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Thread: The AARland Gazette

  1. #81
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
    Europa Universalis 3

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    The Eye of the Hurricane<Amric>

    How to Write For Events

    I’ve been doing some thinking lately about the events that commonly happen in EUII and how one writes for them to incorporate them into your story. I mean, really, how many times can you say dryly “A comet appears and panics the populace, -1 stability”? What is the fun in that? I am going to try and suggest ways to ‘spice’ up that event, and others so that you can possibly get ideas of your own to use in your own stories.

    Take that comet or meteor event as a prime example. Depending on your religion, and let us start with Christian religions, shall we? You could suggest that it foretells a defeat for your kingdom’s forces if you are in the midst of a war. Or it could suggest that diplomatic moves have failed badly, causing some concern as to whether the nation will be plunged into war.

    Or even the possibility of prognosticators predicting a draught or crop failures. Or a signal of the death of a king, or the birth of a bastard. There really is no limit as to what you can suggest for WHY the populace panics over the sight of a comet. In the times of EUII, people are very superstitious. Witch hunts during this time were rampant. Almost as much as hunting down heretics. It made the Salem Witch Trials seem like a cake walk in comparison!

    With such superstition comes the ability to have them believe whatever you wish to explain the -1 stability hit you take.

    For pagans, much of the above is also true. But you can add the fear of the people into being forced to convert to Christianity since they are undoubtedly surrounded by Christians who are eager to bring them into the fold of Christ. This also is true for those near Islamic nations as well. A fear of such, heralded by the appearance of a comet would be very believable.

    Let us turn our attention to a good event. One where you get ‘x’ amount of ducats as a gift to the state. This one can be easily explained by someone buying a title from your king. Or a noble trying to gain favor by bribing the crown for some sort of rights, such as the right to toll people using a river on his lands. Or a foreign power giving you money to help you withstand the tyranny of another nation. Or the merchants guild, eager to curry favor with your monarch in return for lower taxes. Or even, for the sake of fun, finding an ancient treasure hoard and getting to keep the money discovered.

    Let’s take another. Rush of colonists. How can you explain this? Especially if you are an innovative nation that is tolerant of religions? Perhaps you could suggest that newly discovered lands in another part of the world have caused people to be eager to make their own fortunes. Or if your nation is intolerant of other religions, they are eager to leave to a colony in the hopes of living a life free of pressure to convert to the state religion. Or the fact that the new colony is near pagans or another religion and they are eager to try and convert them to your state religion.

    Or even, as the British did in real life, a penal colony such as Australia, or the French with the north eastern coast of South America. Or to escape from crop failures, like the Irish potato famine that caused so many Irish in real life to leave for America in hopes of a better life.

    Or even perhaps they come from an are devastated from war and they just want a chance to start over in a place that isn’t associated with death and destruction. Or perhaps they are wanting to live in a place that has better weather? The limit is only your imagination!

    How about Rush of Merchants, yes?

    There are ways to explain it. One is that the merchants you are sending have been failing in whichever CoT you have been sending them and the merchants guilds are recruiting and eager to send more to that CoT to try and wrest control of it away from another nation. Or perhaps your merchants are doing fairly well at a CoT and the merchants guilds are eager to try and gain a monopoly there. Or even that they want to expand their holdings by moving into another CoT and trying to dominate it as well.

    Or perhaps you have a new item to sell on the world markets and a new merchants guild that wishes to start operations. Say you have taken over a province that produces wine, something you have never had before. It is VERY reasonable that a new merchants guild, the Winemaker’s Guild, would want to have representation.

    Wave of Obscurantism Happens to Us. What could this mean? Perhaps there is a question of theology that is being debated between religious scholars. This happened on more than one occasion in real life, so this is very possible. Or perhaps you are a catholic nation bordering a Protestant one. Some Protestant doctrine is trying to filter into your nation and you have to fight it off. Not complete heresy, just an interpretation that needs to be stamped out BEFORE it goes into full blown heresy. This could also be vice versa…or Shiite versus Sunni Muslim issues as well. Theological debate was a heated issue on more than one occasion and it more than once caused a theologian to lose his head in the end. This can also happen in pagan nations where a new type of theology is trying to be established, or a point of contention rears it’s ugly head.

    A Plague Happened to Us. What kind of plague? The black plague? Smallpox? Measles? What? It doesn’t always have to be the black plague. It could be any number of diseases. Many were deadly back then due to the fact of no real medicine to combat them. Just look at what happened to Constantinople on more than one occasion. Smallpox devastated it more than once. Even scarred an Emperor and supposedly caused him to be permanently impotent!

    Or instead of a plague, I used a storm to create the amount of death and destruction, like in my Cyprus story where Eric gets onshore at Tampico and has to ride out a hurricane. There had been a plague there and it had trashed my amount of population rather badly. I never explained it was a plague. The hurricane was a plot device, but it served it’s purpose.

    Enthusiasm for the Army/Navy. This is a nice event, usually, except if it happens right off the bat when you start your game and you don’t have the resources to use them. Why is there enthusiasm for the army? Or navy? Perhaps it has become known that you are about to recruit and the pay is pretty good. Considering military men made a MUCH better living than the standard serf, this is not a real surprise. Even the possibility of death will not discourage people from being eager to join the military.

    Perhaps it is due to a recent naval victory, or an army victory. Whether it is against another nation, or perhaps rebels. Or the fact that someone saw a troop of men or a small flotilla of ships go by and wanted to get in on the action. Or a wave of patriotism sweeps the area. Or a noble decides that he might have some fun playing soldier or sailor and recruits his own troops/ships<and sailors> to join with the national army/navy. Or a large group of men decide to join as the prospects in their area are slim and the military is a good move for those who like eating at least once a day.

    A noble allies with a Foreign Power. Why did that noble do that? Is he, or she, wanting to improve his or her station in life? Did the enemy promise them primo lands and an even better title? Did the government tick him or her off and they want to get back at the monarchy by attempting to foment trouble? Is that noble insane? Is that noble just greedy for money due to large debts and allying with the enemy gets him or her money to pay off their debts? Are they linked in some other fashion, such as a marriage in some way?

    Temporary Insanity of Monarch. What caused the insanity? Again, using Eric from Cyprus, it was the death of his beloved and the unborn child that unhinged him. It wasn’t until later as the king that it fully manifested itself. Perhaps a bout of illness has caused your monarch to lose his wits? Or he has become a drunkard and starts doing foolish things that cause people be BELIEVE he is insane. Or the family has intermarried too closely over the decades and it finally caught up to them in the insanity of the king. Or perhaps a bit of food poisoning that causes him to think someone is trying to kill him. Therefore he begins to become paranoid and peering into the shadows for the next attempt on his life. Desperate to find his assailants he begins pogroms to eliminate his suspected enemies.

    Perhaps a crisis of faith caused him to do things that could be considered insane. Or because you are short of money he begins disbanding large numbers of troops or ships to save cash and because your nation is surrounded by enemies or potential enemies this could be considered an insane act.

    Birth of an heir. Now this one SEEMS easy. But what if this occurs TWICE or MORE during one king’s life? How many heirs does one monarch need? He only has one true heir. The rest are bargaining chips for arranged marriages for the betterment of the kingdom. You could use a second event of this nature to portray an important birthday event for the true heir. Or that the first, original heir has died at some point and this new baby is now the new heir to the throne. Or just for fun, especially if stability is low at that point, the king legitimizes a bastard to inherit the throne. Which is better than having no actual heir to the throne at all and increases stability because the people now know that the monarchy is still going to be in the family hands. Sometimes even a bastard is better than an unknown coming to the throne.

    Heresy happened to Us. Usually this means a province has spontaneously converted to a religion other than the state religion. So WHY did this province do this? Explain how it happened of course. There are numerous reasons why this could occur. If it is near a nation of a different religion/sect of yours, such as a catholic nation next to a protestant one and your province converts to protestant perhaps people have been coming across the border to convince your subjects that being a protestant is better than being a catholic!

    Or perhaps the inquisition has been through there recently and burned witches or suspected heretics. People who were important or loved by numerous people. They convert to a different religion due to the intolerance and cruelty of the inquisition. Let your imagination run wild!

    ‘X’ province converts to the state religion. Either you sent a missionary and he succeeded before he was supposed to, or it was completely spontaneous. It happens. Explain it. Either due to the brutal oppression of the heresy or other religion or perhaps due to the kindness of your nation in the treatment of their former enemies who are now subjects to your crown. Perhaps a very eloquent priest/bishop has gone through the province and convinced people of his greatness. Perhaps a saint performed a miracle, or someone important was healed. All reasonable things that could cause a province to convert eagerly to the state religion.

    Saint performs a miracle happened to Us! Explain the miracle, whatever it might be. The story has gotten around and that is why your stability has increased. For extra points, try to find a historical one that could have performed the deed in that place, at that time! The miracle doesn’t even have to be earth shattering. Remember, the people are a superstitious lot! Something small, but difficult to explain to people of that time could easily be construed as a miracle.

    A drought happened to Us. What caused the drought? Was it a lack of rain over an extended period of time? Perhaps rival nobles have dammed up water ways to use for their own selfish purposes, disrupting the normal flow of water and creating the problem. Or even a rival NATION diverting precious water for its own use. Look at the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. In modern day times, Turkey has the headwaters for those rivers. It totally controls what amount of water Iraq and Syria are going to get. Something similar can be portrayed for your purposes as well!

    An Earthquake Happened to Us. Depending on where it happens you can portray the suffering that it has caused the inhabitants of that province. The loss of homes and businesses. The sheer loss of life. Families torn asunder due to some surviving while other family members do not. The loss of income from that province due to the destruction and the money that has to be poured in to repair the damages. Things of that nature.

    A Good Harvest happened to Us. Don’t use corn unless you are an American nation or have discovered the Americas. Until then, Europe had no corn. Or tomatoes. Or potatoes. But you can describe the harvest if you wish. Or the fact that people aren’t going to starve that winter due to the bumper crop of wheat or whatever that you now have. Perhaps a nice harvest festival could be in order!

    Piracy happened to Us. Whether it is Rhodian pirates, or ones from the Baltic, they are a problem. Try running a campaign against them in your story. You aren’t going to succeed. They will return. I had ships constantly patrolling all along the Asia Minor Coast and the Aegean and even OWNED Rhodes and I STILL got that event. But you can very much portray trying to root them out, even if it is only temporary!

    A border raid happened to Us. Whether it happened to you, or you did to another nation, you are either going to lose people and tax value, or gain it. You can portray the raid against you or the one you perpetrated on an enemy nation. Even what items were taken to lower the value of your province or enhance it if you did the raiding!

    This is by no means a complete list of events that happen in EUII. I am certain I missed a few. But it SHOULD give you an idea on how to portray them in a manner that is not cut and dried. Keeping your story fresh and interesting!
    Last edited by Stroph1; 29-08-2004 at 16:52.

  2. #82
    Covert Mastermind Demi Moderator Secret Master's Avatar
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    Will the real hero and the real villain please stand up?
    Protagonists versus Antagonists and Good versus Evil

    Psst. Hey you, listen up. Yeah, you, the one writing the AAR. You know, the one with the plot and characters in it. There’s something you need to know before you go running off and creating the next OscAAR winning AAR. It’s called moral perspective. And it’s not something for just philosophers and guys drinking beer in pubs to think about. It’s integral to what you do with your plot and main characters. Stick with me for a moment, and you’ll see why.

    We have all heard, read, and seen stories that have simple moral formats. The main character is an icon of human goodness, and his adversaries are the wickedest people on the planet. He defeats them and a new golden age is heralded for the common people. Woo hoo. The end.

    But that is only one of many possible formats for a story to be written. And, considering that a good sample of game activity that we write about in our AARs is much more Machiavellian in its outlook, it is often not the best format for writing in AARs.

    First, let me introduce some terms to make our discussion easier: protagonist and antagonist. A protagonist is the main character in a story. Some stories might be so big as to have multiple protagonists (The Lord of the Rings is a good example of this in the way Tolkien writes the novels), but in any storyline, you will have a main character. Note that I did not use the term “hero.” A protagonist may not be very heroic. He could be a raving lunatic or the guard at a Nazi death camp. It matters not; if the story is about him, then he is the protagonist. The antagonist is the chief adversary of the protagonist. Note that I did not use the term “villain.” The antagonist may not be a villain. It may not even be human in a recognizable way. The antagonist might be the lunatic’s therapist or an Israeli bounty hunter looking for the Nazi. The antagonist might even be something like the weather or the ocean. It matters not. The antagonist exists in the story to be the adversary of the protagonist.

    With these terms in hand, we can now examine some potential moral outlooks that a particular set of characters and plots can have. In the above example of the most basic format for a story, the protagonist is a heroic figure who does no wrong. The antagonists are vile, loathsome creatures who only do evil. It is completely black and white: the protagonist is a good guy and the antagonist is a bad guy. The plot revolves around the struggle between good and evil. This is a fairly simple way to structure plots and characters, but it is also popular and it works fairly well. As an example, Star Wars: A New Hope follows this format closely. Luke Skywalker is a real goody-goody kind of hero, while Darth Vader (in this movie, at least) is little more than an evil guy who looks good in black. Han Solo is the exception to this rule, but his exception proves the rule: he is memorable because of how different he is from the other characters who have black or white moral perspectives. He is the only shade of grey, morally speaking, in the whole movie.

    I picked Star Wars, not because it is of great literary merit, but because it illustrates this kind of story well AND it sold very well in theaters (and still sells well today!). While this story does well, it is only one possibility for writing, and it is only suited to certain kinds of characters and writing. For example, it would be hard to use this style of writing to tell a story involving the military annexing co-religionists whom you have no CB against, or crushing one of your vassals just to get the valuable provinces.

    Another moral perspective can involve giving both the protagonist and antagonists moral shades of grey. This is often used in movies that call themselves “dramas”, but it is also an excellent method of writing used by the greatest writers. Hamlet, Oedipus the King, and The Sound and the Fury are filled with characters and plots that are full of moral greyness. For example, we know for a fact (thanks to his confession, which Hamlet never hears!) that Claudius has killed Hamlet’s father, the king of Denmark. But Hamlet kills far more people in the play than Claudius, and many of the deaths are in an arbitrary fashion. Does this make Claudius a saint? Hardly. He clearly committed murder so he could become king; however, Hamlet is no saint himself. Many of the deaths in question turn out to be unnecessary, (Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern) and his callousness towards them indicates a flaw in his character. Claudius is the antagonist; Hamlet is the protagonist. Claudius is a murderer; Hamlet is a murderer. The moral perspective is very grey, though Claudius is a few shades darker.

    This is probably the easiest set up to use in an AAR. Having two rulers or generals who are morally grey being set off against one another makes a great backdrop for writing in game events. Neither is really a good guy; we just happen to viewing the story from the perspective of one of them.

    Swinging the pendulum all the way over, we can find stories where the protagonist is truly a bad person, while the antagonists are the good guys, morally speaking. Gangster films exemplify this type of motif. There is no way around it; mobsters are liars, murderers, thieves, pimps, drug dealers, and are generally foul tempered. The police who are trying to capture them are doing a public service in getting that scum off the streets. Still, we end up cheering for the bad guys. We want to see Tony Soprano succeed despite all odds. We enjoy watching Michael Corleone acting as the godfather, even as he cruelly kills those who oppose him without a second thought. A slight variation on this theme is when both the protagonists and the antagonists are vile, loathsome scum. Scarface epitomizes this well. Tony Montana is someone who kills just to get his green card, not to mention killing his own best friend for marrying his sister; yet, the other drug dealers are just as bad, and the police are worse. There are no shades of grey here; protagonist and antagonist are both morally black as black can be.

    This setup is more difficult to use, though it might be appropriate for certain kinds of stories. The conquest of peaceful pagans by conquistadors who rape and pillage would fit this style, as would the conquest of blood thirsty, human sacrificing pagans by crusaders who use the Cross to justify stealing everything that isn’t nailed down.

    A final thing to consider in your writing is the moral perspective of your audience. While your characters have their moral perspectives, your audience has them as well. It is worth remembering that your audience will interpret your character’s actions through their own moral lenses, and this can be used to your advantage if you know how your audience feels about morality. An excellent example of this in action is Raiders of the Lost Ark. Normally, archeology and digging for artifacts in other people’s countries is the sort of thing that triggers arguments. There are still debates as to whether or not the British Museum should give Egyptian artifacts back to the Egyptian government. But Raiders of the Lost Ark sidesteps this moral quandary by giving us perfectly evil antagonists: Nazis. Sure, digging up the Ark of the Covenant would be the sort of thing to trigger intense moral discussion, especially if you were Indiana Jones, an American, and doing this in Egypt. But no one in the audience will question the morality of Indy trying to get the Ark before the Nazis will. After all, who in the audience will cheer for Nazis looting a priceless Jewish artifact out of Egypt? No one. The audience’s moral perspective is taken into consideration, and thus a potential grey on grey setup up is changed to white on black. Now, if Indy was in a race against a famous Jewish archaeologist and an Egyptian archaeologist, it would be a very different story…

    This should give you something to chew on while you consider your next plot and characters. Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me. This article doesn’t exist, and neither do I.

  3. #83
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    The Eye of the Hurricane<Amric>

    So Just What Is A AAR?

    Well, why don’t we start a few centuries back, shall we? Or even millennia, yes? I am sure most, if not all of you have heard of Julius Caesar, or even Sun Tzu? Sun Tzu didn’t write a ‘true’ after action report, but he DID write a treatise on how to conduct warfare.

    Julius Caesar, on the other hand, wrote in some detail about his conquests in Gaul and his failure in Britain, and let us not forget his adventures in the near East against the Parthians. His is one of the best known and earliest after action reports known. We could also discuss Napoleon, or even the logs of Captain Cook and Magellan. I could name others, but I believe you all get the point.

    We, as EUII people write our own after action reports about the nation we control for a set period of time. Whether it be the 400 year span of the grand campaign, the 30 years war, or perhaps the age of mercantilism, or even the age of exploration or the revolution. So many choices, and so many nations that one could play!

    So am I just rambling here, or do I have a point? Yes, I have a point! Of course I do! I wouldn’t waste your time for no reason, now would I? Well, maybe I would. I guess you will have to keep reading to see what it might be.

    Did you know that during the time of EUII the only people who could even read or write were priests, professional scribes, and nobility? I do NOT include knights in that list of nobility. Many knights could NOT read. Royalty generally could, but not every one. I seriously doubt that a ‘royal’ nomad would bother learning that art. It wouldn’t be considered all that important to them.

