Saturday, January 20, 2018

North Wowotu Production, Part II

See Part I.

Close up visual available with this link.

Now the reader can see that I've reduced the sizes of the references, adding additional icons for labor, food and wealth.  There are only six hexes on the map that generate "wealth."  All the references on the map generate "income," but we can see that as money that must needs be poured back into the system, to maintain the roads and move the goods and buy outside products, etcetera.  "Wealth" is categorized here as "disposable income," or money that can be used for unusual purposes beyond an ordinary budget and expenses.  This money can be given to expanding education or development, used for war, or it can be used to line the pockets of the local lords.

I haven't calculated if there is enough food to feed the population.  However, I could calculate it, fairly easily, but I did that with another post once and got little response.  Truth is, food is a changeable element.  We can establish how much food is needed to feed how many people a diet of 2,200 calories a day, but people can live on less and be malnourished, with shorter lifespans, and people can certainly live on more.  Food won't be distributed evenly, whatever our calculations ... the more important thing here is to see how much food would be available if an army chose to plunder a location, or how much must be shipped out of a hex during that time of the year when it is harvested.

This is pretty much it, for the moment.  I think I am going to talk about other things for a while; I'm working myself into doing the podcasts, which at the moment is getting me to research about how people respond to people and what are good strategies for encouraging communication.  That's where the Simon Sinek video came from, for instance.

I am going to come back around to the infrastructure and development concept: but surely this experiment has proved something.  I took a group of perfectly random answers from 12 different people, and produced a completely workable landscape that is the equivalent of any fantasy map that is out there, doing nothing but tracing through the logical effects of terrain, vegetation, the placement of the settlement and the sort of products that might exist.  With any other group of products, with a different collection of terrains or vegetation, signifying a different climate, we could obtain a positively, identifiably different habitat, based mostly on what the inhabitants do, as opposed to where the inhabitants live.

I hope that many of you have learned some lessons, that you've had your eyes opened to why most game maps fail utterly to move your players and what can be done about it.

I hesitate to say this, but ... the reader knows I don't actually have to spend this extra time making a game map I'll never use, for the sole purpose of spending many hours presenting the case, and then painstakingly teaching it.  But I do it for my own self-aggrandizement, for the sake of causing others to view me with respect, and because I sincerely want your worlds to be BETTER worlds.  I want you to stop trailing after the miserable, established, old crappy way of doing things and realize that there is room to design better structures, better systems and elaborate upon better ideas.  Please understand me when I say, to hell with the OSR.  The Renaissance was nice and all, but it wasn't about doing things the old way, it was about taking the old ways and using them as a jumping off point to change the world in a million different ways.  We didn't get Rome from the Renaissance.  We got the Enlightenment, which brought the Industrial Revolution and all of this wonderful health and existing possibility that we have today.

So let's stop putting old D&D on a pedestal.  Let's make a better, greater D&D, let's do it ourselves and let's stop waiting for someone else to do it for us.

Oh, and if you could ... support my Patreon.  That would be nice.

North Wowotu Production, Part I

Above, the reader will find that I have added all the various reader-chosen references to the map of what I'll start calling North Wowotu.  The location of the references was determined randomly, according to arbitrary designs I've created for designating where a particular type of reference might appear.  Some features of the map were done according to my whim.  Someone else might have drawn the roads in a different way, or the lake in a different way, but the important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter.  What matters is that we get a collection of details that form an interesting framework for running adventures.

First, landscape.

I made anything with a type-5 hex or better into lowland, though there are hills all around.  The hills are black, the type-7 hexes almost hills and the type-6 hexes lower still.  The desert areas beyond the hills in the upper right are gray.  There is a ridge that runs down the middle of the district, with two gaps on either side of the wilderness hex at 0805.  To clear up the map a little, I have reduced the "hex type" number to a "- x" after the hex location number.  As in, "0806-5" for a type-5 hex.

I'll go through the placement of things now.

Port Tethys is the only settlement hex of type 1, 2 or 3, so all the heavy manufacturing has to go there, the shipbuilding, the tools and the two market references.  Let me remind the reader that although "Rainus" has a little white circle, it is technically a "rural" type-2 hex.  The circle is a private manor village, not a public village like Avalon or a public city like Port Tethys.  Go to Rainus and you will get harassed by the local Reeve.

The farms for rice were placed in a random hex of type 5 or better.  As they came out next to each other, I added a lake, to account for the water that rice needs.  The lake then makes an obstacle for any good road to Avalon - it would need a bridge to cross the river to the sea, and why do that when sea travel between Port Tethys and Avalon is so easy?  So there is no easy foot access from one part of the district to another.

The gold and iron went into random type-7 or type-6 hexes.  The limestone and salt went into random type-6 or type-5 hexes.  The logic is that since stone is needed for building, a settlement will be built nearer to it; and conversely, randomly placed stone should be nearer to a settlement.  Here, we see that one limestone was very close to Port Tethys and one was nearer to Avalon.

I decided that since the gold in 1103 was closer to the "Manor" in 0804 than to Avalon, that the Manor actually controlled the gold and therefore the road should go in that direction, along with the close iron.  The other gold goes to Avalon.

Hosiery is a handicraft, so it can be made at a manor estate ... I rolled randomly and it ended up at the Manor rather than Rainus.  The salt in 0807,

Both salt references ended up on low land sea hexes, so I assume it is being made from the sea.  Salt is not a "heavy" production, like ore or stone.  It can be hauled on donkeys, mules or in carts - so it is better to haul it to Rainus than up and over the hill to Avalon.  It can be carried to the lake, boated across, then taken along the road towards the market.  The salt in 0406 can be hauled across the bay.

That just leaves the sheep.

Now, there are two kinds of roads.  A thicker line and a narrow line.  The thick line is a road made of ground stone and broken pottery laid over of clay.  This is a Dev7 region, so we shouldn't expect better than that.  The narrow line is a cart track, with two hardened ruts.

Throughout the map the reader can see round red dots.  These are carter posts, which work like medieval truck-stops.  Carter posts may be continuously occupied or not, or seasonally occupied (Wowotu might have a short, wet, unpleasant season, justified by the rice production).

Gold needs a heavy road because any shipment would be rigorously defended, and would want a good, wide passage to ensure a minimal likelihood of ambush.  Iron needs big wagons to haul ore.  There are no iron foundries anywhere in North Wowotu, so the best is a few smithys that would exist at Port Tethys.  Most of the ore is shipped out of the district in raw form.  Limestone must be treated the same way.

