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Thread: The AARland Gazette

  1. #21
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    Free Company Interview Series


    The_Hawk








    I’ve been sitting here in the FC Tavern, waiting on another of the Powers That Be to interview him. Ah, here he is! Hello The_Hawk! Have a beer. Glad you are able to do this interview with me. Let’s get started, shall we?


    1. When did you first join the Free Company?

    Book III, about 100 posts in (it's hard to believe that was almost two years ago!). I'd only been around for about a month when Lord Durham announced the next installment in the Free Company saga. It looked like it might be fun, so I approached him with an idea for a grizzled pirate-turned-legitimate-sailor that would become Jonasz 'the Cyprian' Piediwicz. Though I've never hit the point where I'm posting virtually every day (at least, not for very long), I think I've been fairly active ever since.

    2. What did you think when LD asked you to be one of the Powers That Be?

    I'm not sure he ever asked. As you might know, we lost a lot of major contributors towards the beginning of Book V. LD had already tapped me to write one of the historical characters, so I volunteered to pick up some of the slack... before I knew it, I was writing half a dozen major plot characters, and couldn't really avoid being involved in the planning. Why LD kept me on I still don't understand, though.

    3. I've asked the others, now I'm asking you. What do you think is the most dramatic storyline in the current book?

    We've got some excellent subplots going, but I have to say I'm most looking forward to seeing the main Siege of Belgrade storyline play out. It's hard to predict, of course, but I think it could contend with the Siege of Constantinople in Book IV in terms of quality writing.

    4. Again, just like the others, did you ever think the FC would go to a sixth book?

    Well, I know after Book III fizzled out, there was a lot of doubt about continuing. Though we finished off Book V, there was some question there, too, when it looked like we only had a handful of authors left. On the other hand, after Book IV, which came off swimmingly, everyone was eager to keep going. Me, I've always envisioned an FC which is like the Dread Pirate Roberts -- different people may fill the shoes, but the story and the mystique remain. So, I could see the FC going on forever. I've already got plot ideas through Book X. But we'll have to see... LD's retirement may have thrown a monkey-wrench into those plans.

    5. Each book there is a host of new writers who join briefly, and then fade away quickly. What do you think causes this phenomenon?

    That's a great question, and I wish I had a great answer for it. I think part of it stems from what people think AARs should be; most readers, I imagine, like a paced AAR which they can follow over time. It's tough to keep up with ten or twenty posts a day, and we usually get that many in the first hour or two after we start a new Book. It can be intimidating, to be sure -- but things usually settle down after a week or two, people figure out what subplots they'd like their characters to pursue, and things start progressing at a more measured pace.

    6. What characters are you writing for primarily? And which characters did you personally create?

    Ah, it's quite a laundry list. My main character is Maria de Medici, who's essentially the Free Company admiral. She's mine, as are my grunts -- Carl,
    Alexander and George. They weren't supposed to be much more than foils to
    begin with, but they've been getting personalities as time goes on. Then we
    have Janos Hunyadi, the Hungarian general, who is historical. I've also been writing for Venerio lo Grato, AKA Akbar, AKA Fallen Angel, one of the Book's chief villains. I inherited him from HolisticGod in Book V, and I've been having a lot of fun with him this time around.

    7. Another one of those I've asked the others; Which people do you feel you interact with in character the best in the FC?

    Hmm, that's a tough one. My characters always got on well with those of stnylan, and we had some good subplots planned out -- he's headed for more
    Victorian pastures, though, I gather. Of the authors that are still around, I'd say Valdemar. After three Books as lovers, his Frederik and my Maria had better be interacting well. Those are challenging posts to write, though -- it departs so significantly from the usual battles-or-machinations I'm used to writing about.

    8. As one of the PTB, just how active are you in the decision making process of what is going on and what will be going on, et al?

    I would say "fairly". Behind-the-scenes plotting is one thing I really enjoy; people who've received my rambling, several-page emails full of plot ideas can attest to this. Ultimately, though, final decisions have been reserved for LD -- he's decided what will work and what won't.

    9. What kinds of things go on behind the scenes that the readers, and even the writers, aren't aware of?

    Well, it probably won't come as a surprise that we spend plenty of time before the Book even gets underway sketching out a basic plot for it. As
    the Book progresses, we add more flesh to it through discussion and research. There's plenty of the latter -- I've heard stories about the binders upon binders of material MrT used to keep on hand. (We're actually still using the basic overarching plot T sketched back at the beginning of Book V, though with a variety of changes.) What may be more surprising is that we get pretty specific at times; both in Books V and VI, by about the halfway point, we were getting down to the minutiae about the Book's conclusion. It's not blow-by-blow, but it's close.

    10. What is your favorite character you most enjoy writing for?

    With my current batch, I get a lot of enjoyment from all of my characters. It's particularly poignant with Hunyadi and Akbar -- one's a honorable hero, the other a despicable, and ultimately cowardly, villain. Maria's fun because I've had her for so long -- characters with deep histories are always exciting to watch grow and interact. My favorite character of all time, though, would have to be Filippo Maria Visconti, from Book V, though. That's one where I felt my research really paid off. He was totally insane, of course, so he had all of these historical quirks... I derived immense joy from working them into his FC appearances.

    11. I know you have some 'grunts' that you write for, such as George, Alexander, and Carl that my character has turned into 'corporals', along with others. How do you feel about that, since you originally intended them to stay as 'grunts'? And do you think overall it was a good idea to promote some of the grunts?

    Well, it's good and it's bad. On the one hand, I was hoping to keep them in the background, as characters I could break out when nothing else was going
    on.... they were originally intended as foils to Patrick O'Barr, who I killed off at the end of Book V, and I was considering having them fade into the background in Book VI, since I was fully expecting to have a slew of other characters to write for. On the other hand, it plays into an old trend whereby the authors inevitably wind up writing for sergeants or lieutenants -- and such a trend makes it a lot easier for characters to interact on a variety of levels. So essentially being forced to keep them around has given them more fleshed-out personalities. Besides, I like their new role as the unwilling corporals.

    12. Having a raft of characters doing different things, do you find it difficult to write for them since they ARE doing such different things?

    No, I don't think that, specifically, has ever given me trouble. It can be refreshing, in fact, to jump from character to character and plot to plot --
    even if they're involved in the same event, you can give different characters a fresh perspective. I often wish I had more time to devote to individual characters, though.

    13. Of the 'regular' writers, which ones do you do you think have really worked hard to contribute and enhance the FC experience?

    Well, LD's ability to get people involved is legendary. But this Book in particular, I really have to call you out, Amric, along with redwolf and Valdemar -- you guys have made a heroic effort to keep things afloat when we hit a slow patch. Without your work, the Book likely would've ground to a
    halt by now... and your level of involvement is particularly amazing, since you and RW both have only been with us since Book V!

    14. Do you think of the Free Company as a community of sorts?

    Well, the FC's always struck me as a community within the larger AAR forum
    community. There are few projects on these boards where you get to work
    quite so closely with other writers in crafting and executing a story. There are folks who come around to these forums chiefly for the FC (myself included). So inevitably it lends itself to a close-knit atmosphere. Folks who haven't given it a shot don't know what they're missing... and contrary to popular belief, they don't need to read six books to jump in. (Yes, that's a shameless plug.

    15. What do you think makes the FC so successful for so long?

    I think there are a lot of factors that play into it... a well-crafted story, excellent authors, great interaction. And, perhaps most importantly, incredible writing. There are some posts I can think of which easily exceed the vast majority of commercial fiction... and possibly even a lot of real classics of sci-fi and fantasy. Taken as a whole, the Books are easily as good or better than most things on bookshelves today (if longer, and not necessarily always as clean.)

    16. If you had to do it all over again, knowing what you know now, would you do it?

    Absolutely... though perhaps a little differently. If I had my druthers, I would've kept more people around for Books III, V and VI... but of course, that requires a level of power I can't lay claim to. For my own part, I think I'd try to post more frequently. But really, the FC's been a great experience for me. It's even boosted my ego enough that I occasionally consider forgetting all this lawyer stuff and becoming an author. It'd probably be more fun.

    17. And finally, who is The_Hawk<and don't even think of the old saw of legal eagle for lawyer and that is why you chose it!>

    I wish I was so subtle. No, my last name's Hawk, so my moniker isn't a real surprise. Who am I? Well, the short version... soon-to-graduate law student, editor-in-chief of the Florida Journal of International Law, aspiring author, and avid game player. Doesn't leave much time for things like "food" or "sleep", of course.
    Last edited by Valdemar; 11-04-2004 at 21:19.

  2. #22
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

    A Forum If We Can Keep It



    At the close of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia on September 18, 1787, a Mrs. Powel anxiously awaited the results, and as Benjamin Franklin emerged from the long task now finished, asked him directly: "Well Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?" "A republic if you can keep it" responded Franklin.

    - taken from various sources



    Why have we all come here? Why have we all decided to congregate in the Paradox AAR forum? Some might say we do not have lives of our own. Some might say that we are failed writAARs that instead ply our craft among other likeminded failures. Some might say we utilize the non-personal atmosphere that is the Internet to be friendly because we are anti-social and lack that in our lives.

    I cannot say this is true or untrue, nor could I make judgment on any other reason we might choose to come here and make ourselves part of this community. I should think the reasons are a bit more positive than that, but regardless; the fact is we do. Most of us started as simple gamers that found a unique aspect within the Paradox paradigm. It allowed us to create a story around the games we enjoyed playing so much. As well, most of us must have some affinity for writing; otherwise we would not spend so much time attempting to create the tales that we do. Some of us perhaps simply enjoy reading finely crafted adventures, be it of King or country, soldier or peasant.

    Regardless, we choose to utilize our time within this forum. Many of us have children, most of us have jobs or school, and we certainly all have lives that demand attention outside of this little world. Yet we return again and again, to read, write and attempt to be forum membAARs.

    Yet how easy is it to leave? I know I have done it. Have you? It takes nothing more than simply not logging on. Even though it may be difficult to deprive yourself of the AAR for a period of time, we have all taken a “vacation” or left without a trace for a number of months if not completely. Most of us can do so with ease; after all, this is only an Internet community. How can anyone track you down, or give you grief for not returning?

    It is the nature of the Internet that allows for such impersonal relationships to flourish. And when we have them, we rejoice because we feel a kindred spirit, and when we do not, it is as easy as ignoring or avoiding whomever we choose without ever having to look another person in the eye.

    Yet what has been created here at the Paradox AAR forum is unique, at least in my experience. Unlike other online forums, and specifically within this very one, our membAARs have a respect for one another and tend to hold each person in high regard. We see a name that appears with frequency and come to admire them. We see a writAAR that creates such incredible material and we put them on a pedestal and say, “Now that fella knows what he is talking about.” But do they? Do these individuals deserve our respect and admiration?

    I would like to say yes, but it becomes increasingly hard when one sees the selfishness than can take place. So many times a writAAR only comes on board to get personal feedback without giving as good as they may get. So many times, a long-standing membAAR feels that they have paid their dues and no longer needs to provide the feedback that is so necessary for forum health. So many times, a leader gives up because they do not see their vision come to fruition, rather than try harder. In the end, it is easier to simply walk away rather than give back to this community what most of you have been able to take from it.

    I speak of all membAARs. Not just newcomers, but lurkAARs all the way to the modAARators. Leadership by example and do unto others as you would have them do unto you should be our credos, yet many times, it is so much easier to say “I have better things to do.”

    I could look at each stage of membAARship at this point, and in fact, I would like to see an AARticle that discusses that very thing (and soon will), but suffice it to say, we are all part of this society. And with that membAARship card, comes a responsibility to uphold the principles that would make this community thrive as much as it is possible for it to do so.

    How many times have we seen an initiative begun and then waste away for lack of desire from one of the originators? How many times has someone come up with a great idea, but is unable to put forth the effort to create or sustain it? If we want this community to thrive, we must make it incumbent upon ourselves to see that it does. What is it that they say? “A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.”

    This should be paramount on everyone’s mind the moment they enter the virtual room. If you want a place to create your stories, then you must also take on the responsibility that is being a membAAR. Leaving without a trace is unacceptable. Working on an AAR for two weeks and then disappearing has created nothing. Saying you want cross-forum interaction and then sticking within one game is hypocrisy itself.

    It certainly requires effort, but then again, so does writing in general, and we would not be here if we did not find some fascination in that aspect. But this does not come free. There is a natural give and take in the world, and if you expect someone to look at your work and appreciate it, if you desire for an individual to take an interest in your endeavors, then so too must you do the same for them. If we want a forum that allows for such interaction, then we must be prepared to contribute!

    I am not suggesting that everyone become a leader. I am not saying that we do not already have several membAARs that take this responsibility very seriously. In fact, there are many that do. But the question to ask is, are you a weak link or a strong one? Do you speak about ideas and then follow up, or not? What are you really contributing to this forum?

    I do not wish to caste blame on any one person or make judgments simply to be critical, as I have surely been just as guilty as anyone else from time to time. What I wish is to make each and everyone of us think about what we contribute to the current state and future of this place that we have grown to love and enjoy so much.

    I, just as many others before me, have seen the immense potential that this area of the net allows us. I have met many great people here, and have been able to create wonderful stories and read countless more. But when I see ideas thrown about and then fall away from disinterest, I have to wonder – was the idea bad? Were the people running the initiative not serious? Or do people just not care?

    When I see a brilliant story crafted and then garner little interest, again, I ask myself – Is this not a good story in reality? Is the writer doing a poor job? Or do people just not care?

    When I see some branching out to the other game forums and it seems to not encourage others to do the same, I ask myself – Are the games bad? Are the stories unworthy of the other game’s readAARs? Or do people just not care?

    We are here to write, first and foremost. And we take pleasure in reading what others have written. But this, alone, is not enough. We all need to make the effort to ensure that this forum does not stagnate, that we remain fresh and innovative. That we take great pride in not only our own accomplishments, but those of others as well. Show people that you care. Show people that you look upon them as family. Can there be anything other to describe us?

    When you need to take a break, tell us. When you are unhappy with the way things are going, say so. When you have an idea, do it and follow through. When you read something, give them the kind of response that you would want. When you wish to see change, take action rather than just saying so.

    If we wish to keep this place for each of us as a thriving community, it is a duty that all of us must take upon ourselves. Do not simply come here and expect reaction. Come here and be a part of what we are doing. Come in this place and decide to be a membAAR! After all, this can only be a positive forum, worthy of our efforts, if we choose to keep it as such. Do we?

  3. #23
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    The Eye of the Hurricane (Amric)

    So You Want To Be A WritAAR



    But you’re scared. Okay, scared might be a little strong. How about intimidated? That sounds a bit better now, doesn’t it? Now why might I say that? You’ve been lurking for who knows how long? A few weeks? A few months? A year or more? You’ve sat in front of your computer screen and watched on the sidelines as a bunch of people churn out stories about the games they are playing.

    You think to yourself, I don’t know if I can do this! My answer to that is simple. Why NOT? You’ve seen great writers such as Judge. Or Nalivayko. Or Warspite, and let us not forget Stroph1! There are so many others as well. Perhaps you have perused the LibrAARy as well and checked out some of the older stories by such luminaries as Secret Master, Lord Durham, MrT, and others who have vanished from the forums.