    Or you could have someone like Peter the Great of Russia who not only could read and write, but in more than just his native tongue. He spent time in Holland, and even England learning shipbuilding and other interesting things. I am not here to talk about that, though.

    Mass was done in Latin, and of course, most of the populace couldn’t speak or read it. So they would be in church listening to their priest and not really understanding what was being said. Let alone the fact that the mass would be the same year after year. Easter Sunday would be the same mass every year. Over years, a person could get the gist of things.

    Again, I seem to be diverging, don’t I? Don’t worry! Here is the pay off, as it were. As the leaders of our respective nations, we are the ultimate ‘royalty’ of our nations. We are also the war leaders, whether on land or sea. We are the diplomats and the missionaries. The merchants and the colonists. The peasants/serfs and the nobles. Every single person in our kingdom, and those of other kingdoms we effect are our ‘pawns’.

    After action reports are generally considered something having to do with war. I like to think of them as a journal. Whether from a sea captain, an intrepid explorer discovering new territory in an exotic land, or even the personal journal from a king, it is slices of life that give a glimpse of life during that time. I have even seen a monthly budget ‘report’ from the time of Edward Longshanks detailing the building of a castle in Wales and the costs for various and sundry items, including the wages of the masons and other workers.

    Now, although a serf or peasant wouldn’t have such a thing, even telling about them is a slice of life for the period of time. Think about this. We write about people from every class and I’d like to think we do it pretty well. Considering that we can only really ‘guess’ how life really was back in those days. None of us were alive. Nobody we know was alive then, either. So we take information from books, movies, television and whatever other source we can to get an idea on how life was then.

    Granted, some of us are more involved in the little details while others of us paint a broader stroke and try to avoid those pesky details. Nothing wrong with either way of writing. Some of the greatest leaders wrote about their lives and conquests. I’m willing to bet Alexander the Great did, or had someone do it for him. I’ve never read anything he might have written or dictated, but if there had been anything it probably was lost in the Library of Alexandria those many centuries ago.

    Now we get to the kicker. We are the modern day equivalent of those men. We don’t actually control people or nations in reality. But we do in a virtual sense. We are the scribes of our nations. The ultimate historians of our virtual realms. The successes, the failures. The highs and lows.

    So, for us, an after action report is far more than just a regurgitation of battles, but a history of the nation we have chosen to represent. I want all of you to think about this for a moment. That is why we write our stories. This is why others read our tales. Not for money. Many of us will never be published in ‘real’ life. But in a sense we are all ‘published’, in the fact that we have readers on the forum. We are more widely read than almost every person we know personally.

    I know nobody personally in my real life who has been published. Not a soul. Even I have not been ‘truly’ published, unless you count a Star Trek fanzine nearly 20 years ago. Now there are those of us who will be published. Prufrock451 is a prime example of this. Lord Durham could well end up being another. I don’t know either of them personally. I know OF them. I have ‘spoken’ to them via PM and comments and even email in the case of LD. But I don’t KNOW them. Not really.

    So when you look at it that way, all of us are more successful writers than every other person we know. How does that make you feel? Think about it for a few moments. Take your time. Got it? Yes? Good. You are a WritAAR. A spinner of tales. We swap stories amongst ourselves. For our own pleasure. That’s right. It’s not a dirty word. Pleasure.

    I enjoy writing. I suspect we all do, for if we didn’t, would we be here and writing? Or responding to each other’s stories? I don’t think so. So we do it because we enjoy doing it. We derive pleasure from writing and having people tell us how much they enjoy the story we are telling. We enjoy reading stories and telling others how much we enjoy their efforts.

    Have you ever wondered why the AAR forums were renamed After Action Reports and Fan fiction? I believe it was a conscious effort to describe what started as basic telling of what happened in a game into the fantastic stories that we see today. It is something we should all be proud of. I know of no other forum devoted to a game that has this kind of effort, by so many people, from so many different countries, speaking a multitude of languages, telling stories about the actions of real people and fictional characters.

    When I say real people, I speak of actual historical figures used within the game that we write about. When I say fictional characters I speak of everyone else we use to populate our tales. We weave the game mechanics and events into our stories. Some with more skill than others, but we all try to entertain the people reading our ‘after action reports’.

    Personally I think we have gone beyond the mere after action report. We write fan fiction of a historical bent. That is just my opinion, of course, and there might be those who disagree with me. That is fine with me, to be honest. That is one of the great things about the forums. We can agree, or disagree. We don’t all write the same either.

    We all write in English, even though for many of us, this is not our native language. It happens to be mine, but I bet more than half of the people writing are not native English speakers/writers. I happen to thank Paradox for having forums where English is the language used. I know WHY they do it. Because English is pretty much a required second language throughout the world.

    I am ashamed to say that in the United States this is not the case. We are required to take a foreign language, but only for two years. Nor is it any specific language. It might be Spanish, or German, or French, or even Latin. There might be schools that teach an Asian language, or even Italian. But not where I grew up.

    So the quality of the writing from those of you who are not native English speakers really speaks volumes about the dedication to our ‘craft’ of writing.

    In essence our after action reports are a history of our nations that we play. People live, love, hate, befriend, and so forth unto death. Every character we create is special. Some more than others, true, but if we have spent any time on them they have a life of their own. So our fan fiction/AAR’s are our books, and the people who read them are our fans.

    So let us all enjoy our passions. Reading and writing!
    Guardian of Truth, Defender of Justice, Harbinger of Light! Formerly known as the Hurricane!

    Now retired from writing!

    "You can rest assured, sir, that I will do everything in my power to make sure it isn't my fault!" --Dr. Grant

  4. #84
    Compulsive CommentatAAR stnylan's Avatar
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    Recommended Reading (stnylan)

    A Tall Tale Told on a Cold Night

    A Fantastical and Comedic Commentary

    Storey has to be one of the most prolific writAARs on these boards. If I remember correctly this was the first of his tales that I read.

    Personally I think that comedy is at its most effective when making a point. Perhaps this is because its inherently un-serious nature enables it to make points that more serious portrayals find more difficult. In a rather macabre example take the final episode from Blackadder goes Fourth. Those who have seen it will understand what I am trying to say, and if you have not seen the series I strongly recommend you try and get hold of a copy.

    A Tall Tale Told on a Cold Night is just that. It is the archetypal tall tale (it is a fantasy), and it was written in a cold season (in January). It a comedy, but it is also a commentary on the fantasy genre and fantasy role-playing games.

    This is a story based on an EU2 game in which Storey played several countries in one alliance. The tale is told in the abstract, with characters taking on the name of individual states. It is also a fantasy tale, in which all the characters combine on a quest to defeat the Evil one … he who shall not be named.

    Updates are of variable length, mostly between one and one and a half pages of Word 12 point. In total the story goes for 5 pages in the forum, though the final comments overflow onto a sixth page. It is a narrative tale, told in two main voices. The first is the standard third-person narrative of a bard telling a tale in a tavern. The second is within the first – and that is the actual tale that the Bard is telling. There are no graphics. The game itself is also in the deep background, so if you prefer more gamey AARs this is unlikely to be to your taste - unless, that is, you also like fantasy, in which case keep reading!

    Dialogue and Description
    There is plenty of both in this tale. The dialogue between characters flows very naturally, with a minimum of directions so that it remains unbroken. A great deal of characterisation is done through the dialogue, I feel this particularly being true of the Bard and Novgorod.

    The description of the tale is in some scenes is almost conversational in style, like Storey is really just talking to us. Take this example from early on, the introduction of one of our main characters: “At the back of the tavern in a quiet corner sat a large solid built man who watched the Bard and his audience with little interest. The weapons he carried and the common cut of his clothes showed that he wasn’t a farmer, merchant or noble. No this was a warrior by the look of him and a dangerous one at that.” It’s an informal description that conveys important observation in an almost languorous way. There are plenty of other instances of this throughout the tale, though I think this is one of the clearest cut example.

    Not all the description is like that of course. Certain types of actions don’t lead themselves to such, and Storey is adapt at changing his style to suit the occasion. What he often has though, whatever the situation, is just a half-line or phrase that really helps tie everything together.

    There are a whole bunch of characters in the tale – too many for me to go into great detail. The first group is our posse of adventurers. Each is a stock character in fantasy role-play and fantasy fiction, albeit with a strong sense of tongue in cheek (human warrior, dwareven cleric, elven wizard, and so on). Humour has clearly been considered in the drafting of the characters, and two of the best developed – Novgorod and Teutonic – we get to know so well through the clever use of humour. Nonetheless these are stock characters, and any reader of fantasy, and any player of fantasy RPGs, will quickly recognise them and appreciate what Storey has done.

    The adventure though, is being told to a group of peasants in a tavern, and this audience forms the second set of characters. Some of these are cameos, some are persistent re-offenders. In particular there is Tobi, the barkeep, who keeps the ale flowing and is probably overcharging. Then there is the collective character of the audience as a whole. Any crowd of people can have an identity distinct from its constituent parts, and this crowd is no different. More importantly, I had the very real sense that we were part of that audience. It includes and involves the reader in the story, making us a part of it.

    Then, of course, there is the Bard himself. Undoubtedly he is the best developed character in the whole tale, told through by his actions and his words, and personally I wonder now how much (or how little) Storey put of himself into this somewhat irascible yet loveable ruffian.

    Finally there is he who shall not be named, the great evil. For most of the tale there is a sense of who this dastardly fellow is, but it is only confirmed towards the end. Storey keeps his presence close and real by the constant refrain of keeping him nameless.

    There are two plots. The first is that of the Bard telling his tale. The second is that of the tale. There is, however, a twist. It is not a simply case of the bard telling the tale, and swapping between that and the tale itself. Rather, the bard opens, and then our focus shifts to a human warrior in the back, who turns out to be none other than Pskov, the hero of the tale, about to set forth. I really don’t advise thinking too hard about it, or you’ll end tying your mind up into knots. Several other times the two tales intertwine, and at the end there is a coming together almost, as one tall tale ends and another begins.

    The first tale is very simple. It is the Bard’s attempt, despite numerous interruptions and frequent empty mugs, to tell his tale. The second is the defeat against he who shall not be named. We start in the small community of Everhovel, where the locals have been having a problem with goblins. Pskov slowly forms a small band that first clear out a warehouse, and then proceeds to track the enemy to his hideout.

    It is then that the story ends, rather quickly. The bard finally loses patience with his audience, and smartly finishes the tale with little detail. The end result is that the second story is unbelievably cut short, and for that we only have to blame the rest of audience, all the peasants from Everhovel.

    A humorous commentary
    This is a comedy, but it is also a commentary on the fantasy genre, gently using humour to make its points. It takes us through some of the stock characters, our heroes go on a fairly typical quest, and they face fairly typical situations. In particular it is rooted in the fantasy RPG. The humour is everywhere, in the characterisation of the adventurers and the locals, in the arguments and in the situations. But it is never humour for humour’s sake. Storey lets us explore the fantasy genre in all its absurdity.

    If there is one particular author this story reminds me of it has to be Terry Pratchett. In particular it reminds me of the Guard series for the ways in which it gently pokes fun at the detective genre.

    If I have one particular criticism it is that the AAR finishes too quickly. As hearghty said back in the comments, "I just wasn't ready for it to end". In some respects I'm still not. I wish perhaps that Storey would write a second tall tale, taking the tale that one step further.

    As a finals note I think this tale is also though an example of how difficult an abstract can be. In the comments Storey describes some of the problems he has relating the story events to the game. For anyone thinking of embarking on a similar project I would recommend reading this relatively short tale to get an idea of the likely pitfalls.

    In any event I recommend that if you need to bring a quick smile to your face pop over to that tavern in Everhovel, relax with a mug of Tobi's finest, and listen to the Bard.

    A Tall Tale Told on a Cold Night
    Last edited by stnylan; 13-09-2004 at 00:02.

  5. #85
    Covert Mastermind Demi Moderator Secret Master's Avatar
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    How to write for Events, Redux:
    CK Events and You

    Is that Amric over there? No? Good. Then we can sit down and have a little chat. See, Armic wrote an article last week about writing for events, but he did one thing wrong. He left out the part about writing for Crusader Kings events. So, while he’s not looking, I’ll fill you in on the details.

    Okay, I know what you’re thinking. You’re saying to yourself “But what does Secret Master know about writing for CK? He’s never written an AAR for CK. And he never posts in AARs in the CK forum.” This is, of course, completely true. But I have secret inner knowledge of CK writing*, which I am willing to part with just this once.

    First, the biggest difference between CK event writing and EU2 event writing is that most CK events have triggers of some sort. This means that they are almost never truly random. If your ruler is getting sick, he might have a low health score. Burghers whining in your provinces? You’ve set their power to low. God is promising to forgive your sins if you go on crusade? You’ve obviously been a very naughty boy (or, less likely, naughty girl) and have been killing relatives and losing piety. Thus, there is often a rational reason for you getting certain events.

    But that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. You still have to explain them. And you have to make it sound good.

    First, let’s start with disease events. Most of the time, disease events spread just like technology. So, in one sense, you’re off the hook in trying to explain the progress of the disease. The game has done that work for you. But you must explain how it first arrived to your lands. Did it come overland from a neighboring realm? (Those new roads can be used as an explanation here) Did it come from the sea? (That shiny new port is the real culprit) Was it a random occurrence, or is it something more treacherous, like an enemy leaving dead animals around your land during a war? Maybe your people think it’s a sign from God that he doesn’t like something. Maybe they blame Jews or other minorities for their troubles. The key is to make sure you don’t think in terms of CDC Biological Warfare Mapping. This is the olden days where people generally didn’t even know how diseases were spread or what caused them.

    Discovering a new technology. This is a bit tricky, because unless you have gotten the “Science” upgrade in your thought, your people are not sitting in little labs performing experiments in a modern sense. (Even if you have Science, they probably still aren’t doing this except in very limited ways.) So, you’re not really researching this technology. Rather, you will be discovering these things by accident. Have your people learned about cows? They probably already knew the basics about cows, but some enterprising peasant or burgher tried to do it with a whole herd of cattle at once. Viola, one cheese dairy explained. Aristotelian logics just discovered? Your scholars probably dug up Aristotle’s texts and realized how good they were. Maybe they ransacked a Muslim library or got their hands on a Latin translation that was thought to be lost. Did you just invent the lance? Well, it could be anything from a lone knight doing well at a tournament and sharing his secret with the others to someone losing their sword on a battlefield and picking up whatever was handy to use while on their horse. Merchant Princes discovered? Well, you probably didn’t discover them, did you? They probably just happened when your burghers got so good at burghering that they developed into Merchant Princes. The point is that it will almost never be some thinking sitting in his library inventing any of this. It will all have to happen by accident, providing potential fun in your writing. This is still the case even if you have a university. Remember, universities in the period did not have business schools or Biology departments in the same way we do now.

    Insanity. Now these are probably the most fun, because you have so many options at your disposal. First, in order to write about insanity properly, you will need to keep track of births, deaths, and important events in most characters lives. This is because you will often want to link the insanity in question to events that happened to the character. Did a son die? Depression makes sense. Did a woman just finish giving birth? Post partum explains away another depression. Have you been assassinating lots of people? Schizophrenia makes sense (the voices have been telling me to do it all along…). Have you refused to give a son some land? He might just become a maniac as he tries to overcompensate. Have you just won or lost a war? This can lead to enormous stress, which can break anyone eventually.

    Something else to remember with insanity is that there is no such thing as therapy. In some cases, insanity will be viewed as a spiritual problem. Thus, a person with schizophrenia might be thought to be possessed. Someone depressed might be diagnosed as having some sort of imbalance in their lifestyle. Maniacs might be thought of as just heretical and stupid, and not be viewed as insane. These considerations should be kept in mind as you write about insane characters, because others will react to them differently than we react to the insane today.

    Crusades and crusade events. Several of these events mention God speaking to you. But, as a good writer, it is worth remembering that God speaking to someone can be taken to mean different things. Did the Pope send you a letter? That might explain God telling you that your sins will be forgiven for going on Crusade. Are you healed for becoming a crusader? Maybe you were healed and then in a dream God said to go on Crusade. Or maybe the ruler decided by himself to go on Crusade after a miraculous recovery. Perhaps he even decided to go on Crusade, only to later find himself healed. The crusades started ahead of schedule. Why? Are heathens conquering Christian kingdoms (like Iberia )? Or has trade expanded in the area of Levant, and the Papal Controller wants a piece of it. Did they start late? Maybe no one ever stopped pilgrims from going to Jerusalem, but the Baltic pagans are threatening Germany. Maybe Hungary was wiped out by the Pechengs. Maybe the Papacy wants parts of Italy and Sicily returned to Christian hands. The possibilities are legion. However, you must pay attention to geo-politic forces occurring throughout Europe to come up with plausible Crusade scenarios, otherwise you’ll be stuck in the same crusades loop time and time again.

    The key to writing about these CK events is to pay attention to both people and places. If you do so, there will be few surprises and you’ll already have what you need to relate them in your tale. This requires more note-taking in certain ways than what you might do for an EU AAR, but since most of the events are not truly random, the rewards are well worth it.

    Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me. This article doesn’t exist, and neither do I. This counts double if Amric asks you anything.

    *I’ve thought about writing AARs for CK at least twice. This makes me completely qualified speak on any matter pertaining to the subject of CK AAR writing. Really, it does.
    Last edited by Secret Master; 13-09-2004 at 20:35.

  6. #86
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    The RewAARd of AwAARds

    Director was quite right to begin a discussion of the OscAARs recently, and I think that same discussion should extend to the other awards we have utilized over the years. Namely that of the WritAAR of the Week and the Showcase. We had some discussions about these at the AARCON in D.C. and I have come to the conclusion that whatever any of them do, they must attend to three different areas.

    The first is recognition of the writAAR now. Rather than wait for his story to finish, the WoW has been utilized to bring attention to an ongoing work and assist in getting this writer some views and comments, as well as simply helping him become one of the gang. The second is recognition of the story now. This works much the same way as the above except it is taking into account the work itself rather than the one who created it. The showcase was the method for doing that. And finally, recognition for the work long term. This is ideally what the oscAARs should reward and, with the tag in the librAARy, should assist readAARs going forward of the work’s quality.

    These methods worked in the past, but over time, the need to stay on top of everything to determine the winners, as well as the number of people to choose from on occasion has hindered the mods that handle these initiatives. I have recently taken up trying to re-establish WoW in Vickie, and so far so good, but there is a desire to see it in all of AARland and that is simply something I could not keep up with. The same holds true for the showcase, especially now with five games to read about.