Sheep, however, can be driven, and the low-weight fleece can be transported on carts, so they only need cart tracks.  Pastures, where sheep are raised, occur in rural 4, 5 or 6 hexes.  There might be good forage where the rice is raised, but the land there is used for rice and the sheep are not welcome.

All told, there are four half-references that ship to the Manor, four that ship to Rainus and four that ship to Avalon.  Port Tethys accounts for 11 half-references (the markets, the shipbuilding and the tools are each a full reference).  And ultimately everything has to go through Port Tethys, to be sold or exported elsewhere.

So we have a demonstrable economy, which in turn describes the local politics clearly.  It tells us why the roads exist, what to expect to meet upon them and where the influences of local patrols and interests are placed.  It gives us a good social reference for what it is like to be a salt-digger in 0406 vs. one in 0807, and what it is like to be a sheep farmer in 0504 vs. one in 1102.  We have four wildernesses for players to investigate, ranging from a little hex near town to a big pile of nothing at the northern border.  That gives something for characters of widely different levels to cut their teeth on.

The next step is to calculate labor, wealth and food to the map ~ which I shall try to have up later today.

Continue to Part II.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Dying on a Hill

“I’ve spoken to so many people, smart people, people who are sort of on the conservative side of things, or at least don’t see themselves as social justice warriors ~ and their attitude is often, ‘Oh well, you know, so what, it’s not such a big deal.  I’m not willing to die on this hill,’ I hear that a lot.  And I understand that.  I mean, there are a lot of hills I’m not willing to die on either ~ and the left always makes it a matter of dying on a hill.”

~ Janice Fiamengo, professor in english studies at the University of Ottawa.

I found this funny yesterday, since I've used exactly that phrase twice on this blog in the last week, and was thinking, wow, "I've got to stop saying that."  Now I'm thinking it would make a good name for a D&D blog.  That's what heroes do, after all, and we're told that D&D player characters are heroes ... so it makes sense.

Why, oh why, does the left make it about dying on a hill?

That's simple.  It is because, for those on the left, this is a personal war, in part waged in our past and in the pain and suffering of other people that we witness.  It is strange that the right can so easily understand why Liam Neeson can go berserk, murdering and killing dozens of bad guys until he can save his daughter, but they can't understand why a group of leftists are willing to fight to rewrite laws so they can save their friends and families who are suffering and dying as victims of austerity cuts, racist law enforcement, social stigmatization and, in some cases, legally condoned rape.

It's war.  We get that the right doesn't get that, that for them it is just business as usual, or that they feel we should all just quiet down because the Schutzstaffel have it under control and, "What's the point anyway, you won't win."  Yeah, we know we won't win.  But that's the thing about war.  It isn't won by one soldier, it is won by thousands or millions, who won't quit, who won't stop, who will keep going until the enemy loses their will to fight or runs out of resources.  This is how Vietnam defeats a big country like America, this is how the Basque and Catalonian regions of Spain just won't quit trying for independence, whatever concessions they have been given, this is why there are gays still fighting in Russia even though there are thousands who have been imprisoned and executed.  Because they know, in the end, someone will win this fight.  And they know, if we, you and I, hold this hill today, if we make them pay in blood to take it, that will hold these bastards up long enough that our brothers and sisters will gain the resources they need to come back some day and take it, and all the hills that all the people like us have died on.

And those who won't fight?  Civilians.  In modern warfare, legitimate targets.  Because, as Sherman understood in his March to the Sea, as Sheridan understood as he laid waste to the Shenandoah valley, as the Russians understood as they burned the fields in retreat and left people who wouldn't flee behind to die of starvation, as the Allies understood as they bombed Dresden, as the Americans understood as they bombed Cambodia, if you're not on our side, you're aiding and supporting the enemy ~ which makes YOU part of the problem.

No one ever gets to say if something is a war or not.  If one side is willing to fight, the other must, and everyone caught in the middle must endure.  There's no sense in getting on your haunches and saying, "Why are you fighting?"  One side, or both sides, have their reasons, and so it goes.  If you want the war to stop, give us this hill.  If you won't, then we'll kill you as you come forward until we die on this place, right here.  Come on you Apes, you want to live forever?

News and Patronage

So far, I've accumulated eight guests for my podcast, expressing various concerns about what they can meaningfully say that will be useful for listeners.  I take this as a good sign.  We're replete with "experts."  We can use some people expressing doubt.

I'm thinking now that my best course will be to put together 10-13 podcasts (13 would be ideal), then call that a season and take three months off, then do it again.  Two seasons a year, for 13 episodes a season, would be my target.

But of course I have yet to do an interview.  I'm gathering together my resources, fermenting my mind on the general concept and waiting for inspiration.  That is what I do a great deal: wait for inspiration.

Yesterday, I restarted the Juvenis campaign.  It will probably be a slow start; I work inconsistent days and half days Monday to Thursday, limiting my involvement to the afternoon and evening, while Fridays, the day I'm sure to get off, always were pretty slow for the gang.  So, the campaign will likely crawl along, until my situation changes.  Still, it is good to be running online again.  I get a kick out of it.

I've updated a load of maps on the wiki, those with A, B or C in the file names, work that I've been grinding at for months and months now.  I found there were some shortcomings, too, on the map files for those who have donated sufficiently to my Patreon, which I've corrected.  If you're a contributor, have a look at the private map files also. The most recent two that I've updated are Brittania and Germania.  There are some considerable aesthetic additions to these maps, along these lines.

Let's see, what else?  I recently got into an argument on Twitter about artists being paid for their work.  The position I argued against is a common maxim posed by university and post-secondary trained artists, who are propagandized to "Never, ever, ever, work for free for anyone ever, period."  The agenda behind this is plain and obvious to every creative soul in every field:  established artists, particularly established artists dependent on grants for survival, don't want the competition.  The maxim is always presented as something that is in YOUR personal interest, if you are an artist, but it is really just speaking from fear.

It is, of course, ridiculous.  I'm creating right now, for free.  So are millions of other people, because they enjoy creating and because they don't expect to be paid for it anyway.  Of course, I'd like to be paid, and in a greater sense my readers do pay me, regularly, because they appreciate what I do.  But this has nothing to do with how much content I choose to produce, because I love producing and sometimes have to restrain myself from doing so.  This is a blog with too many words and I'm always ready to add more.

