this video, as he’s going to other places. Once Blow has this tinkerer’s mentality, once he sees the possibilities manifesting themselves, he then has to sit down and code for hundreds of hours before anyone else can enjoy that experience. Now, I grant that there’s a lot of flow going on there, that Blow is probably happy with the time needed, though he wonders about his capacity to make his art real, as any creator does. Yet there is this reality:

    The video game code, for all its benefits, is an obstacle that has to be climbed between Blow’s comprehension of the universe he’s stumbled upon and the manifestation of that universe. Whereas I, playing a game of D&D, can stumble upon the idea and manifest it in the time it takes for me to explain it.

    My limitation is my capacity for explaining what I think; can I explain it? Do I know how? Am I self-aware enough to recognize my limitations, or the limitations of my listeners? This is a high-skill problem, a high-challenge problem. I can think of the concept, but can I make it a part of my player’s experience once I have thought of it?

    But let’s be real. Blow’s process of coding the video game is a diminishing necessity through the steady development of technology. After all, that’s all coding is: technology. It is the method by which we communicate our thoughts into virtual reality right now. Coding is only important as a skill-set because this happens to be the point in history where it matters; at some future point, having the ability to code will be meaningless.

    So Blow’s importance as a game designer ~ and my importance, and for the reader YOUR importance ~ is in what you think, not in how you make your thoughts manifest. Of course, you have a window in time, in which you’ll have to use the tools that can be provided for you. Game designers in the 1920s did not have your present options. You will not have the options that game designers in the 2120s have. That’s a reality you’ll have to consider.

    Still, there’s no point in learning any of these skills if you can’t get it clear in your head what your goals are, what makes a good game and how you can achieve it. I’ll keep working at my end of it, here, but you have to keep reading and watching and being mindful of what others are doing . . . else there’s no hope for you.

    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Tuesday, July 18, 2017 3 comments:
    Labels: Game Design, Game Theory
    Monday, July 17, 2017
    Towns Dropping Through Cracks
    Just a brief note about mapping Tibet. The first step is to research cities/habitations and sort out the regions within Tibet, based on geography and historical references. Here’s my list of towns in Tibet:

    The reader can see I’ve carved off one section already, a region that covers the upper valley of the Indus River in far western Tibet. Guge was conquered by the Kingdom in Ladakh after 1630 (or so, details are sketchy).

    I don’t have a map yet, I won’t for a bit, though these are easier to make because, hey, no coast. For the moment I just want to bitch about starting in China and the problems that brings.

    Since naming (and I talked about this before) is a free-for-all, I’m having some trouble. I have three atlases I’m working from, Google Earth, the site fallingrain.com (which gives the lat-long-elevation details) and wikipedia . . . and guess what? None of them match.

    The names are listed as different, or an atlas has the city marked and named but Google Earth shows no place at that location, or there is a place there but under a completely different name and nothing on the web connects the two names together. As always, there are many listed towns in fallingrain with the same name, often none of them having coordinates anywhere near where the map specifies the place should be. And so on.

    It is worse than I feared. Apparently, Pinyin has broken down so completely that no one can be sure what the correct Pinyin name is for a place. In several cases I found multiple names, with x’s for s’s or z’s for s’s, where both names were listed as Pinyin though they did not agree.

    No, I did not keep an example. Try Shigatse, that was was a fun one, or Ch’ung-te, which can’t agree on whether there should be a hyphen or an apostrophe or if the name shouldn’t Qamdo or whatever. I have it listed as Chamdo, above, but that is by no means the “real” name. I don’t think anyone has agreed on it’s real name.

    Perhaps the whole thing is a scheme by the Chinese military intelligence to hopelessly confuse invasion by ensuring that no two maps made by the outside world can possibly agree.

    Anyway, there are several places on the list for which I have no proof whatsoever (Amkyonyang) even exist; the coordinates shown for it are actually for a place called Amjogxung . . . I have no idea if these are the same place, but it is close to where one of my atlases lists the place. The internet ~ the entire internet ~ has never heard of the atlas spelling I have.

    Which is just weird.

    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Monday, July 17, 2017 3 comments:
    Labels: Mapmaking
    Sunday, July 16, 2017
    Svalbard
    Damn, these annoying corners of the world that my OCD won’t let me ignore:

    I wanted to show it in relation to Bear Island, in the bottom left hand corner, also an annoying rock that needs ten minutes to map [mostly to get it in the right hex], in the Barents Sea.