    You think to yourself, I can’t possibly write that well! Let me tell you a little secret. None of us who are established, or very well established, started with a HUGE following and fantastic writing skills. Let me give you a piece of advice that Lord Durham has mentioned on numerous occasions. It is this….Here is a place for you to hone your writing skills. A place where you can be critiqued however you like and you have a ‘forum’ for others to read your story and give you feedback.

    For that is what the AAR forums are all about! We aren’t just writing for ourselves! We are writing, and hoping for feedback from our peers! Even established writers in the AAR EUII forum get a thrill when someone like Lord Durham, Prufrock451, or MrT stop by and make a comment about the story you are writing. Let me tell you, it certainly gives ME a thrill when one of the greats stops by and tells you that they are truly enjoying what you are doing and to keep up the good work!

    There are those who DO get more attention than others. But there IS a reason for that! They have been around for quite a while, and they have paid their dues. By writing, and writing, and writing even more. They have developed a following because they have honed their craft and people enjoy reading what they are writing.

    That can just as easily happen to YOU! I lurked for well over a month before I finally got up the courage to register and start posting. I soon started my own story. I got feedback from it and it fueled my desire to improve my writing and how I tell a story. I was ENCOURAGED by the people who responded to my story. Coz1 has already written a wonderful AARticle about commenting on people’s stories. No need to delve back into that, really. He did an excellent job detailing that and I see no need to do it again.

    I mentioned in my very FIRST AARticle about the SolAARium. What is this wonderful resource? It is a thread DEDICATED on the craft of writing. How to be detail oriented. How to do research to fully flesh out the period of time you are writing about. So MANY different things that this AARticle would be as long as the SolAARium itself. This is a resource that you really MUST dip your toes into and really pay attention!

    There is no reason to fear writing. Nobody is going to make fun of your effort. About the worst comment I have ever seen is the lack of paragraph breaks in a story. Which is a legitimate complaint and it DOES make it difficult to read when you have one giant unbroken paragraph. But other than that there is no making fun of a person’s English skills. It doesn’t happen.

    Why? Believe it or not, many of our best writAARs are NOT native English speakers! Judge, Anibal, Peter Ebbesen are just THREE of the best who are NOT native English speakers! That doesn’t stop them from writing fantastic stories.

    You say, But I just don’t have a lot of time to write! Excuses, excuses! Valdemar has been writing a story on Byzantine that has been taking quite a long time to write. He updates very slowly, but he does update. Does this keep people from reading it? Not at all. He writes a wonderfully crafted and detailed story. It is and has been always worth waiting for the next update.

    You say But I don’t have a good idea for a story! You don’t? That is what stealing a concept is all about! No, really! Do you have ANY idea how many times someone has written a story based on the concept of being in a classroom? A LOT! Doesn’t stop people from doing it again periodically. Or just writing what has been happening in the game. It doesn’t have to be completely story like. There have been AARs that are completely game related and there wasn’t a true storyline.

    You’re just starting! We aren’t expecting you to start off with Nebula award winning material. If you can pull that off, believe me, we’ll let you know. We’re all here to have fun, write stories and read stories by each other. So what are you waiting for? An engraved invitation? Consider it sent. Now get out there and get involved!

  4. #24
    Wizzaard Estonianzulu's Avatar
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    O’er the hills & fAAR away (Estonianzulu)

    An AAR by any other name


    When one scans through the AAR forum one sees many things. But what stands out most, besides the background, the buttons, the links and the authors, are the names. A name for every AAR, and an AAR for every name, or so it seems. So, how do you name an AAR? Why do you name it? And what will the name come to mean? Well, that’s why I am here.

    AAR titles and names come in a few styles, each strong in their own ways. The first, most basic and most widespread AAR is also the blandest. It is the staple of AARs. “A French AAR” is an example of this first style. The style I call…

    Traditional AAR’s

    I remember my very first AAR. “Prussian AAR”, it was my first attempt at writing on these forums. My title gave all the information I thought I needed. It stated what the post was, an AAR, and what nation, Prussia. While it is plain, there is nothing wrong with it. This is a fine way to title an AAR.

    This style gives two distinct advantages. One, it instantly provides information regarding the AAR. So, if I wanted to read a French AAR, I would go find an AAR which was titled “France.” This is easy, simple and fast. The other advantage which this style presents is that it lets the author take the AAR wherever he wishes to go with it. There are no restrictions, no limits. They can make it any style and method.

    Now we look at the problems. Traditional AARs are plain. The only thing that will draw in a reader is if they are interested in the country, rather then the story. The traditional AAR leaves nothing to the imagination, and anyone not interested will not read, there is nothing to hook the author. Traditional AAR titles are simply to introduce, not to bridge the readAAR to the AAR.

    Now, we go to a type of AAR which does.

    Respectfully Quoted

    Many an AAR begins with a quote. This comes from the tradition of writing. Many essays, and speeches begin with a quote. This has evolved into AAR writing as well. Most quotes, as these AARs are based in historic times, come from historic people. I have seen and read AARs quoting people from Homer to Santa Anna. It is easy to draw a readAAR into your AAR through a quote. Someone can see it and become intrigued. The quote hooks a readAAR into your story. From issues such as war to politics, quotes can be found on anything, and so are useful resources.

    Here is my issue with quotes. While they are wonderful, they leave a good deal unknown. An AAR with a quote could be anything from a simple timeline to a detailed book on any nation. You could quote Lincoln, but be writing an AAR on France. Sometimes quotes do not match, and often a quote will not fit the AAR you are writing. More than once I have gotten rid of a quote just because I felt it wouldn’t work. And if you choose a quote for your title, you end up stuck with it. So when you choose a quote, be careful and plan ahead. Look at your AAR as a whole, and try to make the link strong between your quote and the AAR itself.

    The final style, in my opinion is the link between the two.

    Catchphrase AAR

    This final style is the easiest to spot, and is usually a mixture of the two. The catchphrase AAR both takes a statement one can remember easily, such as a quote or phrase, and a statement of fact regarding the AAR. While this can appear confusing, it really is rather simple, and is used many times without thinking of it. This is how most AARs end up being titled.

    Catchphrase AARs range from the simple to the complex. The catchphrase at its simplest is merely an extended traditional title, like “The Rise of Austria.” While it does give more than just the nation, it doesn’t give much. It is more in depth, in that the readAAR now knows where the writerAAR is going with the story, but not in any detail. This is an easy way to form a title, and is highly effective.

    The second variety of catchphrase AAR is more in depth. The writAAR take a well-known statement or a phrase and includes in the title of the AAR. For example; let’s say you were writing an AAR on Japan or the USA. Mentioning the “rising sun”, or “manifest destiny” in relation to something would be a catchphrase AAR. Something like “The Fall of the Rising Sun” could be a title of this style. That title provides both an easy to remember name, as well as a statement of fact. You know that the AAR is about Japan, and you know that it won’t go well for you. The title provides enough to peak one’s interest, and describe itself, and gives a certain lyrical quality to the forum.

    The final type of catchphrase AAR is the self-quoted AAR. In this title you create a quote for your AAR yourself. This is the most difficult to explain, but can be found all over. For example, MrT’s “The Rivers Run Red” or coz1’s “Into the West.” Both of these titles appear to be quotes, but are truly not. They are simply creations of the author, or common sounding expressions used in this manner. This final title style allows the writAAR infinite control and creativity, but is also most unknown. The readAARs do not know anything about the AAR, and then must read it to discover anything. A readAAR is forced to go into the AAR and read to discover even such simple things as a country in play. In the end this style of title comes down to a decision. Do you, as a writAAR want to create a unique title, but one which may not attract as many readAARs at first?

    Each style of AAR, be it ‘traditional’ or ‘catchphrase’, has good points as well as disadvantages. There is nothing about a title which will change how well written an AAR is. A title serves as a link between you, the writAAR, and your audience. This allows you to set a mood even before the AAR begins and/or give a hint to the audience as too what you want to do with your work. In the end, the title of an AAR is the choice of the writAAR, and lets him identify his AAR among all the others in the forum. The title of an AAR is the hook which draws us in to the writAAR’s world.

  5. #25
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    Notes (Director)

    Are We There Yet?


    I was shocked when Amric recently referred to me (in private correspondence) as one of the senior members of the forum. Not that I have a problem with maturity – or age, for that matter, since I am pushing 50 – but that’s not the way he meant it. He intended to say that he thought I was one of the people who had been around the forum for a while.

    That gave me pause.


    I joined the forum in August of 2002, I think. I’d been an ‘old grognard’ wargamer and a Civ2 fanatic, and some of the people of the Apolyton forum recommended EU2. So I bought it and gave it a try, and I liked it.

    Anyway, even before I started posting anywhere, I was hunting down the discussion and AAR forums to pick up gaming tips. And it wasn’t long before I was hooked by Ariel’s ‘For God, the King and St George’ (which is amazingly fine and rarely remembered) and by Bismarck’s ‘Cyprus’ AAR, and others. At the time I was on extended vacation, having sold the nightclubs I had owned and run for 8 years. I didn’t realize how bored and depressed I was…

    So I thought, ‘I can do this, I think.’ And I took on England in the Grand Campaign – not much of a challenge, I admit – and decided to write it up. Wanting some attention and comments, I picked the strongest opening I could think of (I killed off the hero in the first chapter) and started in. It didn’t go very well – the first part of ‘As the Spirit Moves Me’ is awfully dry – but I learned, and I got lots of help from Bismarck, MrT and many others. About one-third of the way through, I think the story improves a lot, thanks to everyone’s help and to much work on my part.

    And I was hooked. Winning an OscAAR was nice but a complete surprise (the three winners got, as I remember, 17, 16 and 14 or 15 votes, so it was no landslide). As I began job hunting and realized how bad the economy was and how difficult it was going to be for me to get work, I became more depressed and withdrawn – and I lived on the forum. I read almost everything and wrote non-stop.


    The result of this clinical, suicidal depression was ‘HistoryPark: Who Wants to Be Napoleon’. I emailed a dozen members or so, outlining the idea and asking for help designing the Park. And people did respond, mostly, ‘Huh? You want to do what?’ But I already knew I was crazy, so I was not deterred.

    As I re-entered the workforce my reading and writing have slowed a lot. ‘Building a Better Bremen’ was well received but not like ‘Napoleon’, and the second ‘HistoryPark’ has been, well, slow, for which I apologize. Short digression (Shut up, Storey!) – I recently reread ‘Bremen’ and in my opinion it’s lots better than I thought it was.



    But the purpose of this little digression (can you digress before you reach your topic? Shut up, Storey, I hear you laughing) is simply to say that, four AAR’s completed or in progress notwithstanding, I haven’t been around so very long. Have I?

    Not in calendar years, no. But in forum time? Maybe so. Of the people I knew when I first came on the forum, few remain. I won’t start listing them here as it’s been done before, but I do want to recognize the fact: the membership of the forum is different. Is this good? Yes and no. Is it bad? Yes and no. Can we do anything about it? Hmmmm.



    Before I get off on that subject, let me set out what I really want to talk about. The following is going to be mostly opinion, so if you want to disagree just PM me or start a thread. Let’s call this section, “What Are We Trying To Do Here?” Perhaps “What Do I Want to Be When I Grow Up?” wouldn’t be a bad title, either.

    As I understand it, this forum (the AAR part) was set up by Paradox to encourage players and promote gameplay (and sales) of their products. With agenda aforethought, LD and some others set out to establish it as a warm and welcoming place for new writers and serious authors alike. And it worked! And it prospered, and it grew. The same comments were common then – too few readers and comments, contests and activities going begging for participants – but the place was a hotbed of ideas and experimentation. It was also full of people who were willing to critique, suggest and brainstorm.

    Now I have a bad tendency to relate everything to public school band programs and music, which was my first career. That’s the framework that I use to comprehend other activities. And it seems to me that the forum went through some of the classic stages of a successful band program (or small business – they really are the same thing).

    First comes the ‘Age of Promotion’, the ‘Lets have a show! We can use my barn!’ time. Interested people not only contribute, they recruit. If the process is well managed – and Bruce and others did a spectacular job here – more people come to look and stay to play, and the activity grows. Some people may leave but overall the ‘buzz’ is positive and the growth is steady.

    Then comes the clutch, because the atmosphere of a small group of people is inherently different from a large group. The ‘feel’ changes, since as greater numbers are involved the less you actually interact with any one of them. If the ‘management’ isn’t careful, cliques form. Why? It’s easier to talk to the people you already know rather than seek out people you haven’t met. Thus you get a group that talks to its own members, and even if they aren’t trying to be a clique they may appear to be one. Good leadership helps avoid this, and the attrition of older members helps break up these groups too. I might never have gotten started without MrT’s welcome, and to this day I try to read and comment in AARs whose authors I don’t know.

    Growth brings change. Small groups do not interact as large ones do. The way you have to manage the social responsibilities changes as the number of participants increases. All of this makes some of us long for ‘the good old days’ of intimate friendships and a smaller number of AARs that could be read and savored at leisure. This ‘Age’ had advantages, no doubt, but it is over, and it will never return unless we screw up, run each other off and deplete the membership down to previous levels. Despite the greater intimacy, I submit this would not be a good thing. Staying small always carries with it the risk of becoming inbred and sterile, and ‘pruning back’ would almost certainly kill the forum at its roots by driving off the people who care the most.


    Since there is no acceptable alternative, we grow. And since we must grow, let’s talk about the advantages of growth.

    #1) There is a lot of good material out there. And a lot that is – how shall I say – not to my taste. But there is more good material than I can keep up with, and it’s all free! This can only be a good thing.

    #2) The expansion of forum membership gives us an incredible knowledge base, not just for Eu2 and military matters but for just about everything. This doesn’t get used nearly enough. If you have ever worried over getting the names right, the places described correctly or anything else – just start a thread and ask. (Someone in the OT forum can probably give you legal advice and help you fix your sink). The diversity of nationality, language and expertise is unbelievable. And almost none of us take advantage of it, me included.

    #3) In times of trouble, the leadership pool is deep. Here’s a personal example: I took over a band program and, frankly, if I didn’t do every little thing then nothing got done. Four years later, I had college students who helped teach, parents who managed uniforms and equipment and band members who ran small sectional rehearsals, inspections and even took attendance. All I had to do was make the ‘big’ decisions and actually rehearse the ensemble. To paraphrase coz1's term, I had not just students but members who cared and contributed.

    The examples from this forum are many, and I’ll mention only two: MrT’s illness and prolonged absence did not end the librAARy (thank you, Stroph1 and others) and LD’s contemplated retirement did not stop the action here. Other people were willing to step up and help shoulder the load, and that can only be a ggood thing. Had LD retired, the forum would have become a different place, and I am certainly glad he’ll be around, but even though he is staying the forum will become a different place than it is today. Change is inevitable, it has been rapid, and it is showing no sign of slowing down.