Those artists who most pitch the "Don't Work For Free" belief are almost always static visual artists ~ either painters or graphic artists ~ coming from a very specific institutional framework, usually an art school.  And such people look down on writers, they always have.  We are the scum of the art field, usually because to get into the field of writing, writing for free is the only method.  Long, long before we can expect a publisher to print us, it is necessary to enter non-paying writing competitions as early as elementary schools, followed by hundreds of hours writing plays and scripts for high school drama departments (because there is no writer-arts department), followed by writing anything and everything in an attempt to get noticed.  So being told, "Don't write for free," sounds like the spastic grunts of a pig caught between the stiles of its pen.

Of course, by the time we are paid (and I've enjoyed steady work at 30 cents a word, which would make this free blog worth $750,000), writing is easy.  The computer forms the letters for me, requiring no physical skills whatsoever, while thinking and writing become pretty much the same process.  Which is why painters don't think of us as "real artists."

Anyway, I got some peeps angry with me about this, but no never mind.  The thing that has to be remembered about making any sort of creative thing is that making it is more important than being paid for it.  If no one is paying you, make it anyway, because what you'll learn through making and problem solving is more valuable to you than steadfastly refusing to work because there's no paycheque.

Moreover, working for free enables mutual collaboration with other artists at your own level, where neither of you expect to be paid right now.  It makes for contacts in the future, opportunities, gained skill in dealing with others and getting to feel your own voice without training yourself to be a slave to someone with a wallet.  That's the worst thing about being creative and in someone else's pocket; you can't speak your mind, because there's always the chance that causing offense will make the money go away.

Work.  That's the only thing that matters.  In this fabulous age, with the internet, with direct contact with the customer, with hundreds of conventions that will let you sell in real time, with Patreon and other like sights, the world has never been friendlier for the Do-It-Yourself Artist.  Believe me, I grew up in a time where the doors were all closed, all the time.

The only thing standing between you right now and getting your art and your message to a friendly, supportive audience is how many skills you have, against how many you'll have to pay for.  Learn to lay out your product, learn how to sell, learn how to write a blurb, learn how to page design, learn how to draw or copyread or edit.  Learn.  You may be awful at it to begin with; look at me, I still have many shortcomings.  But if you pitch and try and rework, things get better and better, you get smarter and smarter, your work develops, you gain confidence and in the end, you don't need anyone.

You are your own Patron.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


For those who don't know, Simon Sinek is a recent guru in the land of behavioral design, in the field of business.  He talks about biology, he talks about the social effects of recent history and psychological theory and he talks about how people need to start thinking differently if they want their businesses to succeed in the future.  His message tends to repeat itself from talk to talk, but he's worth listening to at least once.

I'd like to take a couple of things he says in the video, to run with them.  Specifically, the subject of empathy and the subject of infinite games.

Most people, particularly those who have never played a role-playing game, would tend to identify with "finite" games.  These are games with a finite time-scale, finite resources and a projected winner or loser.  Baseball is the example Sinek uses.  Board games would be another form.  There's only so much property on the board; the property is gained and exploited, until all the money is in my hands or in the bank.  Finite.  And because it is finite, the goal is to win.  The goal is to be the last one standing.

As Sinek explains, with an infinite game, the rules can change, the participants can change, the goals can change and the objective is to keep playing the game.  It doesn't matter if a player dies or drops out, the game goes on.  It doesn't matter if we adjust this particular rule to something we think is better, so that things are different now, the game goes on.  The principles underlying the game are fluid, because it isn't about who wins.  It is about who plays.

When the makers of D&D first began to encounter complaints about the game, going way back to the late 1970s, both the players and the makers failed to recognize they had created an infinite game.  The rhetoric was all about having a super powerful character and being a hero, and fighting through an adventure and getting the treasure when it was done.

Do you see it?  People in the game always talk about "finishing" the adventure.  But the adventure is never really finished.  Even if the party suffers a TPK, the game goes on. The game never stops.  And it doesn't matter if your character is super-powerful, or if your character is a hero, because those are things that suggest we're going to overcome something and "win."  But nobody really wins.  Evil never dies.  The game never stops ... not until, as Sinek says, the players drop out because they lose the will or the resources to play.

Time, for example, is a resource.  And when players no longer have the time to play, because of work or family or some other outside influence, they stop playing D&D.  But that has nothing whatsoever to do with the game.

TSR never understood this.  Gygax never understood this.  Gygax had this ridiculous notion that he was going to turn D&D into a competitive event, like chess, with winners and losers.  It shows the bizarre, egregious stupidity of the man.  In chess, the rules are fully agreed upon. This is possible, because chess is a complex, finite game played on a small field of 64 squares by 32 combatants.  D&D is played on the field of the imagination, for the love of blue bloody barnacles!  How in the hell do we make this finite?  How dense and obtuse does a designer have to be to miss this?

To this day, we still speak of D&D in finite terms.  Players obsess about the lack of a clear "win," the game company continues to sell finite materials with the expectation that participants will go back and buy another finite solution, and virtually everyone carps about the unfairness of this player having more skills, abilities, levels, power, blah blah blah, than that player, because we're still thinking in terms of D&D being a finite game, even when it is so clearly not that it is stabbing us with pickforks all day long.

Back in the day, long before TSR lost the reins of the thing, people complained.  And the company's response, along with the Dragon's response, and the response of everyone who had a means to publish, was to hew and cry about how rules had to be made that would "level the playing field."  The goal, it was clear, was to transform all the player characters into the virtual simulation of Monopoly pieces.  You could be the top hat or the car or the dog, but in actual fact these "differences" would have no meaningful effect on exactly how well your particular playing piece affected the game.  Then everything would be even.  So we invented point buys, which were "fair," and put the blame on players who were willing to stay up nights to get the most out of their point buys, which destroyed the "fairness" of the system.  After all, the system can't be fair if people are going to use their diligence, their intelligence or their passion to outwit and outdo players who won't or can't use those things, who then feel like they've "lost" the finite game they think they're playing.

So the players who felt cheated in 3e carped and moaned to the company, who continued to take up the finite game flag and wave it harder, making 4e, which so leveled the playing field that combat felt like a big, long, dull slog of rolling high damages that ceased to mean anything, since 18 damage is so much more like 24 damage than 1 damage is like 7, so that everything felt "fair."

But, of course, the "winners" figured out how to reinterpret the rules of the infinite, imaginative game, gaming the game with their darn innovation and their darn perseverance, so again the players who weren't super-powerful felt like losers and the company cried, "We have to go back to the beginning, to the beginning again, when everything was equal and fair and no one was super-powerful over anyone else!"  So back to the beginning we went.

And still it is sold as a finite game, and still the gamers recognize the infinite rules and still the problem goes on, and on, and on.  So we have session zeros and stat arrays and dice cheats to level the playing field, to make everyone feel included, to ensure that no one loses, insufferably insisting that this has to be a finite game, because no one can figure out how to monetize an infinite game.