    I have some ideas, and I will throw them out there and see what others think of them. Further, I will begin one attempt to bring WoW to the entire forum and see if it works as a model for the showcase.

    One of the problems I have with awarding WoW is the fact that it is only my opinion. Surely no one will publicly call me out and suggest that I am wrong for picking a certain writAAR, but privately they may wonder why I picked the person, or if I played favorites and so on. It is impossible to please all of the people all of the time. Again, I fear that the showcase can appear the same way to some.

    However, some time back Backfire began the Fan of the Week thread, and it seems to be chugging along nicely. Thus, I will move the WoW from Vickie to the main forum going forward, and instead of me picking all of them, I will make my last pick and then it will become that WoW who chooses the next and so on. This way, it is an AARland-wide project that can never be accused of any long term bias or the ignoring of certain works or games.

    And as a new chapter in the WoW series, I propose that anyone is once again eligible rather than saying once is enough. However, this will make it incumbent for the previous winner to make an informed pick taking into account who has previously won and who hasn’t. I would hate to see this become a round robin between a few people, but truth be told I have very little fear of that happening.

    I will explain it once more in the new thread I start in the main area, but I would like to see how it works for a few weeks and determine if the showcase could be awarded in much the same way – by the membAARs rather than the mods. It would free up their time and I think help cover more ground of our admittedly large area.

    What the showcase needs to accomplish, in my opinion, is bringing notice to a piece of work that is not getting such, as well as being an exemplary example. It’s the work being rewarded, not the writAAR (though one will reward the other.) I should suggest that Catknight has had a similar idea regarding the OscAARs, or some other form of recognition for the work, and it seems to me that this might be the way to run all such reward programs moving forward.

    No mod will claim to be the authority on what’s good and what isn’t. Traditionally, they have run these because no one else would for a long enough period of time, or they simply wanted to do something for the forum. Well, now all of us can in our own way. And if the new WoW turns out to be as successful as the Fan of the week, then we will have brought it back much stronger and fairer than it ever was before.

  7. #87
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    Notes (Director)

    Would You Like Tutti Frutti With That?

    The stage is set, the musicians posed in their black gowns and tuxedos like so many penguins on an ice floe. The maestro enters to hushed applause, bows briefly and mounts the podium. His baton flashes up, imperiously, and the instruments snap to attention. Downward his hand and arm, upward well the opening notes of the 5th Symphony of Beethoven. ‘Dum dum dum daaaaaaah. Dum dum dum daaaaaah….’

    The orchestra pauses. A trumpet player stands and shouts out, ‘A whop bop-a-lu-bop, a whop bam boo!’ and the brass section swings into ‘Tutti Frutti.’ After a few bars, Little Richard’s signature tune comes to a close and the orchestra resumes its rendition of the Beethoven.

    What just happened here? An EU2 AAR, all too often.

    What I’m going to talk about I will call displacement, and I’ll give you a few examples of what I mean.

    An anachronism is something that is noticeably out of its proper time, either forward or backward. A Model T Ford on a modern street is as anachronistic as the same auto in the Thirty Years War; muskets in the Hundred Years War are as provably out of place as armored knights in Hearts of Iron. A famous person living a few years too little or too long is anachronistic but somewhat harder to argue against; who is to say that Michaelangelo might not have lived to his hundredth year… or died at five?

    Outside of anachronism, displacement can include details that are correct for time but still wrong – olive trees in England, gazelles in Sweden, Muslims drinking wine, a Protestant Pope. Displacement, in a more subtle way, can be applied to customs, language, attitudes toward religion and the state that don’t correspond to the facts as we know them.

    Displacement, for the purpose of this little article, is that which is out of place, the thing that jars, the loss of pressure in your suspension of disbelief.

    Some will argue that it is irrelevant, or of only small concern. We are amateurs, writing to please ourselves and our friends, and these are alternate histories, in which the wonderfully strange is not only tolerated but encouraged – I give you the world-spanning empire of Tibet, traffic lights in Cyprus, German North America and a Balkan nation of werewolves as but a few favorite examples. Surely we should not worry about displacement!

    I can’t speak for other readers, but it concerns me. I refuse to accept that our amateur status means we must accept error and call it good. Now, for myself, I don’t mind an author violating known fact if he knows he is doing it and has some explanation for it; rather the reverse, I like skillful play on facts. I have no care for a Muslim Sultanate of the Netherlands if it is in some way explained. I don’t object to an occasional stray bit that’s wrong – some Muslims do drink alcohol and someone in England must have an olive tree, surely. And I’m certainly not going out, billy-club in hand, to be the Fact Policeman of the Forum. But my suspension of disbelief grows heavy when I read wrong facts, bad history and – well, displaced things - and realize the author has no idea of his error.

    I make exception for humor; displacement is in many ways the common element of humor. Few things are as reliably funny as a character encountering the unexpected ‘pie in the face’, and displacement is a form of surprise. Mongols with AK-47s and cavalry charging tanks may be funny – or gruesome, or pathetic – but that may be a topic for another time. And let’s leave alone the displacement that occurs when the author gets it right and the reader doesn’t believe it. Let us talk about displacement that is unintended.

    Part of the problem here is the difficulty of research. You can spend years on the subject of how strategic and tactical practice changed from the Hundred Years War to the age of Napoleon. You can hunt – mostly without result – for advice on whether ancient armies marched in step, what weapons they had and how they used them, what they wore and how they actually performed on the battlefield. Mostly scholars guess; some actually tell you they are guessing and others gloss it over with generalities.

    Then there is the law of unintended consequences, where the army has a clear doctrine but doesn’t follow it… There is still no general agreement among historians on how the Napoleonic armies of France actually used their line and column formations and very little agreement on whether their lower-level units followed doctrine or improvised as a result of surprise and special circumstances. And this, mind you, was only two hundred years ago, in an era when seemingly everyone wrote an eye-witness account of the wars.

    The more we question, the deeper and more treacherous the waters of our inquiry become. What trees grew here? What fruits and vegetables? With whom did these people trade, and with what – and for what return? How were their utensils made, their glassware and pottery, if any? What did they grind to make their bread, and how, and was it baked in many separate bakeries or a few large ones? What fueled the fires, and where did the fuel come from? Where were their tanneries and smithies, their cobblers and tailors, and who wove the cloth, and how, and from what?

    How old were the men who went forth to fight and die, and why did they go? And when they reached that field of battle, how do we – who may be continents and oceans and hundreds of years removed – how do we describe the ground to the satisfaction of a reader who may live ten kilometers from the site? What did the place look like prior to five hundred years of development, anyway?

    We – from our modern vantage point – have different ideas of the motivations of, say, Henry VIII than did his contemporaries. Henry, did he live today, would be seen as a spoiled and more than a little selfish alpha-male; divorce today is commonplace and defiance of the Catholic Church as unexceptional as founding your own religious cult. His contemporaries would have said he was concerned with dynastic questions – concerned to provide a male heir – and consumed with sustaining royal power against the Pope and Catholicism (as well as stubborn and selfish). But which Henry do we write of, a Henry whose modern attitudes and motivations are easy for us to understand, or a Henry whose roots were in a Renaissance, religion-permeated atmosphere that is foreign to our perspective today?

    If you can take the doublets and tunics from your characters and dress them in business suits, without markedly changing who they are and how they behave, then you may want to rethink their beliefs and motivations. By the same token, take care that the world you conjure up is still believable and comprehensible to the very modern mind-set of your audience. You are mostly concerned with telling a story, and if you impute modern motivations to medieval minds, you won’t be the first author – or scholar – to do so.

    A great author might be able to convey the ancient and the modern alike; a lesser light might dodge the question entire.

    In fact, that is our usual response to questions of displacement – we evade, and I mean no criticism by this; I do it my own self, with malice aforethought and no apology. If certain facts are essential to the story, you should do your best to get them right. Add a few elements for a ‘gloss’ of realism; study paintings and old maps if you can, and read about the period as you are able – and do your best to check your facts, that’s all any of us can ask or do.

    When in doubt, leave it out; that’s my advice in a nutshell. Displace no elements if you can, give the reader every support you are able as he suspends his disbelief. Above all, give some thought to what the people of the time actually believed (whether they were proven right or wrong) and to what they thought they were doing, and why.

    And if you want to slip in a displacement or two, make sure you tip the audience a wink and a nudge so they know you are doing it on purpose, won’t you? If I must have ‘Tutti Frutti’ in my Beethoven, I like to know it was intentional.

  8. #88
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    And The Ugly

    Protagonist-Antagonist and a third perspective.

    So I’m reading through Secret Master’s Article a couple weeks ago, and then, out of the blue, I remembered some characters, ones that sometimes people forget.

    I would like you, if you are able, to remember Cheyenne, Roman Pirates and the nation of Switzerland. Ok, now that I have you confused, let me explain. Each of these three ‘characters’ represent an often overlook, yet vital part of any story. These characters are moral compasses on which we can base all things good and evil. Still lost? Don’t worry I will start making sense soon enough.

    First off I would like to discuss Cheyenne. This is probably the most obscure of my references. Cheyenne is a character from the greatest western ever made, Once Upon a Time in the West, played by James Robards. He is neither the antagonist nor the protagonist. He is the third wheel, the extra character. Now, the story would essentially be the same without him, a tale of revenge and greed in the west. But he also provides for the audience a guideline between the good (in this case represented by Charles Bronson) and the bad (Henry Fonda).

    Cheyenne gives us something to compare characters to. He plays a villain in the typical sense of the world. He kills ruthlessly and has no moral qualms with what he does. But he also presents the audience with a dissonant moral stand. He kills, but refuses to kill priests (Catholic that is) and children. He also helps the hero of the film against the villain. So, does that make him a ‘good guy’? Obviously not, he is still a bad man, but he is fighting for a good cause, justice. Cheyenne shows us just how good our hero is. Sure, the hero is good compared to the villain, but he is also good compared to this neutral character.

    The second of my obscure references is to the Roman Pirates. In this I am referring to the pirates who sold out Spartacus and his rebellion to the Romans. Now, in the film Spartacus, and to anyone who feels that Spartacus’ rebellion was justified, the pirates are ‘bad guys’. But this is putting a rather one-sided morality to the issue. The pirates are neither antagonist nor protagonist, they are simply a vessel used by both. In this case, they are used by the Romans to stabilize their empire, and by the rebels to escape.

    An audience is made to dislike them, but why? Did the Pirates do anything “wrong”. Sure, the Roman Empire treated slaves brutally. No surprise there. But Spartacus was by no means a great man. He and his slaves had murdered, pillaged and burnt their way around Italy. He was a threat not only to innocent citizens across the empire, but also to the basic fabric of Roman life. If Spartacus was portrayed as a villain, then the Pirates would be seen as heroes. But, as he is portrayed a hero, so we see the pirates as villains. Is this fair?

    The final reference is to the nation of Switzerland. Yep, the whole thing, well the whole thing 60 years ago. World War Two was kicking off, and Switzerland didn’t join in. They represent, in this case, true neutrality. We, as modern people, can see that the German Reich was the ‘bad guy’ in World War Two, and the allies were, for the most part, the ‘good guys’. They were able to define each other, unlike in my previous examples, where a neutral party could be used to define the good and the bad. In this case, one side was good, one side was bad, and Switzerland represented the in between, sort of.

    Switzerland was free, and independent, and wasn’t hurting anyone. So, Switzerland didn’t get involved. This is what one means when the word neutral is used. Switzerland stayed out of it. Now, I am not here to judge history, because frankly I can’t. But what this does present us with is an interesting moral perspective. Is it ‘bad’ to not fight against the ‘bad’? Does life have to be right verse wrong, black verse white? In real life we can see that this is certainly not true. But when it comes to writing we have to think more about this. So, that explains my first paragraph, now onto the rest of what I wanted to say.

    The Color Wheel of Characters.

    If I were to describe characters ala charts, I would pick the color chart. I know, confusing again. Don’t worry, I’ll explain once more. We all know what a color wheel looks like. If you don’t, it shouldn’t be too hard to find one online. When you look at the color wheel, the first thing you see is that it is not as simple as a box of crayons. The colors aren’t all aligned and separated, they bleed together, and they combine. This is true for characters as well.

    Now, let us say that Green is good, and Red is bad. A character that kills without remorse, and robs and rapes and runs rampant through society would be a Red character. A character that gives and gives, without asking for reward, and is always right and just will be our Green character. It’s nice to see these every once in a while, but a picture in just red and green is rather boring. I want color!

    So, we move along the wheel. From the good guy we can move two ways, to yellow or to blue. Up or down. Now, just because I want to, I will say that moving up is a change in intention, while moving down is a change in consequence. I will explain more as I go along. Let us move the character up to yellow. This is one step closer to red, and also brings us to the realm of realistic characters.

    A yellow character is a character who has good intentions, most of the time. A yellow character usually has the best of intentions. He gives to charity, and he thinks about others. When it comes down to it, he might even sacrifice himself to save others, but unlike a green, he will have to consider it. A yellow has to think about doing good, it doesn’t just happen. This is a human characteristic, one which we all have and one which is understandable and acceptable in a character. This character will do good, so long as it doesn’t do bad to him. It is ok for this character to talk about sacrifice, but doing good for good’s sake is something a yellow has to think about. So, let us move up once more.

    Now we are in the land of the orange character. The orange character is a character who sometimes has good intentions, other times his intentions aren’t so good. This is another realistic character. No one is perfect, this person is just a bit less perfect. If he is hungry, and someone left food out, he will take it. If he finds a wallet, he will turn it in, but make sure and keep a finder’s fee first. This is, in all reality bad. But it is also realistic. You cannot expect to have all characters do good for good’s sake. An orange character can be a ‘good guy’ but will usually not be. He may have to do good, but only if it benefits him. An orange is a realist above all else, and sees the world as a long process of pain. So, you do what you can to make things better for yourself, even if they aren’t good.

    Now, we will skip over red, because we all know what we would call “bad” in the traditional sense. Now we are going down from red, to purple. A purple character is one who can’t seem to do good things. Intentions are inconsequential. This character does ‘bad’ things. For example, a general whose plan fails and costs thousands of lives, and then tries the plan again. Or a bounty hunter who kills to get information. The intentions do not matter, but the outcome is generally bad. These characters are often the inept, or the failures. They often are not blamed for what happens, but they cannot be called ‘good’ by any means of the imagination.

    The final step on the wheel is the blue character. A blue character is the common man. Someone whose actions are not generally bad, but aren’t all life saving. It is someone who just lives. Sometimes good things happen, like when this person gives money to some charity. But usually nothing bad or good happens. This is a character who lives his life without causing anything bad to happen. This is the most used character for side characters. Anyone who really has no driving action in the plot of a story will be a blue character, simply because the character does not do good nor bad, but just is.

    This wheel of morality is one which is hard to pin down precisely, just as colors can vary so can morality. One man’s purple is another man’s indigo, just as one man’s sinner is another man’s saint. Still, in general all characters in all stories can be seen as somewhere on this wheel. It is important to understand this, because colors define each other. Blue is only blue because it isn’t red, just as good is only good because it isn’t evil. Now, to my original point.

    AAR terms

    So, what does this mean to the writaars? Well, it means whatever you want it to mean. What I want it to mean is that writaars will take a deeper look into how they use tertiary characters. Back to my original rant, neutral characters define where other characters can be placed on the wheel. The define who is a ‘good guy’, or they show us how society thinks, or sometimes they show us that life isn’t always one or the other.

    Cheyenne is an Orange and Blue character. He is, obviously, a bad man. His intentions are to clear his name and kill the men who framed him. He doesn’t want to turn these men over to authorities, or to make sure the good guy wins. He just wants revenge. But, in his journey he ends up helping the ‘good guys’ against the villains. So, by being orange and blue he allows us to see the other characters in a different light. Its not just good versus evil, but now there are shades.

    The Pirates are similar. However, to many they would fall into the purple category, they truly do have a positive consequence. Their actions are selfish, no doubt. They only side with the Romans in order to make an easy buck. So, this makes them bad. However, they help defeat the murderous rebels who are threatening to overthrow the society which rules the world, which can, according the morality of the time, be seen as a good thing. The Pirates make us look at the Romans and the rebels in a new light. This is the objective of a neutral character.

    The final piece of this massive jigsaw is Switzerland. The Swiss are yellow (truly this is a coincidence, no offense meant!) and blue. They intend only good by staying out of the war. They do not want to see the men and women of Switzerland embroiled in a bloody conflict. And, as a result they become a safe haven for refugees. Why wouldn’t I put them in the category of green you ask? Simple, they are neutral. As a neutral character, one cannot be truly ‘good’ or ‘evil’. When one crosses to these points they no longer become neutral, and most involve themselves.

    In AAR terms, a character cannot be a ‘good guy’ and not become involved in the plot. If, for example, both the protagonist and antagonist of your story were evil, a ‘good guy’ would see this and attempt to stop violence. This is not being neutral, no matter how much you as a writaar would like to keep the character neutral. Now, if one of the villains approached a neutral character and the neutral character reacted in a good way, he could still be considered a tertiary character. But he would not be a green character.

    So, to recap. Characters a morally entangled, and the classic good-bad division is a lot harder to draw in all reality. Neutral characters define what is good and what is bad by being morally entangled, and the truly good and truly evil can not be neutral at the same time. Well, now that I have stepped off my soapbox, I’m going to go watch that color wheel for a little while.

  9. #89
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    Screenshot Usage

    Let me begin by saying that this AARticle will not deal with any technical aspect of screenshots. MacRaith wrote a series of AARticles on the subject that is far more in depth than anything I could possibly create. Further, I will not be discussing how to take them and place them in your AAR either. There are plenty of threads and posts in the useful links thread that explain that. What I would rather write about here is a possible theory for using screenshots, when to use them, what types and how many to include.

    There are a number of different ways to think about screenshot usage. First and foremost, do you wish to include them at all? There are many readAARs who will not even read an AAR that does not have any. But do all AARs require them? My answer would be no. For game play and history book AARs, I think they are almost a must, but for more story driven AARs, there is no immediate need for them, other than to spruce up the look and feel of your work.

    My current AAR does not use them at all, and I do not think it detracts from the work in any way, but I have seen some that are written very much in the same style that use them brilliantly. Whether its using a picture of a King, President or General to give the readAAR an idea of what the characters look like, or a map to place them in the general area of your post, they can make your AAR look very nice indeed. As well, you could even use graphics to set a border if you wished, pictures of either the area or a key item from your post or even a coming attraction poster to announce your AAR. I know of one writAAR who created a small movie to announce his new work.

