Saturday, June 23, 2012

Why does Urban Developments Matter?

People who read Board Enterprises books will likely remember that I ask the question “So what?” quite often. I think it’s important. Why did you just read three paragraphs about wheat farms and millers? Because bread is the basis of the entire economy. That’s why it matters. So we wrote and published Urban Developments. Why does it matter? So what? First, it really is one of the most efficient ways to design cities (or towns, villages, hamlets, etc.) from the 10,000’ level. You can make them quicker, but you won’t know what you need to run them off the cuff. But in the back of the book is a huge amount of math. One of the main things it computes is: How much land do the farms needed by the city take up? For example, a city of 25,000 people requires in or around 725 square miles of land to feed it and the farmers. That means that the circle of “influence” around the town is out to about 15ish miles. I doubt anyone will really have an issue with that. But that’s only 25K folks in the city. Let’s go to 100,000 people. Does your world have any 100K people cities? Now you’re talking a circle that goes in every direction out for the city for 30 miles. (30.4 actually). What if the city is on the shore of the ocean? Well, some of the food will come from fishing, but that 30 mile circle is going to get a lot bigger. Let me give a specific example. Brinston is a coastal city and has 800,000 people in it. That means that they would need 86 miles in all directions to feed those folks (more than 23,000 square miles). But the elven forests are 20 miles north of the city. And the South Pot Mountains start about 50 miles south of the city. And obviously the ocean is parked right there, west of the city. So the farmlands that support the city of Brinston follow the river east for a lot more than 80 miles. In fact the food to sustain this great city is imported from all over the place. So what? Brinston is the center of trade throughout the world. So what if they need to import their food? Well, what if they get attacked? The barbarians didn’t wander up to Rome and sack it. They first messed with the capital of the greatest empire’s food. Read up on the Vandals if you want more details. With Brinston’s food supply stretched so far along the river, if someone wanted to besiege the city, they just need to stop the river traffic. What if eager nobles start cutting into the elven forests in order to plant more crops? Wow- can you say international incident, and all over a couple hundred trees. We touch on this in the book, but think about this one: OK, so the land required to feed the people extends out at least 60 miles in all directions (that’s feed, not clothe, etc). An ox cart moves at 15-20 miles a day (on a good road). That means that the majority of the food is coming from more than a day’s journey out, and some of it is at least three days on a cart before it hits the marketplace. Some things you can explain. You can lead livestock into the city and butcher them there. But you can’t have dairies in the city. Well, you can, but then you have to bring the feed to them, and there are a bunch of other issues. You probably can’t have orchards in the city. What’s my point? Well, it’s that the city folks might not have the slightest clue what fresh fruit is like. They’re eating potatoes and flour, maybe with some ham or salted beef, but they aren’t biting into a fresh peach. Even if they get peach preserves, they still don’t drink milk. Three day old milk - Do not include me on that one! We’ve just started to scratch the surface of the issues here. A lot more detail and explanation can be found in Urban Developments. We are also looking at developing a book that walks through the mundane and magical lives of people in a fantasy realm. It will get into a lot more of these types of things, but it isn’t going to be our next book. (Read, not likely 2012)

Saturday, June 16, 2012

It has been a long time coming, but we are in the midst of our website rebuild. Our previous host doubled the annual fees between 2010 and 2012, so we intelligently decided to leave them behind (shaking the dust from our electronic sandals), and have switched to a new vendor. But this means that we must rebuild the site. Trust us - It was not worth copying to the new vendor! So - while the site is fully functional, it lacks all the content it once had. We’re fixing that, and will announce when it is fully rebuilt. And there will be more news about the internet shortly as well. Something we think will really work for all you LQ and Fletnern fans out there!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

When is it Plagiarism?

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know why I have such strong feelings about plagiarism. I actually started in this industry because others were plagiarizing my work. I figured if my stuff was good enough to be in print under someone else’s name, then it was good enough to be in print under my name. Even in the beginning, people thought I was stealing ideas from other folks. In 1992 at GENCON we were advertising expansions for Legend Quest. One of them was “Dynamite Dinosaurs”, which eventually morphed into The Forgotten Hunt. As you might imagine, in 1992 (after Jurassic Park the book but before the movie) the few people aware of Crichton’s novel asked if we were copying it. I wasn’t one of those people aware of his novel and had actually gotten the idea from watching The Valley of Gwangi. I had been debating between two plot lines, and eventually included them both in the book. Neither is close to Crichton’s. I described the yazzteea to someone, and they thought I was stealing the idea from Aliens (pick a number). The yazzteea are a race of social insects/spiders in Convergence. They were born out of two things - my fascination with social insects and the thought that four foot tall spiders tck-tck-tcking their pointy legs down a cave or hallway would be REALLY creepy. So what is my problem? Well, it’s not being as prolific as I wish I was. Had I published The Forgotten Hunt in 1992 instead of advertising it, I would have scooped the movie. I write a lot of stuff! at least by my measure. You’ll likely never see it all, because while much of it is the basis for the products that come out, a ton of it is more background or sourcing material and not the “big deal”. The problem is that there really aren’t that many original ideas out there. Sometimes really famous guys and I get inspired by similar stuff and produce somewhat similar stuff. Sometimes I get inspired by their stuff, but think I can do it that much better. In those cases, you likely won’t recognize the inspiration. I’ve always supported the idea of letting other stuff inspire you, but then making it your own. Don’t steal an idea and use it, let it initiate thoughts that you improve upon and change into something that winds up being entirely yours. We hope that is exactly what our products are doing for you! And if you think I stole an idea - point it out. I’ll let you know where it really came from!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

100 Bar Foods

We wrote and published 100 Bar Drinks. Why? Because we thought that GMs would like to have a long series of beverages that they could offer at their game world taverns. But now we’re writing 100 Bar Foods and 100 Bar Flies. Why? Because we think that once we bundle those three supplements together, GMs are going to have more than they could have hoped for in running their in game bars and inns. They’ll have more than enough drinks, menu items, and people to fill the stools. Someone asked the very reasonable question: Why not just publish a tavern? Good question. Answer: I think everyone has their favorite in game bar figured out. You probably know the owner and the layout and likely the bartender(s) and waitress(es). You might even have a couple of specialty drinks or menu items. But what about the rest? The rest of the drinks served. The rest of the food available. The rest of the folks taking up space. For that matter, what about the rest of the bars that you haven’t put so much time into? Truth be told - I don’t expect people to race to their computers to download 100 Bar Foods, but that doesn’t make it worthless. #1 it will be a fine supplement to make menu creation a lot easier for GMs. #2 by working on it, I’ve been forced to document a lot of foods, spices and other items that will bleed over into Coins of the Road and Fantasy Lifestyles. Oddly enough, I need to write 100 Bar Foods, so I can expand Grain Into Gold.