What TSR should have done back in the beginning is write a post saying, "You lost your character?  Let me explain why this doesn't actually matter."

Or, "The guy next to you has a better character than you?  Guess what, he's on your side."

Or, "Your feelings about not having the best character at the table are evidence of ENVY.  And just so you know it, envy is a character flaw, in YOU.  And we here at TSR don't create policy to cater to people's character flaws."

Except, of course, they had to.  Because that's where the money was.

I've been preaching that we need to get away from solutions, so I'm going to suggest this without suggesting it will solve all your problems.  However, consider empathy.  Rather than changing the rules to make it possible for the player to do everything, how about we try a little empathy about the player's disappointment.  "I'd love to help you do that, but ... well, we've got to keep it real."  Or when a character dies, how about we try, "I'd love to just poof him back into existence, but if I do that, when does it stop?  Listen, let's see if we can't figure out another character you can get invested in.  We'll all help with that."

When someone at the table starts strutting around, talking about how tough and heroic they are, how about we remind them that this isn't about winning, that this is about doing, and that there are other people here, and that crowing is also a character flaw. "So how about toning it down, acting respectful of others, or you can find another game."  How about the DM stops catering to character flaws, and stops having them as well, and being concerned about these people that we're playing with in this infinite format ... so that we reduce the will they have to leave?  Or make them feel that the resources they're spending to stay are worth it?

The problem that TSR faced way back could have been solved by promoting politeness, manners and expulsion for having neither.  Instead, they decided the best strategy was to demand that everyone in this infinite game conform.

Great.  How's that been working so far?

It's produced graphics like this:

Don't Starve

Those who may have wondered what happened to my daughter, who took part in the podcast I did 18 months ago, may be interested to hear her play the game Don't Starve.  She recorded this last weekend and posted it Monday:

I've been using the game as a reference point lately to point out that realistic graphics are not that necessary for presentation.  However crude a rock may be drawn, we humans still immediately identify it as a rock.

Sometimes, a creator will get far too concerned with the quality of the art and lose touch with the agenda.  The rock can be aesthetic, but where it comes to game design, it is more important that the image conveys a message: i.e., that this is a rock.  More is not necessary.  So don't fight too hard to make things look sensation.  After, if you feel the need to upgrade the rock, you can.  But up front, the message is enough.

[note also that the girl's head is nowhere near believably sized]

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Notes for Creating an 8-development Region

Just now, I'm working on the Development-8 table for my infrastructure-development system.  Just to give a sense of the sort of design troubles I'm having, I thought I'd share my notes.

Basically, each technology that is widespread at a given level changes the overall society and social institutions of the region.  For example, horseback riding.  There may be people in a Dev7 region that can ride horses, but the institution and training of horseback riders is lacking.  Thus, there would be those who would ride a horse, but there wouldn't be a military tradition associated with riding in a Dev7 region.

This is more than just tools.  There's a deep social stucture that
had to be developed to make a workshop this complicated.
[yes, I know there's some modern things on the left. There were very few
actual photographs taken of workshops in the 1600s]

There are six technologies that have a formal presence in a Dev8 region that don't exist in Dev7 or lower: horseback riding, priesthood, theism (organized religion), monarchy, metal casting and compass.  These have to be fit into the design for Dev7, since everything that exists in Dev7 does exist in Dev8.  So it is taking a complicated description and making it progressively more complicated.

Here are my notes for each:

Horseback Riding

Description: Domesticated for use in transportation and war, mobility and speed overwhelms enemies, field animals, draft animals, pulling weapons of war. Forms a unique bond with its rider.

Social Effects: used for herding, transportation, warfare, communication, agriculture, trade, pleasure, sport and recreation, as status, as a gift.

Buildings: stable, ger/yurt (buildings where horses are kept; includes training grounds, barracks, blacksmiths, armories; horses are extensively trained, as are the riders.

Improvements: adds an additional +1 labor and +1 wealth per reference.

Transport: proliferation of wagons widens roads, increases the number of hard-surface roads.

Rural hexes: horses used to patrol type-4 or better hexes. As stock horses, to maintain livestock and other horses. Create conflict in land use in type-1 hexes, where horse culture challenges food production; therefore, if a horse is placed in a type-1 hex, -1 food. Horse racing is a yearly event in type 2 or 1 rural hexes.

Settlement hexes: horses used to power mills in type-3 or better. Create conflict in land use in type-1 hexes, where horse culture challenges food production; therefore, if a horse is placed in a type-1 hex. Racing occurs regularly with type-1 settlement hexes. Horse jumping with tech level 10.


Description: creation of an official leader of the religion, which is now reorganized as a parish or flock; identified by dress and appearance, in possession of clerical sage abilities. Poor level of spell ability (no wisdom bonus, limited to 3rd level)

Social Effects: priests have secular power and are a strong voice; the priest binds the community together in belief, mores and particularly in defense against outsiders. Catharsis, absolution, comfort draw the population together, putting their faith in the religion rather than their own needs.

  • Temple, +1 happiness, +1 culture. Places of prayer, study and services. Center of the community, serving as schools, meeting places, even libraries. Consecrated (sage ability).
  • Ziggurat, or mastaba. Pagan temple dedicated to a specific god, often viewed not as a place of worship, but as the actual home of the god. All ziggurats are located in lost places now (type-8 hexes), where they are lost and forgotten; they often form dungeons.
  • Oracle. Isolated, obscure temples with limited access, without worshippers or services, occupied by a few priests who communicate direction with the gods. These are extreme holy places and are often the destination of pilgrimages. Culture +8.

Improvements: none.

Transport: uncertain.

Rural hexes: minor spirituality; single temples in type-2 and 1 hexes. No schools, poor literacy. Wandering friar/priest may be found in lesser rural hexes; 1 in 12 in type-7, 1 in 8 in type-6, 1 in 4 in type-5, 1 in 2 for type-4 or type-3 hexes.

Settlement hexes: Temples appear in every settlement hex. Multiple temples appear in towns and cities, typically 1 per 500 residents. Increase in literacy for type 4+. Improvement in etiquette and manners.

Description: The presence of an established regional religion, which will nevertheless be liberal in its relationship to other religious entities.

Social Effects: establishment of an overarching religious authority over the region, one that all priests must answer to, interpreting and determining dogma, appointing priests, correcting misbehavior, acting as a balance of power against the king, accumulating wealth.

Buildings [settlement features]: graveyard, baptistry, priest's residence.

Improvements: none.

Transport: tax?