    There are many different pictures on the Internet, and all it takes is time and some patience to find them. Once included, it can make your AAR look very impressive, and perhaps even get people to read your work that might not have otherwise. But there is a downside to this. As you’ve certainly heard many times in your life, there is a time and place for everything. I believe moderation is key.

    There is a point when screenshots become too much. Unless you are trying to tell your entire tale by just using screenshots, you should not let them overtake the words. If your work has more screenshots than paragraphs, then you are probably using too many. This can be a major issue for someone who is using a slower computer. It can take forever for them to come up on the screen. I have been known to simply click the back button if it takes too long for them to appear, because I just don’t have the time to wait. I would like to get around to other work as well.

    Now don’t get me wrong. If used correctly, screenshots can very much assist the readAAR in enjoying your work. Whether it’s a shot by shot recounting of a battle, or a comparison shot of a before and after situation, screenshots are sometimes able to tell the tale of a circumstance in much greater light than the spoken word. But never discount the written ability to get across the same information. For example, if you wish to show the number of troops lost in a certain battle, we don’t need 10 screenshots lined up after each other to do that. Perhaps write about the battle and then use two, the start and the finish.

    Further, maps are wonderful in assisting your readAARs in knowing where you are, or where you need to go. If you show the map at the end of each post, it can be very helpful for your audience to make suggestions of what they think you might need to do next. But we don’t need a shot of your empire year by year. Think of key moments, such as after a major peace deal in which you gained a lot of land, or lost it in some situations. Or if you notice something odd, such as Dai Viet owning all of Asia, or Mexico spanking the US and Canada leaving only a rough shell of their former possessions. But we don’t need to see the entire world after each post. In fact, we don’t even need to see your own empire after each and especially if nothing has changed since the last shot. But depending on how many years you cover in one post and what happened during those years, it is always helpful to gain a glimpse of what has been achieved.

    These things are especially helpful to someone who does not own the game you are writing about. It has been said many times that reading an AAR made someone purchase the game. When you see a beautiful screenshot of Crusader Kings, for example and you do not yet own it, it does get the mouth watering. But again, if you use too many, it may make some people give up trying to read it as they wait and wait for the page to finally finish loading, especially when we are getting the evil “sever is busy” every ten minutes.

    One final aspect must be mentioned. If you wish to use screenshots, and especially if you wish to use a lot of them, please consider resizing them, or cropping off unnecessary information. Take a look at the links thread and/or MacRaith’s AARticles for help in this area, but doing so very much assists in loading time and even what appears on the screen. I cannot tell you how irritated I get when I have to scroll from left to write to read the words because the screenshot is too big for the page. Granted, it is a personal pet peeve, but I imagine it would greatly assist your readAARs to pay attention to such things.

    In the end, as with so many other aspects of AAR writing, it is up to you to determine what you wish to achieve. If you are writing a game play AAR, they are very useful in helping the readAAR know what is going on. If you are writing in the history book style, they can make it seem very professional. If you are writing in narrative, they can help create the mood you wish to establish. But never allow the screenshots in your AAR overtake the actual writing. Of course, this is only my own opinion. I am sure many of you might disagree and desire ten screenshots per post. But if so, I hope you have a faster computer than I do.

  10. #90
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    Weapons of the EUII Timeframe

    Now in the past few articles I have spoken not only about things that happen frequently during a game, but also about how to write for various events as well. It has also been suggested that I write something about anachronisms during battles. I thought about what a good idea it was, but I also decided that it might be good to talk about other types of anachronisms as well.

    But let us start with battles, shall we? First off, this is going to depend on when in time you are, so let us start at the beginning. There are various mods out there for EUII, from right After the Flood to Modern Day Scenario, with one of my favorites, the Mongol Empire Scenario as well. There are MANY more, believe me. But let us just deal with the period of the regular grand campaign between 1419-1819, which is something we are ALL familiar with, so let us get started.

    1419, if you really think about it, was really a start of rebirth for the militaries of the world. Mostly Europe, but the Chinese were already using crude rockets with black gun powder! Oddly enough, the Chinese figured it worked well enough and never bothered to innovate beyond this use of gunpowder that would revolutionize European warfare. But I digress.

    During this time you have swords, axes, spears, pole arms of various types, pikes, lances and various and sundry other kinds of weapons. Lest we forget there were archers and crossbowmen as well. The famous longbows of the English, the crossbows of France and Italy, the horse bows used by the steppes warriors such as the Mongols and other nomadic warriors

    If you are in Europe or the Middle East or the Americas there is NO gunpowder yet. Period. Pretty much ONLY the Chinese had gunpowder at this time. You don’t USUALLY see gunpowder making an appearance in Europe until after 1460. So forget about it.

    Siege weapons were really no different than that the Romans used. Catapults, onagers<wild ass>, ballista, rams, screws, and of course the fine art of tunnel digging to try and collapse a wall. Let us not forget about the trebuchet that the French came up with in answer to the need of a much heavier device to knock down walls. The trebuchet was still in use quite a bit into the age of gunpowder.

    What is a catapult? It is a device used to throw heavy rocks at a fortification. Until the trebuchet came along it was the highest powered siege engine known to man. From what I understand there were really two good ways to have a catapult. One is using weights to ‘catapult’ or fling a large boulder at an object. Lighter catapults could be used by having men heave in unison to fling lighter boulders at objects. Although I may be the only one on the forums to use catapults against a mobile force. It wasn’t pretty for the army I used it again.

    Using chains attached to smaller sized boulders you would fire the weapon and watch the carnage erupt. One boulder would hit the ground and the other would then snap around shattering everything in it’s path until it’s energy was damped and it thumped to the ground as well. Nasty, but effective.

    An onager, or wild ass, was a lighter version of a catapult that used weights or man power to fling usually a collection of rocks at objects, or sometimes people. It wasn’t really great as a siege weapon except against lighter and less quality walls. Once you get into a level 3 fortress level, it is pretty much useless against fortifications at that level.

    Ballista is spear throwers. For those who were reading the FC during the last book, redwolf had his Chinese characters to create a multiple spear thrower. Now in reality, there was never such a thing used in Europe. There was really nothing to STOP such a weapon from being created. It just didn’t happen. Back during the times of the Romans there was a Heron of Alexandria created a multiple crossbow weapon. Yet it wasn’t really used, even though it was recreated using typical materials of the time. It worked REMARKEABLY well. But again, it wasn’t used in Europe. This does not mean YOU, as a writer and player couldn’t create them. You would just have to come up with a reasonable way to explain it.

    Ballista could be used in battle or siege. It was generally used only during a siege. It was a grand way to fire at an enemy who had a height advantage for their archers which you had no other way to counter. During battle, it was a more chancy proposition as that arena is usually so fluid that it is almost as dangerous to your own troops as the enemy.

    This doesn’t mean you CAN’T do it, but in reality it wasn’t really a good idea. It is up to you. I haven’t done it myself, but I just might in my current story.

    Rams are obvious. I’m sure almost all of you have watched a movie where this is depicted. There are two versions of this weapon. Which I am going to break down into two sections. The first is the fire hardened log. The other is the bronze or iron headed log, some of which were cast like the head of a ram or some other creature.

    Either could be used in one of two ways. One is having men hold onto hand holds and swing it back and forth against a gate of some sort. This was fraught with danger as the enemy could fire arrows, drop rocks, or boiling pitch or oil upon the men ramming the gate. Either you lose men this way in a precipitous fashion, or you solve this in one of a variety of ways. Either you have men with shields to protect those ramming the gates, or you have your own archers try to keep the enemy from doing harm to your men. Or a combination of both.

    The other way is to have a covered ram. This is a mobile ‘building’ that your men use to go up to the gates where the ram is suspended by ropes from the roof. This allows more power to the ram as it is no longer being held by the men and they can use more of their power to swing the ram against the gates. The other advantage is that the roof can be covered with ‘green’ hides to keep fire arrows and other objects from harming the men using the ram.

    There are two good ways to combat this problem. One is to use large boulders to drop onto the ‘building’ and destroy it, and also killing or damaging the men with the ram. This doesn’t always work, for if the boulder isn’t large enough it might glance off the roof.

    The other is using a ‘hook’ from a chain to ‘catch’ the ram and raising it up high enough to drop and destroy. This usually doesn’t work all that well, but it DID work on occasion so feel free to use it.

    Sapping, or tunnel digging, was something that has been in use for centuries, and the Romans really perfected it. What is this, exactly? Digging a tunnel under a wall is a time honored tradition. Using very dry timber you would set wood on fire underneath the wall in the hopes of making the wall collapse when the tunnel collapsed. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t depending on the strength of the wall and the construction of the tunnel.

    Of course, nothing stopped the defenders from trying to dig their own tunnel to intercept the attackers tunnel OUTSIDE the walls. This sometimes worked or didn’t, when it did work, and in reality it happened occasionally, fighting would occur. Sometimes the attackers won, sometimes the defenders. If the defenders won they would collapse the tunnel and keep the attacker from his goal. There is more than one case in history where there were nearly ‘epic’ in scope battles under ground in tunnels. Usually with knives and daggers. Swords and other weapons were really useless down there. Nor did they wear plate armor or such.

    Which brings us to armor. By this time full or field plate armor was really starting. Usually it was plate mail. It wasn’t until the late 1400’s that plate armor really came into vogue. Only the extremely wealthy could truly afford full plate armor during the earliest point of EUII.

    So your armored knights would most likely be in plate mail. Your infantry, probably mostly peasants, wouldn’t be armored in any way. Professional infantry might have leather armor. It wasn’t until the time of Edward Longshanks that infantry really were armored in chain mail. It was just prohibitively expensive to armor troops.

    This is not to say you COULDN’T do it. Just remember to reflect the fact in your depictions. Which leads me to engineering. Going over rivers. Most armies would find a ford or a bridge to cross. But don’t let this restrict you. Remember that the ancient Romans actually used pontoon bridges to cross rivers. Even Alexander the Great used a pontoon bridge to cross rivers at times. It is time honored, and most people don’t even realize it.

    Pontoon boats really aren’t that hard to construct. Reeds work to create the boats. Hell, even roping logs together and putting planks on top of them would be sufficient to move infantry and even horses, if you walk them across. Do not try to RIDE them over it. Horses really won’t stand for that in reality. Especially war trained horses. If you build it strong enough you can even move wagons or as they sometimes called them, wains, in this fashion. Nothing overtly creative in this, as it was truly done in reality.

    Remember these are the same people who created those massive cathedrals that still stand to this day. Granted, it took 100 years for many of them to be built, but they WERE built. It took the national cathedral in Washington, D.C. about that long to be built. And that was FAR after that period of time!

    There is nothing wrong with being creative with the tools at your disposal. Now let’s move on to guns. The arquebus is the first hand held weapon. Bronze cannon were before that. Trebuchets as siege weapons were still be used at this time. Bronze cannons were grossly expensive and far less accurate than a trebuchet. Believe it or not, a trebuchet, once ‘dialed’ in, would consistently place boulders in the same place! Time and time again. Something cannon couldn’t match for decades!

    Bronze was the preferred cannon even when iron ones became available. At least for awhile. Why? Because iron cannons had a nasty habit of exploding. You couldn’t cast a complete one in iron, so they had to be ‘pieced’ together. Once you COULD manage it, the pressures from the gunpowder tended to cause them to explode. When you used water to quench the inside of the cannon that would cause tiny cracks to appear inside the barrel of the cannon. Over time those cracks would become dangerous and the cannon would explode. It was only a matter of time.

    To combat this, engineers thought of using ‘hoops’ to gird the cannon to try and offset this problem. It, in my opinion, really didn’t keep them from exploding. But it made everyone feel better. Bronze cannons don’t rust. That is why they were more preferred until iron cannons could be ‘perfected’. Once you can get cannons, they will be bronze for awhile. You’ll get to the point where iron cannons are used, and the game will tell you!

    But let us get back to the arquebus. These were matchlock weapons. What does this mean? It means you have a horn of gunpowder, lead balls, wadding, and an iron rod. You would pour in the gun powder. DOWN THE BARREL OF THE GUN! Then the wadding and ball. You would then ram your iron rod down the gun barrel to pack it in nice and tight. Then you use your slow burning match to fire the weapon at the gun stock while ‘aiming’ your weapon at the enemy.

    As a weapon, it didn’t take great intelligence or a lot of training to use. The biggest drawback is that they had a ridiculously slow rate of fire! I’d take 100 longbowmen against 500 arquebusiers any day of the week. Even firing a crossbow was faster! You could get two, perhaps three crossbow bolts going by the time you could fire your arquebus again. An archer could have easily 10 shafts fired, if not MORE, by the time you fired another lead ball.

    You hear gunfire at a ridiculous rate of fire once you gain arquebuses. Do NOT be fooled. I don’t care if you practice with one every day for eight hours for a decade! You will NEVER match the rate of fire of archers. I seriously doubt you will reach the rate of fire of crossbows either! They have tremendous shock value against infantry who are facing them for the first time.

    They will even spook warhorses. Sometimes. If warhorses have gotten used to cannons firing, they aren’t going to be scared of arquebuses. Unless they are right on top of you. But again, I’d take 100 archers with my army outnumbered 2 to 1 against 500 arquebusiers. I’d win, too.

    The game doesn’t truly account for that. Arquebuses weren’t something you gave every infantry man. They were expensive at the start, of course. Believe it or not, the arquebusiers became the ‘knights’ of the infantry. Small ‘blocks’ of men would be handed the weapons and became the ‘elite’ of the infantry. The rest of the infantry would be using the typical weapons of the time.

    The only advantage was really that there was no real skill required. Longbowmen took YEARS to become the terror of the battlefield. Crossbowmen didn’t really require skill, but it certainly took strength. As much as it took to wield a longbow effectively, but a crossbow took no real skill to use. Point and shoot. A crossbow is a straight line weapon. It was never meant to be used like a long bow. A long bow can be used to make an arrow arc very high. You could do that with a crossbow bolt, but it will NOT go as far as an arrow from a long bow that way. The crossbow was meant to be a point and shoot weapon. As such, it was a fine weapon. But it was slow to fire, compared to a long bow. Or a short bow. Or a horseman’s bow, of course.

    A broadcloth arrow from a long bow could punch right through armor at 100 yards. A crossbow could do it as well. But the French and others were more into crossbows while the English were justifiably famous for the long bows. Crecy and Agincourt proved the power of the long bow over the crossbow in my opinion.

    After the arquebus came the flintlock. You still loaded the weapon the same, but instead of a slow match you had a flint on the end of your ‘hammer’ that would hit a ‘striker’ causing a spark to go into the area where the gun powder was located, firing the gun. It had an advantage over the matchlock as it could be used during a windy day, or even a slightly damp day. Forget using EITHER weapon in the rain. They just wouldn’t work. They could be used in winter, as long as it wasn’t snowing pretty good at the time.

    Gun powder of the time was notoriously susceptible to dampness, causing it to be either useless or dangerously unreliable. Using such weapons might be a badge of honor, but it was a dangerous honor. For they also could explode in the hands of the person using them! Even in histories that I have read, this has been glossed over at times. Guns exploding in the hands of the user back then was FAR more common than you would think.

    The guns get better as time goes on, including wheel lock weapons. Which was a minute improvement of the flintlock, so that they could be used during a LIGHT rain. Heavy downpour made them useless as well, but they were better than an arquebus or a flint lock. Plus they didn’t explode like an arquebus or a flint lock.

    Believe it or not, during the revolutionary war the colonists used rockets, as did the British in war. Both sides also used balloons for reconnaissance, not only to find out where the enemy was located, but even during BATTLE! Remember this is during the late 1700’s! Hard to believe, isn’t it?

    Something else to think of….the Chinese even used something much like a hang glider to get troops into fortresses if it could be done, depending on location and wind conditions. This was done prior to 1500! The first type of ‘paratroopers’! This wasn’t used in Europe, but nothing says if China was known that you couldn’t ‘discover’ this intriguing type of attack.

    Fire was a prime weapon as well. Fire ships, such as Nelson used against the Spanish Armada, were used even prior to that and far beyond the EUII timeframe. Believe it or not, there was a general who used to take small birds from around a city and place bits of ‘brush’ on them and light them on fire. Those birds would fly into the city and start catching the roofs on fire! Another way to get the populace to surrender when you burn the city down around them!

    Diverting a river, which the town/city uses as a water source could also force them to surrender because they are dying from lack of water. Catapulting diseased creatures or the bodies of your own dead into the city to cause disease was something that happened far more often than you can imagine.

    Let alone ‘accidentally’ leaving caches of food and drink behind for invaders to consume, only to die horribly because it was poisoned. Believe it or not, the Holy Land was once far more lush than it is today. The Crusaders spent a lot of time and effort to try and bring it back to the lushness it had once enjoyed. Saladin and his men, as they advanced against the Frankish states, despoiled the land and destroyed wells, aquifers, and springs to ruin the land for the crusaders and the massive horses they had to use.

    The depredations of Saladin and his men have still not been fully understood or reversed to this day! Let us not forget that the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers used to be VERY fertile! The ‘heirs’ of the Mongols who had conquered the Kwarizim conquered deep into what is modern Turkey and destroyed as much as they could. Turning once very productive land into the desert we know of today!

    That was land that was once known as the breadbasket of the middle east! Even today it is land that has never fully recovered, after CENTURIES. Think about this. War is a dirty, nasty business. How dirty and nasty is truly up to you as a writer.

    But this ‘guide’ to EUII weaponry and how it can be used might be of some help to you. I will be writing another article on how you can arrange battles, both on land and sea. This article has droned on long enough, I think.

    So I hope this has been of some help to you, and more knowledge of the times we write about.

  11. #91
    Covert Mastermind Demi Moderator Secret Master's Avatar
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    Dirty Little Secrets (Secret Master)

    Cheating: It’s not just for breakfast anymore

    If there is one thing I hate in the world, and by hate I mean loath and despise with great intensity, it is a cheater. You know, someone who breaks the rules just so they can gloat about their victory over you. To me there is no worse crime imaginable, except for those crimes involving puppies and small children.

    However, my name is Secret Master, and I am a cheater.

    (Don’t everyone say ‘hi’ back to me all at once)

    Do I hate myself? No. But there is a reason that I can sleep comfortably at night and still hate cheaters.

    See, when it comes to Paradox games, there is two kinds of cheating. There is “I want to mask my ineptitude with the game” cheating and then there is “I am trying to write an AAR that makes sense” cheating. The first kind of cheating is the one we are all familiar with, so I will skip that part.

    The second kind of cheating is something unique to the AAR community. Often, when writers are working on their AARs, they feel it necessary to cheat in order for the story to make sense. This AAR-style cheating generally takes two forms: outright rule breaking and mods. Let’s take a look at these two.

