Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Building Worlds by the Numbers this time

  So, as defined last time, it seems reasonable to extend nations influence to 6 days as the crow flies.  For the puposes of fantasy kingdoms, we can imagine a central point of authority, this would be where the King keeps all of his stuff, and up to 6 days in all directions.  Nations can go further than this, up to 12 days, but that requires more power to overcome more conflict; say 6 days for middle powers and up to 12 for larger, richer powers.

  Marching a day means moving 24 miles, as per D20 rules.  A nation that can exert influence for 6 days as the crow flies equals 144 miles from the border, and twice that, about 288 as a diameter.  Nations won’t have a perfect circle of influence, of course, but we can use this to solve for a total land area; that sets the circumference at 904.8 miles and an area of 65,144 square miles.  By comparison, England is listed by Wikipedia as about 50,000 sq. miles, Denmark as about 42,000 sq. miles, and most other nations in Europe are much bigger.  The numbers aren’t unreasonable, but as a reminder, most of the numbers I can find are decidedly modern.  I think 65,000 sq. miles might be unreasonable for a Dark Ages Kingdom, but could fly as a measure for High Middle Ages Kingdoms.  Maybe. 

  It might work really well if that number becomes reduced by coastlines.  All numbers discussed so far should not have bearing on naval power at all!  Additionally, the nations should be built to 6 days journey, not necessarily in miles of distance, but time.  The above figure of 65,000 can be taken as a very rough estimate, and rocky, hilly, mountainous, swampy, or tundra (tundra-y? tundra-nous?) terrain can sharply reduce the surface area of the land.

  Still, this gives us a working framework for building new fantasy kingdoms, and I’ve found another tool to play with, I mean, experiment.  QZIL is a Kingdom generating calculator by Derek Bryan for the web, based on the work of S. John Ross.  This tool is highly effective, and gives us a means to use the numbers figure above and in the last post.  Indeed, a test of the calculator may be in order.

  We have enormously detailed numbers of Medieval England from the Domesday Book.  We should be able to plunk in the numbers coming from the Domesday book into the calculator, and obtain something vaguely like the 11th century Kingdom, making exceptions for recent conquests and executions, of course.

  The Domesday book does not record exact figures for population; lucky for the QZIL calculator then, that population isn’t a required input.  We need an estimate of the land area (miles squared) and the approximate population density, with a third line recording the relative fertility of the land.  The result has to work out to something close to 2 million, as the UK Source for the Domesday Book Online

  Three regions, Licolnshire, East Anglia and East Kent, are given a density of 10 people per square mile, with the rest perhaps as low as 3 people per sq. mile.  Fertility of the land is much trickier; it is estimated by the hide, or unit of land required to sustain a family.  By the time of the Domesday Book, there are several fixed definitions, including 0.19 sq. miles generally, and, in Dorset and Wiltshire, as little as 0.06 sq. miles.  For reference, the definition of “enough to sustain a family” was long gone.  We could, by way of solution, just average the two extremes, but it seems the low end is far more uncommon.

  For the purposes of building a quick and dirty role playing setting, we could simply call Dorset and Wiltshire under-performing; England therefore sustained a family (which was what, again? 3?  5?  Google seems to be leaving me without answers again, so I’ll just plunk in 4 and be done with it).  That means the population density should be about 20 people per sq. mile (which is below the minimum range).  Finally, the land area in 1066 seems to have been, including lands under and not under cultivation, includes a small sliver of Wales and loses a small number of other counties.  Heck, London and a few other cities are plainly not polled.  Still, the land area of modern England should do in a pinch, which I previously ballparked at around 50,000 sq. miles.

  For all the rough estimates I’ve worked in, it certainly seems like I could make any number of excuses for the calculator turning up random numbers.  Still, we’ve come this far.