    To conclude (shut up, Storey!), I’d like to draw a few conclusions (joke). The ‘good old days’ are gone, if they ever were good or here at all. The forum is exploding with new authors, new games and new AARs. The experimentation of old has tapered off – a bad thing, I think – and the ‘serious writers’ of old have moved on or gone silent. We are in a period of transition, and this will either lead us a stasis of lowered membership and fewer ideas, or… I don’t really know, and I don’t have space to detail the possibilities. But the dream of having a community of writers has been achieved. Keeping it, now – there’s a challenge.

    I don’t know where we’re going, I just think we won’t stay as we are. And we’d better do some thinking and planning for what we would like to be, because the vehicle is already in motion!

  6. #26
    Field Marshal

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    Alexandru's wAAR (Alexandru H.)

    “We're the middle children of history, no purpose or place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual wAAR; our great depression is our lives.”



    Analyze this!



    The second issue of the AARland Gazette brought with it the first signs of a crisis:at first, seemingly, just a management concern, but, after some days of reflection, I concluded that it's really about a dilemma we never openly discussed on these forums: are we really a community which has decided to move a bit onto the spotlight or are we merely doctrinaires, in search for facts that would sustain a theoretical construction? There are predicaments in both cases, because, and that is the unfortunate truth, we were unable, so far, to develop a coherent approach that would successfully explain the evolution of the AAR forums. Apart from the conservatives ("good old days") and the evolutionists ("a bright future"), we have a lot of members (clearly, a majority) that are simply bewildered by the concept.

    My intentions are simple: classify, systematize and draw a conclusion. Using a basic model of a two axis-system with two variables and six items, we should be able to isolate each distinctive feature and connect it to a certain phase in the development of the AAR forums. I do think that my standards will seem arbitrary, but, at least, it will offer a starting point for further improvement. Also, note that the fairly short descriptions are not intended to act as an official history of the forums. I am aware of the magnitude and the collective effort of so many people, and I do hope I will be forgotten for my various critical interventions.

    The first variable represents the community itself, its soul and spirit. Consider it as the way people interact and feel about each other, the difference between Gemeinschaft and Gesselshaft. These two items are borrowed from sociology and the XIXth century social shift: Gemeinschaft (community) pleads for a small, traditional and highly-personalized world, while Gesselshaft (society) yearns for the liberation of the individual and the establishment of new relations between free, equal men.

    The second variable refers to authority. Who holds the authority within the so-called community? My first choices for items (autocratic and libertarian) were not quite satisfactory, since it's very hard to measure what they mean in terms of an internet forum. Therefore, I divided them in four sub-spheres: informal and formal leaders (with reference to the human factor), informal and formal set-up (the general look and structure of the forum). I am confident that this little adjustment was indeed helpful for our analysis.



    Ok, there you have it: cold, impersonal and apparently perfect. But, because nothing is perfect, yet everything can be explained, I shall try to do this, in a last-minute attempt to sanctify my AARticle.

    a) The Beginnings (2000-2001). The initial stages of the forum saw the consolidation of a basic communitarian organization inside the EUI forums. It had all the necessary ingredients: few residents, few after-action reports (which, of course, made the interaction quite easy) and one common interest (Europa Universalis I). This was the grand arena where AARs and reputations were invented; this was the place that would fuel later initiatives. Unfortunately, it also had all the faults of a small community: conformity and compliance. There was no established leadership (equality was not an empty word back then), yet any attempts to destabilize the system, bringing institutionalized patterns inside, were not possible without destroying the fragile equilibrium. We have to understand that behind each new innovative EUI AAR, stood an inexorable greater will to preserve the traditional state of the forum.

    b) The First Turning Point. Two main events triggered the first revolution in the history of the forums. The first one is easy to spot, Europa Universalis II. Nothing revolutionary in game-play, compared to its predecessor, this new game brought several new issues that would influence the AAR forums as well:
    • Plurality - the EUI community resisted quite well, because everyone of its members loved that game. The new creation determined some old membAARs to simply disappear or retreat in an EUI ivory tower. The rest eagerly embraced it, but, as all new discoveries, the pioneers soon discovered that new lands mean new rules.
    • Complexity - More nations, more events, more of everything. Including more membAARs. We shouldn't exacerbate this feature, though, Europa Universalis I and II were not very different, thus the attracted crowds were pretty much similar.
    • Experience - The establishment of a new AAR forum was already blessed with a mix of experienced writAARs and organizers, which, of course, had a beneficial influence upon its future evolution.
    The other main event, which is often ignored by most of us, is Warspite's Italy RPG and Lord Durham's Papacy AAR. Before them, the forum interaction followed the very rigid scheme writer-reader. These two AARs, and especially the last one (which later gave birth to the Free Company series), introduced a new factor in the equation (the co-writer element) and also forged a few relationships among the various participants, relationships that may seem to the independent observer a last attempt to preserve the idea of close community.

    c) A Community called EUII (2002-2003). Many call this period the "AAR Apogee" or "the good old days". I won't argue with these names (in part, they are justifiable); however, I have something to say about some of the intentions that drove the main members to post. For you see, below the visible strata, there is a hidden layer of intricate plans (not of world domination, of course) that will, eventually, backfire. Let's take it from the start:
    • Community - Visible (a quite close community, with interesting AARs, excellent feedback and friendly individuals) / Hidden (more and more new members, that fail to act like the founding fathers, being droven away by the small groups of established writers; the HoI forum seems to be a new successful EU2-type venture, but utterly fails to achive the desired status, after all the veterans leave it to its own inner workings)
    • Informal leaders - Visible (there is no formal leadership and this seems to copy the previous EUI example) / Hidden (the elite groups have their own leaders and act accordingly to their intentions; most of the time, the new members are forced to create their own cliques)
    • Informal set-up - Visible (the forums are a laboratory of literary experiments, with tons of talented writers and styles) / Hidden (the anarchistic experiment can be found only at the general level; in fact, most cliques have their own, particular communitarian strict rules)
    d) The Second Turning Point. The irony of history: Lord Durham plays again a fundamental role. If some of the veterans retreat in an eternal silence, if others concentrate upon limited objectives, Lord Durham is the only one who decides that a shift is necessary, creating the concept of "AARland". In that regard, the forums should play with the following roles:
    • Integration - The new membAARs must be accepted as full-fledged members, without any unjustifiable restriction
    • Interaction - The EUI, EUII, HOI, VIC and CK AAR forums must become equally important and should receive equal attention from everyone
    • Unity - We are One! We are AARland! We belong to a particular forum no more!
    We live in the age of AARland. We should acknowledge the role of formal leadership and of those silent mobs that must be converted from the status of lurkAARs. It's a hell of a task, but we are ready. Our weapons are the gazette, the various baars and initiatives, but, most importantly, membAARship! Feel like one, be one!

    What will the future prepare for us? For one thing, I expect that the current phase will flourish even more. But it will not be the end of the road. No, not by a long shot. We'll see all the wonders that brightened our lives in the 2002-2003 period, and even more. After the traditional, classical and authoritian period, democracy will end the evolution of a world in which we all live by our own will. Have faith!
    Last edited by Alexandru H.; 11-04-2004 at 20:13.

  7. #27
    Not so idle

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    The AARms of the Animal (Anibal)

    "If writing tales was prohibited then I would be a dangerous criminal."


    The AARt of Writing on a Foreign Language - an Interview




    Good evening, my fellow gentlemen and fellow ladies. After last break, I want to welcome you again to The Gazette, the best interview program of them all! This evening, our guest for the "short interview" is... a writer. Yes, a man who writes stories, a storyteller as some people would prefer. His name is Celso, also nicknamed as Anibal. Let's welcome him clapping our hands!

    Anibal enters the stage. He's greeted by The Interviewer, and people start to cheer. They shake hands then they sit.

    The Interviewer: Where did I leave my notes with the questions?...

    Anibal: Huh?

    The Interviewer: Oh sorry. I just found them. Anyway, welcome to The Gazette, Mr. Anibal. In the name of our production and the audience I want, first of all, to wish you a good evening! And please, don't feel embarassed with my questions!

    Anibal: Thank you, Mr. Interviewer. No problem about it, really. Good evening to you too, and thanks for the opportunity of an interview! And good evening, audience!

    The Interviewer: Let me start with the first question. My notes?... Oh yes, they're here. So, Mr. Anibal, I have the information here that the kind of stories you write is called AAR and yes, I have read some. What does AAR mean in English by the way?

    Anibal: AAR is a short for After Action Report. Basically they are reports about actions that occured. More specifically, actions that happened in games developed by a certain company called Paradox Entertainment, with its most well-known title being the game Europa Universalis II. And, even more specifically, in this context AAR would normally mean a story written based on the gameplay, based on what happened during the game. Do you get what I'm saying?

    The Interviewer: Yes, for sure. I really like your AARs, I must admit. Well, everyone knows you're not a native English speaker, yet you write your tales in this tiny, obscure and unknown language. How did you start learning English?

    Anibal: Yes, thou art right! I am Brazilian and, like 97% of my country's population, I am a native speaker of Portuguese. Well, you know, when you're a child you go to school. And, in school, among other things, you "learn" English and Spanish. Yes... The teachers simulate they're teaching English and Spanish to you, and you simulate you're learning it, and everyone is happy, and everything is okay. You know, people finish school but don't know a word of English, or even Spanish, which is very similar to Portuguese. But I changed it somehow, at least to me.

    The Interviewer: Could you tell us how, by the way?

    Anibal: Yes, with pleasure. Well, I started learning to read when I was 3 years old. How? An example... I asked my mother "which letter is this?" and she told "this is the letter F". "And the next one?" - "The next one is the A", and so on. Then, the word faca is formed, and I tried to guess that the word is really faca (=knife in English). So, I learned reading this way, and also started to write very soon. When I was 5 I could read almost everything. So I can tell for sure that I have a special kind of love for literature since very, very young.

    This is all, of course, very much related to my actual love for learning languages. So, back in the school days (and back in the console games days), I was slowly being presented to other languages. As there would be no way to actualy learn them at achool, well, I started finding my own ways. When I was around 9 years old I started playing my games with an English-Portuguese dictionary just beside me, trying to understand what was written there. And, as I grew up, stopped listening to children's music and started to listen to real music (also known as The Beatles), hell, I wanted to translate the musics, to see what they were saying there. So, here we go again... Get the lyrics, get the dictionary and good luck.


    The Interviewer: How would all that be related to your abilities in writing tales in English?

    Anibal: I'm getting there. Well, during my teenage days I could go to a real course of English. My reading was very improved, but I needed at least to understand people speaking English. I only did two years of the course, then stopped after getting a very high grade at a proficiency examination.

    So, one year ago I met the Paradox fora and also the AARs, and I wanted to write my own, too. So I started writing Rulers of the Seven Seas, after a moment of courage on my part. Well, I'm used to write short stories, but not in English. And that one isn't a short story even! So, I started puting my writing skills at it's most high level, also in a very dangerous place, full of native English speakers who write superb tales, masterpieces, etc.


    The Interviewer: It is really possible to tell, from your writing, that you're not a native speaker. Anyway there's only a thin line separating it. Could you give the people some tips to write in English, specially for those who aren't native speakers, just like you?

    Anibal: Of course! Well, first of all, the most important of any tip: do not be affraid to write! The reason? Simple: writing can always be improved! You most probably won't start with a superb writing right away, and you will always improve it with practise. Nobody was born already knowing how to be a great writer! No, I'm not one, but I feel that what I'm saying here is true.

    Another very important thing, this one specially directed to no-native speakers, is to always have a dictionary next to you. There are many free online dictionaries (links at bottom) on internet, if you don't have one in the format of a real book. Even "English-English" dictionaries could be very usefull, so you can discover new meanings for the words! Very, very usefull.

    Grammatics. Try to keep your writing the most correct possible gramaticaly-wise. Might sound childish, but it's very important, and a text with good gramatics is very unlikely to present ambiguities. It even becomes easier to read! Now, if you have a character that does speak in a some strange way, no problem!


    The Interviewer: Would you advise people to firstly write the stories (or chapters) in their native language (example, Portuguese) and then translate it to English?

    Anibal: In fact, I wouldn't. I feel that when you write you need to write it right away as the ideas come into your mind, when they come. It is critical in my opinion to get the ability to think in other languages. It is not hard, if you try to. And, in fact, is one of the best ways to help learning other languages.

    Well, yes, I do have some difficulties to write in English. This comes specialy when I want to write some expression or word that I don't find in the dictionaries, or even about something that is so specific to Portuguese that you won't find words in English that translate it no matter what. What do I try to do then? Use the creativity: invent! Or even try to re-write the passage.

    The spelling of some sets of words can be very confusing, too. Many words are often permuted. Three classical examples are: were, wear and where; their, they're and there; you're and your. It means that any doubt you have regarding spelling should be solved with the help of a dictionary. Also, don't be shy to ask people to point out any potential spelling errors. To commit mistakes when writing is a good thing, in my opinion, if you manage to learn from them!

    Other difficulties arise very often when I write for Small History of the Timurids. That AAR is written entirely in poetry, and writing poetry in foreign languages is not easy. The rhyme scheme is completly different and the syllabic one too, so it makes definetly impossible to write firstly in Portuguse then to translate into English.


    The Interviewer: How do you manage to write poetry in English then?

    Anibal: This is where an "English-English" dictionary comes with great power. Get the dictionary, start searching for words like crazy. See their meanings, see their synonyms. More specifically, see their endings, pronounce their endings together with the whole word! I confess, many times I write whole blocks of verses based only with two words with similar ending that I found. You need to hunt for words to write poetry in languages you don't master. And, most important, you need to avoid fear and, thus, try!

    The Interviewer: I'm sorry, but the time for our interview is ending. Could you, please, give us your last tips and give an ending to this beautiful interview?

    Anibal: No, no problem! Well, one of the most important ways to improve your writing skills in other languages is rather obvious: read texts on them! Yes, eat them too! This is also valid if you want to write in your own language. Don't ever be affraid to write! Also, don't diminish the power of the dictionary!

    The Interviewer: Thank you for the kind interview, Anibal. After your words, I think I'll even start writing my own AAR, too! You know, I was also raised speaking Portuguese, just like you, and have a special kind of love for literature... you have made up my mind! Audience, applause! Clap your hands for this very special moment of my life!


    - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


    Links for some dictionaries and thesauri:

    YourDictionary.com, the one I use the most
    Merriam-Webster, featuring a dictionary and a thesaurus too
    Cambridge, being in my opinion specially good for non-native English speakers
    Reference.com, containing a dictionary and a thesaurus that use entries from many sources
    A list with tons of dictionaries, including translating dictionaries (example: Portuguese-English dictionaries)

  8. #28
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
    Europa Universalis 3

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    Free Company Interview Series


    Stroph1


    Ah my next subject is here! Howdy, Stroph1, old bean! Good to see you! Have a seat and let’s get started, shall we?



    1. What made you decide to join the Free Company? What drew you to it?

    I found the web site in the summer of 2001. I had read the old papacy thread and book one. On 9/11, I was about a mile from Ground Zero when the planes hit. After 9/11 I found the way all the people came together. That day I decided to join the Free Company and did a short time after that.

    2. What is the name of your character and what does he do in the company?

    3 characters:

    Henri is the third member of a French miner noble family. He came in as a swordsman but now is in the pike. He is a 15 year old boy, big and dumb looking but actually pretty sharp.