    Rule breaking involves such things as using cheat codes, save game editing, and save-reload techniques to cause a desired outcome in the game. Everything from forcing a particular peace treaty on the AI through creative editing to the use of cheat codes to allow for odd DP slider shifts fall into this category.

    Mods include writing new events, creating new countries with user defined tags, changing scenario set-up files, editing text files, and changing coats of arms. This sort of behavior is generally done prior to a game actually be played, and is used to create specific situations or to cover foreseen outcomes of in-game behavior (i.e. including historical events for an obscure country you intend to play). This is just the flip-side of the previous side of cheating, as it is also used to cause a desired outcome in the game.

    The question is, however, is it okay to cheat? Well, when playing multiplayer, the answer is an obvious “No.” When playing by yourself, the answer is an obvious “I don’t care, because I have to go drink a beer and don’t have time for what you do in the privacy of your own home with a Paradox title.” When writing AARs, however, it gets a bit trickier. As discussed in the SolAARium recently, at least one writer has been chastised for cheating in his AAR by a reader. Another reader noted that he prefers to read only AARs that involve unmodified, non-cheated games.

    So what’s the answer?

    First, it is worth mentioning that if you don’t tell us that you have cheated, we won’t know unless it is the sort of cheating that is blatantly obvious. The U.N.-Paradox AAR inspectors will not come by your residence and bust you for your fake AAR notes, edited save game files, and weapons of mass destruction. I might be able to tell you are cheating if your army sprites in EU2 are Napoleonic Era and it’s only 1560. I might figure out you are cheating if I see you conquer the Fatamids with the Duchy of Meath by 1099. Maybe. If I am really paying attention. After all, as good as some players are, both scenarios are believable, if a bit of a stretch. So, generally speaking, if you don’t tell us, we won’t know anyway.

    That said, I would say that you can cheat as much as you want when writing your AARs. Just do your readers a favor and let them know. This isn’t because you need to atone for your sinful behavior. Rather, it is just common courtesy for your readership. Some folks may not want to read your AAR. That’s fine. On the other hand, the success rate on AARs seems to indicate the cheating will not make you a pariah. Most AARs have at least been the victim of a reload at some point, so it’s not a big deal. The same thing goes for mods. Just let your readers know. In fact, this might be wise if only so that they can know what is going on. There is nothing more confusing that having someone playing a mod and then confusing the readers because they don’t know that he added some extra inheritance events.

    So, why don’t I hate myself even though I am a cheater?. The cheating I have done has only involved doing things in AARs, and only in the interests of making the story better. At least two of my AARs have involved modifications of some small variety. The AAR I am planning for CK will be based on a scenario start that is mostly fantasy. Does this bother me? No, because the cheating in question is only there to serve the story. And, I always outline what I am doing in terms of anything that might even be remotely considered cheating.

    Oh, and I never cheat in multiplayer. I don’t have to. I’m the best player in my group of players*.

    So, as you are writing your pieces, remember to let your players know if you are a big, bad, evil cheater. They will thank you for it and still read it. Trust me, an AAR will never fail because of cheating. It might fail because it is written really badly, but never because of cheating.

    Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me. This article doesn’t exist, and neither do I.

    *I am only one of two people that I play CK in multiplayer with right now. The other player only plays CK when hanging out at my house, while I play it all the time. But I’m still better, so there.
    Last edited by Secret Master; 27-09-2004 at 20:54.

  12. #92
    Field Marshal MrT's Avatar

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    Out of exile
    Surprise! - by MrT, occasional roving reporter

    A Little Glimpse Forward

    I’m sure there are many of you who have been following the developments – and teasers – posted in the HoI2 forum over the past months, and who are now salivating over the coming release date. I thought that I’d take a moment out of my busy schedule to speak to you for a moment about the game from an AAR perspective, since that’s not something that you’re likely to get much of a feel for in the company-sanctioned pre-release activities. Of course you must keep in mind that I’m still bound by the NDA so I can’t tell you a lot of details or specifics…

    Let me start off by saying that the game has changed rather dramatically in a great many ways. Any of you who’ve been puzzling over the screen shots, and looking at all the nifty new sprites and such, will have seen that. But I think it’s also reasonable to say that at its heart, Heart of Iron II’s overall game design has not changed too much in a dramatic sense. What’s interesting, as I think of it, is that in spite of a massive overhaul of interfaces and features, HoI2 will probably present almost an identical sort of starting point for anyone who wants to write an AAR that extends beyond a description of game actions. Let me show you an example.

    Johan recently posted a teaser AAR. Most of what he talks about is actually pretty new in the game – basing, and whatnot – but when you strip away the mechanics of it you’re left with a set of actions that are probably very close to the same ones you’d have if you’d just played that little bit of the game in HoI1. Fleet X went here…fleet Y went there…air cover…marine landings…all pretty much standard fare for an HoI1 AAR, isn’t it? And, really, would you expect it to be much different?

    The success of a game like HoI1 or HoI2 isn’t in the mechanics – well, I suppose it is from a game and sales point of view – but rather in the overall effect it achieves in immersing you as deeply as possible in the game experience…to let you play armchair general for a number of hours and to change the outcome of history. At that level, the mechanics, interfaces, missions, and other bells and whistles become tools of immersion as much as they are tools that affect the outcome. When writing an AAR, though, the tables are turned. It ceases to be the game’s function to immerse the player, and becomes the AAR author’s function to immerse the reader…and that is why I say that there will probably be only modest differences in the sorts of AARs you might write with the new game compared to the ones you might have written for the old one. The screenies will be fresh and new, but the underlying plots will be largely the same.

    Except for two things.

    HoI2 has more than a dozen limited battle scenarios. This restricts the map to only a small portion of the world, often deactivates some of the player-controlled aspects of the game (i.e. you can remove all diplomacy from a battle scenario, or all production, etc…and replace it with pre-scripted stuff via events and setup instead), and they are disgustingly easy for even a novice to script. This means that you will see a ton of AARs that are based on short scenarios, limited forces, and many user-designed scenarios. This, I think, offers incredible possibilities for the AAR community.

    The other huge change is the implementation of co-op MP mode. This allows you to play a multiplayer game with more than one human at the controls of a nation. In fact, just yesterday there were five of us all playing Germany in the 1944 campaign. Johan was responsible for the Italian campaign, jpd was trying to push back the Allied landings at Normandy, and Maximillian II and Santa_Claus were trying to hold out against the Russian advance in the east. An me? I was playing the part of Göring, trying to keep the Luftwaffe in the air (against horrendous odds, I might note) in support of all three theatres. The fun thing is that this isn’t the only way to handle it. You could have one player manage industry and research, while another handles all warfare. You could arrange for one person to do all land movement, one for all air, and one for all naval- and also their respective research paths.

    The cool part of this is that all of the players have access to all of the nation’s controls, so the actions of one might easily undermine the actions of another…or that air force that you just manufactured to use in your eastern campaign has suddenly been snatched up by your partner and deployed to the west! Playing co-op MP will be a challenge, and working out the responsibilities will be a real test of cooperation…and can lead to some very interesting multi-writer AARs. Imagine a case where the authors cast themselves in the roles of the various members of the joint chiefs of staff, and the ARR is written as a series of “transcripts” of their meetings. Let the recriminations fly!

    And, of course, you will probably find that many games will begin to be played as teams of humans against other teams of humans. The AI in Hoi2 is getting pretty darned good – even though the game is still several months from hitting the shelves – and will probably challenge many players. But once you become an expert, there is pretty much no question that with more or less even odds you’ll be able to beat the computer. Player vs. player MP has already made up for some of that in HoI1, but the multi-co-op opportunities are astounding. Imaging 2 or 3 players taking Japan, and another few taking USA, and a few more taking UK, and even more taking Germany…the difficulty level just shot through the roof! So, too, did the AAR potential!

    Anyway…I’d like to be able to tell you more, and as we get closer to release I suspect that I may be able to post one or two other things of interest. I just wanted you to know that the AAR community isn’t being forgotten, and that there is some great potential in the coming months for some very exciting new material.



    P.S. I hope you like the game’s manual.

    P.P.S. I hope the editors don't mind that I've posted this without warning them in advance. Let me know if you'd like it removed...

  13. #93
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    History Park: Who Wants To Be Napoleon! by Director

    Where History Comes Alive

    Director and I recently made a pact in which he would review one of my AARs and I would do the same for him. When thinking over his work, there was really only one answer to the question of which I would review. It is a work of such brilliance in its planning and execution that it has rightly gone down as one of the classics of AARland. A benchmark for our craft, if you will.

    Returning back to the year 2002, this forum saw many different AARs arise that tried to take the storytelling to a new level. To go further, many chose to go “off the map” into permanent terra incognita, as it were. This is one of those tales. It is not an AAR one can describe in a few short words, though I believe the great Peter Ebbeson himself said something to the effect that it was the most WTF AAR he had ever seen. That is as short and succinct as possible to describe the work looked at here. But I could go on giving it general kudos and praise. Let us turn to the work. MembAARs, I give you History Park: Who Wants To Be Napoleon! by Director.

    The Premise
    Where does one begin? Well, let’s see…there’s this theme park, right? And it has these rides and attractions like you’d see in any theme park. And the theme park is based on history, so you can stay in the Seven Seas Hotel, or you can go camping on the Gettysburg Battlefield in Blue and Gray land. And of course, you must take a ride on the famed Mongol Coaster, for what theme park would be worth it’s salt without a roller coaster? But this is no ordinary roller coaster, because this is no ordinary park.

    What really sets this park apart from others is a superior virtual reality system that allows people to play the game we know as Europa Universalis II as if they were living it. Actors are hired to portray historical figures. The players can control whole armies and watch them from the battlefield itself. Director introduces us to three young men who become his game players and then we follow them as they play through a game of the Napoleon scenario. And to make it even more interesting, a robot made to look and sound like the famed Napoleon assists Director’s players.

    I really must credit Director for coming up with such a brilliant premise. There have been many creative AARs dealing with aliens, world conquest classes, unique attempts to solve the “man behind the throne” problem of a 400-year game and even Lord Durham’s brilliant and hilarious Portugal that places the entire game in a movie studio. But in many respects, this AAR takes that a step further. There is a meta quality to it that pushes the limit of how to tell a story that has never been done before, and I cannot think of another that goes to such lengths since then.

    Before we go any further, I must go ahead and say that if you are looking for a recitation on game moves, you will have to move your way through an immense amount of dialogue and narrative to get there. This is not to suggest that this tale does not include such. There are some great moments when strategy is discussed, both in character and out of character, as well as in the feedback. But it is not for those that dislike lengthy narrative. In fact, I’m not so sure the game play itself is all that solid, not bad just…interesting.

    This was the first time Director had played this specific scenario, and some of his moves are, shall we say, unique. Inspired, perhaps, but if you want to achieve the goal of making the other great powers of Europe your vassal as France, you may not be able to in the way Director played this game. But then, he does not play the game as a warmonger, but rather as one who moves as he thinks his characters should.

    The format is relatively simple, but oh so complex. Each post begins with a topical quote. And they are good ones. From there, it follows one of the many plots that Director slowly weaves from page one. There are posts dealing with the actual battles as if we were reading a narrative alternate history. There are posts dealing with the intricate nature of the park itself, and others that follow along with the players as they play the game, describing the decision making process and including other tasty bits. And of course there is a whole other plot line to follow, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

    I found myself thinking that he could have easily decided just to describe what it was like as the players, leaving much of the in depth battle description and historical character sketches out. This might have made it a less complicated story. However, without that latter part, much of the richness of the AAR would have been stripped away. Yes, the gaming portion is unique enough that any reader would have been fascinated by it, but as you will see, the rest of what Director creates is just as interesting and certainly captivating.

    So now, let’s take a look at that plot, shall we? Again, where to start? Well, this theme park needs money and they decide to stage a contest to gear up interest in the park. The contest winner will get to play the game for one week and it will be followed by the media for publicity purposes. In the middle of all of this, Director introduces one major plot line dealing with a possible sabotage of the park, and many different sub plots meant to engage us in the story within the story.

    So at any one time, we may be getting decision making by the players, the description of a major battle, the nefarious dealings of an underhanded crook or even the search for treasure, one of the best plot lines in the story. He inter-cuts between them with more fluidity than you might think. There are moments when perhaps one plot line is followed too long, at the possible expense of another. And there are times when scenes are built around certain characters that do not play a major role in the longer tale, and thus suffer only in that the audience would rather get back to the main action. But none of these take away from the story as a whole.

    I read this all at once (the second time through), and I can say that it was most likely easier for me to get what was going on because I could flip the page and see the next scene immediately. I imagine (and in fact know) that many of his initial readers were utterly confused at first. Tantalized and curious, to be sure; but confused nonetheless.

    There is a moment midway through where Director has set up his premise, has already seemingly won the game itself and hits a certain stride in the story. Those readers that had been around from day one, and even others that picked up mid way, were treated day after day with one fascinating battle after another. With subplot upon subplot, it reached a point that not only did we enjoy simply reading it, we had to if we wanted to find out where it ended up, and we had to find that out. And let me just say this about the ending without giving anything away. This AAR does for theme parks what Jaws did for the ocean.

    There are far too many to list here, but the major players are the park employees, the game players and of course, the Napoleon Robot, or as I like to call him, the Nap ‘bot. And this character is a highlight. He grows throughout the tale as he takes on more human characteristics (you’ll have to read the story to find out why.) His “massive gallic shrug,” his key advice to the players, and his eventual personality are a joy to read about as we see it happen. And of course, Director makes sure to place Napoleon in his element on the battlefield, and there are some wonderful scenes between him and his generals, especially one on page 6 as he discusses one of his least favorites, Moreau.

    But of course, there are a myriad of other characters that take on a life of their own throughout the tale. One could easily sit down and read an entire AAR about any one of them. One of my favorites is an actor who has an affinity for playing sergeants. You may recognize him if you are reading Director’s current work – Hitchcock. I was also quite fond of his portrayal of William Pitt, the British Prime Minister who attempts to get his country through the Napoleonic Wars. Of special note is a scene between Pitt and the crafty Metternich on page 8.

    There is not enough space to praise them all, and in fact, one might be able to claim this as a potential flaw of the work. Given the already complicated set up, introducing so many characters to inhabit the space can be overwhelming. I think Director handles it well; though again, I found myself wanting to get back to the control center and find out what the players were doing. Or I wanted to hear more about the park employees and what was transpiring in their lives. But as suggested, this is somewhat the nature of the beast that Director has created here. He certainly gives no one character short shrift if he singles him out for a lengthy plot line. And I was constantly amazed at his ability to introduce a new one, give us the background and history, play through the scenes and then say goodbye.

    Factual Accuracy
    And part of the reason the above works is due to the sheer amount of historical accuracy found here. If it’s the Austrian General Mack, or the younger Wellington before he got that title, Director has done his research. If the scene is a battle at sea along the coast of England or a massive land battle in Germany, Director knows what pieces of equipment were used, and why. He knows the lay of the land and how best to utilize it, and what’s more, explains that to the reader. He is able to describe things in such minute detail; I almost get the sense that he needed to do no research at all as it was already in his head. I am sure he did quite a lot, but there is something to be said for having a feel for warfare and it’s logistics and strategy before ever putting pen to paper. Those little minute details that others may never even think to include, are there in this story, and many times just there as scenery, never explained or focused upon, because they don’t need to be. They just fit, because it is so correct.

    Each battle scene is a sight to behold (or in this case read about.) No matter how many naval battles he includes, each one is unique and exciting. No matter how many times Napoleon must once again move on to the field of battle, you know what you read will be thrilling and suspenseful. And he can do this because not only is he a great writer, he also knows exactly what he is talking about.

    Writing Technique
    And let’s get to that great writing. He never fails to use a brilliant turn of phrase, or colorful description of something. He never stands pat on the typical way of expressing something that a lesser writer might. Rather, he is constantly challenging himself to find that “just-so” phrasing, to the point that the reader must wonder what he will come up with next. From his descriptions of characters and scenery, to the manner in which he expresses his characters moods and emotions, Director creates a lovely piece of work.

    And he does not simply rely on just battle scenes and character driven scenes to move the plot along. There are some truly beautiful and brilliant moments along the way, that are perhaps slightly out of place in terms of the general style used throughout, but belong without question because they fit the time or place of the story. Of note is one such post in which he describes the nature of Empire and nations that distills that theory as best as I’ve ever seen it before. And then there is a brief story of a cannon as it passes through the hands of time. It is really only a brief aside, but it completes the action of what is occurring at that time in the story. And one last thing I must mention is simply a lovely little bit of word play. On page 8:

    This whole city made him nervous; loud, jangling, hot, dusty, frantic and boiling like an anthill with every kind of man from Hindu to Portugee to Arab to Russki to Chinee. All of whom would cheerfully slit your throat for a fake rupee, not to mention an imperial ransom in precious metals and gems.

    I don’t know, I just loved it. And there is plenty more where that came from.

    There are some humorous, amazing, thrilling, touching and truly unique moments in this AAR. The humor quotient is subtle, but is there in spades, especially as little asides that perhaps not many people caught. But there are other moments that were hysterical, and this spills over into the feedback as well (take note of one letter to the park early on in the feedback.) Director was able to leave dangling clues, building one plot point upon the other, so that the reader had to keep coming back for more. And there were some truly great, if not slightly cruel, cliffhanger moments, either through action or just from the last line of the post.

    Overall, this AAR has it all and is not to be missed. As I stated at the top, is was and is an instant classic that should be read by everyone here. It is one of the most creative and well planned out pieces of work I have ever read on these forums and Director very much deserved the Gold OscAAR he won for this in August of 2003. Take note of it, readers. You must visit History Park – where history comes alive.

    Director responds:
    Um… wow. Someone with a smaller ego than mine, i.e. any mere mortal, would be blown away by this review. It’s all true, of course - <grin>.

    Especially true are the criticisms, and I thank coz1 for pointing them out in constructive fashion. He’s right when he says there are too many sub-plots, too many characters, too much of everything. And the gameplay is, well, interesting if not inspiring: I absolutely refused to even consider a campaign in Russia. The characters responsible for playing the game weren’t intended to be experts at world conquest. But, hey, Imperial France survives – so I did better than Napoleon himself, right? <grin>

    I will say that this AAR was planned from top-to-bottom before I began and most of the plot hooks and twists were meticulously pre-set. That had the bad result that the main plot line is actually unrelated to the game. It also made the middle part of the story drag somewhat, I think, and it is in the middle section that so many new characters and sub-plots are trotted out. It’s a clear case of too many ‘cool’ ideas and not enough pruning.