    Here’s the same map, without Bear.

    Note that I’ve changed the colour scheme for the glacial areas; I went back and did this for Iceland, too.

    The only piece left between Europe and Greenland is Jan Mayen (heard of it?). It’s also owned by Norway, which makes it technically the last piece of Europe I have left to map. But I just don’t feel like dedicating so much as ten minutes to it. I’m just sick to death of fjords and islands.

    Anyway, I’ve also updated the Google Drive, for those who have donated $20 to my Patreon account. A2 – East Svalbard will give an indication of Svalbard’s relationship to the very top of Norway.
    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Sunday, July 16, 2017 2 comments:
    Labels: Mapmaking, Maps
    Saturday, July 15, 2017
    It’s China
    The mapping poll closed:

    China won by a landslide. Greenland made a late surge at the end but none of the other options were even close.

    I’ll be working on Sinkiang, Tibet, Qinghai (or Kokonor, as English people called it in my youth) and Mongolia, about two million square miles worth of land, most of it terribly empty. Meaningful settlements, the only ones that will appear on the map, will be few and far between; I expect the area to cover many sheets.

    And it does bring up the issue of what I’m going to call everything. I will be using the Wade-Giles system whenever possible, which was standard before 1979. This means that modern Chongqing will be Chungking, that Beijing will be Peking and so on. This is terribly, abusively politically incorrect now, as it is seen as an English racist system that was inconsiderate to the Chinese people. I don’t care.

    When Chinese maps show “Alberta” written in English letters, I’ll use Pinyin. I know of no language except English that makes concessions to foreign languages when attempting to describe places on the map: and I don’t see the difference between writing “King” and “Qing,” if we’re going to pronounce the Q as a K, nor in writing “Chong” instead of “Chung,” if we’re going to pronounce the o as a u. It all seems ridiculously pedantic and I’m not buying into it. I’m old. I’m willing to make concessions for things that make sense, but this Pinyin thing is bullshit. Always has been.

    Not that people haven’t tried to convince me differently.

    But, hm, let me see, how do the Chinese pronounce “Canada?” How do they spell it? Oh. That’s right.

    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Saturday, July 15, 2017 No comments:
    Labels: Mapmaking
    Functional Complexity versus Conceptual Complexity
    “Many users are concerned with the growing level of systems complexity, and some are calling for reduced complexity as a means to greater usability. However, many systems are complex because the operational environment and the tasks to be performed within the system are themselves complex; arbitrarily reducing system complexity may therefore make the system even less usable because its performance would be compromised.”
    “One way of addressing this problem is to separate functional complexity from conceptual complexity. A good illustration of this distinction is provided by personal computers using the desktop interface; although these systems are far more complex (functionally) than the DOS machines that preceded them, users find them conceptual more simple. This is because the desktop interface translates the underlying functionality of the system into a conceptual world that the user already understands … however, the metaphor is not a panacea; in the case of personal computing, the metaphor was imposed on the operating system after the essential functions of the system were already defined.”

    International Encyclopedia of Ergonomics and Human Factors, 2nd Ed., p. 1099

    That’s the holy grail: the be-all and end-all of the rules complexity debate. Personally, I feel that my wiki is a big step towards the simplified player interface, where the rules are available 24/7 to all the participants, where they can be updated as needed and the only drawback is the time spent in keeping those updates in place and adding rules as they’re needed.

    But that’s the project I tried to launch in 2009 and which I’ve found is a lot for just one person, particularly if I can’t work full time on it. I don’t notice that others are looking to try making wikis of their own, and probably for that reason.

    Still, the “windows” interface was no easy concept to put in place; and all that computer design had to exist before it could be effected. We can’t even agree on a design in RPGs, much less consider putting in an interface that makes sense.

    I keep preaching, however.
    Posted by Alexis Smolensk at Saturday, July 15, 2017 No comments:
    Operational Logic
    Picking up again on design with Noah Wardrip-Fruin, Associate Professor of Computational Media at the University of California. Please note that I’m not quoting a bunch of hacks who happen to be speaking on behalf of the job they hold with the WOTC or some other game company, but with people who are studying the subject and who are forced to defend themselves to their peers, regularly. This means that when I’m quoting a point about games, I’m quoting facts, not opinions. I know most of you get that; but it helps to emphasize the point, since before we can move forward we have to settle things in our minds. We can’t keep debating the same points, else we get nowhere.