  The End Result comes up with a population of about 1,000,000 people, about half of the estimate above.  Also noteworthy is that most of the population lives in villages, 645,000 to 54,000 “urban,” or about 12:1.  The actual breakdown was stated as at least 90%, or 9:1, but maybe that number was low.  Also curious is the 300,000 listed in the calculator as itinerant.  The region had just endured a deadly war…

  The calculator helpfully generates a list of cities.  One Big City, presumably London, two “cities,” and the rest are towns numbering five.  There are 1613 villages, no universities at all, five “urban” castles, 15 wilderness castles, and three ruins.  That one may be off for my own fault: I entered that the Kingdom was 300 years old, but England is sitting on top of a far older civilization of Romanized Celts.  This estimate would not include such things as Hadrian’s Wall; there are way more than 3 Roman ruins in all of England.

  The Calculator is extremely handy, breaking down the city, town, and village availability of services to the nth degree.  Adventurers could journey to the region immediately, and if they ask the DM what services they can blow their exotic, unsupportable gold on, the DM has a ready list of answers.  Two of the towns have no booksellers at all, so if the PCs intimidate the two who work in London and lose their support there, then they have to go a long way and risk being left without service!  It surely seems like a highly playable setting, even if some numbers tend to go away from the expected.

  Just as an experiment, I try changing a few values, but I’m not at all sure how I would settle down that third of the population in motion.  That seems excessive for a nation where people live to serve their lord, but not for a population that does not own land …

  No matter how I change the numbers, it seems the ideal for itinerants is a third of the total population, where S. John Ross, the man who cooked up the formulas but not the calculator, suggests they should be smaller numbers.  There should be itinerant workers, farm hands looking to work seasonally, or moving carnival folk, but a third still seems a lot.  The Domesday book made express mention of slaves and unfree, non-landholding laborers, and if their number added to the “itinerants” then we may see numbers slightly more reflective of the Domesday book. 

  All of this is irrelevant, of course.  If the DM chooses to have the players interface with an itinerant gypsy, then the odds of encountering one is exactly 1:1 odds.  If the PCs choose to pursue itinerants, then they will find them or cut down every DM-erected barrier in their way to get to them.  I think the calculations are serviceable, so  I remain impressed by the calculator and Mr. Bryan’s work.

Next time: I hope to have something a little more original.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Building to Scale

The following is a work document that I’ve started to put metrics into my world building exercises.  I’ve found that the existing projects that I already have some work on have started to come apart due to a lack of clear metrics, so I don’t know if this will be a patch, or the groundwork for all projects going forward.
All of my projects usually start with 3.5 base rules (the D20 system, which is open source).

Humans, and therefore most races, move comfortably at 30ft/round (6 seconds) in tactical combat, 300 ft /minute (local), 3 miles an hour (overland) and 24 miles a day (overland).  The source is PH pg. 162.  There is some variation with real life, not least of which 3.5 uses standardized Imperial feet and miles as opposed to default-standard measures like meters, but it works well enough for all medium sized creatures, it has well laid out tables for creatures of bigger and smaller size, and it avoids the vexing question “What is a meter on a planet other than Earth?”

The above list of measures is all mathematically consistent, and assumes that the adventurers are putting in an 8 hour day.  By the way, there are 5280 feet in a mile, just so we are all square.

Miles (ft/5280)
6 seconds
60 seconds (x10)
60 minutes (x60)
3 (give or take 0.4)
Day (x8)

There is no “forced march,” but there are numbers for hustle (x2 on all metrics above) and run (which cannot be applied evenly to the overland times).

Now for some token worldbuilding distances:

Distance, as per Google Maps
Time, as per Google Maps
Divided into 8 hour days
Time, as per 3.5
London, UK to York, UK
198 miles
65 hours
Dover, UK to Plymouth, UK
283 miles
92 hours
Paris, France to Brussels, Belgium
279 miles
57 hours (??? Google Maps)

Plunking names into Googlemaps, it occurs to me that some of their numbers may not be entirely consistent.  I am revising by adding my own calculations based on the distance.
Result: Not sure what happened with the estimate for Paris to Brussels, but 3.5 widely agrees with Google Maps estimates, except in this one trip.