    The Park itself serves two purposes – one, to give me a way to integrate the modern world and the ‘historical’ world of the game. A common problem of all AARs is that we, the readers, have modern knowledge, ideas and precepts. The Park setting gave me a way to talk about history from a modern perspective and to deal with the game as a game, rather than as an alternative history, the ‘Meta’ concept that coz1 talks about.

    The second purpose of the Park is to hook readers. I’d like you to have a sense of wonder while you read, an idea of how insanely cool this place could be (and how funny some of their oblivious commercialization of history can be). As shocked and confused as the initial responses were, I wondered at times if people understood what I was talking about, and that doesn’t reflect well on my writing skills.

    This AAR was written at a time in my life that was very dark and I was extremely depressed. Reading and writing AAR’s was virtually all that I did for the better part of 18 months. If ‘Napoleon’ has a manic edge to it, that’s why.

    I’ve been a history student all my life, and interested in this period since I was in college. One of the things I wanted to do with this AAR was point up that war isn’t all glory and battle; there is a lot of tedious logistics and politics to be dealt with, and precious little glory in the mud, dust, blood and terror of the battlefield.

    I hope people enjoyed reading it. OK, I’ll say it: to coz1, “I, Napoleon, salute you!”

    History Park: Who Wants To Be Napoleon!

    Also Recommended: The Machiavellian Adventures of Princess Eleanor by frogbeastegg. This gem of a Crusader Kings AAR has had me interested since page one. Perhaps it was because I enjoyed frogbeastegg's previous work. Or perhaps it is simply because she has crafted yet another finely told tale. It follows the adventures of a young princess forced to make her way in the world in less than regal ways. You will not be disappointed if you read this, and I believe everyone should be reading it.

    frogbeastegg says "I would like to recommend an AAR by a relatively new writer, since new writers often need the attention more than established ones. If you can kindly ignore the fact my name is mentioned near the beginning amongst a list of inspirations I would be very grateful. This is not favouritism, rather admiration for a début that shows plenty of promise. Ladies, gentlemen, children of all ages, I give you In Flanders Field by Rex Angliae."

  14. #94
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
    Europa Universalis 3

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    Indiana, United States
    The Eye Of the Hurricane<Amric>

    Odds and Ends

    When people think of the late Middle Ages or Early Renaissance type of warfare they think of hard charging knights in plate armor crashing into each other. Many many thousands of them. WRONG! True knights were not numbered in the many thousands for any nation. But I’ll get to them a little later on.

    Let us really start with pole arms. There were those who asked about them from my earlier article. Halberds were a type of pole arm. As were Pikes, of course. Pikes were really only useful against cavalry. Yes, I hear the howling from some of you. It is still true, however. Some of those who are thinking of pole arms used against infantry are thinking of halberds. Which were generally 6 to 9 feet long. MUCH shorter than a pike which could be as long as 18 feet. Halberds could be used against either infantry or cavalry. Pikes were again only really used against cavalry.

    I’m going to tell you why. First it is generally the only weapon a pikeman has, and when a foot soldier gets past the head of the pike it is now just a REALLY heavy stick. Bad to be a pikeman at that moment.

    Let me digress for a moment. I was involved with the SCA, which is also known as the Society for Creative Anachronism. It is a gropu that recreates this period of time. I used to fight with two swords. I was involved in quite a few ‘melee’ ‘tournaments’ with knights and foot soldiers. With both ‘pikemen’ and foot soldiers on each side along with ‘knights’. Guess what happened?

    Horses will NOT charge into Pikes when the steel heads are aimed at their eyes. EVER. Of course we didn’t use ‘real’ weapons, obviously, but the horses don’t like shiny pointed objects near their eyes. Usually in battle scenes from movies they are pointed chest high and horses plunged into them fearlessly. In reality, this would still be true. But true pikemen would be in two front lines. Some would kneel with pikes pointed chest high on a horse while the line directly behind them had their pikes angled to be right at the eye level of the horse.

    The horse will shy VIOLENTLY away from steel when they see it at eye level. Usually with a rather abrupt stop, causing the knight or cavalry man to be tossed over the head of his horse. Pikes are great against horses, but are not truly effective against infantry. Just a military fact.

    Yes, I will no doubt hear about the Swiss Pike regiments. Guess what? They are famous because no cavalry wanted to go up against them. What was France and most of the nations surrounding Switzerland known for? Knights and cavalry. Which are not good in the mountains anyway. And if they dared to go up against Swiss Pikes, they would get trashed. They were very good against cavalry, but they weren’t really tested against a true infantry army.

    Lest we forget, the Swiss Pikes also had halberdiers who could deal with infantry as well. Well deserved skill there as well, but they are largely unknown compared to the Pike portions. A shame, but still true.

    Now other pole arms, known as halberds CAN be used against infantry or cavalry. Let me explain why. First, they are MUCH shorter, and therefore LIGHTER than a pike. Second, they are DESIGNED to work the way they do. Some are almost shaped like a scythe , other with a ‘bill’. If an infantry man gets past the ‘head’ of the halberd, that head can be pulled back, ripping the enemy up from behind. Nasty way to die. A halberd can do this because it is so much shorter and lighter.

    A halberd is and can be a very effective weapon in the hands of an expert. Believe it or not, it can almost be used as a staff, with a bladed edge on one end, of course. It is unbalanced, but a expert can compensate. However most halberdiers are NOT experts. They are conscripts. Serfs or low born free men.

    Which is how infantry is generally done with the game at the start. Cavalry can generally stomp all over infantry except for obvious things. Such as crossing a river, or in mountains. But the player in you already knows this fact. But you pay ducats for ‘soldiers’ that you can keep as long as you want. Which is until you disband them or they get killed. Which is not historically accurate. But as a writer, you can portray conscripting troops just before declaring war or right after some other nation DoW’s you. Or you could just ignore the historical reality.

    As a writer you can depict your infantry getting hammered by knights or cavalry accurately due to the fact of the matter is that your infantry IS made up of conscripts. Or if you are winning more than you should be, perhaps it is due to the intensive training they received prior to the war or prior to joining the battle. Or that you have become innovative and copied the Romans by having a professional army.

    Most infantry in the early 1400’s just won’t stand against a cavalry charge. They just aren’t disciplined enough. Taking the Free Company as an aberration, and that is because they ARE disciplined! Extremely well disciplined. But that is the exception, not the rule. The FC could take a cavalry charge, and likely COUNTER charge. But again, aberration, not typical.

    The English won at Crecy and Agincourt due to the power of the long bow. The English longbow broke the French knights more than once. Killing so many of them that it was said the chivalric flowering of France had been destroyed. But again, that was then. Further down the road, infantry discipline declined badly.

    But I have digressed again. The halberd can stop a horse, but you’d better do it right. OR you become a paste. There is a reason knights and cavalry call infantry ‘crunchies’. It is the sound bone makes when it snaps and splinters under the iron shod hooves of a war horse.

    If done correctly, which is GROUNDING the weapon, the horse will impale itself on it. Which gives that poor sucker on the ground just enough time to dodge out of the way before the horse stomps on him on it’s way to falling down and bleeding out. If the poor sucker just holds it…crunch, crunch, dead infantry man and a dead horse. Sucks to be the infantry man.

    So a halberd can be used, as I said, as both an infantry weapon and against cavalry. My earlier article mentions archers and crossbowmen. Well any boob can run a crossbow if he has enough strength. Shooting an arrow from a bow takes SKILL.

    A good archer can put as many as 10 shafts into the air in one minute. Never will a crossbow equal that. Or come slightly close. One shot a minute is pretty typical. Which means you will need 10 crossbows for each longbow. Men using the long bow were always free men who spent many years practicing their craft. Very disciplined men.

    Crossbows, as I said before, any moron can use. They were generally handed out to the low born free men or perhaps even serfs. No discipline needed. But arrows flying through the air will likely un nerve those guys holding the crossbows, while arrows flying past the ears of a long bow wielding man won’t bother him all that much. But again, discipline.

    Under a direct cavalry charge, crossbowmen will likely break quickly. Longbowmen won’t. They just might cut that charge off at the knees. Just ask the French. They would know. Crecy and Agincourt proved the power of the long bow in battle. Given a choice between a long bow or the early arquebus, I’ll take the long bow EVERY time.

    Crecy and Agincourt sounded the death knell of cavalry, but it wasn’t until the late 1500’s and early 1600’s that became very obvious. Musket fire could devastate a cavalry charge just a quickly as archery of the past. It just took far more guns to do it. But when you have fifteen thousand guns aimed at ten thousand packed horsemen charging…what do you think happens? I won’t spell it out. It’s obvious.

    But even into WWI cavalry was still used in a supporting role to cut enemy supplies and communications. But that was really the last time cavalry could be used effectively. I don’t think I need to mention what happened to Poland’s cavalry when they went up against German panzers in WWII, now do I?

    Men are FAR easier to replace than horses. But the game doesn’t portray that well at all. You can see quite a few 30k all cavalry armies charging about from many nations. Total hooey. Not possible. I’ll tell you why. This is actual fact.

    It takes 10 acres to feed one knight and his warhorse. ONE warhorse. Or any horse for that matter. Well a good knight or cavalry man needs TWO warhorses. And perhaps a riding mount or two between battles. Well that is four horses per man. That is 40 acres. But you really ought to have 10 more acres to support that cavalry or knight man with enough money to be equipped in something better than boiled leather armor. So you have 50 acres to support ONE cavalry man.

    Remember that figure. Because it just snowballs and gets worse. It takes 2 to 3 YEARS to train a warhorse properly. So if you have TWO good warhorses, you need TWO more to be in the mid to late stages of training to replace the two you have because you might lose that horse at any time. PLUS you need two more horses just starting their training.

    Remember that 30k cavalry army I mentioned? Do you see where this is going? That means there are 60k warhorses for that army. Plus 60k horses in mid to late training. PLUS 60k more in the start of training. That is 180k horses! And that is a VERY conservative figure. In reality you truly need at least another 60k just to be on the safe side.

    But let us stay at 180k warhorses for one 30k cavalry army. Ready to see the figures for those 180k warhorses? 4.5 MILLION acres! That’s right. 4.5 million acres! Not even FRANCE had that much acreage devoted to that kind of production.

    France did NOT have 30k cavalry armies running about in reality. If they had that many TOTAL cavalry I would be SHOCKED. But NO one province minor could possibly support such a large force of cavalry. Can’t be done. Nor could a two province minor do it. Forget about it. Hard to believe, isn’t it? They would have to IMPORT enough fodder for that. Which would be prohibitively expensive.

    So what does this mean to you as a writer? Depends on how accurate you want to be in your story. Yes, the game allows for such large cavalry armies. But you aren’t completely locked into that for your story. You can portray that you have far fewer cavalry than you really do. I am not advocating you use mostly infantry and getting trashed because the AI won’t play the same way as you are to be more ‘accurate’ historically speaking. But you could write that you had far more infantry than you actually used. And the AI could be portrayed to be using far less cavalry and far more infantry than it does.

    Which brings me to supply trains. Medieval armies live off the land. They brought weapons and fodder for the horses, but food for the troops was generally taken from the land the army was currently occupying. Whether it be enemy land or friendly land. Didn’t really matter to the army. Much like voracious locusts. Stripping the land bare before moving onward.

    Only professional armies carried provisions for the troops, and had regular supply trains to ensure the army was well provisioned with foodstuffs. Other than the normal attrition factor, the game doesn’t portray this very well. I’ll tell you why. If a province is being fought over for years nobody is going to be farming it. Which means those conscript armies won’t be able to live off it. After a year or so they would have stripped the land down to bare earth. Nothing will be left.

    Which means no army should survive for long unless it is regularly supplied. Which is what the game automatically assumes happens. Although, again in reality, this was not the case. Only a professional army could campaign in such conditions as they would ensure a secure supply route. Again, something armies in the 1400’s just didn’t do.

    So you as a writer have choices again. How you choose to portray this little tidbit of information is entirely up to you.

    Here is something else. In spite of what some scholars think, trade was very widespread during this time frame. Which is depicted somewhat well game wise. Except for the fact that war is not considered well game wise to affect trade as much as it really does. Oh, blockading ports or pirates along the coast can affect trade. But warfare in the interior can affect trade.

    River traffic could be stopped and seized by any army in the area, yet isn’t done by the game. I’m not sure that it could be. But as a WRITER, you CAN do something! It is all up to you! Most intelligent traders won’t go into a war zone when it could mean death or ruination if some army decides to just take what you have. Which is what would likely happen. So trade would grind to a halt.

    I realize I’ve rambled on for some time and that I haven’t even gotten to battle formations like I promised I would. But I will get there. Just not in this article, I am afraid.

    I want to leave you with this final realization. Some of you, if not most of you, know something of the Code of Chivalry. But what some of you may NOT know is that that very Code came from Frankish knights returning from crusade. They got it from the Saracens! Yes! Muslims taught the Franks the Code of Chivalry!

    The Frankish knights spread this Code into Europe. The following is that code….
    The Ten Commandments of the Code of Chivalry
    From Chivalry by Leon Gautier
    I. Thou shalt believe all that the Church teaches, and shalt observe all its directions.
    II. Thou shalt defend the Church.
    III. Thou shalt respect all weaknesses, and shalt constitute thyself the defender of them.
    IV. Thou shalt love the country in which thou wast born.
    V. Thou shalt not recoil before thine enemy.
    VI. Thou shalt make war against the Infidel without cessation, and without mercy.
    VII. Thou shalt perform scrupulously thy feudal duties, if they be not contrary to the laws of God.
    VIII. Thou shalt never lie, and shall remain faithful to thy pledged word.
    IX. Thou shalt be generous, and give largess to everyone.
    X. Thou shalt be everywhere and always the champion of the Right and the Good against Injustice and Evil.
    The Code of Chivalry
    From the Rifts: England Supplement
    • Live to serve King and Country.
    • Live to defend Crown and Country and all it holds dear.
    • Live one's life so that it is worthy of respect and honor.
    • Live for freedom, justice and all that is good.
    • Never attack an unarmed foe.
    • Never use a weapon on an opponent not equal to the attack.
    • Never attack from behind.
    • Avoid lying to your fellow man.
    • Avoid cheating.
    • Avoid torture.
    • Obey the law of king, country, and chivalry.
    • Administer justice.
    • Protect the innocent.
    • Exhibit self control.
    • Show respect to authority.
    • Respect women.
    • Exhibit Courage in word and deed.
    • Defend the weak and innocent.
    • Destroy evil in all of its monstrous forms.
    • Crush the monsters that steal our land and rob our people.
    • Fight with honor.
    • Avenge the wronged.
    • Never abandon a friend, ally, or noble cause.
    • Fight for the ideals of king, country, and chivalry.
    • Die with valor.
    • Always keep one's word of honor.
    • Always maintain one's principles.
    • Never betray a confidence or comrade.
    • Avoid deception.
    • Respect life and freedom.
    • Die with honor.
    • Exhibit manners.
    • Be polite and attentive.
    • Be respectful of host, women, and honor.
    • Loyalty to country, King, honor, freedom, and the code of chivalry.
    • Loyalty to one's friends and those who lay their trust in thee.
    And with that, I will conclude this article. May your stories excite the imagination and elicit reader comments that praise your skills and elevate your writing to yet higher levels.

  15. #95
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    Recommended Reading (Director)
    For the Glory of Persia by coz1

    A Prince of a ‘Persia’

    Here’s the link

    Caveat: When coz1 and I shared a ride to Washington, DC earlier this year we discussed a lot of things, including this idea of swapping reviews. We decided to wait until the Victorian Cross nomination and voting process was over, since this one was a contender.

    When a game is new and the mechanics are still somewhat unexplored, AAR’s tend to focus on game-related matters: this is what I did, and this is what happened. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of AAR; I love them. Those writers perform a valuable public service, and I read those AARs avidly, looking for the information that will persuade me to buy, or else convince me to keep my money. coz1’s ‘Persia’ was written under long-gone version 1.01 of Victoria and, yes, it is chock-full of tips, comments, pointers and rueful asides. But if that were all, I probably wouldn’t be taking the time to recommend it to you.

    Good writers try to tell a story; very good ones can tell more than one story at the same time, and that’s the ambition of ‘Persia’. On the outside, this is a simple, economical little compact car in the game-play AAR tradition. But open the doors – lift the hood – and there’s much more going on here than you might think.

    What the author has done is to give us a sample of both worlds, game-play related comments alternating with a dialog-driven, narrative AAR. This is, I suspect, pretty easy to want to do and somewhat harder to pull off, especially for a writer who is new to AARland and to Victoria. Incorporating both formats seems even more ambitious when you realize this AAR is only about 8 pages long, comments from readers included, which doesn’t leave the writer any room to spare.

    Did he succeed? Well, let’s take it point by point.


    British-educated Iranians push their country into the modern era, emphasizing democracy, education and industrialization under an enlightened despot.

    Whether or not you believe it would have – or even should have – been tried, the establishment of a western-style, secular state with a popularly-elected legislature, an industrial economy and wide-spread literacy is certainly a legitimate subject for this alternative history. Can Iran – Persia – survive the colonial era, much less return to the glory of her pre-Alexandrian youth?


    As mentioned above, there’s a lot of helpful comments, explanations and descriptions of the actual game interwoven with descriptive, narrative scenes. They follow very naturally in sequence and each complements the other. Even people who don’t much like narrative AARs will, I think, find themselves charmed by this one.

    Think of the ‘game-play’ sections as the lead strips that hold the glass pieces of a stained-glass window in place; the lead is useful but not pretty; the glass can’t stand on its own. But when you put them together, you have something pretty special.

    The risk of this approach is that you chance slighting one element or the other. coz1, I’m happy to say, has gotten the blend just right for my taste.


    This is the great strength of this AAR. There are some fine, memorable characters here, and not too many of them. The author is able to make his characters really come alive, and he gives them believable conflicts of values over which to agonize. All struggle with the moral questions of defining patriotism and duty: when should you do your duty, even if you disagree with it, and when should you disobey orders in obedience to a higher law?

    If I have a quibble at all, it is that the characters are so sympathetic that we – and the author – are reluctant to let them go, and so they live on, some to a very advanced old age indeed! It is necessary, for reasons of plot and story – it would hardly do to ring in an entirely new cast in the last act of the play – and I promise you that if this little stretching strains your ‘suspension of disbelief’ then you should give up on fiction entirely.

    The characters are memorable, believable, human; noble – and fallible.


    The first page or so is, for my taste, a little flat. There is a sense of a new author stretching out some muscles and trying out a few moves.

