Peter Hentges (jbru) wrote,
Peter Hentges

  • Mood:

Neepery, work, frustration

Was very cool to get forwarded the link to a mathematical analysis of population dynamics among vampires in Sunnydale from two mailing lists that I belong to. Both because the article is neat and because they seem to be independent reports, showing that my differently geeky friends have geekyness in common.

Looks like a slow night at work. I had yesterday off as part of the scheme to reduce our hours. Found out on Tuesday the nice piece of information that a new plan to pay volunteers who cut back their hours by 20% or more a week for half of that time will not only be applied to those of us that have already taken a 10% cut, but that it will be made retroactive.

Have exchanged frustrating emails with the author of the gaming book I'm editing. On the good side, we've worked out that we have been approaching the descriptions of the characters in this sourcebook from opposite angles. So hopefully, that bodes for some progress. My frustration comes from an odd set of assumptions on his part; non-gamers will have to bear with me here as there's may be some jargon.

The author assumes that the rules model the setting for the game. All well and good, except that this means, to him, that they model the setting exactly. As if they are the owner's manual for the universe. Quite the handy thing.

He then extrapolates this, quite logically, to mean that intelligent characters within the setting can reasonably learn, over time, how these rules operate for them. The characters can make, therefore, logical choices about tasks to undertake as, over the centuries, trial and error has been reported, passed down and distilled into some general guidelines. For example, a character might choose to study magic from one particular type of tome over another because those that do learn more about magic more quickly.

This has come to a head over a particular character, a wizard, who has an unusual and troublesome familiar. When I approached the character for editing, my question was, "Why does this guy have this familiar?" The author's response was (paraphrasing), "Well, a wizard of his age would have a familiar because doing so allows him to advance his magical power. He has to invest three seasons to achieve the equivalent of five or six years of study."

At this point, I boggle.

You see, part of the mythos of this particular setting involves the isolation of wizards from the non-magic world. Those with the power to use magic tend to give off suspicious vibes to those around them. Children cry in their presence. Dogs bark at them. Horses shy.

A familiar is, often, the only long-term companion that a wizard will have. They might train apprentices, but these will move on and may even become rivals, while their relationship is partly that of parent to child, it is often dysfunctional. The relationship with a familiar, however, is one akin to marriage. The wizard and familiar are compatible and attached at very deep levels.

The author's assessment of why this wizard would have a familiar struck me like someone saying they married their wife because her father had a good business he'd like to take over when the father died.

It also flies in the face of one of the principles of role-playing gaming that I hold dear: the separation of knowledge held by the player and character. Sure, the player knows that, by the rules, binding a familiar can often have beneficial effects like those he described. But the character doesn't have a copy of the rulebook. He might know, if he studied these things, that those who have familiars tend to be more powerful than those that don't in particular magical tasks. Even that, however, would be esoteric knowledge that didn't fit with the rest of this character's description (much less the ability scores in such things he'd be given).


So there's more email to go back and forth. Hopefully we'll come to some kind of understanding that will let the book more forward and get it off my back. Darned tenacious monkeys.

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