Rural hexes: has minimal effect, since it lacks the presence of a priest within the hex.

Settlement hexes: has much influence through the local priest, who will call upon the greater authority to act if ignored by the populace.

Description: hereditary rule; overlordship of the region; systematic entrenchment of lords, nobles and royalty.

Social Effects: unification of cities, towns and villages into a unified whole, systematic taxation, development of a social expectation based on court life, manners, etiquette, justice dictated by a distant entity, separation of classes. +1 happiness everywhere. Presence of a heroic epic that is known to the people and inspires bards.

  • Palace, +1 happiness, +2 wealth, +2 culture. Royal residence, extensive house and grounds, featuring an outer wall for defense and labyrinthine buildings and courtyards. The larger the region’s population and wealth, the larger the typical palace. The palaces of individual regions within a nation will be dwarfed by the nation’s palace; very large nations typically have several palaces, where the royal family will occupy in different seasons.
  • Barracks, presence of a military unit (70 men), fighter sage ability knowledge. Features fortifications, livestock for consumption, training grounds and fields. Multiple barracks together will form a war camp. A city will have one barracks per 3500 population (or part thereof).

Improvements: uncertain.

Transport: tolls, tariffs.

Rural hexes: minimal effect; most type-4 hexes controlled by the chief noble; most type-3 hexes controlled by low-rank nobles; type-2 hexes by mid to high rank nobles; type-1 hexes controlled by members of the royal/highest noble family. Exception, 1 in 6 type-1 hexes will be controlled by a non-family high-rank noble.

Settlement hexes: largest effect on appearance of type 3 and better buildings and people, who strive to beautify themselves to look good in the eyes of the monarchy, who occasionally visit.

Metal Casting
Description: the process of delivering liquid metal into a mold to produce an intended shape. Most metal objects are produced through casting, not smithing.

Social Effects: adds engineers into the general population, increases interest in metal objects, expands weapon and armor making, tools and .

  • Armory, appears in type-1 settlement hexes; material and equipment storage for a small army, for population use in an emergency.
  • Forge, subtract 2 health, add 2 labor. Charcoal furnaces which support metalwork such as smithing and casting. Adds +1 happiness from silver, copper, brass, bronze and pewter and +1 labor from tools. Produces weapons and armor. No description.
  • Mint. Increases the general amount of money in the system by 10%, effects to be determined (+10 treasure?)  Increase in object availability?). Coins reflect the monarch’s image. No description.
  • Metal-form Wonder: gives a 1 in 100 chance for type-1 settlements, in which a huge statue or other metal object has been created. Gives +5-8 culture, +1 wealth for all 6-mile hexes in a circle around the wonder.

  • Workshop, subtract food & health, adds +1 labor, +1 wealth. Workshops can appear in rural type 3 to 1 hexes (manor houses). Appears with tools (and other rural-friendly references).
Transport: uncertain.

Rural hexes: uncertain.

Settlement hexes: Increase in production at the mill level and higher for metal references (bonus wealth), which can be made by other methods than blacksmithing, for daily use objects.

Description: describes the magnetic compass, used for navigation and orientation on land and at sea.

Social Effects: common appearance of crude maps; social societies form to encourage the exploration of distant parts of the world, create trade agreements. Embassies, merchants and missionaries from the region form ties with distant lands, not just those surrounding the borders.

Buildings: none.

Harbour: exist in all market ports, now rebuilt for protection against the sea. All markets add bonus +1 health all sea products and manufactures; +1 wealth overall.

  • Cothon: 1 in 20 type-1 settlements that are on the coast, with an elevation of less than 100 feet, will have built an inland lake large enough to protect 20 frigate-sized vessels, connected by a canal-inlet that can be gated as a fortification.
Transport: Freedom from landmarks for sea travel. Regular shipping with other market ports.

Rural hexes: improve likelihood of lighthouses in rural settlements/seacoasts.

Settlement hexes: appearance of a foreign embassy in type 1 settlements; auctions in type 1 and type 2 settlement hexes.

This isn't complete.  This is just what I have come across from my initial research.  There's always room to add more.  Many of the things above haven't got a description for exactly where they appear: most of them will be available in type-1 hexes, rural or settlement.  Most won't occur in obscure rural hexes, where seemingly nothing ever changes.

The above is certainly enough to work with for the time being ~ and offers WAY more adventuring ideas, in my opinion, that most lists I've seen.  After all, any of this can be looked up in books online and researched further.  My goal here is to express to the reader the difficulty of this project and the potential benefit that can be gained, if the tiger can be caged.


I will be writing a post about Wowotu soon.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018


Yesterday, I performed a humiliating, public face-plant on Twitter.  There is no other way to describe it, except to add more synonyms for the word humiliating.  And although only a fool draws attention to his shortcomings and failures, I'd like to talk about it, rather than pretend it never happened and hope that no one ever finds out about it.

The fault was mine.  For years, I had been building a false story in my head, which I hadn't properly researched and was based on assumptions I had made, based on misreadings of things that I have seen.  Some of these things want me to make excuses for my behaviour, but ... though I'm going to talk about them, the reality is that I should have done my research before getting myself into a bad, stupid, incalculable moment of ignorance.

To begin.  I have had a hate for Sly Flourish, real name Mike Shea, since reading his book, The Lazy Dungeon Master.  I made myself read the book in preparation for writing my own How to Run book; and oh yeah, how I hated it.  There are a lot of things about this book that I do not like, even before getting into the actual content.  To begin with, the title.  I'm a fanatic where D&D is concerned, so this is a trigger for me.  I view the title in the same way I would view a book named, "A How to for the Lazy Doctor" or "A How to for the Lazy Engineer."  I recognize that a lot of people don't take the game as seriously as I do ... but I also recognize that there are a lot of abused people out there in role-playing games, because many DMs, especially those with official status, don't give a shit about people.

Secondly, the pen name.  Mike Shea and his readers no doubt think this name is very cool, pulled from a phrase in 4th edition, meaning an at-will power available to rogues at 1st level.  Being a person able to look at language outside of its fandom credentials, I veiw the word "sly" as deceitful and duplicitous, and the word "flourish" as waving to attract attention, usually so a different fucker can steal my wallet.

So yeah, I don't think it's a very cool name.

The book itself is full of meaningless drivel.  For example, under "Preparing for Improvisation," Shea writes,

"There's a careful balance between feeling prepare and feeling relaxed. The less you're prepared, the more nervous you might feel. Preparing for improvisation steers you the right way. Fill your toolkit with aids for improvisation instead of tools that force your game down one particular track.  You can find many of these tools in Appendix A."