    Remi is a Ranger. He has been in the company a short time and is learning the ropes.

    The Pope reports only to GOD.

    3. How do you like writing a collaborative story with a bunch of other people?

    It is a unique experience. You are not in control of the story and the way it builds off each other is a great experience.

    4. Some think the pace of the Free Company can be very fast at times. Do you feel this is the case, and have you been able to keep up?

    The FC alternates with slow periods and fast ones. I love the fast times. I check the site several times during the day and love feeding off another entry. Even if I don't keep up, that is part of the fun.

    5. Which characters does your character most interact with?

    Henri interacts most with the other pike, especially Geoffrey.

    6. Which characters do you most like interacting with?

    I like to interact with all the characters. Every one is different.

    7. Which characters would you like to interact with more, given the opportunity?

    A lot of the European and Asian players are so far removed from my time zone that the interaction is slow. In times of frantic activity it is too hard to interact with them.

    8. What do you think of the idea of such a collaborative story set in the EUII timeframe?

    It is a brilliant idea!

    9. Why do you feel the Free Company has been so successful for so long?

    It allows people to develop their writing skills. It is fun. You can put as little or much time into it as you want.

    10. Are you planning on being involved for the long haul? IE, for the length of the book currently being written?

    Well, considering how long I have been in so far....

    11. Have you come up with a subplot that you feel worked out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    A few minor ones I worked with others with. I had a nice one with one of the guys who dropped in the mass drop out of last book.

    12. Will you be coming up with subplots that you feel might work out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    I hope so...

    13. If there is another book, will you be staying on through the entire project?

    Sign me up...

    14. If you had to do it all again, would you?

    In a moment.

  9. #29
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
    Europa Universalis 3

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    Free Company Interview Series


    Storey


    Again I am sitting in the FC Tavern and ready to interview my next subject! Who might that be? Storey, of course! Ah, here you are! Welcome! Sit, sit…let’s get started!





    1. What made you decide to join the Free Company? What drew you to it?

    Laziness. Well to be more accurate I knew how much work went into writing a complete AAR and I didn’t have the time or energy to do one. So I looked around and saw that Lord Durham was asking for volunteers to join the Free Company in a new AAR. I idea of leaving the heavy lifting to him with me only occasionally helping out was perfect for me.

    What is the name of your character and what does he do in the company?

    My current character is Geoffrey Houghton of Salford England. He is a common foot soldier (Well maybe not so common). His role is to show the story from the bottom up, so to speak. He seldom interacts with anyone above the rank of sergeant.


    3. How do you like writing a collaborative story with a bunch of other people?

    Immensely. The reason I spend my time doing this is because I enjoy reading what someone writes which in turn triggers an idea in my mind. Sometimes it’s a ‘hook’ someone leaves for me but many times it’s an inconsequential remark that fires off a synapse in my brain and a post pours out of my head onto the page.


    4. Some think the pace of the Free Company can be very fast at times. Do you feel this is the case, and have you been able to keep up?

    I would describe it as leisurely. In the beginning when Lord Durham was the only one directing the plot the rest of use would just be reacting and that led to a faster pace. There would be times where
    2-4 of us would be on the forum all writing at the same time. Many a time I cursed Lord Durham or someone else because I had to rewrite my post because they had slipped one in before me.

    5. Which characters does your character most interact with?

    Probably Gerd and Oskar. Sergeant Baer and some of the Chinese characters next in frequency.


    6. Which characters do you most like interacting with?

    I don’t really have a favorite. This probably is because of the constant change in those contributing to the story. The last time I had a favorite was when a certain Sergeant Bloomfielde was in the story and that was a couple of years ago.


    7. Which characters would you like to interact with more, given the opportunity?

    I tend not to look at who I want to interact with. I tend to react more to the story than individuals. However if a character is doing something that I find interesting I might post something. For example when the Chinese characters introduced gambling to the story I quickly wrote about what the game was they were playing. Second if the story as a whole is doing something worth commenting on I’ll post something about it. An example was a tongue in cheek post with Geoffrey counting flies on a wall because of the boredom from being in camp too long.


    8. What do you think of the idea of such a collaborative story set in the EUII timeframe?

    Seems to fit it well. Although I think if it were a little later in the timeframe that we’re in it would work better. This is because it is difficult to prevent innovations from appearing in the story that weren’t in the early 1400s. For whatever strange reason I seem to have an easier time imagining life in the 15 or 16 hundreds. Go figure.



    9. Why do you feel the Free Company has been so successful for so long?



    Because of the large list of writers that have taken part in the project. It seems that every time someone drops out someone else joins up. This has led to very different styles in the various books.


    10. Are you planning on being involved for the long haul? IE, for the length of the book currently being written?

    Yes.


    11. Have you come up with a subplot that you feel worked out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    No, for two reasons. The first is the time constraints that I have right now. I can’t devote the amount of time it would take to run a sub-plot. The second reason is, as I’ve said earlier, because my enjoyment is in reacting to what someone else writes. One of the strengths of this project is the diversity that it allows.


    12. Will you be coming up with subplots that you feel might work out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    Nope. Unless I decide to completely change my approach to the project which isn’t impossible but I don’t know if I’d bet on it.


    13. If there is another book, will you be staying on through the entire project?

    Probably but I would have to rethink how I contribute to the project.

    14. If you had to do it all again, would you?

    Yes in a heartbeat.

  10. #30
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    The Eye of the Hurricane (Amric)


    AAR for sale—CHEAP!


    You’ve been reading a wonderful tale for weeks, nay! Months! Suddenly the writAAR has disappeared with nary a trace to be seen of him or her again! Curses! Now you have no idea how the story will end! Has this happened to you? I know it has for me! How frustrating!

    Or the writAAR has abandoned the tale because he or she has become bored or just isn’t interested in continuing anymore. I can think of numerous stories I wish had been completed! Such as nalivayko’s Ukraine story. Or Bismarck’s Cyprus tale, or Anibal’s Dutch World Conquest attempt, which admittedly kept having crash to desktop failures. Or the Orleans Turbo World Conquest attempt that was never completed.

    I know I have always been saddened when a fine story has never been completed. It kind of bothers me that it isn’t done. What caused it? A lack of responses by readAARs? Or the earlier thought of boredom by the writAAR? If the person flat out disappears for good there is no real way to find out why the story hasn’t been completed.

    Sometimes you do get an answer for why it wasn’t completed when the writAAR has stuck around and started another story. But still! Now here is a thought I had about this terrible state of affairs.

    Why not have someone else continue the story? The original writAAR sends a copy of the save game file to the person who would like to complete and finish the fine effort started. The AAR gets completed! Hurrah! What a GREAT idea! At least I think so, anyway!

    Wonderful stories could be finished, instead of languishing unfinished, yet lamented. Would this actually be practical? In some ways, yes, but in others no. Why? Because first you’d have to announce you were abandoning a story and offer it up to someone who would be willing to finish the story. Then that person would actually have to FINISH the story!

    But if it COULD be done, imagine the possibilities! Stories would not have to be lost in time without having a finished product! Now that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? But to make it happen, it would require the cooperation of original writAAR and replacement writAAR. If there was a direction the original writAAR would like to continue to have explored, it might behoove them to inform the replacement writAAR.

    Now why did I think of this? One, I had to think of something for my AARticle. But the second one is that I think this COULD work, at least in theory anyway. But is anyone actually going to try out this idea? I’d like to think so, but until it happens that is all it is, a theory.


    Now this is not to say that all stories could be done this way. I certainly couldn’t continue on a tale such as Smalta Malta. Why? I don’t really do humorous stories. At least I have never attempted to be continuously funny throughout a story. I am not talking about some of the OT stories I have told in the OT forum, which has nothing to do with AARs. There are those who CAN do a continuously funny tale though.

    It would really require a good match between the originating writAAR and the replacement writAAR to try and keep the continuity and ‘style’ of the story the same. Or at least as close as any collaboration can be. But to do such would require a cooperative spirit that I know is in this community, it just hasn’t been done yet!

    So if any writAARs out there considering abandoning their tales, you might want to consider this idea. Just post in your story thread this….

    AAR for Sale—Cheap!

    You might be surprised at the response, and someone just might be interested in keeping a wonderful story alive and finishing it. So keep on writing, and reading!

  11. #31
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

    So You Want to Write an AAR



    There has been much talk recently in the gazette feedback thread about practical items that might be discussed regarding AARs. Though the editAARs would very much like to see some of the more headier items addressed about our little corner of the Paradox world, so too must we recognize that any periodical worth it’s weight should also look at topics of interest to the readAAR. How else would it keep its fan base?

    With that said, and given my recent “soapbox” AARticles, I thought I might touch on a question that is seen every so often around here from newer membAARs and lurkAARs alike. As a continuation of Amric’s previous AARticle, I shall look at the subject, “How do you write an AAR?”

    Now, let me begin by saying that there is no such thing as a blueprint. Each writAAR has their own method, style and taste just as each readAAR does. But, this does not mean that we cannot lay down some guidelines of things to consider when attempting to tackle one’s first AAR.

    There are a few ways to begin, but I would think the easiest would be to first, simply choose a country. Try to find one that has not been overdone, or has been neglected recently. This will contribute to your work standing apart from the current crop of AARs out there. Many times, this step will have already been completed. Sometimes, a fun game simply screams, “Write this up.” As well, a failing attempt will always pique the interest of the forum. It is seldom that we read about failure, but it happens and surely provides a wonderful starting point when trying to find something interesting to write about.

    Once you have picked your subject, you have a choice. You can play through the entire game, or you can write as you go. There are benefits to both, and drawbacks as well. When playing the entire game prior to writing, you then know how things will end up. This allows for foreshadowing and build-up. However, you may find yourself low on certain notes that may be needed to spice a certain section up a bit. Further, it is always helpful to have a printed copy of your history log, and that can be a rather tall stack of paper for something like the EUs or CK.

    Thus, playing as you write may provide for an easier time. Playing as you write allows for adjustment from ideas given during feedback. Further, it means that much of the game information is still relatively fresh in your head and any notes you might have taken are not page upon page, but rather what has happened say in the last five or ten years.

    A middle ground, and one that some tend to take is playing say 50 to 100 years ahead of where you are at in your story. This keeps the freshness mentioned above while also allowing for said foreshadowing and build-up. However, if you are going with this method, note taking can be rather daunting.

    A word on notes is needed here. People take notes just as differently as they write. Perhaps you want to make note of every single General used during a war. Perhaps you want to know how many troops were used during a particular siege. These types of things are not mentioned in your history log and will need to be written down separately if you want to include them in your story.

    You could write your AAR as you play the game (using notepad or some such), thus enabling you to keep every little detail, or you could go in the opposite extreme and take copious notes as you play to refer back to later. We have many who do just that. For example, one man does this:

    1. Events, noting their precise effects, so which provinces got those - Tax hits etc., & Finance. Also noted important events of neighbours.
    2. Wars, noting when wars involving me or my neighbours began, and ended, with peace details.
    3. Diplomacy, noting all my diplomatic actions with their effects, plus things like trade embargoes against me etc.
    4. Revolts, noting when and where all revolts took place, when they were defeated, if they took the city and/or did anything else 'interesting', also noting if they were caused by an inquisition failure or event, as opposed to be truly 'random'.
    5. Inquisitions, noting when and where I started a missionary and what the eventual result was, and when the eventual result was.
    6. Buildings, noting when I built anything and where.
    7. Colonies, noting when I built colonies, where, if they were successful or not, and if they were successful what level colony it created, and when that colony became a city.
    8. Trading posts, noting when/where I built them and success/failure
    9. Monarchs & Leaders, noting dates and stats.
    10. Territorial changes, noting all territorial changes that occurred that I knew off, via peace treaty/annexation, even if noted somewhere above.
    11. Summaries. At the end of each playing session (usually 5-10 years) after I saved I would columbus the map and note any changes that occurred beyond my knowledge, thuogh I did this more generally.
    12. Wars, for every war I created a new sheet of paper where I noted its progress in detail, recoding every battle and siege, hopefully in a sort of order. I also sometimes did this for wars of neighbours that did not involve me directly if I found them to be interesting or possibly important.
    13. Random Notes, just anything else of interest, or ideas that caught me at the time.


    Now that’s a lot of notes! But if you want detail, this is surely a way to go about making sure the information is at your fingertips when the time comes to write it. However, for your first AAR, this may be a bit too much to deal with, and further it may not mean much depending on your style or writing.

    And this brings me to your next choice. What kind of AAR are you going to write? Amric did a rather exhaustive job detailing these methods. Suffice it to say, you have a choice between simple game play, history book style or narrative. There is intermixing of these, to be sure, but they all tend to boil down to this. What do you want to accomplish with your story?

    If you want to simply relate your game, giving and getting helpful pointers along the way, then the game play style is for you. Perhaps you add some humor to it, or perhaps you spice it up with poetry. There are many ways to go about it to make it interesting.

    If you want a historical account, then an additional step will be needed before you begin writing. Research. You will need to take a look at the time period and important people of the country you are playing. Though the history may diverge at some point, you would be amazed at how real history can provide a template when mixed with your alternate road.

    If you want to write a narrative, you will need this history even more to assist in your characterizations. Even those that are not the monarch or general can provide a wonderful assistance to flesh out your tale. You will need to understand who these people are, what were their motivations and do you wish to include or change that.

    And further, you will need a plot. Now, the direction in which your game goes obviously provides the perfect outline for your story, but it will be up to you to flesh out that skeleton. This is the most difficult style as a large amount of time can provide an overwhelming period to develop an effective plot, with character arcs, family histories, attention to detail and the ever-present hope that you do not repeat yourself, especially over 400 years for EUII or CK.

    Thus, once you have decided on a country and an AAR style, you will need to have the right attitude to approach it. You should think about how capable you are to write 400, 80 or even 10 years worth of information. Different styles obviously require different levels of commitment, but in the end, you will still need to have a desire to provide consistent updates and eventually complete your work, especially when the dreaded writAAR’s block and possible burnout come calling. It is helpful to determine what you hope to accomplish with your work before you begin. This will provide you with a compass as you go along, be it for 10 years or 400 years. Further, the best rule of thumb is to write for yourself, not to receive feedback. If you are not enjoying your work, then no one else will either, and believe me – it shows.

    There are certainly other things to include once you have a basic premise in your mind. First and foremost are screenshots. Several AARticles could describe this function (and in fact will) but the basic point of the screenshot is to provide a visual. There are some that simply will not read without them. However, the screenshots they are looking for are maps from the game. This is not the only screenshot that one can provide. A screenshot is used to place a readAAR within a certain mindset, be it period or place. The Internet is crawling with artistic and photographic images to assist with the latter and your game, through the F11 function gives you the former. I will allow someone more qualified than I am to elaborate. But the screenshot should not overtake your AAR, unless it is the driving factor (as some have made theirs.) It is really dependant upon style.

    On another note, Lord Durham is a big proponent of Character Sheets. You can find more information on these within the SolAARium, but in a nutshell, these are for the writAAR that wishes to write a narrative using characters. It is helpful to keep track of the different people that populate your story. These might include their birth date, important relationships, important actions taken in their lives, etc. These are there to help you keep track of their movements and emotions over a long period of time so the story has some continuity.