So, we have a more general idea of the distances involved.  Armies forcemarching from the French capital to the Belgian would need to be in motion for about 6 days (12 days walking, 6 hustling) before automation in the infantry, and going any faster the men won’t be in shape to do much fighting.  But how often did early medieval armies march such distances?  What is the sense of power that can be projected over distances?
Historical fiction author Carla Nayland has already compiled some of the most frequent battle distances that have come down to us preserved, including some excellent work with the problems of the source materials (this is the Dark Age after all).  Noting carefully that the sample is most unlikely to be representative, she can name 12 battles conducted by Dark Age English kingdoms, and amid them, 5 of those battles took place in distances 130 to 200 miles from the core.

As a theory to be tested, can we say Kingdoms can usually express power effectively up to 5 days (125 miles) out, and that up to 8 days out at need.  12 days Paris to Brussels, by this theory, would be a little unusual.  We might have a problem with this suggestion, as other sources seem to suggest 12 day journeys are common, though more and more in the High Middle Ages, long journeys were seeing more fast marching to speed them up. 

A Dark Age themed setting needs only extend political power for a few days journey, and this is reinforced by the need to have the King’s Court mobile.  No one is going to make obeisance to an empty chair, at least at this stage.  High Middle Ages and later settings tend to favour cities more readily, and Kings and their courts are more sedentary, projecting power through intermediaries.  It is not until Louis XIV that the King of France, France being an archtype of medieval living, felt secure enough to administer the far flung regions of his Kingdom directly.  This makes the 17th century state, a manageable state, to be (as estimated by Google Maps) as follows.

Start at Versailles Palace
Distance to the Border Towns
Time to Border Towns
217 km = 134.8 miles
45 h or 5.6 days
331 km = 205.7
66 h or 8.25
461 km = 286.5 miles
95 h or 11.9 days
539 km = 334.9 miles
112 h or 14 days

Before that time, Frence noble families ruled in the name of their King, such as this map below shows, in the time of Louis XI in 1461.

The following maps are from "The Cambridge Modern History Atlas" edited by Sir Adolphus William Ward, G.W. Prothero, Sir Stanley Mordaunt Leathes, and E.A. Benians. Cambridge University Press; London. 1912. Users can access the index to locate place names within the atlas. 

I rather favor this build: France sets its capital 6 days from its border, Begium does the same, and so it takes 12 days to travel from Brussels to Paris and vice and versa.  6 days to prepare for an invasion is taken as the nominal amount of time needed.  England plays by a subtly different set of rules,  living as it does behind geographic barriers, and aggressively exerting power on everyone on its own side of the channel.

From Wikipedia:
Land Area
246,201 sq mi
50,346 sq mi
116,347 sq mi
195,364 sq mi
30,414 sq mi
32,595 sq mi
148,718 sq m
173,745 sq mi
42,915.7 km = 16,569.84 sq mi (excludes Greenland)
Germany (modern, united)
137,847 sq mi
120,696.41 sq mi

Nation and world builders could do worse than to use these metrics to determine the size of their respective nations.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Rethinking a poor choice in Direction

For a while now, I’ve been struggling to find the correct way to define this setting.  Recapping decisions made:

  1. Setting is based on Canada, using its territorial limits and influencing cultures to differentiate it from other settings.
Right away, the setting will be struggling to be seen as fresh content, as I am essentially replicating J.R.R. Tolkien’s process for the Middle Earth.

  1. While Tolkien based his world on languages and the inverted ring quest, I have set sport in a similar world view.  The nation comes apart due to competition to achieve their aims (the Easel of Life, Curling) while the people come together by a purification ritual played out on the ice for a pure silver chalice (Hockey).
This provides a nice dose of newness, especially for a setting to be published and used for a story.  Not so much for an adventuring setting, but…

  1. I’ve stressed repeatedly that competition need not mean war, but rather conflict
This tends to push the idea of social conflict rather than armed conflict.  AD&D is certainly the worst tool in the toolbox to realize such a world, but that does not invalidate other systems, example World of Darkness or the Storyteller system generally.  +1 swords are out of place when seen in this way, and represent gravity pulling the players to unbalance the world rather than allowing them to play.