This is it.  The whole section.  Appendix A gives nothing in the way of improvisation hints.  Appendix A does include one-sentence lists of adventure seeds, movie-inspired quests, adventure locations, fantasy names, NPC character frameworks, PC relationships, combat outs, encounter-wide environmental effects, encounter terrain effects and "20 Things That Never Should Have Been Found."  These are all fairly cliche.

Most of the sections of the book go into the headlined subjects with this much depth.  Many discuss the subject with less depth.  Many parts of the book send you to read other people or listen to someone's podcast.

Anyway, forget the book. The reader can invest themselves if they wish.  I, as I said, hated the experience.

Now, this is the part where I began to dig my own grave.  For various reasons, I came under the impression that Mike Shea, Sly Flourish, was one of the minions of Wizards of the Coast.  He isn't.  Nevertheless, at the end of The Lazy DM, it does say that Mike is "a freelance writer for Wizards of the Coast."  Somehow, seeing this, or things like it, got into my brain like a worm that wasn't about to let go.

It didn't help that Shea titles his writings like this:  A Guide to Official D&D 5th Edition Published AdventuresOr that he has a page called the "Neverwinter Wiki" that features a WOTC Dungeons and Dragons logo in the upper left hand corner.  Or that his blog has his tongue so far up into the WOTC's butt its hard to see his shoulders.  This, however, was all just my impression.  Shea is a freelance writer, putting out his own stuff just like I am.  He is not a part of the WOTC.


So ... Monday, when I came across a tweet from Sly Flourish on my twitter about how it was minimally necessary to spend at least $900 in order to publish an acceptably quality adventure for the sale, I saw my opportunity to get involved.  I piped up and said that I had done it for free, and that it wasn't actually necessary to spend any money.  I was thinking of Ternketh Keep, that I wrote in 2016.

At once I was jumped by a number of Flourish's followers, who first mocked me, then insulted my privilege at being a writer, a copywriter, an editor, an artist and a great story teller all at the same time, as in "How Dare You Be Talented" when the rest of us are just normal creators.  I must admit, this got my blood up.  So, too, did Shea's reply, when he said that he couldn't edit like [name drop] or draw like [name drop] or lay out content like [name drop], in a very salesman-like manner.  I did not want this fellow to sell me his contacts, I wanted him to engage.

Took me two days, but I steadily preached the message of self-publishing and training yourself to perform skills, so a creator wouldn't have to rely on Sly Flourish's cronies, who I assumed worked for the WOTC ...

... and the face-plant came when I said so.


So I said I was wrong and apologized.  And let them beat me up for awhile, and I repeated that I had been wrong and apologized some more, and still more. And Shea graciously called his dogs off me, and acted like a wonderful fellow, accepting my apology.  I apologized again, grovelling as best I can, accepting that yes, I'm obviously a doof.

And I am.  I wanted so bad to finally have at one of those smug, self-righteous know-it-alls from the WOTC that I walked right into being hoisted on my own petard.

Of course [and I don't deny it], I am a smug, self-righteous know-it-all from the Tao of D&D.  And ten times the asshole any of those guys are who are earning a living re-inventing the same crap from 20 years ago with a paint-job and selling it to kids for $60 a copy.  But I'm an asshole who is at least writing new material.  So yeah, I want to talk to one of these guys and get them to admit they don't really care about the game, they just like the paycheque.

I wanted this too much.  And that's what hubris is about.  Wanting something too much, and getting it right in the neck.

I thought about hiding it.  That was the smart thing to do.  Writing this post is the stupid thing to do.  But it is also the Alexis thing to do, so ... I guess it's that I don't want to pretend that I'm something I'm not.  If I'm going to highlight my successes, its only fair that I also highlight my failures, my stupidities, my prejudices and my insufferable hubris.

The fact that I am launching a public podcast is all the more reason to come clean.


Mike Shea has read the post and asked me to remove the link to the illegal copy of his book.  I have done so.  Shea also says that the link on Neverwinter nights with the title "Sly Flourish" refers to the ability, but not to HIM.  That's a pity.  I'm not removing the link for that; I did not know one from the other.  That's because I did not do the research ~ but that's what the post is about.  I saw the name he chose associated with a WOTC site and made a wrong assumption.  How many others, I wonder, have also made the same wrong assumption?

Logo Attempt #2

The only real strategy I have for making art is throwing it out there at the audience and seeing if they like it.

Today's version.  Better.  Image needs work.  I don't like the sword.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Podcast Questions Redux

The logo needs work.  I'm content with the spear, the body ... but the text is just awful.  Ah well, I will figure out something.

During a conversation yesterday, I realized something that had been crossing just below my radar.  All the advice that is being given fits the same template: name the problem, then ignore the details of the problem and rush straight towards the solution.

I understand this, given that these are largely single voices speaking to an audience, who have untold variations on the problem being named.  But if we're not examining the problem, how exactly do we expect to come up with the solution?

From this, I think the DMs I interview have to be ready to talk about their problems.  As individual conversations and the greater podcast expands, we can talk about solutions, but I really think there is room to identify specifically what is going on in our heads, in our observations and in the frustrations we're feeling with knowing how to play the game.

So I want to shift my agenda in that direction.  The basic premise hasn't changed; the DMs are still the voices, the plan is still to give the guest a full understanding of the questions ahead of time.  But I just want to make a small adjustment to the original questions:

1.  How did the sequence of events at the beginning of your game help or hinder your understanding of RPGs?  When the game took hold of you, how well did you understand what you were getting into?

2.  How would you describe your issues when you started DMing?  Did you understand the game at the time, or would you say you were just a step ahead of your players.  Has this improved, and if so, how?

3.  Are there any other things you've done in your life that you feel gives you a better insight into role-playing games in general, than other participants you've know.  How so and in what ways?  Are there things you've done that make it actually harder to DM?

4.  In your opinion, are your difficulties or successes different from other DMs?  If you have little or no experience with other DMs, do you still feel that there must be issues that everyone is having? What with the language, the manner in which players respond to rules, your troubles maintaining order and so on?

5.  Are your players benefiting from your style, or your game?  Is it just a slog ... or does it seem to go easy some nights, or most nights, and once in awhile there is a hiccup?  Do you feel this is a fault that rests with you, or is it an attitude or misunderstanding that the players have?

6.  How much trouble have you had structuring your campaign?  Does it take a lot of preparation, more than you expected, more than you're really able to give?  Does this leave you scrambling each week?  Do you think time is part of the problem, or is it not knowing for sure what you need to prepare for?