    The appearance is also something to think about. Most readAARs find it much easier to read something that is well spaced without huge paragraphs. And on the opposite extreme, something rather short does not give the readAAR much to really take in. Use of asterisks or other spacing tools are useful, just as combining a few different scenes within one post can be a major help to give your audience something good to enjoy. Find a happy medium between something huge and something small.

    And as a final word to the wise, Estonianzulu has written a great AARticle on how to title your AAR. I do not need to mention his ideas again, but the point was and is, use something to draw in the readAAR, be it by explaining the country or using something more daring or intriguing. What you want here is something to hook the readAAR like a fish.

    So, now you have the country, the style and the desire. You have thought about what extras you want to include. What else do you need? At this point, nothing but the excitement to get going and write the AAR. Nothing beats just doing it to get you moving towards the end product and hopefully you will learn along the way. What is most helpful around here is the immense amount of critical manpower at your disposal. From feedback within your AAR, especially if you ask for it up front, to the incredibly helpful SolAARium*, which is spilling over with suggestions on method, style, answers to questions and general important information for any writAAR. These are your assistants as you go along.

    Keep the work moving as best you can. Make sure to thank your readAARs, especially acknowledging those that took the time to comment. Read other works to learn different techniques, styles and methods, and to encourage others to visit your own work. And most of all, be flexible. Your characters might change as you write, your style might progress into something else, your level of commitment might begin to wane or you could find yourself stuck along the way. Do not lose hope, but rather embrace these periods. Allow yourself to work naturally without forcing the outcome and inform your readAARs. They might surprise you with a great suggestion, or give you good advice on how to beat a certain problem.

    In the end, it can be as simple as deciding you want to write one and then simply doing it. In most cases, that is how everyone here began. As stated, nothing beats just getting your feet wet. In my case, I started with an abandoned AAR, finished another one, and now have two lingering unfinished just waiting for me to take up the pen (read: keyboard) once again. I am likely not the most qualified person to write on this subject. But that’s really my point. Qualified is not what we are about. We want interesting stories, no matter how they are written or by whom. Be it your first or tenth AAR, if it has an interesting storyline, a unique style of play or an original method of telling it, you will most likely find readAARs. It may take some time at first, but we are always here waiting for the next good tale. Why don’t you be that person to give it to us?


    *The SolAARium

  12. #32
    Maestro Director's Avatar
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    Notes (Director)

    Nobody Loves A Critic



    “Bit by bit, putting it together
    Piece by piece, only way to make a work of art
    Every moment makes a contribution
    Every little detail plays a part
    Having just a vision’s no solution
    Everything depends on execution
    Putting it together, that’s what counts!” – ‘Putting It Together’ by Stephen Sondheim


    Okay, let’s get the bad news out of the way first: if you are hoping that this forum will show you how to become a better writer, you’re out of luck. Here’s why.

    Improvements in your writing can only come from two sources: internal (yourself) and external (other people). Broadly, suggestions from others about improvements you could make can be called criticism. Properly delivered and properly received, criticism is powerful and valuable. Wielded inexpertly or with malice, criticism can turn from a useful tool into a scarring weapon.

    When I was teaching school – yes, here we go with another band director story – I took my students to numerous performances. Counting marching and concert festivals, perhaps as many as six or seven each year for the full ensemble. And every student who attended a solo and small ensemble festival, tried out for a regional or all-state honors band, or auditioned for a scholarship – well, all those were judged also. One or more professionals would watch and listen carefully, make written or taped comments, and deliver an opinion in the form of a ranking or a score.

    I’ve done a lot of judging in my time and been on the receiving end of a great deal, also. I’ve been annoyed with puffery (‘It’s all just fine’), enraged at stupidity and gratified with positive comments. I’ve thrown out a lot that I just didn’t agree with, and bled emotionally from having someone pierce me to the heart with a few well-chosen words. What you get from a judge – from a criticism - is only an opinion, but it is a considered opinion by an expert in the field.

    Good criticism hurts. And that’s why you won’t find it here.



    Now, before the hackles come up and the words start flying, let me tell you that I’m deliberately being a bit provocative. Don’t start telling me how much your writing has improved since you began visiting AARland. This isn’t about whether or not it is possible to improve your writing here. What I’m discussing is whether this forum helps, or hinders, criticism.

    As I understand it, this forum is deeply concerned with providing a respectful and supportive environment. It is a terrific place for us to try our hand at writing and a magnificent chance for us to show off our work before an audience. Malice and spite are not wanted; sneers and slurs are not tolerated. This is a good thing – having been to some other forums lately and seen what goes on there, let me tell you this is a great thing. I’m not proposing any change in the tenor of the forum – I like it just fine ‘as is’.

    But respect and politeness can be the death of criticism. If you want to really get critiqued, there are other places – even workshops and classes – that are better suited to the purpose.



    So! How does criticism work in the public-school music world, and why won’t it work here in AARland?

    My three guidelines are:
    1) Comment on everything you find that could be improved.
    2) Tell how to improve it… no finding fault unless you provide a fix
    3) Score on how much is correct, not on what is incorrect

    First, the musical adjudication I’m talking about is done by trained, degreed, certified, paid experts in their field. Trust me – you may disagree with a nationally-known expert, but you’ll pay attention to what he (or she) says, much more so than to Joe Average who can’t even sing in the shower. As far as I know, none of the people contributing to AARland are professional writers or have college degrees in literature.

    I’m not saying that disqualifies our authors from being effective critics, but I think it inhibits them from trying. In the back of our heads, we hear this little voice saying, “Who is this guy, and what qualifies him to say that!” If another author specifically asks for a critique, then some people will respond. But most don’t feel qualified, or don’t know how to phrase what they feel. Rather than risk hurting someone’s feelings – and even justified, requested, truthful criticism HURTS – most of us will say little or nothing. (I’ve seen this happen: author asks for criticism, reader gives criticism, author abandons work.)

    Many of the musicians know each other, or know of each other. It’s easier to take the pain when it’s delivered by someone you know well, whom you know genuinely wishes you the best. More times than I can count, I have seen people drive long distances and work late hours for no money, just to help out a friend in need. That spirit is very much alive and well here in AARland. But the faceless internet doesn’t really give us the personal contact to know exactly what we can say and what we should not. And so we err on the side of caution – and criticism dies.

    And the musicians I knew were all professional, paid to play and teach. Mostly they thought of adjudication as an investment – a ‘you judge my kids and I’ll judge yours’ sort of trade. If little or no money changed hands, well… doing work for no money is the hallmark of education in America. Most of us who write here on the forum have other claims on our lives. We write when we can find a little peace and quiet, read when we can spare a few stolen minutes. The time investment needed to read a complete AAR and then generate an insightful critique may be more than we can afford. As important as the forum is to me, personally, I don’t have hours of time every day to contribute, and I suspect most of us are in a similar position. This is an important part of my life, but it is a hobby… not a profession.



    For all that this is a magnificent place to come and write, to support and be supported in an intellectual community – for all that, AARland is not a place where criticism thrives. Craig Ashley sponsored a series of reviews that were, I thought, insightful as well as tasteful. But the series lapsed through lack of interest – not lack of interest from readers, I believe, but from reviewers. More were willing to be reviewed as authors than to present themselves as authorities. And that is – pardon me – a damned shame. Perfectly understandable, yes – I volunteered to do one review that has never seen the light of day, but I haven’t volunteered since – but still a shame.

    I applaud Craig Ashley’s attempts to revive the reviews and I admire every one of you who asks for – and delivers – constructive criticism. I read and have contributed to the ‘Guess the Author’ thread and I admire Hajji Giray’s good work there. But whether it’s a result of the factors I’ve mentioned or others I’ve overlooked, criticism just doesn’t seem to prosper here in AARland.

    Oh, that quote at the top of the article? Putting it all together is important. But a good critic will take the child of your soul, bathe it in the acid of criticism and hold it up in the pitiless light of truth, describing all its warts and imperfections in agonizing detail. A friend will help you live through the process. A very dear friend is one you’ll even speak to, after.

    Criticism hurts.

  13. #33
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    Aces High

    Alexandru's wAAR (Alexandru H.)

    “We're the middle children of history, no purpose or place. We have no great war, no great depression. Our great war is a spiritual wAAR; our great depression is our lives.”



    Aces High




    Aces High! Featuring the long-awaited duo of Allen (coz1) and Alexandru (Alexandru H.) in a special Atlanta-Bacau duplex! A non-censored free4all discussion concerning the state of the AAR forums! Aces High! They talk!


    Alexandru H.
    The AAR forum certainly is unique, no questions about it. With great games, great individuals and great stories, what do you expect? Of course, this is no reason to get cocky. There will always be problems and not always the proper solutions. We have a chance to solve them, yet, at the same time, we might be their source and the faulting devices in the machinery.

    coz1
    Interesting point of view. I am curious what you mean in regard to "source and the faulting devices in the machinery" Do you mean we try to do too much and thus become disappointed and disallusioned when it does not seem to reach out to membAARs? Well, to rephrase, I think you may be right that we expect too much from time to time. But if we do not, who will? Yes, another question, though rhetorical.

    I have to say, I think the forum is for the most part, rather healthy at the moment. Given that Victoria just came out about 6 months ago, and Crusader Kings is just hitting the shelves, we have had to deal with an influx of new membAARs and those changing games. When combined with the AARland shift of a few months ago, we were bound to feel some sense of confusion as to what to do next, but I think, if anything, it helped to revive the community somewhat.

    Alexandru H.
    We expect from other people a perfect conduct when it comes to their work, yet we tend to excuse our own behaviour much too often. Work, real life, writer's block, I've seen them all. Our Leviathan can be summarized in two words: double-standards. It seems that being a great writer isn't enough to be a team-player. There are exceptions to this rule, but, strangely enough, most of them are either accomplished Gazette writers, or fans of this initiative. And this is why I have put so much faith in the AARland Gazette.

    Do you think that this could be remedied somehow in order to sucessfully bring the new writers into the "AARland spirit"?

    coz1
    I agree, though Director pointed out in his AARticle and it has been mentioned plenty of other places - this is a hobby, not a profession. How much should one really put forth in terms of effort for something that may end up being a chore. Look at LD's retirement. It seemed that things had become tiresome to him as he tried to effect change and membAARship interaction and it grew to weigh on him too much. Luckily he found a second, or fifth wind, to continue as it is always good to have a guiding spirit, as it were.

    As far as bringing new writAARs or membAARs in the "AARland spirit", I think it is simply a question of showing them what is expected, how others act, what is the right way and a wrong way to be a membAAR. Those that are willing generally stick around and those that are not, drop off. Survival of the fittest in a sense.

    What worries me the most in terms of the guiding principle is the role the elders play in this. Without their efforts, the newer individuals might not follow along. It is the elders that command the attention of newbies and if they are not crossing over or commenting regularly, why should anyone expect a new person to do the same?

    Alexandru H.
    ... except this should not be about the survival of the fittest. In fact, no other signs, except the leave of some members, indicated that this is a real issue. Most people don't act as a community because they don't feel in one, because everyone expects feedback and few feel that they should offer it back. For you, Amric, Judge and a few more individuals, crossing over seems to be a regular enterprise, but for most is just a dreadful, useless finger work-out. I agree that education is paramount, but, in that case, we have to deal with a more important question: "Who will educate the educators?"

    coz1
    Well again, this all takes time. We cannot expect the entire five games to become the community that EUII was a year or two ago overnight. But as far as educating the educators, I think we are doing our best to try that. The question is, will they listen? So far, I must admit, I do not see signs of it, but it may simply not have sunk in yet. You make a very good point about the "finger work-out" as it may seem like a chore to move around to games that you may not have or even like, but some have tried, jwolf and TreizeV just off the top of my head, and they have enjoyed what they found. With the added influx of a whole new game, much less three, it has become increasingly more difficult to follow a number of AARs (be it 5 or 15). What may suggest better tidings is when we see more membAARs coming in through the front door (read: main AARland forum) rather than simply moving directly to their own game. If this becomes the norm, threads like guess-the-author, the gazette, OscAAR polls and Showcases (which has been sadly absent lately) should generate some further interest in the forum as a whole rather than simply within their own game. Of course, the operative word is "should." No guaranties there and we (read: the entire forum) might start thinking about how to address this if it does not come to pass.

    Alexandru H.
    One word comes in mind: organization. It's time to consider this forum as a "commercial" venture and try to get the most profits out of it. I would like to see new roles, filled by some gifted individuals that really make this place function and prosper. Mind you, I'm not talking about administrative warfare, but about management and long-term planning. A sort of a council of the elders, whose members would take various jobs from time to time, in order to help the interaction. What better way to introduce a new member to the fascinating way of the AAR forum then his own guiding counselor, for example? How about some new initiatives for the main forum, like that old idea of mine, a general history of the AAR forums, which would not be very hard to write with a lot of colaborators and a lot of enthusiasm? If formalism is a crime, then shoot me!

    coz1
    A mentor idea...hmmm. I must say, one for each new membAAR is simply not practical. I think this role is already served by both the mods and bAARtenders, though we all must try to take a more active hand. It may be necessary to break out the mods going forward, having different one's for each of the games rather than the same 3 or 4 for all of them. I think the history of the forum idea is a great one, but the question there is who to do it. There are only so many people willing to offer their services for such. I know I have my plate full with my current duties. I do not see to many ready hands going up in the air for a review team. Initiatives require able bodies and sadly, this is currently lacking, as far as I can see.

    Alexandru H.
    Hopefully, this is not the case, because if what you are saying is true, we have a real crisis in our midsts. If nobody can find a bit of time to contribute and participate, then the AARland is as good as dead. But, again, you prove my point: everyone has an excuse for himself. It's a good thing the Gazette, like some of its predecessors (The Free Company Series, Guess-the-Author) clearly shows that when there is determination, there will always be interested people.

    The mentor-protegee scheme was not intended as a free-for-all business. The enforced rules would have made it quite difficult to became part of the program, but, theoretically speaking, the chosen persons would have become quite knowledgeable and able to pass info or help other people. The bAAR experiences are not the happiest experiment, since the requirements strictly forbid very personal interraction.

    coz1
    To address you ideas in order:
    1. I'm not sure crisis is quite right to describe it, though it may become so if we do not see more people stepping forward to lend a hand. This my idea for perhaps more mods spread out over the different games, but this leads me to your second point.
    2. I do not think the bAARtenders duties end at the bAAR itself. In many respects, they are a sub-mod of sorts. Our jobs are there to not only keep a clean and tidy bAAR, but to also assist in welcoming newer membAARs and seeing that certain AARs get their due, both by commenting as much as are able to and by recommendation, either within the bAAR itself or in the weekly updates of the gazette. Further, we have the added responsibility to make sure our games are given their due in respect to WoW, showcases and oscAARs.

    Alexandru H.
    You're right, they don't end at the bAAR, but this is only because the bAARtenders assumed a position and tried to follow it, no matter what the "real life" told them to do. They managed to add a bit more flavour to their jobs. I have nothing against bAARtenders (since I'm one of them), but you have to admit that no one can interract with blank spaces, and some bAARs (at least, the HoI and the EUI one) quickly turned into "black pits", rarely visited, rarely interesting.

