Saturday, August 28, 2010


So I’m thinking - What motivates people? Why was I thinking that? Well, to explain why people take certain actions. I may or may not be setting up Fletnern for another war or series of wars and I wanted to pretty firmly establish goals and desires, so I could better determine actions once the war started to blow out of control.
Greed! Greed motivates. Greed is good! OK, maybe not, but it is abundant. But believe it or not, there are other things that motivate people.
Ego. Tons of people will make stupid choices, just to preserve their ego or reputations. Bruise someone’s ego, and he’s more likely to be an enemy forever than if you’d simply stolen from him. Then again, stealing from him probably bruised his ego as well.
The need to be accepted. In intense situations, this is love, but people will still act simply to belong to a group. Think all the protesters at a rally believe the nonsense their chanting? Not all! Some are there just to be part of the group.
Well, if love, then hatred. Hatred isn’t a logical thing. It’s usually based on fear of some sort. It brushes up against ego too. Fear of being second best can often be enough to cause hatred, so it also goes along with jealousy, but so does greed. Darn! It’s all interconnected!
Religion. Let’s open this one wider and say “culture”. To some people, they will take certain actions simply because they are conditioned to, or because their moral system says they are the right thing to do. For better or worse, these people are the least likely to change their minds, because they are convinced they are “right”. Ain’t no stoppin’ that!
Looking back at these, any of the seven deadly sins would make a good motivational force. We already have avarice, pride, wrath. Hey even sloth can be a motivation - this guy just does not want to have to expend any energy. (“If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.”)
Mental defect. Let’s not leave out the idea that some people are simply not capable of making choices that are good for them. Whether this is some idiot who get’s in a bar fight because he’s drunk or a mass murderer who starts a war just to see the carnage, some times the motivation is simply that the guy ain’t playing with a full deck.
So who cares? So what? Here’s why it matters - A war is coming. The war is likely to be fought because the wealthy guys want their wealth secured against the up and comers. Meanwhile, there will be armies in the fields. Why are they there? To make the wealthy wealthier? No way. They are there because they are convinced that their cause is just and the other guy’s cause is unjust, and if they don’t fight today, their rights and their possessions will be stripped from them tomorrow. They’re probably right by the way. What will others do? Will the allies come? If so, will they have a different agenda, and will it affect the course of the war? This is the kind of war where allies will likely be working both sides. It is only by understanding the motivations of each group beforehand that I as the GM will stand a chance of producing a campaign that is both interesting and makes sense!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

How Much is Too Much?

I am plagued by this question, pretty much every time I write. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to learn that most people, even those who like and buy our stuff, thought I was over the line into “too much” quite frequently. Then again, when you’re not the one coming up with the stuff - too much is OK. It gives the reader a sense of what’s going on without really caring about the extra “wasted” work.
The big problem is trying to get the balance right in the “how much is more than I wanted to read” category. If I flub it there, then people don’t want to buy Board Enterprises stuff any more. Still, I think that line is way past the line most GMs would draw for themselves.
So how much is too much? We gave you the weights and dimensions on coins in a free supplement. That went pretty far. We described an orcish tribe’s gear down pretty far - but I always hate that that stuff isn’t in the games. (If a bandit is wielding a sword forged in a nearby city, you need to figure out if they gave it to him to cause trouble or if he stole it from a good guy. Without knowing where the sword came from, you don’t stand a chance of figuring this out.)
I guess like so many of these things, it comes down to play style. If you play an RPG with some role-playing, you might want to investigate your enemies and find something out. If you just hack and slash, then no one cares except for how much you can get for it. Our products have a way of picking their players.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Designing part 3

Do the rest of you find the writing part easy? Once my brain gets hold of an idea, it just keeps developing it until the next idea crowds it out. This is good - in that I have some fairly decent ideas mixed in with a couple of losers. This is bad in that every new idea crowds out the earlier ones and if I didn’t write them down, they are typically gone forever. ADHD or whatever they want to call it this year - and yes that was a professional diagnosis, not just my mother.
I think one of the main reasons the writing is easy for me is that I have a fully developed and functioning world. I’ve been playing around with Fletnern for closing on 30 years now. OK - 30 years ago, it probably sucked. I know things were blatantly wrong. I recently found notes from 25+ years ago where on the same page it listed a historic war and the participants and the founding dates of some of the cities. Apparently two cities were involved in a war BEFORE they were founded. That takes skill.
But seriously, it works now. When I have good ideas, they fit into the world fairly easily. Yes, I do credit Legend Quest with a lot of that because it is the full RPG, and not just a magic system or a combat system. Add to that the whole Grain Into Gold economy structure, and its like a skeleton that I can hang meat on any time I want. Great framework makes for great substance. (I think I just called myself great. I’m OK with that!)