7.  Do you get much resistance when you push the concept of your game, adding elements to the rules or to the setting?  Are there subjects you fear to venture upon?  Are there subjects you've banned from the table?  If so, what are your reasons?

8.  How often do you think about quitting?  If you quit, what do you think you would be losing from that decision?  In forging on, what do you think you are gaining?

9.  Is it hopeless to try to teach most people the game?  Or do you find that players take to your campaign, or the idea of DMing, rather easily?  Have you spun off a DM from your campaign, one whose world you run in?  If not, do you think this is a rare phenomenon?

10.  If you have quit, why?  Do you miss it?  Do you think about starting it again, or would that be impossible?  If you had the time and the money, do you think there's a possibility you would come back to this game, or is it basically a genie in a memory bottle you'll never recapture?

Slightly stronger questions, I think.  A bit harder.  I'm asking would-be guests if they would be prepared to talk more about the problems than the solutions.

There are a lot of solutions out there; my argument these last couple of months is that most of them sound good, but probably won't produce the effect they promise.  I want to on exploring that, with real people, running authentic games, who don't feel compelled to be "experts" or "phenomenal" in their efforts.  Most who are out there, running, aren't experts and they know it.  They need to hear voices that are the same as they are, saying the things they would say, complaining about players and bad decisions just like they would complain.

We're all in this together.


If anyone wants to give a little help with the logo, jump in!

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Call for Podcast

Regarding the subject of interviews, which seems to have caught the readers' attention, I'd like to begin scheduling dates with people in February, if anyone is brave enough.  Specifically, I'd like to limit times to Wednesdays and Thursday evenings, from 7pm to 10pm Eastern Standard Time.  If, as some of those interested are, you are from Europe, I think we can make arrangements for 6pm to 9pm Sunday (10am to Noon my time).

If you feel you might be interested, you can leave a message on the post, contact me through Facebook (I think I am the only Alexis Smolensk in the entire world) or email me at

I grant that there will be plenty of reason to hesitate.  Some will want to see a few of these, at least, before they feel comfortable with the idea.  There's lots of reason not to trust me, or perhaps to trust your own message, whatever that may be.  All I can say to the latter is that there are thousands of people who DM with the same doubts, the same uncertainties, the same lack of confidence that you have ... and that you are the person these others most need to hear from.

Having gone through this nest of advice-givers, it is clear that we don't need more "experts" who know only to repeat the same messages over and over, most of them reworked from business-designed orientation mythology and human resources doctrine. Your lack of confidence is a plus.  Your uncertainty about managing games or people is the message that we're not hearing.  We're only being informed that it's there, just before it is totally ignored by people presenting easy fixes and empty rhetoric.

This is what we have a chance to present.  The more I think about it, the less necessary it seems to make this about disagreement.  This is about the struggle everyone in the game is feeling: how does this work and what have I already tried?

If you want to wait, please feel supported in that decision.  If you can help me out by being one of the brave, and trying this without the format being 100% certain (everything is a learning experience), then please do.  At the beginning, we shouldn't try to accomplish too much, or worry too much about who's watching.  After all, we'll hardly get more than a hundred views whatever happens.

I was thinking of calling it "Authentic Role-Playing"

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Player Building Prospects

I'll start by highlighting a comment made on the last post about Wowotu, from Pandred, a player in my online campaign:

"Ha, I think I had a devilish misunderstanding.
The improvements by my reading, only exist in the event that a reference of that improvement's type exists, and only then provide the additive benefit to the specific hex stats.
Or, to paraphrase, there is no fishing ground without fish.
Still, I'm now curious if an area could be developed by the PCs, expanding into a greater DEV level and potentially increasing the value of the references found there.
I want a piece of the adventure in which the PCs take a nobody town and make it something valuable to the region."

I made a comment of my own beneath Pandred's, but I'd like to address it further.

It need not even be a "nobody town."  It could be any place, from the densest city to the most obscure wilderness.  Because the idea is improvement, and because the system makes it clear that not everywhere produces everything, it is simply a matter of introducing something into a location that did not previously exist.

We've grown up with endless descriptions of towns and regions where it is always presumed that every kind of cereal or vegetable is grown, or that every kind of manufacture is taking place, or that every kind of mineral is being dug out of the ground, regardless of the region.  If there is anything missing, it is virtually always one thing, and that one thing invariably has one source, or is in the hands of the goblins in the north mountains, or some other patently obvious adventure-driven reason for missing.  In fact, scarcity is a common phenomenon, even more common in a medieval setting ... and the chances are that something missing from a town or region would simply be done without.  The players wouldn't be "saving" anyone.

That said, suppose the players, for their own reasons, chose to go prospecting.  This has always been a difficulty in role-playing.  We can make a table to determine success or failure, but what do we do when the success has occurred and something is found?  Now we're trapped in the questions, how much, what is it worth and how easy is it to get it out of the ground?

I'm trying to answer those questions.  Suppose the players are hunting around the town of Avalon for gold, knowing that there is already gold in the region.  The first question is where?  The generated map gives us a few more possibilities than a normal map would give us.

First, we know that the Avalon hex, 1106, is the most settled.  It's full of farms and so has probably been stumbled over enough times that we shouldn't expect to find something.  To a lesser degree, the type-6 hexes are likewise.

We also know that the type-7 hexes are mostly empty: just a few scattered farms, virtually no authority so long as we keep away from the few cottages and full of possibility.  And they have at least been picked over for really bad monsters.

The hexes without numbers are type-8.  Those are pure wilderness hexes; no people and big potential for monsters.  But they probably haven't been looked over very carefully.  Why not go look there?

Now, gold is an unusual commodity.  In the last post, I said that a mine raised the labor of the hex by +1.  Gold also increases the wealth of that hex by +1, and the happiness by +1 also.  People like gold.  It makes them happy [the moral anti-vice campaign notwithstanding].

So anywhere that we find gold is going to increase the labor, its going to increase our pocket change and it is going to make people happy to be there.

Suppose as a party we march up into 1008.  We've established it's an arid-vegetation hex, which we can fill with brush or with empty grassland or whatever vegetation fits.  From our original map, we know that it is hill country.  As a DM, I can already feel the encounters we can create.

The party at night is beset upon by a collection of vipers, having settled unknowingly near a snake pit, which approach once they detect the warmth of the fire or the bodies.  The snakes just want to curl up to a nice, warm fleshy cushion for the night, but the players don't know that and they overreact.  Or the players stumble across a giant ant nest and have to fight off five, ten or thirty giant ants, depending on how long it before they get wise and beat a retreat.  So much for the vermin.