    Speaking of HoI, and this is one of my main quarrels with a crowd I belong to, at least, emotionally, what do you think about its current state? The main question forum is always filled up, yet the AARs rarely get attention or feedback. As a result, the writing depreciated, most good writers left for good, leaving the current ones to fill a shoe that , for most, is too large. I like reading most works from this forum, but I always felt that the really good texts can only be found in the forums with the most good texts and good writers. It's quite an endeavour to keep a high standard in the rather dissapointing atmosphere of Hearts of Iron forum.

    coz1
    As far as the actual bAARs themselves, it is up to us, as bAARtenders to keep things exciting, so to speak. I admit, the Victoria Tea Room has become rather slow recently, and frankly there is not a whole lot that can be done other than continually trying new things to draw them, within the rules that is.

    As for HoI, it is hard for me to say. I am not a contributor there, other than the odd comment on an AAR I am following which is about 4 or 5 off and on. You surely have a point that the better writAARs may abandon that area if they do not see much reaction to their work, but this is the case forumwide. What we and others must do is to continue to provide them the kind of positive reinforcement all writAARs crave. And I deny that they have all left HoI. Take Semi-Lobster for example. He has turned his AAR into something truly special, taking a small country and carrying them far beyond expectations, and in the process, his writing has become ten times better. Further, and this is key, I notice he is one of those that travels outside of the HoI realm. He was the very first person to comment on my Persian AAR in Victoria, and that is not the only one he spends time with. I see him in EUII all the time as well. By venturing outside of that world and reading the kinds of things others are writing and how, he has improved himself, and hopefully enjoyed himself along the way.

    ...a perfect case-study, in fact.

    As to how to get others to follow suit, I suppose the only way is to show them the benefits of such, as in that case above. Now, how to effectively do that? Truthfully, I am not sure at the moment.

    Alexandru H.
    Neither am I. We are just fishing in unknown waters.

    coz1
    Unknown for now, but perhaps not forever. Trial and error I imagine will bring this out eventually, and hopefully before a crisis truly hits.

    Alexandru H.
    Thank you for a most entertaining discussion, in which we managed to refrain from using such dangerous words as "Iraq", "Bush" or "Dirty Dancing". Aces High bids you farewell, but extends an invitation for a future remake.

    coz1
    No problem, and thank God!
    Last edited by Alexandru H.; 25-04-2004 at 20:00.

  14. #34
    Khan of the Crimea Hajji Giray I's Avatar
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    DIGRESSION! (Hajji Giray I)

    EUtopia


    That's right, today I'm going to make you read about EUtopia, AARLand's sister kingdom...er, republic.

    What's AARLand got to do with EUtopia?

    Everything. EUtopia is a lot like AARLand in many ways. It's the most relaxed (and best, I think) of all three Paradoxian roleplays. We take all kinds of people and their styles. Sometimes roleplay can get emotional (read in order 1 2 3), silly, hilarious, serious, and seriously scary. We cover a huge spectrum of emotions, experiences, and personalities.

    Plus, EUtopia is infested with AARers. Amric (the legendary "Hurricane") is Minister of Health, Environment, and Social Services; Phalanx and The_Hawk (Free Company Guys) are Attorney General and Minister of Immigration and Law Enforcement, respectively; and I was a Cabinet minister and twice (almost thrice) presidential candidate. Two of our Presidents (Phalanx and Craig Ashley) were AARers, and our current Events Moderator is the OscAAR-winning heagarty.

    Yes, those of us who roleplay and write AARs do have WAY too much time on our hands. That's not the point.

    What's EUtopia All About?

    Partying. ...no, really, it's a political simulation of an island smack between the US and France (physically) which is beset with turmoil, terrorists, and strange plagues of locusts appearing inside skyscrapers. EUtopia is about what you want it to be about: we have politicians, bad comedians (and good ones), sports managers/players, a beach, newspaper editors, loud and obnoxious opinion columnists, embassies from far-away lands, and gun stores. You can be anything in EUtopia. I'm proof: my old character was 63 years older than I am.

    Boy, are there some good writers there. We could always use more, though, especially now, and if you'd like you should go take a look. You'll find a world of suspense, smarts, speechmaking, and silliness. You'll find a world which you eventually will become hopelessly addicted to; some of us where those addiction patches on our arms in the hope that we might be able to live without EUtopia eventually. You will also find a lot of good material to plagiarize into AARs, since you will find that (most of us) are too nice to kill you if you do. You will find that it's easy to become powerful...

    ...so you won't find anything really realistic or anything. Tax forms are 5 lines long.

    ============

    Anyways, the point of the article is that EUtopia and AARLand have a lot in common (we'd probably share a border if EUtopia weren't an island), and you lovely readers should go check it out sometime. Even if you don't, EUtopia will soon be invading AARLand in full force... merging the best of both genres into the most ambitious prAARject since the Free Company: but that's a story for another

    DIGRESSION!

    H.G.
    Last edited by Hajji Giray I; 25-04-2004 at 19:53. Reason: Left out a word.

  15. #35
    First Lord of Admiralty MacRaith's Avatar

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    Cartography 101 (MacRaith)

    Cartography 101: Advanced Screen Shot Editing Techniques


    Part 1

    "A picture is worth a thousand words." Yes, it's a cliché, but it's a cliché because it's true. Nothing enhances a well-written after action report quite like a few screen shots. The human brain is set up to process information visually, and a graphic image can convey critical information in a way that is difficult to do with words.

    By now, we've all seen the most common tricks. Screen shots of battles in progress, of the religion screen, and of the diplomatic screen let us see how the game was progressing at a critical moment. Artwork from the period and/or nation of the AAR, portraits of monarchs and important historical figures, and other outside graphics add context to the report of the game. And, of course, the political map screen shows how your kingdom has expanded, which to some people is the whole point of the game and the AAR.

    "Enhanced" political maps

    While the political map gives a great deal of information to someone familiar with the game, there are ways it can be improved. In my last few AARs, I've developed some techniques for enhancing the political maps, both to have them display more information and to make them look different from the standard EU2 political map screens. This AARticle begins a series in which I will share some of the tricks and techniques I've developed for "dressing up" my AAR maps. I'll use as examples maps I made for four different AARs: The Medici Kings of Italy, an Event Exchange Project Tuscany/Italy AAR; The Brandenburg Virus, an EEP Brandenburg/Prussia AAR; The City of Four Million Pagodas, an Mongol Empire Scenario Pagan Kingdom AAR; and my forthcoming, as-yet-untitled MES County of Toulouse AAR. Samples of these maps are displayed below.



    In the Tuscany/Italy AAR, my goal was simply to show the changing political boundaries as the game progressed. The only real "enhancement" I made for the maps for this AAR was to add the country names. For the Brandenburg/Prussia AAR, I wanted the map to appear "aged", as if it's something printed on old paper or woven into a tapestry that has survived from the period. I wanted the same thing for the Pagan Kingdom AAR, but also wanted it to have a more "Asian" look to it. And for the Toulouse AAR, I wanted the look of something medieval; after some experimentation I discovered a combination of effects that gave it the appearance of a fresco on a stucco wall, which satisfied my requirement very nicely. I'll walk through each of these maps, showing how I made these enhancements.

    A few words before we begin in earnest: First, the graphic techniques I describe here require fairly sophisticated graphic editing software. Adobe Photoshop and Corel Photo-Paint both have the functionality necessary to perform these techniques, but implement that functionality in different ways. Other graphic editing software may have some or all of the necessary functionality, but the exact sequence of steps to perform a given action may differ from one software package to another, and I can't cover all of them. I'll be as software-neutral as possible when describing these techniques; you'll need to experiment with your own software to figure out exactly how to get the desired effect. This is just meant as a guide to inspire you.

    Second, while the screen shots I'll use for examples all come from Europa Universalis, there's no reason these techniques couldn't be applied to Hearts of Iron, Victoria, or Crusader Kings screen shots as well.

    Third, I'll assume you already know the basics of cropping your screen shots and converting them to an appropriate format for display on the Web.

    And last, I'll repeat something I've already said: This is meant as a guide to inspire you to come up with your own screen shot manipulation techniques. Experiment, play around, see how different operations combine to produce different results. That's how I learned these tricks in the first place. Your software may allow you to do things that mine doesn't let me do easily, so play around and see what your software can do.

    Name that nation

    So, to lay the foundation for more advanced techniques, let's begin with something simple: A screen shot from my Tuscany/Italy AAR.



    It's a nice-enough looking image, especially with the game info on the top and right cropped out. It has a minor problem with color "banding", due to having to convert it to GIF format - GIF only allows a limited number of colors in a single image, and even with an adaptive palette, an EU2 screen shot exceeds this number of colors. (I'll cover techniques for overcoming this limitation in the next issue.) But few people would complain if we posted this image as-is in an AAR.

    However, this image only tells us so much. We know that certain nations held certain amounts of territory, but unless we're intimately familiar with the political geography of a mid-1400s EU2 game (in the EEP mod, no less), we may not be entirely sure what's going on here. I've also changed the colors of some nations for various reasons, so the colors aren't always helpful in identifying the different nations.

    The obvious solution to this is to add some text to the map to show the country names. For this to be effective, it requires a combination of font and size that was small enough to not completely obscure the smaller countries, but large enough and clear enough to be legible. In some AARs, I also tried to find a font that would fit the "feel" of both the culture and period of the AAR. This took quite a bit of experimentation for each AAR before I hit on a satisfactory combination.

    Font selection

    For the Italy and Brandenburg AARs, I used the font "Trebuchet MS", which is a very good general-purpose font that is widely available. For the Pagan Kingdom AAR, I used a freeware font called "Flat Brush", which has look that fits in well with an Asian AAR. (A warning about freeware fonts, though: Many of them do not have accented or extended characters, so if you need those in your map, you can't use those fonts. Check your font to see what characters it implements.) And for Toulouse, I picked the font "Cloister Black", which has a great medieval look to it, but is still reasonably readable.



    As always, you should experiment with your software and fonts to find something that works for you. Different fonts may have unexpected problems that aren't always obvious at first, so be careful what you pick. For example, the Trebuchet font has unusually wide capital letters, which (especially at small font sizes) tend to overlap the adjacent letters. This became such a problem in my Brandenburg AAR that I decided not to use this particular font in future AARs. But only experimentation will reveal these problems.

    Drop shadows for legibility

    There is, of course, a problem you'll encounter regardless of what font you choose. For maximum legibility, you should place the fonts against a background of a contrasting color. The problem there is that there are so many different colors in a typical EU2 screen shot (unless you are in the late stages of a world conquest) that it's impossible to come up with a font color that contrasts with all of them. The solution is to give the fonts their very own background via a "drop shadow", which is a very simple one-step operation in most advanced graphic editing software. I put a white drop shadow (or very light yellow in the case of the Pagan Kingdom map) around each country name, which gave the black text a contrasting background that was independent of the map beneath it.



    I made sure that my software rendered the text and drop shadows as "objects" independent of the background. This allows me to move the text around after I type it, so that I can position them precisely where I want them. After typing in the name for every nation that appears on the map, and providing suitable drop shadows, we have a very nice-looking map, ready for posting.



    Making a template

    Before I converted this map to GIF format for posting on the Web, I saved myself a bit of future work by saving the file in my graphic software's native format. (I use Corel Photo-Paint, which saves it files with a .cpt extension; Photoshop uses a .psd extension.) This allowed me to preserve all of the different country names as separate graphic objects, which in turn allows me to use this map as a template for future maps in the same series. For future maps, I could simply cut-and-paste the new background map over the old background. Any countries that hadn't been annexed or otherwise destroyed could then use the same text objects; I wouldn't have to type them all over again. I could delete the text objects for countries that had been annexed, and I'd only have to create new text objects for new countries that had emerged through revolt or other events.

    See the graphic below, the next in this particular map series, for an example. I didn't have to retype every country name for this; I only needed to type the names for the new countries that have annexed their way into the map. Over the course of a Grand Campaign, this can save a lot of duplicate work.



    The next level

    The result of all of this is an image that is well-sized for display (574 x 527 pixels for the two Italy maps above; you should shoot for something close to that for your maps) and a file that downloads in a reasonable amount of time even over a dial-up connection (about 130 kilobytes for the Italy maps). The text clearly shows what countries control what territory, and the map is reasonably good-looking.

    However, this is far from all we can do to enhance a map. It is possible to manipulate the maps even further to produce more "artistic" effects, and in the process overcome the limitations of the GIF and JPEG formats. An appropriate combination of effects can make your map look more like something "period" and can greatly enhance the mood of your story. I'll cover some techniques for taking maps to the next level in part 2, which will appear in the next issue.
    Last edited by MacRaith; 25-04-2004 at 22:42.

  16. #36
    Field Marshal Judge's Avatar
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    Analysis of the future (Judge)


    Analysis of the future – A Brave New World or a Brave New Grave?


    Since I found Alexandru´s article in the gazette to be highly interesting I have tried to build on it a bit. This little article is an attempt to foresee things to come. Since it is hard to predict the future I tried to identify three possible scenarios. 1) Paradise lost, 2) Happy days are here again and 3) Modus Vivendi. Before I commence remember that this prediction shouldn’t be taken too seriously and that the publishers are responsible for all articles published here

    Paradise lost

    The failure of integrating the HOI AAR forum had been regarded as a very small failure by the founding fathers, acceptable since they had no particular interest in the WWII era. The release of the, in their taste, too modern Vic game and the chilly response the game received didn’t encourage any attempts by the fathers to incorporate the Vic AAR forum into their domains either. But things started to change when it was announced that CK, a EU 2 equivalent, was to be released.

    At this point it was clear to all, even to the most nostalgic members that the old days were gone and buried. The founding fathers had before the release, realizing the risk of a potential total disintegration of the whole AAR community into numerous small independent sections, tried to strike back by encouraging the creation of AAR land. In melodramatic terminology the AAR land idea was released in the beginning of 2004 as a matter of live and death. Would the AAR idea float or would it sink? When a couple of founding fathers suddenly disappeared many believed that the Judgment Day was already hammering on the front door of AAR-land.

    The father figures all of a sudden returned but after some initial attention people sadly started to turn their back on AAR land. This was an ominous sign indeed but things were to become much, much worse. The founding fathers had no clear idea of how to turn the tide but there were voices heard that the CK AAR forum could be the solution; the Holy Grail that once kept under firm control would let the sun shine on Camelot and king Arthur again. Much interest was for that reason focused on how to secure the CK forum for the old nobility and their attendants. However instead of working together most of the fathers rode away on their own crusade, much like the Knights of the Round Table when searching for the Grail.

    As the CK AAR forum opened a veritable flood of extremely immature and disobedient writers, taking no notice of the old values and traditions, started to invade the forum armed with log style AARs filled with pictures. This development surprised the founding fathers and scared many of the old veterans. Soon 90 % of all AARs were written using log style.