I’ve reviewed a series of articles by Rich Burlew on his site on how he goes about designing his campaign worlds.  His approach is similarly top down, and may indicate some ideas I could use to approach the setting…


The only race that I know I could want is Human.  Other races that can mix with Humans would also work, but having the other player character races from the AD&D 3.5 Player’s Handbook seems a distraction in Canada.  On the other hand, Vampires, Mages, and Werewolves could fit anywhere in the country, and ghosts and the undead fit anywhere generally.  In other words, more gravity pulling my design towards the Storyteller system, though I would still like the setting to be more individual.


The Class system in AD&D has always felt a bit off for me; classless leaves players with no input on how to advance, but classes feel like strait-jackets on player progress.  A well designed game evades this, but I want to support DMs in my world building: it is my business to make it easy for players to figure out which classes will work best before they make their first characters.

Let’s use 3.5 classes to guide thinking, since we have to start somewhere.

  1. Fighter – always valuable, particularly if we de-emphasize “fighting” for “competing.”  Some sort of athletics based class works well with the focus on Hockey in the setting, complete with twin foci of grace and power!  Curling is almost something new again, focusing on planning and deception.
  2. Ranger – in Canada, rangers now move about the land on snowmobiles, across the worst sort of terrain, armed and ready to pick off whomever they think might be a danger.  Classically, bush-fighting figured prominently in the Seven Years War.  There is plenty of justification for Rangers, even if there is little available for dual-weapon style.
  3. Rogue –roguish deception is alive and well in Canada, but what about trap finding, or the iconic back stab?  The reasons for bringing a rogue into the dungeon are for the most part absent, nevermind the absence of dungeons.
  4. Wizard – spells won’t fly, but several schools of technology replicate similar ideas, including Ballistics, Illusions, and Animatronics. 
  5. Artificer – able to make powerful equipment and single use spellscrolls and wands, the Canadian equivalent would be garage wizard wiping up something unexpected from parts available.  The random character may serve better as an analog to the Wild Mage, actually…
  6. Cleric – this idea of a playable world could die right here without access to Clerical Healing or some alternative.  Most travellers in Canada stay on known paths or close to aid, while our mythical explorers took doctors with them.  I think that I’ve covered before the difficulty of trying to rewrite Necromancers into Witch Doctors (recap: you need to use The Complete Necromancer’s Handbook from 2nd edition).  The best answer possible would be if supernatural healing existed, but only as something for the players (hence, WoD, or possible D20 Modern’s prestige classes). 
  7. Druids – though the name choice is terrible, the Druid presents some problems.  For all our claims of loving nature here, the vast majority of the nation is now urban.  Druidism is truly unique … though that means that there are options there.
  8. Bards/Paladins – The two classes ironically have an enormous power in a Canada based setting.  They gain supernatural healing, and attempt to lead people to one of two alignment extremes, freedom or order.  The high focus on Charisma is a strong case to keep these classes.
  9. Sorcerer – With no explanation, you now have powers.  You can barely control these powers.  You can become inherently terrifying to the populace because they don’t know where your powers have come from either… it is something that you should keep secret.  This maybe the best idea of all for spellcaster classes!
  10. Barbarian – Well, this would be hard to pull off.  Successfully isolating yourself from literacy is very hard to do, though First Nations could pull it off.  I don’t know that I like the optics of saying “All barbarians must come from a Reserve” though; this is a class hard put to appear in the highly urbanized Canada.  Maybe some sort of common ground can be found with Druid…


Yeah, I think that nails the coffin closed.  This setting can’t realize a 3.5 campaign.  Maybe Storyteller, maybe something else, maybe just a straight narrative.  But adventurers are not going to go spelunking through a dungeon outside Guelph.  I still haven’t even settled on an age or technology type, but tying this too closely to real Canada limits that choice a bit too much anyway.  I should go back to analysing Canada for symbols, or maybe set the idea aside for a bit.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The Purest Evil in Canada

I have it!  Insight!

Okay, so I’ve gone to bed rethinking the issue of presenting hockey as shipping of miasma/pollution.  That overstretches, but it still stands as a civic metaphor.  I’ve rethought what it means, and I’ve rethought an old enemy of traditional fantasy to boot.

As each goal piles up in the nets of Olympic teams, I watched their games continue to slid, their performance begin to become sloppy.  I know now what is evil in Canada, and it is something I have struggled with all of my life.  That the NEWS says others struggle with, leading to death and suicide, much more than I.


Hockey is about shipping depression into the faces of others to purify the self.

The Easel of Life (Government) causes Depression with every stroke, trading local munificence for troubles elsewhere.

Depression manifests as voices.  These voices speak evil and lies into the ears of listeners, magnifying failures and brushing aside successes as luck.  Fools speak for Depression, become the voices of Depression, but they are heard long after the fool has stopped speaking.
Depression leads to Death, mostly wasteful Death.

Death is inertia taken to extreme.  One cannot act in Death.

How does one battle Depression?  Activity.  Action.  Hockey is a game in motion, never too much time to think.  It is swift and fierce, raw and dangerous.  It is a contradiction in terms of grace and force, demanding the heights of its players, demanding that they become extremely active, and that they trust…

Another “cure” for Depression is the Christus.  Jesus Christ, according to a quite dormant myth that should never be taken for lost in Canada, died for our sins.  In this vision, he went down into the realm of the dead, and all of the souls lost in Depression therein he freed, taking them on the Heaven.  In the Lord, our God, we are saved.  Jesus is a contradiction to the rules set out above, but this contradiction too is one I know of in my own life.  Jesus died passively, a victim of the injustices of this world.  All similarly who die passively of injustice are His to claim, and He will intercede for them.  They will not know the death of Depression, lost in despair, they will know Him and be welcomed by Him.

Never give up.  Those who die of Depression, who end themselves, will not escape it, but live within it.  Those who die of injustice, and live fighting it until dusty death takes them, shall know His Kingdom. 

This suggestion casts Depression as the ultimate evil in our world.  It is also our foolishness that causes it to be, our fault.  Action remedies it, but is instead a way of shipping it to others; it is ours to live in, and we move it to others to save ourselves.  But there is a point where action helps and passivity is better.  Knowing when to work and when to wait, knowing what we can help and what we cannot, knowing when to let go, is part of the battle with Depression.

All I need is a suitably fantasy based name for Depression, something that would tip the hand and inform careful readers what I mean it to be…

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Setting Based on Canada Themes: Hockey, Regionalism, and Munificence

  Previously, I charted all three of the above ideas as signal values of Canada. 

  Hockey is the force and arena that brings us together.  We all understand hockey, like it or lump it, and channel our enthusiasm into the next matchup.

  Regions are each individual and separate.  Each region hums to its own tune, and often responds differently than expected.

  Munificence is the pursuit of visible, constructible beauty.  Each city prides itself on its conduct, appearance, and distinctive character.  They often adopt both the regional character, and league franchises for Hockey.

  Hockey is therefore the best possible stage for regional character and collective will to be showcased.  It is too valuable to the Canadian character to do without, and too collective to avoid drawing in the regional variations.

  Let’s discuss the elephant in the room: hockey player selections, especially in large leagues.  Private businesses can, in theory, operate however they want, but any money that they take from the Government (they too are subject to the painting easel), means that they have to conform to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, mandating full and equal participation.  Men and Women do not play together, First Nations produce as many talented players as do “other races” yet never make the draft picks, there are hardly any black players at all, and foreign players skate into the highest level draft picks on the strength of their international reputations. 

  The money of rich folks flows through professional Hockey at all levels, and it skews the discussion to highest figure incomes, mostly reducing the “locality” of the profession to wearing the local colors, perhaps another vision of “waving the flag.”

  By that I should clarify, if you wear the local colors, you charm the locals so much that none care where you’re from, nor how similar you are to the next man on the team in all the ways that are supposed to matter to us. 

  I’m not really sure how best to square this circle, but I will need an answer, and fantasy gives me a chance to make one up.