    But once he gets going - which takes all of, oh, getting to page two - oh, my. You just would not credit that this is his first serious attempt at an AAR. Having spent some time talking with the author I know he has a background in theater, and I’m confident you will see that influence, too. The dialog is tight, the descriptions are sharp, clear and concise, and the action has muscle.

    This piece could have been staged as a play with relatively little trouble.


    Um… Persia goes to war – a lot – and wins – a lot. Our protagonist is an Englishman who grew up in Iran and loves the land and the people. His father (and then he, himself) helps the Shah establish a western-style, secular state (think of the Meiji Restoration in Japan). Then our Easternized Englishman spends the last half of his life trying to turn Persia aside from the war-mongering state it has become.

    The plot isn’t complicated, but the ethical questions it poses for the characters are. That’s not faint praise – writing a clear, consistent plot-line that is interesting and self-consistent is not easy. My opinion is that the author made a very smart choice in opting for simplicity, based on the length of the game and the estimated length of the AAR.

    Spelling and Grammar

    If you want to find errors you will have to look very hard.


    Splendid. Tons of maps with nifty arrows. But the best part of the graphic presentation for me would be the pictures that open the narrative passages; old black-and-white photos that set the mood perfectly.

    Factual Accuracy

    Historically, the AAR is factual as far as I can tell. Some small liberties have been taken with historical personages, but this was necessary for purposes of the story and in no case does anyone behave unbelievably. The author remarks that he researched his characters, and it shows.

    So in summation I’d have to say that the author has managed – on what is really his first major outing – to pull off the difficult feat of combining the two styles and making it look easy. This AAR is short, concise, fun to read and will give you quite a bit to think about.

    If you are interested in Victoria, this is a good one to read even though the game has changed dramatically since version 1.01. Whether you like ‘game-play’ or ‘narrative’ AARs I think there will be enough here to keep you happy.

    This one just won a Victorian Cross, and the voters got it right; ‘Persia’ is excellent!

    Author’s Comments:
    I think Director has done a more than fair job in reviewing this AAR. Though not my first, it was my first completed work in the AAR forums, and certainly my first back in action, as it were, playing Victoria. I am pleased that he commented on the moral questions posed in this tale, as that was one of the main things that became the driving force of the characters as it went along.

    His criticisms of hitting my stride and characters that perhaps live too long are also valid. On the former point, it was exactly as he suggests – stretching my legs. On the later, it was to try and create a positive course for a character that had previously been, in my opinion, left to play the role of villain when in real life he was quite an accomplished and well respected man.

    In many ways, I am more proud of this work than I am of my current AAR. It came out rather fast, and there is no doubt that I truly came to love and appreciate the characters I created. I thank Porter for reviewing it, and I thank all of those that followed and commented on it once again. I could not have written it without any of you.

    Recommended: ‘Austria and The War of the Spanish Succession: 1700 - 1708 (Redux)’ by Lord Durham

    Here’s the link

    I’ve been poking around in the library, looking for some of the great work that was done before I came on the forum. This one was begun in December of 2001 but Lord Durham came back later and performed an extensive editing job.

    When you see the Durham name you expect quality; if you want to know why people still rave about his writing, this is a good place to start. And if you’ve already read it, you should take another look – this one is possibly better than you remember.

    Lord Durham says: “I'm glad you like the Austrian AAR. It's one of my favourite bits of work. I would likely recommend SM's Noble Lives. Otherwise it would be your excellent History Park or heagarty's Tales of the Gluttonic Knights. I guess in that order.”

  16. #96
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    Blog Entries
    The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

    So You Want ReadAARs

    As there is always a question and concern about lack of views or comments on some AARs, particularly by the newer membAARs of our area, I thought I would write an AARticle dealing with the things you, as the writAAR, can do to assist in that effort, outside of simply writing an AAR in the first place.

    There are five major areas that you can pay attention to that may, in some cases, help draw readAARs in, or keep them once they have taken that initial look. The first and foremost is to make sure you are reading other works. This, in my opinion, is the most important of all your endeavors. It is a simple relationship – you do for me and I will do for you. It does not always work out that way, but the majority of the time, if you read someone else’s work, they will turn around and read yours.

    And by reading other work, you get a feel for how AARs are written, writing techniques, styles and differences. Never assume that just because you have started your own AAR, that readAARs will flock to it if you are not getting around to the other AARs on the board. It just won’t happen.

    The second major area to look at is to try and make your AAR different than what has been done before. You can try to come up with a catchy title to pull people in the front door, as it were. You can choose a different country, one that has never been done, or has not been done for a while. You can come up with an interesting style of game play, or story direction. Consider mixing styles, or creating a new style that has never been seen.

    Use original characters that add flavor to the narrative, if that’s the style you choose to write in. Or try to use humor, if you are able to keep it up. Don’t use flat dialogue or jokes that have been seen before, but try to be original. What you want is something unique that makes the readAAR say, “This is something special. I’m going to have to follow this.”

    Once you have been around this forum for a while, you tend to realize that you’ve seen a style, character, approach to a game or brand of humor before. In fact, it can get to be quite boring after a while. Which is not to suggest that the effort is bad. Only that you reach a point where you say “Been there, done that.” And when you consider how many AARs are being written these days, across the five games, it is simply impossible for one person to read them all. You have to come up with some angle to hook readAARs.

    This plays into the next area to look at. You want to create an environment for your readAARs to enjoy, a special look and feel to your AAR. First and foremost, pay attention to grammer, spelling and punctuation. Use your spell check if you have one, and re-read what you have before posting it into the forum. A well written AAR is more likely to be read than a poorly written one. Often times it helps to put aside what you have written and return to it after some time. Let it “sit and stew” so to speak. This will allow you to catch errors unseen in the first few passes, as well as give you time to rethink what you have and either add or subtract from it.

    You can also add special touches to the look of your work by using catchy colors or screenshots. You can try using different fonts, perhaps one that is timely to the story being told. And one of my biggest pet peeves, make sure to space your paragraphs for ease of reading. I cannot tell you how difficult it is to read a long paragraph on the computer when it could easily be chopped down into smaller pieces.

    Further, when you have a longer AAR, it can be difficult for new readAARs to come aboard. I have seen others use pdf documents for new readAARs to use to catch up. I have recently tried it myself and have certainly gained more comments as a result.

    All of these are trying to provide the best possible look and feel for the readAAR when they first look upon your work. If they see something new and unusual, or something really well done and professional looking, they are more likely to stay than if the look is sloppy or incoherent. In other words, you are trying to do everything you can to give a possible readAAR a reason to stick around and enjoy what you have created.

    The fourth area to pay attention to is an appreciation of those comments and readAARs you already have. First, be sure to ask for comments. Sometimes people are hesitant to go into any detail if they do not think you desire that. And be sure to make an effort to acknowledge those that have taken time to give you a comment. Do not assume that a blanket “Thank you” will suffice. ReadAARs will ask questions, give you advice, say they liked a certain character or situation. Give them a nod back individually. Answer their questions and explain why you will or won’t take their advice. Say thank you for the compliment on the character or situation and perhaps even explain how that came about. Just as much as you like comments on your work, a readAAR will appreciate that you took the time out to recognize them.

    And finally, the fifth area to think about is simply – write for yourself. I realize it is somewhat strange to have just written on ways to catch and keep readAARs, but it will never be a sure thing. You will always have moments where it is unsatisfying to work on your AAR if you are getting little response. If that is what you are writing for, two comments will not be enough. You will see Joe Schmo getting five for each of his updates and wonder why he gets them and you do not.

    If you write simply for your own enjoyment, it will not matter how many responses you get. And by sticking with it, people will recognize your resolve and begin to take stock in the work you are creating. It can be a slow process, but a rewarding one once the comments begin to come in. Many readAARs will come back time and time again to a writAAR they know gives steady updates, finishes the AAR and keeps it interesting. If you follow some of the advice above, in time you will find that you are one of those writAARs that people return to read. And if you are unique in your approach, you will most certainly get those comments that we all crave. Now write on.

  17. #97
    Men are from Mars; women are from Venus by frogbeastegg

    A rambling discussion on being a female writer on a mostly male forum … or something

    You know how sometimes when someone asks you a question when you begin to answer it you realise that you have left the question entirely and are now talking about a slightly different subject? Sometimes this tangent is the answer; sometimes it is you being senile and boring your poor audience into a stupor. When a certain Amric said, “Y'know...I'd like to see another AARticle from Frogbeastegg or Sliver Legion on how writing and PLAYING the games might differ between women and men...From a female prospective.” I sat down and began writing busily in the spare hour I had. At the end of the hour I saw I had wandered off the point and written a kind of behind the scenes for my Crusader Kings story. I was not happy; the article got binned and delayed, to be reborn into something I hoped would be far better.

    Over the past two weeks I have tried off and on to answer Amric’s question, and each and every time a certain princess has appeared and hijacked things. Well, this is froggy waving the white flag – I have realised if I want to address the topic with any kind of detail I do have to provide examples, and that means I have to let Eleanor run rampant through this article as well as her story. So, I am going to indulge my tangent and I hope it is the answer, rather than me being senile. Please note that your tickets for this lecture are paid for on a non-refundable basis. Anyone heckling or behaving in a disruptive manner will be dealt with by Theobald here :gestures at a huge, hulking man in plate armour with a big sword and an aura of lethal proficiency:

    With that out of the way let’s get going.

    The game half of Amric’s question is going to be neatly placed to one side on a lovely pine shelf along with a few china knickknacks, a couple of dusty books and a pen that just appeared one day with no warning. I suspect I play the games in the same way as everyone else, and if I don’t I have no idea how I differ. Bit of a shame that, since Amric had playing in big, important capital letters. I conquer a little of this, research a little of that, oppress a few thousand plebs, kill a bunch of nasty people, spend cash like crazy in an effort to get more cash, do some diplomacy in between crushing nations – you know, the usual.

    Now, to the writing. Admittedly this is the half that interests me the most; the games are a sideline hobby to writing as far as I am concerned.

    It is a general fact that most games forums are populated almost exclusively by males of assorted ages. Females on games forums are rare; ones who register to post frequently and admit to being female are rarer still. I post my story on two gaming forums, this one and, and the female populations of both make up a tiny proportion of the registered masses. My current story is getting on average roughly 100 views per part, spread across those two forums. I know of one (1) female reader, assuming she has transferred over from my old story, Blood Red Hand, to this new one. That assumption is quite a big one; I have no evidence that she has. There could be some more reading as lurkers, let’s be generous and assume three females do that. This gives 4 female readers to 96 male ones, very roughly speaking. I think it worth noting that both forums have older than average age groups, tending more towards the polite, mature viewpoint than the 1337 k1dd13z. I do know I have some teenage readers, but they ably meet the high standards set by the older patrons.

    There are quite a few areas to cover here, real problems, potential ones, little things that are worth consideration, and assorted bits and pieces I feel like stuffing in here somewhere. I admit I truly don’t know where to begin; some of the issues link into others and I could spend hours going around in circles like a boat with one oar and an enthusiastic rower.

    I did ponder wasting a paragraph or two explaining what my story, ‘The Machiavellian Adventures of Princes Eleanor’, is all about but I decided against it. It would waste space on something you don’t really need to know, and I am trying to keep this from turning into some specialised Eleanor essay. Everything you need to know will be included as I go along. Also :blushes and shuffles feet: well, the story sounds really crap when summed up as a synopsis. To limit confusion I shall note that Eleanor refers to the character, ‘Eleanor’ refers to the story as a whole. Fulk is her … collaborator, I suppose. The lead male character, but in firm second place to Eleanor.

    Instead let us start with the issue of the protagonist. We have had some excellent articles on the importance of the protagonist recently, and I think we all know how vital it is to have a protagonist your readers can identify with. While it is very possible to read and enjoy a story with a protagonist of the opposite sex it is often slightly easier to identify with a same sex protagonist. The main reason for this is all to do with understanding how the character works. Any half decent author will be able to make readers understand things like personality, thoughts, decisions, but I think it is fair to say that men never understand exactly how women work, and vice versa. If we did we would never have those nice arguments about playing with model trains (only acceptable if you are 10 years old or younger!!)

    In my time on these forums I have tried to read as many AARs as possible, and I estimate I have looked at something in the region of 20-40 different AAR topics in the CK, Vicky, and EU2 related forums. I recall seeing maybe two stories with female protagonists, and one was a comedy utilising the bubbly airhead stereotype to great effect. This really does not surprise me; as I said it’s easier to follow a same sex protagonist and the vast majority of people here are male. Also during these time periods most rulers and leaders were men. It did make me pause and wonder if I might be making a mistake when I started posting ‘Eleanor’, a story which focuses intently and often seriously on a female protagonist.

    Due to my tastes in fictional reading matter (historical fiction of any variety set between the Roman Republic and the end of the English Tudor period, a smattering of serious fantasy with minimal magic and no elves) I am used to reading books with male protagonists. Generally I have not had any real problems with this, but there have been many occasions where I have been stunned or left lost by something the protagonist has said or done. It’s the old “:blink, blink: Do men really think like that!?” thing. I imagine the same thing happens to men reading female protagonists. It is usually a small hiccough on the grand scheme of things, and easily forgotten after a few more pages have been read.

    The problem with having Eleanor as a protagonist is partly related to the identification issue I just lightly discussed, and partly to another issue which is intimately related to identification. I call it ‘jarring’. It appears very similar to my point about the reader pausing and thinking “Do men/women really think like that!?” but there is a slight, vital difference. Jarring causes you to lose identification and often sympathy for the protagonist; it throws you out of the story and it is often very hard to get back into it. This can happen with any protagonist doing something you really dislike, but jarring is special; it only happens with opposite sex protagonists.

    Let me give you a small example of a recent case of jarring I encountered in a published book; this is a classic case of the phenomenon. The book is ‘The Sunne in Splendour’ by Sharon Penman; I have read her other books and she is generally responsible for an enjoyable read. It is the story of Richard III of England, and the jarring occurred about half way through the 900 page book. Until this point Richard had been a very good protagonist; he was likeable, understandable, easy to relate to, and I had no problems sympathising with him. Then he makes this offhand comment to the supposed love of his life, Anne Neville, about sleeping with other women so he could be patient (she’s traumatised after a bad marriage) with her. Screeching halt; what!? He is sleeping with some whore because Anne is too frightened to sleep with him?!

    Yes, well I doubt many people would find that admirable, and it lost Richard my sympathy completely, but the jarring occurs here because I am asking myself “Do men really work like that or is he just a rat posing as a decent character? I doubt any decent man would, but until now he has been portrayed a good, moral, upstanding man. What is going on here?!” Now, if I was male I would know most men are like, and I would be able to immediately classify Richard as a rat/stud/botched character and move on. Because I am female I was left wondering (let’s face it, it’s impossible to be certain what is going on inside any skull except your own); you have to understand the behaviour before you can categorise it correctly. In the end I had to ask a man to confirm if my guess at whether men really do work like that was reasonable or not; humiliating and you shouldn’t need to go outside of the story to keep that reader/protagonist empathy going. If Richard had been female I would simply have been able to say, “What a slut! How utterly despicable and sad!” and move on. I do find my interest in the book has now waned dramatically; I might not even be able to finish it. A 900 page book ruined for me by less than half a page.

    I cheerfully admit I have absolutely no idea what, if anything, would have a similar effect on a male reader following a female protagonist. I do know if I manage to jar my audience I am going to lose most of them in one go.

    Enough about the protagonist already – I’m near the end of page 3!

    I am sure anyone who has written serious, believable characters of the opposite sex has at some point wondered, even briefly, if they are getting them right. As I said earlier men and women do have certain differences which you have to take into account when writing them if you want a believable character. On a large scale we have different attitudes towards some subjects, different ways of handling things and so on. On a small scale there are mannerisms that are strongly associated with certain sexes. If Fulk drinks a flagon of ale and belches he is being male, rude and uncouth yes, but male. If Eleanor does the same thing everyone will stare and be thoroughly disgusted. Similarly if Eleanor is worrying about a broken nail she is being female; if Fulk does the same thing he is a pansy. Stray from the obvious, clichéd examples like those to something more subtle and it is usually only same sex readers who spot the gaffs.

    Remember my audience split? Well, that means if I make a mistake, even a minor one, in my male characters then most of my readership will spot it easily. Male writers have the luxury of having only a few female readers here to spot their gaffs. Heh, sadly for me my entire cast aside from Eleanor and the odd walk on part is male.

    Where next? Hmmm :thinks: How about a brief bit on violence? As a rule most people do not like to see violence against women, although I have observed a certain trend to almost revel in it to a sadistic degree if the character is deemed to ‘deserve’ it. Characters who supposedly deserve it are usually classed as bitches, I am sure you can supply the kind of traits that usually accompany such a tag and save me a few sentences listing them. I have noticed a slight trend for men to be more bothered by this kind of violence than women, assuming that the character does not deserve it. The old protective instinct, I guess. Have a male character get slapped in the face and most people won’t bat an eyelid; do the same to a non-bitchy female one and watch the collective wincing. So, here I am with my mostly male readership and my female protagonist who is already causing potential trouble. What do I do? Yes, you guessed it; poor Eleanor gets knocked around rather a lot during the course of the story, solely for plot purposes, I hasten to add. Notice the way I seem to be piling woe after woe on myself here? I didn’t, not until I came to write this.

    Right, enough about this kind of violence before I start on about my thoughts on how to use it, how not to use it etc. That’s a separate article in itself and I’m already half way through page 4 of this one.

    Er, what do I have left to cover? Loads, and I suspect I am forgetting half of it. Er, next up … male plot, female plot? Erm, ok.

    You have all heard of a chick flick? A film that appeals mostly to women and bores men silly. There is a reverse of this but it has no snappy name that I am aware of. The same applies to stories. Since I have a mostly male audience my story has to appeal to them. I can honestly say I completely ignored the famous guidelines on what men want to read about, and it seems to be working. Men want action; they do not want romance – so sayth general wisdom. Please explain, then, why I have a bunch of soppy readers (and I mean that in the best possible way) all hoping Fulk and Eleanor get together? Please also explain why they are still reading even though action of the big battles and bloody deaths variety is totally absent. I simply wrote a story I like, and even though some of the fundamental plot points fall very distinctly into the ‘men hate it’ category of general wisdom it has worked very well. It has been suggested, by coz1 I think, that because I do not like mushy romance myself my own written mush turns out very subtle. I am not a chick flick aficionado; this froggy would rather watch ‘A Knight’s Tale’ over ‘Bridget Jones’ Diary’ any day, and I fast-forward the mushy bits. Actually I would rather go without food for several days than watch ‘ Bridget Jones’. Hehe, it never ceases to amuse me that my readers are far more interested in the Fulk/Eleanor romance than I am.