    In a last attempt to regain control the mother of all founding fathers announced a new FC project for the CK era and encouraged the launch of narrative AARs to counterbalance the inflow of log AARs. However the veterans, behind schedule to buy the game in the first place and then sluggish to learn to play the game once they had bought it, was completely overrun by tons of image heavy, log style oriented AARs entirely focused on game issues. Since the game was new these types of AARs attracted far more readers than the narrative ones and entirely suffocated the few narrative tales that managed to take-off. Deeply disappointed some of the leading founding fathers decided to leave the forum; permanently it would prove this time.

    One of the more prominent fathers held out to September 2004 but then he succumbed under the pressure from hordes of new writers and spammers. The library was closed down in December 2004 since nobody of the new writers cared to use it. Newly appointed moderators had to devote all their time to warn, and in some cases even ban writers; things that never before had been seen in AAR land before. The new CK bar, the barn, had to be closed down in January 2005 because of excessive spamming. In March 2005 even the editors of the Gazette threw in the towel and closed down the Gazette for good. At this point the only remote resemblance with the hey-days was the emergence of some new mega star writers that attracted hundreds of readers by creating modernized log AARs with heavy use of advanced pictures and minimal use of text.

    Some new members that didn’t approve of the evolution tried to form new cliques but due to the enormous size of AAR land these new cliques were hardly recognizable outside the limited group that actually belonged to them. After two years of anarchy and subsequent to a couple of failed releases of new games from Paradox the interest of writing AARs declined. After three years the size of the EU 2, Vic and HOI AAR sections was reduced to half of what the EU 1 section is today. The only really active section was the CK section where an innovative group of writers that had become members during the hey-days of CK had emerged in the wake of the disappearing log writers. A new member from Canada called William the conqueror, actually a son to one of the founding fathers, led this group. The foundation of a new AAR land was in full progress as Johan announced the release of EU III. The evolution cycle was about to start again.

    “The colonisation project - Happy days are here again”

    For a long time it had been unmistakable that the aging game EU 2 couldn’t last forever as a source for a thriving AAR forum. Subsequently the AAR founding fathers, mainly interested in the medieval era, regarded CK as fertile land suitable for a colonization endeavor from the aging EU 2 community. The family system in CK would, according to one of the spiritual leaders, make an excellent base for narrative AAR writing and possibly bring back the feeling of experiencing the hey-days once again.

    As the creation of the CK AAR forum approached it was vital to act fast to prevent anyone else to claim this first-rate virgin land. Plans were made up in Toronto during one of the famous Milk and Cookie meetings. The key was to quickly establish a bridgehead in CK land. A plan of a massive launch of narrative AARs in the CK forum along with a new FC project about the pre-EU2 era was quickly developed over a couple of cold canadians.

    New CK writers should firmly be introduced to the old world and to the old traditions. An activity never seen before took its beginning. Three new narrative AARs written by founding fathers during the beta phase of the CK game were quickly launched as the CK AAR forum opened to mark presence and to prevent the creation of a dangerous “log community”. In June 2004 the FC saga in EU 2 was quickly closed down and it was announced that the work with the pre-FC story in CK had begun.

    Old veterans like Secret Master returned at the news of the CK success and even the introvert one-man clique Peter Ebbesson, pledge commitment and announced that he was going to write in the FC saga. The HOI section and the Vic section was mainly left to their own devices but not many in the old nobility cared; the future was secured through the CK forum.

    While the colonization project was a success the old world, the EU 2 forum, continued to expand for a while, especially after Johan in June, 2004 announced that the work with EU 3 had started. Things looked bright and shining, both the old and new world were in safe hand and thriving. Happy days were here again.

    “Modus Vivendi ”

    The ominous signs that had been observed for some time and the feeling of fear of loosing the grip over the AAR community grew stronger and stronger among the founding fathers in 2004. The HOI section was never appreciated by the “old guard” and continued to live its own life without anyone really caring. The Vic section, inhabited by some people that still had links to the old clique positioned itself between the EU 2 section and the HOI section, though it still was regarded to be the lesser cousin from the country-side by the EU 2 nobility. Since the game hadn’t been a success it was fairly sure that the Vic section would fade away in one or two years.

    The release of CK was more successful than the release of Vic though a lot of problems pretty soon were discovered. However the game had a lot of potential, especially in regard to character writing. Some founding fathers started to lick their lips as they thought of the potential of the game. Celebrations were intense. “Hey Chris, a cold coming up for you, got to celebrate this one, now where is that little teaser Trixie?”.

    Yes, CK was to be the retreat after EU 2, a bridge-head into the future while waiting for EU III. The mother of all founding fathers gathered the remnants of the old guard and almost like Urban II in Clermont he preached that this Holy land had to be secured for higher purposes. Soon the veterans and some hang-arounds marched off to the new world by announcing the creation of a new FC project in the CK forum. However hordes of new writers challenged the old traditions and spammed the CK forum with log style AARs and WC tales. Johan, back from his first vacation in years, challenged Peter Ebbesen to try to conquer the world with Edessa and as many as 10.000 viewers followed every update with anticipation.

    Since most of the founding fathers had hoped that the CK forum would become their writer´s heaven they were strongly irritated by these developments. The mother of all founding fathers called for a crusade against the “Disneyland tendencies”. There was a lot of tension in the new forum but eventually a modus vivendi, not unlike that of EU 2 today, was established. New writers were left to their own while the old nobility continued to interact with each other dreaming of the hey-days.

    The attempt to take back lost ground by creating AAR land and create a true community hadn’t been the success that many had hoped for. On the other hand “the post hey-day generation” and some other independent evolutionists managed to carve out a small haven for those still interested in keeping the community approachable.

    Slowly, slowly a more open group began to take shape, interacting in a way that never had been seen before. The AAR land was more complex than ever but most people found their little niche to operate within.
    Last edited by Judge; 06-05-2004 at 13:13.

  17. #37
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    Free Company Interview Series


    Phalanx





    I ought to be drunk, as much time as I spend in the Free Company Tavern, but luckily I have changed to just bottled water now. I’m looking forward to interviewing my next subject. I’ve enjoyed all the interviews I’ve done so far, actually. Ah, here he is now! Welcome, Phalanx! Let’s do this thing!




    1. What made you decide to join the Free Company? What drew you to it?

    I was first drawn to the Free Company because of my interest in military history, and by simple curiosity as to what it was. I started to read Book IV towards it's end, and I resolved to join when Book V started. It's a real quality team of writers, and I wanted to be a part of that

    2. What is the name of your character and what does he do in the company?

    My character is named Daniel O'Floinn, and he is a sergeant in the Company's Light Cavalry. I have a second character named Pedro de Cartagena, but I don't write for him as much.

    3. How do you like writing a collaborative story with a bunch of other people?

    I love it. Sure, sometimes other people use my character in a way I wouldn't have, and I'm sure I do the same, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. All the different points of view and styles of writing combine to make a great story.

    4. Some think the pace of the Free Company can be very fast at times. Do you feel this is the case, and have you been able to keep up?

    The Free Company does sometimes run a bit too fast for my taste, but that's pretty rare, especially lately. We've been suffering from a shortage of writers that's really slowed things down. I've never had a real difficulty keeping up, and everyone understands that you're not always available to write.

    5. Which characters does your character most interact with?

    My character mainly interacts with redwolf's character, Chen Hui, and Judas Maccabeus's character, Jean D'Auxonne, Though not really with Jean lately, as a subplot has sent his away from the Company for a while.

    6. Which characters do you most like interacting with?

    I like to interact with Chen Hui.

    7. Which characters would you like to interact with more, given the opportunity?

    I would like to interact more with the rangers and heavy cavalry, but most of the ranger characters have gone missing, and the heavy cavalry never had many writers.

    8. What do you think of the idea of such a collaborative story set in the EUII timeframe?

    It's a great time for the story. There's a wide variety of roles to fill and plenty of opportunities for action.

    9. Why do you feel the Free Company has been so successful for so long?

    I think it's been successful thanks to the dedication of so many talented writers, and LD's skill at keeping everything moving smoothly.

    10. Are you planning on being involved for the long haul? IE, for the length of the book currently being written?

    Yes.

    11. Have you come up with a subplot that you feel worked out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    Not in particular. I just haven't been inclined to come up with a large subplot.

    12. Will you be coming up with subplots that you feel might work out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    I've got nothing in the works now, but if there's another book, I'll probably come up with something.

    13. If there is another book, will you be staying on through the entire project?

    Wouldn't miss it for the world.

    14. If you had to do it all again, would you?

    Definitely. Though if I started over, I would probably make my second character a ranger, rather than a swordsman.

  18. #38
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
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    Free Company Interview Series


    redwolf



    Ah! My good FC buddy, redwolf, has just wandered in! How are you doing? Good, good. Glad to hear it. Let’s get started, shall we?



    1. What made you decide to join the Free Company? What drew you to it?

    I first heard of the Free Company while I was surfing through some AARs to get some tips for my then current Grand Campaign. The first time I read their adventures (it was towards the end of Book IV), I was instantly drawn to it. I mean, the thought of writing a story with many writers together, and having fun at the same time, that is something I have never done before and once I started reading, I was determined to join and try my hand at it.

    2. What is the name of your character and what does he do in the company?

    My main character is Chen Hui, a Chinese in exile who somehow landed up with the Free Company. Chen Hui is currently a Lieutenant and he's in charge of the Company's Light Cavalry.

    3. How do you like writing a collaborative story with a bunch of other people?

    It's an amazing experience. When I write my own story, I know how the story is going to go. It's predictable. But writing a collaborative story is totally different. You write a part and then leave a hook for the next writer to carry on. But because everyone has different thoughts on how best to carry on with that hook, you have no idea how the story will end up and that's the best part of a collaborative story, it's unpredictability and it keeps the story fresh and makes one want to come back and see what happens next.

    4. Some think the pace of the Free Company can be very fast at times. Do you feel this is the case, and have you been able to keep up?

    I guess it's depends on the person's perspective. For me, I feel the pace is alright and I usually have no problems in keeping up. For me the main problem is mainly the fact that I live in a different time zone from most of the other writers. A lot of the action takes place while I was sleeping and especially during exciting times such as a major battle, writers will post at a furious pace and several times, I wake up to find that lot's have went by and I was unable to contribute because I wasn't awake then.

    5. Which characters does your character most interact with?

    In Book V, I interacted the most with Cyril and Kincaid, Fusag's characters. In the current Book, it's mostly with Amric and Valdemar's characters.

    6. Which characters do you most like interacting with?

    Over the course of the 2 Books, I have worked with almost every writer contributing to the Free Company and I got to say I do enjoy working with all of them. But there are a couple of characters interactions that are really memorable for me, such as Craig's Shur'tu and Fusag's Cyril and Kincaid.

    7. Which characters would you like to interact with more, given the opportunity?

    In this Book, with Craig and Fusag gone(hopefully temporary, I am still trying to persuade Fusag to make a comeback), I find myself interacting more with a whole lot more other characters but among those I would like to interact more with Amric and Valdemar's characters. Amric is a character that likes to himself into the thick of things (read trouble ), just like Chen and I think both men gets along pretty well as can be seen in Book VI. Whereas Vald's Johan is someone who have never really liked the Chen and the Chinese that much and Chen would really love to interact with him more so as to be able to tweak his beard (if he has one that is, haha)

    8. Why do you feel the Free Company has been so successful for so long?

    I guess the main reasons will be superb writing, determination, commitment, great interaction between the writers, love for the Free Company and also always managing to find fresh blood to replace those that have left.

    9. Are you planning on being involved for the long haul? IE, for the length of the book currently being written?

    Most definitely, I love the Free Company and it will take a lot to make me leave.


    10. Have you come up with a subplot that you feel worked out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    Yes, I have came out with a few subplots and I feel they have worked out pretty well even if they didn't quite take the direction that I thought they will but then again that's the main strength of the Free Company and I really enjoy seeing my plots taking sudden twists and turns by the other writers who have different views on my plot should turn out.

    11. Will you be coming up with subplots that you feel might work out well within the framework of the entire story arc?

    Yes, most definitely if I can find the opportunity to.

    12. If there is another book, will you be staying on through the entire project?

    Of course, as long as there's a Free Company, Redwolf will always be the first to sign up.

    13. If you had to do it all again, would you?

    Yes!!!
    Last edited by Amric; 09-05-2004 at 15:49.

  19. #39
    Hurricane Sergeant of Arms Amric's Avatar
    Europa Universalis 3

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    The Eye of the Hurricane (Amric)



    So You Want To Play EUII!



    You’ve either recently bought the game, or horror of horrors, you have had the game for months and haven’t gotten up the gumption to play! You’ve read the Frequently Asked Questions section, and you’ve studied the numerous questions that people have asked. But you are still unsure how well you’d do playing the game. That manual isn’t as accurate now that it is up to version 1.08 and you are afraid that you’ll screw up and lose badly.

    Guess what? Most people aren’t going to have an extremely successful first game. I know I didn’t. I’m willing to bet most others haven’t either. So here is a minor guide to help you. First off.

    You want to pick your nation that you will play. The choices are myriad and can be confusing. But what you really want is one that isn’t really challenging. You want to get your feet wet, not get thrown to the sharks!

    So let us choose wisely, yes? Lots of people think France and England are easy at the start. In a way, they are. BUT! They start off at war with each other and several of each other’s allies. So let us not do that.

    Sweden is sometimes a good choice, but they start off kind of poor. So let us take that nation out of the running as well. I really think that either Portugal or Castile are excellent first choices to learn to play the game. The tutorial is all well and good, and I DO suggest you use it to get the general idea of moving troops, sending merchants, missionaries, and getting troops onto ships.

    After that, you want to pick either Portugal or Castile. Both have early explorers and conquistadors. But now to choose further between them. Castile is marginally richer and depending on how historical you play you will be richer throughout the game. But due to the nasty bankruptcy event later on, we will instead pick Portugal!

    There are wonderful AAR’s on this nation. Anibal’s Rulers of the Seven Seas: Mar Portugal, and Lord Durham’s OscAAR winning Portugal or Bust: The Director’s Cut! Both are excellent stories, and you should read them. I’m serious. Go read them. Right after you finish reading the Gazette.

    Back to business! So we have chosen Portugal. There are the various DP sliders that should immediately be checked. Before we start, pause the game. Hit start and then close the next pop up which gives tips. Feel free to browse through them, but I am not going to go through them here.

    There are numerous choices in those DP sliders. If it were me, I’d choose increasing Innovative or adjusting the naval/land slider over more to naval. Let’s choose the second option, shall we? Oh! Stability has dropped! Big deal. Moving on…

    Now we want to lower maintenance for the army and navy. Why? Until you GET an explorer, there is no point in paying 100 percent for the navy. You aren’t at war, so there is no point in having your army 100 percent maintained either! It saves money not to be fully funded at the start. You only have so many ducats to spend!

    Now to the tech sliders. There are those who believe you should put everything into trade and infra. There have been many discussions on this subject. Here is what I do. I try to keep trade, infra, land, and navy relatively even. I put a bit more in trade than infra. Leaving land and navy a bit less than the first two.

    Why? Because I believe in trying to stay relatively even with the AI nations in land and naval tech. I like having my trade increase faster than anything else because you get more ducats when you can trade efficiently.

