The Church of the Random Number God

Here’s a quickie, five different aspects of the Random Number God covering five of the eight divine domains of 5e. Nothing to do with Halloween, except in that the Death Domain is covered. I guess that’s spooky.

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Sphere of Influence: Sword Coast

I made a book. It’s an examination of the Sword Coast from the perspective of conquering it in the style of my earlier blog post on spheres of influence. I’m atrocious at marketing, I can’t write decent summaries and I have no idea how to make a good book cover, but it’s pay what you want so drop a penny on it and give it a look. If the stats on the raw downloads look good enough, I may come back to write another on the heartlands region (including the Moonsea, Cormanthor, etc.) and we’ll see how it goes from there.

That Time When Nothing Happened For Six Thousand Years

Faerun has had a couple of loosely defined ages. The most recent one is the Age of Humanity, which doesn’t line up with the Dale Reckoning at all for some reason. The Age of Humanity begins with the rise of the ancient Netherese Empire, the first really big-deal human nation, and is ongoing today, even though Netheril collapsed nearly two thousand years ago. All told it’s four and a half thousand years of time. It’s mostly empty. Between -3000 DR and 0-year, basically the only thing that happens is that Netheril is a thing and the Old Empires establish themselves. Three thousand years just so that one empire can rise and fall (the Roman Empire lasted 2000 years in even the most extreme interpretations, and if we’re more strict about ruling out enclaves and successor states, they lasted more like 1000) and some of the older nations can have their origin stories before the newer ones. We don’t need 3000 years for that. We need like five centuries.

This is not the most egregious waste of space on the timeline, though. The Crown Wars occurred between -12000 DR and -9000 DR. There are five Crown Wars. I summed up the entirety of their events in a single blog post. Even if each one required a full 100 years recovery period for a new generation of elven warriors to be raised, we’re still talking about a couple of centuries. What did they do for three thousand years?

That’s not the most egregious waste of space on the timeline, though. The very first age was when five ancient civilizations all emerged from the primordial gloop from -25000 DR to -20000 DR and just sort of…existed for five thousand years. The era of the sarrukhs and company has almost zero actual events or stories in it, just these civilizations existing, and it takes up 5000 years on the timeline. Could’ve gotten away with 1000, tops, and that only because you need civilizations to both rise and fall in that time span.

That’s not the most egregious waste of space on the timeline, though. The most egregious waste of space on the timeline is the First Founding. This is the time from -9000 DR to -3000 DR when dwarves and elves did nothing for six thousand years. It wasn’t the first founding of anything in particular, since elves had been around for millennia and so had dwarves. There’s just this big six thousand year gap in the timeline labeled “the First Founding” for no reason. Just to have more space in between the height of elven civilization and the modern day, I guess.

Fantasy authors have a perception of time that’s as jacked up as a sci-fi writer’s perception of distance.

Game of Thrones: Only Power And Those Too Weak To Seek It

Game of Thrones is the new hotness in fantasy, the major paradigm of fantasy writing that people most commonly tend to riff on (when they aren’t going back to older wells). I see a lot of people misunderstand what Game of Thrones is about, though. Being unfinished, it’s not actually completely clear what the ultimate point of the series is supposed to be, but I can tell you what it’s not. It’s not about how the bad guys win a lot. I’ve written before about how Dragonlance did that a lot in its waning years, and it has not made Dragonlance into Game of Thrones.

What Game of Thrones is about (in part, anyway) is the moral indifference of the universe. That is to say, Game of Thrones is a setting that makes absolutely no distinctions between good guys and bad guys at all. Characters in that setting sometimes make distinctions and you get things like Jaime Lannister’s arc where he becomes a better person in the eyes of certain other people. This also makes him a worse person in the eyes of some other characters. The people who like him better in the end are the ones the narrative follows, so we call that a redemption arc, but the setting as a whole doesn’t care one whit about whether or not Jaime Lannister is good or evil. He’s good at murdering people but he lost his hand, so he’s significantly less good now than he was before, and that there is the sum total of what the setting of Game of Thrones cares about concerning Jaime Lannister. What he wants to do with what power he has makes precisely zero impact on how much power he has and how good he is at using it to accomplish things.

What makes something Game of Thrones-esque isn’t bad guys triumphing. It’s having an attitude of indifference to whether or not someone is a bad guy in the first place.

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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Threaded Comments Were A Mistake

Reddit (and some other sites, including, I think, this one) uses threaded comments, meaning that each new reply starts a new thread. Not only that, but threads which are unpopular get pushed below threads that are more popular, and in order to fit everything on the screen, threads are cut off automatically after about a half-dozen replies, with a “display more” option. This is pretty necessary to how Reddit’s whole karma system works. The order of comments changes based on upvotes and age, so a popular reply to an unpopular argument will get upvoted above the comment it’s responding to, turning the discussion into a muddled mess.

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