Designing continued

I thought back to “what is probably the oldest book that has yet to see the light of day?” Monsters and Other Menaces! We advertised Monsters & Other Menaces back in 1991 when LQ first came out in its first edition style. Dark Hour was there on that flyer too, but I’ve always felt that The Forgotten Hunt was in many ways Dark Hour, just without the magic. M&OM is like All that Glitters. It was way too massive. It was to have starting characters, new monsters, new conjured creatures, new rules for important monsters (dragons at least). So will it ever be published? Let’s see how Book of Wishes does!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Game Design

You’ve heard me bitch about formatting and other things that go into putting a book out for sale, but I’m not sure I’m making sense. Here’s my process: I come up with an idea for a book. I come up with probably 5-10 ideas every week. I write them down. I think about them a little bit. Some of them, I start writing outlines for. Time goes on. The list of books grows. I jot down more ideas. After a month or so, I usually wind up combining ideas because some of them are just too similar.
Once I decide that the idea didn’t suck, I start laying out the book. For me, the writing is easy. When I was doing magazine articles, I always use to say, “I write at least two pages a day. Give me some direction and I’ll write two pages a day for you.” {Side bar - I am looking at ways that I can put several of the magazine articles out as pdfs on the web-site - likely for free.}
Now, some ideas grow or shrink with time. All the Glitters is the best example. All that Glitters was intended to be the Legend Quest treasure supplement. It would include everything from a bigger better list of everyday items to a discussion of treasure (mainly gems), possible random charts and tons of new magical items. Yeah - That would have been about 600 pages. All that Glitters is now: Grain Into Gold (the economy), Coins of the Road (trade goods), Facets (gems, including magical uses), All that Glitters (treasure that is not necessarily “normal”), Coins of Fletnern (all the specs on the coins themselves), and a magical item supplement that I’ve never liked any of the names I have for yet.
OK -So I write the thing - the easy part is done. Now I have to edit it. Even if I am using outside editors, I still read the book at least three times. The first is to make sure it says what I want it to say. I have a tendency towards massive run on sentences, so here these get trimmed, sometimes. Then I read it for continuity and editing (punctuation, sentences that don’t sound garbled, etc). Then I really edit it, looking for spelling and grammar. Then I let the software edit it, showing me what it thinks are spelling and grammar errors. That’s not really reading, since I don’t see all the book.
Then I have to format it. Now, a lot of formatting was done during writing. I developed the chapters, I decided whether to use a list format (like 100 Towns - which is selling REALLY well, thank you!) or a text book format (most of our two column books) or possibly: ”story book” (one column - most of these have died off). I also have to figure out how to make the headers look, what to do about the page numbers, any art work, etc etc etc etc. By the time I’m at this stage, it’s mainly how do the pages look. Chapters typically start on the top of a page. There shouldn’t be any huge patches of white in the book. Then I upload it into Adobe, and have to start the formatting process all over again. Included in this is the need to re-read the book for the fourth time, because sometimes Adobe puts letters on top of each other and other oddities that look really stupid.
After all that, the book is read to publish, but only if I have a cover picture and a sales description set.
The moral of this story is this - I have a lot of books written, or mostly written. That is the easy part. Getting from written to published is the hard part. Then sitting back and watching a product I worked that hard at not sell well - well, it isn’t very fun. Fortunately, Legend Quest, Grain Into Gold and now 100 Towns sell really well!


While GMing, I had to go through a description of what Senses skill is and how it applies. (PCs as caravan guards getting jumped.) Figured some of you might want to understand the way we see it. Hopefully no surprises:
Senses is typically used defensively, in other words - as a resistance. Therefore, if a sentry is actively aware, the person trying to sneak up on him should roll their attempt at being stealthy and resist it by the sentry’s (K +SEN) x 5%. Use of K x 10% + SEN x 5% really shouldn’t happen, though of course it does.
If you were to use your Senses as an active skill, you would take a combat round. Eventually, your eternal vigilance would result in you passing out, and thereafter not protecting your caravan. When would you use it? Well, if you heard a noise in the darkness and were trying to see what it came from, that would be an active Senses task. Of course, anyone using Senses constantly would on average fumble every 20 turns or about every three or four minutes
So, how do you know if the sentry is actively aware? What do you use to find out if the sentry wandered off or fell asleep? Well, asleep is different, but to determine if the sentry gets to use his or her SEN skill levels or not, I think you give him a Etiquette task but use Willpower as the base attribute. The assumption here is that disciplined sentries will have ETQ. If the sentry is undisciplined, there is a greater chance that he will not follow his orders and either be somewhere else or day dreaming. Now missing sentries cannot resist sneaking, but day dreaming ones can. Where an alert sentry resists at (K +SEN) x 5%, ones who miss their alertness roll will resist at (Kx5%) -10%. The “-10%” is for distraction. Now if for whatever reason, you want to have the two sentries arguing over which jousting champion is going to win at the tilting yard tomorrow, well, the distraction value should go way up.

Scheduling Blog

OK - There are some things I’m good at, but updating this blog on Saturday mornings does not seem to be one of them. In an effort to be consistent and predictable, let’s change the scheduled update to “Weekly, on or before Monday”. If I’m going to be gone all weekend, I might update on Friday. If I remember on Sat. morning, I’ll do it then, but I should be reliable enough to get it done on or before Monday. As a peace offering, here’s two posts: