Dinosaur Riding Barbarians: Stego-Hittites

The king of the Stego-Hittites is not considered a god, a speaker for a god, or even a descendant of a god. The king of the Stego-Hittites is first among equals, the man who is in charge because someone has to be and he seems to be doing a good job of it. This has two important consequences. First, Stego-Hittite society is relatively egalitarian, with most social mores being enforced by mob justice and most disagreements being deferred to judges, who are appointed informally and ad hoc, and whose only legal power is that they are respected enough to command the loyalty of the able-bodied men of the village. Generally speaking a judge will select and groom his successor (often one of his children) and the community will accept the succession upon the judge’s death, but a judge can be cast out at-will. Disputes between villages are settled jointly by their judges, and if they cannot agree, they appeal to the king. Sometimes the king will appoint a regional governor to act in his stead over a certain area.

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Economies of Pangaea

Pangaea does not have a modern economy. When Pangaeans trade gold coins for a cow, it is not because the gold coin has an arbitrary value which the government recognizes when collecting taxes (which is what makes paper or digital money inherently valuable – you can pay your taxes with it, which means everyone needs it for something). In a pre-modern economy, a gold coin is valuable because it is made out of gold. The coin itself is a valuable commodity. You can melt it down and make fine jewelry out of it. Gold is used as currency because the ratio between its market value and its weight and volume is more favorable than almost any other commodity (precious gems have it beat, however, and those can also be used as currency). A gold coin might have its value stamped on it for easy reference, but it derives that value from the fact that it is made of gold, not from a government’s mandate. It is completely legal for a private individual digs some gold out of the ground and uses it to mint their very own coins with their very own face on them, so long as those coins are made out of real and pure gold (merchants checking for counterfeiters test for purity, not accuracy – they do not care who minted the coin or how well they followed the standard pattern).

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Who Is Winning The Edition War Now?

Spoiler alert: The answer is very similar to what it was last time. But let’s have some pretty graphs!

As you can see from these graphs, absolutely everything is in a steady downward spiral except 5e. This suggests to me that the recent influx is definitely from more 5e games being started rather than games of other systems being killed, with one exception. Star Wars is in a particularly steep decline, likely due to the Force Awakens slowly fading from public interest. Now that the Orr Group and D&D 5e are officially working together, some amount of 5e’s dominance is going to be due to more prominent advertising.

In other news, if current trends hold I will most definitely need to add Dungeon World to the chart starting next time, because it is currently 0.01 percentage points away from AD&D’s position. Even with the tiny numbers we’re looking at, that’s extremely well within statistical noise. Dungeon World and AD&D are about equally popular.

Source data is here.

Sphere of Influence (or: Conquering The World One Quest At A Time)

Taking over the world is fun. It’s so much fun that entire genres of video and board game can present world domination as the end goal and on basis of that alone, players will be engaged. The main campaign of an FPS will need to present you with some kind of story or characters to keep most (though not all) players on board, and even those that don’t tend to have a powerful sense of atmosphere to fill in that gap. DOOM didn’t really have a plot past the introduction (found in a .txt rather than in the game itself), but it felt like a playable heavy metal album cover, and that was enough. Until 2016, anyway, when DOOM got itself a parody of a plot, but still an actual plot. Galactic Civilizations, meanwhile? Crusader Kings? Civilization? “This is a map. Make it yours.” Done.

So it’s no surprise that people want to take over the world in D&D, but there’s a bit of a problem there. See, you can go on adventures to take over a kingdom just fine. You loot dungeons to amass wealth, and you infiltrate the court, and you scout out the wilderland to find places to establish a rebel hideout where you won’t be easily found, and you storm a boat to save the dark lord’s rebellious daughter from an arranged marriage that would secure his alliance with the kingdom of Sinisteria across the border, and then at the end you capture his castle, and these are all either roleplay-heavy intrigue plots or they’re exploration hex crawl-y things or they’re good old dungeon crawls, but all of them are within the scope of three-to-seven heroes getting things done by personally being awesome.

From now on, though, you’re nailed to this kingdom, aren’t you? Like, you go and conquer Sinisteria, but you do it with a giant army. So anytime you storm a dungeon, there’s like a thousand dudes storming it with you. A lot of characters might not have any good motivation to stay on the front lines when you’re probably not contributing all that much to the success or defeat of those thousand dudes. If you’re dedicated to cash, you can probably make a lot more setting up trade routes and soaking in a 5% cut from taxes than personally storming enemy castles for a share of the loot, especially since 5% of that loot will come back to you anyway when victorious soldiers spend it all in shops that you tax (or even own). If you’re dedicated to justice, you’re probably going to do more good acting as a judge in your capital’s hall of justice and trying to set as many fair and equitable legal precedents as you can in a day. If you’re in it for the glory, then you’re probably better off on the front lines, but most of the other common adventurer motivations break down once you own an army that’s significantly more important on a battlefield than you are.

What you want out of a world domination campaign is a setup where things like mass battles and kingdom management happen in addition to dungeon crawling and overland exploration and such. If you want that, you want a world that operates on spheres of influence.

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Dinosaur Riding Barbarians: Dino-Egypt

There is no part of the Laurasian desert where life is easy, but in Dino-Egypt it is at least safe, stable, and prosperous. From a powerful capital covered in shrines and temples that magnify the magical might of the Pharaoh and his sorcerous priests, the rulers of the kingdom command distant cities by virtue of their mighty navy and the mutual reliance of all cities on the royal engineering corps to maintain the vital canals and the royal priest caste to maintain the weather. The Pharaoh’s greatest duty is to keep pleased the god of the river, and thus keep famine at bay.

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Dinosaur Riding Barbarians: Brachiosumeria

Brachiosumeria is a collection of city states each led by its own priest king, each of which venerates a specific patron deity. Temples within the city still offer charms and prayers for other deities (though a specific deity’s services may be suspended if they’re patron of a city the temple’s city is at war with), but one god in particular is considered higher than the rest. Thus, a citizen of the fire god’s city can still get blessings from the god of night, or the god of war, or the god of the sun, but they’ll do it by going to a temple run by fire priests where the fire god is venerated above all others, and will probably be required to make sacrifices to the fire god in equal amount to whatever god they actually want to solve their specific problem.

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Dinosaur Riding Barbarians: Tyrannassyria

I have discovered what is possibly the worst reason conceivable not to update a blog about geekery, with a particular emphasis on tabletop RPGs. One of the reasons why updates have been spotty lately is that I haven’t been able to get together with my brother and play Hoard of the Dragon Queen lately, which robs me of my easiest source of filler and makes posting M/W/F updates difficult. That’s not the worst reason, though. The worst reason to stop updating a geeky blog is because all your free time is occupied by designing the setting for a tabletop game. Which you then don’t blog about. I don’t even know why it didn’t occur to me that the things I am writing right now could be copy/pasted into my blog with very little effort and it would be a perfectly good update.

So here’s the fluff I wrote for Tyrannassyria (working title), one of the kingdoms I’m writing up for a game called Dinosaur Riding Barbarians (also working title), which is basically about a vaguely Conan-esque aesthetic but also there are dinosaurs freakin’ everywhere.

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