    “… and part of it [the gamer experience] is also a set of computational processes, so we can have the experience of virtual objects being able to touch when we’re playing a platformer. Not just because we have a presentation of the game state, which represents meaning a lot like a movie does, but because we have an underlying computational process that supports it. And these are ‘operational logics’ ~ these sort of fundamental units of meaning. Operational logics combine a communicative goal, like virtual objects can ‘touch’; with an abstract process, something like ‘when two coordinate spaces overlap, do something’; and that supports an ongoing representation of a fictional or real world, or just a presentation of an abstract game space and an ongoing player experience.”

    Be sure and watch the whole video, though I think this is the most important part for what I’m struggling to communicate with these posts. If we want to talk about function, specifically what the game system/game campaign is being designed to do, we need to look at its operational logic, in the same way that a bat hits a ball in a video game. The operational logic of a system describes how the system does what it does. Taking the link and retooling the phrases therein for the D&D campaign, we’re looking for how the world, the interface that the players, or users, will interact with, enables the player to learn the world’s nature and master the world’s logic, or pattern, of that world. The player has to be able to examine the world, decide how the world both enables and obfuscates the player’s intentions, sorting out the one from the other, which is then followed by the player building a strategy, or a plan, towards that goal to act towards it, as kimbo described yesterday in his comment.

    Understand, however, this does not only apply to the game I advocate but to all games, even games where the interface is so difficult to understand that the users interpretation is next to impossible and where practical goals are dismissed out of hand when the functionality seizes up due to poor DMing, DM fiat, DM cheating or what have you.

    The immediate question, of course, is how do we do this well? Where do we start? This all sounds great, a lot of big, barely comprehensible words, obviously very important since people with important positions and expertise are spewing them out in a steady stream, but how in the hell do I take all this explanation and apply it to the world I am building for my players?

    Ah, yes. Well, here we have plenty of grist for the mill.

    Let’s take a common experience in D&D and many other role-playing games: combat. And let’s break it down a bit according to its operational logic, on the level of a game like pong. The player hits the opponent, the opponent hits the player. Operationally, something happens. We can think of combat as each participant having a paddle that sends an “effect” back and forth between them.

    We want to define the effect, so let’s replace the paddles by a circle holding a stick; then let’s replace the ball moving back and forth by the sticks waving out and striking the circles, which represent the combatants.

    If the sticks hit every time, that’s boring. If they never hit, that’s also boring. We’re not representing this on a computer screen, so we’re not using the muscles of our hands or our physical reflexes to move the sticks (like we would in a video game), so we replace the “chance” of the stick hitting with dice.

    To make it fun, taking advantage of the gambling aspect of dice, sometimes we hit and sometimes we don’t.

    If one hit kills, that’s boring, so let’s calculate that it takes multiple hits to kill an opponent. We could designate that multiple number as “four hits,” but we can add another die to the mix so that we’re not certain exactly how many hits it will take to kill someone.

    Now, if the circles and sticks are static and can’t move, that’s boring, so let’s figure out a way to make them move.

    If all they can use are sticks, that’s boring, so let’s make choices as to what sort of stick they’re using. This will mean special rules for each type of stick, so that the choosing of a specific form of stick matters in someway depending on the situation. Some sticks are better at a distance; some are better close up. Some swing faster and don’t kill as effectively; some swing slow and are effective killers.

    Having only circles to swing at seems boring. Let’s increase the variety of circles that exist so that there are lots of different targets. And lets require different amounts of chance for killing each type of target. And let’s make some each stick good for hitting different sorts of targets.

    And so on.

    Operationally, we always want to start at a point of minimum contact; where we can define exactly what happens when A interacts with B. Then, in different, imaginative ways, we want to build up a host of differently affecting variables that make the point of contact more interesting, without eliminating the point of contact.

    When people talk about eliminating combat from their games, we have to ask ourselves, what have they devised that replaces this extraordinary, complex, multi-leveled sorting concept, where uncertain results are differently affected by a series of uncertain, yet measurable strategies?

    By and large, the answer comes back, “We’re going to replace it with player-DM interaction, supported by guarantees of reward for perceived cleverness, when detected.”

    This seems very fuzzy. Where is the point of contact? What is the principle manner in which the interface of the game works, when the DM speaks to my player character and I speak to the DM’s player character? Where is it measured? How do we define the perameters of my strategy? If my goal is to perform a task in the game, how does failure to perform that task occur? What stipulates failure? What exterior criterion applies? Please define success for me in a manner that does not require opinion.

    This is w

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