    Still on the subject of romance how many books have you read where two men are in love with the same female? This is especially common when the female is the protagonist. One man is good, kind, handsome in a sandy haired kind of way, wonderful, marvellous – when he sneezes butterflies come out of his nose and he has a permanent halo. The other is nasty, cunning, and handsome in a dark, dangerous kind of way; he probably has a tail and tortures kittens. One is Mr. Right and one is Mr. Wrong, but for some reason the silly air headed protagonist can’t see this and dithers over which one to pick. Meanwhile both men are fighting, one in a noble kind of way, the other with plenty of eye gouging. Hands up everyone who hates this. I certainly do. This is a very common chick flick kind of trick; women supposedly love it but generally men (and me) tend to roll their eyes and hope she ends up with Mr. Wrong and lives in misery for the rest of her air headed existence. So we agree this is the kind of thing that sensible people will not write on these forums? Clever froggy has Fulk obviously in love with Eleanor, and Trempwick (her spymaster mentor) hinting that he might have a thing for her too. More than that I cannot say without ruining the yet to be revealed plot, but I do have to wonder why I a) have a talent for writing things I don’t like, and b) tend to write things that really should sink like a rock here. Yes, well that’s another thing which should spell fiery death for my story but so far it has worked well enough; the only wincing has come from me.

    Bah! You know a second spin off article is threatening? One on my thoughts about how to write female characters who aren’t Xena: Warrior Princess, or Flora: Terrified Damsel. Great.

    I think I shall wrap up here; I’m two thirds of the way down page 5 and while I have plenty left to say much of it is better suited to either of those other two potential articles, especially the Xena/Flora one. I hope this didn’t prove to painful to read, even though it is rather crudely put together.

    PS: I think this proves that when writing it is far better to do what you want, instead of following the established wisdom on what people want to read.

  18. #98
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    The How and Why of the Crossbow (Director)

    'deathly and hateful to God and unfit to be used among Christians’

    Why the crossbow? Isn’t a plain, ordinary bow-and-arrow set good enough? Why add complicated mechanisms to an already useful weapon? These are the questions that Amric’s article posed for me, so I decided to do some research (Google is your friend). The results were not really what I had expected, so I thought I’d share them with you.

    The crossbow is, if not as old as the bow, at least as old as the Roman Empire – they used arbalests as well as crossbows - and while the crossbow has been greatly improved since then, its basic form hasn’t changed all that much. Let’s look at the basic parts of a crossbow, but let me caution you that there seem to be many names for each of these parts and I’m not going to try to list them all.

    First is the bow itself, or lath, which is carried horizontally rather than vertically as with a standard bow or longbow. This is attached to a stock that looks like a firearm stock for the good reason that this is what a gunstock is patterned after. The bow has a string and there is typically a pulling mechanism (more on this later) with a latch and a release or trigger.

    Crossbow ammunition can vary, but usually they fire either short arrows (called bolts) or a ball of stone, iron or lead. At least one source said that crossbow bolts were easier to fletch (attach feathers or guide fins to the tail) because they didn’t have to provide lift in flight as with an arrow.

    In any event, bolts are much shorter than arrows because of the structure of the weapon. Even with a plain bow, the length of draw can exceed several feet, so an arrow can be that long too. Some longbow arrows were ‘clothyard’, i.e. three feet or more in length. Whether or not longer arrows are more aerodynamically stable and fly straighter, it is true that you cannot successfully fire a short arrow from a bow with a long pull and the same goes for a long arrow and a bow with a short pull like a crossbow.

    A strike against crossbow accuracy is that bolts (looking at the back end) have fins in a _|_ (3 fins) or –o- (2 fins) pattern instead of the arrow’s upside-down-Y shape. Why? Because the bolt sits on top of the stock, so the fins have to be flat or parallel to that surface. Because of the difference in size and fletching, you could tell the difference between a crossbow bolt and an arrow at a glance.

    Stonebows or bullet bows, which fire ball ammunition, have a pouch for the spherical missile and frequently have two strings rather than one.

    Early bows and crossbows were ‘simple’, which means they were made of a single piece of wood. Compound bows – made of several different materials and strongly laminated – came later for both, but only the crossbow went on to use steel. As more range and power were needed, crossbows became harder to cock. First a simple lever and then a windlass or crank were used, but the more powerful the bow became the longer it took to cock it. The more powerful the bow, the stronger the armor a knight had to wear, but as armor improved, so did bows… and as the steel-plate-clad knight and horse moved slower and slower, so the more powerful crossbows took longer and longer to reload. It was a vicious circle, unsolved until gunpowder came along.

    So, why take a beautifully simple piece of equipment – a bow (especially a recurved one) is an elegant sweeping shape – and add an ugly stock, a windlass and some thick, graceless arrows? The penalty of added weight alone is enough to give you pause. Well, the ancients were not as technological as we, but they weren’t stupid, either. They knew how to make good use of the materials they had, and the crossbow proves it. The crossbow is a perfect example of how form is determined by function.

    An archer who uses a standard bow or longbow goes through the following motions: the arrow is nocked (put to the string), the left hand and arm brace the bow while the right hand and arm pull the string back, and the fingers of the right hand release the string (and the arrow). It takes a strong right arm to pull a bow of any power and a strong and steady left arm to stabilize the bow so the arrow flies to the target. What the crossbow does is to substitute mechanical advantage for human strength at each step.

    A medieval crossbowman used either a lever (a gaffle or goatsfoot) or a crank windlass to pull back the string, a latch to hold the string when pulled, and the stock to brace and steady the weapon against his arm or shoulder. This gave two advantages - first, a crossbow can be kept cocked indefinitely, unlike the poor archer who must hold his pull with muscle power until allowed to release. Second, the weapon can be solidly braced and aimed as easily as a modern rifle; a standard bow requires that the left arm does not move under the strain of the draw.

    To get density of fire it is desirable to pack bowmen into a short frontage. This can be done with a bow or longbow that is carried vertically, assuming you leave enough room on one side for the archer’s elbow as he pulls. The crossbow, being horizontal, could not be wide across so it was made short and thick to allow crossbowmen to stand side by side.

    Why didn’t they make a mechanically-assisted bow that was vertical? That would have made for a complicated stock and arrow-holding mechanism, or weakened the bow by putting a firing hole in the center. There was no advantage to either.

    The short, thick crossbow cannot be pulled as easily as a tall bow of equal power – the leverage is against the shorter bow – so mechanical assistance is needed. Three plusses result from this: the crossbow can be kept cocked, and since a mechanism is needed to cock the bow anyway, you can go ahead and develop a bow of immense power. Power translates directly into range and ability to pierce armor – even steel plate. Two disadvantages also attend: the crossbow cannot be unstrung in bad weather as a bow easily can, and the use of mechanical assistance for pulling makes for a long, slow reloading process.

    Thus, the design of a crossbow results from adding the mechanical advantages of lever, stock and trigger to a bow, and the distinctive crossbow shape is formed by the requirement of using it in massed ranks.

    1) The crossbow can be kept cocked for hours with no trouble
    2) Everything is mechanical – there is no strain on a crossbowman’s arms so aiming is relatively easy
    3) Mechanical cocking means immensely powerful bows can be made; even steel can be used. Power equals range and penetration. A modern crossbow has been marked at 490 yards (!). Crossbows of the 16th century could puncture steel plate armor at close range.
    4) A crossbow is less physically demanding than a longbow and requires less training time to shoot accurately.
    5) In the hands of a skilled shooter, a crossbow is deadly accurate.

    1) Reloading is slow if the weapon is powerful. A skilled archer could get off six or eight shots to a crossbowman’s one. That’s why Genoese crossbowmen ducked behind shields to reload.
    2) Crossbows are expensive and require skilled artisans to make. This explains how a wealthy city-state like Genoa could make crossbows in large numbers while other states could not or did not.
    3) A crossbow can’t be unstrung without special equipment; a bow can. In or immediately after a rainfall, crossbows are ineffective because wet strings stretch. Standard or longbow strings can be (and were) stuffed under hats to keep them dry.

    Conclusion: crossbows compared favorably with longbows for range and power, which means both greatly out-ranged and out-powered standard bows. Crossbows were probably the superior weapon for accuracy and required relatively little physical muscle or training time. Both longbows and standard bows had a more rapid rate of fire, at least for a short surge. Crossbows were expensive and complicated to make; longbowmen were scarce in number and required years of practice.

    Crossbows were also used at sea, and some siege weapons like an arbalest are little more than an oversized crossbow. The critical factor in constructing large crossbows was the breaking strain of the materials that were available. Large pieces of wood can only be pushed so far, even with laminates, iron strapping or other enhancements. Bronze is useless because it bends readily; wrought iron bends and cast iron is too brittle. Of the metals available at the time only steel could take the stress without bending or breaking. Unfortunately, the metallurgy of the day could only make good steel in very small quantities – think pounds rather than tons – and a crossbow of any very large size would have required a literal fortune in steel if it could have been made at all.

    Crossbows were also available as pistol-like hand-weapons (more as a novelty than a practical weapon) and were sometimes used for booby-traps. One interesting development was the Chinese chu-ko-nu, which was a magazine-fed repeating-action crossbow that gained a rapid rate of fire at the expense of some range and power.

    In the end, the improving metallurgy that made possible the hand-held crossbow with a steel bow also allowed the development of the arquebus and musket. The longbow and crossbow were a fully-developed technology, not capable of much improvement because of their reliance on human muscle-power; this was not the case with firearms. Trained crossbowmen were readily able to master the complicated loading and firing of a gunpowder weapon. The stock, trigger and firing position were familiar to anyone accustomed to a crossbow, so there was no conceptual gap. Crossbowmen easily adapted to the new firearms, and so the crossbow passed into history.

  19. #99
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    Dirty Little Secrets (Secret Master)

    The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the… Nah, just write the story!

    Alright, so I got your attention with a little non-existent article on cheating. Well, after giving the whole thing some thought, and after some heart wrenching moments while writing my own AAR, it occurs to me that there is something else that needs to be discussed.

    What happens when something ridiculous, absurd, or really, really boring, happens in your game. Do you try and wedge the bit into your story, even if it will be more out of place than R2-D2 in The Phantom Menace? (That’s always bothered me, by the way. Glad I got that off my chest.) Do you just gloss over it and hope no one notices? Or do you just plain lie about it?

    This is a tough question. It’s also of paramount importance, because there may be something you don’t know. Yes, this is a truly dirty little secret, worthy of my column’s title. Guess what? We’re not the only folks writing who have had to worry about this. Who else has? No writers of any real importance, except for John Milton, D.H. Lawrence, Joseph Conrad, Charles Dickens, and that no-name, two bit hack Shakespeare*.

    All of these folks, and quite a few besides, have had to wrestle with accuracy versus good storytelling. Shakespeare’s history plays constantly had to contend with actual historical facts versus his need to have scenes with certain characters (causing him to have people born decades earlier or later!). Milton knew his Bible cover to cover, in more than one language, but when writing Paradise Lost and Paradise Regained, he had to worry about getting details right versus making the story interesting (if you don’t believe me, read Raphael’s description of the war in Heaven or Eve’s temptation by Satan). Conrad wrote more than one novella about ships and sailors and Africa and Southeast Asia, but thanks to an illness, his own journeys in these areas were short and fruitless (he made up a lot of details that he could never have known first hand). Dickens did a wonderful job writing A Tale of Two Cities, but he glosses over all kinds of important historical details about the French Revolution. D.H. Lawrence was accused of misrepresenting the women in his novel Sons and Lovers because they were based on real people he knew and cared for.

    So, the problem we face is not a new one, nor is it ever going to go away. The question, then, is what are our options when something happens in the game that would wreck the story we are writing? Well, let’s list the possibilities and see what we come up with.

    1) Force it to fit: This option has the same appeal as putting 300lb men into spandex and having them wrestle; it’s possible, but there is a good chance it won’t be pretty. Just like my analogy suggests, forcing something out of whack to fit into your story is like professional wrestling. (For those who think this is an odd analogy, remember that wrestling is a multi-billion dollar industry in the U.S., meaning that even if it is silly, it must have some sort of appeal.) If you do it, it has to be done with style, finesse, and a little bit of creativity. Let me give an example: you’ve set up a wonderful plot involving the named leader of your army and his affair with the queen. Then, he dies in his first battle with the Austrians. Now what do you do? Well, you could just turn the plot into a tragedy with the queen suddenly unhappy and contemplating suicide. Or, you could have it be revealed that the king pulled the “King David” maneuver and arranged to have the lover killed in the battle. In this case, you can take the whacky game element and use it to twist your plot. This is, however, the most difficult road to take. And it has the greatest chance of failure.

    2) Gloss over it: This is a great option if the story wrecking event is of low importance. You just pretend it didn’t happen and move on with your life. The advantage of this is that it requires no mental gymnastics. Omission is a wonderful tool, even beyond getting around accuracy issues, but it can solve all kinds of problems. However, it is worth mentioning that there are limits to omission. It is primarily useful for events that have no further consequences beyond what you are omitting. Random events in EU2 and CK are prime examples of this sort of thing. If heresy happens in a province, but you don’t want to wreck your story about the faithful peasants, just ignore it. However, if you unexpectedly turbo-annex the entire HRE, you simply can’t just gloss over that event. Someone will notice, even without screenshots. (The sudden absence of entire duchies in either CK or EU2 is hard to cover up.) This option is probably the most common one used around here.

    3) Lie about it: When everything else fails, make up something completely bogus. This is most often useful when the game-wrecking event is so far out and so destructive that you actually can’t just omit it. Going back to my HRE example, if you accidentally turbo-annex the whole damn thing, time to start lying. Don’t say you turbo-annexed it, say that you conquered the HRE in a war that took fifteen years. That’s a load of, well, something, but it may fit your story better than a sudden collapse of your enemy when you forgot he had a revolt in a province.

    The problem with lying is that once you lie about this event, you have to start lying about a bunch of other things. This is the main reason why I would suggest forcing the event to fit the story first. Otherwise, you may be in La-La Land without a connection to the game that spawned the story in the first place. Not that this stopped Shakespeare. He is well known for making up things that didn’t happen or having people fighting in battles when they should have been dead or not born yet. But they are still some damn fine stories, even if they aren’t good history.

    In closing, it’s worth mentioning that getting the flavor of a time period is very important, as Amric has dutifully noted in his articles. Often, the reason these game events are story wrecking is precisely because they are jarring for the period. (My regiment of 2000 drilled pikemen were stomped by a whopping 500 light cavalry? What the …?) When this happens, unless there is a future event you want to connect to, lying is the best alternative. There is no disgrace in making up stuff so that your victories and defeats make more sense.

    The X-Files might argue that “The truth is out there”, but I say let the story take precedence over the truth.

    Just remember, you didn’t hear it from me. This article doesn’t exist, and neither do I.

    *There are probably other worthless writers that would go along with these wastrels in having to worry about accuracy versus storytelling, but I'm too lazy to bother naming them.

  20. #100
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    The General Idea (coz1)

    The Opportunity Is There

    I have to admit that this past week has been so very busy that not much has come out in terms of writing, either in my AAR or for an AARticle here. But I have been musing some possibilities. It's not always an easy thing to come up with a new topic every two weeks that will be both entertaining and perhaps educational as well.

    As I began thinking of topics for this weeks issue, I began pondering the forum itself these days. I started thinking about how proud I was of this gazette and how we have been able to keep it going as long as we have. It's never an easy thing to keep a special project on it's legs and all of the participants should give themselves a pat on the back for providing material and keeping it up and running. So too should the readAARs for without you, there would be little reason to keep at it.

    As I've mentioned many times, there is always room for more columnists. You all realize that you too could be one of the gazette staff, don't you? The opportunity is always open and we would love to have your voice included. I wonder if some people might be shy about offering up an AARticle idea, or perhaps think that they might not have anything worthy to say. Well, if that is your feeling then put it out of your mind. You most likely have just as much thought on the workings of AARland or writing and reading AARs than any of the rest of us. Never let that stop you from coming to us with an idea.

    And that really goes for AARland as a whole. You will notice that from time to time, a special project falls dormant. It's not dead, it's resting. There just isn't anyone with the time to run it. You could be that person that picks it up if you liked the idea and think it was helpful to the community. There is no need to wait for instruction, but rather take the bull by the horns and restart it yourself.

    Or if you have another idea, check around the main area for a while and see what has and has not been tried. We are always on the lookout for something new or interesting. These projects are a wonderful way to bring us together as a community, bridging the divide that five different games naturally provides. If you think it would be fun or educational to the group, then please don't hesitate to get it started. If there is a problem with it, I am sure one of our trusty moderators will stop by and let you know.

    Point is, being new or perhaps not one of the better known membAARs is sometimes daunting. What better way to get to know everyone else and perhaps even give back to the forum than by starting a new project or restarting an old one? I know Guess the Author has been silent lately. And if you scroll down the main page, you might see some others that are likewise missing a captain, if you will. If you liked it, then don't hesitate to pick up that mantle.

    I hope no one thinks I'm preaching here, because it is surely not my intention. I just recall rejoining the forum at the beginning of this year and one of the ways that I have come to know most of the folks I know is by not only getting around and reading their work, but by starting projects such as the birthday thread, the Vickie WoW that has now turned into a wonderful group project for the whole of AARland and by joining with Amric and Alexandru to bring you this gazette.

    I have had great fun working with all the different people that inhabit this place and know that you can and will too. I also know that not everyone stays around forever. There are a good many people that I became good friends with that have since moved on. It's a natural move, to be sure, but saddens my nonetheless. But one of the great things about AARland has been how new blood moves in to replace the old. When someone is working on a special project and then real life takes over for them, many have easily passed into new hands and worked just as well if not better than before. You could be that new blood and I can assure you that it will be both gratifying to you and enjoyed by the rest of us.

    In the past, most special projects were started because people had a great idea (or thought they did) and the group flocked to it and joined in. Some lasted longer than others, but I cannot think of a single one that was ignored completely or bad for the group. One of the things I love about this place is the great spirit of comraderie we have with one another and I cannot help but think it comes not just from reading and writing our work, but by the interaction that comes in the Central bAAR, the SolAARium, the happy birthday messages, this gazette and any of the other special projects we have now or have had in the past. If you see that too and wish to lend a hand or a voice, then please do not let anything stop you from doing so. We will appreciate it and you will enjoy it, that I assure you. The opportunity is there, and all you need do is step forward.

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