  “Fantadians” (name subject to change, wow that is bad!) are a people with delusions of relevance, even grandeur on a large stage.  While likely the real answer for hockey and the cults of participation and flag-waving, I wanted to write a fantasy that focused on Canada, and thus would be self-sufficient without needing to include the rest of the world, except as hints and stories.  This one isn’t the best…

  “Fantadians” are a people hungry for self-assurance.  We aren’t weak in the world at large, per say, we are weak in our own minds, and hockey gives us a chance to meet this weakness head on, maybe even challenge it.  This works because it implies a wider world without resting on it, but why is hockey the medium we settled on to define us?

  Hockey descends out of dozens of European stick-ball games, some played for centuries, and with inestimable contributions to form from First Nation sources.  Montreal is undoubtedly the center of it, though, as not only the leagues Canadians look to but the rules that have become pan-Canadian standard were codified there.  Incorporating hockey or any sort of analogue thereof could draw of this history  pretty transparently.

  My best efforts to look up the symbolism inheirent in Hockey in Canada is frustrated, but that just means Google will be of little use.  Steve Keating had a good write up from 2010, before the Vancouver Olympic games.  It seems I won’t find any help making Hockey fit a mythology.  That’s too bad, as I already have a couple that fit the country better. 

  Curling, for instance, is a simple target challenge that operates alongside one’s neighbors, but the neighbors keep getting in the way.  It is emblematic of Canadians that, faced with such competition, we resolve to meet our targets at our neighbor’s expense, not in harming them (no, never), but in friendly competition, as in Curling, by blocking them from their own targets.  Already I have occasion for competition, and even cooperation to beat the competition, all from Curling’s relatively sedate metaphor of Canadianism.


  Aha!  I have it!  All it took was an ice cream break in the winter!

  Okay, bear with me, because it will be offensive, but it will also connect to huge themes from throughout human history.  Ahem!

  Hockey isn’t the same sort of game as Curling.  Curling is a straight target test, a chance to flex personal muscle in a team environment.  Hockey demands not just skill, but superior skill; its “outthinking” is far more speed and reflex based than strategic. 

  Hockey is … more like hot potato.  Scratch that, it is exactly like hot potato.  Hockey is about getting rid of the puck, and doing it better than the opponent.  The team with the puck in his net more times than the other guy (deliberate gender use) loses, the team that can put the puck into the net, and beyond competition range, the most times wins.

  After a dozen failed attempts to define our hockey heroes as soldiers, I now officially give up; they are not warriors, they are garbage men.  They take out the trash, and moreover, they do it better than the other guys, or fail in the attempt.  But where this metaphor becomes truly offensive is Lord Stanley’s Cup!  It is silver, not gold, not adorned; it is pure!  The very best of our garbage passing heroes can claim the Stanley cup, but only after they have shipped more pucks into more nets than any other team. 

  League hockey is inherently city representative.  Players need to purify themselves, and the city that they represent before they can become worthy of the Cup.

  Women may not touch Lord Stanley’s Cup!  Nevermind his daughter Isobel, who played hockey.  Women can have their own league, they can win Gold internationally and they can be inspiring in their own right, but they cannot touch the Stanley Cup!  Why?  Indo-European traditional culture has a ready-made, totally offensive answer: they are impure!

  First Nations may not touch the Stanley Cup.  Few if any blacks can become pure enough to reach the cup.  Americans and Russians … can!  Silly I know, but young men of these sometimes in conflict countries can join “real Canadians” in celebration with the Stanley Cup.  Our broadcasters even talk about bringing home the Stanley Cup, as though the Americans have taken it unlawfully!  …But they still passed the ritual!
The preceding is my best effort to transparently make up a mythology, a ritual and significance that fits the game of hockey.  I’m sure most hockey fans are already lining up to beat me up for it!  Most transparently see the game as being no more than a silly arrangement of coincidences, but … but damn it, if that were true, why not baseball, or football, or soccer (what everyone else calls football)?  We, that is, Canadians, see something in the game that transcends the coincidences.  Identifying that desire and making it the center of my fantasy Canada is essential to good fantasy!  For reference, I consider good fantasy to be strongly humanist.

  Well, that’s my best efforts to make stuff up!  Now, I am going to redress something I neglected to do earlier.  Research if anyone else in fantasy writing hasn’t already sought out such a concept as Canada.