Monday, September 30, 2013


So the thing I was looking at building last week was a recursive world-generator and hexmapper for procedurally building ACKS worlds down to the 1.5-mile level of detail that Cameron suggested here.  But there comes a point where it's easier to drop $25 on a Hexographer license and try that first before devoting a couple months of nights and weekends to a project like that (especially since front-end work, which is reasonably necessary for mapping, is not at all my forte).  I do hate to pay for closed-source and licensed code, but if it's the right tool, it's the right tool (and if it's the wrong tool, then I get a good idea of features I need when I build something different).

Having fiddled with the paid version for an hour or so now, I'm somewhat disappointed with the state of the advertised "child map" feature, in that (to the best of my ability to tell) it produces an unlinked map from its parent.  As a result, updates to the parent do not produce updates in the child, nor vice versa.  This is less functionality that I hoped for, but fortunately the files Hexographer generates are flat-text Unicode of some sort, and amenable to manipulation by command-line tools.  So I'm thinking a suite of Hexographer submap scripts might be in order, for tracking which maps are submaps of which parts of which other maps at what scales, and updating sub- and super-maps when either linked map changes.  Need to suss out all the details of how features and lines and whatnot are stored first, but it'll to be a lot easier than if it were an obfuscated binary file format.

The fact that the map files are flat text and use a very straightforward "note" format also means that I could fairly easily automate the addition of notes with randomly-generated terrain-appropriate hex contents.  Though I object to their selection of tab-delimited tables as their storage format (supposedly they're going to switch to XML in the near future, which is better in terms of text display but worse in terms of verbosity.  If it changes, I will adapt).

Anyway, it looks like a decent tool, and one which will save me a fair bit of labor.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

ACKS: Handling Henchman Signing Bonuses

One thing that caused me trouble when I last ran ACKS was handling signing bonuses.  My PCs, clever fellows that they are, noted early that a signing bonus, being paid once, was generally a cheaper way to get a bonus to their hiring rolls than offering an increased pay rate.  A problem of adjudication ensued - what sort of signing bonus is worth what bonus to hiring?

Upon recent consideration, Bribery provides an interesting precedent of three teirs, but the values it uses for each are far too low for this case.  When you're interviewing for a job, a signing bonus of one day's pay really isn't going to significantly influence your decision unless you're very desperate.  A week's pay seems unlikely to either.  The ratio between steps in bribery seems reasonable, though; a +2 bonus costs seven times as much as a +1 bonus, and a +3 bonus fourish times what a +2 bonus costs.  So I suppose, at a wag, a +1 bonus to hiring might be procured with an offer of one month's wages up front, a +2 bonus for six month's wages up front, and a +3 bonus for two years' wages up front.

The follow-up question, of course, is 'what sort of percentage increase do you need to offer a henchman for what degree of hiring roll bonus'.  I do not yet have a reasonable solution to this.  There is definitely some room for characterization in this process; smart or forward-thinking henchmen are liable to favor a percentage increase over a signing bonus, while treacherous or rash henchmen will likely favor the bonus.  Perhaps "henchman personality" should influence the effectiveness of these modifiers...

Monday, September 23, 2013

State of the Gamist, September 2013

Still kickin'.  Had fun at DragonCon, but was also somewhat disappointed with the panels (almost to the point of writing rebuttal posts).  Mostly done travelling for a while, but travel time expenditures have been replaced with girlfriend time expenditures (less billable, but more enjoyable).  No gaming to speak of outside of Natural Selection 2 (at which I am bad) and Dwarf Fortress (at which I am less bad).

Spent some time this last week hunting typos in the final Domains at War: Campaigns draft, though (and was pleased by the fact that dwarven crossbow-cavalry ride mules).  Then the Wilderlands bug bit me again, but upon further examination I realized (again) that the Wilderlands are just too big and inconsistent for my liking.  Resolved to run an ACKS-ified Western Marches-esque game in the near* future instead ("civilization" being a place akin to Roman Germany or Roman Britain at Hadrian's Wall, with a wilderness of vikings and giants and naked berserker Celt-orcs to the north).  Started design work on the Mother Of All ACKS Scripts to aid in this endeavour.  Further updates forthcoming as actual work is completed.

"World creation, has begun..."

* Part of me knows that this is completely the wrong approach, and that I'm falling into the over-prep trap.  So I guess I'll just have to set really aggressive deadlines for myself (or be contented with building an awesome tool and never actually using it to run a game).