After a week (it takes a long time to prospect 30 square miles of country), they settle themselves to run the length of a dry ravine, hoping that there will be some evidence of placer deposits.  Here they come across some tracks, which they follow, only to discover these are footsteps, which lead to an overhang, which conceals a cave ... and the party decides whether or not they want to fight things that have feet that are 10-20% larger than a human's.

After killing all the orcs in the lair, the party is much disappointed to find no gold nuggets or gold ore inside the now-cleared dug out cave system.  This doesn't look promising.  Surely these things, living here, would have found gold if there was gold.  Should we keep prospecting?

The party decides that yes, all right, let's just keep at it here.  Without luster, they work their way along the two-mile ravine, certain it has to be empty, since if there was something the orcs would have surely found it.

Wait ... what is that?  Fool's gold, probably.  But ... it feels pretty heavy.  And not a bad sized piece, almost a half a centimeter.  The players dust it off and wash it with water and detect quartz crystals mixed with a dull yellow gleam.  It is not pyrite!  Wow!  Is the character with prospecting experience sure?  He feels sure. At once the party begins searching every inch of the chasm, surrounding the find.  They don't find another piece.

Okay, okay, let's not panic.  Let's leave three people here with the equipment to clear away the brush, build up a little protection, stake the ground so it can be found again if we all have to leave and resist spending a day and a half digging up rock that may be nothing.  Then Yanzig and I will head off to the village, confirm that this is gold, and ...

Once the find is confirmed, the party debates telling anyone about the find's location. Of course, the assayer knows (and there would be one, there's a gold mine just 10 miles from Avalon already), and the assayer might suggest his cousin's younger brother could trail after the two strangers and see where they go ...

And meanwhile the party goes wild with excitement.  But it will take time to find the vein; the small rock could have been kicked by animals for five thousand years of time, miles from where the actual mine should be.  The job is only begun.

On its own, the hex hasn't any "natural hex production" because it hasn't been developed.  The gold, however, by itself, will add +1 wealth to the hex.  As I wrote in an earlier post, this is 354 g.p. per year.  Not bad.  But not spectacular.  Most of this doesn't even come from the physical quantity of the gold.  Some comes from the willingness of the area to just give the players money, in the hope of finding more gold.

The question is, does this small gold find count as part of the original gold reference that is already in the district, or does it count as a NEW reference?

That's tricky ... and I haven't any rules for that.  But we can invent some rules without much trouble.  Merely finding a small vein of gold would not be sufficient; that's what the usual wealth increase accounts for.  A new reference would be very, very unlikely: say, a 1% chance per year of digging.  And meanwhile, there'd be a 10% chance per year that the existing gold would run out.

That's not encouraging ... but we don't want the party easily stumbling across a motherlode of gold every day, and here's why:

The earlier post I linked describes one reference of gold as equal to 3,894 ounces ~ that's the amount drawn out from the mine every year.  Such a mine would go on long past a lifetime: say, a 1 in 500 chance per year of petering out.  Since one reference makes two locations, we must half the total (though we could always argue rolling two d10s and use these to determine what hex of the two has more and which has less).  Consider, however: half equals 1,947 ounces of pure gold per year.  Or a total of 16,968 g.p.  Every year.  At least, in my game.

That would transform the hex almost overnight.  Within a month, the hex would be officially changed over to a type-7, as labor and others rushed to the hex from all over Wowotu (and even outside).  Even a small gold discovery would produce this effect, though not quite so quickly.  The party wouldn't have much chance to prospect elsewhere in the hex after that ... there'd be prospectors everywhere.  If there was any groundwater under the hex, there'd be gangs looking for it.  Once they found ground water, some farms might appear if the season were right, or fruit trees and vegetables planted, or sheep watered (there are already plenty of sheep in the district).  And all the while the party would be busy organizing their own labor, to sink a shaft, bring in wood to shore up tunnels (because I've described gold ore, it wouldn't be sluice boxes), find labor, keep labor, build defenses, fight off a few more vermin, perhaps encounter the one really big monster in the formerly wild hex and generally lose money in costs before hoping to make money on the gold.

But we are talking years before there's any real chance that this will boom ... and by the end of the first year, the other prospectors may have given up, leaving only a few score people and little else beyond that pleasant, non-life changing 354 g.p per year.

Still, what if the players decide to spend it on sheep?

Ah, there we have a different formula.  We don't prospect for sheep.  We know where they are.  The gateway for sheep is the amount of available water.  Perhaps there is some in the newly transformed 1008, but there is more in 1007 and more still in 1107.  So we start calculating how much water there is and we start buying sheep.

Water makes food, which we can also buy in Port Tethys, so we build up our flocks, buying more labor and pouring more money into the three hexes we've decided to occupy.  There's no real government here, not in a Dev7 region (Dev8 would bring new problems, like a local priest who might contend with our activities), so we're really only limited to our coin, our wherewithal and our luck.  The sheep might contract a disease, or we might lose a bunch of sheep to something out of hex 1108 that is feeding on them.  But in any case, we're pouring all this money into 1007 and 1107, as well as 1008 ... what is that doing?

Sheep do not grant any special wealth bonus to a hex.  Oh, the owners make money, but unlike gold, it doesn't fire up the local economy.  It does, however, potentially increase the importance of the hex.

Again, I have no rules made up for this.  Which, apparently, are a lot harder than I thought.  Okay, rewriting this post, let's try to figure this out.

The "natural hex production" for a type-7 rural hex is the natural vegetation for an arid hex (1 food & 1 labor), with an additional +1 labor from the loose assortment of farms.

Compare this to a type-6, also rural, which adds a bonus of +1 food AND +1 labor:

  • Type-7 arid, rural hex: 1 food, 2 labor
  • Type-6 arid, rural hex: 2 food, 2 labor

1 food [binary 1] is enough to feed 70 persons a diet of 2,200 calories a day. 

2 food [binary 11] is enough to feed 210 persons.  So to change a type-7 hex to a type-6 hex?  Add food.

We can add food by filling the hex with sheep.  Or ploughing new ground.  Or buying fishing boats.  As it happens, this won't raise the labor in the hex, as I originally though when I first wrote this post.  But the extra food will raise the population, which we can arguably charge rent, then continue to use the labor to run our own farm.  We become the middlemen for the produce of the other farmers, trading their product by buying it for slightly less than what town would pay, saving them the wear and tear on their carts, animals and the time spent hauling it.  We shear our own sheep, and charge others to shear their sheep ... and we build a mill, which adds another +1 labor and, happily, +1 wealth.

There.  I hope that clears up the former errors in the post.