    You start with a Center of Trade in Tago. That is your home CoT, and you want to dominate it. But there are still numerous other CoT’s in Europe. Many people feel Venice and Genoa are good choices. I do not. Why? Because it is so cut throat there that merchants die so quickly there. It is not cost efficient at the start of the game.

    So concentrate in Tago first. Another choice is to send one or two merchants to Alexandria. Perhaps even one to Flanders or Ile de France. Novgorod and Mecklenburg is really too far to send them and they are also pretty cut throat. Not cost effective. Not to me, anyway.

    So now you have more dominance, in theory anyway, in your Tago CoT. You might have a presence in Alexandria or Ile de France or Flanders. Don’t, and I repeat, DON’T use the auto send merchant feature at this time. You don’t have the ducats to spend on this, and the game WILL send a merchant out every single time you have a merchant to send. Again, at the start of the game, you just don’t have a lot of ducats to spend.

    You must be conservative with your cash. Be nice to Castile, but don’t get vassalized. You don’t want half your income ripped away. So don’t DO it! Royal Marriage is good, and in fact if you can manage it, do it immediately. Even an alliance can be good, and I have done that as well.

    Soon enough you should receive an explorer. Now you have a choice. You can go down the coast of Africa, or go to North or South America. Now when I played the Lenape I first used Portugal to build them up. But I did explore down the coast of Africa, cut over to South America and explored the eastern coast of it. Then moved up to North America to find the Lenape.

    Here is the thing. You can colonize, which can be pricey, or you can conquer. Which can also be pricey. Of course, at the start you aren’t really all that technologically more advanced than say the Lenape. But you COULD colonize. What to choose, what to choose?

    If you want to be smart, and I know you do….you will put a colony on the western coast of Africa first. Why? So you have a resupply station, of course! If you can find that pesky small island in the middle of the Atlantic, colonize it as well for a resupply station. Why? Because early on your ships don’t have a lot of range and you won’t get very far if you don’t have places for them to go to so they don’t have to return all the way to Portugal.

    Now, be careful here! Many people have an urge to build up their military! You don’t have a lot of ducats, remember? Unless you want to fight Castile, stay away from this concept. Oh, there is that Fez matter right at the start of the game. You are at war with them.

    But at that point you are winning. So quickly get out of it by demanding the one province you likely have taken and stay away from further wars in the western sand pit of Africa. Provinces are poor and not really worth your time. Some think Having that port is worthwhile, but personally I don’t. If you have to, give it up . Wasting troop strength and ducats for it isn’t a good idea.

    Provinces in South and North America are far richer and worth more effort. Radical idea, and I am sure there are those who will disagree, but so be it. Once you can finally get to South America…oh, how stupid of me. When exploring you want your navy at 100 percent. Trust me. Now where was I? South America!

    By this time you will likely get a conquistador. Especially if you have managed to colonize a province in Africa and the island. If you can manage to get them to say, 300 colonists a piece, great. You can do it faster if you want to take out bank loans. But I don’t want to put too much on you at the start. So try to avoid taking out bank loans.

    Because it is likely that you won’t be able to repay the loan. Then you default and your inflation rises, which means that troops and ships will be more expensive, etc. So let’s try to avoid that, if you can.

    Once you get to South America with a conquistador you want to move around and explore as much as you can. Don’t bother trying to colonize yet. Your conquistador isn’t going to last forever. Get as much territory mapped as you can. You can always send a normal army to protect your colonies later. But you want to see as much as you can. And when you are exploring land you might find yourself trying to colonize and forget you have a conquistador languishing, doing nothing while you colonize!

    If you manage to get a good chunk of territories explored you can continue doing South America, or you can go to North America. If you can explore the southeastern coast of North America, and discover the Cherokee, Creek, and Lenape you have it made in a way.

    It won’t matter if you want to conquer them immediately. What matters is that you know where they ARE! It gives you more options. By this time, you should be dominating the Tago CoT.

    If you have been efficient, you then have to make a really big decision. Do you go the historical Portugal route? South America, parts of Africa, and on to South East Asia. Or do you do something different? The choice is yours!

    Just beginning the game, you can try for conquest, or colonizing, or a mixture of the two. You can be ruthless, or conservative. I have shown you the most conservative route for a reason. It is the safest, least confrontational way to play. Some might call it boring, but when you are first starting you want to get the mechanics of the game down before you get into a conquest spree.

    In other words, sometimes it is best to walk before you start running. So get out there and PLAY! And while you are doing that, why not WRITE up the story of your adventures!

  20. #40
    GunslingAAR coz1's Avatar
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    Europa Universalis IV

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    The GenAARal Idea (coz1)

    Keeping the Faith


    "The good old days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems”

    -Billy Joel



    I thought about writing on this subject a few issues ago, and then my mind drifted to another topic. However, that topic was not so far removed from what I would like to discuss here. In that AARticle, “A Forum If We Can Keep It”, I wanted to touch on a certain responsibility that comes with membAARship. I felt that that idea encompassed what I might have to say in this AARticle, so I dropped this particular idea and went with that instead.

    Since then, the Gazette feedback thread took off with comments regarding styles, membAARship, and what we hope to get out of AARland. Though heated at times, I think the discussion was good. Further, I think it was needed in some way. Though some of the immediate results may not seem very good at the moment, in time I think it will have helped strengthen this world of ours. And it brought back the thoughts I was having before.

    One of the things bandied about throughout the discussion was the ever-present idea of “the good old days.” This is not the first time we have heard this phrase, is it? How long has it been bandied about in these forums? Frankly, what the hell does it really mean?

    Let me attempt to describe it for you. Back in the days of EUI, this area of the Paradox world consisted of virtual walk-throughs of games played from Europa Universalis. Over time, these walk-throughs became slightly more than that. Some added characters, some spiced the steps taken with humor, and some even found a certain interaction in their efforts. By the time that the second version of EU came to the shelves, there was a collection of individuals that wanted to try and take that a step further.

    Now, I did not come on board with this society until this effort was well under way, but I fondly recall reading the tales developed in this time before I signed up. Certain writAARs took their games and used them as a template for creating an entire alternate world. Historical fiction is what it is usually called. What started as game-play advice (in all truth) evolved into a writAAR’s paradise.

    Many have made the point in the past, that it was not so much the work that changed, but that the membAARs changed instead. I cannot argue with this, as I feel that it is true. Through this evolution, membAARs of this community gathered around one another, forming cliques some said, but in reality simply hanging with likeminded individuals. When newer membAARs came on board, they had the choice to keep to themselves, or join this troupe of learning writAARs. Overtime, the later became the norm and soon there was a community that very much cared for the work they were doing together and wished to see it continue for as long as it might be possible.

    Outside real life endeavors were always important, just as they are today, but most made a special effort to give of themselves to create an atmosphere that allowed this dream to flourish. When a new story started in the narrative form, they would flock to it. When someone spoke out about a specific subject, they joined in the discussion and in droves. When initiatives were started, they supported it with great eagerness and gusto. They saw that their creation was fun and educational and a place they wanted to frequent, even if that meant making priority decisions in their lives. I am sure there are a number of wives and girlfriends (and husbands and boyfriends as well, as far as I know) out there that may not recall those times as positive, but I dare anyone that was a membAAR in those days to say that it was not.

    However, we must not look at history with rose-colored glasses. This crowd did not always appeal to the person coming to the AAR forum for game advice. In fact, there were quite a few that despised this new form of AAR as they did not want to spend countless hours reading books (as many of the stories truly became). They wanted to read about game action. They wanted to see someone attempt world conquest. They wanted screenshots.

    Further, they did not feel like spending much of their free time to help develop that world. They did not feel that this community had something to offer them. We hear all the time how intimidating it can be for a newbie, and it was no less intimidating then. In fact, it was worse. The driving force of the community was pushing a certain form and it did not involve what they wanted to read. So why lend a hand to something you don’t like?

    But the funny thing is, unknown to those that did not feel welcome; the community that developed did care about these people. Not only did they want to keep their “literary society,” they also wanted to find a way to make those newcomers feel welcome. Through efforts to encourage feedback in all forms, and surveys to determine what the forum as a whole wanted, a certain equilibrium settled in and the ancient tug-of-war of one style over the other seemed to subside. Projects were begun by people that cared and allowed for the literary side to continue their work, such as the SolAARium, AAR reviews, threads devoted to instant and anonymous feedback and of course, the already established and still going Free Company, used especially as a mini-writAARs workshop.

    In this way, the AAR forum of EUII found a peaceful state. True, there were those from the previous game that still considered EUII as something unholy, but they were in the minority as most original players had already crossed over. And with the release of Hearts of Iron, that AAR forum was never truly integrated with this EUII world so there was no fight over ground, as it were. Those that wanted to venture towards the new game, as had happened before, did. Those that only wanted to play and write about HoI never had to enter the EUII world and never had to feel rejected by it (not that this would have happened necessarily.)

    But the work done in both of those other forums was in reality no different from what was happening in EUII. Narrative was still king, even though some might have felt the game-play crowd too prevalent. There would always be those AARs that dealt with only the game itself, but the idea that something more could be created never left and in fact flourished across all of the forums. People in EUI and HoI found common cause just as those in EUII had previously done. Communities were established and projects were created. People showed their joy and excitement through their actions, regardless of the platform.

    And then Victoria hit the shelves. And soon after, the AAR forums were combined to create the current AARland that we belong to today. Already by this time, though I admit I was personally absent for the time just before this release, there was a certain portion of the forum that was feeling a certain waning of the previous vigor. With the exodus, if you can call it such and if in fact there even was one, to Victoria (as had previously occurred with HoI), more of the manpower was siphoned off. Perhaps a feeling of lethargy came over the stalwarts. Perhaps people simply grew tired. Regardless, there developed, once again, two worlds.

    But this time, those worlds became not style based, but effort based. Those that cared about style still had their “red meat” if they wanted it. No reason to complain. But those that were concerned about effort were not particularly happy. They did not see the forums mixing naturally. EUI, EUII and HoI had lived such a singular existence for so long, they felt no natural compunction to do anything differently. Sure, the odd membAARs might branch out and see what the other games had to offer, but I dare say this was already happening prior to the convergence.

    Victoria, on the other hand, had barely begun before the creation of the larger AARland. Those membAARs hardly had time to determine their style, much less habits. It was a mere two months before a narrative AAR was begun, and even those more log oriented AARs had good substance to them, for the people writing them were already trained in that manner. Crossing over was no big deal to them. In fact, given the difficulties of the game itself at first, many people wanted to keep playing their previous favorite.

    This is where I come in. I was a membAAR of EUII back in 2002. I was around when the “community” was flourishing. I saw the initiatives to “make peace,” for lack of a better phrase. I remember the good spirit and intelligent manner of discussion that occurred. When I returned to dive into Victoria, the general discussion thread held a torrent of negative and frankly rude comments regarding the game and the developers. I was appalled. How did that happen?

    When I returned to the world of AARs, I saw the beginnings of the Victoria AAR flourish and was soon privy to the inclusion of all forums into one. It seemed a natural move to me. I was given responsibility in the Tea Room. I offered to help out with the librAARy, knowing our resident librarian had just had a new son. And when the other bAARtenders reached out to me to ask if I was interested in assisting in an initiative to help foster cross-forum interaction, I said yes. I felt, this is what my predecessors did, so why should I be any different? I care about this world and I want to help make it a great place, both for those that remain from day one, those that come on board tomorrow and anyone in between.

    But as I have worked towards this endeavor, just as Amric and Alexandru have, I have found myself just as astonished as I was when I saw the level of discussion in the Victoria GD forum. What I see are one group of membAARs that still wish to help create a society, whatever that society may be, and another group that does not seem to care one way or the other. Why do I say this? Am I trying to be controversial? Am I trying to be rude and call people out? Am I just a rabble-rouser who likes to see consternation?

    No, no and no. I say this because I saw what was once in EUII and I see only one reason why it cannot be in AARland as a whole. That reason, in my mind, is a lack of membAARs willing to step forward and put forth the effort to make it such. Perhaps I was wrong in my assessment of the “good old days.” Perhaps there was never the “happy medium” I assumed above. Perhaps my perception is way off base. But I don’t think that’s true. Some might say I am only stirring up issues that are better left still, but I do not see it that way.

    What I foresee is a forum that will eventually stagnate. True, the game-play based AARs will most likely continue. But will there be any further growth in their style? There will most likely always be new people that come and discover Paradox games and thus the AAR. But will they find the welcome mat that has been laid out for them previously? And what of those that do care about the narrative? What happens to those that enjoy coming here to both work on their craft and interacting with others that wish the same? Do you honestly think we will be able to keep them around given the depth of the Internet world and what awaits them beyond these doors?

    Four mods cannot do everything. Further, four mods and five bartenders (which we don’t even have) cannot do everything. This place was not built by mods alone. Leadership has been there, yes, but those leaders were people who took it upon themselves to act. They acted in the best interest of the forum because they cared about their environment, and perhaps it’s future, and they had fun doing it.

    This is not happening right now, in my opinion, and I would submit I am not the only one who feels that way. So you ask, “Well, what can I do?” At least I hope you do. My answer is get involved. Start interacting, and not just by comments to AARs (which I think are actually in a positive state right now) but by utilizing the special initiatives that are offered, and in fact volunteering for more. We have been asking for weeks for people to help out with AAR reviews in the gazette. No one has offered. A thread was revived about highlighting certain good portions of AARs (the old Anthology of Treasures project) and no one wanted to see it continue.

    Hajji Giray I has volunteered his time and effort to bring back the Guess-the-Author project. This project exists to allow people to submit their work anonymously and have it critiqued without fear that people will hold back because of who the author is. There have been four rounds so far in this revival. In the first, six people responded with honest reviews. In the second, there were seven. In the third round, Hajji could not even fill out the four writAARs, having only two submit their work and only four people responded with criticism. The fourth round still could not fill out the writAAR’s quota, and though the reviews have been up, they are still the same people that have usually responded before. Given the amount of people that visit AARland, and accounting for how many of those not only appreciate the narrative style but were either once active contributors or are still at least productive membAARs in their own right, does this not sound like a low turnout for something that a membAAR has given their time to run? Does it not seem to the rest of you that we could be doing so much more?

    So no, there were bad times in the past, and there will most likely be bad times in the future. But there were a hell of a lot more good times to look back on, not to lament of days gone by, but as an ideal to assist us in our efforts going forward. Remembrance of it is not a way to make new people feel like the good times are over. The thought resurfaces to help us have good times in the future.

    We have an enormous manpower base, and it is comprised of intelligent, thoughtful and creative individuals. Each of you can decide to give forth some of that wealth, when you are able, to assist in creating something far better than what was seen before. Within the one game of EUII, it was relatively easy to get like-minded people together. Now that we have five games, all pushing ahead and constantly filling up with new people, it may get harder and harder to bring us all together in some way. But it may also get easier and easier if we all find a way to help that along. Tomorrow, in fact, could be a bright sunny day, but we must not forget that it will require membAARs to create that. It’s not about making it be any one thing over the other; it is about helping it be what it will become. What do we want that to be?


    “Now I told you my reasons
    For the whole revival
    Now I’m going outside to have
    An ice cold beer in the shade”
    - Billy Joel

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